Mindanao Times » Ian Ray Garcia http://mindanaotimes.net Wed, 19 Sep 2018 01:50:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.25 Wanderlust | Cebu Pacific launches sustainable tourism initiative http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-cebu-pacific-launches-sustainable-tourism-initiative/ http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-cebu-pacific-launches-sustainable-tourism-initiative/#comments Thu, 02 Aug 2018 07:41:55 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=60837 ]]> On any given day, Cebu Pacific operates around 400 flights daily, both local and international, using approximately 19,000 pieces of plastic in forms of cups, stirrers, and utensils.

With the current state of our environment, with extreme cases such as the closure of Boracay, country’s number one tourism destination for a six-month environmental rehabilitation, Cebu Pacific is heeding the government’s call in making tourism more sustainable and environment friendly.

“We are now doing our share in partnership with the Department of Tourism to advocate for sustainable tourism starting with Juan Effect,” said Cebu Pacific president and CEO Lance Gokongwei during the program’s launch last July 31 at Shangri-la Hotel in Makati City.

Juan Effect, supported by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources along with various local government units, is a call for all tourism stakeholders to come together and collaborate in ensuring that the tourism industry will progress sustainably.

According to Gokongwei, their airline company will set the example by cutting down on the use of non-recyclable plastic to what only is necessary starting October 1. “All non-recyclable plastic utensils will be replaced with sustainable alternatives for inflight meals across all our flights,” he said.

DENR USec Sherwin Rigor

DENR USec Sherwin Rigor

Cebu Pacific, the country’s number one airline, aims to fly 22 million passengers in 2019.

“However, tourism comes with a price as visitors can overwhelm a destination by its sheer number that can negatively affect the environment. This is where sustainability and responsibility now become both critical and necessary,” he added.

To address such concern, the airline is also investing in more fuel efficient aircrafts and technology that will help improve flight operation efficiency, and reduce fuel consumption.

However, reducing impact on the environment doesn’t need to be a massive effort.

“Juan Effect reflects that actions taken by each of us. No matter how small, one can create a significant impact in helping protect our islands when done consistently” he added.

Surigao del Norte congressman Francisco Jose Matugas (second from left), with Gokongwei, Puyat and Rigor

Surigao del Norte congressman Francisco Jose Matugas (second from left), with Gokongwei, Puyat and Rigor

The initiative is aimed at engaging travelers, tourism stakeholders and the communities for a cohesive cooperation in order to mitigate the impact of mass tourism on our fragile environment.

“On the national level, Juan Effect aims to encourage responsible travel to our passnegers and empower them to change at least one everyday habit, such as the mere use of reusable water bottles,” explained Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and distribution Candice Iyog.

On a local level, Iyog said that Juan Effect will collaborate with island stakeholders to concerted action for environmental conservation.

‘In this case, we have Siargao as our pilot module, working together with DENR, LGUs and tourism organizations to implement sustainable tourism action plans,” Iyog added.

She revealed that the local initiatives will be rolled out in September in Siargao, in time for the surge of tourist for the surfing season.

“It is incumbent upon all of us now to act up while there is still time to manage tourism activities without harming the environment or putting long-term livelihoods at risk,” enthused Gokongwei.

DOT secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat echoed the speech of President Rodrigo Duterte in his State of the Nation Address.

“He clearly said to local governments to not wait for the national government to do their jobs,” Puyat explaining further that those who comply with environmental laws will not suffer the same fate as Boracay.

Surigao del Norte congressman Francisco Jose Matugas, who also graced the affair, also disclosed that Siargao already has an ordinance for total plastic ban, currently implemented in the towns of Pilar and Sta Monica. The rest of the island is expected to follow suit anytime soon.

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Wanderlust | Not your usual airport hotel http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-not-your-usual-airport-hotel/ http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-not-your-usual-airport-hotel/#comments Thu, 26 Jul 2018 07:43:48 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=60628 ]]> Remember the Tom Hanks film “The Terminal” where he played a European tourist who arrived at JFK Airport in New York in the midst of a political turmoil in his country and was forced to stay in the airport since U.S. security won’t let him leave or enter the country?

Well, you can now have a similar ‘The Terminal” experience at the airport complex – except that, unlike Hanks’ character, you can freely go out and explore the city.

Megaworld recently opened Savoy Hotel Manila, its latest airport hotel, in Newport City, literally situated across the NAIA Terminal 3, Pasay City.

The Deck room accommodation

The Deck room accommodation

During my brief overnight stay recently at Savoy, I had the chance to explore the hotel. Fortunately, Savoy’s got Abegail Nicolas (who’s a friend since her Belmont – also a Megaworld property – stint) as their assistant guest relations manager. She’s not only very amiable but can also speak Bisaya (she’s from Cebu!), which I think is a big plus for customer relations.

Abegail, who introduced me also to their equally gracious marketing and communications manager Samantha Manuel, gave me (and another Cebuano friend and multimedia personality Jude Bacalso, who was also staying at the hotel at that time) a personalized tour of the 12-story hotel’s hip and chic rooms and unique facilities.

“Our well-appointed rooms cater to all types of guests – from families to businessmen, to transient travelers, since we’re practically right across NAIA, ” she said.

The hotel has a total of 684 rooms, ranging from 23 to 27 square meters per unit. “We call our most basic accommodation as the Essentials, which is perfect for people on the go, while we also have larger rooms, The Runway, The Space, and The Deck, which are our executive suites, perfect for tourists and staycation,” Abegail explained.

Luckily, they booked me at the oh-so-awesome The Runway room, where I literally spent the night watching planes land and take-off. I didn’t even care to check what’s on cable TV, which I normally do when I first set foot inside hotel rooms. The view alone, a real-life “screensaver,” if there’s such, had me hooked for hours.

I shared with Abegail that I observed that their rooms, compared to other properties in the complex, are more vibrant and Instagram-friendly.

“Since most hotels in the area cater mostly to the business market, we want to give them something different at Savoy and make them feel that they’re both having business and vacation at the same time,” she replied.

Speaking of vacay, Savoy is just a few steps away from Newport City’s casino, dining and entertainment complex. NAIA T3 also has a number of dining outlets.

Another unique feature of Savoy is The Squares, co-working spaces conveniently located on several guest floors, equipped with high-speed internet, publications, snack corner and an express checkout counters available round-the-clock.

“The lounges can also be used for our hotel guests to receive their own visitors without having to take them to their rooms,” she added.

We also dropped by the hotel’s F&B outlets, Zabana Bar, The Poolside, Savoy Cafe, where they serve their daily breakfast buffet, and The Connect Lounge, an exclusive space for guests staying at the executive suite rooms as well as their spa and gym.

All in all, Savoy is not just about luxurious comforts for business and leisure travelers. It is also about convenience and accessibility, since it’s a few minutes’ drive to Mall of Asia area, Makati and BGC via the Skyways. Also, it’s far and away from the flood prone areas of Metro Manila, if that’s a concern.

Upon arrival at NAIA T3, Savoy Hotel is accessible via Manila Runway, in case you just have a light bag or backpack with you since it entails a short 5 minute stroll. However, Resorts World Manila offers free shuttle service at the T3 arrival area for all Newport City hotel and casino guests.

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Wanderlust | Old world vibe http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-old-world-vibe/ http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-old-world-vibe/#comments Tue, 24 Jul 2018 01:59:50 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=60556 ]]> While some old buildings are refurbished to look new, we recently visited a modern one designed to look, well, pre-colonial.

Balai Belen is a bed and breakfast facility tucked in the middle of RGA Village in Bajada. While it is a residential area, its location (Garnet Street) has become more and more commercial each day as it is now being used as a bypass road from Dakudao creek to R. Cabaguio Avenue.

“This building was originally constructed as an apartment. However, after my vacation with my husband in Ilocos, we were inspired to make it into a bed-and-breakfast facility,” said owner Che Afdal Zhang.

But it wasn’t just ordinary accommodations that the couple had in mind but something that mirrors Filipino culture.

“That’s why we invited some Davao artists to make Balai Belen into their gallery. Today, we have around 20 to 30 artworks made by members of Gama and Tabula Rasa,” Zhang shared.

A likeness of the Philippine president at the restaurant entrance by artist Brando Cedeno

A likeness of the Philippine president at the restaurant entrance by artist Brando Cedeno

The artworks – a mix of paintings, murals, scripture and canvass art – are strategically displayed along hallways, inside the rooms, lobby and restaurant, giving it a more artsy vibe.

“I don’t paint but I am a big supporter of the local arts. In this digital age, it’s good to go back and appreciate the basic, like drawing, painting or sculpting,” she said.

The collection on display (which are also for sale) also helped gave Balai Belen its unique traditional Pinoy character. Aside from the art pieces, its concrete walls were also encrusted with faux Capiz windows while most of its furniture were made to mimic to antique heirlooms.

“It’s something that we don’t see in Davao – decorating the place with something that can also become conversation pieces for our guests,” she added.

Local art and faux Capiz windowns as part of the interior design

Local art and faux Capiz windowns as part of the interior design

To complete the traditional vibe, Zhang also made their dining outlet a destination for heritage cuisine. Apo Andoy’s Filipino Heritage Restaurant doesn’t only make you feel like you’ve time-travelled to the past, it also makes you taste some long forgotten recipes from various regions.

“We offer our guests ‘lutong bahay’ (home-cooked meals) and heritage food, which recipes we had to source from different provinces, like nilagpang, laing, pinaputok na bangus, and sugpo Alavar,” revealed Zhang.

It may be out of sync from its old world look but its cafe has its own quirkiness with its semi-industroal vibe.

“We only serve drinks and snacks at Pipes and Bites Cafe but since guests are clamoring for pampering services, we will soon expand this into a cafe plus nail and wellness spa,” she said.

Balai Belen, which name originated from the Afdal matriarch Evelyn, also has a 50-capacity function room.

“At first, we didn’t know how to run the place so we do it one step at a time. We really just want to provide inexpensive and decent overnight accommodation while serving food that we’re familiar with and that most people can afford,” quipped the young entrepreneur.

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Wanderlust | NCCC Mall opens in Buhangin http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-nccc-mall-opens-in-buhangin/ http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-nccc-mall-opens-in-buhangin/#comments Mon, 23 Jul 2018 02:18:41 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=60529 ]]> NCCC Mall Buhangin, the ninth mall under LTS Malls, Inc.

and its second mall in Davao City, opened yesterday, July 22, along Km 7, Tigatto Road in Davao City’s Buhangin District.
The 18,000 square meter, four-story mall initially opened its supermarket on the ground level and departmant store on the second level.
A mass, followed by the store blessing officiated by Archbishop Romulo Valles and store blessing, was also held earlier that day.

ARCHBISHOP Romulo Valles led the store blessing.

ARCHBISHOP Romulo Valles led the store blessing.

“Davao City has been very good to us. This new mall is our shining new symbol for our love for the city,” said Lafayette Lim, the chief executive officer of NCCC Group of Companies during the program.
Lim also professed their company’s full confidence in the growth and development of the city.
“This is also for our valued customers – it may be more beautiful and elegant but it’s still their NCCC. Something that they can be proud of,” he added.
NCCC matriarch Helen Lim and Philippine First Lady Honeylet Avancena

NCCC matriarch Helen Lim and Philippine First Lady Honeylet Avancena

In his speech, Lim honored his grandparents who started NCCC back in 1978 along Ramon Magsaysay Avenue, and gave their company “integrity and a strong foundation.” He also gave an emotional tribute to his late father, Henry Lim, who “grew NCCC into a caring company that until now continues to be admired and respected”, and his late brother Jayvee Lim who “propelled NCCC to soar to a whole new level”.
Lim also made special mention his younger sibling, NCCC mall president Sharlene Lim “whose iron fist is the only to make it possible for us to open today.”
Facade of the new NCCC Mall Buhangin

Facade of the new NCCC Mall Buhangin

Aside from the new mall’s tenants – a mix of local and global brands, NCCC Mall Buhangin will also have new attractions that will surely lure more patrons within and beyond the city’s northern districts.
“We will be having four 120-seater Dolby Atmos cinemas, set to open between August and September, a first in Mindanao,” said Althea D. Lucas, vice president of LTS Malls Inc.
Dolby Atmos is one of the latest revolutionary audio platforms from Dolby that transforms the cinema experience by creating powerful, moving audio with astonishing clarity, richness, detail, and depth.
“NCCC malls have always been known for good cinemas. This is our way of continuing to provide the best cinema experience in Davao,” said Lucas.
The new mall will also have a landscaped rooftop garden with al fresco restaurants and cafe on the fourth level.
To address the burgeoning traffic in that bustling area in Buhangin, Lucas bared that Davao City Transport and Management Office is currently constructing a bypass road that will link Tigatto Road to Diversion Road.
Aside from the Buhangin mall, the NCCC group is set to open a new concept in retail before the year’s end along Mcarthur Highway in Matina.
It will also have a supermarket, department store, Hardware Maxx, Bread Factory, and all other NCCC brands in a 8,000 square meter property.
The Ma-a mall will also be reconstructed with two condominium towers, a partnership with DMCI Holdings, within the next two to three years.
According to Lim, the new mall, along with their other retail developments, is their way of thanking their customers for their patronage over the decades, and their gift to them as the company is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

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Wanderlust | Into the wetlands http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-into-the-wetlands/ http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-into-the-wetlands/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2018 01:02:02 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=60430 ]]> IN A SEEMINGLY unending row of concrete structures that was designed to be Malaysia’s showcase of its changing lifestyle and robust economy lies a 335-hectare wetland that seems to soften its steel and concrete game face. For a tourist like me, Putrajaya Wetlands Park seemed to have come out from nowhere. For many years, Putrajaya was the Asian Tiger’s supersonic vehicle to the first world arena. Maybe it still is.

Last July 12 to 17, the Perbadanan Putrajaya, the organization that manages the federal territory, in partnership with Intermedia Network’s Santai Travel, invited international print and online media from Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Middle East, France, and the Philippines – to witness the “other side” Putrajaya, which the state has launched as Malaysia’s emerging tourism destination.

OBSERVING wildlife in the marshland

OBSERVING wildlife in the marshland

Billeted at the Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside, a sprawling lakeshore property that marries world-class comforts with traditional architecture, it was a fitting launch pad to our entry to Putrajaya’s Wetlands. From the resort, the vista of the state’s tranquil lake was charming view to behold. Pullman Lakeside’s F&B outlets along with some of its rooms and infinity pool were also perfectly ensconced fronting relaxing waterscape.

From a sunset cruise around the lake, we were given a half day adventure to explore the wetlands the following day.

Putrajaya Wetlands Park, said to be the largest constructed freshwater wetlands on this side of the globe, consists of 24 wetland cells built along the arms of the Chua and Bisa rivers. The wetland was actually a rubber and oil palm plantations many decades ago. Over the years, marshes and swamps were developed in cells, where more than 70 species of wetland plants were later transplanted from Putrajaya’s wetland nursery.

YES, (Red Bill) Black Swans are real.

YES, (Red Bill) Black Swans are real.

“Today, we have 24 species of indigenous fish, which were introduced into the wetland to enhance its biological diversity,” said our guide at the Taman Wetland, which was the entry point to the wetland.

Studies show that creating artificial wetlands, such as Putrajaya’s, can provide an alternative habitat for the foraging and breeding activities of different bird and fish species. Artificial wetlands also compensate to the more than 50% of natural wetland habitats that have been lost or degraded due to human intervention.

“The loss of natural habitat has also negatively affected wetland-dependent wildlife populations,” our guide added.

Taman Wetland houses a 25-meter high look-out tower that affords a bird’s eye view of the federal state and a Nature Interpretation Center. The center provides public education on ecotourism, information on the wetland plant bed filtration system, conservation of wetland habitats and uses of wetland products. It also has a wetland diorama, café and souvernir shop.3

Onboard a bike (which I opted along with some participants – others chose a more comfortable tram ride), we explored the expansive wetland park, pedaling down from the flamingo pond to the lush botanical and lake gardens.

As a wildlife sanctuary, the wetland also attracted various species of migratory birds from the northern hemisphere, such as egrets, pelicans and herons, making Putrajaya’s terrestrial-aquatic wetland environment as their pitstop.

The wetland park also has mini-forest that features a collection of more than 700 forest species including timber normally found in lowland tropical rainforests.

Putrajaya may have been partially made into a concrete jungle. Thankfully, the federal state also wants to keep it as a thriving green lung for its highly urbanized centers. Like they say, nature always finds its way.

The park is also open for the public for a leisure stroll, jogging and cycling along the bike trails from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.



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Wanderlust | Transformation of Putrajaya http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-transformation-of-putrajaya/ http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-transformation-of-putrajaya/#comments Mon, 16 Jul 2018 01:36:47 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=60262 ]]> BEYOND the steel and concrete government edifices and the wide, landscaped avenues, Putrajaya is also a nature park teeming with birds, both migratory and endemic, indigenous plants and trees, and home to a thriving wetland. Who knew?

It was not until around three years ago when the 4,931-hectare Federal Territory of Putrajaya started to promote the federal administrative center of Malaysia into a tourist destination.
Not that it needed visitors since Putrajaya regularly gets busloads of tourists, mostly in group tours, visiting the well-planned city and replicate its best practices.

Putrajaya president Datuk Sari Haji Hasim showing media a 3D map of Putrajaya

Putrajaya president Datuk Sari Haji Hasim showing media a 3D map of Putrajaya

“At the onset, Putrajaya was conceptualized as a garden city and smart city when it was launched in 1996. Its parks, lake and open spaces have now become Putrajaya’s important attractions,” said Perbadanan Putrajaya president Datuk Sari Haji Hasim bin Haji Ismail during a press conference with the international media last July 13 in Putrajaya, Malaysia.
Sightseeing river cruise

Sightseeing river cruise

Perbadanan Putrajaya (Putrajaya Corporation) or PPJ is the local authority that administers the Federal Territory.
“Putrajaya offers a variety of tourism products, mainly nature-based, such as our lake, gardens, and wetland. We also have a Nature Interpretive Center, which is the information hub on its wetland ecosystem,” he added.
Over the weekend, this writer along with members of the Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Saudi, France and Philippine media, had the opportunity to explore the nature trails and wetland areas by tram and bike.
The Nature Trail took the group to various interesting spots in Putrajaya, such as the flamingo pond and a swan lake populated by ducks, white and black swans, storks and pelicans. The tour also took them to the mini-forest, home to around 400 species of tropical rainforest trees.
For man-made attractions, the modern city has a Ski Rides Festivals Amusement Park that features a tethered helium balloon ride, a yacht that takes visitors to a sightseeing cruise of the lake, various watersports, an adventure park, a night market, and equestrian facilities at the Taman Ekuestrian Putrajaya.
Its planners also envisioned Putrajaya to have well-placed, aesthetically designed bridges over the 400-hectare lake. Now it has eight bridges including the 240 meter Seri Wawasan Bridge, 300-meter Seri Saujana Bridge, and 240 meter Seri Gemilang Bridge.
The federal government has also involved the community in the tourism industry with community-based projects. This includes stingless bee farming, recycling, as well as in educational and research.
“We know the perception of other people that Putrajaya is just an administrate city, that is why we came up with several tourism-related activities to make guests come back for more,” the Putrajaya leader said.
As per the federal government’s record, Putrajaya lured in 7.5 million tourists in 2015, 8.9 million in 2016, and 6.7 million tourists in 2017. The Chinese market is their top market, followed by Thailand and Taiwan.
Traditional Malay food at the night market

Traditional Malay food at the night market

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Wanderlust | Malagos opens Chocolate Spa at Legacy House http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-malagos-opens-chocolate-spa-at-legacy-house/ http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-malagos-opens-chocolate-spa-at-legacy-house/#comments Thu, 12 Jul 2018 00:39:50 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=60171 ]]> THERE’S one meme that made the rounds on Facebook not too long ago that says “There is nothing better than a friend – unless it is a friend with chocolate” (Linda Grayson of The Printwick Papers).

But of course, who can’t resist a friend with chocolate? I know, it would have been so much easier if it’s a chocolate with a friend.
Did you know that ancient Aztecs were known to be the first to find a connection between the cacao bean and libido? It was when Emperor Montezuma consumed cacao beans in plentiful amounts just to fire up his romantic rendezvous. What he discovered was a prehistoric Viagra.6

To take it closer to home, remember how much seeing a photo of a chocolate bar online can trigger a maelstrom of delight in the pleasure center of our brains? Yes, that’s how irresistible and powerful chocolate can be.
Now imagine getting a facial or foot massage with that rich and warm chocolate syrup dripping from your face as it stream its way to your mouth. Seems like it’s straight out from a fantasy scene in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” right?
Well, guess what? It’s all real and it’s only found here in Davao City.
Malagos Garden Resort, home of one of the world’s award-winning chocolates, just opened another groundbreaking attraction called Malagos Chocolate Spa at Legacy House.
“Since we already produce the best chocolates, we have thought of other exciting ways to make the most of our byproducts. So, we came up with Chocolate Spa that will make use of what others thought are waste materials from cacao, then we turned into soaps and scrubs,” said Malagos Garden resort general manager Hermie Tabanag.
Incidentally, Malagos Chocolate was a recent recipient of various wins at the 2018 Academy of Chocolate in the United Kingdom. For the Drinking Chocolate category, it won Silver for Malagos 85% Dark Chocolate, Bronze for Malagos 100% Pure Unsweetened Chocolate, and another Bronze for Malagos 72% Dark Chocolate. For the Tree to Bar category, it won Bronze for Malagos 85% Dark Chocolate and Bronze for Malagos 72% Dark Chocolate.
Legacy House, a spacious log cabin, was the former residential abode of the resort owners.
According to Tabanag, the Chocolate Spa will soon offer various wellness services and where guests can even stay for a day or two for a full wellness immersion complete with their own butler.
Since they are still on soft opening, they are initially offering a leg and foot massage (Chocolate massage, cacao scrub, and Simple Pleasures, a 30-minute calming massage), head and shoulder massage, and back massage. The massage services starts at PhP600.
“We also have our spa-ckages, the Malagos Delight (body, leg and foot massage) and the Malagos Indulgence, for those who really want the ultimate chocolate spa experience,” she added.
The Malagos Indulgence is a combination of cacao facial care and chocolate leg and foot massage.
For the facial, they first cleanse the face using chocolate soap, then scrub the surface with cacao nibs. As we all now, cacao has tons of antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, iron and a natural mood enhancer. It also has exfoliating properties. Then a mixture of oatmeal and banana is applied to the face for the skin’s PH balance.
Then finally, the showstopper: warm melted chocolate is massage the face up to the chest area. It did drip from your face and streamed its way to my mouth. So, Iicked it. So, sue me. Chocolate, I just can’t resist it.
After a few minutes, the chocolate is wiped off while honeyis smeared on the face (also has exfoliating agents and antioxidants), followed by aloe vera (also for PH balance) and cucumber (natural moisturizer).
Then, a 45 minute leg and foot massage, also utilizing warm melted 65% Malagos chocolate.
The result is a refreshing and calming feeling. Who knew something so powerful and irresistible, like chocolates, can also be used to eliminate stress and promote a relaxing, peaceful state of mind and body? Well, only in Malagos.
By the way, Malagos Chocolate will be participating in this year’s Asian Edition of London’s greatest gourmet event, the Speciality & Fine Food Asia. The leading trade show for artisan, gourmet and fine food and drink will be held on July 17 to 19 in Suntec City, Singapore. Well, kudos, Malagos Chocolate, and let’s charm Singapore with Davao’s – and the world’s – best.

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Wanderlust | Airline unveils new route http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-airline-unveils-new-route/ http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-airline-unveils-new-route/#comments Mon, 09 Jul 2018 00:26:50 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=60042 ]]> WITH 37 destinations, 71 routes and around 2,000 flights weekly, Cebu Pacific maintains its lead as country’s leading airline. Based on their 2018 first quarter report, Cebu Pacific recorded a 53% domestic market share, carrying 3.6 million passengers with an 84.2% load factor.

This was disclosed by Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific Air vice president for marketing and distribution, during a media update last July 2 at the Waterfront Airport Hotel and Casino Mactan in Cebu.FB_IMG_1531013963391

“Having a bigger market share than our capacity share only means that we’re able to optimize our seats. In order to grow our capacity, we up gauged our aircrafts (using bigger aircrafts to the same flight) to carry more passengers,” she said.

The airline has also increased its presence in hubs outside Manila to decongest air traffic from NAIA.

To bolster their domestic connections, Cebu Pacific launched their Batanes flight last March 25, which proved to be a hit during the summer season. They also successfully redeployed their aircrafts by the time Boracay was closed to tourists to other popular tourist spots, like Palawan, Bohol and Siargao.

“We are also happy with our growth in the international market, having been able to fly 1.3 million passengers in 2017, up by 4% year on year, with 79% load factor. Our two long haul destinations, Sydney and Dubai, are also doing very well. We flew a total of 112,000 passengers to both destinations in 2017, up by 5.2% with a 78.8% load factor,” Iyog told the press.2018_0707_12575800-01

The low-cost airline’s share in the international market has now climbed to 19%. Cebu Pacific flies to 26 international destinations with 37 routes, using its Manila, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo and Clark hubs. According to Iyog, their strategy is to connect more secondary cities outside of Manila to various international destinations.

“We are optimistic with our upcoming 3x weekly direct service to Melbourne, Australia starting August 14. We we want to replicate our success with Sydney with our Melbourne flight and bring in more tourists for the country,” Iyog revealed.

As per Department of Tourism report for January to March 2018, Australia ranked 5th in international tourist arrivals, following Korea, China, USA and Japan.

Moreover, Cebu Pacific has boosted its presence in its international operations by opening two organic offices, one in Korea last 2017, and another in Tokyo last May this year.

In order to get the confidence of more international travelers, the airline also acquired an IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) certification, a globally accepted and recognized evaluation system for airline safety. Out of 5,000 airlines worldwide, only 417 are IOSA-registered, this now includes Cebu Pacific.

“We are focusing our investments on customer first initiatives. Last year, we launched our customer command center, which is a first in Asia. This system, handled 24/7 by a team, integrates all the customer feedback channels (social media, email or private messages). This is to make sure that we are responsive to our clients’ concerns and be able to respond to whichever platform they may use,” she expounded.

The airline is also investing in tools for their frontline team in helping passengers in the check-in process by mobilizing their check-in and boarding gate agents to assist passengers, such as in scanning their mobile boarding pass. “Ultimately, what we really want to drive is a frictionless experience for our customers,” said Iyog.FB_IMG_1531013975545

Another trailblazing endeavor that the airline is undertaking is their entry to the logistics industry by converting two ATR 72-500s into dedicated cargo aircraft. According to Iyog, they have seen an encouraging surge of their cargo revenues, which prompted them to foray into such venture.

“We are revolutionizing cargo operations and we’ll be the first airline to have our own freighter planes. This will also allow us to do do specialized transport and support the growing needs for logistics in the country,” she added.

Cebu Pacific signed an agreement with Switzerland-based lPR Conversions Ltd to convert its aircraft exclusively for cargo service. These will enable the ATRs to have space for seven AKE Unit Load Device ontainers while carrying more than seven tons of cargo.

URBAN CONTAINER GARDENING WORKSHOP. Learn the scientific method and simplifed technology on how you can naturally grow healthy food at home by applying the time tested practices and principles of Urban Container Gardening with Jojo Rom on July 14-15, 9am to 4pm at Casa Katreena, along Ponciano Reyes Street.

The two-day workshop will feature Container preparation and designing, basic guide to sustainable home farming, organic bio-solid/ liquid fertilizer and pesticide preparation, physical and chemical soil composition (soil science and soil health), planting/transplanting technique, home farm planning exercises and crop care and maintenance.

For registration, check out groworganic.ph on Facebook or call 0908 8958 814.

NO MEMBERSHIP NEEDED. No membership card? No problem. S&R Membership Shopping Davao is opening its doors to all shoppers on July 12-15. For three days, shoppers can also enjoy discounts on selected imported items.

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Wanderlust | A farm-to-table experience in Calinan http://mindanaotimes.net/a-farm-to-table-experience-in-calinan/ http://mindanaotimes.net/a-farm-to-table-experience-in-calinan/#comments Fri, 06 Jul 2018 16:00:25 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=60008 ]]> The farm-to-table concept has been here for decades but has not penetrated the interest of the masses. Thanks to recent heightened attention towards issues, like climate change, environment, and health, farm-to-table is in vogue again – and hopefully, it will stay for good – especially in this era of fast and instant food.In Davao City, there are a few establishments hawking the farm-to-table concept but it is in Huni Farm, a 3.5 hectare organic farm in Barangay Wangan, Calinan District, where we literally saw our food journey from the soil to our stomach.

“When you say organic farming or natural farming, it is actually an imitation of the forest. You just let the plant grow while you just take care of the soil by not using chemical fertilizers or pesticides. When you take care of the soil, the soil will take care of the plants,” said Rick Bongar Campos, who takes charge of product development and marketing of the farm, during our visit last weekend.

Campos, who also leads the farm tour, escorted our group as we strolled along their spices and herbs, vegetables and fruit gardens up to their vegetable nurseries and livestock ranches. The farm is right across the street to where their restaurant is located.

“In our farm you can see almost all of the vegetables in the (nursery rhyme) ‘Bahay Kubo’ except perhaps for garlic because they grow in dry areas,” he said. The farm is home to around 30 to 40 varieties of vegetables.

Campos also introduced some exotic vegetables not commonly found in public markets, such as their red okra, red pechay, red atis, red spinach, and even kale, which is considered a superfood. They also have fruits, like bignay, durian, mangosteen, rambutan, papaya, guyabano, marang, lanzones, guava, among many others.

“These days, if you want to be an organic farmer, you need to have sufficient knowledge on ecology and know the dynamics and interconnectedness between plants and animals. Like, if you want to grow more plants, you don’t need to use fertilizer – just get more pollinators. Plant a lot of flowers to attract pollinators, such as bees and birds, which in turn attract worms. Then plant a lot of fruit bearing trees to attract birds that will control the population of the worms,” he explained.

From the gardens, we proceeded to the farm’s livestock area.

“We grow organic chicken, cow, quail and pigs in the farm. We don’t inject antibiotics into our livestock. Instead, we allow them to grow naturally. If it’s 60 days, then it’s 60 days. You can’t force them to grow old fast with chemicals,” said Campos. To boost their immune system, they mix their food and water with turmeric, lemongrass and ginger.

Huni Farm also strictly conforms to the 300 heads of livestock to one hectare of farm ratio. “If there’s more than 300, oxygen supply will decrease, leading the animals to have lower resistance against diseases,” Campos explained.

We also observed that the livestock enclosures do not have flies hovering over the animals and do not reek of animal dung.

“Every morning and afternoon, we make our natural concoction of water and stale rice (fermented for 15 days) that we use to spray their cages. It doesn’t not only increase the level of good bacteria but also drives flies and other pests away,” he expounded.

Campos deems that it is high time for the government to educate the farmers more by incorporating technology, biology, ecology, and even engineering to farming.

“It is sad that our agriculture is one of our poorest sectors. In other countries, farming is a highly lucrative and an income generating industry. But I am glad that the government is now advocating farm tourism. This will inspire farmers to stay on farming,” he said.

According to Campos, some farmers have opted to find other jobs outside of the farm, and that 70% of local farmers are now senior citizens. “That’s why we constantly encourage and invite children to Huni Farm to do actual farming. We want them to appreciate farming while they are young,” he said.

Huni Farm often works with pre-schools for Campos’ Latagaw program, where they reconnect children with nature. With the program, they hold farmer-for-a-day activities where kids get to learn not just how to plant, but also how to feed chickens and clean pig pens.

At the end of our farm tour, Campos introduced our group to Huni Farm owner Louella Garcia, who was then busy preparing their weekend buffet.

She was inspired and taught by her grandmother to prepare food the traditional way.

“At a very young age, I already cook during fiestas. My lola would smack my hand whenever I make a mistake in the preparation. Those days, we don’t have blenders, so everything is manual and we make everything, from dishes to sauces, from scratch,” she recalled.

Garcia started her organic farming back in 2012. From the farming, she became a restaurateur and was part of Balik Bukid and Balay Verde, two local restaurants also known to serve healthy fares.

“Everywhere I go, my clients still follow me and ask me to cook their favorite organic food. That is one of the reasons why I decided to set up Huni Farm,” she said.

Huni Farm’s weekend buffet, priced at PhP450 per person (PhP600, if with farm tour), consists of 12 fares, 5 desserts and a variety of refreshing drinks from fresh fruits and plants loaded with botanical and fruity notes.

“We don’t have a regular menu. What we do here is we go to the farm, see what’s available, and we take it from there,” Garcia said.

And if she finds something lacking in taste, she just goes out of the kitchen and head to the garden nearby. “Our garden has an edible landscape. We just pick an herb or spice straight and fresh from there. Through this practice, we desire to inspire Dabawenyos that they can do the same. There’s no more need for artificial seasoning,” shared Garcia.

But since their produce are harvested at peak freshness, bursting with flavors and nutrients, they don’t dress their buffet food up with complex sauces and overpowering flavors. They just let the freshness and the flavors speak for themselves.

Farm-to-table concept, like Huni Farm, is an interesting way to make local and organic food more available and accessible to the communities. It is also beneficial to the environment as the produce doesn’t have to be shipped long distances, meaning, less transport, fewer greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere.

“Huni Farm is more than just about serving organic food. We are about knowing where your food comes from, supporting local farms and being responsible with what we take in our bodies,” she said.

Huni Farm also has a bakeshop where visitors can buy bromate-free baked goodies for pasalubong.

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Wanderlust | Best of Philippine biodiversity at the Museum of Natural History http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-best-of-philippine-biodiversity-at-the-museum-of-natural-history/ http://mindanaotimes.net/wanderlust-best-of-philippine-biodiversity-at-the-museum-of-natural-history/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2018 01:09:29 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=59894 ]]> WITH 7,641 islands and the world’s fifth longest coastline at 36,282 km (longer than the U.S. and Australia), the Philippines is a biodiversity powerhouse.

From sea to summit, the Philippines is home to some of the richest biodiversities of flora and fauna. Add the fact that our waters are part of the renowned Coral Triangle. Biologists and scientists have also discovered a multitude of organisms endemic to the country. Did you know that out of the 580 documented birds, more than 35% can only be found in the Philippines? More than 60% of the 167 species of mammals and 65% of the 10,000+ species of plants are also unique to the country.w7

It is only proper for the government to finally showcase our terrestrial and marine resources with the opening of our very own National Museum of Natural History last May, located at the National Museum Complex in the city of Manila.

During my recent visit to the national capital, I made sure to have my visit to the museum as a top priority in my itinerary.
Last Monday, I finally had the chance and head to the museum (formerly the building of the Department of Tourism and recently, the National Museum) right before 9 a.m. to avoid the crowd – only to find out that they’re only open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (visitors will not be admitted starting 4:30 p.m.). So, to kill time, I checked out other spots within the complex, including Lapu-Lapu’s colossal likeness across the museum building.
At exactly 10 a.m., the gate was finally opened to the public. I entered the premise with a group of students from Pangasinan on a field trip. Entrance is free but you have to register some personal information. Bringing of bags (not larger than a small size coupon bond paper, we were told), umbrellas, and selfie sticks are not allowed. Thus, you have to leave everything at the baggage counter. Flash photography is also not permitted.

As I entered the museum, I was greeted by a massive installation at the atrium. The iconic Tree of Life, the museum’s central structure, is a symbol of the “encompassing embrace of all life on earth under God and nature”. It was built through the effort of the Philippine National Museum Foundation, Inc. with the support of various private companies and organizations.
As a green building, the museum’s atrium got its natural lighting from a glass canopy that also represent the leaves of the steel Tree of Life, an inspired design by architect Dominic Galicia and interior designer Tina Periquet. Most galleries also owed illumination from natural light.

Along with the replica of Lolong, the largest crocodile caught alive in 2011, we were also greeted by the images of Philippine wildlife icons, such as the Tamaraw, Tarsier and our “very own” Philippine Eagle (because whenever I see an image of the eagle, I will always feel that he’s my fellow resident here in Mindanao) printed on huge fabrics draping the museum’s inner wall. Somehow, those images were intentionally made to set the tone for one’s journey inside the Museum of Natural History.
By the way, Lolong’s skeletal remains can be found hanging from the ceiling inside the Ayala Reception Hall.

The six-story museum building will have a total of 12 galleries. However, not all are open yet to the public. The galleries that visitors are allowed to enter include Galleries 5 (Mossy, Montane and Pine Foresrts), 6 (Lowland Evergreen Rainforests) and 8 (Freshwater Wetlands) on the 4th level; Galleries 9 (Mangroves, Beaches and Intertidal Zones) and 10 (The Marine Realm) on the 3rd level; Galleries 11 (Our Natural Inheritance) and 12 (Temporary Exhibitions) on the 2nd level; and The Tree of Life foyer at the ground floor.

Galleries 1 (Philippine Biodiversity), 2 (Geology of the Philippines), 3 (Minerals and Energy Resources) and 4 (Life Through Time) on the 5th level, and Gallery 4 (Utramafic and Limestone Karst Forests) on the 4th floor are still being completed.
Nevertheless, the completed galleries were enough to keep me busy as I leisurely strolled from one level to another though purposefully positioned series of ramps that give guests a full view of the atrium. There’s also a scenic elevator as another alternative to the original but narrow staircase of the neoclassical building.

One of the galleries that got my attention showcased evidences of pre-historic Philippines. History books usually tell us about the conquest of foreigners in our homeland, yet there’s so much to learn about the country when now-extinct animals used to roam our fields. At the central plaza, there’s a display of the 709,000 year old tooth and bones of a Rhinoceros Philippinensis, excavated in Rizal, Kalinga. I also learned that we actually have our own pelican. Who knew?
All in all, I am impressed with the direction of how the museum is being done, which is both interactive and experiential in approach. These two factors will surely help lure in millennials and give them a creative way of re-learning our natural heritage. I fancy how the architects and designers created the galleries, mimicking real life and bringing in bits and pieces of the outdoors, complete with real sound and impressive visuals.

Through the National Museum of Natural History, it is our hope that more Filipinos will start to appreciate more our natural gifts and learn how we can save them before they become another Philippine rhinocerus and pelicans, both just remnants from our past and now museum staples.

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