Meet Manila’s launch: a tertulia under the stars

Despite the power outage and the slight drizzle, Meet Manila’s launch party entitled “A Tertulia Night” held last May 23 in Adarna Food and Culture Restaurant was a success and definitely something that I was glad to attend.

What is Meet Manila? From their website:

It is a non-profit informational site whose core focus is to promote Philippine tourism through social media, encouraging the creativity of the Filipinos in sharing Filipino culture and Philippine tourism expressed through blogs, photos, tweets, and Facebook posts.

Meet Manila aims to cultivate online community participation and interaction through shared content, in promotion of Philippine tourism. Serving as a response to the surge of travel interest by social media users, the portal will provide a centralized portal featuring the best of Philippine travel through aggregated user reviews. In effect, this will propagate a culture of thoughtful and responsible tourism that encourages pure appreciation of the Philippines’ authenticity in culture and natural resources.

“A Tertulia Night” served to officially launch Meet Manila and to introduce their Heroes for #ThoughtfulTourism.

I arrived slightly late due to wanting to finish my latest book review before leaving the house. When I got to Adarna, I found out that there was no power because of a blown transformer just outside the restaurant. Dinner would be by candlelight instead. The blackout wasn’t so bad once I spotted Tita Susan Arcega (who was there as Lito Perez’ publicist) and she invited me to sit at their table. Within the 15 minutes, I’d gotten acquainted with Eric from Boracay Mandarin, Nix and Nikki from Save Philippine Seas, and food blogger Apple.

The event kicked off with dinner by Chef Giney Villar of Adarna Food and Culture, a restaurant specializing in Filipino cuisine. We were treated to caldereta, adobo, and chicken relyeno. I couldn’t see how pretty the food looked because of the dim light but it sure was delicious.

Ivan Henares during his talk

Once our bellies were full and we’d made new friends with out table-mates, a bugtungan (riddle game) emceed by Vince of Mellow 94.7 and Ysobel of Meet Manila served to break the remaining ice. Tita Susan answered one and was recruited to read another. Unfortunately, I’ve never been good with riddle games so I just watched and cheered from the sidelines.

After the bugtungan came the short introduction to Meet Manila and the featured speaker, Ivan Henares. He spoke on preserving heritage houses. I had to move closer to the staging area to hear him but I didn’t mind. He focused on the troubles facing historical houses around the country – neglect, vandalism, and demolition – and what we can do to preserve them. After all, people come from all over to visit Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral and Thailand’s temples. Aside from preserving our cultural heritage, our historical houses could become another draw for both domestic and international tourists. Case study for success: Vigan.

After Mr. Henares were the talks from the Heroes for #ThoughtfulTourism. They are:

  • Carlos Celdran of Walk This Way
  • Chairell Winston Almendras of Batang Yagit
  • Loren Legarda of Luntiang Pilipinas
  • Melissa and Francesa Villa-Mateo of Project Pearls
  • Jay Jaboneta of Yellow Boats Foundation
  • Antonio Ingles of Aral Pinoy
  • Anna Oposa of Save Philippine Seas
  • Niccolo Cosme of Project Headshot Philippines
  • Elizabeth Angsioco of Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines
  • Jayvee Fernandez for Diving in the Philippines
  • Lynn Pinugu of Mano Amiga Pilipinas
  • Froilan Grate of Mother Earth Foundation
  • Imee Marcos of Ilocos Norte
  • Lito Perez for Filipino Heritage and Fashion
Lito Perez while talking about his work with heritage houses

While they all deserved their moment in the spotlight for their contributions to Thoughtful Tourism, my own personal biases towards environmental efforts and because I’ve stayed in Villa Tortuga, one of the places that Lito Perez has restored, led me to pay just a little more attention to Anna Oposa, Lito Perez, and Jayvee Fernandez.  I appreciated hearing their thoughts on how the online community and social media could be used to promote advocacies and build connections. Unfortunately, Carlo Celdran arrived much later because he got stuck in traffic.

The night ended with the awarding of the Empowered Travelers: travelers selected by Meet Manila and the sponsors to become ambassadors for Thoughtful Tourism. Congratulations to the three folks who were awarded that night!

(My nice surprise a few days later: I was chosen to be an Empowered Traveler too, along with Manyel! Apparently, they wanted to call all the Empowered Travelers to the front but with the power outage, they couldn’t round us all up in the dark. Haha. Thank you Meet Manila for this opportunity!)

Six steps for a sustainable Valentine’s Day

Author’s note: I originally wrote this article for our corporate blog but I couldn’t include links to other companies. To remedy that (and also to point people in the right direction), I’m posting the original article with the links to specific service providers here in the Philippines. Hope this helps!
The day of hearts is upon us again and thousands of Filipinos (and their sweethearts) will be joining in the Valentine’s Day festivities. Chocolate, flowers, and cards will fly off the shelves in the frenzy of gift-giving, while tables at the trendiest restaurants will be booked way in advance. But in the haze caused by the heady romance in the air and the hustle and bustle of finding the perfect gift for your sweetie, we tend to forget to show some love for our mother too – Mother Earth. With only a little time and creativity, you can buy or create beautiful gifts that your significant other and the environment will thank you for.

1. Got something to say? Say it with a handmade card made of recycled materials.

Nothing says “I love you” and “I appreciate you” better than a card made with love, and the Earth will love you too if it’s made of recycled materials. If you’re not the crafty type, shops also sell cards made of recycled paper.
Merry Valentine's Day! PC
Cheesy yet effective. And Earth-friendly too!

2. Sweeten the deal with locally-made chocolate.

Give chocolate with a Filipino twist. Theo & Philo sells chocolate made with cacao beans from Davao and sugar from Bacolod, with varieties like Barako (milk chocolate with organic barako coffee), Labuyo (dark chocolate with chili), and Green Mango & Salt (dark chocolate with dried green mangoes and salt). My friend Rima vouches for the deliciousness of their dark chocolate.

organic spring flowers3. Flatter with organic flowers.

Did you know that 196 million roses were sold in the United States for Valentine’s Day 2011? It’s the #1 holiday for florists, catching 40% of holiday dollar volume. Unfortunately, most of those roses were imported from South America and grown on farms that use fertilizers and pesticides extensively. Filipinos have it easier as most Philippine florists already grow their flowers locally, usually in Baguio, Tagaytay, or Mindanao. To take it another step further, choose locally and organically grown flowers.

4. Give stuffed animals with more heart.

Consider giving stuffed animals that do more than gather dust on a shelf. By symbolically adopting a giant panda or dolphin plush toy, you help WWF-Philippines raise awareness for endangered animals and habitat conservation, conduct dolphin stranding workshops, and buy dolphin rescue kits. Each adopted animal comes with a customized adoption certificate and species information card.

5. Cooking is caring.Sunday Cooking-6

For a more personal and healthier touch, how about staying in and cooking an organic meal together? It’s more quality time together as a couple, you avoid the (worse than usual) traffic that’s sure to surface on this day, and it’s good for your body and the environment. Perhaps you might even have those locally-made chocolates for dessert!

6. Spend a day outside. 
This can tie in with #5. Cook your organic food early, pack a basket, and picnic in a nature park or other protected area. Your park entrance fees go towards the protection and maintenance of the park and their environmental education initiatives. Both the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center and the La Mesa Ecopark are within Metro Manila and are easily accessible. Other possibilities are the Hundred Islands National Park in Pangasinan and Apo Reef Natural Park in Mindoro Occidental. For the ultimate and Earth-loving romantic getaway, consider a luxury green hotel within the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area. Activities like snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, kayaking, birdwatching, and hiking maximize your enjoyment of nature’s wonders while minimizing your environmental impact. Their partner airline also offers a carbon offset program, where a minimum donation buys six seedlings that will be planted and taken care of in your name in the Brgy. Villa Libertad watershed area.

Sanya, Hainan, China Day 2 (June 9)

I'm here somewhere.

Day 2 saw the formal opening of the workshop. We got talks from Dr. Thamasak Yeemin (Thailand), Dr. Fernando Siringan (Philippines), Dr. Gi Hoon Hong (Korea), Dr. Hui Huang (China), and Dr. Gangjian Wei (China). It was both thrilling and intimidating to be in the same room as these experts. Needless to say, my hand ached after taking several pages of notes throughout the day. That was the only time I envied Zoan with her iPad. Continue reading “Sanya, Hainan, China Day 2 (June 9)”

I love comic books!

You get ready to meet your friends by 9 AM. You’re at Robinsons Galleria by 10:30 – just 30 minutes after the mall’s official opening time – but the line already stretches down the hall and back again. Your customer stub reads “317”. You prepare yourself to face the masses of people who want the same things you do.You grin as you receive your ration of the precious goods. A massive treasure hunt commences afterward, complete with sweat, noise, and the occasional yell of triumph. Welcome to Free Comic Book Day!

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Continue reading “I love comic books!”