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Go artsy at this new hotel in Makati

Colorful walls, delicious food, and free premium Filipino coffee—all in one convenient Poblacion hotel. U Hotels on the tailend of Burgos Street in Poblacion is quiet on the outside, but it will take your breath away once you step inside....

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Eat and sip Ilocos in Makati at Agimat Foraging Bar

Beginning this sunny month of April, Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen will take us all the way to the bountiful northern province of Ilocos for a taste—and sip—of its wonderful exotic flavors. If you live and/or work in Makati yet have...

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Food & Drink

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It’s 90s all over again at newly opened Sobre Mesa

Relive the era of new wave and cassette tapes as you wine and dine at Sobre Mesa, Shangri-La Plaza Mall’s newest restaurant. Sobre Mesa is a bit hidden (or as hidden as can be) if you’re ever in the area of Ortigas. The nearest (and...

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Fitness

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Shine bright light a neon light…while running!

Color Manila is back to paint the town red…errr…neon and whatnot in their Black Light Run on May 25. Fun runs (3K, 5K, 10K) are events that people usually wake up early on a Sunday morning for, but have you ever considered doing the actual...

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Shine bright light a neon light…while running!

Shine bright light a neon light…while running!
It’s the most colorful fun run of the year! Poster from Color Manila

Color Manila is back to paint the town red…errr…neon and whatnot in their Black Light Run on May 25.

Fun runs (3K, 5K, 10K) are events that people usually wake up early on a Sunday morning for, but have you ever considered doing the actual run late in the evening? If you are, then Color Manila’s Blacklight Manila 2019 is for you. Bust out your running shoes and clothes you wouldn’t mind getting dirty with fluorescent powder and just run for the heck of it. There’s no pressure as well since this event isn’t even timed. The aim? To simply run and have fun!

The basics
Filinvest City, Alabang, Muntinlupa City
colormanila.com/events/cm-blacklight-manila-2019/

Featured photo by @marcinmet on Instagram

4 days in wreck wonderland

4 days in wreck wonderland

Explore sunken ships—the ugly beautiful allure of Coron, Palawan.

Coron, Palawan, the wreck diving capital of the Philippines, is known for its 13 World War II Japanese shipwrecks all lying within depth enough for them to be explorable by underwater addicts—the divers— from the Teru Kaze at a minimum depth of 4m, to the Irako with a maximum depth of 42m.

These wrecks offer great views from the outside and excellent routes on the inside for experienced divers and those with the right certification levels. Most of Coron’s dive operators in town, including our own Reggae Dive Center, typically offers three daily dives.

If you only have a few days in town, try this itinerary.

Day 1

Swimming beside a barracuda in Barracuda Lake. Photo by
Catalin-Mihai Craciun

Start your diving holiday with some shallower check out dive in Barracuda Lake, known for its thermoclines and temperatures reaching 39 degrees Celcius—a perfect warm-up for a stunning dive on the Morazan Maru, which offers great diving both for experienced and entry-level divers.

Morazan Maru was originally built in 1905 in England but was sunk in September 1944 along with the other wrecks. She has since turned into a home of an abundance of species like lionfish and giant trevallies—and sometimes even turtles.

The beginner-friendly (and eerie) Teru Kaze. Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun

Cap off your day with a shallow dive at Teru Kaze located a stone’s throw away from the Morazan Maru, for some reef and wreck diving. This wreck is good for snorkeling as the shallowest part is only 4m below the surface. On most days, Teru Kaze will offer good views from below as well as from above the surface.

You’ll be back in Coron later in the afternoon with ample time to climb Mount Tapyas for a view of beautiful sunsets and of Coron Island. Enjoy a refreshing fruit shake or a cold beer at the newly opened Tapas Lounge before you continue further down the hill and out into town.

End your day by stopping at Coron’s many bars and restaurants. You can have the bistek and menudo at Lolo Nonoy’s or vegan pesto pasta and veggie sticks at Le Voyage. For something off-track, walk off the main street and venture into Coron’s side streets with its eateries and restaurants catering to all tastes.

Day 2

Experienced and certified divers can upgrade their depth limits with dives to the Akitsushima.

The Akatsushima. Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun

This wreck’s location between 23 and 35 meters under the sea makes it not suitable for entry level divers but it remains to be one of the most popular dives in the area as it’s the only wreck left with its guns mostly intact. The guns are dislodged from the gun turrets and are currently standing upright on the seabed next to the wreck, with three barrels raised toward to surface.

It’s a just-barely-doable for entry-level divers: the Okikawa Maru. Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun

After spending some time on the surface, have your second dive at the Okikawa Maru, an oil tanker that holds the distinction as Coron’s longest and widest shipwreck at 160 meters in length and a 20-meter span across the beam. Her shallower part lies above the depth limit for entry level divers.

This wreck is located in a passage that from time to time creates strong currents. Due to the relatively shallow depth and the current, the Okikawa Maru teems with marine life—groupers, snappers, crocodile fish, triggerfish, and more. Those with keen eyes will find this wreck good for macro diving.

Cap your day’s dive series at Lusong Gunboat, one of the last unidentified wrecks in Coron. The Gunboat took direct hits and had its wreckage spread over a wide area, though the hull is generally intact. As with the Teru Kaze, this gunboat was also sunk in very shallow water—so shallow in fact that this wreck pokes out of the water at low tide.

The Lusong Gunboat is perfect for all levels of divers—from those getting into scuba diving, experienced divers who want to chill a bit after some great dives, and macro enthusiasts.

End your day with a dip at Maquinit Hot Springs with its natural saltwater springs, or a full Italian meal at Altrove.

Day 3

This day will be your last diving day in Coron since divers are advised not to fly within 18 hours of going underwater. Finish off in style at the Irako, Coron’s deepest and darkest shipwreck.

The beauty of the Irako outweighs the risks for experienced divers. Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun

Irako was a refrigerator ship in the Japanese Navy. She has tight compartments and storage rooms, and her starting depth of 30 meters means only the most experienced of divers dare to take her on. Currents can change in a heartbeat and visibility ranges from a few meters on a bad day to magnificent ideal months. Her upright position with masts still poised makes it easy to see why she has become part of many divers coming to Coron’s bucket lists.

The eerie compartments of the Kogyo Maru makes for one daring dive. Photo by Catalin-Mihai Craciun

Another deep dive is on the cards for your last dive day: the Kogyo Maru, an auxiliary construction supply ship, which went down with her load. One can still see the toppled construction machines in her cargo holds, with belt tracks and hundreds upon hundreds of bags of cement. Like the Morazan Maru, this wreck is widely covered in corals and marine life, from schools of seabreams to circling big-eye trevallies, to huge numbers of scads and fusiliers.

Make a final dive in one of Coron’s reefs or one of the shallower wrecks to make this trip one for the books.

Head back town for some tasty ramen and a cold beverage at Buzz. You can also visit Tita Esh for a more low-key vibe and some filling pansit canton or a heart-warming bowl of mami.

Day 4

It’s island hopping day! Make sure not to leave Coron without taking a trip to Coron Island. Rent a private boat with a tour guide or book a tour through an operator.

Kayangan Lake, but not from the usual viewpoint. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Coron Island offers a lot of white sand beaches and clear waters, with lunch that’s served in one of the small huts they have set up for the same purpose on the beaches. Do not miss out on Kayangan Lake or Twin Lagoon; go snorkeling in Siete Pecados or Twin Peaks.

A stand-up (or in this case, sit-down) paddle boat is a good way of exploring Coron’s neighboring islands. Photo by Daniel Soriano

Rent a kayak or a standup paddleboard in town if you’re feeling edgy before leaving and explore the island as you paddle along. This is a great opportunity to experience the beauty of the island in a very eco-friendly way.

Relax and enjoy the evening with a good view and a cold gin and tonic from either the View Deck or Suites 4:13 before heading out for dinner and summoning a good night sleep.

Who is Lisbeth Jensen?
Lisbeth is an instructor at Reggae Dive Center in Coron for over four years now. She is passionate about the environment and has used her work to participate in conservation efforts in Busuanga.

The Basics
Get there. Skyjet Airlines flies from Manila to Coron three times daily. Flyskyjetair.com

Dive tours. Reggae Dive Center offers fun dives to Coron’s many shipwrecks as well as PADI dive courses.
Mobile: +63928 835 5657, +63906 316 1454
Reggaedivecenter.com

Words: Lisbeth Jensen; photos: Catalin Craciun & Daniel Soriano

It’s 90s all over again at newly opened Sobre Mesa

It’s 90s all over again at newly opened Sobre Mesa

Relive the era of new wave and cassette tapes as you wine and dine at Sobre Mesa, Shangri-La Plaza Mall’s newest restaurant.

It’s familiar in more ways than one.

Sobre Mesa is a bit hidden (or as hidden as can be) if you’re ever in the area of Ortigas. The nearest (and by far, the most accessible one) is at the fourth level of Shangri-La Plaza’s East Wing, home to some of the business district’s top and trendy restaurants.

The whites and oranges give off a 90’s vibe in a way that other places don’t.
Add this to the mix and you’ve got a semi-nostalgia-inducing pregame resto for the night.

Sobre Mesa doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb from the hallway of said fouth level until you get into within a couple of meters of it. It’ll hit you (if you’re of the right age) with nostalgia, what with posters of hit TV series Friends and Backstreet Boys greeting you as you enter. The colors are a bit of a throwback, with whites and oranges dominating the scene. You’ve got your classic wooden counter with bottles of brews/spirits on the top shelf, with aforementioned posters just a little bit below that.

Food

If you’re in the mood for large, comforting servings that you can share with friends, Sobre Mesa will not disappoint.

Who is Tito Japs? We’re not sure, but we understand why he likes this so much.

The biggest hit we tasted for the rebranded Sobre Mesa was Tito Jap’s Bulalo Estofado. It’s a unique take on the classic bulalo with beef that’s tender enough to be cut with a spoon swimming in a combination of rich broth spiced up with soy and citrus sauce. That zing from the citrus makes this dish worth hogging, but it is for sharing so don’t.

Go for the red Arroz Con Pollo y Chorizo if you want something familiar.
Or Arroz Negra for a Spanish resto staple.

Their paellas (which they call Arroz) are also a winner in our books. If you want something that has a bit of an interesting look and flavor, try the Arroz Negra. Not feeling black? Go for the tomato-ey Arroz Con Pollo y Chorizo.

This was one of the best cheesecakes a couple of years back. Still is in our book.

Save some room for their Salted Caramel and Banana Cheesecake. It’s worth its weight (and the wait) and will not drive your palate nuts with too much sweetness, thanks to the salted caramel.

Drinks

Not much can be said for Sobre Mesa’s drinks. They’ve got the “good for everyone” set of sodas, juices, and what not, but they also have some of the more interesting stuff like the Sangria.

The sangria’s done really well and goes with the food instead of being the star.

By the way, the first round of sangria is on them when you visit, so go ahead. It also comes with their homemade bread so you don’t have to completely starve before your orders come in.

Verdict: 8/10

Flavors at Sobre Mesa won’t blow you away (unless you get their cheesecake, which will). Everything meshes well at Sobre Mesa, from the food to the drinks to the atmosphere in either their Shangri-La Plaza or Sapphire Bloc (the original) branches.

Up the whole value-for-money gig with this big Chicken and Steak Platter.

It also helps that they’ve got a couple of tricks up their sleeve with promos like a pre-senior discount (16%) every Wednesday (only if you’re born between ‘75 and ‘90) dubbed Titos and Titas Day and Happy Hour, Every Hour from 5pm onwards.

If you ask us, it’s a place for your pregame before you head out and paint the town red. Or a good way to end your workday. Either way, if you’re a certified Tito/Tita of Manila, this place is worth a visit.

The Basics
Php2,500 (USD50) for two or three people
L4, East Atrium, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City
Mobile: +63917 624 5470
Facebook and Instagram: @sobremesaph

Words: Andrew Del Rosario

Go artsy at this new hotel in Makati

Go artsy at this new hotel in Makati

Colorful walls, delicious food, and free premium Filipino coffee—all in one convenient Poblacion hotel.

U Hotels on the tailend of Burgos Street in Poblacion is quiet on the outside, but it will take your breath away once you step inside. It’s all of 62 rooms adorned with murals made by local artists. The lobby alone is a work of art, with “Hello” splayed on the beam in different languages. Greens and browns set the mood.

The Lobby Lounge of U Hotels Makati. Refreshing, minimalist, and with little creative and eco touches. Photo from U Hotels Makati.
If this isn’t a boutique art hotel, we don’t know what is. Photo from U Hotels Makati.

Most people might not consider it a boutique hotel, but its 62 rooms adorned with murals made by local artists beg to differ. The location is almost central to where you’d want to stay in Poblacion, with everything is not more than a 10-minute walk away.

Sleep

There’s one word to describe my room: simple but given life by murals. It checks the basics—a great bed, a place for your stuff, TV, coffee making facility, an arm chair, and a mini-fridge.

But there’s more to it qualifying as artsy than the murals, say, the wooden headboard with short messages on it.

With the room having the basics covered, it really lets you enjoy the little things. Photo by Andrew Del Rosario

Eat

They serve comfort food at The Lobby Lounge that’s familiar to Filipinos, like their smash hit beef pares (the beef is good enough for two to three people based on “classic” pares servings) and what they like to call Just Noodles, inspired by a Taiwanese dry noodle dish that you’d find on the streets of Taipei.

They call it Just Noodles, but it’s definitely not just noodles. Photo by Andrew Del Rosario

Just Noodles is a dry noodle dish that may seem like a hodgepodge of what you’ll find in a kitchen but is surprisingly good: medium thick egg noodles with minced beef, peanuts, and what we’re calling a Filipino-style sunny side-up egg (crispy sides that are on the edge of getting burnt).

That’s a big bowl of beef pares, arguably the most requested thing on the menu. Photo by Andrew Del Rosario

Drinks at The Lobby Lounge include sodas, lemon-infused water, tea (viand changes every day), and their trademark premium roast Filipino coffee barako, the local Liberica, served free to every hotel guest.

Do

Visit the oldest church in Makati, the Sts. Peter and Paul Parish; go on a food or pub crawl;  swing by Circuit Makati and while the time away in the skatepark or football pitch; or trek to the Ayala Triangle Gardens for a quick run. If you feel the itch to draw or paint, take an art class offered daily at the hotel at 4pm.

Show your room card to some of their partner establishments in Poblacion and get a discount.

Verdict: 8/10

The basics
Rooms start at Php6,000 (USD30) per night without breakfast
5091 P Burgos Street, Makati City
Uhotels.ph
Facebook.com/uhotelsmakati
Tel: +632 820 1000 to 02

Words: Andrew Del Rosario

24 hours in Camiguin

24 hours in Camiguin

Heading to this Mindanaoan island province and exploring it stat is now possible with SkyJet’s direct Manila to Camiguin flights.

Commanding Mt Hibok-Hibok at the backdrop of White Island sandbar in Camiguin is pure WOW. By Jj Alvarico

The buzz is true. If before you spend a whole day to get to Camiguin off Mindanao, blessed with white sandy beaches and marvelous diving, now it’s a mere over-an-hour’s flight—made possible with SkyJet Airlines’ launch of direct Manila to Camiguin flights on May 6, 2019.

Colleagues can now take a quick escape Camiguin. SkyJet’s flight time from Manila to the province island’s practically the same as when you drive down south to Tagaytay

And so we’ve surmised we’ve found for you your new Tagaytay, where you can escape the urban jungle on a Saturday, and be back the next day in time for you to get your @$s ready for work on Monday. Not that you cannot stay for three or so days.

Here’s a guide to enjoying the “Island Borne Off Fire” in 24 hours.

Day 1, 9:40am

Fly SkyJet Airlines from Manila to Camiguin. Take off from the Manila International Airport Terminal 4 at 9:40am. You’ll touch down at Camiguin Airport at about 11am. SkyJet flies directly from Manila to Camiguin five times daily except on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

12 noon

Grab lunch at the institution located right across the airport: La Dolce Vita, an authentic Italian restaurant, which has been around for over a decade. Its brick oven churns out delectable pizzas; and here you can have wonderful traditional carbonara. After lunch, linger for a cup of cappuccino.

2pm


Check-in at your hotel of choice. If you’re a group of friends or a small family with kids in tow looking for for-sharing villas or an apartment-style place for the night, you won’t go wrong with Paraiso Resort & Apartelle. It checks all the basics. Clean; with kitchen where you can shop and cook and dine in if you feel like staying in; has a waterpark for some night swimming; and features an open air restaurant-bar open until 11pm—handy to those who come looking for a night cap. Best of all, it’s centrally located—five minutes’ ride from the airport, and it’s jump off point to Camiguin’s many unique attractions.
Top tier option, fronting White Island: Paras Beach Resort.

3pm

Smother your skin with sunblock and get things rolling. First stop is White Island, a pristine permanently-exposed sandbar that’s as gorgeous in person as it is on anyone’s IG feed. It’s serpentine shape changes depending on the tide, but this is not why it’s amazing. Its claim to fame are its shallow waters that are so clear they glisten in the sunlight, and the picturesque Mt Hibok-Hibok as its backdrop. I say make this your first stop because once you wade into the water, you’d surely stay for a while.
Get there. A 10-minute habal-halab (local motorcycle) ride from the airport to Yumbing jetty where there are boats that will take you across to the sandbar in less than five minutes.

4pm


Eleven minutes’ ride and you’re at the view deck of the Old Volcano, officially, Mt. Vulcan. The massive land form’s nickname does not literally translate for it’s more like an offspring of Mt Hibok-Hibok, says our tour guide. There’s probably nothing significant in the stop—but I had my photo taken anyhow—until you actually hike up the steps of the walkway. As your heart pound, and your knees weaken, you get awestruck by white life-size figures depicting the Stations of the Cross.

After a few snaps, a short ride will lead you to the Old Spanish Church Ruins. What’s left of the church is nothing but walls enveloping the ground, and old trees creating a canopy. The Guiob Church was built in the 16th century and over a hundred years later a massive earthquake cueing Mt. Vulcan’s eruption shook the island and knocked the sanctuary down. It makes for a pleasant stop for Catholic devotees who can light a candle and say a prayer.

5pm

The Sunken Cemetery is another casualty of Mt. Vulcan’s eruption in the 1870s but it has ironically turned into a remarkable Camiguin landmark, luring travelers from all over the globe to catch sight of it. It’s best viewed at sunset—and while there’s that feeling of loneliness crossing over eeriness when you visit especially at this time of the day—it will be a shame to leave the island without having set foot at the place. Small boats can take you to the giant cross and hang out for a while at its deck. The more adventurous take the plunge to see the gravestones underwater up close.

5:30pm


Ardent Hot Springs’ warm waters are the perfect ender to a long day out in the sun what with its tiers of 35- and 40-degree Celcius waters. The four cascades filled with naturally heated waters are a balm to sore muscles, and a calming way to cap your active day.

Day 2, 8am

Breakfasts are simple a la carte meals at Paraiso Resort. A must are local fruits for they’re typically sweet, and if the ber months have commenced, never miss out on the lanzones, cluster of small yellow fruits with juicy translucent meat on the inside. The best kind of lanzones grows in Camiguin. In October, the streets of the main highway get filled with peddlers selling the tropical fruit.  

Once your bags are packed and you’re ready to go, stop by Vjandep Bakeshop on Plaridel Street en route to the airport to buy Camiguin’s coveted pasalubong: Vjandep’s Pastel, a brand of locally made buns filled with yema (sweet soft custard). Any which way you eat it—as a snack or dessert—will make you forget you have a plane to catch. If you miss the stopover, the airport has a stall selling these goodies. Only the bakery though sells different flavored Pastels.

9am


Check-in at Camiguin Airport, in time for SkyJet’s 11am flight bound for Manila.

The basics
Book a Manila to Camiguin flight on SkyJetAirlines.com.

Dash sells all-in, hassle-free travel package to Camiguin until May 10, 2019. Email [email protected] or call +63917 840 6853 to inquire and/or book.

Words & photos by Monica De Leon

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