5 can’t-miss Christmas events for 2018

5 can’t-miss Christmas events for 2018

For most Filipinos, December is synonymous with one big thing that started three months ago: Christmas. It’s a time when families and friends would go out and bond either at a restaurant, their family retreat, or even a theme park. 

If you are one who’d want to surprise your loved one with new of ideas, then this list is for you. Here are five Christmas events you should not miss:

Lights and Shadow Play at CCP

The light and shadow play at the CCP Facade is on daily from 6 pm. Photo by Kiko Cabuenas

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) has always been know for Christmas plays and concerts, along with an over-the-top Christmas installation at the CCP lawn. This year, they’re changing the game a bit with a Light and Shadow Play featuring three storyboards: The Christmas Story (Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem), Paskong Pinoy Traditions (Misa de Gallo, Aguinaldo, and pagmamano, among others), and The Promise of A New Year (different New Year traditions such as paputok, bumbong or bamboo cannon, and Media Noche).
Show is every night with three intervals: 6pm, 7:30pm, and 9pm, at the CCP facade. The time schedule might change, or the show may be canceled in case of inclement weather.

Concert IV: PPO’s 36th Concert Season (2018 – 2019)

After watching the night’s Lights and Shadow Play, complete your CCP experience with a Christmas-themed concert by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.

Concert IV gives audiences a Christmas treat with the following pieces: Hans Pfitzner’s The Christmas Elf Overture, Mozart’s Violin Concerto, Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel Prelude to Act One, Tchaikovsky’s ever-popular The Nutcracker Suite, and a collection of Christmas hymns, carols and songs familiar to most Filipinos.
PPO’s Concert IV is on December 14, 8pm at the CCP Main Theater. Tickets are available at the CCP Box Office or online on TicketWorld.

Jose Mari Chan: Going Home To Christmas at Solaire

No Philippine Christmas is complete without hearing a Jose Mari Chan song. But instead of hearing the legend’s songs blaring on mall speakers, why not listen to the man dubbed The Father of Philippine Christmas Music sing live for a change?

Chan will perform his greatest Christmas hits—the ones you’re going to hear at the mall—along with other holiday favorites live at The Theater at Solaire on December 22.
Jose Mari Chan: Going Home To Christmas is at 8pm on December 22. Tickets are available on TicketWorld.

Nuvali’s Magical Field of Lights

It’s THE perfect way to end your day, especially if you’re in the south: a relaxing set of Disney tunes. Photo by Andronico Del Rosario

There is a “new kid on the block” that’s looking to knock off the Ayala Triangle Gardens from being the go-to Christmas spectacle: Nuvali’s Magical Field of Lights.

It’s all the way in Santa Rosa, Laguna, but it’s worth the journey. Nuvali has something Makati will never have: a ton of space. Nuvali gets turned into a literal field of lights as spheres of varying colors cover the open space usually inhabited by nothing but grass. This year, they’ve upped the ante through their “sister’s” (read: Ayala Triangle Gardens) Disney celebration.
The Magical Field of Lights at Nuvali lights up every day until January 13. It’s at 30-minute intervals from 6pm to 10pm. 

Sweet Illusions at Estancia Mall

Most malls have Christmas displays that consist of a big Christmas tree and a couple of large gift boxes. Estancia Mall, however, takes their Christmas decorations seriously.

Case in point: their annual Christmas display. What they’ve got this year is a completely different take from past years: four “secret” rooms that’ll make your inner child scream and give your IG feed a boost. They’re called Sweet Illusion Chamber rooms and they’re scattered across the mall. You’ll be greeted by the candy-themed Rainbow Prism Room at the entrance of Estancia Mall, the trippy laser light at the Laser Room, shadow displays at the Shadow Light Room, and probably the biggest IG hit: the candy-colored neon paintings of the Dark Light Room.

All four rooms are open to the public and will run until January 6.

Heaven in a waffle

Heaven in a waffle

We’ve found Bean & Yolk in Alabang’s Westgate Hub, a place that sets the bar for all-day-breakfast places. Cozy interiors you’d want to hang out in for hours; check; healthy and delicious dishes; check; and the best cuppa made farm to table coffee beans; check.

This unassuming exterior will welcome you to brunch heaven.

Bean & Yolk, in case you haven’t caught on from reading the name, is a place that serves coffee and eggs—the kind of food that you’re certain to find at any breakfast table.

It’s the kind of place that serves food for people who aren’t too keen on being tied down to office desks. It’s a feast for the eyes for someone who loves minimalism, with its Scandinavian-inspired design dominated by whites and browns with a touch of blue from the low-hanging lamps.

Stay hungry, be humble. Wise words to live by.

Quotes adorning walls combined with the colors turn this place into a mini-haven for those with a curated Instagram feed. Seating options are as varied as a lady’s closet: long tables, a long couch on the far wall, bar stools by the entrance, and your standard table-and-chair.

The ambiance makes you want to sit down and chat—or work—they have outlets for those with laptops and mobile phones—all while you enjoy a cup of premium roast, a sandwich, a rice bowl, or even a full meal.


This is probably the HEALTHIEST tocino you will ever find in Metro Manila.

Healthy eats is the name of the game at Bean & Yolk. They’re proud of serving dishes with all-natural ingredients, like their B&Y Chicken Tocino. It’s a filling bowl of rice topped with tender, homemade, nitrate-free chicken tocino, fresh atsara (pickled vegetable), mango salsa, spinach, roasted cherry tomatoes, and a perfectly poached egg.

We wouldn’t blame you for being eager to devour this bowl, especially if you like your meat sweet and savory.

There’s also the sweet, fluffy and crunchy Cereal Waffle. No, the waffles do not have cereal in them but are served with a healthy sprinkling of Froot Loops, mixed berries, and two scoops of vanilla ice cream. It’s a good way to end a meal or start your day, especially when you drizzle their waffle syrup onto the waffles. It’s almost like eating a cloud that’s had a bit of sweet rainwater left on top.

It’s called Cara’s Fave for a reason: it’s beyond delicious.

A definite favorite is the aptly-named Cara’s Fave. It’s their interpretation of what a grilled cheese sandwich ought to be: a creamy, gooey, delicious mess. 

We won’t mind if you drool.

Picture this: a medium-fried egg with a slice of mozzarella on top and cheddar cheese on the bottom, sandwiched between two slices of buttered brioche. Add a bit of honey and you have yourself a sandwich you can’t resist.


As a cafe/brunch place, coffee pretty much dominates their menu. They’ve got milkshakes, lattes, and teas, but we still recommend their coffee. They get their beans from Common Man Coffee Roasters, a specialty roaster based in Singapore, which procures beans straight from farmers—a perfect partner for Bean & Yolk’s push towards high quality, all-natural ingredients.

A flat white goes well with Cara’s Fave.

Ask for their flat white if you’re looking for something to enjoy, or get them to brew one of their uncommon beans for a different flavor.

The basics
About Php400 (USD7.5) per person
Westgate Hub, Alabang, Muntinlupa City
Facebook.com/beanandyolkph, @beanandyolkph on Instagram

Words and photos by Andronico Del Rosario

10 nightspots to be spotted in in the Metro

10 nightspots to be spotted in in the Metro

From grungy dive bars to secret speakeasies, to a flamboyant nightspot especially made for the LGBT community—not that it’s not open to all—here’s the it list for Manila’s party-loving species

Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen

It’s a bar that will definitely take you to places you didn’t think you’d go.

With Agimat’s dim, forest-inspired interiors, delicious food, and creative cocktails, you’ll be transported to a mythical place every time you go. Their menu is seasonal and highlights
a certain part of the Philippines each time. Every item on their menu is carefully plated and presented, and comes with a unique story. To make your visit extra memorable, order the Ritwal ng Agimat cocktail, which is served with a special method of pouring the liquor.
Average cost per person: Php500 for food and drinks; Facebook.com/Agimatbar

Today x Future

Located in Cubao, this bar would be hard to miss if not for the crowds of people that pool by its nondescript entrance at peak hours. The bar’s not big, and its interiors have an unpolished quality about them, but that’s only part of its charm. With music that ranges from 90s to dance pop, this is one bar where the dance floor will be hard to resist.
Average cost per person: Php300 for drinks; Facebook.com/todayxfuture


This nightclub in BGC has become a safe haven for Metro Manila’s LGBT community—though anyone can come. With high ceilings, delicious cocktails, and great music, anyone
can have a fun time here. If you can, head there on the last Wednesday of the month, which is when Nectar hosts a drag competition called the Drag Cartel, with drag performers
battling it out with lip-synch performances of popular songs.
Average cost per person: Php500 for drinks; Facebook.com/nectarofmanila

Lan Kwai Speakeasy

Inspired by Hong Kong nightlife, Lan Kwai Speakeasy is hidden behind a Chinese restaurant. The bar itself is like a Wong Kar Wai film come to life, with red neon lights and murals. The
Hong Kong inspiration goes all the way to the cocktails, many of which are colorful creations by mixologist Carlos Munarriz. Try the Designated Survivor, a refreshing, citrusy cocktail
that’s served in a fishbowl and comes with an extra shot, perfect for sharing.
Average cost per person: Php500 for food and drinks; Facebook.com/lankwaispeakeasy


Craft beer, cocktails, classic bar chow, and an overall energetic vibe are what make NoKal a must in the Poblacion nightlife tour. With three levels offering something different, NoKal caters to any kind of night-out mood. If you’re up for some comfort food, you can stay on the first floor; and if you’re ready to dance, mingle, and party, you can head up to the second level. If it’s a chill drinking session you’re looking for, go to the breezy rooftop beer garden
where you can knock back some craft beers over good conversation.
Average cost per person: Php400 for food and drinks; Facebook.com/nokal.mnl

Coconut Club

It would have been a seaside bar if BGC had a beach.

With the Coconut Club’s tropical interiors and a bit of imagination, you can easily pretend that the ocean is right outside the bar’s door. The bar serves up fruity cocktails to go with the
tropical theme like the Mai Tais and Piña Coladas with the Coconut Club twist. Even better are the liquor-laced slushies at only Php120. Head there from 2pm to 7pm to catch their Happy Hour, where the slushies are available for only Php95.
Average cost per person: Php300 for drinks; Facebook.com/raintreecoconutclubph


This secret vinyl bar in White Plains, Katipunan is meant for sitting down and listening to only the owner’s massive vinyl collection. The owner curates playlists with his vinyls everyday, so you can count on discovering a lot of new (old) music. It’s the perfect place to go to if you simply want to enjoy your alone time. The bar doesn’t serve food, though they do serve truffle popcorn.
Php300 for drinks; Facebook. com/785386whiteplainswest

Route 196

Route 196 is the ultimate go-to if you want to sample the sounds of some of the best local artists in the industry today, from the underground independent musicians, to the more
established ones. With live music and affordable drinks, this is one place where you can kick back, drink in your surroundings—and perhaps befriend fellow music-lovers.
Average cost per person: Php400 for food and drinks; Facebook.com/Route196Rocks


This bar is a new addition to the famous Poblacion nightlife district. By day, it’s a restaurant where you can sample an interesting fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian food, but by night it turns into a slick bar that serves Suntory and all kinds of sake. If you really love your sake, they serve unli-sake for Php700/head every Tuesday and Wednesday nights—but another great time to go there would be on a Friday, when local indie artists have live performances.
Average cost per person: Php500 for food and drinks; Facebook.com/yoipblcn


With flickering lights, a high ceiling, and wall to wall windows, this bar on Chino Roces in Makati is inviting from the start. Once you settle in, you’ll be drawn to their food, interesting drinks, the relaxed and intimate atmosphere, and of course, the music (sometimes it’s an indie band, other times, it’s an underground DJ). Their menu is mostly comfort food with a gourmet twist, filling bar chow that will help you keep drinking all those cocktails throughout the night. Their Pork Belly Tacos in particular, are a must try, and go well with pretty much any of the bar’s signature drinks. A bonus: right next to the bar is a spot where you can head to when you’re done chilling and find yourself in the mood to bust a move to some serious techno.
Average cost per person: Php1,000 for food and drinks; Facebook.com/2020bar

Dash insiders
Who is Tabitha Rice?

Tabitha is a bartender, occasional club promoter, and model.

Who is Joshua Gonzales?
Joshua is an art director at a top ad agency by day, and occasionally DJs in several party hotspots.

Who is Andrew Florentino?
Andrew Florentino, also known by his stage name The Bgnr, is a music producer and songwriter who has performed in various venues all over Metro Manila

Words by Amelie Llaga

Insane and intense city explorations

Insane and intense city explorations

We spoke with the man who built a reputation scaling towering structures no seemingly sane man ever would: urban explorer Benjo Cabarro.



Urban Exploration, for me, is to find and share the beauty in things that are uncommon to the common man. I was in a dark place before and a crazy friend of mine invited me to my first mission. I saw the light and the rest is history.

A mission is our own version of a road trip. We prepare for it just like you would on any other road trip: charge our cameras, pack food, water, extra clothes, and extra batteries. We also make sure we have movies to watch and music to listen to while we shoot.

I like watching the city from above and at night. It’s peaceful and the perspective change is really life-enhancing; you get to see that your problems are not so big after all.

Three things to expect from doing urban exploration: Dirt, Dust and Death. There is nothing else in play at that moment except your life. It’s beautiful really; in these moments, you again have a life-enhancing realization, that living is truly wonderful. The sooner you accept this, the better the experience will become.

Urban explorers for inspiration: James Kingston (@thejameskingston); Lam Yock (@yock7). These guys are legends!

My most memorable mission was when I finally climbed the tallest building in the Philippines! Photo by Benjo Cabarro

My go-to gadget for my missions: GoPro. I tried bringing a DSLR once, but it was too bulky.

I love the Makati Skyline so much! The street and city colors at night are perfect especially when you’re shooting the Poblacion area. The purples and magentas that illuminate the buildings around it are sooo pretty.

On of my most memorable missions was… when a massive mist engulfed my on a rooftop in Ortigas. I was taking photos and videos of the storm clouds and lightning play in the Antipolo Side, when from down south, a massive body of mist came rolling in. Everything turned white. It was eerie and magical at the same time. I was very blessed to have captured it on video because you don’t see that everyday in Manila.

Would you dare walk this plank?

My most daring mission was in another Ortigas mission where I “walked the plank.” It took me two years to prepare for it. It was utterly mental and required a lot of willpower.

My 5 best missions in the Philippines: Climbing a TV station transmitter tower; climbing the tallest building in at Century City; climbing the tallest building in Makati City; climbing the tallest building in the Philippines, and walking the scariest “plank.” 

I’m looking forward to experiencing the Hong Kong roofs! It’s a massive urban jungle and cannot wait to explore its highs and lows.

I prefer heights, but urban exploration can be done anywhere. We’ve even explored a war tunnel. It’s just easier for me to meditate when I’m up high because of the tranquil and serene atmosphere.

The TV Tower

If you want to try urban exploration, make sure you know what you’re doing and prepare for all the risks. I’ve never really gotten into trouble during missions because of that. 

A sound mind and a strong body are definitely required. I cannot count the number of times I was able to get out of a pretty life-threatening situation because my body and mind were strong enough. I work out my whole body at the gym every week. I practice parkour on weekends, though not as religiously as I once did, and I meditate when I can.

Who is Benjo Cabarro?
Notably the best urban explorer in the Philippines. He’s a professional photographer who’s known for his urbanscape photos among many things.  Benjocabarro.com.

Interview: Andrew Del Rosario   Photos: Benjo Cabarro

5 iconic Filipino food

5 iconic Filipino food

Know about these tummy fillers that are at the core of the Philippine culinary scene. Did you know why food from Pampanga have so much semblance to Spanish cooking? Why there’s more to buying heirloom rice than just being healthy? And how lechon is life to Cebuanos?

Kapampangan food: Spanish roots + exotic eats

Although many destinations claim to be the Philippines’ food capital, Pampanga remains to be an active contender.

Photo by Edgar Allan Zeta-Yap

Pampanga’s dining scene is wide and all-encompassing. There you can go on a seafood journey in Guagua, tease your palate with Candaba’s burong isda and burong hipon
(fermented fish and shrimp), sample rice-based delicacies like tamalis and suman in Bacolor, or munch on Angeles City’s sisig (crisp grilled then chopped pork head) along with beer.

According to Poch Jorolan, a local and owner of the famous Everybody’s Café, Pampanga owes its status as the country’s culinary capital to the influences of foreign invaders who set foot in the province.

When the encomienda system was implemented in Pampanga during the Spanish colonization era, the rich encomienderos hired the Kapampangans as house helpers. At that time, a Kapampangan helper had to work with an encomiendero’s resident chef, inevitably passing on to the former Spanish cooking knowhow.

Photo by Poch Jorolan

But because Kapampangans tend to rely on whatever resources were available in the area, they tweaked what they learned; thus, bringhe became the localized paella, and morcon the Kapampangan version of embutido.

Another Kapampangan food signature is its exotic dishes. Since Pampanga is a landlocked province with no access to the seas, Kapampangans make do with what they have in their plantations. Farmers had to rely on what’s on hand. Frogs are plentiful—and tasty thus it became the chicken they deep fry or for cooking their adobo or sinigang.

Poch says mole crickets thrive in rice fields so farmers have no trouble collecting them. When the rice field is plowed in time for the planting season, they’d surface from the soil. “There’s only one good way to cook camaru, and that’s adobo-style; but we like to sauté it first in tomatoes and onions. It’s very crunchy but tastes like a real adobo,” he shares.

Bicolano Food: The coconut milk and chili love affair

There’s no point in arguing that the best spicy and coconut milk-infused cuisines in the country are in Bicol because it seems that nature has prompted this southern Luzon region to perfect such dishes in time.

Photos by Jocas See

Sili, specifically the small but brutally hot labuyo or bird’s eye chili, and coconut cream are the heart and soul of Bicolano cooking. It’s not a proper Bicolano meal if these two ingredients are missing. However, the degrees to which these two main ingredients are used vary per province, and Albay locals are known for preparing the spiciest and creamiest flavors.

“There is no definite explanation as to why Bicolanos love spicy flavors but the elders attribute it to the cold temperature that the inhabitants would frequently experience for they live close to Mayon Volcano,” shares Renato “BM” Jao, project head of Culinaria Albay. “They needed something with strong flavor to awaken their senses in cold mornings.” The pleasure of adding chili in cooking has been passed on from generation to generation until it became the norm.

Albay’s rich volcanic soil is also good for cultivating sili and vegetables. And since Bicol is rich in coconut trees, gata (coconut milk) is always combined with sili when cooking. For the best pinangat, Camalig is the town to visit while laing is the hallmark cuisine of Legazpi City. These two are both cooked in coconut milk with siling labuyo. The only difference is that the latter contains minced gabi leaves and mixed with meat, while the former are chopped meat and spices wrapped in gabi leaf strips. In neighboring province Sorsogon, laing is cooked
with gabi roots and minced leaves.

BM notes that Bicolano cooking is hardly influenced by foreign invaders.

“Gata and sili are included in the four pillars that make up Bicol’s cuisine, making the region unique,” quips BM.

Philippine coffee: 4-in-1

High-grade coffee cherries. Photo by Martin San Diego

Filipinos have long been in love with coffee. Philippine Coffee Board president Chit Juan says “there are two accounts as to how coffee was introduced to our country. The first record claims that it was brought to Lipa, Batangas in the 1700s by the Spanish friars whereas the other account traces the coffee root to the American period. It was believed that the American missionaries brought coffee to Benguet, that the 100-year-old coffee trees were said to be first planted by these Americans. In South Sulu, there’s an account that says coffee came from Indonesia or Malaysia.”

Freshly-picked coffee cherries from a coffee farm in Lipa City, Batangas. Photo by Martin San Diego

Due to the varied influences and its geographical location, the Philippines is among the few countries that produce all four coffee varieties—Arabica, Liberica, Excelsa, and Robusta. Chit says that our country has the ideal climate and appropriate elevation to grow these varieties.
Arabica only grows in higher elevation such as Benguet, Mt. Apo in Davao, Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon, while the other three should be planted in low-lying areas like Batangas and Cavite.

The start of the drying process. Photo by Martin San Diego

In terms of coffee-drinking habits, Chit believes we picked it up from the Spanish colonizers given that they stayed here for over 300 years. But it’s the Americans who gave us the
convenience of having it in the form of instant or soluble coffee.

When asked how coffee became a Filipino’s start-of-day affair, Chit says that back in the days, fishermen and farmers had a habit of drinking coffee to fuel them up before sailing
out to the sea or farm before sunrise. “It’s frequently consumed with pan de sal, a bread introduced to us by the Spaniards.”

Heirloom rice: A grain of culture

Possibly that one thing a regular Filipino household will never ever not have is rice. As big as its demand is the irony of the fact that fewer people know of how patronizing its organic version is key in keeping an important culture and way of life alive.

Photo by Christian Lucas Sangoyo

“Heirloom rice is the general description of the rice varieties that have been handed down by our forefathers to the succeeding generations,” sustainable food proponent Chit Juan says. “These native seeds are preserved by way of continuously growing them. Farmers who cultivate heirloom variety would store a portion of the seeds once the harvest season begins
and plant it in the next season.”

As opposed to the modern varieties, heirloom rice is grown organically. In some provinces, ducks are left on paddy fields to prey on pests that threaten the rice crops.

Bundling up the sundried rice. Photo by Ferds Decena

In Ifugao province in North Luzon, upland farmers who plant rice on their terraced rice paddies use zero modern mechanisms. They follow old farming traditions inherited from their ancestors. It is for this reason that they only harvest once a year, which is why their rice variety is called tinawon, which means “yearly” in their vernacular. Farmers know how
much they should plant to feed their family for a whole year given that heirloom rice is primarily cultivated for household consumption.

At one of the last strongholds of heirloom rice—Ifugao. Photo by Ferds Decena

Chit shares that the only time that they’re able to buy heirloom rice for her sustainable-centered ECHOstore is when these farmers have excess in their harvest. But to her, heirloom
rice is more than just sustenance. She says “it represents a culture, a tradition, and the organic way of life that we once had before all these fertilizers, pesticides, and modern mechanisms were introduced to us. The only way to keep these heirloom varieties is to promote their preservation and consumption so that the farmers would continuously cultivate them in a sustainable manner.”

Lechon: The scene stealer

No feast is complete without this. Photo by Christian Lucas Sangoyo

To many Filipinos, a festivity may not be that festive if there’s no lechon, whole pig roast on a spit over charcoal. It’s often the centerpiece to many major celebrations—birthdays, fiestas, noche buenas, even politicos’ winnings.

The Filipinos were already roasting pigs even way before the Spaniards first set foot on Philippine soil in 1521. The story has it that explorer Ferdinand Magellan, whose arrival in
the Philippines marked the Spanish occupation era, would partake of this scrumptious delicacy.

Photo by Christian Lucas Sangoyo

Cebu in the Visayas is renowned for lechon. According to Cebuano Joel Binamira, the man behind Market Manila blog, the difference between Cebu’s lechon and those from Luzon
is that the former’s is stuffed with aromatic ingredients, while the latter’s is typically cooked unstuffed, hence the popularity of liver gravy as a classic accompaniment.

Today, many commercial lechon makers employ shortcuts like adding copious amounts of MSG rather than natural aromatics in the stomach and brushing the skin with soy sauce
instead of a more traditional bath in coconut water. Visayans typically enjoy their lechon with a dip of vinegar while folks from Luzon prefer a liver-based sauce.

Eating lechon is a way of life for Cebuanos. “Every Sunday, it’s common to see lechon being sold on street corners,” shares Joel.

In Negros Island, batuan (a local sour fruit), fresh banana leaves, rock salt and lemongrass are key ingredients for stuffing, while it’s green chilies with coconut oil and milk in Bicol.

In the sleepy town of Jovellar in Albay, there’s an annual parade—part of the town’s Quipia Festival—showcasing roast pigs dressed in quirky costumes—a tribute to the localities’ business of raising backyard pigs.

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