Friday, July 30, 2010

Of Swiss Cheese and Filipino-made Wine

I've just returned from a busy but pleasant evening that included a cocktail reception hosted by Ambassador Ivo Sieber, the new Swiss Ambassador, in observance of Switzerland's national day, and then a seven-course dinner hosted by Manny Osmena at 101, Enderun's on-campus fine dining restaurant in McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio.

At the Swiss national day reception, I was very pleased to meet the new ambassador and his wife, a tall and elegant Filipina. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay very long since I had to make it to Enderun for dinner -- but I did manage to get one serving of raclette cheese. The raclette serving station was definitely the most popular food station at the party; and lining up alongside myself were a couple of ambassadors and honorary consuls. One of them was Joseph Assad, honorary consul from Lebanon, expert (and if I may say so myself, tireless) photographer, and also one of the most popular personalities in Manila's cocktail party circuit. Jo is an Atenean.

The weekend Ateneo lost

"We lost last weekend," I said by way of an opening line. I didn't need to say anymore, but Ateneans would definitely know what I meant.

"Ah, but don't forget, I also went to La Salle," Jo said, without skipping a beat. Of course he knew what I was referring to.

"So you're a traitor!" I responded.

Jo laughed out loud. "I like to think that I can celebrate with the winners and mourn with the losers -- whichever is which."

A seven-course meal at Enderun

Then I made my way from Makati to Fort Bonifacio, where Manny Osmena's wine-pairing dinner was in full swing with over 60 people drinking and dining. When I sat down at my table, my three companions were already on the third course, a cream of celeriac soup with shrimp wrapped in bacon.

"Don't worry," said Chad Davis, Enderun's restaurant director. "We'll get you up to speed."

Up to speed meant tasting three glasses of Manny O wines and having a torchon of foie gras with pineapple chutney and smoked duck breast with hoisin sauce in under ten minutes before my soup.

As some serious wine drinkers will note -- and there are certainly a lot of those in Manila; I'm constantly amazed at being included in casual dinners with friends, where so much effort, time and text messages are undertaken just to decide what wine people will bring to a restaurant. There was a time, after all, when the question was just white or red; and in fact, in much of Europe, it still is -- that Manny O wines are not particularly upmarket wines. In fact, wine snobs will probably have a mouthful to say about these wines, that Manny Osmena created with a very hands-on approach in France, Italy and Spain. But Manny has an earful for them as well.

Snobbery in the wine world

"I hate the snobbery in the wine world," he told us. "Wine's not exclusive. It's been around for thousands of years."

And within their price point -- all his wines so far are way under PhP2000 -- Manny O wines certainly offer very good value. Many of them too have passed all sorts of blind tastings with flying colors, according to Manny O. So, yes, it's an entirely different market and lots of wine snobs in Manila probably sniff haughtily at these wines; but personally, we think it's great that someone is making decent wines that lots of people can actually afford. These wines are also wonderful with food, as our seven-course Enderun dinner proved. Everything really tasted very good with the seven Manny O wines served, and this daring pairing of unusual food with value wines made it a very enjoyable meal.

When we all observed just how good the wines tasted with the food and vice-versa, Manny smiled indulgently at us the way a history teacher might applaud his students for finally getting the reason behind the Cold War between Russia and the United States, or for understanding what autocracy in the modern world means.

"My wines are really made for drinking with food," he explained, almost unable to contain his satisfaction. "That's exactly how I conceptualized them. If I had a Lafitte, for example, I don't think I'd have it with food because it's too good to mix with food flavors."

My favorites at Enderun

In fact, thinking about the meal I just had, I'm hard-pressed to pick a favorite. But if I was forced to shortlist, I would pick the smoked duck in hoisin sauce, the orange teriyaki-glazed gindara with rice and the fabulous -- simply fabulous -- Louis XV chocolate dessert.

When Manny heard that our table had all loved the duck, he revealed: "That's my favorite too. Sometimes I come here and that's all I have -- a one-course meal of duck." Later on, I looked at the a la carte menu of 101 and the duck was priced at a relatively reasonable PhP 490. The restaurant is also open daily for lunch and dinner except Sundays, and I'd highly recommend it for an informal meal of pretty good food at not too expensive prices.

For each course, our table compared and discussed the wines and food and tried to decide whether the pairing worked well for us. About half the time, we didn't agree. But as Manny himself explained with a shrug: "There's no wrong or right about wines. It really depends on your style."

A fantastic chocolate dessert

The most difficult pairing was probably the fantastic Louis XV dessert, lusciously lacquered with chocolate that melted silkily in the mouth, and made with chocolate chips and praline for extra crunch, which Manny paired with the 2008 Sumiller, a wine he made in Spain. Three of us in my table had reservations about this.

"It seems too heavy for chocolate," my managing editor said, while the guy on my right mused: "This might work better with a sparkling wine like Manny's Blanquette de Limoux."

When Manny came back to our table, we bounced these ideas off him. "The Sumiller is supposed to bring out the bitterness of the chocolate and balance its sweetness," he said. "White wine wouldn't work, and the chocolate is too overpowering for the Syrah you had before this?"

"Wouldn't a sparkling wine work as well?" Vladi, the guy on my right, who seemed to know his food and liquor, asked.

"Yes, it would," Manny answered. "But that's because sparkling wines are the easiest wines to pair. They go with practically anything. But because of this, I find sparkling wines lack challenge. Even the most top of the line sparkling wines like Salon, which you can't even buy retail, is not challenging enough."

And with this, I excused myself to attend to another social obligation and then to try to get some shut-eye before dawn. It was past 11 o'clock and I was the first one to leave. The guests in the other tables were still all enjoying dessert, while the gentlemen at mine were just warming up for another round of drinks and fascinating conversations with the irrespresible and energetic perfectionist, Manny O.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Afternoon at an Art Auction

Today, after a very enjoyable Thai lunch at Dusit Thani's Benjarong, and a friend and I drove over to the Mandarin Oriental to attend an auction of paintings, sculptures, furniture, vintage handbags and fine jewelry entitled "The Well Appointed Life: Philippine Art + Objects of Desire" conducted by Salcedo Auctions, the Philippines' first proper auction house.

I'd been to their preview cocktail party last Tuesday and several things caught my eye, although I still had to figure out in my mind about my "art and finer things in life budget," especially with the Manilart 2010 exhibition-sale and auction coming up next week and then the Ateneo Alumni Association Art Auction to raise money for scholarships in early October. The preview was well-attended. Perhaps because the Salcedo Auctions has a very strong Ateneo connection, I saw lots of alumni including a couple of old classmates. Among the non-Ateneans inspecting the goods were the French Ambassador Thierry Borja de Mozota and Thai Airways Country Manager Nivat Chantarachoti. Meanwhile, there were lots of beautiful pieces that generated much interest: a very large and mesmerizing Ronald Ventura painting in greys and blacks called "The Well-Appointed Life," on which the auction was themed; an Arturo Luz work in burlap that would look beautiful in someone's dining room, and an abstract ceramic work by Jose Joya. I also liked an antique silver tea set with a modernist bent from Europe, and this was actually foremost among my considerations during the preview, although I ended up forgetting about it today.

To bid not not to bid?

Today, I still wasn't sure whether I would actually bid on anything, but I decided to go anyway. It's always fun to watch an auction, and especially one attended by other friends. In fact, a lively auction is always infectious. I've been to quite a few here and abroad where I hadn't planned on buying anything, but nevertheless ended up bringing home a painting or two after seeing friends bid successfully on their choices. Besides, to tell you the truth, it's fun to raise that paddle a couple of times.

When I walked into the auction area at the Mandarin Oriental, I immediately saw Richie Lerma, one of the forces behind the Ateneo Alumni Art Auction and best known as an eminent art authority and the curator of the Ateneo Art Gallery (interestingly, one of my favorite college teachers, Eric Torres, was also once curator of this respected gallery for over 25 years). Richie has always kindly filled me in on the backgrounds of paintings and artists at various past auctions around Manila, and again I was planning to ask him a few questions when I arrived early to view the paintings again. Richie's wife, by the way, is one of the people behind Salcedo Auctions, while Richie is acting as a consultant.

"I'm here early to see the paintings one more time," I told him. At that preview, there were a lot of people and I had so little time as I was on my way to dinner, so I couldn't really look closely at each one.

"Oh no, there are no paintings here," he said. "We've patterned this after the foreign auctions so nothing is exhibited on the day itself. Everyone is supposed to have done their due diligence beforehand."

Friends at the auction

Well, that certainly didn't include me. I'd thought this would be more like the local auctions wherein the works are on view before the auction itself. And today, because I had no access to the works, I didn't think I would bid anymore; but I decided to stay anyway, especially after spotting a number of friends in the waiting lounge including an art connossieur with a beautiful apartment full of modern art who had traveled with me to South India last March; and another friend who is also part of the Gawad Kalinga (GK) Hope Ball Committee working for the GK Hope Ball to be held at the Peninsula Manila on October 8. There were also many eminent art authorities and art lovers today, including Dr. Leo Garcia, former dean of the Ateneo and a major force in the art world; Dr. Jaime Laya, Deanna Ongpin-Recto, and Jeremy Barns, former director of the Malacanan Museum and now with the National Museum.

But, as I said, auctions are highly contagious. I found a seat in the audience fully intending to just enjoy the show, but within the first ten minutes, I stood up to register and get a paddle. Yes, even without having anything to buy in mind.

"Are you going to bid on something?" My friend Francis asked me.

I smiled at him. "I don't know yet, actually. But I'm getting a paddle just in case."

Works I liked

I ended up bidding on only one painting -- a poignant oil painting by the social reliast Antipas Delotavo called "Newspaper Vendor" -- although I probably would have bid on a couple more if the paintings had been in front of me. I'd seen everything on sale at the preview, but today, looking at them again on a Powerpoint, they failed to make an emotional connection with me. I still believe having the paintings "in the flesh" today would probably have made more people bid -- including myself.

There were several paintings I liked a lot, including an Impressionist-like work in mixed media by Santiago Bose entitled "Thinking of Van Gogh in Banawe" and an artwork called Tree of Life by Gabriel Barredo. But somehow my bidding paddle stayed down when the time came. But for the Delotavo, I felt that I would like to have it if I could get it for a very good price. I made the initial bid and then another bid was put forward. Many people expected me to make a counteroffer especially as the incremental increase was not much at all; Doc Garcia even tapped me on the shoulder as the auctioneer was calling out for counteroffers, but again, I just didn't feel like spending more on a painting I had had no intention of buying when I woke up this morning.

Later, during the break, a couple of friends and acquaintances mentioned my bid and said they were surprised I didn't put up more of a fight for the painting. They were sure that if I had just bid once more, I would have brought that painting home. It was a really beautifully-done piece; but a former Central Bank official seated with us during the break said it all with his comment: "It's an excellent painting; the artist is going to go far and that painting is probably going to be worth much more later on, but I myself didn't buy it because the subject matter is too depressing to hang in my house." That's also kind of how I felt, at least today, as an empty space in my dining room is foremost in my mind these days when I go to galleries and auctions.

We also discussed how so many very good works that would fall under the "Philippine classics" category remained unsold. The hot items were mostly contemporary pieces. However, Jeremy Barns did say to me: "There were a number of very good pieces among the classics today. I would have loved to have gotten some of them for the National Museum."

Unfortunately, I had to leave midway for an ayurveda appointment at Arogya, although I would have loved to have stayed and perhaps taken a chance on a couple of other things including an antique Chinese cabinet I was considering for my bedroom. In fact, as I type this out now, I'm looking at that space and thinking just how perfect that cabinet would have been there. Oh well, I guess it wasn't meant to be. But all in all, it was a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I'm certainly looking forward to more auctions from this group in the future.

Note: All the photos included here
are from the Salcedo Auctions catalogue.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

14 Days of an Ayurveda Detox at Arogya

One of the first things I did upon returning to Manila from Tokyo was to sign up for a 14-day detox program at Arogya, Manila's first serious ayurveda center.

I'd had three ayurveda treatments at Arogya just before I left, and these left me feeling incredibly relaxed. So all the time I was in Japan, I was literally hankering for that feeling of relaxation I got immediately after my treatments.

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I felt I was desperately in need of a detox.

So, back in Manila, I made time in my rather filled up schedule to get a two-hour ayurveda treatment everyday for 14 days -- arriving usually first thing in the morning so that the schedule of meetings the rest of the day would not be broken up.

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That's a rather big commitment to make in terms of time, but I figured my body needed a break after several months of constant traveling and everpresent stress.

I was probably the ideal patient for ayurveda, in fact.


Why do people undergo an ayurveda detox, you might be wondering.

As with most other types of detoxification processes, an ayurveda detox aims to rid the body of toxins and impurities by various rituals including the massaging of medicinal herbs and other natural substances onto the body via an oil carrier like sesame oil.

In Southern India, they also practice purging, which is basically induced vomiting; but at Arogya, induced vomiting is not part of the detox process. In fact, most of the rituals are relaxing and calming -- but extremely effective nonetheless.

The one interesting aspect for me was the smell of the substances used.

None of these were unpleasant, and in fact, I loved the smell of the sesame oil. But ocassionally, I did have boiled herbs placed on me that seemed more suitable in a kitchen. There were not a few days when I felt -- and smelled -- like a stew.


Upon arrival for my first day of treatment, I already knew the drill. I did the last of my phone calls in the reception room and then voluntarily turned my phone off.

Then I proceeded to the second floor for a morning of abhyanga, takradhara and aschutan.

These treatments have already been described in a previous blog entry as these were exactly the same treatments I had the first time around.

Patrick, the center's director, decided I should have three days of the same course, followed by four days of a round of different treatments, and then three days of still another set; to end with the abhyanga, takradhara and aschutan again.

Click here to see our previous entry on Arogya

While I was having my treatments, I was trying to figure out how massaging oils, yoghurt and medicated ghee could solve a host of ills.

Was it really as simple as that?


I posed this question to Patrick later on, and he explained: "In ayurveda, we believe there are seven layers in the body, and that it takes about three minutes for medicated oils to go from one level to the next. So 20 minutes is sufficient for reaching the core of the body."

"Do you feel any different after the treatment?" He asked. I could see better and my mind felt lighter, for one thing. But also, I felt heat rising from my skin.

Patrick smiled when I mentioned this. "That's a good thing. That means some of the fire is leaving your body. You have too much fire in you."

So I religiously went through the regimen, which I can describe as interesting at the very least, and calming most of the time.

The wooden ayurveda treatment table is a hard oiled surface that gave me some aches the first two days. But eventually I got used to it and could spend two hours on it with no problems.

In fact, on my second to the last day, I remember thinking: Gosh, this really is a comfortable table!


One day, in the course of my treatments, I was sitting in the lounge area browsing through the books on ayurveda, when Patrick came up to me and said: "Would you like to see what an ayurveda pharmacy looks like?"

Of course, I did.

So I followed him to a small room at the back, and it was filled from floor to ceiling with shelves holding jars and plastic bags of different kinds of powders and liquids.

The smell from inside was very strong and certainly not the same as those found in a relaxation spa -- but it was a very comforting smell of herbs and spices nevertheless.

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One Sunday morning, I woke to find my eyes completely red.

"Oh no, I have sore eyes!" I exclaimed to myself. I thought back as to how I had probably gotten it, and I guessed that it had been the previous day at the Manilart 2010 show.

Realizing that sore eyes probably necessitated temporary hibernation, the first thing I did was look at my schedule for the week beginning that Sunday, and I was horrified to see a very full schedule of meetings and events I just had to attend.

Fortunately I was scheduled for treatments at Arogya at 10 am that morning.

The moment I walked in, I asked Patrick: "Patrick, would you have an ayurvedic treatment for sore eyes? I just need this to disappear this morning. There's just no way I can stay home today, tomorrow or the rest of the week."

I was on the verge of panic.


Patrick didn't even flinch.

He confidently said, in his quiet and incredibly calming way: "I have something. Your sore eyes will be okay by the time you finish your treatments. And if not, we'll put one more dose and it'll be okay."

He put a liquid into my eyes that he said was called something like "everlasting life of the eyes" in Indian. It was the color of pomegranate but it was good for sore eyes and for overall rejuvenation of the eyes.


Of course I was rather skeptical about how sore eyes could disappear in 90 minutes, but I was desperate to try anything at that point.

Miraculously, when I finished my treatment, the sore eyes were indeed gone. I just couldn't believe it.

"Amazing," I kept saying over and over. "I just can't understand it."

Patrick smiled at me. "You have too little faith in ayurveda," he said. "This has been around for thousands of years, after all."

Later on, he added teasingly, when I thanked him again for curing my sore eyes and enabling me to stick to my schedule without interruption: "I should have not given you those eye drops. Then you would've been forced to stay home and rest instead of rushing around all the time."


Yes, I had a physical detox which, according to Patrick, balanced my dosha.

According to ayurveda practicioners, it's really important to balance one's dosha because the imbalance is the root of most illnesses.

Cancer, for one thing, is usually the result of too much pitta, he said.

Well, my dosha was balanced and, happily, I also lost weight and inches in the process -- but unfortunately, my busy schedule wasn't on a detox as well!

Arogya Ayurveda Center
8398 Mayapis Street, San Antonio Village, Makati
Tel. (02) 403-4048, Mobile (63)(906) 2492-2463


Friday, July 16, 2010

Win 2 tickets to Manilart 2010 from Travelife Magazine

Manilart 2010, from July 29 to August 1 at SMX, is the largest event in Philippine art history. Over 200 galleries will be exhibiting major works from Old Masters and contemporary artists. This is one event art lovers should not miss.

Travelife Magazine is giving away tickets to Manilart 2010. To get 2 complimentary entrance tickets worth PhP 400, all you need to do is refer at least 10 new fans for the Travelife Facebook website.

Here's what to do:

1. Go to the Travelife Facebook website. Click on this link if you don't know the website address.

2. If you're not yet a fan of Travelife Magazine, the Philippines' leading travel and lifestyle publication, pls click Like at the top of the page to become a fan. If you're already a fan, thank you very much!

3. To refer at least 10 friends, please invite at least 10 friends to be a fan of Travelife Magazine using the "Suggest to Friends" link on the left side of the Travelife Fan Page.) You must click at least 10 friends out of your FB friends list to qualify for the complimentary tickets.

4. Once you've referred at least 10 friends by this method, please email us at with their names so we can countercheck.

Upon confirmation, we will send you an email confirming your tickets. Complimentary tickets will be ready for pickup under your name at our office in Legazpi Village. The first 50 persons to recommend at least 10 friends will be eligible for two complimentary tickets worth PhP 400.

2F Alexander House
132 Amorsolo St., Legaspi Village
Makati, Metro Manila
Tel. 813-8400/ 892-2620


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Two weeks of Manila Art

Today began at 6 AM in Tokyo, when we left home to get to Narita Airport by 8, to catch the JAL flight to Manila at 920 AM. Our flight was delayed, although interestingly, not by the typhoon. We were already on the runway when the pilot announced he was turning back and we were changing planes due to a technical error.

When we finally landed in Manila, over three hours later than scheduled, it was close to 4 PM and there was no sign of rain whatsoever. The only vestige of a typhoon was the fact that most of the city was without electricity -- including the Travelife office in Makati! After having spent close to three weeks in the First World, where blackouts are almost nonexistent, it was quite surreal to be going into the Philippines' premier business district and to see rows upon rows of office buildings in darkness because a typhoon had passed.

Bastille Day at Sofitel

Later, at the Bastille Day celebrations hosted by French Ambassador Thierry Borja de Mozota at the Sofitel, much of the talk was centered on the typhoon that had just passed and the blackouts still ongoing everywhere. "How was it last night?" the wife of the Japanese ambassador asked me. I then explained that I had almost literally just stepped off the plane, changed out of traveling clothes, and joined the party. Apparently, in their Makati neighborhood, so many of the trees had been toppled by the strong winds.

The Sofitel tent was full and it was such a nice evening weather-wise, made even livelier by a spectacular fireworks display arranged for Bastille Day. I think many people had come out after the typhoon, and it was hard to imagine how ferocious winds howled and toppled things over just over twelve hours earlier.

Well, I've been just five hours in Manila and already I've received so many notices about art-related events this month. For art-lovers, it is indeed an exciting month.

Manilart at SMX

Foremost among these, of course, is Manilart 2010 at SMX this July 30-August 1, organized by gallery owner Jon Sy with the participation of almost every major gallery in the country. It's being billed as the largest art event in Philippine history. I went to Manilart last year, when it was a much smaller event, and was very impressed with the quality of work and the caliber of the galleries that had participated. Because of the success of Manilart last year, Jon has tripled the size of the venue and he filled most of the booth spaces in a matter of days. I understand, too, that gallery owners are making sure that they display their best pieces for this milestone event. So if you're looking for a painting, or even if you just appreciate art, don't miss this major event for the Philippine art world.

And while you're there, make sure you visit the Travelife Magazine booth. We'll be showing some artworks, displaying our magazines, and basically providing a space to relax in in-between viewing paintings.

JA Tan's first solo exhibit at Ayala Museum

Next week, on the 23rd, is the opening of the art exhibit at the Ayala Museum of JA Tan, a very talented young man who is already being collected by several serious art lovers. Now a young man with a solo exhibition and a few patrons isn't so unusual in the Philippines, where there are quite a number of young artists and many people are avid participants of the contemporary art scene. However JA's story is very poignant and inspiring. JA was born a special child. And when he was growing up, his parents unturned every place within the Philippines looking for institutions and specialists that would help them to help JA blossom and develop his talents. His mother Zelie Tan, unfortunately, met with quite a few closed doors in this country. Mind you, this was years ago, when the field of special child development was not very advanced; but nevertheless she was heartbroken to be dissuaded regarding JA's development by so many specialists and institutions in the Philippines, and not a few of them basically told her to stop wishing for a miracle.

However, Zelie, who is a good friend, is not one of these ladies easily discouraged. She and her husband Vince took JA to Canada, where they found schools, including a prestigious art school, that took JA in. In this encouraging environment, JA blossomed into a true artist who paints with a rare passion and an eye for capturing scenes.

So many of JA's artworks are truly eye-catching and beautiful. My personal favorite hangs in his parent's Makati flat, and it's a portrait of the whole family. It reminds me of an Impressionist work. JA's exhibit runs until the first week of August, so I hope you make time to visit it at the Ayala Museum. See for yourself the vivid works of a talented young man who has overcome all odds and truly earned for himself the distinction of "special." It's also a testament to Zelie and Vince Tan's never-give-up attitude and zealousness to find the best learning environment for their son.

Salcedo Auctions

Next week, too, is the preview and actual auction of paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewelry and collectible bags by Salcedo Auctions. I'd just looked through their brochure and it had many interesting items coming up for auction, including a sprinkling of old Filipino masters, some hot young artists like Ronald Ventura, earrings from Bulgari, a couple of Hermes handbags and some Chinese furniture. The auction will be next Saturday at the Mandarin Oriental.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Gawad Kalinga Hope Ball, October 2010

This October, make a bid for hope.

The First Gawad Kalinga Hope Ball and Fundraiser
October 8, 2010
The Peninsula Manila Hotel Ballroom

with the Vice President and Mrs. Jejomar Binay
as guests of honor
and featuring the launch of the
new Philippine national anthem video,
a concert by leading entertainers,
and a charity auction.

For the first time, Gawad Kalinga is organizing what will become the event of the social calendar for 2010. The GK Gala Ball and Fundraiser, organized with the support of The Manila Peninsula and Travelife Magazine, along with many other prominent companies. This exclusive event seeks to join the hands of Manila’s elite to raise support for the forgotten island communities of Sulu in Southern Philippines.

At the same time, this activity is meant to build a bridge of understanding and friendship between the wide spectrum of communities in the Philippines, from our brethren Muslims in depressed areas in the South, Manila’s elite, the media, and major players in corporate Philippines.

Ultimately, this event seeks to establish a legacy of hope and a sense of harmony that will translate into valuable support on the ground in this unfortunate part of the country.

The Gawad Kalinga Hope Ball will bring together for the first time the diverse sectors within the Philippines to create something more important than history: Hope.


Tony Meloto, Honorary Chairman
Beliz Balkir, Chairman
Christine Cunanan, Vice-Chairman
Eena Meloto, Executive Director
Pinky Antonio, Production Chair
Rose Cabrera, Finance Chair
Johan Padua-Chuansu & Wee Ramas-Sullano, Auction Chairs
Mike Toledo, Public Relations Chair
Aurora Pijuan, Secretariat

The Project

To Build Holistic Gawad Kalinga Communities in Sulu.

About Sulu

Sulu is an island province of the Philippines located in ARMM. Its capital is Jolo and occupies the middle group of islands of the Sulu Archipelago between Basilan and Tawi-tawi. Its people are a mix of Muslims and Christians but generally they are mostly Tausugs. The Tausug were among the first Filipinos to embrace Islam as a religion and a way of life. They are referred to as “people of the current”, reflective of their close ties to the sea.

There is land available to build GK communities in the municipalities of Indanan, Jolo and Omar. The land can accommodate at least 20 families for each community. We are working likewise with their local government and with the provincial government so we have the necessary support to make it happen. We are also partnered with the local group of the AFP (Marines) headed by Gen. Rustico Guerrero of the Taskforce Comet. Our recent peaceful and well meaning movements/developments in Sulu has earned us strong goodwill in the area.

Target Funds to be Generated

10 Million Pesos will enable GK to:

• Strengthen the Gawad Kalinga movement in Sulu by building up our Team of Community Organizers, Teachers and other Caretakers who will manage and ensure sustainability of all existing GK communities in Sulu as well as new ones to be built. With their growing presence in the area, we will be able to reinforce the new culture of caring and sharing that will further build relationships and build long-lasting peace.
• Build 1 new community for 30 families in one barangay. This empowered community will be able to spread and build concrete hope to the nearby communities.

20 Million Pesos will enable GK to:

• Strengthen the Gawad Kalinga movement in Sulu by building up our Team of Community Organizers, Teachers and other Caretakers who will manage and ensure sustainability of all existing GK communities in Sulu as well as new ones to be built. With their growing presence in the area, we will be able to reinforce the new culture of caring and sharing that will further build relationships and build long-lasting peace.
• Reach MORE AREAS by building more communities—as much as 4 GK communities—widening the impact we have on the ground to probably reaching key strategic areas beyond Sulu but within Mindanao.

Sponsorship Opportunities Available
If your company wishes to be involved in this landmark event,
please email
or contact Angelica Bayona
Travelife Magazine Director of Business Development
Tel. 813-8400/ 892-2620


Monday, July 5, 2010

Indian Ayurvedic Treatments in Manila

Hello from Tokyo, where it seems the rainy season is finally ending and summer is beginning. It's 4 PM and still it's sweltering over here. The best thing to do is to seek refuge in shade, preferably doing something indoors somewhere calming and airconditioned (such as having a cold soba lunch and a few hours of shopping at Midtown, Tokyo's swankiest shopping mall, where summer sales are running up to 70% off) until late afternoon, when it's finally safe and comfortable to hit the streets again.

An authentic ayurveda center in Manila

The day before I left Manila last week, though, I decided to try out Arogya, a newly-opened Ayurvedic center in San Antonio Village, Makati. Those who follow this blog will know that I'm a big fan of almost everything Indian; and, for natural health, I believe that Indian ayurvedic medicine has great benefits for the mind and body.

Of course, to receive the full benefits of ayurveda, you must have a series of treatments over a course of time. Results are hardly instant as ayurveda is very much a part of natural healing and of helping the body to help itself. Until Arogya opened in Manila, however, this was never quite possible. Personally, I love ayurveda treatments but until now my experience had been limited to a couple of days of treatments as a tourist at spas offering ayurvedic treatments all over the world.

Ayurveda all over the world

Last March, for instance, I was in the state of Kerala, in the southern part of India, which is widely recognized as the home of ayurveda. At the Lake Kumarakom Resort, among India's finest resorts, I spent an afternoon of pure bliss at their ayurvedic spa and came away completely relaxed and refreshed. And before that, I'd had ayurvedic samplers at places as disparate as the Taj Hotel in Delhi, the Four Seasons in Mumbai, the Four Seasons Sayan in Bali, Chiva-Som in Thailand and a couple of spas in England.

With Arogya now only a few minutes away in Makati, and run by serious ayurvedic practicioners who have themselves been trained in India, it now becomes possible to have a proper course of ayurvedic treatments to treat specific conditions. Arogya is owned by Manelle Katigbak Jose, a follower of natural healing who herself used to spend weeks in India undergoing ayurvedic treatments for various ailments. To run her ayurveda center, she recruited Patrick Eyquem, a Frenchman who has been practicing and promoting ayurveda for over 30 years; and Shinoj Jose, a native of Kerala who also trained in his home province. Meanwhile, the Filipino staff have all been rigorously trained in ayurvedic principles, and most of them are actually nursing graduates so they're able to combine Western and ayurvedic principles. What a treat for natural healing followers.

I was happily surprised to find a very comfortable and calming set-up at Arogya, with an intimate and Zen-like feel. It's not plush as it isn't supposed to be a spa, but everything is done with simple and refined taste. It has whitewashed interiors, a relaxing lounge with books on ayurveda and natural healing, and lots of plants everywhere. The minute you enter the place, you leave the hustle and bustle of the world -- and your life -- outside. Meanwhile, as with proper ayurveda centers, the treatment tables are all wood so the hardness takes some getting used to -- but if you actually go to an ayurveda center somewhere and they have comfortable heated massage beds or plush mattresses, I can guarantee that is not a genuine ayurveda center.

Away from stress

That Friday I visited Arogya was exactly the kind of day I needed some ayurvedic TLC. It was the day before my trip to Tokyo and my schedule was packed to the minute with meetings and events -- and even a wine dinner at the Hyatt -- until midnight, except for these two precious hours I was asked to secure for my treatment. And still, just before going up to the second-floor treatment room, I was receiving calls on my mobile while making another call to a client on Arogya's landline -- so much so, that I had to ask Tisha Fernandez, Arogya's manager, to answer my mobile for me while I used her phone. She very sweetly cooperated, taking messages for me while I ironed out details for Travelife's upcoming trip to Turkey on the other line. I must have looked quite a sight, frenetically juggling phones and calls amidst this oasis of calm; and I was so sure this was not the way to start my treatments.

"Do you think you can turn off your phone for the next two hours?" Patrick asked me kindly, as he observed my phone acrobatics. I knew he was worried that the ayurveda treatments he had just prescribed for me, which were specifically to combat stress, would not be effective if I would be holding on to my ringing mobile and texting people nonstop for the next two hours.

Abhyanga for detox

I'd filled out a comprehensive questionnaire at the outset, and based on this and a consequent chat, Patrick had decided what treatments were best for me. That day, I had the Abhyanga, which is a full body massage done by two therapists in synchronized motion using large quantities of herbal-infused sesame oil. This was supposed to balance my dosha, liquefy toxins, normalize blood pressure and induce relaxation. Afterwards, I had the Takradhara, wherein one of the therapists poured medicated buttermilk on my forehead for about 10 minutes. This is supposed to bring relief to sufferers of insomnia, depression and stress. To end, I had the Aschutan, which involved having medicated ghee applied on my eyes for another 10 minutes, thus cooling irritated and stressed eyes.

Unlike typical spas offering ayurvedic treatments, Arogya focuses on health rather than relaxation (although de-stressing is a benefit), and so it uses only the highest quality medicinal-grade oils and herbs.

"Usually, these kinds of oils are not available for retail or even to spas offering ayurvedic treatments," Patrick told me. "Even in India, manufacturers only sell these to ayurvedic hospitals treating hundreds of patients. However I'm able to get these oils because I've known the manufacturers for years."

All three treatments were extremely relaxing and they did wonders to lower my stress level that day. But the Takradhara was very unique because it made use of buttermilk on the forehead instead of oil, and was something I had not experienced before. It was so refreshing and I could immediately feel the stress easing with each minute. After the treatment, I swore my mind cleared up and I could see better. That, combined with the Aschutan, was perfect for tired eyes that have been laboring for hours over the computer!

So here I am now in Tokyo, which is quite peaceful. But still, I can't wait to return to Manila and continue a series of treatments at Arogya. I think I'm going to need some de-stressing from my holiday!

All treatments are by appointment.
To book a session, contact:
Arogya Ayurveda Center
8398 Mayapis Street, San Antonio Village, Makati
Tel. (02) 403-4048, Mobile (63)(906) 2492-2463

Purpose of Ayurveda

* Integrates and balances body, mind and spirit
* Improves health by preventing recurrence of disease
* Reverses biological age
* Improves metabolism
* Provides luster to skin

Importance of Ayurveda

In this modern era, people are acquiring numerous diseases like arthritis, paralysis, heart-related diseases, obesity, migraine, insomnia and glaucoma. Ayurveda provides an integrated approach to prevent illness and to promote wellness through natural therapy. It also emphasizes physical rejuvenation and extension of life span.


Bring Milan to Your Dining Table

Restaurateur Gia Suarez, proprietor of Bravo Ristorante Italiano in Makati's Salcedo Village, shares with Travelife readers some of her favorite, simple Italian recipes from the Northern Italian city of Milan, which is featured in the June-July issue of Travelife Magazine (see Katrina Encanto's account of three weeks of studying design and enjoying life in Milan).

Milanese Cooking From Gia’s Italian Kitchen

Italian cuisine varies depending on which region of Italy it comes from, writes Gia, in the June-July issue of Travelife Magazine. Depending on their location, regions blessed by differing climates of the Mediterranean, North Africa, and Europe, will surely generate different produce, which in turn influences the local gastronomy.

The olive oil dishes that we’ve come to associate so closely with Italian cuisine is generally native to Southern Italy, since the Mediterranean sun and sea favors the growth of olive trees, and their round acerbic fruit. Conversely, many dishes from Milan, in Northern Italy’s Lombardy region, contain a lot of milk, butter, and cheese, from the livestock that thrive on the grassy fields.

At Bravo Ristorante Italiano, we embrace Milanese cooking, and our spreads like the creamy Artichoke and Spinach Spread, flavorful Garlic Cheese Spread, and the rich Salmon Mousse reflect this appreciation. Adding a little versatility to the dish, Bravo’s Artichoke and Spinach Spread is perfect as a fondue, or even a pasta sauce.

Spaghetti Carbonara is another well-known Milanese dish, and quite close to Filipino hearts and stomachs. At Bravo Ristorante Italiano, we prepare the popular northern Italian dish with gorgonzola, a pungent blue cheese made from cow’s milk. Interestingly, the dish was supposedly invented by a cook of the Carbonari, a group of Italian revolutionaries who fought for Italian independence from the end of the 18th century, from ingredients easily available on hand.

Yet another Milanese specialty is the slow cooked, richly flavored Ossobuco, also available at Bravo Ristorante Italiano. It pairs perfectly with Risotto alla Milanese, another Milanese prepared with saffron, butter and wine.


A perfect appetizer – or antipasti as the Italians call it – this dish not only tastes and looks good, but it also makes for entertainment, especially if penalties are accorded to those who drop their crostini in the fondue.

1 bottle Bravo Artichoke & Spinach Spread
1 box Bravo Crostini
Grated Parmesan cheese

Pour the Artichoke & Spinach spread into a microwaveable bowl and top generously with parmesan cheese. Microwave until cheese turns brown, then serve hot or over a fondue burner with crostini. Serves 3-4.


Despite simple ingredients, this recipe makes for a hearty dish that is perfect in a gathering of family or friends.

210 grams Spaghetti, cooked “al dente”
1 bottle (210 grams) Bravo Artichoke and Spinach spread
150 grams Blanched spinach, drained
70 grams Cream cheese
35 grams Butter
200 grams Beef tenderloin, sliced into strips
15 grams Grated parmesan cheese

Over a low fire, sauté the beef in butter until brown, and reserve. Mix the Bravo Artichoke and Spinach spread and cream cheese in a bowl. Add the blanched spinach to the spread and cream cheese mix. Toss in the pasta, the beef, and mix evenly. Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese, and serve hot. Serves 3-4.

Bravo Ristorante Italiano is located at 114 H.V. dela Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati. Call 886-7885 or 750-3378 for reservations, or visit

Bravo sauces, spreads and salad dressings are available at Rustans, Shopwise, S&R, Landmark, SM, Tropical, Waltermart, Cherry, Parco and Pioneer Supermarkets.