Friday, December 28, 2012

Airbnb Lands in the Philippines

Many people are not confident, to say the least, about transacting online . . .  and with good reason.  There are a lot of fraudulent activities going on in cyberspace, lots of money being lost, and at the worst, even lives.  Well, as much as crime is prevalent in the online world, there are a lot of money saving conveniences as well.  Costs go down because we remove the middleman’s cut, we go straight from manufacturer to customer, or at least remove some layers in between that translate to additional expense.  Well, now the travel industry also has its online version . . . Airbnb.  

There are multiple advantages to utilizing this online travel service: first as a traveler, you have a varied selection of  residences with rate options,  you can customize your vacation packages at the comforts of your home, you get to see lots of pictures and reviews about the place before you book, and you have a 24-hour option of changing venues if you are unhappy with your selection among others. Second as a property owner or even just a homeowner, you have a chance to earn extra income from an unused room by simply enlisting your property to the Airbnb directory. As a traveller, your choice of residence includes options you may not find in a hotel, such as a yacht, castle, or even and island all to yourself at a rate that may surprise you.

 So if you want to pursue or explore this travel or income-generating option, read on . . .   

Press Release:
MANILA, Philippines – December 20, 2012 - Airbnb, an online marketplace listing to discover and book unique accommodations, announced its expansion into Southeast Asia beginning in the Philippines at a press conference held at Mary Grace, Greenbelt. Airbnb will focus on engaging with its rapidly-growing community in Manila and throughout the country, as the company has seen over 400% growth year-over-year in the Philippines in 2012.

“Airbnb is about creating unique, memorable experiences, and we’re seeing a huge increase in demand in the Philippines and across Asia,” says co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Nathan Blecharczyk. “Manila is a growing travel destination, and people from the Philippines are traveling abroad at increasing rates, so we believe it will be a crucial market for us as we continue to grow.”

A few statistics on Airbnb’s growth in the Philippines:
  • ·         Guests have come from 67 different countries around the world to travel in the Philippines on Airbnb.
  • ·         The number of guest nights booked on Airbnb in the Philippines has increased 345% in 2012 alone.
  • ·         The number of Airbnb guest nights booked by people from the Philippines traveling elsewhere has increased 263% in 2012, with the most popular destinations being Hong Kong, New York, Paris, Singapore, Manila, Rome, Seoul, Barcelona, Florence, and London.
  • ·         Airbnb has over 975 listings in the Philippines, including 530 in Manila.
To support the rapid growth in the Philippines, Airbnb has tabbed Ole Ruch as manager of the Southeast Asia region. The team focused on the Philippines will work to better support hosts and guests in the market, assisting in managing listings, bookings, and educating users about the Airbnb process.

Airbnb is currently the world market leader in unique, short-term accommodations. In June the company celebrated 10 million nights booked, and on any given night, over 50,000 guests are staying at Airbnb accommodations around the world.

About Airbnb:
Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world – online or from a mobile phone. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 30,000 cities and 192 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

ThunderBird: A Casino Hideaway amidst Greens

It didn’t take long  to reach Thuderbird Resort  in Angono, Rizal on a Sunday morning.  A time allotment of two hours should be sufficient t to reach the resort from Makati, except during rush hour.  Our group of selected bloggers left 7:30 am in a private shuttle service that reached Angono before 9am.  We, then, had  breakfast al fresco in a hut-like café along the road to enjoy the clean, cool air beyond the city. After breakfast, time was simply a marker as festivals and parades normally ignore timetables .

 The common anti-stress attitude is simply “go  with the flow” and stop trying to  control the time. So after a morning of watching and taking photos of the Angono’s  Higantes Festival parade amidst traffic chaos, we proceeded for lunch at one of their famous restaurants .  We went to Balaw balaw Restaurant and Art Gallery which is known for its exotic dishes that include crickets, bull’s balls, frogs, and worms or larvae. (For photos, click here. ) Our host ordered crunchy crickets, fried frogs, and soup no.5 for a taste of their delicacies.  Some of us accepted the challenge but made sure there was a full glass of water nearby to wash off any after-taste.

After our lunch adventure, we proceeded to the Petroglyphs, where centuries-old scribblings on the rock’s were discovered.  Our entertaining guide,  Roden Santiago, kept the smiles on our faces as he joked around while briefing us about this historical landmark.

Finally, it was time to head to Thunderbird Hotel and Casino to experience their accommodation, food, facilities and services.  The room had a gorgeous view of the pool, parking lot, and Laguna lake which was relaxing, de-stressing, and inspiring to gaze at . The clean, cool, wide room, with its sweet-smelling sheets, was so inviting, I couldn’t resist a short afternoon nap after a refreshing shower.  After an hour, we met up with the Front Office Manager, Jun Narciso, who entertained our questions about the resort.  

Dusk presented another gorgeous backdrop while we had cocktails near the poolside. A varied selection of interesting cocktail concoctions kept us busy for a few minutes before finally deciding on our best choice.  Seeing the city lights from across the lake was another plus for me.  My dinner feast was beef salpicao and rice by the poolside.  Night swimming was a soothing activity after the meal followed by a complimentary 30-minute massage.

The next morning, a breakfast buffet at the Hotel’s Koi Restaurant included a specially cooked omelette, sausages, rice, with pineapple juice and coffee.  After, we tried the bike ride around the hotel vicinity to take in the uplifting morning view of verdant hills amidst the blue lake. The 30-minute bike ride was a good enough work out for non-bikers like me. 

After a shower, we proceeded to the casino to try the computerized slot machines and the card tables.  After a short lecture and a trial game, we were led to the main area to try our luck.  After only a few minutes, I used up all my allotted complimentary funds so I went back to the room to rest a few minutes before packing my bags.  We all awaited at the lobby for the free shuttle back to the city.  I was the last one to depart since my destination was the farthest at St. Francis Square in Ortigas. The others were dropped off in Pasig and other nearby drop off points. (For shuttle service schedules click here.) I learned more about the company’s pro-environment advocacy and future activities while waiting for my ride. 

 The highlights of the hotel experience for me were: the 24-hour gorgeous view of the room, the overall quaintness and peaceful ambiance, the fresh and green surroundings. 

For more information and reservations, you may contact their head office at:
Thunderbird Resorts
18/F & 24/F Salcedo Tower
169 H.V. Dela Costa Street
Salcedo Village, Makati City
Telephone: +632-886-5555
Fax: +632-894-3333

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

HRAP Launches Chefs on Parade 2013

Press Update:

The Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines (HRAP) is proud to host the 28th edition of Chefs on Parade (COP) at the SMX Convention Center on February 28 to March 3, 2013. Launched by HRAP at Resorts World Manila’s Passion Restaurant last December 4, COP 2013 is set to be the grandest yet in its history. Celebrity master chefs have confirmed their attendance and there will be more attractions packed into the four-day extravaganza.

Chefs on Parade is a culinary festival with a trade exhibit, cooking demonstrations, food workshops and seminars and other gastronomic-related activities. COP’s main highlights are the numerous competitions for students and professionals. This HRAP-initiated endeavor began in 1974 as a simple food display. Through the years, COP has become a major national event.

It was held yearly from 1979 to 2000, and every two years from 2000 to 2004. It was then discontinued to due financial challenges. After a seven-year absence, HRAP brought back COP in 2011 to a huge success! Over 26,000 visitors trooped to the venue SMX Convention Center. This number includes about 600 contestants from the Philippines and ASEAN countries, plus almost a hundred guest chefs.

“We expect the same warm response as we stage Chefs on Parade 2013,” declares Philippe Bartholomi, Overall Chairman of COP 2013. “We made a great impact in 2011. For the industry and the public, Chefs on Parade is the most important hospitality and culinary event in the Philippines. We will present a world-class program. Our goal is to show that the Philippines can organize a great food show.” 

COP 2013 will again have an “international flavor.” Among the foreign master chefs who will conduct demos and judge at the competitions is Singapore-based Belgian chef Emmanuel Stroobant, host of the Asian Food Channel’s successful show Chef in Black and the currently airing 36 Ways to Live. Stroobant graced COP 2011. Impressed with COP’s grand-scale and the Filipinos’ enthusiasm, he has decided to return next year. “It is rare to see to see this (high) level of professionalism,” Stroobant said of Filipinos at COP 2011.

Two chefs from the renowned Alain Ducasse international restaurants—Jerome Lacressioniere and Marc Chalopin―will be flying in from Paris to Manila just for COP 2013. Alain Ducasse is an internationally-recognized chef and restaurateur who holds 18 Michelin stars for his establishments from NY to Tokyo, and three stars in Paris, Monte Carlo and London. (A Michelin star is a seal of a high standard of dining given by the Michelin Guidebook.) . “We feel privileged to have chefs from Alain Ducasse for COP 2013,” says Chairman Bartholomi.     

Lacressioniere, also an author, will have a book-signing activity at COP. Chalopin is part of Ducasse Education and supervises the culinary program of Manila’s Enderun Colleges. Both chefs will conduct demos on French cuisine and judge COP competitions. The Puratos Group, worldwide supplier of baking and chocolate ingredients, will be bringing in a master baker and a pastry chef from Belgium to support COP. 

There will be a total of 30 mixology and culinary competitions on both professional and student categories. Four of which are new to COP: Breakfast-Making, Ice-Carving, Flair-Tending and Dream Team. “The Dream Team contest which is for students is actually interesting,” says Chef Gabby Prats, Chair of COP 2013’s Competition and Judging Committee. The challenge involves two members who will be in charge of cooking a meal and two more who will take care of the table set-up and wine-pairing. “It’s a dream that you perfect the ‘front of the house’ aspect and the ‘back of the house’ aspect,” says Chef Gabby.

Add to all these a 286-booth trade exhibit that will feature for the first time a Wine Avenue (showcase of a wide selection of local and international wines and spirits), and an Artisanal and Organic Food Avenue (a remarkable gathering of organic produce and artisan food), and the conferment of the second Larry J. Cruz award to an outstanding Filipino in the culinary field ― and you’ve got a Chefs on Parade 2013 that’s bursting with yummy ideas and tasty treats! 
COP 2013 is supported by sponsors De La Salle - College of Saint Benilde, Meat & Livestock Australia, Nestlé Professional, Del Monte, Oleo-Fats, the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Kitchen Aid; and partners Trade Net Events and Management International, Allied Metals, Enderun Colleges, the Asian Food Channel, GMA News TV, Total Gaz, Imacron, The Puratos Group, Resorts World Manila, Allegro Beverage, Liquid and Liquid Creations, Plan Z, Manila Bulletin, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Hospitality News Magazine, Olive Magazine, and Flavors Magazine. More  sponsors and partners will be coming in as the event draws nearer.

For more information about Chefs on Parade 2013, contact the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines secretariat at tel. 816-2421, fax 816-2419, email or, or check out,, and
Eugene Yap, HRAP President

Philippe Bartholomi, Overall Chairman of COP 2013.

Ramon Jimenez, DOT head

Friday, November 30, 2012

CCP names 13 New Artists for 2012

Press Release:

 The Cultural Center of the Philippines has selected the winners for the 2012
Thirteen Artists Award (TAA). The list includes artists engaged in a variety of
contemporary visual arts forms such as painting, printmaking, photography,
sculpture, and video installation works. The 2012 Thirteen Artists awardees
include: Joey Cobcobo, Marina Cruz, Kiri Dalena, Riel Hilario, Robert Langenegger,
Michael Muñoz, Wawi Navarroza, Jan Leeroy New, Kaloy Olavides, Renan Ortiz,
Mark Salvatus, Rodel Tapaya, and Costantino Zicarelli.

The program was first conceived in 1970 initially as a curatorial guide for an
exhibition organized by then CCP Museum director Roberto Chabet. His intent was
to identify artists who took the “chance and risk to restructure, restrengthen, and
renew art making and art thinking….” It was later adopted as a biennial award by
Chabet’s successor, the late Raymundo Albano. This makes the TAA the oldest
award program conferred by the CCP, two years ahead of the National Artist Award
which started in 1972.

Since 2009, the TAA has been a triennial award. It is administered by the CCP Visual
Arts and Museum Division (VAMD) under the Production and Exhibition
Department. During the two and half month nomination period (between February
to midApril), 56 nominations were received from museum directors, gallerists,
independent curators, heads of art and cultural organizations, and former TAA
awardees. From these, 79 artists qualified for the selection process. This year’s
panel of jurors included past TAA winners namely Pandy Aviado (1970), Agnes
Arellano (1988), Elmer Borlongan (1994) and Ringo Bunoan (2003), with Boots
Herrera, VAMD Director, representing the CCP. 

This year’s trophy was designed by Gary Ross Pastrana,  former TAA awardees.














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