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Last December 21, Tiger Sugar, a milk tea shop from Taiwan, opened its first branch in BGC, Philippines. Although I wanted to try it out and find what all the fuss is about, I did not possess the patience to brave the long lines just to order a cup of milk tea. That’s why I have not tried it since, despite the store being just a 10-15 minute walk from my office.

On February 2019, I went to Taiwan with my boyfriend who is eager to try Tiger Sugar since his office mates have been lining up for it in BGC. At the Ximending branch, we did not see a long line, thus we did not have to suffer the heat of the sun or the ache in our knees from all the waiting. In fact, we were sixth when we got there. It was popular, but not as popular as in the Philippines. We couldn’t understand the cashier lady since she wasn’t fluent in English, nor could we understand what was written in their menu, so we just pointed at the poster of Tiger Sugar and said “two” with a matching hand gesture.

Tiger Sugar branch in Ximending, Taipei, Taiwan

Finally, after two months of withheld curiosity, I was holding the drink so many in BGC would work so hard for just to have a taste. I felt excited to taste it despite not knowing if I ordered the correct drink. After a sip, my boyfriend and I, in a moment of amazement, looked at each other in satisfaction. OMG it’s sooo good! Now I actually understand why people love it so much. Imagine “taho” (soya milk drink with glazed sugar), but instead of the soya, you get authentic full cream milk with an undiluted brown sugar syrup. Its sweet and rich taste of cream, milk, and sugar complements with the right amount of caramel and softness of boba and pearls. The quality of the milk plays a huge part in enriching the drink. It tastes so good that it would be absurd to ruin it by shaming yourself for not counting calories.

My Tiger Sugar drink in Taipei.

So I finished my first cup of Tiger Sugar drink with a beam, but I realized that I have to fall in line if I want to buy one in the Philippines, and last time I checked, even if I’m willing to pay, as of this writing, I can’t order it using delivery services like Grab, Lalamove, or Zomato. So when we went home to Manila, I debated with myself if I should try out the branch in BGC to compare if the quality and taste are the same as the one in Taipei.

The milk tea lover in me won. I decided to brave the long line in BGC last Tuesday, February 12 at exactly 10:49 AM. There was already a line of nearly 20 people, even though the shop opens at 11:00 AM. At around 11:25 AM (yes, I lined up for almost 40 minutes), I was able to order. I realized that the drink is cheaper by Php10.00 in Taipei. By 11:40 AM I got my drinks!

Tiger Sugar branch in Bonifacio Global City, The Fort

So this is it! Does it have the same quality as the one in Taipei? Will I be braving the lines again and again? These were the thoughts that were running through my mind. So I push out the straw from its plastic wrapper, punch it into the drinks cover, and I take a long sip just enough to fill my mouth. I slowly take in the contents and feel relieved that they are in fact the same quality. It means that I can enjoy the drink as much as I enjoyed it overseas! However, it made me contemplate what I had to go through to buy it here. Does lining up for an hour for a cup of milk tea really worth it?

Our order in Tiger Sugar BGC

As good as the drink is, the hassle you have to go through does not make up for it. Since I am employed, I don’t have the luxury to line up for almost an hour every time I crave it. Maybe, if Grab or Lalamove offers it on their platforms the long lines will give justice to their delivery charges. Less hassle, less effort, more time for other matters and more Tiger Sugar.

 Line in Tiger Sugar BGC around 11:30 AM, February 12, 2019

I still recommend people to try Tiger Sugar. It has a distinct taste from all milk tea shops in the Philippines. If the line was not that long, I’ll probably buy at least thrice a week. For now, I will just have to wait for the hype to die down, wait until their crew’s service quality improves, or for more branches of Tiger Sugar to open so the lines will shorten and I can enjoy my drink in peace, which to be honest is the only proper way to enjoy anything.

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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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Community Events

There may be more than one community group for residents in the Fort, but the ones that is quite active is E.Q.U.I.P@BGC, a group started in 2014 by several families with young kids. They had the need to arrange play activities for their children, so they met regularly and invited other parents to join. Lately, the group, which primarily communicated via the social messenger platform Viber, expanded to include everyone who lives in BGC, not just those with yound kids.

2018 Year End Party

A year-end gathering was held on December 27, 2018 at the spacious and beautiful Coffee Project cafe at Vista Hub, BGC. Families attended to say 'hi' to each other, as well as meet the principal founders of EQUIP@BGC, Pauline Tan, who now lives in two countries during the year, and Sue Pasustento. Organizers Jac and Sandra prepared an ice-breaker game for participants, as some met for the first time only.

Coffee Treat by Malongo

Members of our community were invited through our friend in Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation to a coffee tasting event at the newly opened Malongo Cafe located at the ground floor of One Bonifacio High Street. We learned about the different ways of making coffee, as well as observed onsite coffee bean roasting that was done by Malongo's hi-tech coffee roaster.

We got to try some cold brewed coffee and some snacks. To top it all, a brand new capsule coffee maker and a few other goodies were raffled off to our lucky residents. 

Since its formation in 2014, EQUIP@BGC has grown from strength to strength, providing a platform for residents of BGC to gather together to share resources or just enjoy neighborly friendship.  With the participation and support of FBDC, it also fosters better understanding and communication between residents and the management of BGC, which is Bonifacio Estate Services Corporation (through FBDC).

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As a resident of Fort Bonifacio, I enjoy its pedestrian facilities and the diligence in traffic management by the authorities as compared to many other places in Metro Manila. 

However, having been living here since 2013, there are three places where the lack of traffic signs has always bothered me as a private car driver. I share them here to see if it is just my quirk, or there are others who feel the same.

1. Traffic lights at junction of 24th Street and 5th Avenue

If you are going towards 5th Avenue from 24th Street, you are on a one-way street. There are three ways that a vehicle probably can go: (i) turn left into 5th Avenue in the direction of Lawton Avenue, (ii) go straight to Rizal Drive; and (iii) turn right into 5th Avenue in the direction of Bonifacio High Street.

However, there is only one green traffic light, and it is an arrow that points to the left. Does it mean that, when this green light is on, you cannot turn right or go straight?

The red light of this set of traffic light also has a left turn arrow. Does it mean that when this red light is on, we can go straight or turn right?

In reality, the time that I stood at the sidewalk and observe the traffic, the traffic took the green light to mean a general green light, and cars turned left as well as go straight and turn right. Motorists also treated the red left turn arrow like a round red light. When I am at this junction, I will go straight when there is no policeman around, but turn right when nobody else does that and there is a cop nearby, because I am not sure if going straight is allowed or not.

2. Burgos Circle Roundabout

The roundabout (or rotunda) at Burgos Circle has four exits, but only three exits have marking on the floor instructing the direction of the traffic. If you come from 2nd Avenue, you will see two left turn arrows marked on the floor of the two lanes. But if you are following another car, you may miss the markings, and if you are in a hurry, you may think that it is a T junction and make a left turn.

Worse, some cars have driven into the park in the middle of the circle, because the drivers could not see that the road has ended (Yes, they can be that blind). Maybe the authorities do not want to put up signs which could spoil the aesthetics of the park, but there must be some way to make it clear to motorists that Burgos Circle is a roundabout, so they need to turn right!

Bonifacio Global City and McKinley Hill are private real estate developments, so they may not be required to put up traffic signs that follow Philippine traffic codes. If they do choose to do so, they can find signs for roundabout in this LTO guide.

3. Kalayaan Flyover to 2nd Avenue

Are we allowed to turn right into 2nd Avenue when we descent from Kalayaan Flyover into BGC?

One Sunday afternoon, I came back to BGC from Makati and took Kalayaan Flyover. At the foot of Kalayaan Flyover, I slowed down and checked if there were cars going straight along 32nd Avenue and then I proceeded to turn into 2nd Avenue. A big car honked violently from the lane coming from EDSA. I thought I was blocking him going straight, but it turned out he was also turning into 2nd Avenue.

I wondered if I should not have turned into 2nd Avenue from Kalayaan Flyover. The distance between the end of the flyover to 2nd Avenue is admittedly a bit short and can be dangerous if there are fast cars coming from the other lanes. But is it illegal?

I walked to that spot a few days afterwards, and checked. There was no sign or signage that prohibits the turn that I took. In addition, I saw a police van did the same turn. Admittedly, we cannot count on the police here to set the best example in following the law, but at least I can say to them loudly that I am just following what the police does!

I am probably expecting too much from a private real estate development in terms of traffic management. In fact, the lack of traffic signs in McKinley Hill is even worse than in BGC. Yet the traffic marshalls in these places are delegated with the authority to give fines to motorists. So if the traffic signs are not clear, and an accident happens, we the motorists will always be at a disadvantage, fair or not.

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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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Last Friday evening, I was amongst a group of local residents invited by Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation to dine at one of the newly opened food establishment at the One Bonifacio High Street mall.

We are members of a local community group called E.Q.U.I.P@BGC, and we usually just share views and resources via a social messenger app. We were invited by FBDC to visit their newly opened mall located across Shangri-La at the Fort hotel. Some of us met for the first time in person in this event.

Ms Joanne Balawan-Magno (wearing green) of FBDC, introduces Ms Iza Galego (center), who invites residents to support the BGC Passionfest to be held in December 2018, which will have a theme of "Festival of the World". As in previous years, there will be a parade of various community groups on the first day of the Passionfest, which will be on December 1. Many activities will be held in the following two days as well.

After dinner, Ms Magno took us to the balcony area on the fourth floor of the mall, which provided a great view of the park below, as well as that of Shangri-La at the Fort. Ms Magno said that One BHS mall was the first indoor mall built by FBDC. But similar to the one-mile long outdoor built by FBDC, visitors to One BHS can enjoy a spacious shopping environment.

For those of us living near the mall, we were relieved to learn that there will be underground parking space (400 slots) to meet the needs of shoppers. 

The food at this ramen shop located on the 3rd floor of the mall was great. As we toured the mall, we saw a few more eating establishments. One even had a big covered outdoor dining area. We are sure the mall will be a new destination for foodies in and around the Fort in the near future.

Over dinner and afterwards, members of the community group got to know more about each other. Through participation over the years, members of this community group have learned the benefits of being in a neighborhood group like E.Q.U.I.P@BGC. We share valuable information like where to get services such as home maintenance, or references for medical services; disseminate information like local traffic matters, and other resources. We are grateful that neighborhood groups like E.Q.U.I.P@BGC exist, and that the local estate management company FBDC shows its support to these groups from time to time.

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Community Events

Last week, a group of neighbors in the Fort got together to celebrate mid Autumn festival.

According to Ms Audrey Ann Lee, a resident of the Fort and an associate at Zhu Kitchen at 5th Avenue, the event, one of many that she has organized and is called  the Meet & Greet lunches/dinners, was an idea by Pauline Tan of E.Q.U.I.P.@BGC, a community organization, and Chef Karl of Zhu Kitchen, to bring the community together, and "have a venue to personally meet and greet each other beyond the virtual community that we have."

"Chef Karl plans out the menu, proposes it to the organizing group and I plan out activities for the group. So we dont just sit and eat, but really have an activity to break the ice.

Initially we just opened it for adults. So moms and dads can have their me time. But for game nights, similar to the Mooncake Dice Game we would love to have the kids as well."

Dice game was played and good food was served

Ms Ann Lee had an anecdote for the dinner to share. "Funny story is, Chef Karl and I wanted deviate from the traditional dice game wherein you get to win hopia or mooncakes from the smallest to largest size (about 12 inches mooncake in diameter). So we made sure every one has a mooncake to take home and hopefully a loot from the game too.

But in 2 days of trying to find a set of 6 dice, almost all bookstores, toy stores and department stores in BGC just ran out of stock of the dice.

Luckily Puzzles, the restaurant the offers food and board games, had a box of dice from probably all the games they have.

I was asking if they sold any, but they don't.

Kevin, one of the guys from the resto, was very kind that he gave me a set of 6 dice.

I was offering to pay for it, but they wont accept my money and they said I could have it :-)

Basically that experience showed me what community should be all about - support and friendship among others." This is so true. When we open our doors to neighbors, a lot of nice things can happen.

From the photos, I saw that many dishes was served. I asked about the favorite dish.

For Ann, she said "Probably, the group's favorite would be the Taho. Hahaha. If I may speak for the group."

Food. Taho in a bucket was really popular, and I was told that the whole bucket was finished in no time.

It was a small gathering.  I was unable to attend due to other commitments, but those who participated said that they had a really good time, and the photos can vouch for that!

The participants were really serious in playing the dice game.

Marianna, one of the Fort residents who attended the event, said that while she enjoyed the taho, her favorite dish for the evening was a fish dish. 

She shared her experience of the event and told me that she and her husband were introduced to the dice game a little over 10 years ago. "We try to play every year because the kids enjoy it so much, the 14-year old is very proud of the loot he wins and shares it with us.

This year he really enjoyed himself again even after all these years of having played it!"

Ms Lee will host this community event in the future.  Watch out for the event poster in www.TheFortCity.com.

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Memorable Events

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.)