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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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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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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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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.


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January 21, 2017

One fine Sunday morning I went to take part in an event that turned out to be more fruitful than I expected. 

I have a friend who is a member of the Singapore Philippines Association, and she informed me of a tree planting event sponsored by the Singapore Embassy to be held in Fort Bonifacio. This was actually the second tree planting event organized by the Singapore Embassy, but the first one was held in Nuvali, which was not very convenient for me. I am a supporter of activities that promote environmental protection, and as a resident of Fort Bonifacio, how can I not support such an event when it will happen virtually at my community's backyard? to top it off, I was told that a name tag would be put on each seedling that I would sponsor for a princely sum of 80 pesos each!

The idea that there will be a tree that bears my name as long as it lasts was very appealing. So I put in a sponsorship for 6 seedlings, so that my close family members could also each get a tree named after them. I did not have any other expectation from the event.

On the day of the event, I arrived at the venue at exactly 9am as informed by my contact at the Singapore Embassy. We were told to go to the Kasalikasan Garden that is located near the De Jesus Oval at the end of 3rd Avenue and 25th Street. Singaporeans follow the clock closely, so I was not surprised that the event started at around 9:15am. There was to be a short ceremony to kickstart the event.

From left, Ambassador Kok Li Peng, Senator Cynthia Villar, and Mr. Vivencio Dizon

Ambassador to the Philippines, Ms. Kok Li Peng, gave the opening remarks. She said that, in Singapore, the movement to plant trees started in 1963 when the then Prime Minister Mr. Lee Kuan Yew planted the first tree, a Mempat tree, at Farrer Circus. This marked the launch of an island-wide greening movement that has continued for over 5 decades. Indeed, this movement has made Singapore the standard bearer in Asia of a green and modern city for its citizens and visitors. The fruit of Mr. Lee's vision and commitment for a green city is plain for all who have visited Singapore to see. Spreading the practice of tree planting overseas is therefore one of the ways that Singaporeans honor Mr. Lee's legacy, and at the same time sharing his vision with other countries.

Philippine Senator Cynthia Villar, the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, was the guest of honor, and she spoke next. She talked about her endeavour to push for the development of the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA) as an alternative destination for urban dwellers and tourists. LPPCHEA, a 175-hectare mangrove forest and marine habitat in Manila Bay serves as a sanctuary for 84 bird species, including migratory birds and globally-threatened Philippine duck and Chinese egret.

The new chairman of Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), Mr. Vivencio Dizon, was also a guest of honor. He commended the Singapore Embassy for bringing their green practice to Fort Bonifacio, an area that is jointly managed by BCDA and its major partners in the area, such as Ayala Corporation. He talked about being inspired by the gardens and parks in Singapore.


Taguig City Councilor Edwin Eron informed us that apart from Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City had other areas that were being promoted for tourism. Last to speak was Atty Roberto Oliva, Executive Director of  ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity. He told us that the Philippines was one of a few mega countries for biodiversity in the world, as the Asean countries, while only occupy 3% of land mass on Earth, are home to more than 20% of the species of animals and plants.

After the short ceremony, we proceeded to an open space that is located next to BGC Greenway and outside Icon Residences. 100 tree seedlings were to be planted that day, and friends of the Singaporean Embassy were invited to sponsor the seedlings. I was given six name tags and plastic gloves.

At the open space, there were holes dug up on the ground, and a seedling was placed next to each hole. Apparently, all tree planters needed to do was to put the tree in the hole and cover it with soil, and then water it.  It was that easy. After watching the Ambassador and guests of honor planted the tree, I went to look for my trees.  Unfortunately, it seems that the seedlings were oversubscribed. I was told that each family could only choose one tree seedling to tie all the name tags.  I was a little disappointed, and I know many families who started planting the seedling before I did got more than one seedling. But oh well, one should not get upset about a small mishap of a good cause. Now I need to remember to check on our tree seedling once in a while to make sure that it thrives!


When I joined the activity, I expected just to support a worthwhile cause and get our names on some seedlings. I did those things, but I also learned about the reason for this event, as well as an initiative to develop a eco-tourism area in a nearby area (Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat is not far from Fort Bonifacio). I also had a chance to talk to Mr. Vince Dizon personally, whom told me that in North Bonifacio, near Uptown mall, there is a lot that is still owned by BCDA, and of that, 5,000 square meters will be reserved for green space. That talk also helps to relieve my worry that Fort Bonifacio will succumb to the urge to sell every piece of land available for a quick buck and ignore the residents' need for green space. Mr. Dizon seems to understand the importance of balanced development especially in an urban environment. I hope he and his team in BCDA will stay true to this course for all their projects.

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As a resident of Fort Bonifacio, I am surrounded by establishments that offer good food.  Many of them have a wine list. I sometimes wonder, would wine drinking make a meal more interesting? or would I just become addicted to the alcohol in the wine? what are the reasons that people go into drinking wine?

I decided I need to actually go out and do some research. While there are many places that sell wine in Fort Bonifacio, in the last few weeks I came across two opportunities to get some good education on the subject. 

Wine and Cheese pairing

One August Saturday afternoon, I took part in a wine and cheese pairing event at Wine Story Serendra.

If you are not a wine person, you would probably have never noticed their shop, because on the outside, the shop looks like it is closed. Its wall on the outside is tinted black. The La Petite Foire du Fromage (A Mini Cheese Fiar) event held on August 27 was a good opportunity for me to go inside the shop without having to worry about being alone there.


On the day of the event, I entered the shop and was pleasantly surprised to see a brightly lit place, with walls of wine. In the center of the shop were tables ladled with different kinds of cheese, surrounded by wine bottles. Several wines and a champagne were recommended to go with the cheeses. Wine Story Serendra positions itself as a place that allows wine connoisseurs to find rare wines.

The most unique feature of this wine shop, apart from their wine, is their high tech wine tasting machines. There were three cubicles with glass window on a wall, and each one housed four different wines. To try a glass of wine, you insert a prepaid card into a slot, and push a button. The price of a glass of wine is indicated on the button. Cool.


Then came the education part. There was a small room which could accommodate around 15 people around a big table. During my one hour stay there, I had a snippet of two workshops, one was a demonstration of burrata cheese making, and the other was a basic wine pairing seminar.  What I took away from the workshops was that the lecturers were friendly people and spoke in plain language that was easily understood by non-wine drinkers. It was not intimidating at all. I think I would not mind attending their workshops in the future.

Wine Story Serendra is located at the ground floor of Serendra Piazza, facing Market!Market! Mall, next to Cold Stone Creamery.

Wine and Food Pairing

On a weekday evening, I attended a wine pairing event at CAV, a wine bar and restaurant located conveniently at Bonifacio High Street. Since CAV is a fine-dining restaurant, the wines being promoted were paired with fine food prepared by CAV's chef. There were five wines being offered for tasting that evening. Each was accompanied by two exquisite cocktail dishes. I was fortunate enough to be seated with the wine ambassador from the wine company being featured that night, Clarendelle, so I got to learn how rose wine was made and other interesting wine related stories.


I only had time to try the first three pairs of food and wine, and left before two more pairs were served. The event started with a 2013 white wine paired with crabmeat crustillade and oyster tempura, followed by a 2015 rose wine that went with a salad made from hazelnut and roasted beets, and duck liver on bread with fig marmalade. The third wine was Clarendelle Rouge 2010, a red wine that is a blend of three traditional Bordeaux grape varieties, and it was paired with wagyu oxtail ragu and porchetta.

For a non-wine drinker, the wines were very good. But the food was what I remembered well. The duck liver, OMG! I have dined in CAV before, but did not try these cocktail dishes, maybe because they were not on the menu. Serving food in bite size like this to go with various wines is indeed an excellent way to let us understand the essence of pairing. It was much easier to appreciate the general rule that red wine would go well with red meat dishes once you tasted the combination. (As to the why, I did some online research, and found that tannins, which are rich in red wine, would soften the fat in steak and make the steak more flavorful, while the acid in white wine makes fish tastes more salty and less fishy) 


Overall, I found both events to be quite fun and educational, even for non wine drinkers. Who knows, may be I could be converted after a few more events like these!

(I asked to be observer to the events, and the hosts graciously let me participate for free. One even let me free-ride on the food-and-drink tasting part. My thanks go to Wine Story Serendra and CAV Wine Shop & Cafe.)


CAV Wine Shop and Cafe is at Ground Floor, The Spa Building, 9th Avenue Corner Lane P, Bonifacio High Street. See here for contact details.