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Food
newbie

I only take a cup of coffee once every few days, but when I do buy a cup of coffee, I need to know that I am getting the good stuff, since a cup of specialty coffee can cost as much as a meal for many people.

Today, I had a meeting in a new specialty coffee place that does not seem to bother to attract customers with its signage. It is located at the ground floor of W City Tower, 7th Avenue, the building that has a series of balconies on its external wall, lined up to form a crescent shape.


With a sign that is so cryptic (they can't even put a "%" sign in the company's url, but have to use this: https://arabica.coffee/), % Arabica must be doing something right, because the cafe had a line at its cashier on a weekday at around 10am. 

% Arabica has a very small menu. You will not find cafe mocha on it. Instead, they have Spanish coffee, which has a sweetener addeded to its expresso.

How does its coffee measure up against other specialty coffee shops in BGC?

The contenders are:

- Single Origin at BHS

- Kuppa Coffee at Ecommercenter

- Luna Coffee at BHS and NAC Tower

as well as coffee chains like:

- Toby's Estate (SM Aura, Ecotower, Shangri-La, to name a few branches in the Fort)

- Starbucks' (everywhere)

- UCC (Burgo's Circle, Forbestown Road, Uptown Mall, Venice Grand Canal Mall)

- Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (at least 8 branches in the Fort)

- a few branches in the Fort : Seattle's Best, Figaro Coffee, San Francisco Coffee.


Our % Experience

We bought a cup of their short hot caffe latte (P150). It has a very mellow taste, and no harsh acidity that you will often find in a small specialty coffee brand. We did not ask, but suspect that their beans are not those commonly found in other coffee shops. They display samples of Ethiopian coffee beans in the shop. They have a unique coffee roaster in the store. And the owner of the % Arabica brand claims that he owns a coffee farm in Hawaii, according to the website of % Arabica.

It is therefore fair to say that % Arabica can make a good cup of coffee, and that the experience is very unique and reflects the Japanese heritage of the brand's owner.

Photo above : Coffee art from a cafe in Bonifacio High Street.

Coffee Quiz

Instead of asking you which coffee brand tastes best, which is very subjective, let us test your knowledge of the brands.

Which coffee brand is best associated with each statement below?

1. The only home grown specialty coffee chain that has branches in China.

2. The Philippines was the brand's third market to open outside its home country.

3. It has the smallest espresso coffee menu among the brands that exist in the Fort.

4. It offers Chemex and Hario brewed coffee.

5. It has a hazelnut flavored coffee on its menu.

6. The first coffee shop with a coffee roaster in a store in the Fort.

Answer all these questions correctly, and you win the title of the most knowledgeable coffee drinker in the Fort. You can then tell us which brand serves the best coffee in the Fort in your view.


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Blog
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Don't worry, this is not a statement extracted from an internal memo of an email marketing company.

It is a summary of my review after watching the theatrical performance of Spamalot, a stage play produced by Upstart Productions and performed at BGC Arts Center last Saturday. Upstart Productions is a local theatrical show production company that has very good reputation. I have always enjoyed their shows.

When I got the tickets to the show, I wondered if I had made a mistake. While I am familiar with British humor, I was not sure if my 10-year old could get the jokes. Would she need to have knowledge of British history to enjoy a show the title of which is a word play on a place in British history called Camelot? In fact, come to think of it, I don't think I know much about Camelot except that it was a name of a place in British history in medieval times. There was a legend about how a boy became king with the help of magical power.

And what the heck is Monty Python? The show is called Monty Python's Spamalot. I vaguely remembered that it was a term associated with a group of British comedians in 1970s, the most famous of whom was a guy named John Cleese. He is the British version of John Lithgow (a US actor that has starred in many movies as well as a successful comedy series called 3rd Rock from the Sun).

After the show, I was glad that I brought along my 10-year old. She was glued to the show the whole time, and talked about dressing up as King Arthur at Halloween, her most favorite annual event.

It was an outrageous comedy.

Audience eagerly lines up to get into the theater.

The show started with a scene set in a mental hospital. One of the patients became the lead character of the play, King Arthur, in the next scene. So everything in the play was supposed to be a dream in the head of a mental patient. Craziness was therefore expected.

The story line is not very important, because it only serves as a vehicle for a lot of silliness. Everything just happens. 

Briefly, the story was this: King Arthur, a king of England in medieval time, needed to recruit some knights to join him in a quest to find the holy grail. A lot of the jokes were about how King Arthur and his knights interacted with strangers and among themselves.

Photo above: Some of the cast of Spamalot and a fan.

A bunch of silly men running around could become bland after a while even though they were hilarious. Luckily, in the British legend about King Arthur, there was a beautiful sorceress called Lady of the Lake. This provided an opportunity to add some glamour to the play.  The Lady of the Lake, played by actress Rachel Alejandro in the show that we watched, was not only very pretty, but most of all, could sing silly songs and act silly very well.

While Spamalot is a British play that was written probably many years ago, the audience could still connect with it. One is because many of the jokes were about the misunderstanding of simple instructions by idiots. Second, some of the songs sang in the show that we watched, especially one that was sung by the Lady of the Lake, had been updated to incorporate bits of pop songs in it.  The young audience cracked up when they watched these songs being sung and dance in a comical way. 


T-shirt bought at the merchandise booth of the show shows the most evil villain in the plot, a murderous bunny.

Although one may miss one or two jokes that required a knowledge of British slangs in the 70s (such as the one about 'fairy', which means feminine man), or a few rude words that are probably not used any more, everyone will find this production of Spamalot a well performed comedy that delivers.  The acting and directing were superb, the venue of BGC Arts Center was great, and the dresses worn by the Lady of the Lake were enchanting.

Spamalot is directed by Joel Trinidad and Nicky Triviño of Upstart Productions. It is showing at BGC Arts Center until April 22, 2018. Get your tickets now if you want to have a tummy splitting experience this weekend!

My kid is begging me to bring her back to watch again with a friend. I may just let her do that if she promises to study hard, and continue to make jokes in a British accent.

(Btw, don't think too hard on why the show is called Spamalot, because that's not the way Monty Python people work. It was chosen probably only because it rhymes with Camalot).

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Memorable Events
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I have always been a fan of Japanese food, and like visiting Japan. So when a friend told me about Manila Japanese School's event, I jumped at the chance to taste  Japanese culture, not just in their food, but how they celebrate a traditional festival. It was also very convenient for us, as the school is located not far from our condo. It was like visiting a neighbourhood event.

I was informed by my Japanese friend that Bon Odori Festival is a festival to honor dead ancestors. This is similar to many cultures. "Odori" refers to folk dances, and "Bon" is a contraction of "Obon", a buddhist festival in which people remember departed friends and loved ones.  This was the 19th Bon Odori Festival held in Manila. Like previous years, a platform (yagura) was set up in the middle of the school yard to house the taiko drum, and red lanterns that symbolize the souls of the ancestors were hung around the platform. You can see the set up in the video.

Admission was free, and every one was welcomed. Visitors were required to sign in and had their bags inspected. There were games stalls and stalls selling food and other items. Each game cost P50 and food items were sold at reasonable prices. For example, a stick of beef barbecue cost P130.

At the foot of the platform, space was marked by cones, and everyone seemed to know that the cones set the boundary on the ground beyond which no one was allowed to sit down or put their stuff. It was to reserve the space for the dancing that was part of the festival.

According to a source, "the guiding atmosphere of Bon Odori is to set aside the ego and dance freely as though no-one is watching." I guess outsiders were too shy to participate in the dance, as the dancing we saw was very orderly and done by people wearing some sort of costume.

Nonetheless, outside the reserved area, people were free to put down their mats as if they were on a beach. Tables were provided for visitors to consume the food purchased from the stalls, but a lot of people seemed to prefer to sit on the mats that they brought from home. It was a very relaxing occasion. People drank beer and ate Japanese food items bought from the stalls, while kids ran around, playing in the bouncy castles for small kids, or trying their hands in catching goldfish  with paper scoops, or other traditional Japanese festival games.

There were about twenty food stalls at the festival. We happily downed barbecued pork and beef and sushi, and could not find space for takoyaki with chocolate, even though they looked scrumptious :(.

While the odori dancing was held around the platform, at one corner of the school yard, space was set aside for student performances. Groups of students performed their numbers to the beat of pop music, and parents clapped supportively after each performance.

I was hoping to see the firework at 8pm, but after drinking a can of Kirin beer, I felt very sleepy, and it was only 7pm. Since my kid had ran out of things to do, we decided to head home, and missed the spectacular event! Next time, I will hold the beer drinking until after the firework.



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"Loss of Taguig park cats sparks outcry" - headline of national newspaper, Inquirer Philippines on Feb 19, 2018

"Outrage over 20 missing cats" - top story of Manilastandard.net on Feb 20, 2018

More BGC cat stories in national TV channels in the following days, including GMA Network and ABS-CBN.

I was made aware of this outcry over the removal of cats from a park adjacent to Shangri-La at the Fort Hotel when someone in a messenger app circulated an emotionally charged Facebook page about it.



One Bonifacio Park was opened in December 2015. It is an amenity that is much welcomed by residents like me. For one, it provides a green access between Bonifacio High Street and Crescent Park west, a residential area in the western part of Fort Bonifacio. It is a good place to get a respite from the traffic polluted streets in BGC.

In the first year of its opening, only a handful of cats were seen in the park. They were super adorable and attracted the care of many passerbys. I found them cute and was happy that they were there so that we would not have mice in the park. At the same time, I did not interact with them because I had been bitten by ticks before, and I suspect that the ticks were from cats.


I took this photo in August 2017, when the Book Stop was still located in Bonifacio High Street

As time went by, I noticed more and more cats in the park.  I began to feel uneasy about the presence of the cats in the park. They sometimes occupied a large space in the park when they waited to be fed, and I would not want to go near that space. I also believe that many parents with young children would not let their kids go near that area because of hygiene as well as safety concerns.

Around November 2017, the Book Stop was moved from Bonifacio High Street to Bonifacio One Park. One month later, one could sometimes spot a few cats sleeping on the book shelves. They looked very cute, and I took a photo of them, but somehow something bothered me, and I did not keep the photo.

Photo above: The Book Stop was moved to One Bonifacio Park. This photo was taken before the pillows and milk bottles were placed inside it.

Then soon, I saw pillows placed inside the Book Stop, presumably to make life comfortable for the cats, but books were displaced.  Furthermore, milk bottles and other food items were placed in a cardboard box inside the Book Stop, apparently to feed the cats. It was no wonder that the cat population exploded, to the degree that they became bothersome to people who passed by the park.

After a while, the cardboard box and its contents were torn and broken by the cats. They became quite unsightly, and the food remnants became a source of nuisance.

When I saw a post in a messenger app that referred me to a Facebook post about the removal of stray cats at the Bonifacio One Park, I got the impression that the worst had happened to the cats. "I could not hold back my grief, my panic, my heart sank to my stomach....it is the Lunar New Year today, but I feel no sense of happiness, it feels like the day my daddy died..." (full message reproduced above).

This Facebook post was so powerful that an outrage was sparked against the authorities who removed the stray cats. All the national media reported about it. Many took the side of the Facebook post's author.

Then the PR management of the establishment concerned, Shangri-La at the Fort Hotel, countered the allegations. They issued a press release, saying that some of the cats were adopted by their employees, and others were relocated to another place, and that no cat was killed. An animal concern group asked for proof that the cats were indeed adopted and relocated.

When one reads the comments on the articles reporting this issue, one can see a lot of angry words on both sides. Only a few were constructive suggestions, asking the authorities to offer the public a chance to adopt the cats before removing the cats. There was a lot of animosity and some comments descended into personal attacks and name-calling. It was ugly.

At the risk of antagonizing people who feel passionate about the cats, I would say that it was the wrong kind of human intervention that created this tragedy from the start. It was fine that cats came to BGC to look for food. Most people will agree that it is good that some cats are here, as they will catch mice so we do not have to apply dangerous chemicals. However, actively feeding them had caused the cat population to reach a level that many of us considered too invasive of the limited public space that we have. Too many people enjoy interacting with the cats, but do not care for them enough to take them home. Instead, public space is used for keeping their pets.

The fate of the cats was sealed when their patrons started turning the Book Stop into a cat home. They ignored the need of other users of the park, the owner and supporters of the Book Stop.

 At first glance, it may seem that the outcry was caused by too much love for the cats. However, if we think more about it, I think it was because there was not enough love for the furry animals. Not enough love to take them home to care for them. Not enough love to think for the future of the cats, and to restrain ourselves from feeding them just in order to get instant gratification from the interactions.


* * *

Like the author of the powerful Facebook post, I also experienced a heartbreaking event recently. At the end of last year, I received news from a friend that an orphanage that she had been running for many years had to close. The reason? long delay in processing the adoption cases by the authorities.  This made it too costly to care for an orphan. It was hard for the orphanage to raise funds from donors, as donors felt that the impact of their donation was small.

It was a dreadful news. I was saddened not only by the closure of the orphanage, but the thought that orphans in all of the orphanages in the Philippines have to endure long waiting time before they can reach people who are ready to give them the love and attention of parents.  In most orphanages, the resources are stretched. Babies have to wear soiled diapers for hours. Toys, if available, are worn out and not cleaned that often. There is insufficient attention, let alone love, to give to each child.

I do not know the real reason for the long processing time, which can be over two years in some cases, but from the information that I obtained from my friend, it seems that it used to be the court system that delayed the processing of adoption cases. Not only did adoption cases had to wait in line with all other court cases, adoption cases were often handled in the same way as trial cases as if it were a criminal or civil case where prospective adoptive parents were interrogated as if they were on trial. 

Then the procedures were changed, and the Department of Social Welfare was given the authority to approve adoption applications. Long delays continued because the social workers were afraid of making mistakes and asked for repeated assessments of each case.

Now a law is being considered to revert the approving authority back to the court. But according to people running the orphanages, the new law does not provide any solution to shorten processing time.

There is no cute photo to show babies languishing in orphanages, no moving photos to tell people that the babies do not get cuddled when they are crying, thus no outcry on how these babies are delayed from getting the care and attention from people who are ready to love them as if their own children.

These babies were not only abandoned once, they are again let down by the society. Their cries are not heard, and no one speaks for them.

If I were a real journalist, I know which subject I would prefer to write about.

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Community Events
chiu

Fort Bonifacio has the highest concentration of international schools than any other place in the Philippines. However, most of the time these establishments are closed to outsiders. Therefore, the international festival held annually at British School Manila is a rare chance for members of the public to go inside this exclusive school. Money raised from the event is to benefit charitable activities of the school.

This year, the event was held on 23 February. The event has three major components: a parade, international food stalls, and student performances. 

The parade started at around 5pm. Parents and children put on their best national costumes and walked around the ground to greet everyone. There were so many different countries that we lost count. Dance troops from the Philippines provided the drum beats and dancing to keep the festivity alive.

Highlight of the event was the food offering. There were 17 food stalls showcasing cuisines from all around the world. It was clear that parents of the school kids put in tons of hard work to prepare the food, and donated their valuable time to serve it. 

There were Peking duck from China (of course), beef sandwiches from Canada, samosa from India and Pakistan, food from Japan, Korea,  Thailand, and a lot from the big tent from the Philippines. We liked a lot the snacks from Ireland, which included some smoked salmon and Irish stew, and we particularily liked their free flow of Irish cream!

The most popular dessert was a rolled ice-cream located at the Chinese tent. It was not a Chinese food, but the novelty was attractive enough that people waited in line to get a taste. 

Beer and soft drinks were sold on site, but even adding in the cost of the drinks, the quality of the food and the unique ambience of the event made this festival the best-value buffet in Fort Bonifacio!


**Sorry you cannot see the video of this event any more since British School Manila does not allow any video taken within its premises.**

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Food
chiu

Manila House is a members-only club opened in early 2017, and it currently has a membership of about 1,000. Since only members or guests accompanied by members are allowed in, it means not many people have seen the inside of this club, known for its artsy interior decorations. 

We were invited there for lunch two days ago, and got a tour of this exclusive club. If we are asked to sum up the club in a utilitarian way, one would say that Manila House is a place that houses five restaurants and several function rooms. But Manila House is much more than a 5-Star hotel minus the accommodation. It is exclusive, so that you will only mingle with people with significance. It has taste in design, food offering, and the activities that it organizes for its members. 


To get to Manila House, you can either enter the lobby located to the left of a restaurant called Green Pastures on the ground floor of the Net Park building along 5th Avenue, or go to a lift accessed through a guarded corridor that is situated across Caravan Black, a cafe also on the ground floor of the Net Park building. Take either lift to the 8th floor. 

When you get out of the lift, you will find yourself in a hallway that is painted red. Turn left, and you will see what is shown in the featured photo. It is a place for members to lounge before going to the main restaurant, which has a tropical feel to it (a lot of greenery and wooden parrots) and serves 'continental' food.

The largest restaurant of Manila House serves 'continental food', which, to common people, means western food.

Japanese restaurant in Manila House. You can get a lot of privacy there, since it is quite empty.

Photo above: This restaurant serves Filipino food.

Other than these restaurants, there is a bar for drinks, and a grill room for meat lovers.

Manila House has several hallways that can be rented for events. We were told that the furniture arrangement in the club is changed every month. All artworks there are for sale.

Having taken a look at the place, I bet you want to know about the food we had. There were nine of us, so we had a chance to sample many dishes. The menu in the continental restaurant was actually quite extensive. Prices and quality are similar to a 5-star hotel, but some dishes are a tad less pricey than in 5-star hotels.

A salad with fresh greens, fruits, pine nuts and beetroot.


The House burger was nothing to write home about.


The Poke Bowl had salmon, tuna, blue crab, edamame, and seaweeds. All very fresh and tasty. About right at P650.


Sea bass at P1,400 was definitely not the best value-for-money dish.


The title of best-value-for-money dish for that meal went to..... Fried Chicken. At P380, it had two huge pieces of chicken, a slice of bacon and mashed potato. The chicken was super crispy, moist and flavorful.

So if you have a couple of hundred thousand pesos to spare, and want to be in the same room with people of significance, this could be your place. For that amount of dough, you can get a life time membership in this prestigious club.


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Food
chiu

When you have tried all the burgers in the neighborhood, there is nothing else to look forward than meal time, right? That was what we felt when we decided to start the Off-Menu Gourmand Club in the Fort.  We wanted to get the excitement from expecting a dish.

However, finding a restaurant willing to offer an off-menu item is not that easy. Restaurant chains are big bureaucracies. They do not offer anything without going through a lot of procedures. For independent restaurants, the chef has to be confident enough to offer something not tested before.

We were lucky that the chef of Grind Bistro and Cafe at The Net Park was up to the challenge. 


Photo: Mystery burger number one is a brioche burger with gorgonzola cheese, shiitake mushroom, and soy ketchup

We contacted a few restaurants that are known for their burgers ahead of time and gave an all-in budget of P500 per head. We were very happy that Grind Bistro and Cafe accepted our challenge so that the Off Menu Gourmand Club could have our first gathering,

There were only three of us at the restaurant on November 28, 2017, but that did not take away the excitement of trying something new and unique, as in no one else who had walked into that restaurant had ever tried it!

That night, Chef Steven Carl offered us two burgers, a brioche burger with gorgonzola cheese and shiitake mushroom, seasoned with soy ketchup. The other was an open-faced rye bread sandwich that has pastrami slices on a beef patty, with sauteed onion, melted gouda cheese, and mustard aioli. We ordered both for sharing and never looked back.

The brioche, which is a sweet and buttery bread, was firm but not hard, and not too sweet. All the ingredients inside the burger had the flavor that they were supposed to have, and yet they worked very well together. The beef patty was succulent, the mushroom slices were umami, and the gorgonzola cheese was mild yet had the distinct flavor of blue cheese. It was blue cheese without the aggressiveness of ordinary blue cheese that often turn some people off. The soy ketchup was not too salty. It added just the right amount of saltiness to the whole burger.

It was a satisfying burger that had tons of flavor, all balanced and worked well together. For those of us who liked to keep our hands dry after eating a burger, we were even happier since this fantastic beast was juicy but not drippy.


Photo above: Open-faced rye bread pastrami sandwich; inset: Chef Steven Carl

The star of the open-faced rye bread pastrami sandwich had to be the pastrami. It was slices of well-cooked high-grade beef that piled on top of a thick beef patty. In a hurry to try it, unfortunately, we did not take a very good photo of the sandwich. Just believe us when we say that it was the best pastrami burger that we ever had. 

Someone asked me, isn't pastrami the same as corned beef? Lucky for us who live in the era of the internet. We googled and found the answer right away. Both pastrami and corned beef were beef marinated in brine, but corned beef is cooked by boiling the meat while pastrami is made by smoking the beef after brining. This pastrami cooked by Chef Steven must have used very high-quality beef since it was very tender and succulent and with the right amount of saltiness and smoky flavor.

The smokiness of the pastrami went well with the beef patty. The melt gouda was very mild, probably to give way to the beef flavor in the sandwich. But when we looked up the internet for Gouda cheese, we learned that this cheese had an advantage over other cheeses, even though it is very subdued in the taste department. Gouda contains Vitamin K2, which has anti-aging properties. So while we were eating a burger, we were slowing down aging!

Our bill for the three burgers came to P1,650, a little bit above our budget, but we were super happy with the food and service we got from Grind Bistro. Bravo, Chef Steven!

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Community Events
newbie

BGC Yard Sales are organized by Bonifacio Estate Services Corporation (BESC) for residents and people working in Bonifacio Global City.  This webpage is based on information provided by BESC, but it is not an official page. Please use contact information provided here to seek further clarification from BESC.

The coming BGC Yard Sale will be on April 28, 2018. As in previous BGC Yard Sales, it will be held at De Jesus Oval, a garden located near Pacific Plaza Tower at 25th Street.


The event is a community service by BESC to promote community building and recycling of pre-loved items, therefore no fees are charged. But there are rules to follow.

Under the new guidelines, if participants need to rent tent, tables and chairs, they have to bring these by themselves. The organizer, BESC, does not want to deal with the rental arrangements any more. 

Also, there will no longer be a requirement for a bond.

The organizer will issue a community permit to approved applicants, ad the permit will serve as a pass to set up the booth.


In addition, participants have to provide proof that they are residents of BGC, or working in BGC.

The person in charge in BESC is Ms Angel. She can be contacted via email at purchasingassistant@besc.com.ph. 


Procedure:

Step 1. Register online

Residents and people working in BGC can register to join the yard sale by registering in this link:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BGCYardsaleApr282018


Step 2. Pick up your community permit

Pick up your community permit 3 days before the yard sale from BESC Office, 2nd floor, Bonifacio Technology Center Bldg, 31st Street. 


Step 3. Arrive at the venue early on the day of the yard sale. Report to the BESC counter. 


This post is a community service by www.TheFortCity.com. We are not the organizer of the event. Questions should be sent to Ms Angel for official reply. Feel free to share your experience of the yard sale here. To help drive traffic to the yard sale, you can post your items in our bulletin board so that people can get excited about items to be sold at the yard sale.