Tuesday, November 11, 2014

About to Bloom in Boracay: Azalea Hotels and Residences to Open Second Property in Premiere Tourist Destination

Azalea Residences Boracay, said to be the “first four-star quality serviced apartment hotel,” will open in the first quarter of 2015 at Station 2, with 285 rooms
Azalea Hotels and Residences, which is fast becoming popular for its hotel in Baguio City, the Philippines’ summer capital in the Cordillera region, is opening its second hotel in the another summer destination, Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan.
Slated to open in the first quarter of 2015, Azalea Residences Boracay is said to be the “first four-star quality serviced apartment hotel” in the island known for its fine white sand, beaches and parties.
Located at Station 2, the property will have 285 rooms. While the property is not beachfront, it is a short walk from the famous White Beach and the location affords guests to easily step away from the crowds.
The main characteristic of Azalea Residences is the size of its rooms, which are designed to allow guests to stay longer. All rooms are of the suite type, ranging from 30 to 75 square meters.  All can accommodate multiple guests, unlike many hotels which are usually restricted to accommodating two guests at a room. The two-bedroom (45 square meters) or the three-bedroom (75 square meters) unit can accommodate families and barkadas. Guests can save by not getting multiple rooms. Adjoining rooms are also available for bigger groups. Each suite also has a convertible sofa bed, aside from the bed.
All rooms have kitchen and dining facilities, another Azalea characteristic. With these, guests can stay longer or save money from dining out. Cookware and dinnerware are provided for free. The kitchen has electric cook tops with range hood, a microwave oven, a rice cooker, a refrigerator, and an electric water kettle. Pots and pans are provided upon request. Dinnerware and silverware sets are also available. These are aside from the usual complimentary tea and coffee amenity set, complimentary bottled water and guest mini-bar.
Safety and security of guests are assured in Azalea Residence Boracay. Doors are fitted with electronic identification door lock system. Safety deposit boxes fitted for laptops and gadgets are provided in all rooms. The property has surveillance cameras and 24-hour security personnel as well as medical and first-aid assistance system.
The property will have two rooftop pools, one for kids and another for adult, for recreation in the comforts of the hotel. If guests want to venture out, tour and transport arrangements can be made through a vacation concierge. Guests tired from a day of activities can avail of the in-room wellness services.
As Azalea Hotels and Residences continue to grow, it is but apt that the burgeoning franchise puts up property in the country’s number-one tourist spot.
“We felt we should establish a presence,” said Marin Martinez, Azalea Hotels and Residences chief executive officer and chairman. “And the presence was really premised on the basis of our membership concept, the Azalea Vacation Club.”
The Azalea Vacation Club offers its members exclusive vacation ownership privileges in all Azalea properties such as discounts and special features on their stay.
“We realized that the Baguio user, at a certain point in time, is going to look for other places to use,” Martinez added. “When we decided to diversify and go into the business of tourism and leisure, we said, ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do a chain so that our members will have a variety of venues to choose from.’ It’s really more value for money. ”
According to Dulah Lipardo, chief operating officer of Azalea Hotels and Residences, guests pay just a one-time fee for a lifetime Azalea Vacation Club membership.
“That’s the value for money we offer, a high quality of service but affordable to the Filipino,” she said. “The membership is transferable and you get the benefits of a member such as discounts on rooms, our restaurants, etc.”
Along with the expansion, Azalea Hotels and Residences made booking rooms for local residents more convenient through its Web site. With the online booking button, guests can make online reservations and receive instant confirmations without having to pay immediately upfront. Once a booking is made, an option date to guarantee will be sent via e-mail. Should changes in travel plans arise, it is easier and more flexible to make modifications in the booking. Azalea is currently accepting bookings for the Boracay property. To entice early bookings, it has a special P2,015++ promo for early bookers.

Azalea Residences Boracay’s deluxe bedroom
 Azalea Residences Boracay’s one-bedroom suite
Living and entertainment area of the one-bedroom suite
For more information, call the hotel reservations in Manila at (632) 450-1151 or 0917-8611641. E-mail reservations@azalea.com.ph. For Azalea Vacation Club Membership inquiries, call (632) 634-7742 or (632) 925-8518 or visit their Web site at www.azalea.com.ph.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bigger is Better




The recent arrival of Teddy’s Bigger Burgers proved that the hamburger is the Philippines’ most popular sandwich, but more than that, it is poised to take eating hamburgers into a whole new experience, boosting the recent trend in gourmet burgers.
            The Hawaii-based burger restaurant offers burgers that are hefty and prepared with quality. Aside from the fat and juicy beef patty, the burger is accented with sauces and other fillings. You are presented with a burger that is beautiful to look at and almost more than palm-size, presenting a problem on how to eat it.
            Ted Tsakiris, co-founder of Teddy’s USA, advised to hold the burger with two hands and gnaw through it. Others would flatten it a little bit to make it manageable to it. But whatever the technique, it does not diminish the deliciousness of the burgers.
            The main thing that makes Teddy’s burgers special is the meat patty. According to Teddy’s Bigger Burgers Philippines executive chef Kirsten Habawel, who headed the Teddy’s Philippines team sent to train in Hawaii, the patty is made from 100-percent, corn-fed U.S. Black Angus ground chuck, shipped regularly from the United States from the same supplier of Teddy’s Hawaii. Also, they don’t use binders or fillers for the patties. Preservatives and artificial flavoring are also not used.
“All patties are hand-pattied daily, with the special seasoning of Ted and Rich, and always charbroiled to order,” Habawel added. 
The shoulder and neck portions of the cow are used for the ground chuck. These are said to be flavorful and has just the right fat content to prevent the beef from drying out when cooked on high temperature.
“We use a formula of 80 percent lean meat and 20 percent fat. This is ideal for burgers because it does not need extenders but retains its shape. Most of all, it makes for a juicy patty,” revealed Habawel.
The patty is charbroiled, thus extra fat drips down instead of the patty swimming in grease. Additionally, Teddy’s make their burgers bigger than most of what is offered around the metro.
“Size definitely matters at Teddy’s,” Habawel noted. “Our burgers are bigger than the average burger. We start at five ounces (Big)— that’s already a one-third pounder—and go on to seven ounces (Bigger) and nine ounces (Biggest) for our Original single patties, and our Monster Doubles (double patty sandwiches) go up to 10 , 14 and 18 ounces.”
            Their patty alone is what makes them outstanding, luring customers to return for more, Tsakiris believes. “If you have a good quality patty, you don’t really need expensive extras like foie gras or truffle oil on your burger,” he said.
            The extras, of course, make the burger interesting. All sandwiches has lettuce, tomato slices, pickles and onions. Customers can choose to add more fillings, and the restaurant offers bacon, blue cheese, jalapeños, onion rings and pastrami, among others. They can also customize their burgers such as adjusting the seasoning or removing it all together, and doing away with the buns.
            Additionally, Teddy’s use a variety of sauces. It has its own signature sauce, used Teddy’s Original Burgers, simply called Special Sauce, whose recipe is kept secret.
            “It’s not your usual Thousand Island dressing. The sauce is yellow, but it doesn’t have any mustard. It is actually an aioli that goes perfectly with our burgers,” Habawel explained.
            Teddy’s also uses a special kind of bread as its buns. The potato buns are yellow and soft with a hint of sweetness. Habawel said that this is sourced locally since bread has a short shelf life, but they had a hard time replicating the bread. “It took us 30 trials. I had to keep sending the buns to them in the US until they approved it,” she related.
           
            Always cooked medium, Teddy’s burgers come in different varieties. The Originals are the cheeseburger, which has a choice of cheddar, American, Swiss and Pepperjack cheeses; the Teri Burger, which has a sweet teriyaki sauce; and the Monster Double Burger with two patties. The specialty burgers are Cajun Burger with Cajun seasoning and Pepperjack cheese; Volcano Burger with Kilauea Fire sauce, Pepperjack cheese and jalapeno; the Blue Cheese Bacon Burger; the Hawaiian Style, which has grilled pineapple and teriyaki sauce; the Western Burger with barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, bacon and onion rings; Bacado Burger with avocado, cheddar cheese and bacon; and Kailua Burger with teriyaki sauce, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions and Swiss cheese.
            The price ranges from P265 for the Big Original to P660 for the Biggest Monster Double, which is 18 ounces. Just add P50 if you want to make it Cajun or P170 Western. 
            Aside from burgers, Teddy’s also serves sides such as French fries, which comes with cheese or garlic butter sauces, and beer-battered onion rings. For drinks, one must try the milkshakes, which are deliciously rich. They come in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, peanut butter, root beer, and pineapple flavors. You can combine them actually. You can request form strawberry and peanut butter, for example.
 “Our shakes are 90 percent ice cream and 10 percent milk. Unlike other shakes that are watered down with ice, our shakes have a very rich taste,” Habawel said.
            Because of all these, Teddy’s Bigger Burger is very well-known in Hawaii. The restaurant traces its roots in the backyard cookouts of Ted Tsakiris and Rich Stula, who are both burger lovers.
            “They couldn’t understand why there were no burger restaurants that offered the same quality burger they cooked in their backyards, so they decided to open a burger restaurant to share it with other burger lover,” narrated Habawel. “They decided to ‘reinvent the burger joint’ with a menu that focuses on high quality burgers, where every single patty is treated like the very first patty they’ve ever cooked.”
            The first store opened in 1998. Currently, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers has stores in 11 locations in Hawaii. Recently, they expanded to the United States mainland, particularly in Washington, Iowa, California and Texas. Its first international branch is in Japan. The Philippine store opened last Aug. 23 at Greenbelt 3 in Makati City. The store can accommodate about 80 diners, located near bars and other restaurants.
Teddy’s Bigger Burgers was brought in by the SumoBurger Global Inc., owned by actor Marvin Agustin, Raymund Magdaluyo and Ricky Laudico, and which operates a number of restaurants including Sumo Sam and Akira, all original. This is its first international franchise.
            The discovery of Teddy’s Bigger Burgers can be described as accidental. About three years, ago, Magdaluyo was in Oahu, Hawaii, biking with his wife when there was a sudden downpour. They took shelter at Teddy’s Kailua branch, tried its burgers and fell in love with it. Shortly after that, Magdaluyo brought Agustin and Laudico to a branch in Tokyo, where they met with founders to invite the franchise over to the Philippines.
            Magdaluyo said the coming of Teddy’s provided a break from the flourishing of Japanese-inspired restaurants in Metro Manila. For the Philippine market, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers created a few new items—the Tiki Wings (chicken wings), Chicken Tenders and the Loco Moco.
“The Loco Moco, a famous drive-in food in Hawaii, is basically a burger patty served top of rice with gravy and fried egg,” explained Habawel.
            Also, the Philippine store serves alcoholic drinks.
            “Hawaii doesn’t have alcoholic drinks on their menu, but since we’re opening in malls with restaurants that offer alcoholic beverages, we’ll be offering both imported and local beers as well as some cocktails that were crafted specifically for Teddy’s,” added Habawel.
            SumoBurger Global is planning to open several more stores, about eight in the next four years, including the ones under construction at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong City and Eastwood Mall in Quezon City.
            Tsakiris feels optimistic about this development.
“Teddy’s is built from the burger, borne out of a passion for burgers. With gourmet burger restaurants on the rise across the metro, and Filipino foodies clamoring for burgers that go beyond fastfood, we’re looking forward to giving the Filipinos a taste of Teddy’s and what makes it a cut above the rest,’’ he said.
            He expressed that he shares the Filipinos’ predilection for burgers: “Filipinos usually equate burgers with happiness. Eating a burger is a religious experience for me. And nine times out of 10 when I’m eating a burger, I just start shaking my head, my eyes closed, and say 'Wow! This is amazing!”










For more information about Teddy’s Bigger Burgers Philippines, visit the official Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TeddysBurgersPH).


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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rituals and Relations: The Fifth Tam-awan International Arts Festival

Group from Mountain Province performs the Bontoc ritual senga
At the Tam-awan Village in Baguio City, smoke mingled with mountain mist, rising up in the air and being punctured by the needles of pine trees that surrounded the area. Water was boiling in a large kawa over crackling wood fire. The ground was soaked in blood. A pig had been slaughtered and its innards were laid out on a table. A couple of men seemed to examine the liver. The others, most of them old men, were chanting. The pig was cut up, shared to the participants and cooked in the kawa. The men came from the Mountain Province, led by Daniel Dalislis and Bida Langao, to perform the senga, a ritual to ward off or appease spirits that cause illnesses. It is said to be also performed during weddings, reunions and other celebratory events as well as during death anniversaries, when acquiring a property and upon finishing a construction of a house.



Mountain Province group performing the Bontoc ritual senga
       Later in the day, Ibaloy youths performed the rituals of their ancestors at the art village’s performance area. One was called tayaw ni temmo. Their leader explained to those in attendance: “It is a ceremony performed to avoid or cure insanity. At the center is a carved head of a humanlike figure being cursed by the tayaw chanter believed to be the absorber of insanity. The head of a sacrificial animal—the dog—is held by the tayaw dancer. It is also believed to be the fighter of insanity because of its characteristics. The music is fast beating.” 
Ibaloy group before a performance

Ibaloy group performs a ritual dance








Benguet governor joins in

A few more indigenous rituals were performed from different parts of the Philippines. After highlighting faith, indigenous textile making, traditional as well as modern wine-making, and tattoo and other ornamentations, the Tam-awan International Arts Festival (TIAF) featured rituals in its fifth mounting from May 7 to 11, 2014, with the theme “Cordilleran Stories: Rituals and Beliefs.”
Aside from actual rituals, TIAF’s lineup of activities included performances, talks, exhibits and workshops, all held at the Tam-awan Village, an artists’ village, art space and tourist attraction in Pinsao Proper in Baguio City, the economic and educational hub of the Cordillera Region, which is also a major tourist destination with active artist communities. The festival is run by the Chanum Foundation, which manages the artists’ village, with support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and other agencies.
TIAF has always been held with a cañao, the well-known Cordilleran ritual to ask for blessings, where a pig is butchered. This year, more rituals were performed. Aside from the tayaw ni temmo, the Ibaloy group presented the tayaw ni batbat, where, according to its leader, “the male dancer is holding a piece of wood used in the ceremony called posang while the female dancer is holding a karing, a brass bracelet. The two dancers are representing their ancestors through this dance.” They also performed the bindiyan, the most famous of Ibaloy dances. Different dances from different parts of the Cordillera were performed throughout the festival by Tam-awan’s in-house dance group.
The Visayas were represented by the Panay Bukidnon. Elsie Padernal, a teacher from Calinog, Iloilo, presented the panimo, performed before consuming newly harvested rice to avoid illness bestowed by dead family members and relatives, as well as delivered a talk on Panay Bukidnon rituals.
A sample of Mindanao ritual was performed by Datu Linggi Inhagdan Modesto Pocol, chieftain of Tulugan, Masicampo and Inanay in Bukidnon—the Higaonon panulakon, which asks for peace. Pocol also gave a talk on Higaonon beliefs concerning god, spirits, nature and man.
The rituals were selected for their nature—those fomenting positivity, and expressing thanksgiving and praise—as well as those allowed to be performed in public and to be recorded in film. While it is advisable that rituals must be performed and observed in situ and in proper context, there is also a necessity to bring some rituals to other places for people, especially those who cannot travel, to witness and understand, with the permission of the cultural communities to which the rituals belong. Padernal indicated that many cultural communities also have a desire to share this cultural aspect to other peoples.
According to NCCA legal counsel and heritage advocate Rose Beatrix Cruz-Angeles, “We found out the cultural communities themselves are so much willing to tell us who they are, what their traditions are, and to impart this knowledge to us. It isn’t actually consent; it’s actually a willingness in their part, in fact, a celebratory willingness to tell us who they are so that we can understand them.”
Talks mostly revolved around rituals as well as beliefs such as South African ambassador Agnes Nyamande-Pitso’s on her country’s rituals and beliefs. A returning guest, the ambassador underscored the similarities between South African and Philippine indigenous rituals, and she said she was surprised how there are more commonalities than differences. 

Press conference and "kapihan" on the first day of the festival


South African ambassador gives a talk on her country's rituals.


Lawyer Alfonso Aroco of Kabayan, Benguet, tackled Ibaloy oral tradition, particularly stories about Mount Pulag, a popular destination for climbers and tourists. For the old Ibaloy, the mountain, the third highest in the country, is sacred, home to ancestral spirits and gateway to the spirit world. On the other hand, former Benguet vice governor Wasing Sacla of Kibungan, Benguet, enlightened the audience on Kankana-ey belief system and home rituals, particularly the kinds and roles of spirits as well as the deities. Ventura Bitot of Mountain Province delivered “Traditional Prayers in Relation to Literature towards Performing Arts” and told the Bontoc legend of Lumawig through a video.
Other topics revolved around heritage, May being National Heritage Month—American heritage conservation projects in the Philippines by United States Embassy cultural affairs officer Kristin Kneedler; the saga of the mummy Apo Anno by chemical engineer and conservationist Orlando Abinion of the National Museum; and preservation of the Ifugao culture and heritage in the modern time by Ifugao congressman Teodoro Brawner Baguilat, Jr.
Tangible cultural heritage was further highlighted with the exhibit “Kisame: Visions of Heaven on Earth” of the Ayala Museum. It was first mounted in 2008 as part of the celebration of the National Heritage Month, and was brought to Tam-awan’s Village Gallery with curator Ken Esguerra and Fr. Harold Toralba. The exhibit was about the old ceiling paintings of the churches of Bohol, which have the finest church paintings in the country, most of them by Cebuano painters Raymundo Francia and Canuto Avila. Some reproductions were mounted on the ceiling to approximate the feeling of looking up at illustrated church ceilings. The exhibit also drew attention to the fact that many of these ceiling paintings were damaged during the earthquake of October 15, 2013, which severely affected many heritage churches in Bohol, and the efforts of salvaging what are left. Being toured around, it now also serves as a fundraising venture for the rehabilitation of the churches.
The "Kisame" exhibit
Rituals, art and heritage all have stories, and they were told here with the kindling of fire, the sound of gongs and the splashes of colors. All are vital in the formation of identity as a people.
The purposes of the festival were manifold as much as its activities, such as providing ways for people, particularly the youths, to appreciate the arts as well as indigenous cultures, and facilitating understanding and camaraderie among artists, international and local. It is also a venue to showcase Cordilleran artistry and cultures. Organizers estimated visitors to be about 2,500, including tourists; guest artists from Pampanga, Sarangani, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, Batanes, Abra, Romblon, Laguna and Manila; and students and teachers from schools in the Cordilleras.
They were involved in an array of art and cultural activities such as workshops hosted by the Tam-awan Village artists on mask making, water color and coffee painting, mono print design, bamboo carving and solar drawing; a display of different Cordilleran flutes, which visitors were allowed to play; an exhibition and demonstration of the Kalinga nose flute; performances by groups from Cordilleran schools and guest artists; and an exhibit of heirloom pieces from Abra at the Bugnay Gallery.
A body painting session
Tam-awan Village added a new component this year, the outreach program, hoping to inspire budding artists and reach out to other parts of the country. The TIAF Art Caravan started in Corcuera, Romblon, in February, where the Tam-Awan Village Artists (TVA) had a series of workshops for the local artists and children. TVA president Jordan Mang-osan particularly taught a solar drawing, which he is known for. About a hundred elementary and high school students were also taught the importance of art and galleries. In Jimenez, Misamis Occidental, in April, the TVA artists shared a glimpse of how art can become a catalyst for change. TVA artist Edwin Macadaeg showed how to use sand as an art material, indicating that artistic expression need not be expensive. The caravan ended in Lazi, Siquijor, in the last week of May.
The TIAF in Baguio seemed to serve as culmination, where a shaft of sunlight pierced through the gossamer ribbons of smoke from a raging fire to cook a sacrificial pig and was caught by the magnifying glass of an artist, the burn marks carefully guided to make an image of Cordilleran in ritual dance on dry bamboo; where people appreciated contemporary artistic expressions and age-old traditions side by side, realizing how they both are vessels for cultural knowledge, sustenance for the soul, and light for the future.

The Tam-awan Village

An Ifugao hut in Tam-awan Village

Pine trees at one of higher points in Tam-awan Village

One of the sculptures and installations in Tam-awan Village

Cordillera musical instruments

Tam-awan Village Cafe

Tam-awan Village's in-house dance group