Monday, September 22, 2014

Facing the Naked Truth

Tom Rodriguez and Dennis Trillo in the much-creamed about My Husband’s Lover mode
More daring celebrity acts, interesting fashion, acrobatics and a deluge of bodies marked Bench’s The Naked Truth: The 2014 Denim and Underwear Show. Although fierce rains and flooding around Metro Manila forced the home-grown fashion brand to reschedule the show from September 19 to September 20, 2014, The Naked Truth proved to be the much-talked about show during the weekend.
Since it started in 1997, with apparent inspiration from the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Bench’s biannual underwear shows have attracted a large following and media attention by having celebrities, as well as top models and designers participating in the show. It is a venue where celebrities get to strip down, literally. This year, the popular and sexiest celebrities worked the catwalk, and notable fashion designers were pooled including internationally recognized Michael Cinco, who garbed Solenn Heusaff, Isabelle Daza, Dominic Roque, Paolo Avelino and Martin del Rosario. International models were flown in including America’s Next Top Model alumna Allison Harvard. Interspersed within the show were circus acts by the French group Les 7 doigts de la main.
Crowds squealed for the love tandem of teen stars Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo, while controversial real-life partners Richard Gutierrez and Sarah Lahbati kissed onstage. Paulo Avelino, Rocco Nacino, Enzo Pineda, Joseph Marco, Tom Rodriguez, Dennis Trillo and Markki Stroem kept the crowd screaming. The popular female celebrities were less “showy”—Marian Rivera, Kim Chiu, Carla Abellana, Jessy Mendiola, Max Collins and Shaina Magdayao—but Solenn Heusaff and Ellen Adarna strutted their stuff.
Notable was a little step towards LGTBQ inclusiveness with Filipino-American transgender model Geena Rocero debuting on Philippine stage, and actors Tom Rodriguez and Dennis Trillo, though straight, recreating an intimate moment as characters from their acclaimed and highly successful soap My Husband’s Lover.   
One of Bench’s most daring celebrity models, Jake Cuenca, appeared in jock straps, proudly displaying more than butt. With a little flab, he inadvertently injected a dose of reality into the fantasy, breaking the parade of perfectly sculpted bodies. Over time, we all can get flabby; that’s one of the naked truths. We ought to celebrate bodies of different types.

Tom Rodriguez surprises and delights by showing more skin

Jake Cuenca in jockstrap, showing butt as well as flabs
Dennis Trillo
Dennis Trillo and Tom Rodriguez
Sam Concepcion, sweet and sexy at the same time
Coco Martin comes in with a woman on a leash, a questionable concept
Hoop dreams: Brothers Jeric and Jeron Teng with Andre Paras 
Fiery models in red and black underwear
Richard Gutierrez and Sarah Lahbati
Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo 
Regal as ever, Marian Rivera concludes the show
Solenn Heusaff in queenly dominatrix look by Michael Cinco
Sam Adjani
Shaina Magdayao
Max Collins
Carla Abellana in bustier of deconstructed denim jacket 
After disrobing a gauzy gown, Ellen Adarna sashayed in full glory

Sarah Lahbati, Richard Gutierrez and Coco Martin

Bench founder and top honcho Ben Chan 
Photos by Teddy Pelaez

Friday, September 19, 2014

Big Dreams for a Big City: Makati City Takes Next Steps in Redevelopment

Part of my childhood in Pateros, then a small municipality in the east of Metro Manila, about 13 kilometers from the capital Manila, I and my high school classmates would sometimes foray in the adjacent Makati City. We considered it an urban adventure of sorts. Pateros was kind of rurban, part of the urban sprawl but retaining some provincial characteristics. Makati City, particularly Ayala Center in its central business district, was an enticing attraction, along with Cubao in Quezon City. A hulking gray structure, SM Department Store was the one of the biggest malls then. Nearby were rows of stores and boutiques. Glorietta was more of an expansive but drab park with a small cluster of stores in the middle. Alemars Bookstore was a favorite.
Over the years, this area in Makati City has experienced many changes, transforming itself into a dynamic and beautiful city destination with modern and intriguing architecture, pocket gardens and parks, numerous shopping and dining choices, events happening almost everyday, etc., and becoming the Philippines loveliest urban development inside the countrys leading financial hub. It is uplifting to note that complementing the progress is the space given to arts and culture with such institutions as the Ayala Museum and the Filipinas Heritage Library and with regular cultural events being held in different parts of the area.
Recently, the Ayala Center, already branding itself as a cosmopolitan lifestyle hub, has become diverse in its developments. Three big hotelsFairmont Hotel, Raffles Suites and Residences, Holiday Inn and Suiteswere opened. Many people are making this area their home with the rise of upscale residential projects such as The Residences of Greenbelt, Park Terraces and Garden Towers. The Residences at Greenbelt and Park Terraces are now fully sold, while Garden Towers is already at 77 percent. The Residences at Greenbelt has about 2,800 residents living in Ayala Center, and the first residents of Park Terraces will move in by March 2015.
Ayala Center continues to grow in 2015 and beyond with the expansion of retail spaces, the building of two new hotels including Ayala Lands own Seda brand, two office towers and a public transit terminal. Crowning these developments is a new business convention facility. These are all part of a big redevelopment plans of Ayala Land, which owns and manages Ayala Center, for the surrounding areas.
In 2012, Ayala Land earmarked P60 billion for redevelopment with the launch of the citys Make It Happen, Make It Makati campaign. Now, an additional P65 billion was committed for the grander second phase of the redevelopment, which will start in 2016 and will continue for the next five years.
What we established then was that Makati will always remain our top priorityour crown jewel, our largest source of value, our most important asset, announced Meean Dy, vice president and group head of the Strategic Landbank Management Group of Ayala Land.
During the launch in 2012, Ayala Land presented the master plan and design, echoing the philosophy of many Ayala Land mixed-use projects in the country. The design caters to the currently lifestyle, addressing the many facets of modern living and acknowledging their being integral to each other. The goal was to create a quality environment not just for business. For that, main themes were identified for several areas, coming up with nodes.
What you have in Makati is a work and life balance, Mel Ignacio, assistant vice president of Ayala Land, explained. The idea of work-and-life equilibrium also appeals to other Filipinos which is why two years ago, via the Make It Happen, Make It Makati campaign, Ayala Land announced its plans to invest P60 billion pesos in the development of six nodes in Makati. We embarked on the development of six nodes because we wanted to cater to a broader market base.
There will always be a place to eat, to work, to live, to relaxall within a short walk. This is what we aim to achieve with the six nodes, Dy added.
The six nodes are the McKinley Exchange, the transport hub; the Ayala Center, the lifestyle cosmopolitan hub; the Makati Central Business District, the business hub of the country; Ayala Triangle Gardens, the urban oasis; City Gate, the young and creative hub; and Circuit Makati, the entertainment hub.
In the next several years, Makati City will be changing its face as new structures are built and the landscape redesigned
According to Joel Luna, head of Innovations and Design Group of Ayala Land, the design of the development follows the design of most of their flagship and signature projects, the root of which traces to their principals, who are very involved in the design. Ayala Land has been known for the designs of its structures, as well as the seamless fusion of the natural and built environments and the use of open space.
I would like to assume probably its more of the feel that you get, not so much the form or color or the aesthetic treatment. Thats how I like to think on what makes our projects different. Its more of the experience pag pasok. Because if you look at different projects, we use the same finishes, sometimes the same architect, said Luna. To my mind, it is also the way we inject the civic spaces in our projects. And we add a different feel to each place.
He further said: What we wanted to do is sort of create a little bit of diversity, different types of activities. Thats the idea behind the nodes. Each one is a destination. While we want to make sure that each destination has the same elements like officies, condominiums, the retail, the residential, civic space, we tried to give each a certain focus. So Ayala Center has a little bit more of shopping and commercialSo Makati will have multiple destinations that many visitors will be interested in.

More than shopping at the Ayala Center
The Ayala Center is still the premiere shopping hub of Makati City. The recent developments, which started in 2009 and was completed in 2012increasing the gross floor area by 23 percent or 228,000 square metershave seen the rise of new hotels, which brought the number of hotel rooms in the area to about 3,000, and residential spaces. This has lent a more leisurely and varied vibe to the area in general.
Further redevelopment will cover 2.5 hectares of land and will include the Ayala Avenue-Edsa corner of the district, which will see the rise of retail spaces, two new hotels including Seda, two office towers and a public transit terminal that improves the link of the MRT with city buses along Edsa and internal transit within the Central Business District.
Redevelopment in the area includes the InterContinental Manila Hotel, which raised concerns among several architects and heritage conservationists because the 45-year-old hotel is the work of National Artist for architecture Leandro Locsin, protected under the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. Ayala Land stated that it is coordinating with the Leandro V. Locsin Partners and heritage conservation groups in this matter.
Breathing space at Ayala Triangle Gardens
A sizable green space in Makati City is the Ayala Triangle Gardens (ATG), which has recently become a venue for the citys two signature events: Makati Independence Day and Christmas Lights and Sound Show. Thus, the area is designated as a place for gatherings and celebrations against a backdrop of greenery. A healthy and active lifestyle is also being promoted here. Moreover, ATG is home to a heritage structure, the Neilson Tower, the only pre-World War II building in the central business district, built in 1937. The area has the distinction of being the first airport in Luzon and one of the first international airports in Asia. Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas, which border two sides of ATG, were actually once runways for planes. The control tower of the Neilson Airport, the Neilson Tower became a police headquarters, the office of the Integrated Property Management Corporation, Nielson Tower Club and Restaurant, the Filipinas Heritage Library and now the restaurant Blackbird of Scottish chef Colin McKay.
Blackbird will be joined by more dining outlets, as well as shops in the redevelopment, which is concentrated at the northern tip of the Ayala Triangle. Additionally, by the end of the year, ATG will be breaking ground for a new office tower as well as the new 275-room Mandarin Oriental Hotel, actually across the original one which closed on September 9, 2014. The 38-year-old Mandarin Oriental Hotel is another work of Locsin, which is also being discussed about with heritage conservation groups together with the InterContinental Manila Hotel.
On the other hand, the office tower will be an addition to the Tower One and Exchange Plaza, which was built 20 years ago. It will have 80,000 square meters of office space.

Youthful vibe at the City Gate
The area where Ayala Avenue meets Gil Puyat Avenue is called the City Gate, which will be a mixed-use development geared toward the younger set with a creative and edgy atmosphere.
The initial phase will have roughly 81,000 square meters of office space and 14,000 square meters of retail outlets, punctuated by a 312-room Seda hotel. The heart of this development is a 2,600-square meter civic space that will be built vertically through a series of terraces. This will be connected to the Makati Commercial Estate Associations existing elevated walkway along Dela Rosa Street, which will extend to Makati Medical Center. This walkway will traverse all three blocks of City Gate all the way to the other side of Gil Puyat where a pedestrian bridge will cross to the Makati Post Office side.

Sports and entertainment at Circuit Makati
Once a venue for entertainment, the old Santa Ana Racetrack is being redeveloped into another entertainment district although modern and with a myriad choices. With the name Circuit Makati, the 22-hectare and P20-billion project acknowledges the heritage of the area as a former racing circuit.
Circuit Makati is envisioned to have world-class performance venues, as well as sports facilities, aside from residential spaces, retail units, offices and a hotel. The 2,000-square meter Globe Circuit Events Ground is a canopied outdoor venue for large events such as concerts and festivals.
Another performance venue is the Circuit Performing Arts Theater, which can seat 1,500 people and is set to rival the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Set to open in 2017, the Circuit Performing Arts Theater will showcase Filipino theatre talents, as well as Broadway-style shows and musical and dance performances. For intimate affairs, the 300-seat Blackbox Theater will open by April 2015 at the 10,000-square meter Circuit Lane, a walk studded with eclectic shops that will run beside the Pasig River all through the center of the district.
For sporting events, there is a football turf with a two-hectare ground, which can accommodate up to 20,000 people. Launched in 2013, it has hosted events such as the Gatorade-Chelsea Blue Pitch, Mountain Dew Skate Park and City Kart Racing.
In 2016, the 60,000-square meter Circuit Mall will be opened, another venue for shopping, dining and movie-watching. The landmark residential development here is the high-rise Solstice by Alveo Land. 
Circuit Makati meet-and-greet space
The Circuit Performing Arts Theater
The Ayala Triangle Gardens
The Ayala Triangle Gardens' planned development including a new Mandarin Oriental Manila Hotel

The Ayala Triangle Gardens
The Ayala Triangle Gardens
Civic space at the Circuit Makati

The Circuit Black Box Theater
The Circuit Lane

The City Gate
The Holiday Inn and Suites
Christmas lights at the Ayala Triangle Gardens

The Raffles Suites and Fairmont Hotel
The Tower One
When the redevelopment is finished, Makati City undoubtedly will be a paragon of urban development in the country, one that integrates the different facets of todays lifestyle, as well as nurtures the passions and persuasions of its visitors and residents. The revitalized Makati City will be gleaming, attracting more people ever to its light, and it will always be an exciting urban adventure.

For more information, visit Make It Makatis official pages:, and

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2015 is Visit the Philippines Year

             The Department of Tourism (DoT) formally announced 2015 to be the Visit the Philippines Year on September 4, 2014, during the launch its campaign at the SMX Convention Center of SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, coinciding with the Philippine Travel Exchange (Phitex), intensifying DoTs tourism campaign  and slogan Its More Fun in the Philippines.
            Visit the Philippines Year is bolstered by major events happening in 2015 such as the visit of Pope Francis in January and the holding of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meetings and Leaders' Summit here. DoT is taking advantage of these events to entice more people to visit and explore the Philippines in its bid to reach its 10 million foreign arrival goal.
"There is a tendency to think tourism as an industry, as a business. When you think of tourism simply as an industry or as a business, you would tend to miss the single most important insight that makes the future of tourism a certainty, an exciting certainty for the Republic of the Philippines," DoT Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said during the launch attended by foreign participants of Phitex. "Tourism is a performance. That is what tourism is all about. Tourism is a country performing at its best. We like to talk about 7,107 islands. I have news for you. These incredible beautiful 7,107 islands of the Philippines are simply the backdrop, the stage for a performance that can only be rendered by some of the best performers as best tourism agents in the world. They're known as the people of the Philippines."
He further explained: "The performance of the Philippines is what some have described as a phenomenal growth in tourism in the last four years. This is a country that had 22 million domestic travelers in all our airports, bus terminals and sea ports as recently as 2010. In 2013, 44 million travelers crossed domestic borders in the Philippines. That statistic indicates that the performance is not just ongoing, it is and outstanding and unforgettable performance. And what is performance in touristic terms? Performance is the ability to turn strangers into friends, the ability to turn times into memories, the ability to turn adventures into unforgettable experiences. That is what the performance is all about."
DoT said Philippine tourism has experienced robust growth because to the unprecedented support from the national government, local governments and the private sector. For the first six months of 2014, foreign tourism revenues amounted to P109.77 billion. This is reinforced by the country's investment upgrades and high economic growth performance.
"You do not go to a country simply to see it. You go to a country to experience not just the country itself, but your own humanity. And the Philippines is exactly all about," Jimenez  added. "You know why there is a tremendous excitement now over tourism in Asia? It is because the Philippines has led the way in terms of allowing the rest of Southeast Asia to compete more effectively not just as places but as peopleIf the Philippines is the stage, if the Filipinos are the performers, your support will be the applause. Because only the applause, only your support will encourage an even better performance from the Philippines and the Filipinos."
Recently, the Philippines's aviation safety rating was elevated to Category 1, and DoT believes this will also be a boost to tourism not only for international flights but for domestic as well. For Visit Philippines Year, DoT aims to have one major occasion every quarter that would attract not only domestic but also international tourists to visit the country.
Domingo Ramon C. Enerio III, DoT Assistant Secretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions, laid out the events, promotions and activities for 2015 Visit the Philippines Year, which are categorized by interests and persuasions such as arts and culture, lifestyle and entertainment, travel and adventure, sports and business.
The papal visit headlines the arts and culture events. The much-anticipated visit will serve as gateway for visitors to experience the country's numerous festivals as well as discover its heritage structures such as centuries-old baroque churches.
For lifestyle and entertainment, shopping and nightlife are being promoted, especially for the capital Manila, that may interest tourists. Many international acts will come to the Philippines next year, including the much awaited concert of boy band One Direction. International events such as the Philippine Hot Air Balloon Fiesta and the Philippine International Pyromusical Competition are likewise expected to draw foreign visitors.
For adventure seekers, DoT is banking on the country's natural wonders and biodiversity. Hiking, surfing and diving are being promoted in such places as Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, Bohol and Cebu. Additionally, it is strengthening promotions for the Philippines' Unesco World Heritage sites-the Ifugao Rice Terraces, Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife and Sanctuary, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
The country has been a regular in many international sporting events such as Iron Man and Xterra Triathlons, and CWC International Wakeboarding Competition. Additional, there are numerous local sporting events such as dragon boat races, marathons and triathlons that may interest the active traveler.
For conventions and business conferences, the Philippines is said to have ample facilities to host them. In fact, it will be hosting the APEC Ministerial Meetings and Leaders' Summit, which will be attended by 21 heads of state and 46 ministers, with about 10,000 economic leaders, support staff and international journalists.
Also, Visit Philippines Year will pave the way for Philippine tourism for the planned regional economic integration of Association of Southeast Asian Nations with measures that include the readiness of the Bureau of Immigration to honor the common visas extended by all member countries to those traveling to the Philippines.
To promote Visit Philippines Year 2015, the DoT's Web site was redesigned, redirecting its home page to the "It's More Fun in the Philippines" Web site (, which was upgraded to include more features to assist potential tourists, travel agencies and event organizers. Additionally, the DoT has developed a microsite inside the "It's More Fun in the Philippines" Web site to serve as directory to everything the Philippines has to offer. Event organizers, tour agencies, companies and individuals can register and promote their activities to an international audience at
"What will truly sustain Visit the Philippines Year 2015 campaign are the people themselves. I enjoin the businesses, communities and locals, to play an active part in spreading and amplifying our messages, enticing would-be visitors to come visit our shores," said Jimenez.