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Memorable Events
chiu

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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Food
TheHungryEmployee

It was all about love and grandeur at that moment. No spooky surprises whatsoever. Just pure great food and ambiance at Kitchen’s Best.

The place is somewhat decked with the color red. Crystal chandeliers, white regal chairs, and gold details make this place grand and fit for a royalty. Amidst all those Halloween decors, their desserts and pastries still stay as the centerpiece. Now on to their sumptuous dishes!
My meal of choice was their Baked Salmon Florentine which came with this very flavorful rice. I don’t know if it was just me but the rice was smooth. Lying on a bed of spinach, the baked salmon was creamy topped with some herbs that paired well with the rice. It was a good thing that the spinach was there to balance out the dish’s creaminess. Overall, this was one good creamy dish!

Hungry for more of this article? I am! Check out the full article HERE on my blog. Go and get ready, set, CHOMP! :) 


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Food
TheHungryEmployee

Really hungry and craving for some sumptuous meals? The Hungry Hound might just be the answer. Their dishes are really luscious that will fill one’s starving tummy.

Upon entering the place, it does feel like a pub but a very well-lit and classy one. They have these interesting light fixtures over by the bar, and eclectic pieces on their wall cabinets.

It really was a “oh-my-goodness-this-is-so-friggin-good” moment for me when I bit into one of the fries. Aside from the duck fat, their Duck Fat Fries had pimenton dulce, rosemary, garlic confit, and parmesan shavings. After having one bite, I’m sure that you’ll be back for more once you’ve tasted this. It’s quite tangy which was probably because of the paprika.


Hungry for more of this article? I am! Check out the full article HERE on my blog. Go and get ready, set, CHOMP! :) 

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Fun and Learning
newbie
F-artist /F-ˈärdəst/
noun. A person who is a fake artist.

Last night I went to a gathering that was meant for artists, despite the fact that I am not one. I went there because someone in the office told me that it was a Christmas party for artists, and everyone was welcomed.  Curiosity drove me there.

Who is / is not an artist anyway?

Curiosity dropped us off at the door step of a quiet cafe in Fort Bonifacio at 7:30pm, the exact time that the event was supposed to start.  I hesitated to go in because the place looked pretty empty. I just followed when my companion pushed the glass door and went inside. I felt like Captain Kirk of Star Trek when I said 'let the adventure began!' to myself.

There were three persons standing or sitting near the banner of the event located inside the cafe.  One of them, a girl in her twenties, Crystal, was the organizer of the group. She explained that she started the group as a way to hang out with artists, musicians in particular. She is a singer and can draw. Of course, she also had something bigger in mind. She wanted to be the agent of some of the artists and find them gigs as a means of generating income for both parties. Bold and diligent, Crystal is the engine of the group.

Now that I got an inkling of what I was getting into, I started throwing questions at the other attendees to find out why they were there.

Iza, a friendly girl in early twenties, had joined this event for several months. She was a little offended when i said artists were supposed to be noisy and extrovert. She said she knew many artists who were shy and quiet. Like herself. She is a graphic designer and marketing person by day, and likes to draw while watching singers perform. Two other guys, Jegs and Frank, are song writers, guitar players and singers all at the same time. They simply enjoyed being around fellow artists.

After we paid the party fee of P300 per head, we were given a food stub of sort that got us a rice plate and a beer. Then we were told to write the name of our favorite OPM singer on our name tag. That was fun. Everyone would be known by his or her pretend name. I could not come up with the name of any OPM artist right away so when someone suggested Orange and Lemons Band, I wrote down OL on my name tag. I know the name would describe me well in this group if I add a letter 'D' to it, hahaha.

More people came and some seemed to know other people in the group already.  A few looked a bit lost so I guess they were the newbies.  They eventually found Crystal who introduced them to others, and soon everyone started to feel at ease.

Came 9pm, more chit chatting and getting to know each other. Not much artistic activities happened until around 9:30pm. Some one pulled out a guitar and started playing songs. People sang along. A guy started doing sketches of other attendees while listening to the singing.  More pizza came. More people arrived. It was a community formed through the social media, yet it is something that has always happened in the past. The difference is probably in the channel from which people came to learn about the gathering.

I began to understand why such groups can come into being and bring strangers together. Of course, meeting people with like minds can be very enjoyable, so musicians and other artists come to share their art with others. For non artists, I guess there is a little bit of artist in most of us, so people like me who are not artists, can be drawn to a group like this. We enjoy getting a bit of art rubbed off from the artists. We get entertained, and we get to feel like artists for a while. The community spirit in which one felt welcomed and a willingness to share was certainly a big draw also.

I had to leave at 9:50pm because I had to get up early the next day, but sure i wish i could stay.

I have come to learn that, in meetups that are open to everyone, most of the time you get to meet the people that really fit in with the purpose of the meetup. Once in a while, invariably, there are some who make you wonder, "am I in the right meetup"?

There was a guy at this artists meetup that gave me reason to ponder that question. When we asked him what his art was, he told us with a straight face that he was a pick up artist. He spoke with confidence at length that he could defend his assertion that picking up someone in the opposite sex was an art. Then there was another guy in his late twenties who was the exact opposite of the pick-up artist. He seemed very shy because he did not  approach any one to talk.  I was feeling sociable so I talked to him and his female companion, who also helped to translate his tagalog to English for me to understand. It turned out he was also not an artist but he was looking for a job.



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Blog
ajpriela

We all have different interpretations and ideas of the Yuletide season. Some associate it with family reunions, others with gift giving and many of us with shopping. But a fair number of people, especially employees, look forward to the annual Christmas party. 

And that "fair number of people" includes me!

Last week, the management of Square One BGC in Bonifacio Technology Center invited our company to their very first holiday mixer. It was indicated in the invitation that there will be free food and drinks so I was immediately sold, even though I had to travel 2 hours to go home. 

To be honest, I didn’t expect much of the party because Square One BGC only started just a few months ago so I assumed there won’t be many people in attendance. I also didn’t have high hopes with the food and drinks. As long as I’ll get to eat something for free, I’d be satisfied. I was pleasantly surprised, though, and the whole party did not disappoint.

When we entered the office, something instantly caused us to smile – a photo booth! We instantly went to have our photos taken, but noticed that there weren’t any props so we just made do with a bottle of beer and our own hands. Still fun! 




The office was adorned with Christmas lights and décor so the holiday spirit was definitely felt inside. People from the Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation administration welcomed us and made us feel at home. We got to talk to employees of different companies that are tenants of Square One BGC. Most of them are from start-up companies like us so we had insightful conversations with them. The mixer’s set up was completed with a singer who sang his way into our hearts (or was it just my heart?) as he crooned renditions of well-known songs. 




Then came the moment I’ve been waiting for – dinner time! The dishes consisted of salad, prawn pops and chicken fillet, and was served by a restaurant in Bonifacio Stopover Pavilion. I ate to my taste buds’ and tummies’ content :D




After dinner was a time for socialization and then games. It was sad that we didn’t get to finish the whole program with games and raffle because I had to go home. I didn’t want to get caught in horrible traffic, and I still had work the following day. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time at Square One BGC’s Holiday Mixer because aside from the food and drinks that I came for, I was able to reconnect with old faces, meet new faces and take home an experience that will definitely be remembered. Kudos Square One BGC for an unforgettable party! :)

And now, here's a treat for your auditory senses:


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Fun and Learning
eclara

Photo: I was being strapped up with the harness

I think I’m afraid of heights. This was my thought while dangling on the edge of a small platform almost three floors up. My hands are clammy and I’ve been rubbing my hands with powder for at least three times already to keep my hands dry and warm. In seconds, the said hands are once again sweaty and numb. The guy in front of me screams while swinging away from the small comfort of the platform. In no time, I hear the thump and I’m up.

Before this assignment, I already planned on signing up for a class with Flying Trapeze Philippines. I saw a story about it online a few months back, at that time I was stressed and needed an outlet, an activity where a full-grown woman (with a job and TIN number to prove it) can scream without being judged. The plan was aborted several times before TheFortCity.com emailed me saying that there’s a story waiting for me. I wanted to do it. But standing on the edge of the platform come assignment day, I knew that I should have begged off.

There’s a petite girl behind me waiting for her turn. And while the facilitator was strapping me with harnesses, I asked her if she screamed during her first time. I could tell that she was holding back an eye roll before letting out a clear no. “Well you’re gonna hear one from me now.” I told her.

I was arguing with the facilitator when it was time to clutch the stick and squat at the edge. I told him repeatedly to not let me go, not to push me, and just please wait while I calm my heart down.

By the time I got my feet off the edge, I wasn’t really even sure if I jumped or I simply fell. All I know was that I was holding on to the bar for dear life and that my stomach is flipping. Every cell in my body was tingling after the first swing. I distinctly remember someone screaming instructions on my left, telling me to swing faster or I think it was to raise my knees, but I really can’t remember.

I heard them tell me to let go. “What? Now?” Yes, they screamed back. I then raised my legs in sitting position, as instructed, hoped (if anything goes wrong) for a quick and painless way to go, before letting go of the bar.

I think I bounced twice or thrice. But when I opened my eyes, I slowly crawled back to the area where we’re supposed to flip and come down. I didn’t know if I should line up once again or give my heart a minute to calm down, good thing that one of the instructors took us to the sidelines to brief us on a new trick, hanging on the bar using our knees.



Photo: a instructor teaches new flyers how to catch the bar of the swing while holding onto the side pole

I told him that I really can’t carry my weight using my knees. I’m too heavy. I’m not ready. These excuses were dismissed after a guy-obviously far heavier than me-was able to do it. I had nothing left.

Photo: The guy on the platform was also doing his first flight

I think once is enough. I tell myself when I was once again powdering my hands while waiting for my turn on the platform. But before I could tell this to the instructor beside me, he was attaching the harnesses to my sides.

I managed to swing using my knees on my fifth try. And once again on my sixth. When I started the class, it was still bright and sunny, but by my sixth fall, the sky has turned to night.

I told the instructor that I’ve had enough. But not because I didn’t like the experience, I told my instructor, but because I think I’ve done my best for that day. I was able to swing and hang using my knees. I was able to flip off the net without help. And there’s this cliché feeling of lightheadedness after letting go of something. I don’t know if it’s the bar or of the stress. But the flying trapeze definitely helped.


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Community Events
newbie

I have been eagerly waiting for the opening of BGC Arts Center since I learned about it. Not that I am the artsy type. Far from it. I have not watched a musical show for so many years that I can't even remember the last one I watched. I see the BGC Arts Center as one of the facilities that will strengthen the identity of the community in Fort Bonifacio. A community that shares the same neighborhood has to have places for members to do things together, and an arts center is a place for members of this community to enjoy performing arts together, and for some of the members to put up shows for the whole community.  We do not have community sports center, or community hall, but now at least we have our arts center.

This website's article on Three New Attractions to open in December 2016 has mentioned that the BGC Arts Center will open this month, and that the Arts Center would have its first concert on December 11. I went there on that day at around 5pm, hoping to be able to get inside to take a peek.

According to the press materials from the Bonifacio Arts Foundation, the BGC Arts Center is composed of the the Maybank Performing Arts Theater, the Alveo Central Plaza, and the Sun Life Amphitheater.


The building, which is called the Maybank Performing Arts Theater, looked substantially finished, except for the eating place, which is a McCafe (Why oh why a McCafe? I do not get it.  There is already a McDonald across the street.)

I saw some security guards standing inside the building, so I pushed open a glass door and checked if the show was going ahead as scheduled. The guards let me in and sent me across the hallway to the cashier located on the other side. So the BGC Arts Center was opened!


I did not buy a ticket at that time because it was above my budget. Then I proceeded to walk around the building, taking photos even inside the Globe Auditorium and had a good sneak preview of the show later that night, as well as the inside of the theater. All the lights, seats and air-conditioning were working, and they were very nice.

The artist performing that night was rehearsing a song. There was no echo and I could hear the singing clearly. Not wanting to overstay my welcome, I went back outside and asked if I could look at the other facilities. It was my lucky day. A staff of the BGC Arts Center, Ms. Martinez, helpfully guided me to the facilities upstairs. 

Ms. Martinez informed me that the arts center is on soft opening, and that it will open formally in mid January 2017.

Apart from the 500-seater flexible "hybrid studio-blackbox" which is called Globe Auditorium, the building has a big room on the second floor which is suitable for dance classes as well as recitals. It looked finished, with hard wood floor, a mirror-wall, and sound-proofed walls, stage-lighting system and working air-conditioning. Too bad I cannot play any musical instrument or have any inclination to learn ballet, so I will not be seen using that room any time soon.


We went onto the third floor, and I was shown a small space which can be used for a variety of purposes, such as workshops, exhibitions, or meeting. If the rent is reasonable, I am sure this space will be booked up easily.

When we went back to downstairs, Ms Martinez asked if I would be watching the concert that night. I told her that I would like to but the ticket price was beyond my budget. It must have been my lucky day. She told me that she had a promo code and the ticket price when the code was used was much more friendly to my bank account. How could I miss the chance to be one of the few people on this planet to watch the first show of the BGC Arts Center? I bought the ticket right away.

Now onto the show. It was called "A Very Broadway Christmas in Manila", performed by Andrew Keenan-Bolger with guest Tanya Mangalan. Prior to the concert, I had never heard of these two performers, so I went there with no expectation.

When I went back to the theater, I was late for the show. Andrew Keenan-Bolger apparently had sung a couple of songs already. Then he sang "What I did for love" from the musical "The Chorus Line". It was soothing and melodic. After that, he performed a tagalog song that I was afterwards told was called Sana Ngayong Pasko. It sounded great and his tagalog pronounciation must have been accurate too, as the audience applauded enthusiastically. After singing a Christmas song "Have Yourself a Merry Christmas" he took a break and gave the stage to Ms Tanya Mangalan.

Ms Mangalan was cast as the main character in the London run of the renowned musical, Miss Saigon, so her singing prowess was already well proven. That night, the theater was like her family room, as she used the opportunity to celebrate her father's birthday, and sang his favorite karaoke song, the title of which I cannot recall. It was a warm and intimate segment of the concert.

After Andrew Keenan-Bolger returned to the stage, he sang a few more songs, and then the evening came to an end. It was a short and sweet concert. The solo singer was a friendly and boyish singer with an operatic voice that has a bright future in performance arts.

The new theater is not very big, but it is well equipped. It does not offer grandeur, but gives you a feel of intimacy and modernity. I feel sure that I will go back there many times in the future.


My ticket to the first ever public show at the BGC Arts Center

The video below shows Andrew Keenan-Bolger rehearsing a tagalog song for the show later that night.




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Fun and Learning
eclara

I distinctly remember six years ago, a copy of Christopher Nolan’s film being given to me. Some of my friends who watched the said film raved about the thriller while some were just confused the whole time they were watching it. Before caving in and watching the film, I asked a cinephile friend about what he thought of Inception. He did not rave nor boo the film, he simply told me to watch Inception with the subtitles turned on, not to miss a word nor dialogue and be the judge myself.

I loved the film. In fact, after finishing it the first time, I watched the movie again before going to bed that day. Going to bed that night, there was a certain thrill to the thought of controlling your dreams, and even entering and controlling peoples. How one can create a maze with layers and layers of maze and eventually get out of it.

And that’s why I found myself signing up to try the newest breakout room in Bonifacio Global City--Totem Manila. This is not my first time in a breakout room. I first tried it inside the back of a truck while my friends and I vainly tried to find a “stolen” chemical formula. But alas, we ran out of time with only one lock left to crack. Going to the venue, I thought that this was my chance to redeem myself of that awful non-victory.   

Throughout the movie, I wanted to be Ariadne or Arthur. I want to create labyrinths within dreams and even have an epic fight scene with a bad guy with zero gravity. I wanted to solve the puzzle. Heck, I wanted to beat the best time. But a few minutes after being locked inside one of the escape rooms of Totem Manila, I realized that I would have probably died really early in the movie.

You see, we were briefed early on that the room is difficult. We were even told that the first clue was already with us. We had to solve puzzles in the dark thinking this or that would lead us to the first key—or at least the light switch. It took as more than 10 minutes (and a lot more pride swallowing) to wave our arms in front of the CCTV, signaling to our game masters that we were, at the very start of the game, utterly lost.

The moment when the light was finally switched on, our team was finally able to take a good look around the small room. Unlike my first jaunt in an escape room (it was messily filled with crates and props), we were placed in a clean small room with locks neatly arranged and maps and notes posted on the wall. One might think that being inside Totem Manila’s escape room would be easy since it was bare and with minimal props. In reality, I found it more eerie. During my first escape room experience, I knew that the props were there for a reason and would somehow or at least eventually lead me to clues, but in Totem Manila’s bare room, there’s that panic I felt when I did not know where or how to start.

 While I can’t describe most of the puzzles (you have to try them yourself!), most of them left our team clueless. We waved our arms a total of three times, signaling our need for clues and helplessness. The game was not easy. In absolutely no time, we were trudging back out the room with heavy hearts filled with defeat.

On the dreadful way back, I started thinking where we went wrong or where we should have looked first. And an annoying flashback to when my friend told me how to watch the movie in order to understand it: turn on the subtitles and to not miss a word or dialogue. That day in Totem Manila’s escape room, we clearly did not do both. Maybe an Inception replay is due.



Totem Philippines is located at Suite 302, McKinley Park Residences, 31st Street corner 3rd Avenue, across Stopover Pavilion.