Thursday, January 28, 2016

Luz Kinilaw, an icon rebuilt

Razed by fire a year ago,  Luz Kinilaw is now a two-storey edifice that still sells their popular classic kinilaw (ceviche) and tuna na panga.

No one can put down a local dining institution which for 47 years have kindled the appetite of residents and visitors alike.

The resto is located along Quezon Boulevard, a stone-throw away from Magsaysay Park in the eastern fringe of Davao City's Chinatown District. It is sandwiched by Magsaysay Park and Mini-Forest, a former tree park which is now the site of a thriving Moslem community.

Luz Bargamento Polache migrated to Davao City together with her parents in 1952. His father worked in a copra warehouse in front of Magsaysay Park.

"This used to be shoreline before and you can see the ships anchored along the coast" She remembers the place which is now a densely populated community of stilt houses.

Luz recalls that she worked as helper in a Tinap-anan, a stall which sells slightly grilled or smoked fish. It was in 1968 she remembers that someone told her a barong-barong (makeshift hut) is being sold for one-hundred forty pesos. The ramshackle barong-barong had four posts supporting a thatch roof sheltering two tables,  it stands in the present location of the present restaurant.

Wanting to start her own business she initially borrowed P200, She paid P140 for the Tinap-anan and the P60 as a capital for the fledgling business where she bought softdrinks, beer and fish to be sold in the store.

Tending the business hands-on

Luz goes on travels around the world, a much needed respite from work

The business prospered slowly. "I did not spend the profits, I used it for capital."Luz said. She also borrowed money from lenders as additional business capital. As the loans were being paid and she had now debt-free capital to roll, the store expanded.

The signature dishes which is the kinilaw (ceviche) and the tuna panga (grilled tuna jaw) became a hit among Dabawenyos. And the place became a must visited place for tourists.

"I made the recipes myself, its all original, I never copied it." Luz says of her hit dishes. Aside from grilled panga, they also have other grilled seafood specialties like tuna bihod (eggs of the female fish), bagaybay (fish gonads), tuna belly and grilled squid.

One of the famous celebrity customers in Luz Kinilaw is Manila City Mayor Joseph 'Erap' Estrada who started visiting Luz Kinilaw when he was still a  Senator and during his time as Vice-President.

A photo taken in 1999
With a loyal customer, former President now Manila City Mayor Erap Estrada
Luz Kinilaw's famous Ceviche (Kinilaw) cubed tuna meat, relished with onions
radish and ginger. It is mixed with vinegar and salt.

"When he was the President, he no longer visited the place but he invited us in the hotel where he was staying." Luz recalls.

Luz closeness with the then President helped her and the neighboring community secure Presidential Proclamation 85 which declares the area as a human settlement site.

With the surrounding community composed of houses built with light materials, the area was hit by a fire last year (2015) the fire spread quickly and engulfed 57 houses including the wooden restaurant.

A frequent customer, the Mayor of Davao City came to the rescue. Luz says the Mayor promised assistance.

"We always come to him for help, whenever there is a threat of demolition, we would come to him." Luz said of the Mayor.

In jest Mayor Rodrigo Duterte promised to give her five sacks of money to rebuild.

Luz says Mayor Duterte's commitment to her and her neighbors that they could return and rebuild in the same area is equivalent not just to five sacks but to five bodegas (warehouses) of money.

"I will stay here forever." she said.

From a ramshackle seaside hut the present Luz Kinilaw is now a two-storey building, gone is the non-descript facade which has become some sort of a landmark in Quezon Boulevard, in its place is a modern-looking resto with wide dining space that can accommodate about a hundred customers, the foul-smelling stagnant water at the back has been filled up and converted as a parking space for clients.

The icon has risen from the ashes.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ike Pono

Me with Bruce

Many had been wondering what is Ike Pono? their curiosity spiked by the weird sounding name. Some would be intrigued, some would scoff or many would be disinterested perhaps by its fees or the time spent for it (6 days divided into 3-day weekends, seminars are whole day activities).
IKE Pono is a unique self-discovery, self-empowerment and visioning seminar created by Bruce Conching a world-renowned personal success coach who has been in the industry for the past 30 years.
Seminars are conducted every year in the United States, Japan and the Philippines with Davao City and Manila as among the hubs of Ike Pono here in the country.
I joined the seminar in May 2014 upon the prodding of friends. I was curious because two of my friends who were once cynical of growth and life skills seminars and are now active converts to Ike Pono.  I asked myself what kind of seminar "transformed" them and took the decision to join and find that answer.
According Bruce, Ike Pono started 8 years ago when he retired from a personal growth company he founded because according to him something was missing.
"I didn't know exactly what was missing but I had an idea, so I started searching for an answer, there are lots of unanswered questions in the personal growth industry, I wanted to answer not for them, for other people of the industry but for myself personally." he said.
He then took on trying to discover who he was and what he was supposed to do in his life. He took on self-mentoring to find that answer.
"Back in Hawaii and all my knowledge of the culture, I started listening to that, the spirituality, maybe the answer was in there all the time....I had the feeling the answer was there I just didn't know where to look." Bruce said.
For Bruce, by asking the question "Who I Am," the answer came to him. From workshops in Hawaii, the self-discovery workshops reached the mainland he named the workshops Vision Quest.
One day a group of Hawaiian ladies suggested to Bruce that he adopt a Hawaii name for the company. They suggested the name Ike Pono.
"I was worried at first who would want in the world a seminar company named Ike Pono, but I wasn't really planning to create a seminar company." Bruce recalls.
Ike Pono means to be absolutely clear without a doubt who I really am.
Bruce's personal quest of self-discovery snowballed into a successful personal growth seminar.
From his Filipino students in Las Vegas, Bruce gravitated towards the Philippines among his first Filipino students include Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto, fashion designer Joey Galon, beauty queen Kylie Versoza.
"It's a brand new seminar... There's something different coz its about the three levels of conscious, sub conscious and super conscious and most of the seminars in the world teach the conscious and sub-conscious," Bruce said.
"Its information that's really not special but I believe that when people find out who they are they know what to do and they attract their vision and the vision starts manifesting. In everybody's vision its about making a difference in the world, making difference to other people but first making a difference to yourself." he added
Bruce who admires the Filipinos for their faith and spirituality said that he wants to bring the value of self-esteem.
"Understanding who you are, the greatness of who you are, I believe if an individual starts to believing themselves, their self-esteem goes higher."
This coming Jan 30 to Feb 2, will be the 13th Ike Pono Batch in Davao. Previous attendees included students, businessmen, professionals, young politicians, persons from the civil society and even showbiz stars from Manila. 

With ohanas (from left) Jason, who is a provincial board member of Davao del Sur, Vin, a movie and TV actor, me, Len and her husband Arjun a town councilor and Vin's brother AJ who is also a movie and TV actor. Ike Pono students and graduates call each other Ohana, the Hawaiian word for family.

Bruce said the reason he came to the city because of a committed student who wanted to bring him to Davao. "Whenever I meet someone who is committed, I'll go because that's what it takes, it doesn't take age or money -- it takes commitment, intention."

He observes that Dabawenyos are committed people, committed to this city. Believing that the city is a special place that can change the world, a center of change.

As a participant, the seminar is different from other seminars as it operates in the context of love and respect which sets in forth the process of self-discovery, self- empowerment and visioning. It was enriching weekend for me and I have taken to understand why some of its graduates are zealously propagating the values they learned from the workshop. The reason why Ike Pono workshops are sustained in this part of the world.

The farthest person in the photo, the man in the orange shirt is the late Councilor Leo Avila one of the staunchest supporters
of the Ike Pono movement here in Davao.

For those interested or would like to inquire about Ike Pono you can go to its Facebook page Ike Pono Davao.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Davao City's Roxas Night Market

Roxas Avenue is a wide thoroughfare which connects the main street of C.M. Recto (formerly Claveria) and Quezon Boulevard.

Points of interest include Clifford Park (named after Col. Thomas Edgar Clifford who died during the liberation of Davao in World War II), Millennium Park (the city's freedom park), Marco Polo Hotel, the college campus of Ateneo de Davao and the Post Office.

At the Millennium Park you can find the bust of Sam Ratulangi, the first Governor of Sulawesi Province in Indonesia. The monument was built as a sign of friendship between the two countries
Roxas Avenue by day

An open drainage canal runs runs from the Freedom Park towards the Quezon Boulevard junction. Within the canal banks Neem, Mahogany trees and Hibiscus shrubs provide shade and beauty to the avenue. In the late 1990s there were plans to establish an evening promenade for tourists in the avenue with night market and sidewalk cafes.

It was in 2013 when the City Council of Davao approved the night market ordinance, one of the night market was established in Roxas. The idea of having night markets was to address the problem of sidewalk vendors which had congested San Pedro Streets and the City Hall area. The avenue was selected because it was wide and was underutilized during the evening as it had little vehicular traffic.

The Roxas Night Market at first was met with opposition from street vendors relocated from San Pedro as it would be depriving them of their livelihood. At that time, Roxas Avenue was devoid of human traffic as compared to the busy San Pedro Street.

In the Roxas Night Market, vendors were provided with 1.5 x 2 meters of space paying a rental fee of 25 pesos per day. From 5 p.m. vendors would start setting up their stalls as the six-laned  avenue would be reduced to two.

The vendors' apprehension would later fade as the night market attracted droves of people. Today the night market is one of the major destinations in Roxas Avenue, making it one of the liveliest places in the city during night time. In 2015 the night market contributed P4-million for the city's coffers.

The night market is divided into sections, brand new merchandises is located in the westernmost side (near the Millennium Park) this is where you'll find clothes, footwear, bags, cellular phone accessories, fashion accessories, DVDs. This is where the famed massage therapists ply their trade.

Massage therapists

After the Padre Gomez intersection is the food section  where one can find  street food, barbeque stalls, ice cream carts. This is where one can fall in line and wait for hours at the famous Mang Danny's ice cream. Aside from food stalls, you can find barbeque eateries and restaurants along the avenue.

Passing the Artiaga intersection is the ukay-ukay stalls where one can get bargains for second-hand clothes, shoes and bags.

Isaw or barbecue chicken intestines is a popular fare in the night market

Trying out Mang Danny's ice cream

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Menzi House in Mati

The facade of the House

About 10 minutes away from Mati City poblacion is the Menzi House or the Menzi Heritage Villa. The structure is a two-storey house overlooking a vast citrus plantation operated by the Menzi Farmers Cooperative.

The house has been renovated by the provincial government of Davao Oriental and serves as the Governor's residence, it has five guest rooms where the Governor's guests can be billeted. The house is part of the Menzi Tourism Complex. Inside the complex are dormitories for guests and the Subangan Provincial Museum.

The House was intensively renovated

The pool overlooks the citrus plantation.

The Governor in a meeting inside the house.

General Hans Menzi is a Swiss-Filipino industrialist and aviator,  His interests in agro-industry prompted him to develop a former ranchland in Mati into a citrus plantation in the 1950s where Sunblest Valencia varieties of oranges and other fruits were planted large-scale. Hans Menzi died in 1984, the plantation was placed under agrarian reform.

Menzi Beach Park in Dahican, it used to be part of the Menzi Plantation. The area is under leased from Menzi Foundation

(Access to the Menzi Heritage Villa/ Governor's House is upon permission from the Governor's Office)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Remnants of little Tokyo

A few months ago I was invited as one of the pageant judges for Barangay Mintal's annual beauty pageant-  Mutya ng Mintal.

While waiting for the program to start we were ushered into the office of barangay captain Ramon Bargamento. Kap governs an area of 600 hectares with about 15,000 residents, located about 15 kilometers from Davao City proper.

Shells and grenades

A Japanese bayonet

A water canteen from an American G.I. he could be one of 
the  casualties in  the liberation of Mintal.

In his office he showed us newly dug relics from World War II. Among these include Japanese bayonets, bullets, grenades and water canteens from liberating American troops. They were discovered by workers who were constructing a barangay building.

Kap says the discovery is an evidence that  Barangay Mintal was a strong Japanese stronghold in World War II. One of the last areas in Davao City to be liberated by the Americans. He cited that Japanese built defensive fortifications such as tunnels, bunkers and foxholes which made retaking Mintal an difficult task.

In the early 1900s American rulers decided to open Mindanao particularly Davao to interested colonists, in the early days former American soldiers took the opportunity and developed abaca plantations. In 1903, Japanese workers who came from the Kennon road construction project in Baguio came to Davao to work in the American-owned abaca farms.

Through hard work and resilience the Japanese workers prospered becoming Abaca growers themselves. The Japanese population in Davao grew and in the 1939 census they had about 18,000 Japanese living in Davao City.

Before the creation of Davao City in 1937, there was the Municipal District in Guianga which covers Mintal and Calinan. This is where majority of the Japanese plantations were located and is the center of the Japanese community in Davao.

Fearing Japanese domination which had encroached into politics, in 1937 the Municipal District of Guianga was joined with the Municipality of Davao to form Davao City and where for 17 years the city's local officials were appointed by the national government to prevent being manipulated by the influential Japanese if the city's local officials were to be elected.

Mintal became a self-contained Japanese community, as Kap recalls only the Japanese were allowed to reside in Mintal. They built a hospital, a school, irrigation network, water system, hydropower plant, cemetery, shrine and a monument.

With Mintal as the center of Japanese presence in Davao which was often referred to as Davaokuo or "Little Tokyo" the barangay basically 'inherited' the title.

Old photo of the Oht monument, picture taken in 1920.

The bustling community was interrupted by World War II. During the liberation the US Army's 24th Infantry Division took nearly a month to capture the areas of Mintal, Toril and Calinan. That same army division would distinguish themselves in the Korean War during the 1950s and in Desert Storm against Saddam Hussein in the 1990s.

Nowadays the only remnants of their  presence in Mintal includes the Ohta obelisk located inside Mintal High School, the monument is in honor of Ohta Kyosuburo the abaca grower who developed Mintal, the Japanese cemetery built in 1910 once exclusively for Japanese residents is where memorial service are held every year in August with many Japanese nationals making their pilgrimage to honor their ancestors.

Plans are afoot by the local government of Davao to build a heritage site in Mintal trying to preserve the few remaining relics of the long-gone Japanese community.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy L.A.

Leonardo Ramos Avila III was just 18 years old when he became a Disc jockey for DXUM in 1975. The radio stint proved to be young man’s watershed that would eventually redefine his career as one of Davao’s top FM DJ leading to a successful career in local City politics.

Leo Avila adopted Happy L.A as his radio moniker and his radio program was named Pinoy Rock and Rhythm, playing mostly rock and roll and folk. The program attracted many local musicians who would give demos of their original songs.

Pero pag-pakinggan ko parang ni-record sa banyo.” (When I listened to it. it sounded like it was recorded in the bathroom.) Happy L.A. said. He then got an idea, gathering different bands with original materials they set out to record their songs just to get the quality fit for radio airing. And thus began the golden age of the Davao music scene.

We began recording, “there were times when we would record for three straight days.” Said Happy L.A., recording were set-up in Student Center (then located along Claveria), UM Technical School in Bangoy where they would set up for a live outdoor recording sessions, Yamaha-Yupangco building which had a 24-track recording studio. The recording was an ex-deal as Yamaha would get free plugging in Happy LA’s program. Then there was DEMS Recording studio, a well-equipped recording studio in Matina run by a Non-Government Organization.”

In the late 70s his was the most listened radio program. “I remember the program would be at 6 to 6:30 p.m. when people would relax at their homes or be with their friends drinking tuba. Life was simple then. They would just listen to the radio and relax.” Happy L.A. said.

And aside from recorded materials, musicians would drop by and jam on the program live, he recounts seeing Joey Ayala, Bong Durias, Eric Dalisay and Popong Landero as among those artists who would drop by at his program. The music those days were of folk and rock and roll, influence by Seals and Crofts, Crosby Stills and Neil Young.

Happy L.A. remembers a young boy, the son of Bong Durias who would tag along at the station. “ang liit-liit pa siya nuon. Pero ngayon ang laki na.”  Literally and figuratively, Happy L.A. was describing Jay Durias of South Border.

Aside from recording, Happy L.A ventured into producing concerts and gigs. During those days two bands would stand out developing some sort of musical rivalry, these were the JBM band (which later became Sticky Stones) and the Aldaba band. Happy L.A managed the Sticky Stones and remembers the popularity of the two bands and the well attended concerts.

“During a concert at the then Davao Y Gym we headlined the face-off between the JBM and Aldaba bands, there were so many people during the event that the gate to the gymnasium was destroyed.” He recalled. Aptly named Pinoy Rock and Rhythm concerts, the organizers would eventually tie up with schools to conduct school tours (Pinoy Rock and Rhythm School tour) and would visit other nearby cities and provinces (Pinoy Rock and Rhythm on the road).

However the DXUM partnership ended when the station reformatted favoring a more mellow pop sound. The station was sending signals that Pinoy Rock and Rhythm was out of place with the station’s new Mellow Fever format. The unhappy Happy L.A. left and accepted the longstanding offer of DXXL.

“In 1980 I got married (to Lorelyn Trinidad), it was a change of priorities na rinDatiwhen I was in DXUM I was still single.” Happy L.A. said. With higher pay and added responsibilities to his job he gave up being the band manager of Sticky Stones though he continued to be the band’s adviser until they disbanded in the early 80s.

 In the early 1980s peace and order deteriorated in the City and the local performing scene was temporarily silent. But his love for Rock and roll and the local musicians never waned. Despite being in a Top 100 format radio station, Happy L.A would still inject music of local bands though not as often as his DXUM days. “Sundays nalang sila ma-feature. He recalls the tagline “Flying High on a Sunday” which describes the Sunday format of DXXL.”

When peace returned to the City, Happy L.A organized concerts featuring local musicians. “Those were the Araw ng Dabaw concerts, the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD) events.” The anti-drug concerts were held in PTA grounds (now the People’s Park), Uyanguren Avenue and the newly opened Sandawa avenue.

Happy L.A fondly recalls the Sandawa MAD concert; “there was a very huge crowd, we even managed to get Mayor Duterte to go to the stage and deliver a message, when the Mayor went to the stage, he saw a very young boy sporting an earring and the Mayor admonished the boy right in front of the stage.” Happy L.A. recalls amusingly, remembering his young DJ/rocker days when he was sporting earrings and wearing torn jeans.

But Happy L.A was not a believer of a dirty rock lifestyle. “I shun drugs, even as a band manager it was a big no, no for my band to perform when they are high on drugs. You must play for the audience and not for yourself, when you play for the audience you must be responsible.” He said.

In 1988, Happy L.A has become a household name as one of Davao City’s top FM radio personalities; during the 1988 local elections he took a gamble and ran for a seat in the City Council where he eventually won.

In 1991, now Councilor Avila left DXXL and transferred to DXBM (now Love Radio). In 1999, together with Ernie Ortonio of Polyfusion Studios he produced a compilation of songs from different local musicians; the compilation was named Durian Jam.

Featuring a slew of rock songs, romantic ballads and upbeat ditties which are all original compositions (Happy L.A. recalls Panacan Barangay Captain Dante Apostol as the drummer of the Apostol band which was part of the Durian Jam album) the album was in keeping with his philosophy of promoting local music. “The only way for a musician to be known was for the local talents to compose your own songs.”  He said.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

My favorite food in Davao

Being a photographer and a member of the local media I have been exposed to different food spots around Metro Davao and got to taste their numerous specialties.

With so many restos and food establishments offering an array of mouth-watering delights.  Davao City is becoming a rich frontier for an adventurous foodie. Here are some of my favorite dishes which I got to try during my coverages and commissioned photoshoots.

Iberian Chicken from Pepper's Iberica

Pepper's Iberica used to be the old Pepper and Peppers, known for their Iberian chicken the new owners Chiqui and Allen Aportadera reopened the resto at a spot along Mabini Street in front of Stockbridge School (formerly Tumble Tots).

The Iberian Chicken is still a house specialty, it is baked in potatoes and olive oil for two hours (hence the advance order) the herbs and spices makes this dish worth the wait.

Spare Ribs from Filipino Comfort Food

"Bakit ka walang ka-date?"  The resto-owner Tony Boy Floirendo would ask me why I am all alone spending my dinner at the Filipino Comfort Food (FCF) when he chanced upon me one evening. But with spare ribs as delicious as this who would need a date.

According to Cathy Binag who runs FCF the spare ribs is old-school no-frills grilled ribs, dry without the sauce. She has a specially-made vinegar as a condiment for the ribs.

(FCF is located at Damosa IT Park just beside Concentrix.)

Kapampangan sisg from Abuelos
Abuelo's is one of the newly-opened food spots in the city. It is located along the Circumferential Road just beside Sea Green. One of their house specialties is the Kapampangan Sisig.

They take pride in being the only authentic Kapampangan sisig here in Davao City. Authenticity means staying true to the sisig's Kapampangan roots. The original sisig is made up of pig's mascara (face) and ears plus chicken liver. According to the owners having mayonaise or egg in a sisig is a mortal sin to  many Kapampangans. Just the same without the mayo or the egg, this sisig stands out, great as a pulutan or an ulam (viand).

Adobo Rice toppings from Bistro Selera

The adobo rice topping is actually an experimental dish concocted by Bistro Selera for the recent foodtography tour conducted by Jojie Alcantara. Pork adobo cubes mixed with salted egg atop the Bistro's signature fried rice is for me a winner, hoping they could incorporate it into their menu. (Bistro Selera  is at the 2nd level Fountain Court SM Lanang Premiere)

Pritong Paksiw na Buntot from Kusina sa Subli

In the middle of Lanzona Subdivision in suburban Matina, Kusina sa Subli is a haven of delectable Filipino-inspired comfort food. And one of their house specialty Pritong Paksiw na Buntot is a must-try. Deep-fried to perfection, their paksiw sauce makes this dish an addicting staple. (Kusina Sa Subli is at Subli Street, Lanzona Subd.)