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Residents of Fort Bonifacio have been told to stay home as part of the lockdown of Taguig City since mid March as part of the country's plan to slow down the spread of the SAR-COV-2 virus which causes the COVID-19 disease. Every one has to stay home except in some circumstances.

Staying home does not mean staying idle though. Our live may have changed, but our desire to be creative and expressive has not. If you have made drawings during this lockdown and would like to share with the community, this is one place you can do that. 

Choose one of your favorite drawings, and send it to our email at community@thefortcity.com. Make sure the file size is less than 5 MB, so that our mailbox is not choked, and we will post it here!

If you need help to draw, online resources like this page by renowned local artist Robert Alejandro may help.

So let us see your drawing! Poems that reflect this extraordinary time of our life are also welcomed.

A Self Portrait by Arka, 8 years old, Blue Sapphire Condo

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Memorable Events

I blogged about my encounter with the author of Nas Daily (Nuseir Yassin) two and a half years ago, after I accidentally attended his meetup with fans in Bonifacio High Street. Read it here.

This time, I was invited to meet with him as one of the media people at the press con held just before his latest Philippine meetup at SM Aura Premier Mall's spacious Samsung Hall.

Photo above: James Deakin was the host and Alyne Tamir tossed out mini pillows to work up the crowd

In fact, there were so many people who wanted to attend the meet up that the organizer decided to split the two-hour meetup into two sessions, each for a group of about six hundred people.

Photo above: Nas received a portrait of himself from a fan


Same as two and a half years ago, Nas was friendly, straight-talking and humble. Many questions asked were also the same as those asked before, and the answers mostly remained the same, like when did he start Nas Daily (2015), where he got his inspirations (from the people he meets).


Two and a half years ago, he had 3 million followers on the social media. This time, he has 13 million. More people went to his meet up.

Last time, he was the only speaker. This time, his two travel companions, Agon Hare and Alyne Tamir (Nas' girl friend), also answered questions and interacted with the crowd.

Funny and awkward moments

One fan asked Nas when he was going to get married. He said probably never, in the full presence of his girl friend. Then the fan asked them to 'kiss'. Alyne thought the fan said 'kids', and jokingly replied, 'there is so much work just handling friends like you guys..'. They eventually did a peck in the cheek. 

Another fan complimented Nas: "I really liked your video on Iran." Nas looked puzzled. "I never went to Iran." The other fans suggested that he meant North Korea.

Photo above: Nas' tongue needs air after too many interviews. He actually has updated his T-shirt. Last time he was here, the shirt says 32%. Quiz: Since the number has increased by 4% in 2.5 year, what his life expectancy is?

Serious moments

Nas explained why he came back to the Philippines. He was invited by the Department of Tourism to do another video on the Philippines. He decided to do one about efforts being made to reverse the environment damage done to the Philippines so that it will become cleaner and more beautiful. As he mentioned in his first visit, he does not see himself as a travel blogger.

A fan asked Nas whether he would consider slowing down. Nas answered that he told himself that he would probably only live to 40 years old, and this thought made him determined to get a lot done every day. He replied that the fan should consider picking up the pace of his life instead.

Will Nas visit the Philippines again?

I do not recall any one asking him that question. He will start his company in Singapore, this means he will not be living far from the Philippines.

I don't usually attend meetups, but Nas is not the usual celebrity. Nor is he a travel vlogger that just takes beautiful videos. He uses videos to give messages about social issues, so that people start thinking or discussing about those issues. 

Since I noticed that many of his fans were young people, some of them were not even teenagers, after attending the meetup, I started watching some of his videos with our pre-teen daughter, in the hope that she will spend less time watching slapstick/funny/prankster videos. If that happens, this meetup with Nas would be the most well-spent time I had with a celebrity.

A special thanks to SM Aura Premier Mall for inviting me to the event, and informing us of the many efforts that it has put into supporting environmental sustainability. We did not know that it is the first mall to accept eco-bricks, but we have seen the herb garden that it maintains.

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Memorable Events

It was the second time that I went to a book launch, and even though I did not know anything about her work before I went, I stayed for more than an hour. That was because the author, Marjorie Liu, was a very engaging speaker in addition to being a good story teller. She is the author of an award winning comic book series called Monstress, as well as several Marvel X-men stories, and she became the first woman to win the comic book industry’s top prize for writers last December.

Photo above: fans lined up to ask Marjorie Liu questions at the book launch.

At the book launch held at Fully Booked BGC, Liu was very eloquent, and very honest in her replies to questions, so it was nice to listen to her talk, and easy to be moved by what she said. 

I will be honest as well. The reason that I went to the book launch was because I was curious about her. She is a successful writer that looked very western, yet has a Chinese family name. When Liu explained about her creative journey, having a mixed blood was actually one of the driving forces that made her want to write. She said that growing up, there were not many stories or pop culture that had mixed blood characters. She felt excluded. So she decided to tell stories in her own way.

Photo above: a fan gave her a neck cushion that has a cover made for her book, Monstress.

She said that her grandmother went through a lot of hardship during World War II, yet her grandmother could still talk about the events that occurred with a smile, and that really had an impact on her. I could relate to that a little, since my grand parents also had to leave China during that time and their stories always fascinated me since the environment then was so different from what I live in.

She was able to explain in a few sentences how she built the characters in her books and comics. Basically, she had the characters in her head, as if these were real people, and then figured out how they would respond in a particular situation.

Before I met her, I disliked comics that had a lot of sex and violence. After meeting her, I still do not like this genre of comics, but at least now I do not wish the authors of such comics any bad luck, because meeting Liu made me realize that they could be likeable and decent people, even though the violence and sex they wrote in a media that is mainly suitable for kids repulses me.

In fact, I liked her talk so much that I bought a poster for her book and had her signed it. The beautiful art work of her book, done by an artist called Sana Takeda, is also a nice discovery of my going to her book launch. 

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Memorable Events

On an early Saturday morning, a group of residents of Bonifacio Global City met up in front of the fountain at Serendra Piazza. A couple of group members had an app called The Clan Race downloaded, and they found the race that they were looking for. It was called BGC Art Walk #2

The group had done BGC Art Walk #1 a few weeks ago, so they were not totally strangers to how the app works. After getting the first challenge, they started walking around Serendra Piazza to count the objects named in the challenge. They keyed in the answer. It was wrong. Undeterred, they counted again, and they got the answer correct, and got the clue to the next stop.

It was a group with diverse background and age, but nothing stopped them from enjoying each other's company. They worked together as a team to look for the places described in the clue, and even the 5-year old helped in counting objects and keying in the answers!

Some technical issues were encountered during the walk, so members had to linger in a place a little bit longer to wait for the next clue to arrive. That just gave us more time to get to know one another!

The walking group, led by Ms. Marianna, met through a local community organization called EQUIP@BGC that brings together the residents of Bonifacio Global City in community building activities. I feel fortunate that there are such civic minded groups in my neighborhood so that I can benefit from such healthy activities and get to know my neighbors at the same time.

Marianna organizes the walk for BGC residents once a month. If interested, please contact her at anna.price2008@gmail.com.

To know more about the app used for the fun walks, visit www.ClanRace.com.

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Yesterday (August 8, 2018) I attended the Philippine Investment Conference 2018 at Shangri-La at the Fort organized by The Philippine CFA Society. One of the most memorable moments was when the president of Union Bank, Edwin Bautista, made comments about non-banks companies that used mobile app to offer banking services, during a panel discussion, which was also attended by Anthony Thomas of Globe Mynt.

Mr. Bautista sounded quite agitated when he expressed the concern of traditional banks about companies like Globe Mynt and Grab which offer customers services that allow them to purchase a variety of goods as well as sending money to others using money stored with these companies. His sentiment was: "they will eat our lunch!"

(In the featured photo, Mr. Bautista of Union Bank is seated second from the left, and Mr. Thomas is at the far right.)

Traditional banks have the right to be concerned. As one speaker at the same conference, Mr. Paul Schulte, observed, in several countries like China and Japan, customers could use their mobile phone to complete all sorts of financial transactions, from shopping to investing. Yet these companies are not as heavily regulated as banks.

What should be the response of traditional banks? Their first stop will probably to the regulators, like taxi associations going to the government when under threat by cab hailing services provided through mobile app. However, if that's the only thing that they will do, traditional banks will not stop the pain. For them to meet this challenge properly, I have two advices for them.

(Photo above : Undersecretary of Finance talks about the tax reform package at the Philippine Investment Conference 2018)

One, play to your strength. While people are willing to deposit a few hundred pesos to a telco account, not many will let a telco or a social media platform keep 10,000 pesos or more. Use their trust of banks to facilitate transaction of high value items, but make it easier than before. Think real estate crowd funding. Be the realtymogul.com or fundrise.com of the Philippines.

Two, do something that you should have done before but did not just because you did not have to. Make bond issuing and trading more accessible, for example. Traditional banks did not push for this because the people that have the know-how and resources to do it (investment banks) and you could make more money by selling bonds at P500,000 a pop instead of P50,000.

With new technology like block chain, high value items can be traded in small parcels safely, with relatively low cost and very little friction. Banks can generate income by collecting fees from high volume of transactions, instead of getting paid from a few big transactions. You may have less chance to rub shoulders with the super-rich, but the upside is, you Do Not have to rub shoulders with the super-rich. Default risk is more dispersed, and the pool of funding source will become bigger as many middle income savers can now have more options to invest.

Technology will not go away. Work with it, and make it work for you.

(The author Chiu Ying Wong is a CFA charterholder. She is currently running a start-up called iOpenhub Inc., the latest project of which is a mobile app that allows individuals and teams to design and play their own treasure hunt with more fun. She has no direct investment in fintech companies.)

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Memorable Events

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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Memorable Events

Not being a drinker of any alcoholic beverage, my motive for attending the Whisky Live Manila event held on Oct 21 and 22, 2017 at Shangri-La at the Fort was to understand why whisky has become so popular that it has its own event in the grandest ballroom of the swankiest hotel in the Fort. Whisky is a hard liquor, ie. a drink that has high alcohol content, quite expensive, and its image in the old days, which is like twenty years ago, was associated mostly with a group of wealthy elderly men drinking quietly in a dimly lit room. 

I was unable to attend the first night of the event, so I went there early on the second day. I arrived at around 5 p.m., but found out that most of the program started at 7pm, and most people came in after 8pm. So the first thing that I learned about whisky was that people usually drink it after dinner (unless you are a Japanese whisky drinker, who would drink it during a meal).

Photo above: At 8pm, the Grand Ballroom where Whisky Live Manila 2017 was held, is filled with merry participants.

Being there early turned out to be not a bad move, though, as I could talk to exhibitors quietly and at length, which would not be possible if I had arrived after 8pm.

How the event worked. Each participant upon registration was given ten chips. For each shot of whisky tasted, the participant would give one chip to the exhibitor, so that each participant could try only ten shots. An additional chip was for voting for the best tasting whisky, and another one for voting for the best decorated exhibition. 

The event had over 40 exhibitors. There were brands well-known to the general public, such as Chivas, Remy, Johnny Walker, Tanduay, as well as brands only known to whisky connoisseurs, such as Dalmore, Glenfiddich, Dewar's, Glengoyne, bourbons like Jim Beam, Irish whisky like Jameson, Japanese whisky like Yamazakura, and new comers like Koval from USA. There was even a local liquor producer, Lakan, that offers premium Philippine Lambanog, a wine made from coconut.

A steamer that lets you 'nose' the whisky

The first exhibit that I stopped at was that of a whisky brand called Dewar. I was drawn to that exhibit because it had an unusual contraption on display. It was a glass dome with a button. When the button was pushed, steam carrying the flavor of a whisky would be released and we could inhale it to get a wisp of its aroma. My take? It was a nice breath of warm air with alcoholic and grainy smell. I could have spent a few minutes inhaling it if I had more time. Dewar's bartender, Lennon, was a very nice guy and answered all my questions about whisky that I could think of. 

Master Classes

The event included a number of master classes, with presenters from different whisky brands to impart their knowledge about whisky. I went to one presented by Neil Strachan of Balvenie, called "The Art of the Craft". In the class, Neil highlighted the features of Balvenie that form the identity of the brand, and along the way, explained the steps of whisky making the Balvenie way. The company's pride was the craftmen that they have for each step of whisky making, and their ownership of workshops, such as having their own cooperage, which is a workshop that builds whisky barrels (or casks) from pre-used wine or whisky barrels. 

Apart from dispensing whisky-making knowledge, Balvenie master class was memorable for their generous freebies for attendees. We each were given a replicate of a "Dipping Dog", a container made from copper tube which was used by distillery workers to 'liberate' whisky from casks in the warehouse.

Balvenie's "Dipping Dog" that contains malted barley, which can be consumed as bar snack.

Event to remember

The crowd that I met at Whisky Live Manila was quite different from those that I imagined. They were younger, many were in their 30s, and they were not only men. Even at the master class that I attended, out of 20 attendees, 6 were women. Sure, there were those who were there just for tasting the whiskies, and socializing with other drinkers. But there were many who seemed genuinely interested in learning about the ways to differential one whisky from another, such as through the method of making the drink, the flavors found in each, or the story behind the brand, details that make appreciation of a liquor possible. 

To get a feel of the vibe at the Whisky Manila Live event, check out the video below.

Intimate Whisky Experience

While tasting whisky from different brands and interacting with sellers in a big event like Whisky Manila Live is a great way to learn about whisky, such events do not happen all the time. Meanwhile, there are places that we can dip our toe into whisky appreciation in a more intimate setting.

Three days before the event, I went to LIT Japanese Whisky Bar at Serendra Piazza to attend their Rum Tasting masterclass. Rum is not exactly whisky, I am told, but I wanted to get a feel of the learning environment at LIT, which also conducts Japanese Whisky appreciation classes.

I must say, the experience was quite different from that in Whisky Manila Live. First, the presenter was not tied to a brand, and thus could offer opinion on products from different brands. Second, the place was small, so participants could engage in more involved discussion.

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Memorable Events

Security guards who worked night shift there must be wondering why any one would choose to sleep on the street as a reward, especially if these people can afford to shop at Bonifacio High Street (BHS). But there we were, nearly 200 people happily sleeping in the middle of this high-end retail street under the stars, our shelters being made of thin fabrics that were strung together by metal rods.

My daughter and I were among this group of funny people who eagerly lined up to register to get into our tents on a hot Saturday afternoon. The tents were part of an event called "Glamping in the City" organized by the body that manages Bonifacio Global City, namely, Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation. One had to meet certain spending requirements in shops in BHS before being qualified to participate in the event, which started on a Saturday afternoon (April 29, 2017) and finished the next day.

"Glamping" is glamorous camping, which means one gets to enjoy all the benefits of camping like staying in a place that allows us to be close to nature (or our surrounding) and take part in outdoor recreational activities, without having to deal with chores such as pitching a tent and cooking, or forego the convenience of modern living such as the use of a toilet.

Security at the well-cordoned tent area was tight. Only those with the event wristband were allowed inside. This was important, as this was a busy shopping area and campers would not want to have strangers wandering into their tent.  We got our tent at around 4pm. It was pitched near the large book store at 11th Avenue. There was an air bed inside, and a table and chair outside. We were to be joined by another mother and daughter family, so the tent was intended to fit up to four persons. It looked like we would be set for the night, as soon as we brought back some pillows, blankets, and lights, and took a shower at home.

(Photo above: As part of the program, participants have to perform a chant for the group that they were assigned to)

To give us their version of the full flavor of camping, the organizers decided that we needed to be given a busy program of activities. At 6pm we were gathered under a covered area to play team games.  We were organized into teams, and played games such as passing quail eggs, charade, and so on. My daughter and I were joined by my husband and a friend. Our team did dismally in the games, but we were still rewarded with goodies, so everyone was happy.

At 8pm after a torrent but brief shower, the camp ground began to be occupied by campers returning from the boodle dinner. 

Food was aplenty and fresh. Nobody complained also because it was provided free by the restaurant Kabisera.

Apart from games organized by the event organizers, campers got entertained by the activities going on around the tent area. Where else could you stay in a tent, and when you walk outside of it, you are within a few yards from nice shops and restaurants? There was melodic singing from a regular busker on Bonifacio High Street who sang and strummed on his guitar, in place of the guitar player that usually sits next to a camp fire in a real camping night. 

(Photo above: a movie was shown at around 10pm.)

Kids really enjoyed this new experience of being allowed to play in the public area late at night. They visited other kids' tents, and played whatever game they could come up with, as long as they were in each other's company.

Simple breakfast was provided the next morning courtesy of another restaurant located on BHS, Italianni's. After breakfast, a gym instructor took participants through some morning exercises. More freebies were given away.

So why did we join? It is about our desire to experience things unfamiliar. For folks like us who do not enjoy roughing it any more, our kid rarely gets the chance to feel what is it like to sleep inside a tent in a place outside our home.

The "glam" part: we didn't have to pitch our tent. It was done for us. We had an airbed. The camp is in the middle of the city. We had easy access to flushed toilets. No need to cook or fish or hunt our own food.

The less glam: The tents were not air conditioned. Lacked privacy. We didn't open all covers of the tent because we didn't want anyone to see inside. It got a bit too hot inside at night, but my kid had no trouble sleeping, because she was exhausted.

Nature? There were birds chirping in the morning. And a street cat came into our tent at night. So that is glamping in the city.