Category Archives: Lifestyle & Entertainment

Hotel Jen Manila Welcomes New General Manager | Press Release



 MANILA: 27 April 2015 – Hotel Jen Manila (formerly Traders Hotel, Manila) is pleased to announce the appointment of Edward Kollmer as the hotel’s new General Manager. Mr. Kollmer is responsible for overseeing the entire hotel’s day-to-day operations. With a wealth of over a decade of hospitality experience, he brings a tactical approach to revenue management and operational excellence for the recently rebranded hotel.

His passion and drive to achieve excellence in operations and progress in business development continues to inspire the team to embrace the values and vision of Hotel Jen and live Jen’s dream for guests which is to start with anticipation and end on a high.

Prior to his appointment, Mr. Kollmer was the General Manager of Thistle Johor Bahru in Malaysia for three years. He also worked as a General Manager for Thistle the Royal Trafalgar Hotel, Grosvenor Hotel, Thistle Marble Arch in London and Holiday Inn Rochester UK.

An Irish national, Mr. Kollmer graduated from Shannon College of Hotel Management and completed his master’s degree from the University of Buckingham in the United Kingdom.

Located on Roxas Boulevard, Hotel Jen is just about 20 minutes away from the international and domestic airports and it’s 30 minutes away to the Makati Business District. Just next door are the country’s premier conference and exhibition facilities: the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Philippine International Convention Center, World Trade Center and SMX Convention Center. But life should never be all work and no play—Malate, the entertainment district is only a short walk away.

For inquiries, please call (632) 795 8888. Visit  In the social media channels, Hotel Jen Manila is on Facebook (/HotelJenManila), Twitter (@HotelJenManila) and Instagram (@hoteljenmanila).

Hotel Jen Manila’s General Manager, Mr. Edward Kollmer


Hotel Jen Manila’s General Manager, Mr. Edward Kollmer


Hail to The King

by Geraldine Rullan-Borromeo
(Manila City, Philippines)

Friday, 17 August 2012
Published in Life Style

Since its first production, The King and I has spawned many artistic interpretations despite the controversial political elements in its story strewn with the classic clash of cultures between the East and the West. Siam’s political independence is shown all too well by the characteristics of King Mongkut — his pride and stubbornness amidst his desire to adopt the scientific and technological advances of the West.

In the story, the women who surround him temper him and make him out to be a just and loving father and king despite his own protestations of kingship.

An all-Filipino cast, under the direction of Freddie Santos, veers away from the political controversy in The King and I, which is taken from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens as told by Margaret Landon. Santos directs a distinctly romantic version of the King and I that focuses on the universality of the themes in the story. Love, loss, sorrow and even parenting techniques, both Eastern and Western, are tackled in the story of King Mongkut of Siam and his children’s governess.

Rodger and Hammerstein’s The King and I comes to Resorts Worlds Manila (RWM) Newport Performing Arts Theater (NPAT), which has 1,500 seats in a grand scale befitting its state-of-the-art projectors, lights, sound and largest LED in all of Southeast Asia.

Monique Wilson plays Anna opposite Leo Talavera Valdez’s King Mongkut. The production promises to be lavish and outlandish with moving elephants making its rounds in RWM. New sets of props bring show-goers to the palace of King Mongkut. The mix of light, sound and video technologies provide a dual experience of movie and theater dimensions, transporting everyone in the NPAT inside the dramatic events in King Mongkut’s palace.

Rajo Laurel, one of the leading fashion designers in the Philippines, takes to heart the task of designing the entire wardrobe of the lead characters. Having played one of King Mongkut’s children in a production starring Lea Salonga, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and Raymund Lauchengco, Laurel felt he has come full circle in his career as a designer by now practicing his craft for theater.

“Designing for stage and real life are two wholly different things, but I hope in either case the person who wears my clothes is empowered by my garments,” he says.

Looking at the awe-inspiring Monique Wilson; her alternate, pretty-as-a-princess Sheila Valderrama, both playing Anna; stately yet charming and multi-awarded Leo Talavera Valdez; and balladeer Bo Cerrudo, both playing King Mongkut, one can say they definitely exude confidence and act empowered.

The two Annas are regal, feminine and ethereal in a pale baby-pink gown. In each movement, the ball gown swings gracefully about them, and the peasant sleeves with big bows come together, depicting a confident and yet soft-hearted governess.

The two King Mongkuts are kingly in their intricate red separates that were playfully and asymmetrically designed by Laurel. Both look like royalty in all its splendor and yes, undeniable male arrogance.

As the story of Anna’s life as governess to King Mongkut’s many children from different wives unfolds, one can see it is a tale of a woman caught between the rigid demands of being a schoolteacher with the scrutinizing eyes of the royal family and her unexpressed and growing love for King Mongkut.

Lady Thiang, played by veteran theater actress Gina Respall and her alternate Apple Chiu, helps weave another love story into the main story as Tuptim, a Burmese slave, dares to disobey Siam’s law to follow her heart as she falls in love with Luntha, her official escort. Tuptim is played by Tanya Manalang and Marian Santiago and Luntha is played by Lorenz Martinez and Floyd Tena.

Santos, a three-time Aliw awardee for Best Director (stage and concert), gives all of his artistic prowess and discipline to The King and I. His multi-faceted experience of several decades as a stage actor, producer, songwriter, performance, hosting coach and director of events, concerts, television and theater has been brought to fore in this theatrical production. Santos passionately coaxes out the romance and family centeredness of the story, inspiring and driving his actors to interpret the universal themes in Anna’s memoirs.

The King and I production team is composed of the RWM as producer; Ultimate Entertainment, Inc. as line producer; Mark and Christine Manalang as project directors; Freddie Santos as director; and Rodel Colmenar as the musical director of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. The Philippine Ballet Company is under the artistic direction of Ronilo Jaynario and dance mastery of Anatoly Panasyukov. The vocal direction is under Lyn Fabella. Technical direction is under Ernie De Leon and Rey Baylon. Light design is by John Batalla. The video producer is Carlo Manere. Sound engineering is by Rards Corpuz. Set design and construction is by Jo Tecson of Light and Space Concepts. Costume design for Anna and the King is by Rajo Laurel, and for the cast, Aksana Sidarava. Make-up and hair styling are by Myrene Santos.

The King and I opens on Sept. 15 at the Resorts Worlds Manila Newport Performing Arts Theater. For more information, log on to or call (632) 836-6333.

Bob Marley’s Legacy Lends a Warm Note to Music

by Vince Borromeo
(Manila City, Philippines)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Published in Daily Tribune Life Style

“We want to give people new ways to experience the sounds of their favorite songs, while giving back to the people and the planet through our non-profit organization, says a Rohan Marley, son of Bob Marley. “My father taught us that in everything we do we have to give back, to complete the circle. It’s not enough to make earth-friendly products; we need to support programs that do well and take action,” he continues.

Marley headsets bring the warmth back to music once more and in many ways. This is the story of a son who brings back the memory of his father by creating special headsets. Another thing we can attribute to these headsets is its helps bring back warmth to music that many say got lost in the digital world.

When I recorded music as a professional musician under BMG Records, I was a witness to the change from the big 24 track reels to the digital world. Digital technology has made music production very clean and crisp, but something got lost in the exchange — they call it the “warmth” of the music.

The big old bulky reel recordings had a certain warmth that made the music more human. To date, purists are still collecting the vinyls and old albums that they believe is more real.

After listening to music through these Marley headsets, I felt the recapturing of this lost warmth and yet at a higher level of experience. I can say this because I heard it. And if you know how these headsets are made (using real natural wood parts into the mix of electronics), you will experience how music can touch your soul.

My experience of Marley headsets brought the old and the new together — the warmth and the crisp, the legend and the cutting-edge. It brought back music myths that could be the reality today. Music is said to be the most spiritual of all arts. Some say that the world itself was created by the singing of angels, and that it is continuously being shaped today by the music that is filling our space and times.

As music is very influential, we need to listen to the music children listen to in order to have a clue to how to understand and raise them. Child experts often say that parents have underestimated the influence of the culture and the music the children are listening to.

Marley music

Bob Marley’s music is one that has promoted peace, love and harmony and human dignity. Lyrics like “get up stand up, stand up for your rights” have permeated many a generation with its message and have lived on through his son, whose vision now is to uplift the listening dignity of man. Bob Marley also sang “make way for that positive day.” And his son Rohan has certainly made way for for the House of Marley to arrive in Manila.

The House of Marley was founded by Rohan Marley, the sixth eldest of Bob’s 11 children, with the purpose of embodying the spirit of his late father in each and every product. “When you wear (Marley) headphones it tells people what you stand for,” says Rohan, who goes on to explain, “my father spread messages of love, hope, unity, and peace through his music and it is our family’s responsibility and mission to bring his vision to a new generation.”

Talking to his Partner Eric Caldwell opened my eyes to how these headsets are made and the vision from which it sprang. There are many things in nature that brings out its beauty. For example, if you see a shell and you put it on your ear, you will literally hear the ocean.

“Using other earth materials instead of just plastic, wires and electronics to bring out better music is what we have been working on,” Eric said. To me, it was like looking at the color palette of flowers. The house of Marley takes first from God’s creations for its materials’ source in harmony with its music philosophy.

“Earth-friendly, all The House of Marley audio products are created with a focus on using sustainable products in addition to providing exceptional sound that the Marley family is proud to call its own. We take seriously the responsibility that comes with applying the Marley name to any product, particularly audio equipment, and we are extremely pleased with the feedback we’ve received from all corners of the earth, to our initial collection of Marley headphones,” Rohan declares.

“We want to give people new ways to experience the sounds of their favourite songs, while giving back to the people and the planet through our non-profit organization, Our father taught us in everything we do we have to give back, to complete the circle. It’s not enough to make earth-friendly products; we need to support programs that do well and take action,” he adds.

“It has been a fantastic experience taking The House of Marley from country to country and seeing how the universal messages of peace, love and unity transcend all languages and cultures. We’re part of a movement at which the Marley family is at the forefront to offer exceptional audio and lifestyle products that can satisfy your soul and move you to action,” says Alon Kaufman, CEO, The House of Marley.

I was pleased to know that Bob Marley’s music and ideas lives on in the House of Marley, for he not only made music but created a lifestyle and a mind frame for his son to follow. Without the right channels of the music to travel like speakers and headsets there is no wonderful musical and spiritual experience to talk about.

Here is where Rohan Marley again comes in. He has helped music lovers experience better music by dedicating his life to make more sonically pleasing headsets to bring out the wonder of music

My personal experience when these headsets hit my ear was like a magical pillow surrounded me with crystal clear crisp music coming through. It made me feel so relaxed and cool, like my blood pressure dropped to 20. It brought me to the alpha state known to be the creative dream land sphere. The Alpha state is where your dreams are real and you can appreciate the beauty of life. It is an experience one has can say is real when using Marley Headsets. The appreciation of music is also dependent on the quality of the music and the channel through which we experience it, the headphone.

In line with his father’s mission, The House of Marley organization donates five percent of its annual profits to the and is constantly looking for additional ways to give back to the community., sparked by the Marley family, continues to spread Bob Marley’s message of unity and peace. claims “to lift a new generation of ‘young gongs’ to strike the hammer for charities, causes, and ideas that can change the world with a focus on youth, planet and peace.”

“It has been a fantastic experience taking The House of Marley from country to country and seeing how the universal messages of peace, love and unity transcend all languages and cultures,” says Alon Kaufman, CEO, The House of Marley. “We’re part of a movement at which the Marley family is at the forefront to offer exceptional audio and lifestyle products that can satisfy your soul and move you to action.”

“Filipinos are known all over the world for their love for music and laidback happy lifestyle. That’s why we didn’t think twice about bringing Marley to Manila,” said Michael Dypico the chairman and CEO of JERM Marketing Inc., the exclusive distributor of The House of Marley in the Philippines.

Dypico goes on to say, “It’s the perfect union… a country of music lovers and a brand that gives superior sound quality products, which are also earth friendly and gives back to charity. I was inspired by the brands vision and decided I can help spread Bob Marley’s principle to my own country. Being the exclusive distributor of The House of Marley in the Philippines is also one way of helping the company make more profits, which will in turn, give back to”

The collection

Vibrant and colourful styles are the signature of Marley Jammin’ collection, together with its solid performance specifically designed for “Young Gongs.” This collection consists of a variety of headphones in different colors and styles, including: People Get Ready, Smile Jamaica and Positive Vibration headphones is all from just the Jammin’ collection.

Audio expertise of more than 30 years, into design of acoustics has produced the “Signature” Sound of products from the House of Marley. Beefing up the low register of sound characterized by a smooth and powerful bass, up to the other end of the musical band spectrum has defined the high-ends of sound without any compromise on the minds but bringing it up with stunning presence that any listener is energized and any music brought to life. The only real and true goal of the manufacturers.

Each headset according to size, shape and material is custom tuned. Only FSC certified wood (Forestry Stewardship Council) is used on Marley Headphones. This assures the users of a clear conscience that the wood used comes a forest that is replenished, renewable and sustainable.

The House of Marley, is always innovating and expanding its Marley audio technology and product lines. They are committed to stay true to its lifestyle roots also with its other products of watches, bags and other accessories that will be introduced this year in its discerning market worldwide.

In the Philippines, the audio line is available in S&R Membership Shopping, Ansons Appliances, Reuse, Powerbooks, Selected National Bookstores and Puregold Duty Free. In addition to the mentioned stores, the new collection will be sold in electronics and audio stores, surf shops, APR’s lifestyle stores, department stores and specialty retailers nationwide.

For more information visit

Fila: Advocacy in Action

by Vince Borromeo
(Manila City, Philippines)

Friday, 03 August 2012
Published in daily Tribune Life Style

Kung Fu masters have always said that “to bring a workout to a higher level you need to put meaning into your movement.” This ancient wisdom is unlike the philosophy of modern workouts in which physical movement are just what they are and no positive thought is put into action while the movement is executed.

A workout must be wholistic to benefit the body in a wholistic way. In so doing, one will work the muscles as well as the mind. To bring it to its highest level, let the exercise warm the heart and soul, too.

Fila brought this ancient wisdom into application in the recent Fila and Athletes in Action Run for School Rooms. Running for a cause works the muscles, uplifts the mind and warms the heart and soul not only of the runner and organizers, but also its beneficiaries. While running, the runners were every bit as conscious that their run builds classrooms for the less fortunate.

Schools Run for School Rooms (SRSR), led by Athletes in Action (AIA), was put into action by 15,000 student runners from major universities in Metro Manila, groups from government agencies, private corporations and churches, as well as running enthusiasts in the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. The gun started them off at 5 a.m.

The proceeds of the run will be used by the AIA to rehabilitate classrooms in Iligan City destroyed by Typhoon “Sendong” in December 2011.
AIA also partnered with the GMA Kapuso Foundation and iCare Foundation for this project. The GMA Kapuso Foundation will facilitate the rehabilitation of the classrooms.

Typhoon Sendong ravished Iligan City, bringing Fila and some athletes into action. They have made running an advocacy to help, making a great workout greater by using it as a means to help solve a nation’s woes and bring education to every child.

“There has always been a lack of classrooms all over the country, and this situation worsened after typhoon Sendong. Through the help of our partners, we hope to build more classrooms, especially in Iligan City,” said Jose Andes, national director of AIA Philippines.

This shows that Filipinos are indeed a wonderful warm-hearted people, and the Schools Run for School Rooms is teaching values to students, starting them young to do good for their fellow Filipinos.

Fila has proven to be not only good for your feet but also good for your heart. The brand has always been big on corporate social responsibility. It traces its roots from a small town brand in a province in Biella in the Italian Alps. From the ice-capped mountain to the tropical Philippines, they have made us proud because this international brand has given the Philippines its research and development in our very own shores and people.

The Philippine distributor was allowed to have its own research and development. I met the people who study how to make the design and rubber tropicalized. They made me see that the shoe design and overall function adapt to our weather and conditions.

Fila’s trust for Filipino technology developers makes an international brand into a Filipinized brand. To me, this is very wise because Philippine terrains, weather conditions and manners of use and style have their own challenges and characters.
I saw the problem of non-tropicalized rubbber even in rubber made for car wipers. International brand rubbers became brittle because of the tropical sun. I saw rubbers that are “tropicalized,” meaning made for Philippine weather conditions, and now it is in these shoes.

Rico Binalber, senior product development manager, said that this tropicalized rubber has proven to not self-destruct by powdering when not used for some time as most of us experienced with other non-tropicalized brands.

In the 2012 Fila Polo Cup project, 500 for 500, P500 went to 500 families for every purchase of Skele-Toes, and now Fila president Butch Albert and his team set the runners in motion to help Sendong victims once again by donating P500 to 500 families for every purchase of Skele-Toes.

Skele-Toes is Fila’s latest line of revolutionary active footwear. It can be worn at the gym or at a party, dressing it up according to occasion or to the wearer.

Fila also has running shoes Swerve and Flow. Fila Swerve boasts of a Dynamic Landing System through a lightweight foam at the midsole and V3 techonology inserts at the heel. This gives the proper support that one needs in every step, without compromising style and design.

Fila Flow is perfect for the outdoor dweller with its heavy duty outsole, making every shock and bump a breeze.

For exclusive updates, follow them on Twitter (@filamanila) or be a fan on Facebook (FILAPhilippines). By Vincent M. Borromeo, Contributor

A teenager’s thoughts on La Traviata

by Gabrielle Borromeo
(Manila City, Philippines)

Friday, 17 August 2012 00:00
Published in Daily Tribune Life Style

La Traviata literally means “the fallen woman” or more figuratively, “the woman who goes astray.” It is an Italian opera in three acts, composed by Giuseppe Verdi with libretto by Francesco Maria Piave.

A tragic but beautiful story, this Italian opera premiered on the March 6, 1853, at the La Fenice Opera House in Venice and was staged at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) last March, in collaboration with the Opera Guild Foundation of the Philippines and Daejeon Opera Company of Korea.

As a teenager, watching movies is always the first choice in entertainment; and opera landing somewhere far far behind. Teens will not even give it a second thought, primarily due to ignorance or lack of exposure. Simply, opera is something hard to understand.

While most teens are impressed but barely care for the talent in opera — the voices, the acting and the lavish production — none of these touch them. The talent does not speak to them. How will opera touch them if they hardly understand the language it speaks? How does one know what the story means? Is research necessary before watching opera? Research is certainly not appealing to a teen, who is already submerged in academics.

A more laidback kind of entertainment will definitely be more preferable to a teen. Demi Lovato, an American pop singer, sings a few of her songs in Spanish and in other languages, yet she still connects with audiences, even those who do not speak the songs’ languages. Opera can appeal to teenagers if it finds that same spark that catches the younger generation just like most movie musicals manage to do.

To understand opera, I searched for La Traviata on the net to look for that connection, and what I found surprised me. I found out that La Traviata is an engaging, even amusing story. The plot revolves around a stunning but doomed courtesan named Violetta Valéry, who one day meets a man named Alfredo Germont. Alfredo, for quite a while, has been eyeing Violetta, and as soon as he gets a chance to talk to her, he finds a way to touch her heart. Falling helplessly in love with Alfredo, Violetta leaves her former life to live with her love.

Months pass and life is going well for the happy couple, until Giorgio Germont, the father of Alfredo, speaks to Violetta, demanding that she end her relationship with his son because of her unsavory reputation. A reputation that threatens his daughter’s engagement.

Baffled and reluctant at the idea of breaking off with Alfredo, Violetta agrees to comply why Giorgio’s demands.
Angry at Violetta’s decision, Alfredo asks her if she loves someone else. In distress, she looks him in the eye and makes a false admission. Alfredo, filled with rage, calls out people to witness him humiliate and denounce her. Unable to take it all in, Violetta faints.

Giorgio, who knows everything, confronts his son, rebukes his behavior and admits to him the sacrifice Violetta has done for his sister and their family. Back home, Violetta receives news from Dr. Grenvil that she will not live long because her tuberculosis that has worsened. Later, when she is alone, she reads a letter she has received from Giorgio informing her that Alfredo is on his way to ask for pardon, but Violetta senses it just might be too late.

Upon Alfredo’s arrival, the lovers are reunited, but time is running. Violetta dies in Alfredo’s arms.

La Traviata is based on a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, La dame aux camélias (1852). It was supposed to follow the contemporary setting found in the play of Dumas. However, Piave and Verdi could not do so because of the authorities at La Fenice, who asserted that it should be set in year of 1700. It was only in 1880 when the wishes of the two were granted to have their opera in a more modern-day setting.

La Traviata is now a timeless classic and known as one of the world’s most popular operas, ranking second to Mozart’s The Magic Flute. For La Traviata, it was not at all that easy to attain popularity. When La Traviata made its debut, the opera was said to have failed until a year later.

The CCP production of La Traviata, which originally was entitled Violetta after the leading character, was directed by Floy Quintos with set and costume design by Eric Cruz.

The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra provided live orchestral music under Professor Jae Joon Lee, while singers from the University of Santo Tomas rendered choral support.

The main cast was divided into two groups — Korean and Filipino. Portraying Violetta Valéry was Korean soprano Yun-Kyoung Yi and Filipina soprano Rachelle Gerodias. Alfredo Germont was portrayed by Korean baritone Daesan No and Filipino bass baritone Andrew Fernando. For Giorgio Germont was Korean tenor JaeWook Lee and Filipino-American tenor Arthur Espiritu.

The story of La Traviata pulls at every person’s heart regardless of the language barrier. From the common threads of love and sorrow that I gleaned from La Traviata, I have learned to open my eyes to stories from other cultures and can even go so far as to say that I am definitely looking forward to CCP’s next opera production, The Phantom of the Opera, on Aug. 25, 26 and 31.

To the youngsters out there, this is another love story that will echo the same aching feelings of love and sorrow that we can all relate to. Love, after all, knows no language and overcomes cultural barriers.

For more information, call the CCP box office at 832-1125 or 832-3701 loc. 1409, or visit CCP’s Web site at

Talking, Obsolete? By Sary Valenzuela

by Sary Valenzuela
(Manila, Philippines)

Talking, Obsolete?
By Sary Valenzuela

It hit me during one of our family’s traditional Sunday lunches. After my cousins and I had eaten and gathered in the living room, the first thing that everyone did, as if on cue, was to pull out their respective cellphones or iPods. I found this scenario quite sad. What once used to be a noisy family affair teeming with laughter and foolish games had been replaced by a silent assembly of people who were physically, but not mentally present.

The dawn of astounding technological advances and craze for everything Apple spawned this not-so-uncommon problem. Parents have been increasingly complaining about how their kids, with particular attention to teens, hardly ever spend quality time with them anymore.

According to the Summary of Nationwide Findings submitted by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication to UNICEF, two out of five children have at least one computer in their homes. An average Internet user spends at least 4.8 hours a day on the Internet for sending/receiving e-mail messages (89%), connecting with friends (88%), participating in networks (88%), and doing schoolwork (83%). When they take time off from their computers, they switch to gadgets with Wi-Fi connectivity, which allow them to stay online 24/7. In between school and other social events, it’s unsurprisingly difficult to squeeze in enough time for some good old-fashioned talking.

Alarming statistics can validate these parental complaints. As said by BuddeCom and a recent study released by the Nielsen Company, 1.8 billion texts are sent out everyday in the Philippines and kids aged 13 to 17 send approximately twice as many texts than any other age group. Though extreme, the consumption of technology has undoubtedly improved people’s lives to some extent.

The widely available information on the World Wide Web makes international news accessible instantly, and programs like Skype connect people with overseas relatives, who would normally see each other just once or twice a year without it. However, these benefits come at a tall price: A shocking culture that’s a far cry from the one 10 years ago.

When I was five, I was out and running in the playground. Now, my three-year-old cousin spends his day playing Angry Birds on his iPad. Instead of noses buried in printed books, children opt to read off PDFs and eBooks. With Instagram and Facebook, developing photos has become an obsolete practice, which has pushed Kodak, the century-old pioneer in photography, into bankruptcy. Though languishing in poverty, many marginalized people still prefer to spend what little money they have on technology than on basic commodities. To quote a line from the movie, The Social Network, “They Bosnia have no roads, but they have Facebook.”

Why take the trouble to go to a mall when you can shop online and have it delivered to you? Why look up a word in the dictionary when Wikipedia can tell you the definition, history, and even demonstrate its pronunciation?

In the same way, why talk when you can tweet? Why socialize when you can text?

It’s not about removing or banning technology— just moderating it. As our parents always say, too much of anything is bad, and online presence is not an exception. It’s imperative that this issue be addressed lest we find ourselves explaining this foreign concept of communication to our grandchildren 40 years from now. “Back in our day, we used to talk. You know, like, opening our mouths and sounds would come out…”

To Toronto pronto!

by Dinah S. Ventura
(Manila, Philippines)

After the holiday season rush, many of us are already thinking of the summer months ahead. One destination worth exploring is Ontario’s provincial capital, Toronto, which is described by some of its long-time denizens as “laid-back New York.”

Toronto in spring may still be “cold” for tropical dwellers, but could be considered “warmer” than wintery December, which was when we recently ventured into the Canadian east coast.
The weather definitely called for layering, and out came our coats, scarves, gloves, hats and boots. While dressing so differently from our usual gear in Manila was an adventure in itself, packing these in (hopefully one suitcase) for a week’s stay was more of a challenge.

The secret to weathering winter travel is to bring comfortable footwear for all the walking one will no doubt do and, in the case of Toronto’s erratic temperatures, layering. In other words, thermals are advisable, warm but lightweight clothes, a sweater if it is particularly cold and a coat or jacket that can double as rain gear. Make sure you have gloves or mittens, a scarf and a cap or hat for the outdoors. Winter in Toronto brings some rain, some snow and some wind, which could render your usual moisturizer useless. Needless to say, it is also best to be armed with lip balm and a thick lotion or moisturizer for those freezing days.

It is easy enough to research the weather forecast for the dates you are planning to visit, then pack accordingly. In early December, when we were there, temperatures ranged from a low of -5 degrees Celsius to 10 degrees Celsius. We saw the first signs of winter with a light snowfall on our last day, and also experienced some showers while out in the wineries. The winter months last till February.

City in a jiffy
Spring and summer would be the best time to explore this city of diverse offerings. Described as “Canada’s largest city and financial center,” Toronto offers a slew of attractions — from the “modern to the historical and the cultural to the commercial,” says — that could pack a traveler’s itinerary for weeks. It is easy enough to navigate, with distinctive clusters and modes of transportation like the subway, buses and the streetcar.

Among the must-see tourist attractions in the city is the Canadian National Tower (CN Tower). This famous landmark is a communications and observation tower in downtown Toronto, which was built in 1976. It is currently the “fifth tallest free-standing structure on land and in the world and the third tallest free-standing tower,” information materials reveal. At 1,815 feet (553 meters), the tower is visible almost anywhere from the city on a clear day. One can imagine the breathtaking views from there, especially for those dining in one of the CN Tower’s three restaurants, the revolving 360 Restaurant, an award-winning dining destination. Other must-see stops while in the Tower is the World’s Highest Wine Cellar, the Glass FLoor, SkyPod, Himalamazon motion theater ride, Legends of Flight 3D theater or the Edge Walk, dubbed as “the world’s highest ‘hands-free’ walk at 356 m/1,168 ft (116 stories) above ground.”

While roving the city, one should not miss pausing (and posing) by some special landmarks. These include the Old and New City Hall, which illustrates Toronto’s mix of architectural influences; the Financial District (Yonge, York and Bay Streets); Queen’s Park; Ontario Legislative Building; University of Toronto; the Casa Loma, the former estate and “architectural dream” and “downfall” of businessman Sir Henry Pellatt, which is now often used as venue for grand events; the historical Distillery District, which is where you go for the arts and bar scene; and the Lower Entertainment District on King St., where all the theaters, the TIFF Bell Light House and Rogers Centre can be found.

Locals take pride in the fact that Toronto’s theater scene is as vibrant as some of the world’s major theater capitals. On the week of our visit, War Horse was on stage at the Princess of Wales Theatre. The play’s remarkable, heart-wrenching story and simply amazing life-sized puppets that brought “breathing, galloping, charging horses to life,” as described in the theatre bill, had been opening to full houses for quite some time already. was lucky enough to have some good friends take me to see it on a free day. Most of the theaters in the Entertainment District are owned by Ed Mirvish. Alan and Rosella, avid theater-goers, told me over brunch that many plays premiere in Toronto before they hit Broadway.

Their advice? When in Toronto, make sure to do the following: catch a play or musical at the Entertainment District; experience the night life at the strictly pedestrian-only Distillery District, where bars and restaurants, galleries and wellness cetners abound and festivals are held year-round; ascend the CN Tower and gawk at the view; do some shopping at Chinatown on Spadina St., where you may even chance upon some lanzones or atis from Southeast Asia; have something warm and comforting at Canada’s coffee chain Tim Horton’s (and don’t forget to say “Double double” when ordering brewed coffee so you can taste the way they like their coffee); explore Yorkville, their upscale locale full of quaint shops and restaurants where it is said celebrities like to hang out; visit the Royal Ontario Museum, with its “the bizarre, jagged glass exterior;” and take the ferry to the lakeside destination Centre Island (also called Toronto Island) in the heart of Toronto, where an amusement park and dining destinations are some of the places to enjoy.

In Toronto, there are shopping options for every budget and inclination. Eaton Mall is a popular hub that houses many international and local brands. Some Canadian brands to take note of are Roots, Lululemon and Aritzia. Serious shoppers will want to know where the outlet mall Vaughn Mills is located, as well as the upscale Yorkdale, the largest mall Square One, as well as the supermarkets Loblaw’s, Sobey’s and Longo’s.

If you want to bring home some of Canada’s finest, your list should include the following: Tim Horton coffee grinds, cappuccino or chocolate drink mixes; maple syrup; ice wine and perhaps some cheeses and packaged crisps or cookies from the must-visit St. Lawrence Market.

Comprised of three historic buildings, St. Lawrence Market is distinguished as “the best in the world,” according to our tour guide, and by Food & Wine magazine as “one of the world’s top 25 markets.” One will see locals and tourists enjoying a quick lunch on fresh-baked goods on any given day. It also houses “an antique market, a food market and other public space.”

Wineries and waterfalls
A trip to Ontario will not be complete without a day tour of some of Canada’s best wineries on the way to Niagara Falls.

Along the way, we passed a number of tourist sights — Floral Clock, Brock Monument, Whirlpool Rapids and “the world’s smallest chapel” that people actually use, the Living Water Wayside Chapel. We also drove by the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, a quaint and picturesque stop that houses a year-round Christmas store, weather permitting.

With or without a tour guide, one can visit the wineries on the way to Niagara Falls. We stopped at the Jackson Triggs Winery and trudged on muddy ground to view the vines and learn how ice wines are made. We took a brief wine tasting course with our winery guide, and came out happily lugging a bottle or three of the famous ice wines.

Lunch was at the famous Iniskillin Winery, which sated our appetite for good food, crisp wines and conversation. At this winery, we learned some more about the way the grapes used for ice wine are harvested only in the dead of winter.

Capping off this day was the majestic Niagara Falls. Located on the Niagara River, the famed natural wonder has a vertical drop of more than 165 feet. The Niagara Falls is actually the collective name for three waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. These waterfalls “straddle the international border” between Ontario and the US state of New York. They are located, according to tourist information, “17 miles (27km) north-northwest of Buffalo, new York and 75 miles (121 km) south-southeast of Toronto, between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York.” In fact, New York is visible from the other side of the falls.

Part two: To Toronto pronto!

by Dinah S. Ventura
(Manila, Philippines)

Published in the Daily Tribune Life January 14, 2013

To ‘higher altitudes’
With all these and more to look forward to in a visit to Toronto, all Filipinos and not just Canadian citizens with Filipino roots living in Toronto should be gratified to hear about the new Philippine Airlines (PAL) thrice-weekly, non-stop Manila-Toronto flight route to the city.

“Fifteen hours direct from Manila is a significant cut from the usual 22 hours it takes to get home every time we visit the Philippines,” some sources who had migrated to Canada in the 1990s told The Daily Tribune last December.
Indeed, the convenience this new direct route affords travelers to the Canadian east coast is priceless. Even so, PAL offers quite an attractive package for travelers to and from Canada with its brand new aircraft, impeccable service and other comforts that matter greatly to long-haul travelers.

The flag carrier, which had its inaugural flight to the Canadian east coast using its brand new Boeing 777-300 ER (Extended Range) last Nov. 30, 2012, further revealed plans to increase flights to Toronto to as many as 14 a week.

“Through PAL’s direct service, we want to showcase the exciting opportunities between Manila and Toronto in terms of tourism, culture and trade relations,” said PAL vice president for marketing support Felix Cruz.

At a press conference on Dec. 3, PAL officials expressed delight at the positive response the route had thus far received from consumers. Cruz described the response as “very overwhelming.”

Philippine tourism and transport officials, who joined the PAL executives in said media briefing, were also optimistic about the ongoing expansion plans of Asia’s first carrier. Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz of the Department of Tourism (DoT) said, “The tourism industry is the fourth largest dollar earner for the country (after export, remittances and BPOs).”

After Toronto, Cruz revealed that PAL plans to fly to Darwin, Australia this year. Other than the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, PAL will have more direct routes to major cities of the world, including New York, London, Frankfurt, Paris and Rome.

“Developing new markets through route expansion, fleet modernization (with 65 new Airbus planes on order) and customer service enhancements are part of the growth strategy outlined by PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang,” Cruz is cited in a PAL statement.

“PAL is committed to serve Filipinos worldwide and to bring to the Philippines, a country of 90 million, closer to the rest of the world,” Cruz further said.

According to data provided by PAL, Filipino-Canadians are among the largest visitor groups to the Philippines, accounting for close to 120,000 arrivals in 2011. For the first eight months of 2012, the number of returning Filipinos or balikbayans from Canada had already reached 81,093.

PAL’s new long-range Boeing 777-300 ER, which seats 42 in Mabuhay Class (business) and 328 in Fiesta class (economy), is a fuel-efficient, wide body jet that features ergonomically designed Recaro seats with individual inflight entertainment systems. Its two GE 90-11BL engines — the largest and most powerful in the world, can easily cover the 13,230 kilometers between the two cities nonstop.

At the Paskuhan Village held at the Metro Toronto Convention Center, PAL offered promo rates for round-trip Toronto to Manila all-in fares at C$1,362.16 for Fiesta Class and C$5,372.16 for Mabuhay Class. Selling period is until Jan. 31, 2013 for outbound Toronto travel period from Dec. 31, 2012 to Many 24, 2013 and Aug. 15 to Nov. 30, 2013.

For more information, log on to, call 1-800-435-9725 (1-800-I-FLY-PAL) or contact your travel agent.

Ben Ten Returns: Part 1 – An interview with Man-of-Action guys Joe Kelly and Steve Seagle

by Gabrielle Borromeo
(Manila, Philippines)

Published in the Daily Tribune Life
October 12, 2012

Just like all little boys, cartoon character Ben Tennyson, the star of Cartoon Network’s successful TV series Ben Ten, becomes a teenager and leaves his childhood behind.
Now 16, Ben Ten is back for an all-new series, Ben 10: Omniverse, which began airing in the Philippines last Sept. 28. The new episodes premiere every Sunday at 10 a.m. on Cartoon Network.

Six years ago, Ben at 10, acquired a watch-like alien device called the Omnitrix that gave him access to shift into different alien creatures to save the world. From day to day and even up until Ben turned 16, living the life of a normal boy and at the same time fighting against the evil was just his usual routine.

Now that he is older and stronger, Ben will still be saving the world, but without the constant company of Gwen and Kevin anymore. Instead, Rook Blonko, an alien, is a new addition to the slate of characters. Rook will be Ben’s newest partner. Rook, who lacks field experience especially on Earth, is a highly skilled sidekick at Ben’s beck and call.

As for the famous Grandpa Max Tennyson, he will still be playing the important roles in the episodes. Grandpa Max is the all-in-one grandpa, advice giver, Earth-based Plumber unit’s commander and back-up firepower provider against the super villains yet still is one of the toughest Plumber agents around despite his age.

As Ben continues to fight for the better good, he also continues exploring the quirkier side of things, making each episode enjoyable.

New episodes call for new enemies and what a slate of enemies Ben has to contend with now! Khyber the Huntsman, an intergalactic hunter, may finally be Ben’s perfect villain match. He is often seen with his highly-trained alien hunting “dog” who wears a Predatrix responsible for making one who wears it one of the galaxy’s ten deadliest predators!

Aside from Ben growing up, there will be Ben Ten episodes that will showcase never-before-seen adventures of young Ben, young Gwen and Grandpa Max. They will be facing Malware, a wicked Galvanic Mechamorph, who destroys anything he touches. Malware was present in the past and will once again be present in the now — but even more dangerous! Will Ben survive this? Well, with more maturity and power, Ben will find himself trusting his own instincts, relying on his new partner Rook and — hoping for the best!

To know more about Ben Ten and find out what’s new, I had a personal phone-interview with the awesome Man-of-Action guys Joe Kelly and Steve Seagle.

The first few talks began with Joe Kelly.

Gabrielle Borromeo (GB): Hi, Joe! Why do you think Ben Ten is a cartoon that kids, especially boys, enjoy?

Joe Kelly (JK): I think that the reason kids love Ben Ten is primarily the character of Ben. I think that Ben because he is so flawed — he makes mistakes even though he has this incredible power and he has all these great aliens that he can turn into and that plays in the fantasies all kids have. He makes mistakes and he’s not perfect. I mean he screws up and sometimes he even uses his powers for things that aren’t exactly the most honest and honorable motivations you know.

He does things that kids understand so he’s not a super squeaky clean superhero like Superman. So he’s very relatable to kids. Then on top of that, we have all these incredible aliens, all these great villains. So it’s a show that has endless possibilities, which was shown from young Ben to 15-year-old Ben to even showing Ben Ten Thousand to even all the different alienations of Ben.

GB: Now Ben Ten is 16 years old. Is he going to get any older or will this be the last age he will be in the show?

JK, laughing: I think that part of what makes Ben fun is that we have jumped around. We’ve seen him pose as a 10-year-old and as a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, and so I think we’ll keep various incarnations with Ben throughout the series. But one of the cool things about Ben Ten Omniverse is that we get to see classic Ben and older Ben throughout the series, which we are very excited about — I can’t say how, but we get to see them both.

Steve Seagle arrives to answer some of the questions himself.

GB: Hi Steve, I have a 12-year-old brother. He’s the one who watches Ben Ten a lot and he asked me why are they (some of the characters in Ben Ten) are called plumbers? What’s the connection to the series?

Laughing as well, Steve Seagle (SS) replies: We thought of plumbers a very long time ago; we liked very much the idea that your pipes are behind your walls, they’re hidden, but they are always there doing important things. And when you have a plug in your pipe, you have to get to the bottom of it. So they’re kind of like mystery solvers, these plumbers. So we thought it’s funny that the most important men in the country, in the universe actually, have this very common name and a common job, but a very important job. That without it the whole system would come to a stop.

Ben Ten Returns: Part 2 – An interview with Man-of-Action guys Joe Kelly and Steve Seagle

by Gabrielle Borromeo
(Manila, Philippines)

GB: Okay, so going back, how does Ben the character in the series mature or change now that he’s 16 years old?

JK: He’s gotten more responsibility as he’s gotten older. And you know he’s becoming in charge of the plumbers and the sort of taking the mantle’s from grandpa and becoming an agent himself. So even if he knows he’s gotten more responsibilities he’s still the same Ben and especially when you see him in Omniverse, his world has gotten very alien heavy and very big. But he’s still a kid trying to figure things out so what we’re going to see is definitely a new sense of fun and bounciness in the series as Ben tries to deal with these new challenges.

GB: Ten years from now, do you think Ben Ten will still be the cartoon children would watch?

SS: You know, what’s interesting is it’s already been on for several years. And in America, we’ve met kids that watched it when they we’re very young, when it was first shown. Now they’re teenagers and they come back to us and tell us they’re still watching it now. So I think it’s the kind of show that can bring kids with it even as they become teenagers and we also have a lot of adults too.

GB: What are your ideas and thoughts—your future plans—for the series? What else is going to happen?

JK: In Omniverse there are a lot of aliens that have come to live; it’s sort of like a safe haven for aliens on earth. And Ben is stuck in the middle of that hometown and taking on his job as a plumber. But he’s sort of on his own in Omniverse and has to deal with the challenges of living day to day with all these crazy alien neighbors and problems of the universe dropping on his doorstep. I don’t know if you’ve seen them, but there have been some previews of some of the new characters. There’s a bunch of new characters for the show including his sidekick who starts to work with Ben called Rook. He’s very, very cool.

GB: Is he the same age as Ben?

JK: Well, he’s an alien sidekick so he’s age is indeterminate.

GB: So aside from the good-versus-evil theme, what set of values did the series purposely focus on to make it a wholesome kind of entertainment for kids?

SS: The Man-of-Action guys believe in a couple of things for all the kids show that we work on. One of them is identification, like we like very much that a kid looks at the show and they see part of themselves in our characters; and then the other one is transformation which is the idea that whatever you are now however powerful you feel there’s a way for you to transform and be something more powerful; a bigger better you in a lot of ways. And sometimes it takes the literal form of super powers but we also see in characters like Gwen who’s very smart so the powers don’t always have to be supers. Sometimes the powers are just things that people have.

JK: Yeah, we definitely want kids to look up to our characters and not just have a great time and go on a good adventure, but by the end of it feel good about themselves as well. So what they see in themselves, hopefully they see in the characters.

GB: Why aliens, why not other super creatures?

SS: When we actually first created Ben Ten, the first version that we did for Cartoon Network had super heroes from other dimensions and just overtime the ideas of monsters just seemed more fun and then we changed that to alien beings because of the mythology with the plumbers and the galaxy spanning adventure of it all. It all seemed like a lot of fun, we still could have the super power aspect to the idea of alien beings so I think that’s why it changed the way it did.

GB: Now that he’s growing up will Ben be facing the usual teenage issues? Will Cartoon Network give advice through cartoons like what a child should do when a child’s in-love or heartbroken and the alike as Ben might probably go through those teenage issues?

JK: Right, right, it’s funny there are certain subjects that you know we feel that are appropriate to go into in a kids’ show and some subjects that we want to stay away from. In general we really want Ben to be fun and an aspiration and a character that kids wanna be. So the kinda lessons that sort of Ben learns or experiences—they’re more general kind of life lessons about how to deal with responsibilities, and how to work with people and how to work with others and things like that. They may not be specific like puberty issues or falling in love. But we have an incredible writing team. They came up with incredible ideas for stories and that’s something that fans do wanna see. They wanna see if Ben is gonna be a little bit older, how is he gonna deal with some of the problems of being a teenager? So I think there will be some of that stuff sprinkled in. And also since again Omniverse has this wonderful dimension that we get to see classic ten year old Ben as well as teenage Ben — there’s a lot of possibilities for stories and exchange of ideas sort of between generations.

GB: Oh cool! Anyway, for my next question: why and how is Gwen related to aliens?

After another hearty laugh, Joe Kelly says: That is going into a deeper kind of context, but basically there is alien DNA that was introduced into her family line so that’s how she has her alien powers. And that has to do with you know, the long history of the plumbers and who they deal with and how they’ve dealt with aliens throughout history. So alien DNA is how basically she has her powers.

GB: What can fans look forward to in the show?

JK: Well we’re gonna have a ton of new aliens, there’s a whole new whoop to the show that’s very high energy a lot of fun and there’s a lot of comedy. You know some of the criticisms in Ben Ten and its alien force got a little bit dark and Cartoon Network has certainly heard that. And we all want it to be fun, you know we love Ben and we love high adventure. So I think you’ll see a lot of comedy, but still you’ll see a wide variety of new aliens and new villains. So also, the show certainly to me has the feel of excitement and the “what’s going to happen next?” and being sort of amazed with every episode that there’s a new hidden world that you knew nothing about. So Omniverse, you know it’s a pretty big title and there’s lot of big things happening so I think fans are going to be very, very, pleased with this new show.

GB: Ben Ten is still using the Omnitrix, is there an age where he has to stop using it?

JK: We’ve seen future episodes with Ben — Ben Ten Thousand — as we like to call him as an adult, and where he still has an Omnitrix or an Ultimatrix so I think that Ben will have that for as long as they’ll let us make cartoons.

GB: Oh okay that’s cool! Since Ben Tennyson is already a 16-year-old in this new series, would you say that the show is now skewed toward teenagers as well?

JK: You know, like Steve said before, Ben has been on for many years. So we’ve had fans throughout the entire series, some kids who started watching when they were younger now are teenagers and they still watch the show which is wonderful. But the feel of the show also is meant to get new viewers as well. Like I said before, you’re gonna get to see in Omniverse classic Ben, as well as older Ben — you get to see both. It’s really exciting for Ben Ten fans old and new.
GB: So why is Gwen not going to be part of the main cast anymore?

JK: Gwen and Kevin are temporarily gone, but they are certainly gonna be showing up in the series. I think the idea is to focus a little bit again on Ben. Get the footing back on our main character, even though we love Gwen and we love Kevin. But they’re not very far away, they’re gonna be back. Some people say they think they’re not going to be in the show at all but that’s definitely not the case.

GB: So for my last question, one day will Ben Ten become an upcoming blockbuster movie that people will be awaiting like The Avengers, The Amazing Spiderman and the like?

SS: Well, we certainly hope so. We would love to see Ben Ten hit the big screen and bring a live action version. You know, in the past we had to do a live action TV special, but we would absolutely love to see it as a film. So we’re hoping that that is going to happen.