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

Up close and personal with celebrated Manila bartender David Ong

Up close and personal with celebrated Manila bartender David Ong

David bartends at his very own Oto music bar. Photo by Locale Magazine

We spent some time chatting with the man behind the only Philippine bar to make it in Asia’s 50 Best Bars by William Reed Business Media, and Edsa Beverage Design Studio, this year, on things like stories on his hip Makati music-bar, Manila restaurants and chefs he adores, and his go-to comfort food places.

We wanted a space where we could hang out and listen to good music thus the concept of Oto came up.It’s designed for a great listening experience, complete with turntables, speakers, vinyl records, amplifiers and a curated playlist.

Poblacion in Makati is a young neighborhood, thriving with small businesses, and we wanted to add to its diversity by serving proper coffee, good cocktails and music.

The food and beverage at Oto are intended to be experience-driven and conversation-driven. We try to adjust to what our guests want so they’ll get the best drink possible.

Oto’s menu is made of things that reminded me of my childhood or family. We have this drink called #ReligionBlack named after my sister Tina’s Isntagram handle @religionblack. Our Hey Brian, a Wild Turkey bourbon infused with grapefruit juice and tamarind syrup, is named after a regular customer.

My rule of thumb for cocktails is to make it complex yet simple and relatable enough once you taste it.

I am a very easy drinker although I have my preferences and am open to trying new things. When I drink, I’m open to what the bartenders would want to serve me. I still go for classic cocktails whether it’s an old fashioned, mojito, or a whisky sour. I don’t like eating while drinking.

Resto-bars in Manila that I like:
Toyo Eatery
12/10
Rambla

Wildflour Cafe + Bakery’s Mac and Cheese


My go to restaurants in Manila:
Toyo Eatery
Mecha Uma
Wild our Cafe + Bakery
Cafe Juanita
Sarsa

On regular days, I eat at:
Tokyo Tokyo
Bacolod Chicken Inasal
KFC for their chicken with a full cup of gravy, my comfort food
Hen Lin for siomai
Food Channel for shawarma

Chefs I admire are Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery and Bruce Ricketts of Mecha Uma. Chef Jordy whips Filipino-inspired cuisine at Toyo Eatery, where his staff of chefs and cooks are Filipino. Chef Bruce is ingredient-focused—I always leave his restaurant mindblown as he always does things out of the box.

I never really liked clubbing but if I’m in that kind of situation, I always end up being the guy with a bottle making people drink, observing everyone, and caring for those who can’t manage.

If I weren’t a barista or entrepreneur, I would probably be a banker or a hotelier.

Who is David Ong?
David Ong is the co-owner of music lounge-cum-bar Oto, e Curator Co ee and Cocktails, the only Philippine bar to make it in the Asia’s 50 Best Bars by William Reed Business Media, and Edsa Beverage Design Studio.

Interview by Jonalyn Fortuno

Local curates Batanes

Local curates Batanes

Get to know Ivatan rockstar tour guide Ed Delfin, his aspirations for his hometown, and his favorite restaurants list

Ed enjoying scenic Fundacion Pacita. By Opal Bala

I started tour guiding visitors in Batanes in 1999. I was working on a World Bank-funded project on environmental protection and conservation at that time.

Im more of a cultural worker than a tour guide. I’ve always been an advocate of heritage conservation. My goal is to convert as many locals into becoming heritage champions and instill in them that tour guiding is about showing the dynamics of natural environment and cultural heritage that shaped our province into what it is now today.

Local curates Siargao

When islander Elaine Abonal is on a break from teaching surfing in Siargao, you’ll catch her on road trips, swimming in wild islands and eating at her favorite dining places

Elaine enjoying a day out in Dako Island

I was born and raised
 in Manila but I’ve been frequenting Siargao
 for the past 13 years.
At first I would stay for one month, then one month became two, and later on it stretched longer. In 2016, we started renting a house and got ourselves a dog.

My goal is to provide the best way to teach surfing in Siargao.
At Surfista Travels, we cover all bases when we teach, from theory to safety to etiquette. We do photo analysis. Surfista’s emphasis is for one to become a learned surfer.

Local curates Cebu…and food!

Local curates Cebu…and food!

Market raider Joel Binamira teaches us things like the unique way Cebuanos have their lechon and the best destination eats in the Philippines

 

Backyard-raised pigs, which Joel uses in making his lechons (roast pig)

I always enjoy good food but I only learned how to cook in my college days in the US. My love for markets came later when I was already traveling to various cities for work and pleasure.

Home-cooked sinigang na baboy

At home, we like to prepare Filipino food like the classic sinigang na baboy (pork in sour soup) which we do from scratch, adobo cooked in wood-fired palayok, grilled meat and fish. I also cook Western dishes like pastas, paellas, roasts, and salads.

Of the local ingredients, my favorites to use include the dayap (key limes), coconut, muscovado, siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili), coconut vinegar, bagoong (fish paste) and tinapa (smoked fish).  I’m also looking at getting my hands on the kurakding, a wood mushroom from the Bicol region, since it has always eluded me.

Pork roasting to crackling perfection, then eaten with vinegar as dipping sauce. This is how Cebuanos eat their lechon

Cebuanos or Visayans typically don’t use a liver sauce in eating their lechon, rather they use a simple vinegar and/or soy dip. A tip: the next time you eat lechon, try to have it with a dip of patis (fish sauce) and dayap (lime) or kalamansi.

I love lechon paksiw or the day-after lechon stew made with good coconut vinegar, lots of garlic and a touch of muscovado. 

Lechon pairing tips:
I am a Diet Coke addict so that’s what I normally have with my lechon. I have also tried pairing it with wine, and the best I’ve had was a Verdicchio. Lechon skin and meat also go well with Italian varietal that has citrusy notes.

Kinilaw na tanigue dish: a must-try Cebuano dish

Cebu first-timers must-try food:
Lechon
Grilled fish
Seaweed salad dressed with local vinegar
Kinilaw (local ceviche)
Budbud kabog or millet cake for dessert

My go-to restaurants in Cebu:
Oriental Spice Gourmet in Lapu-Lapu
Phat Pho
La Nostra Pizzeria Napoletana

Get to know a local destination’s food culture. Three tips:
Visit a market in each town you visit.
Ask the vendors which restaurant buys the freshest seafood and dine there.
When in doubt, buy something fresh and spectacular in the market and ask the chef/cook in your hotel to cook it for you. Pay the corkage. It’ll usually be worth it.

Shopping for dried dorado in Batanes with Chef JP Anglo

The 8 most notable eats that I’ve had in the Philippines:
A couple of steamed lobsters cooked and enjoyed at the verandah of a private home over water in Coron. Book a SkyJet flight to Coron
The arayu or dried dorado (dolphin fish) in Batanes. Book a SkyJet flight to Batanes
A gorgeous
kinilaw na Malasugui at the carinderia by the pier in Tagbilaran, Bohol
Lechon from the sidewalks of Carcar, Cebu
Seafood on the beach in Bantayan Island, Cebu
Laing (dried taro leaves cooked in coconut milk) in Legazpi, Albay
Lumpiang ubod (fresh palm spring rolls) in Bacolod City
Batchoy (local noodle soup), also in Bacolod

My go-to restaurants in Manila:
Mamou
Sarsa
Milky Way Cafe
Mendokoro Ramenba
Tsukiji

Ten or 15 year’s ago, Manila’s dining scene wasn’t as active, creative and interesting than it is now.  Filipinos love to try new places, but it’s the restaurants that get repeat customers that have a better chance of survival in a very competitive marketplace. [Sadly] so many places open only to close by the time their first lease is up, or sooner.  

Island hopping in Coron, Palawan

My favorite holiday escape is Palawan but my recent trip to Batanes was eye-opening to say the least.  Batanes was so stunningly beautiful.

View from Fundacion Pacita in Batanes

Next on my culinary bucket list are Siargao and Iloilo.  I also have yet to explore much of Mindanao in terms of food.

My guilty pleasure are donuts, preferably old-fashioned or cinnamon sugar. Home-cooked sinigang na sugpo (prawn in sour soup) and bistek Tagalog (local beef steak) are my comfort food.

Chefs I admire are Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert who are way up there on the chart.  I have always loved Margarita Fores and have recently been working with Chef JP Anglo who cooks with such spunk.  A recent meal at Bad Saint in Washington makes me a serious fan of Chef Tom Cunanan.

More on Joel
Currently reading: A stack of 10+ cookbooks and food-related books on my bedside table
Currently watching: The Crown,  Howard’s End
Food I’d eat before I die: Too many to pick just one but I would like a hit of Beluga caviar, a generous portion of the finest quality tuna sashimi, a few slices of a good steak, a perfectly ripe Cebu mango, several sections of pink pomelo with bagoong, a nice salad and a Diet Coke.
My go-to casual footwear brand: Cole Haan, Tod’s
My go-to casual clothing brand: Rag & Bone
Accessory I splurge on: Crocodile leather wallets

Who is Joel Binamira?

Joel Binamira, who owns the famous lechon restaurant from Cebu, Zubuchon,is the man behind food blog Market Manila and Instagram account @therealmarketman. His pursuit for good food has taken him across the globe, hopping from one restaurant to the next. His staple? A stop at the local market.

Photos courtesy of Joel Binamira

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