World Pool Champion Mika Immonen: This Finn has Flipped over the Philippines

Finish pool player Mika Immonen at the Mosconi...

Finish pool player Mika Immonen at the Mosconi Cup 2008 in Malta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mika Immonen is undoubtedly one of the world’s best pool players. Mika was thrust into the game’s highest ranks when he won the World Pool Championship in Cardiff, Wales in 2001 after a perfect week-long pool-playing streak. He was voted MVP at the 2003 Mosconi Cup in Las Vegas and chosen as the European team captain in 2005. At the first ever Philippines Open in 2003, he came in from behind to beat home-town favorite Efren Reyes and emerge as champion.

His many victories include the 1992 Inaugural EuroTour, 1996 Taipei Peace Cup, 2000 Sudden Death 7-ball championship, 2003 Pro Tour Championship, 2003 National Championship, and the 2004 World All Stars Cup.

As it turns out, Mika’s introduction to the cue and table was kind of accidental. “They opened up a pool room just two blocks from my home,” he relates. “And it was conveniently on the way to school. So on the way back I’d be stuck there. We were going to play ice hockey once but it was an exceptionally cold day so we just went to this new place which was warm and cozy and there were a lot of games and a billiard table. At first I didn’t even play billiards that much, like any youngster I was playing video games at that age. And then as soon as I started playing a little bit, I was really fascinated and got hooked easily. I felt like I had natural talent.”

Mika won his first tournament, a small one in Helsinki, when he turned 16 that same year. Alas, no trophy remains as a memento of that fateful triumph. “The winner got a ham because it was Christmas and there are a lot of tournaments in Finland in December,” Mika explains. “But my family is not into ham that much. We prefer turkey. So I sold it. I made over a hundred US dollars at the time selling this huge ham.”

Mika earliest inkling of the Philippines was while following a game played by pool great Earl Strickland. The legendarily temperamental champion was up against a Filipino and was getting really mad and frustrated, even flinging a few memorable vocal barbs. But Mika didn’t get to actually see Stricklands’ nemeses, Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante, in the flesh until 1992 when they played the Challenge Cup tournament in Sweden.

Mika Immonen, 2001 WPA World Nine-ball Champio...

Mika Immonen, 2001 WPA World Nine-ball Champion, July 22, 2001 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mika first visited our country in 2002, the year after he won the World Pool Championship. “I was really pleasantly surprised about everything, by how many people knew me here, the hospitality and the fact that almost everybody speaks English,” he states effusively (for a Finn). “There was literally no language barrier. It was just a nice place to be.”

Thanks to the unifying power of pool, Mika has sort of become an informal goodwill ambassador for our country. “I like that there are so many nice holiday destinations even just a short distance from Manila,” he states. “Like Boracay, Subic Bay, Tagaytay, Baguio. Palawan. I wouldn’t mind having my semi-retirement in the Philippines eventually. It’s my long-term plan. And I can always play pool here.”

Mika can’t seem to get enough of our warm weather, but also more importantly, of our warm reception of him. “The hospitality of the people here is just amazing. It’s really outstanding, I think it’s the best in the world,” he gushes. “Finns have a lot to learn. In restaurants or any service industry I think that Finns should come here first and see what it’s really supposed to be like. Filipinos are proud of their work but still humble. They always seem to want to make the best of the situation, to make you feel comfortable, like you want to come back again. That culture of hospitality really is a big asset of the Philippines.”

Over his many visits, Mika has learned to accept and admire our distinct Filipino quirks and qualities. “Filipinos like to party. They’re kinda laid-back people,” he observes.

“It’s funny this thing that Filipinos do with their eyebrows. In Finland, that is kind of like a flirtatious thing. When a girl does that it sort of means: Hey what’s up? You wanna do something? So I was a little bit confused.” For sure, the Finn’s fervent Filipina fans were all too willing to set him straight on this. But he just takes this all in stride with straightforward Scandinavian stoicism.

“Filipinos are always late,” gripes Mika (after we were 10 minutes late for the interview). “But it’s cool with me. I’m used to it. I almost expect it,” he says reassuringly. He has gotten so familiar with Filipino manners, he’s even started taking a few of them on himself.

“I noticed usually when I stay here for a week or so, I start speaking like a Filipino, I start emulating how my friends talk, the accent. I don’t even notice it. I use the gestures you do here like the eyebrow thing, pointing with lips. I guess I get acclimatized.”

Although Mika may praise us and put up with some of our foibles, there are still a few things he hopes could be improved. “I wish there would be more awareness about the environment,” he states. “Some of the thinking is very short-term. Creating trash and pollution and maybe throwing them in places that otherwise would be very beautiful. There’s a lot of nature here that is really untouched but people are taking some of it for granted. I hope some political power would start focusing on it because that’s part of the richness of the Philippines.”

This declaration reveals Mika’s sincere affection for our country, beyond just being the place from where his respected rivals hail from. “I’ve always dreamed about having a world championship over here. I know it’s good for the country and it’s good for the pool community. If a Filipino does well here it may boost the national pride and confidence. It may trigger some other things. If I don’t win I hope it’s a Filipino.”

“I think this world championship will give a big boost to an already pool-crazy country,” he predicts. “Maybe there would be a wellspring of new talents. A couple of years down the line I can expect a lot of really good players from here. I can already see a very strong next generation.”

When asked what advice he could share with local cue-men, Mika just smiles and shakes his head “They don’t need advice, they’re too good already,” he yields. This is high praise indeed from “the Iceman”, whose steel-cold stare has unnerved many a champion.

“They tell me I look mean on TV,” shrugs Mika. “But I just say that’s the way I play. It’s serious business. Like in any sport I think you can see many characters that are just really intense when they play. They let their guard up. I think I’m a little bit more relaxed in real life.”

“Finns in general are a more quiet people,” he goes on to explain. “They don’t say much. That’s just a fact. Even I know it. I might be in that category. I would like to warn Filipinos that when they meet Finnish people that they shouldn’t be taken aback by this. Small talk is not a part of our culture. It’s just the way things are. I’ve been traveling the last 14 years so experiencing different cultures has affected me in the way that I’m more approachable, or not that Finnish. There’s still a lot of that rooted in me anyway. Sometimes I can’t help it. Sometimes maybe it’s nice to be quiet,”

As a parting shot, Mika extends his gratitude to all those rooting for him, whether Finn or Filipino. “I’d like to thank the Filipinos for all their support. I’m very touched by it. I even have this fan club with a yahoo group. So I’d like to say thanks to them for hanging in there. They have a lot of great players from their own country but I’ve heard them say if a Filipino isn’t going to win the tournament then they hope it was me. So that’s very cool.” Thus speaketh the Iceman.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published in What’s On & Expat newspaper, 2006.

Advertisements

Man in a High Place: HP Philippines CEO Nilo Cruz

Nilo Cruz is a distinguished veteran of the wild world of high-tech mega-corporations. A loyal workhorse for IBM who then turned to running Compaq Philippines, a company he had driven to record growth just before its parent company was absorbed into the HP behemoth, Philippine IT pundits had speculated that Cruz’s chances of staying on top post-merge seemed remote, and so his ascension to HP Philippines chief was quite the stunner in an already surprise-filled saga.

Nilo took this all in his stride without missing a beat. “I never stopped looking back, but I kept on moving forward – so one step forward, two steps backward, review, learn, then move again,” is how he puts it.

It’s this continuous drive to improve himself as a boss that probably makes him such a good one. “You want to further grow, maybe there’s something different in the future,” he stresses. “So you want to prepare for it, but since you don’t know yet what’s coming, you just have to really try whatever you can. It may be products, services, competition, management, new approaches, challenges, whatever is new. If there’s any training in terms of management, I’d like to get it. If I can get hold of it, I will.”

Although most people would think that Nilo has climbed as high up the corporate ladder as one could possibly aspire to, he doesn’t believe in resting at the summit. He feels a responsibility to keep working to uplift the team he leads. “Never stop developing people because they’re the ones that will push you up, rather than pull you down. Aside from my family, they inspire me as well,” he acknowledges.

Nilo is the antithesis of the ivory tower CEO holed up his corner office. “I don’t really stay in my room so much. I’m a cubicle manager, I work with the staff, I share jokes with them, I share problems with them.  They know where I’m coming from. I can be nice but I can also be nasty. But of course, that’s the last thing I want to be.”

Absorbing, interpreting, and sharing knowledge is what seems to be key in the IT biz according to Nilo. “You get training from the companies you work with, you learn from other companies, from other countries. They also try to learn from us because we have a more challenging environment. So over the years I try to apply them. I watch the way the competition works, see how I can learn from their mistakes.”

Nilo was able to spin even the notorious Fiorina fiasco into more of a boon than a bane for HP, somewhat proving the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. “Since it didn’t affect our business here, which is my concern, I moved on. But it kept HP in the industry’s mind for a while. So every time I’d go to the doctor’s, or to cocktails and parties, people would come up to me and say that they’d read an article on what was happening at HP, and I’d tell them to check how HP stock moves. And the next day they’d see it go higher. So I’d say: ‘That’s what I’m monitoring more than what I see on CNN or in the press.’”

Nilo remains unruffled by the goings-on at the top ranks of HP headquarters and like all good mentors, is ready to pass on the baton when necessary. “Wherever I am I always try to develop someone who can replace me because I know I won’t be here forever,” he admits. “It’s nice to give back to the company the good graces that they have shared with me and not leave a vacuum. And in fairness to the people who have helped me meet my objectives, I want to make sure that they also look forward to getting a crack at my job. That’s one thing that I’m not going to be selfish about.”

Mr. Cruz’s commitment to HP, or any of his endeavors, really comes across in how he talks about himself and his company. But as the Filipino CEO of a foreign corporation, Nilo’s strongest allegiance is still to his country.

“First you have to remain focused, you have to play a role model, you have to learn how to be a bridge between the country and the regional headquarters,” he explains. “You have to represent your country well, both the business and human resources part.  You have to defend what you believe in, which is unique to thePhilippines.”

As head of the company, he has to make sure that he delivers the company objectives as regularly as possible, quite a challenge given our economic and political situation. But Nilo believes that we all need to rise to the challenge. He relates how at a speech he gave for a commencement exercise, he dared the students to stay here and make a difference. “That’s easier said than done, but you’ve got to make a decision. When you go abroad you either make it or don’t. And if you come back you’ve lost time, you’ve lost momentum.”

He encourages all Filipinos not to go for the easy dollar, to find simple contentment in those so-called greener pastures. “You can’t have it all. You have to accept that. But you can have something better, or something similar. Count your blessings, that’s what I always say,” he counsels.

Nilo hopes to stir the Filipino youth’s entrepreneurial spirit. “You can start small, from a thousand bucks,” he argues. “Those people who are big now, where did they start? They were working students! If you read their histories, they borrowed money to be able to start their businesses and look at them right now.  So if they were able to do it, what is the difference? What sacrifice did they do that our youths aren’t doing right now?”

Nilo singles out for admiration those people who he finds “more balanced”, who spend their time trying to help the country while running good businesses and practicing good governance and social responsibility at the same time.  He wants to challenge more organizations to espouse love of country. “Rather than loving one’s club, region or family, I want it love for the Philippines.  I still have to see – not tourism ads – but messages of loving the country, of pursuing what Rizal died for, or Bonifacio, or the rest that followed.”

However, Nilo also does have a more down-to-earth and not-so-secret pipe dream for himself beyond the business world.

“I’ve been sharing with my friends that one day I’d want to have a farm. I have a green thumb and I like doing gardens.  But I’m only limited to my house garden now.”

So it may not actually be too out of the ordinary to see this CEO trade in his business suit and PDA for a rake and shovel. “They say my skin color’s like this not because of golf. I got burnt in the field.  It’s a joke but it’s true.”

-text by Jude Defensor, first published in Manual magazine, 2006

The Renaissance Man Returns: Jose Rodriguez, Director, Instituto Cervantes

The Instituto Cervantes Manila has truly grown into a veritable institution in the lives of many Filipinos. Officially tasked with promoting the Spanish language and culture by organizing classes and events, this year has seen many new developments for the Instituto. In January, they moved into their new building located beside the Casino Espanol at T.M. Kalaw St. in Ermita, Manila. Then in July, Manila laid to rest its distinction as having the only Instituto Cervantes in Asia with the opening of Instituto Cervantes Beijing. August bore witness to the despedida for the much-admired Dr. Javier Galvan, who ended his term after five fruitful years as the Director of the Instituto.
When news of Dr. Galvan’s imminent departure first started trickling out to the students and patrons of the Instituto, speculation naturally turned toward the identity of his possible replacement. Whoever it would be, everybody was strongly hoping for someone who would have a great affection for the Philippines and rapport with Filipinos. For these criteria at the very least, the new Instituto Director, Jose Rodriguez, definitely qualifies. He loves Filipinos so much that he married one, then went on to live here for more than 25 years.

“My romance with the Philippines started some 30 years ago when I first met my wife in Spain. I was seduced.” Dr. Rodriguez confesses. “So today we have this total interconnection between a Spaniard and a Filipino.”

To demonstrate, he peppers his speech with Tagalog words and expressions, and even prides himself on his appropriately Pinoy-sounding palayaw, “Pepe”. It was indeed an inspired decision by Spain to appoint as Director of Instituto Cervantes Manila, not a stranger to the country, but an old friend.
Born and raised in the province of Ourense, in the Northwestern region of Galicia in Spain. Dr. Rodriguez’s wife is renowned Filipina portrait artist Lulu Coching. Their two children, Lara María and José Francisco, “grew up as Filipinos,” he asserts.

To get here Dr. Rodriguez has come a long and roundabout way from his Ph.D and M.A. in business administration, and Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural technical engineering. After completing his military service in Africa’s Sahara desert in the 1970s, he shifted to the field of journalism as a correspondent for major Spanish dailies, and eventually joined the Spanish News Agency Agencia EFE where he went on to become regional bureau chief for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. It was during his term and through his efforts that Agencia EFE established its English-language world service headquarters in Manila.

He became president of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) in 1992 and was elected president of the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) in 1995. He is also a member of the International Press Institute (IPI) and an honorary member of the National Press Club of the Philippines. He co-founded with the late Secretary Raul Manglapus and a group of Filipino Hispanistas, the weekly Crónica de Manila, a Philippine publication in Spanish.
He has been Honorary Consul of Bolivia in the Philippines (1987-2004), and President of the Academia Filipina de la Lengua Espanola since 1989. Dr. Rodriguez has been awarded the Encomienda de Isabel la Catolica by His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain for his contributions to the strengthening of Spanish-Philippine relations and was recently conferred the Order of Sikatuna by the Republic of the Philippines. He has also been conferred a degree of Doctor of Humanities honoris causa by the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.

Dr. Rodriguez has spent the past four years away from our shores, and is very happy to be back here in his new role. “It was worth it to wait for this opportunity. This time I will no longer be just reporting on the Philippines. I hope to be able to make things happen in my field of endeavor that will be of mutual benefit to my two dear countries.”

Although he just officially started his term last September 1st, Dr. Rodriguez hit the ground running. In only two weeks his leadership style at the Instituto is already clearly felt. “I come back to the Philippines to assume this new position with something very important: a vision. My mandate is to focus on activities that will further strengthen the social and cultural relationship between Spain and the Philippines,” he explains.

Listening to the director, it becomes obvious that it is this clear vision that drives his enthusiasm. “My dream is to be able to increase Filipino interest in Spain in such a way that they will begin to appreciate that they have to learn Spanish in this day and age. Spanish was very much a part of the Philippines’ past. Having learned our lessons, my dream is that Filipinos will now consider Spain as part of their present and future.”
This dream rests on deep foundations, which the director respectfully acknowledges. “I hope to build on what my predecessors have accomplished and even dare to try to raise the level of awareness of our historical ties,” he states. “We share a great number of things in our culture. Let’s not forget that we have almost 10,000 Spanish words in the Filipino language. But in my own judgment, the Spanish culture is beyond language. It is customs, traditions, food, etc. In short, it is a way of life.”

He is positive that the Instituto’s work and worth will speak for itself. “I want to invite everyone to come visit the IC, to look at the beautiful building with state-of-the art facilities for students, an auditorium for conferences and film showings, and a library with, as of today, some 25,000 books.” The director also invites everybody to participate in and enjoy the many activities the Instituto Cervantes has planned for this year’s ¡Fiesta! the Spanish Festival for Culture and the Arts in October.

For Dr. Rodriguez, the Instituto’s further success lies in those who have yet to learn of it. “The youth, as Jose Rizalcorrectly said, is the hope of the land,” he avows, laying out his grand plan for targeting them. “Our goal is to make the Filipinos come to the Instituto Cervantes, not only for educational and cultural reasons, but as part of their way of life. To thrive, the Instituto Cervantes, or IC, must be a welcome home for everyone. We are committed to bringing the IC to the millions of students around the archipelago. Students are the soul of the Instituto Cervantes. They are the main hope to be able to achieve a dialogue between the two cultures.”The director stresses how the Instituto’s mission entails a coordinated effort. “We will try to achieve this dream by working very closely with my colleagues here, the Spanish Embassy, The Spanish community and the home government, and with the youth of this land through the universities and colleges of this country. But I know that our efforts will be crowned by success only when Filipinos embrace these programs as if they were their own. And I am confident that they will do so.”In all his statements, the consistent theme to the director’s stance is his great respect for the Filipino people and desire to serve the Philippines.

He passionately waxes effusive over our country in a manner that would bowl over even the staunchest militant nationalist or revisionist historian. “The Philippines is one of the richest cultural mosaics in the world. It is a unique window display into the westernization of the Orient. I would like to say to all foreigners who still have doubts, come to the Philippines, try the Philippines, stay in the Philippines, you will never regret it.”

Aside from raising his family and devoting half his professional life here, Dr. Rodriguez has also left a lasting legacy in the form of two books that he has published about the Philippines. “Crónicas is a mini-memoir of my stay in the country, he describes. “You will see all the major protagonists in the political and social life of the Philippines during those years, as well as other stories on themes like the Sto Nino, myths, faith, earthquakes, transition pains, the Spanish language, and prominent personalities.” He is most proud of his most recent book, published two years ago. Featuring portraits of Philippine First Ladies, he co-authored the book with his wife Lourdes, one of the country’s foremost portrait painters. “This is a book of portraits of women who shared their lives with men of power, women who played significant roles in the history of the nation,” he relates. “The book focuses on the first ladies as wives, mothers, and in one singular instance, as daughter, in the midst of revolution, war, tragedies, and political and economic challenges from 1898 to 1998.” Crónicas is available at National Book Store branches, while Philippine First Ladies Portraits is available at all Rustan’s Department Stores.Although the director has already so much to look back upon and be proud of with what he has already accomplished, he believes that it is more cause for gratitude and inspiration than an indicator that he should begin resting on his laurels. “I will never forget my 25 years in this country and the hand extended by the Filipinos, frank and kind, reaching out to hold me with a unique affection and brotherhood,” he concludes. “So now I am committed to everything left in my hands and more, to demonstrate that what has been given to me by the Filipinos has not been in vain.”
-text & photo by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published in What’s On & Expat newspaper, 2006

Stranded By the Lake (embroidery & artisanal cheese in Lumban, Laguna)

South Luzon Expressway Southbound lane from Su...

South Luzon Expressway Southbound lane from Susana Heights to San Pedro. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many Metro Manila residents may no longer consider Laguna to be a travel destination. As an immediately adjacent bedroom community to the metro, a lot of workers and commuters in the city actually call the province home. It’s easy to take for granted how close the countryside and its charms can be. Driving down the South Luzon Expressway on a Friday morning, going against the flow of traffic bound north to Manila, one starts to sense the urban sprawl slowly melting away. The highway gets greener and greener, the plant life literally having a field day thanks to the recent schizophrenic weather pattern of sunny days and evening showers. Before you know it, the landscape starts going all rural on you, and the crazy city gets lost in the recesses of your memory.

The town of Lumban, Laguna lies 104 kilometers southeast of Manila. It is the fourth largest town in the province, with a population of 25,936 people within an area of 96.8 square kilometers. Named after the lumbang tree, of which only two specimens are left standing across from the church, it is also one of Laguna’s oldest towns. The province’s capital, Santa Cruz, as well as Cavinti and Pagsanjan, were all once part of Lumban.

For a time, Lumban was the center of all missionary activities in Laguna. Lumban Church, completed in 1600, was the first stone church built in the province. It was also in this church where the Holy Sacrament was first celebrated by the Franciscans outside Manila. The church and convent complex also served as a resthouse for Franciscan monks from 1606 to 1618.

Lumban, Laguna

Lumban, Laguna (Photo credit: ~MVI~ (bonn-ed))

The Franciscans are said to have brought the craft of embroidery to Lumban. It is the only town in Laguna where embroidery has thrived as a major industry. The streets of the town are lined with shops displaying barong tagalogs, ternos, and other embroidered works of art. Connoisseurs of fashion and handicrafts all troop to Lumban to get their fix of fine needlework. Lumban’s embroidery earns its distinction from its extraordinary refinement and intricacy. The town’s main objective is to maintain its claim as the embroidery capital of the country, despite the presence of other challengers.

Wilfredo Paraiso, the amiable Mayor of Lumban, explained to us how Lumban first started celebrating a Barong Tagalog festival during the town fiesta in 1998. This got expanded to a full-on Burda (embroidery) festival in 2001, and has continued as such for the past 5 years. The Lumban Municipal Hall shoulders all expenses of festival. They also coordinate with the DTI (Dept. of Trade and Industry) for help in organizing the town’s participation in trade fairs around the country.

One barong passes through at least four hands before it is finished. First the pintor or design painter outlines the design on the fabric, then it goes on to the burdadora who sews the actual embroidery, then some more ornate pieces pass through the caladera who pulls out threads from the cloth to produce the delicate open-weave effect known as calado, then the embroidered panels are finally sewn into a complete piece. Beyond the Philippine clothing market, finished outfits are also exported to Hong Kong, the USA, Japan, and Spain

Barong Tagalog

Barong Tagalog (Photo credit: Mommysaurus75)

I got to speak with Marivic Gordovez, president of the Lumban Embroidery Association (LEA), and a veteran of the embroidery business who has been running her shop La Burda de Filipina, Tatak Lumban for the past 14 years. She counts famous Filipiniana designer Patis Tesoro among her clients. LEA was just established last July 27, 2005, and is an endeavor initiated more by the newer generation of burdadoras. The association is 42 members strong, representing 80% of the embroidery houses in Lumban. Its objective is to unite embroiders and producers, and to enforce consistent standards in price and quality to ensure the industry’s continued sustainability. Each burdadora has her own forte in terms of a particular embroidery technique, be it emboss, shadow or ethnic styles. A barong may be crafted from Chinese linen, the cheapest and lightest fabric for barongs, traditional jusi, or piña , the most premium material which originates from Aklan. There is piña cocoon, a slightly coarser type of piña, and piña orig, the most delicate kind. A first-class barong sewn from the finest pina fiber can cost from around Php3,500 to 12,000 depending on size, cut, and the complexity of the embroidery. A project that the LEA has proudly notched in its belt is the Saludo sa Lumban fashion show, showcasing the best of Lumban fashions. A future goal is to eventually put up House of LEA, a cooperative fashion house that will serve as an umbrella trademark for all LEA members. Other clients and supporters of LEA members include former President Corazon Aquino and top designers Renee Salud, Rajo Laurel and Eddie Baddeo.

The passing on of the embroidery tradition and skills has been ensured by including their teaching in the home economics subject of the local schools. Professional training programs are also being developed with the assistance of Canadian Executive Services and the DTI. The University of the Philippines has also been coordinating with the town regarding a plan to put together and publish a coffee table book on Lumban and its embroidery industry.

The charms of Lumban are not completely based on clothing, but also on cooking. The dish most identified with the town is Guinataang Hipon (Shrimp in Coconut Mik). It is a mildly spicy shrimp dish, made creamy with coconut milk, that goes well with warm Lumban puto or steamed rice.

List of Philippine dishes

List of Philippine dishes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although not the town’s major industry, it is widely acknowledged that Lumban produces the finest Laguna white cheese in the country. Lumban cheese is creamier and much fresher tasting than the white cheese you can buy on the street or stores, reminiscent of smooth cottage cheese. Testimony to this is the fact that the De Ramos family supplies their fine cheese to such renowned Manila restaurants as Ilustrado, Cravings, Makati Skyline and Lush Life. The De Ramoses have been making cheese for four generations, more than 100 years. Only carabao’s milk, said to be much creamier and less sour than cow’s milk, is used for the cheese. One pail of fresh carabao milk a day is delivered from carabaos pastured in Barangay Wawa, also in Lumban. Every 100 gram portion of cheese is still individually wrapped in a circle of banana leaf as a nod to tradition. The cheese goes perfectly with pandesal, but Lumbeños are also known to enjoy it with their rice.

Lake Caliraya

Lake Caliraya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once you’ve had your fill of the town’s dresses and dairy, then it’s time for some deep water. The province of Laguna curves around Laguna de Bay like the reverse mirror image of the letter “c”. As befitting a province named after a lake, each town is closely identified with a body of water: Los Baños has its springs, Pagsanjan its (in)famous river, Lumban has Lake Caliraya. The Lake was created in 1937 by US Army engineers by flooding the Cavinti valley of the Sierra Madre mountain range to supply water and generate hydroelectric power for Manila. Situated at an altitude of 400 meters, and 50 meters at its deepest point, the lake is well-known as the bass fishing capital of the Philippines and as a windsurfing, jet skiing, water skiing, boating, golf, and camping haven. For most captives of Caliraya’s charisma, the lake’s most picturesque point rises at the site of the old spillway. A small circular structure, the spillway is commonly mistaken as a lighthouse, chapel, or bell tower. Its exact actual function may be too technical to explain, but over the decades it has also served as backdrop, inspiration, sanctum, and shrine for artists and romantics from all places and of all persuasions. Looking back down on the city from the edges of Caliraya, the streets, grids, and blocks form a delicate pattern of humanity, boldly embroidered onto the terrain like the grandest terno you could ever imagine.

How to Get There

Take the South Luzon Expressway up to Calamba City, then the National Highway towards Los Banos and Victoria. Lumban is just past Pagsanjan town. In light traffic, the drive will take less than 2 hours. An alternative route, longer but more scenic, is east via Ortigas Extension to Antipolo then around Laguna de Bay, Lumban is just downhill from Paete.

Resorts in Lumban

Lake Caliraya Country Club: Bgy. Lewin, Lumban, Laguna. Facing Kalayaan town to the north

Caliraya Re-Creation Center: Bgy. Lewin, Lumban, Laguna. Facing Kalayaan town to the north

Caliraya Hilltop: Bgy. Caliraya, Lumban, Laguna. Facing Cavinti town to the south

Official seal of Municipality of Lumban

Official seal of Municipality of Lumban (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s On & Expat would like to extend our gratitude to the Department of Tourism, the municipal government and the people of Lumban.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published in What’s On & Expat newspaper, 2006

Paul Monozca: The Lion Tamer

Having done well in Singapore, Paul Monozca now seeks to do good at home

The stereotype of the silver-spooned haciendero, one born into the land of the sugar barons, haunts many sons of the well-to-do from the plantation-rich society of the island of Negros. A few are content to bask in their gentility, cultivating a charmed lifestyle as their ancestors must have enjoyed. But some strive to shake it off, break away from the shackles of privilege, and show everyone up on their own terms. Or as Paul Infante Monozca puts it, “have the passion to dare to dream and do it”. An overlooked facet of the oft-romanticized saga of the sugar plantations is how many families, including Paul’s, struggled to cope with and recover from the profound impact of the sweeping land reform program on the province’s agriculture-based economy. This struggle, compounded with his upbringing among a family of dedicated doctors, helped develop a passion for service in the young Paul.

A proud native of Bacolod City, the 38 year-old Paul has been based in Singapore for the past 14 years, where he is arguably the most visible Filipino personality. He currently stands as the Asian regional head for business development for leading investment advisory service PricewaterhouseCoopers, handling the banking & capital markets industry group. Three years ago, Paul made waves in both his host and home country with the impressive feat of bringing together scions of five prominent Filipino families to work as one in doing business with companies linked to the Singapore government. He has been invited by no less than Singapore’s Minister of Parliament and Rotary President Claire Chiang to speak on 2nd generation Philippines-Singapore business relations, and by the Philippine Embassy to be involved in entrepreneur training workshops for Filipino workers.

Paul was recently awarded the Singapore Sports Council’s ‘Sporting Singapore Inspirational Award 2006’ bySingapore’s Minister of Sports Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, the first Filipino ever to receive such a prestigious recognition in the history of the awards.

His philanthrophic efforts have raised over SIN$300,000 (over Php10million) for various charitable causes, including the Dr. AB Monozca Foundation which focuses on providing medical missions to the Philippines, funding for church restorations and scholarships to needy children.

“Because I grew up in Bacolod, a passion not only of myself, but also of my late father, is to be able to provide good health care for sugar farm workers,” shares Paul. “We’ve been fortunate to be supported by some very good names like Caltex Asia, Unilab andSingapore’s CK Tang property group. Now we’re working with a leading charitable organization in Singapore to send some Philippine doctors on scholarships and train them, but in exchange they have to commit to help out in our medical missions,” he explains.

Numerous Filipino athletes have also been given the chance to work overseas due to the foundation. “I’ve been talking to a few close friends who own PBA teams. Certain players, especially alumni, can be given opportunities to coach in Singapore and get paid well doing that. So they’ll be able to follow through after their career as a player.” The foundation’s basketball project is a nationally endorsed program by the Sports Council and Basketball Association of Singapore, currently serving an initial 17 schools with more to come.

An avid sportsman, Paul counts equestrian, golf, karting, shooting and basketball among his leisure activities. He runs some of the most high-flying fund raisers in Singapore such as the Annual Celebrity Golf Classic and the Gatorade Basketball Academy which have been attended by international celebrities including British Open Champion Gary Player, NBA great John Havliceck, China’s basketball star Chen Zhen Hao, Olympic Badminton Champions Susi Susanti and Alan Budi Kusuma, concert queen Pops Fernandez and former Philippine President Ramos. He is also credited for assisting inSingapore’s Formula One bid and Sports Hub initiative, which envisions top regional athletes converging on Singapore to participate in the global drive to promote foreign talent in the city state. “I’ve been asked by former President Ramos to see if these events can be brought to the Philippines, especially our golf event,” he reveals. “This will bring in media coverage, top sportsmen and personalities from all over the world. There are a lot of opportunities between the two countries to be visible together. The plan is to use sports to build diplomacy.”

Paul’s subsequent goal is to assist in reclaiming the investment priority status of the Philippines with the region’s financial centre, Singapore. “We used to be Asia’s number one economy. That has translated into Filipinos having a first world mindset. Our infrastructure has to keep up,” he contends. “Singapore is pretty much the hub of the region. It’s not an easy country to please, but at the same time we have to engage them because they have quite an influence over the investment landscape.”

It is this talent at engaging people, corporations, and even other countries that has obviously served Paul well in his sterling career. But he makes it very clear that above all, he will always be Pinoy at heart, and he doesn’t hold back in airing the extent of his patriotism to the Philippines.

“I’m just one of the millions of Pinoys who are based overseas, one of the guys who continually want to do good for our country. We hope that everything we do contributes to everyone’s well being,” he states. “We’ve been known as a country that deploys a lot of talent overseas, at the same time we should be mindful that all these people are still attached to our mother country whether they are vocal or not. We should strengthen our links to leverage on each one’s success and failures. Indirectly we bring Filipino traits like being respectful to our host country. This is a great way to contribute and make our presence felt”.

Paul feels that above everything, it’s all about embracing the current era of globalization. “Filipino talent is being recognized on a grand scale all over the world right now, especially our creativity, service and hospitality,” he asserts. “Filipinos can be very competitive, but are quiet about it. Now is the right time to be visible and to grab opportunities. I’ve always said that I feel that the Philippines is where China was in the 1960s, where we’re sort of living in our own world, always doing things the Filipino way.” Paul hopes that through his work he can help in creating a new mindset for the country, through sports or whatever other medium, and make a difference.

It is this noble objective of serving the greater good that now drives Paul to succeed and gives him fulfillment, after having reflected on how the world right now just revolves a lot around money. “A lot of our countrymen are forced to do a lot of things which they don’t even want to do to earn money,” he bemoans. “I’m not someone who should give advice, but a food for thought for everyone is just to follow your heart and what you want to do. Do it sincerely and credibly because that’s not something money can buy. You achieve certain things but no matter how small it is you should put in all the effort and not step on anyone. Daanan sa galing, huwag sa gulangan”.

A real never-say-die guy, Paul believes in gaining the right outlook and following what you’re passionate about and continually doing it despite people telling you it’s not going to work. “If it makes you happy, weigh the risks and do it,” Paul affirms. “Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, has their own passion and is successful in their own right. The bottom-line of the whole thing is that when you’re passionate about something it becomes priceless.”

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published in Manual magazine, 2006

Alpha Male (an interview with Fred Uytengsu)

Wilfred Steven Uytengsu Jr. is president and Chief Operating Officer of the Alaska Milk Corporation, Team Owner of the Alaska Aces PBA team, and arguably the most visible active triathlete in the country. He started in sports as a child with competitive swimming and baseball. But at the age of 11, he made a decision to focus on swimming and began to train and swim with the Philippine team. He prefers individual sports because you win or lose based on your own performance as compared to team sports where if one makes a mistake it can cost the whole team. Triathlons came after he graduated from college. He did a few while in the US and when he came back here, it was a fledgling sport. He then stopped training for more than 10 years and only resumed 7 years ago when he felt that he was getting older and out of shape. Since then, the sport has grown. Although this Alpha Male admits to pouring in a lot of energy into his professional career and athletic endeavors, he loves spending time with his family just as much.

On Competition and Teamwork:

I enjoy competition. My wife says I tend to be on the borderline of being over-competitive.

I enjoy the challenge because I feel that competition really brings out the best in people. It forces you to be the best that you can be whether it be in business or sport. To be faster, stronger, better, in whatever you are pursuing.

Having a competitive background helps me understand professional basketball players. I know what it takes to perform at your best. Training from swimming has helped me in terms of learning perseverance, commitment and dedication. Those are all things I carried over into my adult life and my business career. Those are attributes and characteristics that have molded me and made me who I am. You need those attributes and you look for them in the people you hire, to have in your team. You need people who are committed to the goals of the company and the team.

On Persistence:

Persistence is key, and if you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. In the realm of sports you need to continuously practice and train. We would swim 2 to 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, roughly 320 days a year.

In business you need to be persistent and that is something I work on with my management team in terms of pushing people. In this case, my responsibility is to push people further than they think they can, than they’re comfortable doing, because that’s how you can get the best from people.

On Perseverance and Inspiration:

I would say that someone in the business world who I find fascinating is Steve Jobs of Apple. He’s the consummate entrepreneur who really helped develop the PC revolution. But he was ousted from his company, which I think was a great American tragedy. Here’s one man who was forced out by a professional hired gun and basically be left for dead in his professional career. Only to come back for an encore and achieve greater than he did the first time around. That’s the classic case of perseverance.

It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life

It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You look at Lance Armstrong. He’s a person we all admire not only for what he achieved in his professional biking career but what he has achieved in his life as a classic case of never say die, literally. What also inspires me is after I read his book, It’s Not About the Bike, which is very moving in terms of what he has overcome, and I have several friends who have been diagnosed with cancer. I have given them a copy of that book and what’s so powerful is that 3 of them are now in remission. So maybe the book has inspired them. I think the mind can overcome whatever physical ailments you may have if you believe that you can help and heal yourself

Both these men were very brash at a young age, then they became statesmen of their respective endeavors, computer technology for Steve Jobs, while Lance Armstrong is the undisputed greatest bike rider ever.

On Achievement:

One motto I have that the people in my company and basketball team know I use frequently is: Good enough never is. That’s from the book “Built to Last” by James Collins. I believe in hard work to achieve what you want. To move ahead you need a strong work ethic. That’s something my father believes in and instilled in me.

Integrity is very important. I live by a very finite set of principles. Nobody succeeds in life just waiting for things to be served to them on a silver platter. You have to pursue that. Never be afraid to try anything. People live with preconceived notions of what they can or cannot do and you need to break those barriers down. The minute you relieve yourself of those barriers you’ll find the opportunity to surpass them.

I’ve looked to overcome certain personal physical barriers. I’ve just finished Ironman Australia which is a fairly long and competitive event and is something I’ve hoped to do and do well.

Right now, that’s been the apex of my physical accomplishments. I don’t know what lies ahead. Maybe I’ll continue to do Ironman. The motto of the Ironman is: Anything is Possible. Look at what ordinary people achieve if they put their minds to it.

-interview by Jude Defensor, first published in Men’s Health Philippines magazine, 2006

Fast-Food Fitness: Your food court favorites reviewed and rated

You know it’s bad for you but you do it anyway. You go back, again and again. It’s a reward, a comfort, a guilty pleasure. Fast, filling, and fattening, we’re sure not talking about fine dining. Between convenience and nutrition, the handy and cheap quickie usually wins. But you can make the best of a bad thing. Just for you, Men’s Health spreads out and super sizes, surveying Philippine fast food’s 10 most wanted. Like a punch to the gut, we’ll serve them to you straight.

A selection of value-menu hamburgers from Amer...

A selection of value-menu hamburgers from American fast food chains. Clockwise from left to right: McDonald’s McDouble, Burger King Buck Double, Sonic Drive-In Jr. Deluxe Burger, Wendy’s Double Stack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The usual and ubiquitous suspects of burgers, chicken and fries still won’t be mistaken for wholesome diet fare anytime soon. By and large, fast food meals are high in calories, fat, and sodium, and generally deficient in important vitamins and minerals. But with the rise in awareness regarding fitness and proper nutrition, many chains have started adding healthier menu options, trying to cash in on the boom spurred on by Men’s Health readers like you.

We have a long way to go on lean menus, though. In December 2005 President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proclaimed 2005-2015 as “the decade of healthy lifestyle.” The result? A coalition of government and non-government agencies, professional and medical organizations, and affiliated academic groups with the Department of Health (DOH) known as the Philippine Coalition for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (PCPCNCD). The PCPCNCD has conducted meetings and dialogues with major fast food chains to encourage the inclusion of healthy alternatives to its traditional menu. Of its long list of partners, only Wenphil Corporation (Wendy’s) has agreed to sign a memorandum of agreement according to a report by Philippine Star online in April 25, 2005.

But there’s tangible headway. Six months after sealing that agreement, Wendy’s has added sugar-free iced tea and low-fat mayonnaise in their dishes. This year they are zeroing in on the promotion of salad menus as main dishes, and more significantly, the provision of nutrition information to you, the average consumer.

DOH research notes that five out of 10 Filipinos who eat out go to a fast food outlet. But in our experience, finding out the nutrition facts from these outlets is still not a straightforward process for Juan dela Cruz. Of the ten fast food restaurants surveyed, none had nutritional information available on site. Neither the counter crew nor the branch managers were informed about or willing to share nutrition facts about their food. Calling local corporate headquarters provoked similar guarded responses. In one case, I was shuffled from one department to another, only to be told in the end that the information could not be made readily available. In another, the nutrition data was said to be confidential. We had better luck going online. For example, McDonald’s Philippines actually has a link for nutritional information on their website (www.mcdo.com.ph). However, this link sends you to a page on their McDonald’s USA website with nutritional info for their American menu. We were also able to find nutritional facts for all the other US-based chains over the internet through their official sites or unaffiliated sites that systematically compile nutrition data provided by these American chains. However, depending on quality control and enforcement of standards, there may likely be some differences with regards to available menu items, portion sizes, and the type and quality of ingredients used from what is served locally and what you can find abroad, and also from branch to branch or from day to day. Thus, the nutrition values here should be interpreted as a rough guide to the estimated nutritional values for a particular food item and not be strictly relied upon as an ideal source of accurate nutritional data.

The Fast Food Nutrition Fact Explorer database (www.fatcalories.com ) tracks the nutritional data of the world’s most popular fast food restaurant chains. The information in the Fast Food Nutrition Fact Explorer database has been compiled from the data presented on the official website of each restaurant. We used the database to fill in the nutritional info for McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Wendy’s

Dietfacts (www.dietfacts.com) started as a pet project by Kelly Stuart, the daughter of a diabetic who was frustrated with trying to locate foods that fit into his newly prescribed diet and not knowing the nutritional content of his favorite restaurant foods. She gathered data from food labels and nutrition guides and in April 2002, decided to turn this project into a website so that her dad and other diabetics could utilize the information she had collected. Dietfacts obtains information directly from product labels and nutritional guides provided by the companies of the respective products and USDA data. We used Dietfacts to fill in the nutritional info for Shakey’s and Kenny Rogers.

For Jollibee, Chowking, and Greenwich, we asked nutritionist Ma. Paz L. Sales R.N-D to do an approximated nutritional analyses of their featured menu items. The items were bought from their respective stores and their ingredients were carefully removed and separated then individually weighed. The amounts were not as accurate as they would have been if each ingredient had been weighed before the actual preparation and cooking. But given this limitation, the values were computed and rounded off to obtain for us consumers an approximate nutrient value of the products. The analysis focused more on calories and % fat calories and no elaboration was made on the other nutrients.

Ted Fajardo, PhD of the Bureau of Food and Drug (BFAD), a fanatical fitness buff with a busy schedule himself, admits to finding himself facing a fast food counter more often than he would like. “They’re an unavoidable choice to eat at because they’re quick and affordable,” he adds. “Besides, some of the food is actually very tasty and the quality is consistent.” But more importantly from a food hygiene standpoint, according to Dr. Fajardo, “you can be sure that they’re following certain standards of cleanliness and preparation as compared to a carinderia, turo-turo, or mobile vendor.”

He has come up with a shrewd trick to supplement his meals. He routinely brings a home-cooked viand to work or class, usually something high protein and low fat, like chicken adobo with no oil and salt. Whenever he has to have lunch or dinner with friends or colleagues at a fast food place, he orders a dish, such as rice or vegetables, to complement his ulam, and politely asks the crew to have the kitchen heat up his baon for him.

So what else is a working guy to do? It’s not impossible to eat well while in a rush and on a budget. Just stick to a few simple rules, and you can work out a battle plan to trim the worst out of those trips to the corner fast food counter, whatever poison they may be peddling.

Stay Small, Split and Share

Say it with us, portion control counts. Shun any serving described with the words large, extra, super, or double. Small and regular, or even kiddie sizes are what you want. A plain, regular burger contains around two servings of grains and 85 grams of protein, just the right amount for a meal. Resist adding on fries or onion rings, but if you got to have them, sacrifice with the smallest serving or better yet, be the generous big-shot and split it with a friend. Do this often enough and ideally, the only thing that’ll need upsizing is your wallet.

Skip the Sauce

Although the main meal item can be unhealthy enough, the condiments or side dishes that they come with often help tip the scales. Hold the mayo and any other high-fat and high-calorie sauces and dressings. Or at least ask to have them on the side and use sparingly, or ask for a low-fat alternative. The less cheese, sour cream, gravy, croutons, or bacon bits you can live with, the better.

Beware of Beverages

Softdrinks, juices, shakes, and iced tea prepared from processed mixes are saturated with sugar, chemicals, and not much else. Avoid sipping on empty calories by opting for diet softdrinks or fresh fruit juice when available. Otherwise, you’re better off with just water or picking up a tetrapak of skim or low fat milk from the nearest convenience store.

Free Yourself From the Frier

Believe us, you really don’t want fries with that. Everything that goes in and comes out of the deep frier is something you should avoid stuffing into your mouth. Chicken or fish may seem healthier than the beef in a burger, but when breaded and dunked in hot oil they end up soaking up more fat. The same thing happens to potatoes, onions, shrimp, chicken nuggets, and those crispy chicken balls they mix into some salads. Always go grilled when you can get it.

Green is Good

It used to be that French fries and the lettuce leaf and tomato slice in your burger were the only plant matter served at most fast food chains. But nowadays almost every fast food restaurant serves some kind of salad, excepting a few holdouts. Here’s where you can go crazy: The bigger the salad, the better. As long as you reduce or pick out the fattening ingredients, like creamy dressings or fried toppings, of course. Salads with dark green leafy vegetables are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, trumping pale limp lettuce that’s mostly just water and fiber. These will all help fill your stomach, making that small-sized sandwich seem all the more satisfying. Boldly go and ask for extra veggies when you order; it won’t hurt to work those charm muscles while you’re at the counter.

 

Chain of Food

With the invaluable guidance of our nutrition advisor Veritas Luna, PhD, we follow in Supersize Me filmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s footsteps, and try to eat our way through the best and worst of the fast food court. Nutritional information was consulted when available, and well-balanced meals costing around P125 were put together. “Of course, a balanced and healthy diet is relative to the other foods eaten outside these meals,” Dr. Luna explains. “Healthy eating should be taken within the context of the usual total food intake within a day in relation to body needs (including physical activity and basal metabolic rate).” When in doubt, check the fat calories (some nutritional info may be obtained from www.fatcalories.com and www.dietfacts.com).

In the meantime, scan the meal suggestions by Dr. Luna within the P125 budget. If you have more cash in your pocket, treat yourself to what’s on Men’s Health’s menu from these familiar fast food places.

Battle of the Burgers

Wendy’s

Wendy's

Wendy’s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A pioneer in serving salads to the masses, this is one place that has got its greens down. Dressings are served separately. Wendy’s also draws kudos for its satisfyingly beefy burger and coming up with a sugar-free version of their popular and refreshing Iced Tea.

Total Calories Fat Calories %calories from fat Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) Sodium (mg) Protein (g) Fiber (g) Carbs (g)
Spicy Chicken Fillet Sandwich 510 170 33 49 4 55 1,480 29 2 57
Hamburger 320 110 34 13 6 40 810 17 1 34
Big Garden mix salad  180 100 56 11 6 30 220 11 5 11
Ranch lite dressing 100 70 70 8 2 15 550 1 1 6
Chili 220 60 27 6 3 35 780 17 5 23
Side Salad  35 0 0 0 0 0 20 2 3 7

Meal Suggestions

1. Side Salad P23, Chili Rice P29, Iced Tea P30, French Fries P29: Total P111

2. Hamburger P27, Spaghetti P33, Side Salad P23, Iced Tea P30: Total P113

3. Big Garden Salad P75, Hamburger P27, Coffee P16: Total P118

On Men’s Health’s Menu

Big Garden Mix Salad

Baked Potato with Chili (no cheese)

Pass This Plate Up

Double Bacon Cheeseburger

A Hamburger, fries, and a coke from a fast-foo...

A Hamburger, fries, and a coke from a fast-food restaurant. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Burger King

Famed for their burger’s flame-grilled flavor, Burger King’s local strategy appears to rely on slapping on several different combinations of sauces and toppings on their basic burger then selling the product at a temptingly cheap price. Hopefully, they start bringing in some of the healthier choices they have on their menus abroad.

Total Calories Fat Calories %calories from fat Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) Sodium (mg) Protein (g) Fiber (g) Carbs (g)
BK BIG FISH® Sandwich 630 270 43 30 6 60 1,380 24 4 67
Whopper Junior  370 190 51 21 6 50 570 15 2 31
Chicken tenders 6 pieces  250 130 52 15 4 40 720 14 0 16

Meal Suggestions

Whopper Jr. P55 + Regular size diet softdrink P20 = P75

Blazing Cheeseburger Supreme meal (with drink, skip fries) = P85

BK Beef Steak with drink = P80

On Men’s Health’s Menu

Blazing Burger

Pass This Plate Up

Chicken Tenders

 

McDonald’s

McDonald's fast food restaurant at Kulim, Keda...

McDonald’s fast food restaurant at Kulim, Kedah, Malaysia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The international Goliath of fast food lags behind in the local market in terms of offering healthier fare. From time to time, a salad or other less meat-and-oil-centric dish gets added to their classic menu, but for the most part, they’re sticking to the fattening favorites.

Total Calories Fat Calories %calories from fat Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) Sodium (mg) Protein (g) Fiber (g) Carbs (g)
Big Mac® 560 270 48 30 10 80 1,010 25 3 46
McChicken® Sandwich 420 200 48 22 5 45 760 15 1 41
Chicken McNuggets® (6 piece) 250 130 52 15 3 35 670 15 0 15
Hamburger 260 80 31 9 4 30 530 13 1 33

Meal Suggestions

1 piece Chicken McDo (skin peeled off) with McSpaghetti, diet softdrink = P88

Hamburger P25 + McSpaghetti P36 + mineral water P20 = P81

On Men’s Health’s Menu

Plain Rice

Pass This Plate Up

Filet-O-Fish

 

Jollibee

Jollibee

Jollibee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This beloved homegrown favorite features an ever-expanding ever-changing menu. It’s a good thing, in terms of variety and taste. You aren’t stuck choosing between just burgers and fried chicken anymore. In fact their salads fall into the better-tasting side of the fast food spectrum. We just wish they’d get around to providing nutritional facts about their fare.

Meal Suggestions

Regular Yum Meal P52

Spaghetti with Regular Yum Meal P76

Burger Steak Meal P45

On Men’s Health’s Menu

Fresh Garden Salad

Chicken Sotanghon

Pass This Plate Up

‘Zert Pies

Clash of the Chickens

 

Kenny Rogers Roasters

Kenny Rogers Roasters original logo. A similar...

Kenny Rogers Roasters original logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roast chicken is a great source of lean protein. Kenny Rogers complements this with a wide selection of side dishes, including salads. They do push their sugary muffins a bit too aggressively and some of their sidings are heavy with starch and fat.

Total Calories Fat Calories %calories from fat Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) Sodium (mg) Protein (g) Fiber (g) Carbs (g)
Corn muffin 164 54 33.5 6 1 0 244 2.2 0.5 25
¼ Chicken without skin 144 18 12.5 2 n/a n/a n/a 32 0 0
 Steamed Vegetables 48 0 0 0 0 0 n/a 3 n/a 8

Meal Suggestions

Any of the following set choices:

1. Solo A (no drink included) P120 -1/4 chicken, 1, side dish (preferably vegetable), 1 rice and 1 corn, muffin
2. Roast Chicken Sandwich P72, Coleslaw P36, 1 corn, muffin P10, (no drink): Total P118
3. Combo 1 (1 pc Chicken, rice and drink) P71 and Vegetable Side Dish P36: Total 107
4. Combo 5 (chicken tenders, spaghetti & drink) P77 and Vegetable Side Dish P36: Total P113

On Men’s Health’s Menu

Classic Roast Chicken

Steamed Vegetables

Fruit & Vegetable Salad, Italian Dressing

Pass This Plate Up

Macaroni and Cheese

 

KFC

KFC Bandung Supermall

KFC Bandung Supermall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fried chicken may be finger-licking good, but it’s bad to the bone. Aside from their recipe’s secret blend of herbs and spices, one more thing KFC may want to keep from you is that their chicken is fried in a whole lot of fat, and that crisp coating doesn’t help keep things light either. You can peel off the skin from a chicken breast and it’s just about passable.

Total Calories Fat Calories %calories from fat Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) Sodium (mg) Protein (g) Fiber (g) Carbs (g)
Chicken Twister 670 340 51 38 7 60 1,650 27 3 55
Original Recipe Chicken – Thigh 360 230 64 25 7 165 1,060 22 0 12
Crispy Chicken Salad without Dressings & Croutons 370 170 46 19 7 65 1,110 29 3 20
Cole Slaw 190 100 53 11 2 5 300 1 3 22
Original Recipe Chicken – Breast without skin or breading 140 25 18 3 1 95 410 29 0 0
Mashed Potatoes with gravy 120 40 33 5 1 0 380 2 1 18

Meal Suggestions

Rice Bowl P60 + bottled water P19 = P79

Salad D’Lite P68 + bottled water P19 = P87

On Men’s Health’s Menu

Mashed Potatoes

Coleslaw

Garden Salad (without dressing)

Pass This Plate Up

Fried Chicken

The Pizza Pit

Shakey's logo

Shakey’s logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shakey’s

Their salads are just fine, although availability of ingredients can be rather inconsistent across branches and time periods. A slice or two of pizza is always good for a hearty dose of complex carbs, protein and lycopene. But stay away from the grease-and-starch heavy Mojo potatoes if you value your waistline.

Total Calories Fat Calories %calories from fat Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) Sodium (mg) Protein (g) Fiber (g) Carbs (g)
Super Hot Hero Sandwich 810 396 33.1 44 n/a n/a 2688 36 n/a 67
Mojo Potatoes 950 324 34.1 36 n/a 165 3,703 17 n/a 120
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce & Garlic Bread 940 297 32 33 n/a 60 1,904 26 n/a 134
Thin Crust Pizza with Onion, Green Pepper, Olive and Mushroom
12 inch
125 45 36 5 n/a 11 313 7 n/a 14

Meal Suggestions

(Sharing between two people but budget is still P125 per person)

1. Shakey’s Salad P76, Single Serving Meatball, Spaghetti P87, Hawaiian Delight Pepperoni Pizza (solo). P83; Total P246 / 2 = P123 per person
2. Shakey’s or Ceasar’s Salad P76 & Hawaiian Delight, Pepperoni Pizza (regular) P168; Total P244 / 2 = P122 per person
3. Hero and Salad P94 and Raisin Oatmeal Cookie P31: Total P125

On Men’s Health’s Menu

Greek Salad

Vegetarian pizza

Spaghetti

Pass This Plate Up

Mojo Potatoes

Chick ‘n Chips

 

Greenwich

Greenwich Pizza

Greenwich Pizza (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good value if all you want is something filling and warm. Most of their dishes suffer from a starchy, paste-like consistency though. Good place for carbo-loading, not so much for the Atkins crowd.

Meal Suggestions

Baked Macaroni P74 + bottled water P23 = P97

Beef & Mushroom P67 + bottled water P23 = P90

On Men’s Health’s Menu

Greenwich Special Pizza

Garden Fresh Pizza

Pass This Plate Up

Macaroni Salad Plus

Pizza Hut

Their dishes are priced at a premium, but don’t really come out all that much ahead of the competition in terms of taste so you end up paying more for ambiance. At least they have some available nutritional information online. Beware the stuffed crusts.

Pizza Hut located at Schildergasse 83, Cologne...

Pizza Hut located at Schildergasse 83, Cologne, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Total Calories Fat Calories %calories from fat Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) Sodium (mg) Protein (g) Fiber (g) Carbs (g)
Super Supreme Stuffed Crust Pizza (14in) 440 180 41 20 9 50 1,270 21 3 45
Veggie Lover’s® Pan Pizza (12in) 250 100 40 11 4 15 440 9 2 28

Meal Suggestions

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce P69 + bottled water P29 = P98

(sharing between 2 people) Chicken Pork Adobo Lover’s Pizza P179 + 2 bottled water P58 = P237 or P118.50 per person

On Men’s Health’s Menu

Roast Chicken

Minestrone

House Salad

Veggie Lovers Supreme

Pass This Plate Up

Stuffed Crust Pizzas

Cooking Chinese, Hidden Dangers

 

Chowking

Chinese-style cooking techniques such as stir-frying and steaming keep the grease levels down. All that soy sauce, bagoong, and MSG up the sodium though. But at what other chain can you get tofu and kangkong 24 hours a day? It’s the desperate vegetarian’s last resort.

Pancit lomi from Chowking.

Pancit lomi from Chowking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meal Suggestions

Any of the following set choices:
1. Kangkong with Bagoong or Stir Fry Kangkong P34, Chowking Ice Tea in Cup P19, Sweet and Sour Pork Rice Topping (M) P52: Total P105
2. Chopsuey Rice P99, Mongo Pao P17: Total P116
3. Spareribs Rice Topping P62, Kangkong with Bagoong P34, Chowking Mango in cup P19: Total 115
4. Kangkong with bagoong P34, Additional 2 pcs dumplings P25, Pork with Chinese bagoong Chao Fan P47, Drink in cup P19; Total P125

On Men’s Health’s Menu

Chicken Mami

Stir Fry Kangkong

King’s Congee

Fish in Tausi Sauce

Fried Tofu

Pass This Plate Up

Buchi

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published in Men’s Health Philippines magazine, 2006

Crash Chords: Rock the Line

Pinoy Rock, or Filipino Rock, is Rock music – Pinoy style, Made in the Philippines,  Original Filipino Rock Music. The words may be in English or whatever language, but the sound is pure Pinoy.

Timeline of Pinoy Rock

Pre-Rock Age (The Stone Age)

  • “Combos” roamed the scene, bagging nontraditional instruments like floor-bass bongos, maracas, and gas tanks
  • Bobby Gonzales – One of the first Filipino proto-rockers, major hit was “Hahabul-Habol”
  • Eddie Mesa – the “Elvis Presley of the Philippines”

The 1960s

Swingers’ Scene

Maria Cafra logo.

Maria Cafra logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Instrumental bands like The Deltas, The Celtics, RJ & the Riots, The Technicolors, The Downbeats, The Hi-Jacks, and The Electromaniacs cropped up, spawning the first Filipino singer-songwriters
  • The British Music Invasion influenced a new breed of acts like Downbeats, Tilt Down Men, The Moonstrucks, The Dynasouls, and Bits & Pieces.
  • Rock culture arose in the wake of Woodstock producing acts like Circus Band, Maria Cafra, Anakbayan, Isang Kilo Band, Psyclones, Makati Avenue Blues Band and Juan De La Cruz Band

The 1970s

Classic & Psychedelic

The Best of Apo Hiking Society Volume 1
Apo Hiking Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Nationalism drove the rise in songs composed in Tagalog. Socio-political issues were hot topics for all artists.
  • Freddie Aguilar, Asin and Florante fused Folk with Rock.
  • Freddie’s debut single, “Anak,” became the most commercially successful Filipino recording in history
  • Apo Hiking Society, Anakbayan, Juan de la Cruz Band, and Banyuhay also came to the fore.
  • The term OPM (Original Pilipino Music) was touted.
  • Hotdog gave birth to the Manila sound.

The 1980s

Punks and Protests

Freddie Aguilar is a very popular folk musicia...

Freddie Aguilar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enveloped Ideas

Enveloped Ideas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Protestors used song lyrics to vent socially relevant themes, like in the music of Gary Granada and the band Buklod
  • Freddie Aguilar’s Bayan Ko (My Country) was the unofficial anthem of the 1986 EDSA Revolution.
  • Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad popularized Ethno-rock
  • Pinoy punk rockers like Betrayed, G.I. & the Idiots, The Jerks, Urban Bandits, and WUDS could care less about politics, it was all about the attitude
  • With The Dawn’s independently released single “Enveloped Ideas”, a New Wave of music dawned over the scene.  Unsigned struggling local bands like Deans December, Ethnic Faces, Identity Crisis, and Violent Playground gained cult status

The 1990s

Pop and Postmodernism

The rise of NU 107.
The rise of NU 107. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Parokya ni Edgar at a live performance
Parokya ni Edgar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Introvoys and After Image ruled over the early 1990s
  • Then in 1993 the Eraserheads released their first commercial album, Ultraelectromagneticpop and the decade was defined.
  • Rivermaya emerged as a worthy challenger while Yano persisted in mining the sociopolitical schtick.
  • The NU Rock Awards gained cred as the awards to pursue
  • Wolfgang and Razorback muscled into the Metal sceneOn their heels followed Nu Metal mutineers Greyhoundz, Cheese, and Slapshock.
  • Novelty rockers Parokya ni Edgar began to hit it big

The 2000s

Pretty and Pogi

Barbie's Cradle's Barbie Almalbis, Wendell Gar...
Barbie’s Cradle’s Barbie Almalbis, Wendell Garcia, and Kakoi Legaspi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • The upsurge in popularity of Hip-hop, R&B and covers saw hard rock go dormant at the start of this decade.
  • The commercial success of Bamboo and Orange and Lemons got labels interested in bands and song-craft again.
  • Cute singer-songwriters such as Barbie Almalbis and Kitchie Nadal gained fans of all persuasions while the “good-looking” front-men of Cueshe and Hale broke out as the new breed of matinee idol.

More stuff at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinoy_rock

-compiled, adapted and edited by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006

The Camotes Islands: Quiet Waters, Deep Roots

Vegetable, Mineral, Natural

Tell someone that you’ve just been to the Camotes islands and the likely comeback is their asking you if you got to eat any camote. Ironically enough, on our “Suroy-Suroy” (Cebuano for “pasyal-pasyal” or touring) to the Camotes, the locals organized a grand fiesta celebrating their most important crop. No, not camote, but cassava. Who’d have thunk?

The Camotes may be tiny and unassuming, sleepy satellites dwarfed by the economic, political, and cultural might of neighboring Cebu, the mother planet. But to the islands’ 70,000-plus residents, there just isn’t a more blessed spot on earth than what they’ve got. The Camoteños are fiercely proud of every little scrap of history, progress, and natural beauty that they can show off, and one just can’t argue with that kind of enthusiasm.

Their pride is well-deserved. It’s easy to lapse into gemstone-inspired metaphors when describing the archipelago. Imagine a string of four emerald islands, ringed with sparkling crystal beaches, strewn across a bed of aquamarine. Then right in the middle of one emerald isle rests the deep dark opal of Lake Danao, one of the country’s largest, cleanest, and most beautiful lakes. Legend has it that an entire town lies submerged beneath its depths. That’s just one of the many tall tales that blows through the islands, which include a ghost ship laden with cacao, a river that runs upstream, a giant lapu-lapu fish living in a sunken bell, and an enchanted palace lost among the rainforest. The Camotes has been the site of many a priceless archaeological find, and it has been posited that the momentous battle between Magellan and Lapu-lapu may have been fought in the waters off Poro and not in Mactan. There are even rumors that a Japanese war veteran or two may still be toughing it out deep in the jungle. Mysterious caves, pools, and waterfalls dot the interior, further challenging the adventurous.

Four islands comprise the Camotes group: Pacijan island with San Francisco town connected by a causeway that runs dramatically through a mangrove forest to Poro island, which contains Poro and Tudela towns, across the Camotes Sea lies Ponson with Pilar town and tiny Tulang, an island barangay of San Francisco. The snorkeling around the islands may not attract much notice, but the dive outfits from the mega-resorts on Mactan and Cebu bring their clients all the way to the Camotes to check out the marine life. There is no dive shop on the islands as of yet, but like other signs of progress, it may be just around the corner. The cellphone service providers have begun blanketing the area with ads and towers, and satellite dishes are not an uncommon sight.

Past The Horizon

Yet there’s still a very strong sense of this being a pastoral community of farmers and fishermen, with everybody knowing everybody else and going about their lives as they have for generations: gathering shellfish, planting coconuts, corn, potatoes, and cassava (and yes, some camote). Although several resorts, big and small, have sprouted up around the Camotes over the past few years, tourism appears to have not yet made a major impact on the local consciousness. Visitors seem to be treated with keen fascination by the locals, and more as a source of amusement than of profits. When the local kids wave and smile at you, they’re not expecting a hand-out, but talk to them in English or Tagalog, and they’ll laugh at you in Cebuano.

What now makes these islands most charming for us visitors is also what may be easily ruined if too many come to visit. Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia assures us that the development and promotion of the Camotes islands as a tourist destination shall be carefully implemented according to the strict guidelines set in the tourism master plan for the entire province. But once discovered, it’s not hard to imagine the delicate ecosystem of the archipelago being swamped by traveling hordes. Via the Ocean Jet fast craft, it takes only around 300 pesos and an hour and 45 minute ride to cross the 30+ nautical miles from Pier 1 in Cebu City to the port on Poro town. So by sea it’s actually faster and cheaper getting to the beaches on Camotes than by land to the other beaches around Cebu. And the stretches of sand and palm that you’ll find around here, still practically free for all to enjoy, can easily top those at other islands that charge top dollar for the privilege of getting your feet wet. The story goes that a bigshot mega-resort on Mactan wanted to cart off some fine Camotes sand to fill their artificial beach with. The Camoteños said “hell, no” to whatever price, proof that their sense of protectiveness runs deep. In this case, insularity is a good thing.

Sidebar:

detailed map of camotes islands

detailed map of camotes islands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hammock Hotspots

Santiago Bay Garden and Resort features 19 comfortable rooms tucked into 2.5 hectares of lush landscaping overlooking Santiago Bay’s wide, white sand beach and clear blue water.

Mangodlong Rock Resort rests on 2 hectares of extensive coconut-shaded gardens right beside a private white sand beachfront. Connected by a sand bar from the beach, separated from the resort by a few meters of sparkling sea, stands a coral islet with tropical huts.

-text & photos by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published in Men’s Health Philippines magazine, 2006.

Crash Chords: A Line In The Sand (beach music)

junior kilat

junior kilat (Photo credit: RainHeart)

Hey Jude‘s Boracay, photo by Jude Defensor

There’s no better way to get into the mood for writing about beach music than actually going to the beach! So naturally, I’m off to Boracay. On the ride from Kalibo, I happen to be seated right in front of a set of speakers blaring the Visayan reggae of Junior Kilat. The band’s front man Budoy Marabiles seems to have gained instant nationwide notoriety through Celebrity Big Brother, even if in the Visayas his wacky cable TV magazine program on small-scale industry called “Ismol Tym” has already made him a media icon for years. Junior Kilat brings to life the legendary Sigbin of Cebu’s lower mythology through their in-your-face dub/reggae act. The band’s live performances are notorious for their crazy energy and madcap antics. Reggae maybe be familiar to most for its down-to-earth arrangements and carefree message, but Junior Kilat adds droll humor and complex issues to their atmospheric sound, the upshot is a true island original.

Boracay’s DJ Manster. photo by Jude Defensor

Upon arriving at Boracay’s blessed White Beach, it was time to drink down the sunset over at Hey Jude’s while chilling out to the soundtrack spun by island DJ extraordinaire, Manster. The night-time hours faded into a colorful blur and before I knew it, I was brunching at d*mall, munching on a Mozzarella Burger over at Byte Club, and reflecting on the patron saint of beach dudes, Jimmy Buffet, and his cult hit “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. In Jimmy’s own words, “The myth of the cheeseburger in paradise goes back to a long trip on my first boat, the Euphoria. We had run into some very rough weather crossing the Mona Passage between Hispaniola and Puerto Ricoand broke our bow sprit. The ice in our box had melted, and we were doing the canned-food-and-peanut-butter diet. The vision of a piping hot cheeseburger kept popping into my mind. We limped up the Sir Francis Drake Channel and into Roadtown on the island of Tortola, where a brand-new marina and bar sat on the end of the dock, like a mirage.” Awesome.

Margaritaville-West German7''SingleCover

Margaritaville-West German7”SingleCover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Singer/songwriter Buffett has translated his easygoing Gulf Coast persona into a successful recording career and a business empire based on a lifestyle spent by the beach. With a core of Sun Belt fans he has dubbed the “Parrotheads”, and songs like “Margaritaville” hitting the Top Ten, Buffett’s tropical world view has earned him the throne of king of all beach bums.

It’s interesting to note how beach music (also called shag music) didn’t really have a point of origin. The carefree beach dances that used the name started somewhere – the beaches of South Carolina, where white kids had broken the color barrier as early as the 1930s by convincing local DJs to add rhythm and blues to their lists. Shag was one of those rare cultural events that picked its own music after the fact. When the 1960s rolled along, beach culture found its new epicenter on the Pacific coastlines of California and Hawaii.

Pet Sounds has been regarded as one of the gre...

Pet Sounds has been regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time and is one of the most universally-acclaimed albums in rock history. “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. Rolling Stone . November 18, 2003 . . Retrieved November 3, 2009 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beach-related or otherwise, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds is one of the best albums ever, breaking ground for an impending wave of innovative and intelligent rock. The project was also a musical watershed in the studio craft of composition and production, featuring dense layers of gorgeous male vocals, keyboards and guitars overlaid with orchestrated strings, bicycle bells, harpsichords, flutes, the theremin, Hawaiian instruments, Coca-Cola cans, barking dogs, and more. Looking past the technical achievements, the songs themselves stand as classics, with brilliant melodies sustaining lyrical themes of love, innocence, spirituality and modern-day ennui. The album may be brimming with Brian Wilson’s hallmark idiosyncrasies, but its vocal harmonies remain pure Beach Boys.

Where else would we expect to find a wellspring of sweet summer pop than Australia, that lucky country of lifeguards. The Lucksmiths are an Aussie indie-rock trio turning out wispy folk-pop melodies that underline self-effacingly witty lyrics to cheery-poignant songs with titles like “T-Shirt Weather” and “The Year of Driving Langorously”.  Their eight albums are overflowing with lighthearted, good-natured, laidback but sharply written ditties concerning swimming pools, road trips, theme parks, summer jobs and summer stock, in a wistful, jangly style I like to call “breezy indie”.  They’re surf and turf and shrimp on the barbie with a slight dash of The Smiths.

Deutsch: Ballermann 6/(span. Balneario Nº 6) F...

Deutsch: Ballermann 6/(span. Balneario Nº 6) Foto: 22. Mai 2001, Lothar Velling, Disenyador gràfic, Espanya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What have 600 years of progress since the Renaissance managed to cook up on Europe’s beaches? For Old Worldbeach culture, it has been reported that the seaside villages on the Balearic Islands of Spain are strictly separated by nationality. The Germans here and the English there and ne’er the twain shall meet. Ballermann 6 refers to one of the best-known clubs on the isle of Mallorca. Decidedly lowbrow and unpretentious, this mecca of mass tourism plays the most popular, trashy, summery music you can imagine. The English say that Ballerman 6 is where all the Germans go to get drunk at breakfast time and pass out in the noon-day sun to British music. Although it’s more accurate to state that what they’re really playing are mostly UK-produced remixes of old American pop songs (i.e. the Pet Shop Boys either riffing on or ripping off the Village People). While the Germans contend that when the English do have the good taste to write a whole new song for the occasion, it’s usually about some lofty theme such as rubber chickens.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006.

%d bloggers like this: