Monday, March 24, 2014

Barako for Beauty

Pond’s Men endorsers: real estate mogul Victor Consunji, singer-songwriter Rico Blanco, actor Xian Lim, film director Paul Soriano and football player Anton del Rosario
In Filipino, barako is a virile and brave man, a stud. It lends its name to a type of locally grown Arabica coffee, the kapeng barako or barako coffee, or the strong brew made from it. Now, both — the man and the coffee — are essential elements for an established beauty brand for its new product line targeting men.
Masculinity changes over time. Although there are still left, men are no longer generally slobs and pigs. Over the years, good grooming and taking of how one looks were often emphasized to the point that metrosexual became once a buzzword. Skin care is becoming less and less attributed to only women.
Guys really use personal care products. It’s only they use ‘female brands.’ We learned that one-third of Pond’s facial wash users are men,” revealed Cesca Silvestre, Pond’s senior brand manager.
In the course of their research, they noticed that many young male office workers bring them toilet kits containing essentials for grooming and skincare products. It’s their version of the women’s kikay kit, she said and dubbed it “man’s purse” or “murse” for short.
Some of these men may not be buyers themselves but use their wives,’ girlfriends’ or sisters’ skincare products. But men’s skin are different from women’s, according to Anuchai Sinsawati, the Thai product manager for Southeast Asia Unilever. They have bigger pores and thus tend to have oilier faces. Also, their skin ages faster.
So we saw it fit to develop Pond’s Men that specifically addresses those problems,” Silvestre said.
Pond’s consider this a milestone. The famous brand, which released its first product in 1846 in the United States and is currently owned by the multinational company Unilever, has pioneered many things in beauty and skincare. For example, they introduced face washes to replace soaps, and face washes are now part of the essential regimen. They also introduced the beauty regimen. Actually, Pond’s had also released men’s products before, such as the aftershave, but obviously it did not take off.
Pond’s Men was first launched in Indonesia in 2012, where the brand is big in the Muslim-dominated country. Then in late 2013, it was launched in Thailand.
Unilever has a number of men’s products in such brands as Vaseline and Master, but they believe they will not compete with each other.
We have segmented the markets,” Silvestre explained. “Pond’s Men talks to the more affluent man, already a groomer, who is taking care of himself, knows how to dress. We want them to upgrade to Pond’s Men. Master talks to teens and addresses their problems like oiliness. It is more affordable and comes in sachets. Vaseline Men talks to yuppies as well but the concerns of yuppies are really about whitening. There’s a growing whitening segment even among men. It’s not really that they want to have kutis mayaman. These guys are bothered about pimple marks.”
Although Pond’s Men products have whitening properties, they added a new ingredient.
We did a lot of research and we learned that the biggest problem of men is dull-looking skin, the ‘haggard-looking’ skin because of their hectic lifestyle,” Silvestre said. 

Pond’s Men Acne Clear Oil Control Face Wash controls oil for up to 12 hours with salicylic acid and mineral clay for SRP of P190 (100-gram Tube)
 To address this problem, they added coffee bean extract to its products. Coffee is known to perk up its drinkers thus Pond’s is harnessing this ability as well as its antioxidant property for their products. It enhances skin circulation that lends skin a healthy and recharged glow, they said, promising that the products will “perk up” the skin for a “bright and energized” look.
Dr. Jason Harcup, vice president of Personal Care Research at Unilever, said, “At the Pond’s Institute, we discovered that coffee bean extract, an innovative ingredient, has scientifically proven skin care benefits that can address male skincare concerns.”
There are two lines in the Pond’s Men products — the Pond’s Men Energy Charge and the Pond’s Men Acne Clear Oil Control.
The Pond’s Men Energy Charge is for normal skin types and has a facial foam, gel moisturizer and all-in-one moisturizer. The facial foam (suggested retail price of P190 for 100-gram tube) is said to brighten tired-looking skin while the gel moisturizer (SRP of P145 for 15 gram tube) is a light formula that is said to energize skin while lending it a healthy glow. On the other hand, the all-in-one moisturizer (SRP of P350 for 50 gram pump) is a moisturizer, toner and serum in one. The moisturizer whitens the skin and lightens spots, while the toner cools the skin and minimizes pores. The serum gives the skin an active glow. On the other hand, the Pond’s Men Acne Clear Oil Control has a face wash (SRP P190 for 100-gram tube) of which has the added ingredient of mineral clay, said to absorb oil for 12 hours, and hazel extract, known for its astringent properties. This is recommended for men who have problems with oily faces and pimples.

Pond’s Men Energy Charge All-in-One Moisturizer is moisturizer, toner and serum in one pack, available for SRP of P350 per 50-gram pump
 The Pond’s Men campaign is a big one. Giant billboards are now scattered all over Metro Manila. The grand launch was held at Whitespace Manila in Makati City on March 18. The events place was transformed into a semblance of an exclusive men’s club with a Jaguar parked outside, a billiards table at one side of the room, a fireplace with a video of a flickering fire at another, cocktails flying about. Guests walked on black carpet and were held in a room by the entrance with video walls on both sides showing buildings that seemed to scroll down — it was a big elevator! — before being greeted by model’s and stands full of Pond’s Men products. An after party featured international and local acts such as DJ Nina, LA Duo DJ Kim and DJ hat, and Dutch DJ Trio Shermanology.
The highlight of the event was the launch of Pond’s Men endorsers — five men, most of them can be considered barakos in different ways, coming from different fields and of different persuasions.
Common among them is that they’re all driven, ambitious and successful,” said Silvestre. “They’re the men that Pond’s Men is catering to because they’re more discerning with their choices in many things. They work hard and they make sure that they get the best products and services they deserve.”
She added that these men are active and keep hectic schedules, thus their skin really needs care.
Leading the pack is Xian Lim, who is enjoying a lot of endorsements lately but Pond’s Men remains to be one of the biggest. According to the handsome actor, the number-one thing that keeps him refreshed is sleep, seven to eight hours of sleep to be exact, especially after longs hours of shooting. He said he also uses Pond’s skin care products. “I’ve always used Pond’s so it’s good that there’s now a Pond’s product made for men,” he averred.
The rest of the good-looking team is composed of football player and Azkals member Anton del Rosario; singer-songwriter Rico Blanco; film director Paul Soriano; and real estate mogul Victor Consunji.
While the choice — to represent different kinds of men according to their professions and passions — is commendable, there seems to be a lack to acknowledge another market segment. While sexual orientation is not highlighted, all of them are known to be heterosexual, and it will be a more commendable thing to include a gay man as one of the endorsers, knowing that gay men will form a bulk of its buyers.
Pond’s might have considered it but was not able to find a suitable endorser that as high-profile and good-looking but also gay and proud as the present crop. Most likely, the oversight is deliberate for to include a gay man, no matter how upstanding and masculine, may drive away heterosexual men buyers, or they maybe have the limited and erroneous notion that all gay men want to look like women and thus would prefer products that are for women.
Though several years ago, Pond’s released a breakthrough television ad, one of the very few, if not the only one during its time, to show gay men not in the stereotypical mold. The ad shows a couple, both men, walking hand in hand, and one is beguiled by the beauty and fairness of a woman, who uses Pond’s White Beauty day cream, walking along with them.
They could have sustained and reinforced that showing of this different image of gay men, especially in a time when My Husband’s Lover has broken grounds and its leading men are now being asked to be endorsers as a couple, with an inclusion of a gay man in the endorser roster to acknowledge that market segment as one of their long-time patrons, and to really show the wide spectrum of men, which Pond’s cater to equally. In this still restrictive environment, the move will be a brave and enlightened one.
As of now, Pond’s Men’s campaign with the endorsers sends a message that today’s barakos are accomplished, confident and aware of the importance of taking care of the themselves and how they look. If added a layer, today’s barakos are also sensitive, respectful, intelligent, confident and unafraid, unafraid to not only stand out but to stand up for something important.

For more information on Pond’s Men, visit or follow Pond’s Men on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @PondsMenpH and #GerEnergized.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ask and It Will be Answered: Acer’s Tech Doctors and Two-In-One Netbook Respond to Consumer Needs

The world is becoming increasingly wired and, well, “geeky,” with computers and gadgets becoming an integral part of everyday living and making life better as technologies are improved and developed. However, the advances in technology can be dizzyingly speedy for some that it is often difficult to catch up. Those who are not tech-savvy enough, which is many of us, are left confused and thus cannot take of full advantage of these advances. It may also prevent us from buying the gadgets that we really want or need. There may be a glitch in the computer and we don’t know what it is, what happened and how to repair it. Sometimes we are afraid to ask least we sound stupid or often we don’t know who or where to ask that can provide us with direct, simple and understandable questions.
Global information and communication technology company Acer knows this simple and commonplace but important problem, and to address this they formed the Acer IT Doctors, a team of IT (information technology) specialists who, as service to the public, are available to answer any IT concerns or questions, may they be downright “stupid” or complicated. This effort is timely as there is an increasing number of gadgets entering the Philippine market and majority of Filipinos are not really tech savvy, much more IT experts.
For proper guidance or valuable technical assistance, the Acer IT Doctors can be asked through the most popular social networking site, Facebook. Just follow Acer Philippines’ Facebook page ( The Acer IT Doctors can be access via their Custom Tab. Then, you can now field you questions via Facebook, a more personalized and personified customer service. They will respond regardless whether questioners are Acer users or not, or the questions Acer-related or not. They are also producing a YouTube series that will showcase their best prescriptions that are easily understandable, especially by non-techies.
Five men make up the Acer IT Doctors team, most of them product managers from its different product divisions—mobile devices, notebooks, stationary devices and other commercial products—and are promised to be expert and trustworthy. Leading the team though is not an Acer employee. Vince Golangco is the founder of the top site, as well as a TV show and events host, radio DJ, writer, surfer, skater, US veteran and an adventure junkie. He acts as the ambassador for the team.
Dio Vasquez is the head of the Product Management Department of Acer Philippines with a background on and experience in product portfolio management including managing the P&L of all product lines. He is also quite proficient when it comes to product marketing, demand planning and sales revenue forecasting and management. In Acer, he seeks the most advantageous partnerships and alliances with industry partners like Microsoft, Intel, AMD and Google.
Jeffrey Mariano is a gamer and previously served as a product manager for another IT company where he helped create a new gaming department. In Acer Philippines, he works as product lead for consumer mobile PC, and he is focused on product planning and execution.
Cuki Pendor is Acer’s business lead in digital display devices handling the overall business for Acer display devices. He was formerly Acer’s consumer product lead for stationary devices and fought for the continuous and active promotion of Acer projectors to become the number-one brand in the country.
With 10 years in the industry, Mikee Taylo is currently Acer’s business lead for stationary and enterprise products, with focus on identifying and selecting specific hardware products to be introduced in the Philippine market. He decides on product positioning, promotions and pricing for sales of the various Acer product lines.
Manuel Wong, general manager of Acer Philippines, said that the creation of Acer IT Doctors is a way of moving closer to their end users. He admitted that there are products, which are confusing to many consumers After the purchase, do they really enjoy them or use them in their full capacity? he wonders, and the Doctors help them better understand these products, especially Acer products.

The Acer IT doctors — Vince Golangco, Dio Vasquez, Jeffrey Mariano, Cuki Pendor and Mikee Taylo — will answer any tech-related questions  as public service, from the  simplest to the most complicated
The Acer Iconia W4: Fun and function in one
One Acer product that Acer IT Doctors recommends is the newly launched Acer Iconia W4, and it is the answer many are asking or waiting for.
The tablets are something most people use to play with it, but more and more people are using this for work because of its handiness, especially by people on the go. The email and picture features are frequently used as well as the Internet for quick research. If it requires basic functions, the tablet is preferred rather than the laptop because it can be bulky. The drawback is it is still very limited in terms of functionality; it can’t do much what laptops can. Many wish though that the laptop can be just as handy as tablets. It is just a matter time before the tablet acquires some of the characteristics of the laptop. And here comes Acer Iconia W4.
Very much improved from Iconia W3, the Acer Iconia W4 is a two-in-one netbook, compact and handy. With an eight-inch wide screen, it is small enough to be held by one hand and big enough for viewing things such as text document.
It uses Microsoft’s latest Windows 8.1 as operating system, with a 1.33Ghz Intel Bay Trail CPU supported by a 1067Mhz, 2GB LPDDR3 RAM. Pre-installed with full versions of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 edition, including PowerPoint, Word, Excel and OneNote, it is ready enough for work. For easy typing or encoding, Acer Iconia W4 comes with a portable full-sized Acer crunch keyboard. Its micro USB 2.0 port, meanwhile, enhances flexibility and productivity with work and its HDMI micro port enables presentations and entertainment to be shared on big screens.
For storage, the netbook has 32 gigabytes, and additionally it has its built-in cloud storage, the Acer SkyDrive, which functions as the default location for saving documents. You can manage both local and SkyDrive storage in one place.
The Acer Iconia W4 sports a clear and vivid display, enhanced by Zero Air Gap technology, which reduces light reflection by directly binding the LCD module and touch panel, and personalization of visuals is fun.
And one of the best thing about Acer Iconia W4 is the price. Because Acer is primarily targeting students and young professionals, the suggested retail price is P18,900, relatively one of the most affordable netbooks/tablets.

The handsome Acer Iconia W4 two-in-one netbook allows you to play as well as to work, being installed with full versions of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 edition, including PowerPoint, Word, Excel and OneNote
For more information on Acer Iconia W4 netbook, visit Acer Philippines at or

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Classic and Clean Look for Summer: Giordano Ushers in the Hot Season with Linens and Richard Yap

Giordano Philippines’ summer colletion focuses on linen, a very apt material for the hot weather
The rise in temperature signals the onset of summer in the Philippines, and Hong Kong-based retail brand Giordano has just launched its summer collection to make the scorching season comfortable. The latest collection is called A Linen Story, and it consists mainly of apparels made of linen, the textile made from flax fiber and even of cotton or other fibers but done in a linen weave texture.
The lightweight linen cloth is the most luxurious yet underappreciated material. It is definitely the supreme choice for comfort in hot weather with its breathability, durability and cool and absorbent properties,” explained Lloyd Lim, Giordano Philippines vice president for business development.
Actually, linen has been in many Giordano collections for some time now. And from time to time, the brand highlights it especially during summers. According to Giordano, linen should be a staple and should be a summer essential. They suggest wearing comfortable and airy linen instead of shortening the hemlines and wearing skimpy clothes.
Through this collection, we will be reintroducing the beauty and practicality of linen and making it an essential part of every wardrobe,” said Lloyd Lim.
The variations of designs from summer to summer are not too far apart. Giordano generally leans to the classic and generally likable styles. This is most probably due to its adherence to its “World Without Strangers” concept and slogan.
World Without Strangers has always been the philosophy of Giordano. It means transcending age, ethnicity, cultures, borders. That’s our main tagline. Actually, we have 2,600 stores (in over 40 different countries) in the world. We went to the Middle East, different cultures,” Lim said.
Giordano aspires to bridge gaps with similarities in terms of clothing and a shared brand that is Giordano. Thus, designs are classic and “safe,” something that appeals to many people and that everybody can wear. The clothes are for everyone, they say. With “World Without Strangers,” it wants to transcend its origins as an Asian brand and develop trust and strong relationships with consumers across cultures with apparel catering to everyone regardless of ethnicity, nationality or culture.
This is true for the latest collection, which has essentials such as long-sleeve and short-sleeve button-downs and cropped pants in 100 percent linen and cotton-linen blends, although some trendy elements are incorporated. A Linen Story is a big campaign with three sub-collections to be released in tranches — the start of summer, the middle of summer and near the end of summer.
The first sub-collection is called Ethnic Beat, which was made available since February 28. This is perhaps the trendiest of the sub-collections, being colorful and with artsy and tribal patterns. There is a play on Aztec prints, which is very popular right now. These colors and patterns are translated in soft embroidered shirts and jersey crew neck dresses for women.
Giordano will be launching the second sub-collection called Nature Burst on March 21. Nature Burst uses earthy colors for their linen short-sleeve shirts and cropped pants for men and colorful prints in shirts for women. The washed-out look suggests the ruggedness of nature.
On April 18, it will be launching Summer Blues, which features badge polo lycra pique muscle shirts in all shades of blue for men and soft rayon three-fourths sleeve for women. Denim dresses and jersey V-neck cardigans also make great transition pieces as temperatures start to shift.

The Giordano summer collection will have three sub-collections
Richard Yap: Brand’s first-ever Filipino ambassador
In the time for the launch of the summer collection, Giordano also launched its first-ever Filipino ambassador/endorser, actor Richard Yap.
After 25 years in the Philippines, Giordano Philippines is just now taking this promotional move to sustain interest for the brand and its current 63 stores all over the country.
Although popularity has not waned over the years, according to Beatrice Lim, vice president for marketing, this is taking it a step further. Giordano still has many customers, many of them those in their thirties and above, who grew up with Giordano, when it became popular in the Philippines in the 1990s. The local endorser will make the brand relatable to Filipinos and also will promote it to the younger generation, who are not familiar with the brand.
Right now, Giordano Philippines uses Giordano Korea’s images of popular Korean celebrities for their billboards, a decision made because of Korean pop’s popularity in the country.
It’s just time for a local face to represent Giordano,” Lim said.
The choice of Yap is apt because he represent the age group that forms bulk of Giordano buyers but at the same time he is popular with the younger set as to entice them to the brand further.
Yap is a breakthrough celebrity. He entered showbiz in his forties and quickly gained fame, something rare in youth-obsessed Philippine showbiz. He first entered the public’s consciousness as the image of Chinese-Filipino fast-food chain Chowking. He then took on the role of Papa Chen in 2011 hit TV series My Binondo Girl, catapulting him to stardom. His status is solidified by another telenovela Please Be Careful with My Heart as the dashing Sir Chief. Now, he is one of the most sought-after endorsers.
Richard Yap epitomizes Giordano’s brand values. Both are clean, casual, current and appeals to everyone everywhere,” revealed Lloyd Lim.
He further said that “age doesn’t matter,” when they were looking for an ambassador, and it “depends on the presentation.” It is ironic though that the detail on age is mentioned or emphasized if age is irrelevant.
On his part, Yap said, “Considering my age, I never thought I’d achieve this much. But I’m thankful for it. So I do my best for every project but I take things as they come and live in the moment.”
On fashion style, he said, “I’m never the structured type. I always prefer relaxed casual pieces any time. They suit my lifestyle better and I found that I feel much more relaxed when I know that I am well-dressed,” he said.
Yap admitted that he has been a Giordano buyer, especially the T-shirts, and loves the timeless, classic pieces.
Giordano pieces are essential; the styles are timeless and I prefer it that way. I like to dress well and I like how Giordano provides me with pieces that inspire, at the same time, lends a put-together look without requiring me to think too much about it,” Yap said.
He also mentioned Giordano’s use of the latest innovations in fabric technology, ensuring superior quality and great value.
This may be start of Giordano regularly getting local ambassadors/endorsers, and Lloyd Lim revealed that for future endorsers they are also looking for people not in the entertainment industry. Beatrice said another ambassador will be launched within the year. Meanwhile, Yap’s image will be used in social media and in-store promotional materials.

Actor Richard Yap is chosen to be Giordano Philippines’ firts-ever brand ambassador because he is “clean, casual, current and appeals to everyone everywhere”
Richard Yap with Larry Lim, president and CEO of Giordano Phils
Giordano has a special offer for selected linen items. For more information about the promo, log on to This offer is good until March 31. For more information on Giordano, visit their Web site ( or log in to

Giordano article in The Daily Tribune

Friday, March 14, 2014

Eating Around West Makati: Quaint Cafes, Restaurants and Gourmet Finds in San Antonio

Mao Jia Hunan Cuisine along Bagtikan Street is one of the interesting eating places in San Antonio, Makati City
What makes San Antonio an ideal place is its location at the western portion of Makati City. It is not in the Central Business District, but it is very accessible from the country’s financial hub, and it is at the border of the Philippine capital Manila, where some of the major cultural institutions are found.
The .89-square kilometer barangay is crisscrossed by streets named after native trees—kamagong, mayapis, bagtikan, malugay, talisay, dita, baticulin, tanguile, banuyo—and along these many apartments and townhouses are huddled close to each other. Small buildings house little businesses.
Though there are establishments that sell kitchen utensils and equipments for catering, San Antonio is not yet a burgeoning food spot like the barangay of Kapitolyo in Pasig City or Maginhawa Street in Quezon City, where exciting and noteworthy food joints have sprouted like exotic mushrooms to form food strips, but it has a smattering of restaurants and cafes that are interesting enough, even unique. The area is not too commercialized as to lose its neighborly vibe, which means many dining outlets are not as sophisticated as one might expect, and some are startups.

Titania Wine Cellar: Sip to the Good Life
Housed at the ground floor of a nondescript building along Yakal Street, Titania Wine Cellar is perhaps the most established and “the most sophisticated” food outlet in the area, and many is familiar with it being on a busy thoroughfare.
Named after the queen of the fairies in William Shakespeare’s famous play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania is carving a niche as one of the leading importer of wines in the metropolitan. It was established in 1982 by wine enthusiasts Tita Sugay-Trillo as a family corporation and now has more than 200 types of wines in its portfolio, imported from France, Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, California and Australia and including esteemed brands such as Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Joseph Drouhin, Chapoutier, Felix Solis, Piccini, Kendall Jackson and Caliterra.
Upon entry, we were greeted by boxes of wine and then a deli counter. A glass door led to another room, transporting one to another world. Dimly lit and almost dreamy, Titania’s Grand Cellar is Asia’s first temperature-controlled area for fine wines like the underground cellars of France, complete with wine-tasting facilities and paraphernalia. It also acts as a fine-dining restaurant, surrounded by shelves heavy with bottles of wine. Here, they also conduct wine-tasting lessons, which can last up to three hours.
We got a succinct version, tasted Natalie Sweet Chardonnay, Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Piccini Chianti Riserva, Hillcrest Grand Reserva, Great Trail Shiraz and Madame Therese, learning what grape variety they were made of, and tried to describe its color, smell and taste while nibbling on slices of different cheeses, olives, grapes, cold cuts and sausages.
Titania Wine Cellar is at Unit 8, Southway Condominium, 7435 Yakal Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City, with telephone numbers (+63 2) 894-1371, (+63 2) 894-1372, (+63 2) 894-1373 and (+63 2) 894-1374, and fax number (+63 2) 894-1378.

The Titania Wine Cellar along Yakal Street
Its Grand Cellar is the first temperature-controlled cellar in Asia
Cheeses, cold cuts and other finger foods to go with the wine
Shelves well-stocked with wines from around the world

Natalie Sweet Chardonnay, Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Piccini Chianti Riserva, Hillcrest Grand Reserva, Great Trail Shiraz and Madame Therese
Bon Banhmi: The Best Sandwiches in the Metro
The Vietnamese sandwich using banh mi, the localized version of the French baguette, is the best street food in the world. It is the best kind of sandwich in my opinion. In the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, the itinerant vendors sell them in very humble carts on the streets, but these carts open to wonders. Different kinds of vegetables, herbs, meats and sauces go into the submarine sandwich. The Saigon-style sandwich has the most fillings. The banh mi itself is delicious, crusty and chewy. For a very low price, you have a hearty meal.
Whenever my Vietnamese mother went to Vietnam, she would ask me what I wanted for pasalubong. Always, it would be the banh mi sandwich! In the Philippines, you cannot get a decent banh mi sandwich. While it has become a rage in many parts of the world, it seems the Philippines hasn’t discovered the sandwich. Then I heard of a small eatery dedicated to banh mi sandwiches in one of the Makati suburbs. Recently, I got the chance to try Bon Bahnmi.
Bon Banhmi opened in September 9, 2013, by Thao Ngo and his wife Anh Le, who moved to the Philippines from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, about a year ago. The garage of their bungalow in a relatively quiet residential area of San Antonio, Makati, was transformed into a small but nice eatery, which almost look like a take-out counter. The couple, who speaks little English, named the restaurant after their son. Bon Banhmi is easily noticeable on Mayapis Street because of its yellow motif, Thao’s lucky color, the closest shade to bread.
They bake their own banh mi in an oven that looks like the ones used for baking pandesal. The nearby Titania Wine Bar and Café gets their baguettes from them. Spread out on the counter are the ingredients—the well-marinated meats and the garden-fresh vegetables and herbs that go in every sandwich such as carrots, white radish, scallions, jalapeño, cucumber and cilantro.
Their traditional banh mi sandwich has lean ham (cha lua), salted and shredded meat (cha bong), boiled meat (thit nguoi) and pig’s head paste (gio thu). Other banh mi sandwich varieties are chicken, grilled beef and roast pork. You can add a special pate, freshly homemade and delicious, to your sandwich. Sandwiches go for P79 for the medium size and P99 for the large ones, really inexpensive. They also offer authentic Vietnamese coffee and the intriguing artichoke tea from Da Lat, a new addition, both for P59.
The best banh mi sandwich I had so far was from a random, anonymous cart in a street in Ho Chi Minh City. An old lady laid out the sandwich in a swirl of bicycle—a combination of cured and freshly cooked meats; an assortment of leaves and herbs, those ready to be plucked from a backyard; slices of chilies; and a reddish dark sauce. I want it piquant, spicy and earthy. Bon Banhmi’s are richer with homemade mayonnaise and pate. Even the simplest banh mi sandwich is delectable. On a train from Da Nang to Hue once, my mother prepared the banh mi from the bag; sliced the Vietnamese pork sausage, gray and greenish from its banana leaf wrapping; and arranged the sweet basil, cilantro and sliced chilies. That was it and it was delightful while the train traversed a steep mountainside. They are messy to eat though. Always, the pieces of crust and crumbs fall on you like dirty snowflakes and the fillings always threaten to slip through and fall out. Nobody seems to mind; it is scrumptious. Wrap around your hands around it like you do the arms of a loved one.
While I was watching The Food Truck Race, the Nom Nom Truck seemed to deliver incredible and inventive banh mi sandwiches but they’re in California. Right now, I’ll go all the way from Manila or Pasig for Bon Banhmi’s sandwiches!
Bon Banhmi is at 8390 Mayapis Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City, with telephone number (+63 2) 808-7979, email address and Web site They offer free delivery for a minimum purchase of P300. It is open everyday from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Bon Banhmi along Mayapis Street

Delicious banh mi sandwiches
Bon Banhmi owners Thao Ngo and his wife Anh Le


 8065 Bagnet: Pork in the City
The bagnet is one of the most beloved foods from the Ilocos Region. Bagnet is huge chunks of pork, commonly the belly part, boiled and deep fried. It can be stored and then refried when serving again. It is like lechon kawali (deep-fried pork chunks) but I think this is better.
Whenever I am in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, next to fresh Ilocano empanada by the Vigan cathedral and pinakbet at Café Florentina, I’ll have crunchy bagnet with steaming rice and, of course, the quintessential Ilocano siding of kamatis, bagoong and lasona or KBL, diced tomatoes and shallots with fermented fish sauce dressing. There are stores along the heritage street of Crisologo that sell bagnet and people throng around it, surrounded by souvenir T-shirts and knickknacks.
Bagnet seems to have been slowly penetrating Metro Manila, not surprising for pork-loving Philippines that drool over lechon (spit-roasted whole pig), lechon kawali, pork barbecue, longanisa (pork sausage) and inihaw na liempo (grilled pork belly). Little eateries serving bagnet, colloquially called bagnetan, can now be seen around the metropolis. Chef Ed Bugia creates interesting dishes out of bagnet for his restaurant Pino, along Jupiter Street. But on the relatively “low-end” side, there’s 8065 Bagnet, along Estrella Street, one of the best little bagnet eateries.
Owned by Alain Nadal, older brother of singer-songwriter Kitchie Nadal, and his business partner Jeff Tuason, and formerly called Mindo’s Bagnet House, 8065 Bagnet is deliberately rough around the edges and is a ragtag affair in one space of an apartment row, pulled together by paintings, graffiti and rudimentary mural, fomenting an artsy and Bohemian vibe. Moreover, the walls are punctuated by shelves and books. The tables and chairs are mismatched. It echoes The Collective, a cluster of artisanal, artsy and upstart stores, which is nearby. But enough of the atmosphere and on with the food.
Each serving of plain bagnet costs P185 and can satisfy two persons. The budget meal combo costs P115 and includes rice and soup. They serve sweet bagoong alamang sauce for the bagnet and rice, which is interesting but can be cloying. I usually dip bagnet in sukang Iloco or Ilocano sugar cane vinegar with chopped chilies and shallots. One can order a side dish of vegetables, and they have ensaladang talong or roast eggplant salad (P60), tortang talong or eggplant omelet (P60), okra with bagoong (P50) and ensaladang mangga or green mango salad (P50). They don’t have KBL, the perfect accompaniment to bagnet, to my disappointment. These are pure comfort foods and seldom can you go wrong.
Intriguing are their variations on the bagnet such as bagnet curry, bagnet binagoongan, bagnet pakbet, sinigang bagnet, bagnet sisig, bagnet in spicy gata, bagnet dinuguan and water spinach bagnet, that is, bagnet with water convolvulus or kangkong.
The bagnet kare-kare is chopped bagnet with peanut sauce drizzled on it. The sauce is rich, peanut-y and sweet, which reminds me of Lily’s Peanut Butter, but is likable. The others I swore I’ll be trying on other days.
There are other items for non-pork eaters such as the steamed fish (P185) with comes in curry, shrimp paste, spicy gata, or garlic-butter calamansi (Indian lemon) sauce, and fried chicken (P185 for plain and P195 for the curry). For desserts, they have pastillas (P50), cinnamon roll (P40) and frozen buko pandan (P55).   
Banh mi sandwiches on Mayapis and bagnet on Estrella. Vietnamese-Ilocano me will be happy in San Antonio Village.
8065 Bagnet is at 8065 Estrella Street, San Antonio, Makati City, with telephone number (+63 2) 519-6511. The Manila branch is at 2463 Leon Guinto Street, Malate, Manila, with telephone number (+63 2) 516-7890.
8065 Bagnet along Estrella Street

Plain bagnet with green mango slivers
Bagnet kare-kare


Mao Jia Hunan Cuisine: Regional Delights
Most Chinese restaurants in the Philippines offer Cantonese or Hokkien cuisines. Other Chinese regional cuisines are rarely encountered. Beside a Hong Kong-style tea house, Mao Jia Hunan Cuisine is a find, especially for the adventurous who want something different and the lover of spicy foods.
Mao Jia serves Hunan cuisine, which many may compare to or mistake it for Szechuan cuisine because of the copious use of chilies. Hunan cuisine, known also as Xiang cuisine, comprises the dishes of the Xiang River region, Dongting Lake and western Hunan province in China. It is said that it uses fresh chilies along with lots of shallots and garlic, while Szechuan cuisine uses dried chilies and Sichuan peppercorns, which has a numbing effect on the tongue. That is among other differences between the two such as methods of cooking, ingredients and seasonality.
Mao Jia though also uses lots of dried chilies. The restaurant used to be at the Ronac Art Center in San Juan City, but transferred to Bagtikan Street in San Antonio. The name means “Mao’s house.” There are several busts of Mao Tse Tung, the iconic Chinese leader and founder of Communist China, at one corner.
The ample menu is divided into “Special Dishes,” “Homely Dishes,” Soup,” “Cold Dishes,” “Dessert and Staple Foods,” and “Exquisite Foods,” which is a curious way of categorizing foods. It is a good thing the menu has large pictures and designed like a magazine, so first-timers can judge a dish by the way it looks. I got why some dishes are “homely” and the others “exquisite.” The “exquisite” dishes are more expensive and use ingredients that are harder to find, while the “homely” dishes are, well, cheaper and uses mostly common vegetables, but that doesn’t they are less delicious. In fact, the “homely” dish hot and sour cabbage (P120) I deemed the most delicious during our meal there. The cabbage was fresh and crunchy, sauteed in a blend of sauce that included vinegar with chopped chilies. It had a very likable smoky and barbecue-like flavor punctuated by the sourness of the vinegar.
Fried eggplant with ground pork (P180), spicy string beans (P180), bean curd with kutchay (P160), hot and sour potato strings (P120) and pepper with scrambled egg (P120) are the other “homely dishes.”
The bestseller is steamed chili fish head (P380), head of maya-maya (big-eye or Dory snapper) steamed in family-blended herbs and essences, and served in either mild spicy and ultra-spicy. It is generously topped with chopped dried chilies and scallions. It is in the “special cuisines” together with boiled chili pork with vegetables (P350), stir-fried spiced duck (P450), ginger duck (P480), braised beef with potato (P380) and beef stew vermicelli (P380)
Spicy fried chicken (P220), an “exquisite dish,” seemed to be simple—chicken chopped, fried and smothered with fried spices. It is categorized together with more exotic sounding dishes such as boiled spicy pig’s blood with beef and tripe (P450), spicy crab (P1,800), beef with cumin (P360), preserved pork with bean curd (P320), shredded pork with garlic sauce (P220), salt and pepper shrimp (P380) and stir-fried frog (P380).
Wong Lo Kat tea, a very popular tea on the mainland China, punctuated this meal.
Mao Jia Hunan Cuisine is at 7467 Bagtikan Street, San Antonio, Makati City, with telephone and mobile numbers 831-2271, 0917-6306196 and 0917-8855139.
Mao Jia Hunan Cuisine along Bagtikan Street

Hot and sour cabbage

Steamed chili fish head
Spicy fried chicken
Patisserie Bebe Rouge: The Sweetness of East and West
There are few places dedicated to desserts around Metro Manila. In San Antonio, the most prominent is Patisserie Bebe Rouge.
Patisserie Bebe Rouge used to be stall inside the New Hatchin, a Japanese grocery store at the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and Sacred Heart Street. Now, it is a full-fledged patisserie opened in December 9, 2012, beside its former home, all white and pink and dainty like a cake.
One of San Antonio’s premier bakeshops, it is owned, managed and operated by 32-year-old Japanese Atsushi, who looks like a member of an Asian boy band, and his wife Jun, both trained as pastry chefs in France.
They have an impressive selection of pastries, mostly French with smattering of Japanese. They also sell breads, cookies and chocolates. There are some nerikiri, smooth ball of sweet bean paste, and mochi, most favorite among sweets.
The noticeable fusion effort is the matcha-flavored pastries like the matcha roll although there is no matcha-flavored Madeleine and macarons yet, which can be very interesting. And there is the daintiness or cuteness characteristic of many things Japanese.
The macarons surprise with fruit jelly in the middle but the bestseller is the heavenly strawberry shortcake with a fluffy icing and sweet strawberry filling. Strawberry shortcake with a sponge cake base is, by the way, popular in Japan, especially during Christmas. Coffee and special tea blends are also offered to go with your sweets.
Patisserie Bebe Rouge is at 7602 Sacred Heart Street corner Metropolitan Avenue, San Antonio, Makati City, with telephone number (+63 2) 897-7207, mobile number 0917-5607298 and fax number (+63 2) 897-7209.

A sampler of strawberry shortcake, macarons, Opera Cake and matcha roll.

The Avida Food Hunt
These restaurants are part of the Avida Food Hunt series, organized by Avida Land, Ayala Land’s mid-level real estate development brand, to promote its newest project Avida Towers Asten, which is located in the barangay of San Antonio.
Recently kicked off, the Avida Food Hunt is a food expedition series wherein participants get to sample dishes and other foods of interesting outlets around or near an Avida development. The included restaurants remain a secret, and the mystery and discovery are part of the fun.
Food writer and chef JJ Yulo leads this gastronomical adventure. Also an organizer of food event organizer, he previously hosted a similar event at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City called BGC Eats.
“I like this tour because it highlights places in cities that are neighborhoods, and those are what I want to champion these days,” Yulo remarks. “I want to champion neighborhood restaurants. Para maiba naman from the malls.”
Avida marketing head Tess Tatco explains this venture: “We are doing the Avida Food Hunt because we want people to realize that Avida developments provide comfort and convenience to their residents. They are communities where everything is near, access to good life and great food and restaurants are all in the vicinity of an Avida home.”
Avida Land’s third and newest project in Makati City, which has Avida Towers San Lorenzo and Avida Towers Makati West, Avida Towers Asten, a high-rise residential development along Yakal Street in San Antonio,is envisioned to have a mix of retail and dining options catering to mostly yuppies. Its name, Asten, which is Dutch for “to affect,” tells of its aspiration of providing residents “with a different zeal and zest for life.”
Launched in the third quarter of 2013, Avida Towers Asten’s target turnover for Tower 1, of the projected three residential condominium towers, is the third quarter of 2017. Prices of most units are P2.3 million for 22.54-square meter studio; P4.1 million for 38.54-square meter one-bedroom; P6.7 million for 61.84-square meter two-bedroom; about P11 million for 97.45-square meter two-bedroom bi-level; and about P12.8 million for 114.72-square meter two-bedroom bi-level.

To know about Avida Land and the Avida Food Hunt, visit Avida Land’s Facebook page (avidalandph) or Avida Showroom Glorietta at the second floor, Glorietta 4, Ayala Center, Makati City.