Saturday, June 11, 2016

Shooting the President

The first President from Mindanao, getting more than 15-million votes, 6-million more than his nearest rival.

President Rodrigo Duterte was a long-time Mayor of Davao City (22 years). Joining the Philippine Information Agency in 2003,I was able to cover some of his activities in his stints as City Mayor, Vice Mayor (2010-2013) and President-elect.

Unfortunately some of the old photos were in my old desktops and laptops which I could no longer retrieve.

Here are some of the photos each with little stories of its own.

Shot this in 2010 during the first Presidential visit of President Benigno Aquino III. President Rody was a newly-elected Vice-Mayor in this photo. I think he was unintentionally locked out from the Presidential event at the Marco Polo Davao ballroom and proceeded to meet with a small group of demonstrators at the freedom park across Marco Polo Davao.

At the Marco Polo Davao lobby taken a year ago (2015), he was reading a script guide written in a small piece of paper for his video greeting in the occasion of San Beda's alumni homecoming. I was his spiels director.

The "director" and the Mayor, photo-op after the San Beda alumni video shoot (photo taken by Lou Daniel)

At his designated precinct at the Daniel R. Aguinaldo Nat'l. High School. The once reluctant Presidential candidate awaits for the situation in the classroom to calm down, a crowd of photographers and video cameramen had entered the precinct

Squeezing among a crowd of media men to take this shot. The President votes at his precinct at the Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School. That school chair is now preserved as memento.

The night after the elections, initial tally had him leading the presidential race, He is "ambushed" by reporters at the hotel lobby of the Royal Mandaya Hotel, the girl facing him is his daughter Kitty.

The press conference at the Matina Enclaves on May 16.

Signing a Time Magazine with him as cover 
Veteran photojournalist Rene Lumawag has the biggest collection of Duterte photographs having covered him in the 1980s when he was still the OIC Vice-Mayor. You can get a glimpse of some of the photos in his exhibit at Abreeza Mall (Rody Duterte thru the years) which runs from June 23 to July 6. Shot this scene at the unveiling with  ms. Elizabeth Zimmerman-Duterte as guest-of-honor.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A night at the BEEReaucracy

BEEReaucracy is located in a small nook along Palma Gil Street in Obrero, occupying a former photo studio. It is strategically located beside the popular Brewery Bar and adjacent to Bricklane Square, a strip of bars frequented by Dabawenyos during weekends.
Beereaucracy is a unique bar compared to its neighbors as it offers more than 70 brands of beers on its menu, including 62 craft beers not found in regular bars in the city.
Craft beers are made by small, independent brewers using traditional or innovative brewing techniques that produces a unique flavors not tasted in regular beers.
The bar owned by Nico Vincent Lopez and his fiancé Imma opened in June last year.
Nico says the idea of putting up a bar came from his other half who is into drinking and collecting different kinds of beers.
Nico was a drummer of the band group named 12monthstopay which later was renamed as Sidecrash. The band achieved fame thru its original songs such as "One Last Time", "Miss User Friendly" and "Crazy for Your Smile".
From Davao City the band decided to try out their luck in Manila. During their gigs in the different bars and nightspots, Nico would then try out all available beers in different bars.
He would bring bottles of these beers to Davao City and place it on the shelf of his room. His shelf could no longer accommodate all of his collection that he had decided to go for a bar.
According to Nico, Filipinos are more familiar with lagers. A kind of beer stored in low-temperature conditions and used of bottom fermenting yeast. Popular lagers are the San Miguel Pale Pilsens, the Red Horse and San Miguel Light, Beer na Beer, Gold Eagle, and etc.

Bar owner Nico Lopez

Beereaucracy apart from Lagers has a wide array of Ale another beer type known for its warm fermentation method and characterized for being fruity, sweet and full-bodied taste.
Popular beer styles in the bar include Indian Pale Ale which is characterized with a strong hoppy flavor. Nico says IPA originated in India when it was still colonized under the British colony.
Craft beer’s commitment to quality, consistency and uniqueness being strict to the integrity of its ingredients like wheat or barley, malts, hops and yeasts makes it the most expensive among mainstream beers.
The bar has 32 local craft beers mostly from Cebu and Luzon. Among the popular brand is the line of craft beer created by Josemari Cuervo, former vocalist of the metal band Razorback.
BEEReaucracy also offers the popular Turning Wheels craft beers from Cebu including the renowned Imperial Stout. Mindanao is represented by Fat Pauly craft beer from Iligan City.

Nico says his ultimate dream is to become a craft beer brewer, perhaps the first one in Davao City. However he says the cost of a micro-brewery with a 20 gallon capacity is about a million pesos. For now he goes on collecting new kinds of craft beer which he intends to introduce to the Davao market.
He says craft beer is for the beer drinker whose premium is on taste and quality, among his regular clients are expatriates who would go all the way from their homes in the suburbs to drink and buy a few bottles of their favorite craft beer.
If you want to try out a one-of-a-kind beer adventure head out to the BEEReaucracy in Obrero and explore their wide array of craft beers that you won’t find here in Davao City. (as published in Sunstar Davao)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Preserving Davao City's Green Spaces

Environmentalists and concerned citizens were in an uproar when the City Council of Davao passed an amendment to the City Land Use Plan in January of this year.

The amendment removes the required 10% allotment for green space mandated upon housing developers. The green space requirement is incorporated into the 30% open space requirement.

Under the present law, 30% of the total land area of the housing development is for open spaces (for use of clubhouse, roads, drainage and other facilities.) In Davao City, developers are required to allot 40% of their land  to open spaces (30%) and green spaces (10%).

The green spaces are for village parks and tree parks. Housing developers have argued that only 60% of their land will be left for housing thus the request for the amendment.

According to the proponents in the city council, the amendment will benefit the buyers as it would lower property prices, most developers would add-on the cost of the green space to the prices of the property.

However cause-oriented groups rallied against the amendment, stating that they were not invited to the committee hearings which led to the amendment and also the amended law would mean the loss of precious green spaces which the city lacks.

Ultimately the amendment was vetoed by the City Mayor. The amendment was cited as vague, ambiguous and ultra vires (beyond the power of the council)

The foregoing controversy have opened the eyes of many Dabawenyos to the importance of green spaces to the City.

The City Government of Davao maintains about 16 parks, 6 landmarks and 148 center islands. The City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) is the local government agency task in maintaining these public green spaces.

Among these public parks include Rizal Park (Plaza), Osmeña Park, Magsaysay Park, Centennial Park, Millenium Park, Clifford Park, Quezon Park and the People's Park. Other greenbelts and green spaces include the Dacudao Avenue Greenbelt and the Buhangin Flyover.

Aside from public parks there are also private properties which had served as parks or green spaces and opened to the public. There is the wide expanse of the Riverfront Corporate City or known as the Crocodile Park complex, the Adarna-owned Davao Baywalk Park, the Shrine of the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague in Matina Shrine Hills and the Aboitiz owned Cleanergy Park formerly known as the Turtle Sanctuary.

Save for the four-hectare People's Park, many of the existing parks are small and are not actually green, Rizal Park is a cemented plaza with plant and tree boxes, Quezon Park is also a small park with limited green space.

In 2016, the urbanized area of Davao City is about 40,000 hectares (Davao City's total land area is 244,000 hectares) of the urbanized area the total public park spaces amounts to only 14.76 hectares. In contrast the average size of a park in Singapore is about 24 hectares.

The ideal ratio would be 10 square meters of parks per person and if multiplied by the city's 1.5 million population we should have 1,500 hectares of parks and open spaces or 3.75% of the urbanized area of Davao City.

Based on the size of our public parks, the public green spaces accounts for just .037% of the total urban area.

The Rizal Park is a concrete civic space, barely no room for greenery except for plant and tree boxes
Trees abound inside the Osmeña Park

The People's Park was originally the site of the PTA Sports Complex.
The Millennium Park is actually a large center island, it is designated as a Freedom Park 
Dacudao Avenue green belt, the road runs along a drainage canal  which is is lined with 672 mature trees. it is considered as a
green space
The mangrove walk  at the Aboitiz-owned Cleanergy Park in Punta Dumalag, Matina Aplaya. A hectare of mangroves can sequester 1.5 metric tons of carbon per year.

The private green spaces though largely open to the public is subject to development and changes as dictated by the needs of the owners.

Thus there is a need for the city to maintain and expand public parks and green spaces for its growing population.

Benefits of Green Spaces

According to studies green spaces provide health benefits to its residents. Access to these green spaces have resulted to residents with better perceived general health, lowered stress levels and reduced depression.

According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is a health risk and access to parks provide residents with enough levels of physical activity for a healthy lifestyle.

Early morning zumba at the People's Park

One prime example of this health and lifestyle role is the Peoples Park which provides an area where people can jog or in early morning have their regular Zumba exercises.

For environmental purposes, parks with their trees help in sequestering carbon thus contributing in mitigating global warming. Greenbelts and linear parks with their shady trees can motivate people to walk to their destination instead of using cars.

The importance of trees in controlling green house gases is much more pronounced nowadays as according to the Philippine Climate Change Commission the global temperature change has reached 1 degree celsius.

If super typhoons such as Yolanda, Pablo and Sendong and devastating El Niño dry spells occurred in a .8 degree celsius change, picture out the calamities in a much warmer world.

For tourism green spaces provides aesthetic beauty and are regarded as destination for tourists. Magsaysay Park had their seaside view of the Davao Gulf while durian stalls in the edge of the park is a must-see tourism come-on. The over 1,000 species of plants in the People's Park makes the park a veritable botanical garden.

For historical purposes, the parks also shelters monuments and other historical markers. Osmeña Park was the site of the old Christian settlement founded in mid 19th century by Spanish conqueror Don Jose Oyanguren, Millenium Park contains a monument which signifies Indonesian-Philippine friendship.

Parks also are havens of arts and culture as it hosts various installation arts  such as statues, sculpture and other crafts. Magsaysay Park and Peoples Park contains these art works made by talented local artists.  While the Davao Baywalk Park built by motel mogul Teodorico Adarna (father of actress Ellen Adarna) contains the replicas of Michelangelo's Statue of David and the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen.

Old Davao settlement monument in the middle of Osmeña Park with old Spanish

The Monument of Peace and Unity made by artist Kublai Millan is the centerpiece of the
 Centennial Park 
A controversial replica of Michelangelo's Statue of David at Davao Baywalk and Park
When it was built some City Councilors found the replica as lewd, it being located
adjacent to a well-known motel

There are some the parks in residential subdivisions among the large-size parks and playgrounds are those in Marfori, Lanzona and DBP Village. These green spaces are in various states of condition, some are well-maintained, while others are in the state of neglect.

Perhaps the CENRO with the homeowners association or the barangay can help in the upkeep of these community parks.

Davao City still has plenty of greenery; however these are found in private properties and it will be a matter of time when these lush greens will give way to urbanization and development.

Thus there is a need to preserve the remaining green spaces in a developing city and rather than reduce spaces allotted for greenery in housing developments, current provisions concerning green spaces must be protected from amendments.

A well-maintained park in a private subdivision

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Food trip at Maginhawa StrEAT

Maginhawa Street is a busy road in the middle of Teacher's Village in Quezon City.

But the street is more known as a foodie heaven with its rows of restaurants, bars, cafes and other related businesses. Most of these establishments are set up by young food entrepreneurs eager to venture into the challenging world of food enterprise. You won't see popular fast food joints in the area making it a must-visit culinary destination.

Maginhawa Street at night. 

One such hub in Maginhawa Street is the StreEAT: Maginhawa Food Park. A food strip consisting of different food concepts inspired from  America, Mexican, Turkish, Southeast Asian, Filipino, Korean, Spanish, Italian dishes.

The place started a year ago, and judging from the early evening crowd, it has become a quite popular attraction in Maginhawa, most of the diners are young adults either students or yuppies. The prices pretty reasonable and affordable, a perfect pig-out for unique but yummy comfort food in this part of Metro Manila.

The street's foodie community has been recognized by the Quezon City local government when a 2-kilometer stretch of the street was the venue of the Quezon City Food Festival in 2014 and 2015. The festival aims to promote the street for tourism and to help boost the local restaurants in the area.

After visiting the Philippine Information Agency central office in Quezon City, PIA colleagues Mai and Noel took me to Maginhawa and where we proceeded to the StreEAT. I ordered a bacon burger at G.R.E.A.T burger truck, a Japanese inspired Wagamama hotdog at Schmidt's, deep-fried cheese balls at the Soul Food Truck, Chicken Cutlet with Rice at Saucy Food Manila.

 My hunger pangs was fully satisfied at a cost of less than five-hundred pesos. Not bad at all.

(left to right clockwise) Corndog at Soul Food Truck, Bacon Burger at G.R.E.A.T. Burger Truck, Sisig at Endless Summer Cafe and Chicken Cutlets at Saucy Food Manila.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Kusina sa Subli, a hidden foodie haven

Lanzona Subdivision is a sprawling residential neighborhood in the southern suburb of Matina. Adjacent to Lanzona are the middle-class villages of Alpha Homes and Poly Subdivision.

Streets named after Filipino folk dances connect these houses to the main road named after Tinikling- the national dance, the road then leads into MacArthur Highway. The busiest of these Lanzona streets is Subli, taken after a folk dance which originated in Batangas. Subli connects Tinikling with Pandango Street which leads to the villages of Alpha Homes and Poly linking it all the way to the densely populated Barangay Matina Aplaya.

Subli Street in the morning
Kusina sa Subli at night

Along Subli Street is a must-try dining destination. Kusina sa Subli is a restaurant which offers a well-known menagerie of Filipino Dabawenyo comfort food- seafood-based dishes along with the familiar pork, beef, chicken meals.

Kusina sa Subli started in 2014, according to the owner Jessica Jane Ongkingco, the resto was conceived to complement the family-owned hotel Residencia de Fernando which is located nearby, the resto was to be some sort of  a food and beverage outlet.

Eventually the resto became a landmark of its own buoyed by the strong reception to its best sellers. Among the popular dishes are its grilled tuna belly and panga (sweet and juicy, grilled just right), tuna pakfry or  pritong buntot (deep-fried to perfection then delectably simmered in vinegar.)

Tuna Belly

Pakfry (Crispy Tuna Buntot)

One of the reason why I keep coming back is perhaps  their piece de resistance Kusina sa Subli's Paella Negra which to me is one of the best I tried so far. Another fave meal is their pork adobo. 

Paella Negra

The Pork Adobo

Low-key and unassuming Chef Rowena "Weng" Ruiz holds the fort at the kitchen churning out Kusina's signature dishes which as Jessica describes, familiar Filipino comfort food with a twist.

One great thing is that prices are reasonable and affordable, with prices ranging from P75 to P200 (tuna panga, belly and buntot prices vary according to size), just perfect for a wallet-friendly evening dining experience with friends or family.

Grilled Squid
Grilled pork belly

Their Siomai is another sure winner

Kusina's cocktail line; Mojitos, Martinis, Tropicale and Margaritas

In the latter part of 2015, Jessica decided to enlist the services of friend chef Frine Kristofer Fuentes who had a stint in a de-luxe hotel in Cebu. Frine introduced western-inspired comfort food like the Southside Burger, Chihuawings (Spicy Chicken Wings) and a variant of the Tropical drink.

The new additions was spurred by Jessica's vacation in Dubai when she mistakenly posted a black burger on Kusina's Facebook account, prompting a deluge of inquiries. "When I returned, Frine asked me if we could add some menu, then I thought of expanding it." she recalls.

Southside Burger

The Chihuawings (Spicy Chicken Wings)

Chef Frine's verson of the Tropicale

Aside from good food,  Kusina is also known for their VIP videoke function rooms. Last year Jessica decided to add two more rooms as they had many bookings with their lone function room.

Jessica said that the previous design had the billiard table inside the main function room, some customers would just want to play billiards, hence she decided to make a separate room for billiards. With vacant space in the property two more videoke rooms were added, the songlists are regularly updated to cater to a younger crowd of videoke-goers.

One of the videoke rooms

billiards/pool room

The al fresco dining area

Though Kusina sa Subli is hidden and slightly off the beaten track, its great Filipino/Dabawenyo comfort food is gaining a steady stream of customers willing to make a gastronomic-powered pilgrimage in this part of Matina. Its uncrowded ambiance makes it also a perfect place for a night cap, to sing or just to play pool.

Getting  there: From McArthur Highway, turn to Tinikling Street (at the corner of MacArthur and Tinikling is the former ABS-CBN station now the home of its Bantay Bata 163 Foundation) the fourth street to the left of Tinikling is Subli.

Official Facebook page www.facebook.com/kusinasasubli/
Instagram: kusinasasubli

Kusina sa Subli also sells Wit's Granolas. Fiber rich
snack and breakfast food consisting of grains, cocoa nibs
dried fruit and chocolate.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Davao City's near forgotten American cemetery

The Masonic Cemetery is a familiar landmark in Barangay 6-A where Davao City's two main cemeteries (Wireless public cemetery and the Roman Catholic cemetery) are located. 

The front gate of the cemetery is flanked by the flags of the Philippines and the United States. Unknown to many, located within the 4-hectare lot are the tombs of Americans particularly military veterans who settled in Davao before the World War II.

Established in 1915, it was one of the two areas designated by American authorities as burial grounds one of which is the adjacent municipal burial ground or known as the Roman Catholic Cemetery. The Masonic cemetery was originally for American Masons but eventually included American military veterans.

The cemetery was maintained by the American Cemetery Association until the late 1950s when Mason and American veteran Alfred W. Roberts negotiated with the ACA for the transfer of rights of the land to the Davao Masonic Association Inc. a group organized by local Masons who wanted a resting place for their departed kin.

The Davao American Veterans and Masonic Cemetery (DAVMC) is located along Pichon Street in Madapo Hills. It is located within the old municipal burial grounds, in the area can be found the public cemeteries and privately-owned memorial parks.

The American flag flutters over the lot. The upkeep of the cemetery is not
funded by the U.S. Govt.

The tombs of American settlers
The tomb of George Thompson, Special Envoy to
US President Calvin Coolidge.

It is also a nearly forgotten reminder of a bygone era, when American colonial rulers transformed Davao into one of the most "American town" in the country during the early 1900s.

Retired American soldiers from the Philippine-American War and some adventurous investors flocked to the new frontier to develop abaca, coconut and rubber plantations. In 1903 due to scarcity of labor they imported Japanese laborers thus signaling the start of Japanese migration to Davao.

From 1903 to 1914, Davao was part of the Moro Province which was ruled directly by the United States Army and was distinct from the American civilian government based in Manila. The American colonists wanted to annex the region separate from the rest of the Philippine territory similar to what happened in Hawaii when American planters overthrew the native kingdom eventually becoming a U.S. territory and a State.

The plan of a separate US territory in Mindanao did not materialize with Filipino politicians blocking the move. In 1914 the Department of Moro Province was dissolved and replaced by the civilian Department of Mindanao and Sulu. In 1920 the Department was dissolved and Mindanao was placed under the Bureau of Non Christian Tribes, the Governor was the subordinate of the Manila-based United States Governor General.

American settlers Henry Pahl (left) and George Pahl (right) in the middle is Henry's son George Austin. The Pahl's settled in Calian in the present town of Don Marcelino, Davao Occidental. Henry and George are among the American settlers buried in the cemetery. (photo credits Davao of the Past Facebook Page)

Save for civic structures built during the American period, there is hardly any presence of American pioneers' legacy in Davao save for street names. Bolton Street in the middle of Davao City downtown and Bolton Bridge is named after the assassinated first American military governor of Davao Lt. Edward Bolton who also has a plantation in Malalag, Davao del Sur (where a Barangay is named after him). Libby Road in the residential suburb of Puan was named after American plantation owner Roy Libby who was killed during a Constabulary mutiny in 1909.

The Davao American Veterans and Masonic Cemetery (its present name) is perhaps the remaining vestige of that era and conservation measures must be put in place. In 2004, the cemetery was included in the area of an adjacent privately-owned memorial park which caused an uproar among the Masonic community and concerned citizens. Initiatives are underway to make it a historical site.

Some American expatriates in Davao have taken steps to raise awareness of a little- known American cemetery where aside from Masons and American settlers, also buried in the site are 32 bodies of U.S. and other allied soldiers who died during the liberation of Davao in World War 2.