Chele Gonzalez is no stranger to the Zee Lifestyle crowd.
Last year, the talented Spaniard was the guest chef at the Bohol Break, the kick-off festivities for this publication’s 20th year anniversary. While the highlight of that event was a fashion show featuring the latest collections of Jun Escario and Mia Arcenas, the food was equally memorable, with people singing praises about the Wagyu ribs and the scallops with black ink risotto.
When we heard that Chef Chele was working with Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan to offer a unique dining experience in Cebu, we couldn’t resist hopping on a plane for an exclusive preview. The patience in dealing with a three-hour delayed flight and Manila traffic paid off when we finally stepped into the cool industrial-chic interiors of VASK Tapas Room in BGC.
Decked in his chef whites, Chef Chele was all smiles and waved off our profuse apologies for our tardiness. “The Spanish eat late!” he exclaims, bidding us to settle in our seats. Assuming correctly that we were starving, Chef Chele wastes no time in serving us our individual plated amuse bouche alongside a glass of champagne. He gestures a preferred eating order—Crispy Oysters with Spicy Paprika Mayonnaise and Cilantro first, followed by the Jamon and Parmesan Mousse Pinxto, and ending with the Croqueta de Txipiron, a black ink squid Spanish croqueta. Those three small bites alone signaled that we were definitely in for an extraordinary dinner.
It’s hard to imagine anything topping those appetizers, but we were quickly proven wrong with the arrival of the Wagyu Carpaccio with Parmesan Ice Cream and Pine Nuts, which was deemed an instant favorite among the Cebu guests. The thin slices of Wagyu beautifully offset the burst of flavor from the ice cream and the texture of the nuts. Next came a series of other appetizers, each of them impressive enough to make everyone look forward to Chef Chele’s new dining concept in Cebu.
“It’s going to be part of Crimson’s new expansion,” shares Crimson Resort & Spa’s PR & Marcom Manager Mia Mae Sy over servings of Vieras Gratinadas and Pulpo a la Gallega, the latter of which being a grilled and smoked octopus with a potato emulsion and crispy paprika that everyone will say was their favorite dish at the end of the evening. For the past few years, the resort has been undergoing extensive renovations that sees the addition of a new swimming pool and a new Crimzone (the current kid activity center will be converted into a café). Chef Chele’s new restaurant, to be called Ñ, will replace Tempo.
With a culinary degree from Arxanda, Bilbao and an extensive career working in some of the world’s most respected restaurants, it’s easy to see how Chef Chele quickly propelled VASK Tapas Room into a cool 39th ranking among Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2016. It takes serious skill to create authentic Spanish cuisine with a modern twist, and yet he does so quite impressively that Cebu should definitely be excited he’s choosing the Queen City as his next home.
Paired with a glass of chilled white wine, the ‘Lechon’ Tacos were served. Tender Carnitas were mixed with Mango Salsa Jalapeño Frijoles Mousse and Sour Cream, and while it was good as it is, we’re interested to see his take on it with Cebu lechon—a suggestion Chef Chele took with enthusiasm. The 62’C Organic Egg, Porcini Mash, Foie Gras, Truffle and Crispy Jamon Iberico was also a hit among the guests. Breaking the poached egg and having the yolk mixed with the red wine sauce is a unique sensory experience, with its interesting flavors and textures.
“You aren’t even at the main courses yet!” Chef Chele laughs amid our proclamations that we were getting full. This was met with almost-comical flabbergasted stares, prompting the man of the hour to reassure us that we only had a few more dishes to go, and most of them were for sharing. Red wine was poured to go with our Rabo al Vino Tinto, which was a slow-cooked oxtail with red wine and potatoes. We also had the Pescado con Refrito de Ajos, grilled catch-of-the-day with garlic, sherry vinegar and potato; and the Foie and Porcini Risotto. Despite our initial claims, we couldn’t help but go back for seconds anyway—the oxtail was amazingly tender, and the risotto heavenly.
Considering how much we’ve had to eat, it’s amazing that we could even still make room for dessert. As it is, we couldn’t resist a helping of Torrija, brioche dipped in milk with Anise ice cream. You’d think that at this point we’d be overwhelmed with all the flavors, but the delicate sweetness of that dessert was just what we needed to end the night.
The dining scene in Cebu has seen so much development in the recent years. Existing establishments have reinvented themselves, while new concepts have been introduced—all to adapt to a more sophisticated palate. Ñ is set to be a dazzling addition to the scene, and with everything we’ve tasted so far (all dishes mentioned above will be offered in Cebu), all we can say is it’s going to be a game changer.
Ñ will open at Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan later this year.
PANDEMIC DIARIES: Twelve Months Later
Photos taken by Pablo Quiza around Cebu City during the months of March, April and May 202
AS WE APPROACH ONE YEAR under pandemic times, we look back at March 2020 with fascination. And awe. We had 12 months of lockdown and survived the so called new normal. We lived with masks and alcohol even today. Carless roads and dark malls. Those were the early days of March, April and May.
It stretched to October and past Christmas. No Sinulog. Virtual parties on Zoom and virtual mass on You Tube and FB Live. We debated on the best meds to take if we get sick and whether to wear masks (please do!). We scampered for face shields and anti-viral sprays. Vitamins C and D and zinc. Later, we survived being swabbed and we learned the difference between a PCR and an anti-gene test. The latter cost less.
We dreaded the declarations of IATF mandated from Manila. And we got mad at the police chief who had a birthday party while his people were busy locking up everyone violating the lockdown. Most horrifying of all, we needed to produce IDs! Are you a resident of Barangay Lahug or Banilad? Are you employed and why are you still working? Everyone suffered thru endless checkpoints. Most sad of all are those using motorbikes, they seem to get the raw end of the deal since those with cars are not as scrutinized. We managed to trick the system by putting a big handwritten note in front of the car: COMPANY CAR, and zipped tru the police desks in the middle of the road. Don’t even think of travelling, by plane, boat or bus. The collection of the required documents is enough for one to get exposed to Covid.
We learned to shop online, order groceries and necessities thru delivery. We slowly moved towards cashless payments. Gcash and banks like Union Bank and China Bank with friendly apps are heroes for making life easy for most of us to spend what little cash we have to spend on Lazada or pay the VECO bill. Oh and we binged on K dramas on Netflix and You Tube, kamsaminada.
As 2021 enters, there are some good news. For those obsessed with news, you already know that 7,000 vaccines arrived last March 2 in Cebu, with more expected in the next few weeks. The death rate is not as high among those who caught this pesky virus, which tells us that doctors in the hospitals have some proven expertise in dealing with Covid. More cures should be in the horizon.
Meanwhile, lets continue dreaming of the day when we can cross borders again, even if its just Bohol or Boracay, Bangkok or Hong Kong. Ready those luggages and bags bought during the 3/3 sale in Shopee in preparation for the day when we can take the ferry or the plane for new adventures.
Keep Calm by Knowing These Myths About COVID-19
by Chrissy Grey Resaba
In these times of pandemic, hysteria and panic have taken over the world and nonchalance is a word not to be manifested for today. Worry and fear are enveloping around Cebu with enough evidence of the actions taken by the public – the hoarding of necessities and goods.
Cebu – both the city and the province – is working towards making the island a safe haven from the pandemic caused by the Novel Coronavirus. Entry points of both ports – aerial and naval – are now closed. Curfew hours are being implemented to secure that no one is outside during the hours indicated. Business and academic sectors shifted their modes to work-from-home and online classes. Medical professionals have been on the frontlines battling against the proliferation of COVID-19.
It is quite eerie to look at the main streets of the Queen City of the South having few crowds to none. The hustle and bustle of the metropolis has gone into an empty space. The actions taken by the government and the Republic of the Philippines are for better or for worse; it is only for the good of the public.
Cebu has been under the state of community quarantine and certain measures were implemented to ensure the public’s safety and well-being. However, there are still myths making rounds in social media and the public in general about the ways to avoid COVID-19. These myths are not supported by scientific evidence. The scattering of fake news worsens the situation instead.
Here are some myths about the Novel Coronavirus:
1. Hot and cold weather
Contrary to popular belief, the COVID-19 virus will never die when exposed to hot or cold weather. This type of coronavirus can be transmitted in all areas regardless of the weather.
2. Drinking water
It is necessary to hydrate ourselves and to moisturize the throats but there is no scientific evidence that consuming volumes of water can flush out the virus.
Clear enough from the name of the medicine, antibiotic never kills the virus but bacteria instead. It is not advisable to take antibiotics to prevent COVID-19.
4. Eating banana
There is a video circulating in social media about the banana fruit that miraculously kills the COVID-19 virus. However, if one should be keen enough to examine the video, it is a hoax. To date, there are no approved treatments for the virus. Eating a banana and other fruits can boost the immune system instead but not kill the COVID-19 virus.
Practicing proper hygiene such as regular hand washing with soap and water remains to be an effective way of preventing infection since soap dissolves the structure of the virus. The public should not be very complacent enough to rely on hand washing alone. Maintaining social distance, staying at home, having proper coughing or sneezing etiquette, and putting oneself in self-quarantine if one traveled from outside Cebu or the country are some of the best ways to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
La Liga Henerales: Shaping History Awareness Back Again in Cebu
La Liga Henerales is a community of young talents passionately promotes historical awareness through periodic costumes carefully researched for its authenticity and accuracy and promoted as well in events and schools.
Only few individuals before were into pursuit in this historical awareness project until the age of communication where internet is convenient in the palm of our hands through our gadgets. New information travel fast and data is retrievable, yet also possess a disadvantage with the plethora of different social media platforms carried by various makers as well. In a daily basis, historical backgrounds are unearthed making its trend until now as new discoveries are released, but the idea of these information being shown and shared is as close as not valuing or commemorating to its sources leaving this information just a trend.
There is a certain community of Cebuanos that are taking a quest to rewrite and restructure what was in the past, filling the gaps in facts with further research of variable sources that are made debatable but sticks to it true cause, to unveil the truths of our heritage and our origins, as Cebuanos and as Filipinos as well.
La Liga Henerales is a Cebu-based, non-profit organization composed of a group of talented, committed and respectable individuals from different walks of life, schools and profession whose primary aim is to promote both, Cebuano and filipino culture and heritage that was depicted before in pre-colonial and colonial eras via re-enactment with costumes vested in proper research and investigation to achieve authenticity. They also push their cause on schools and other social gatherings promoting and spreading awareness about our local, and national heroes that we look up to. With these said, they also portray a closer look of the lifestyle of the past to where they perform stories, perform forgotten dances and rituals and portray their individual roles, vital in the fight of our country’s future during those challenging times, and in honor to spread awareness of the lost practices we had in those times.
Louis Kenneth Villaflor, an entrepreneur and an avid history enthusiast and costumer, founded the group on the purpose of re-educating the youth about real local and national history, he saw the opportunity to combine his favourite hobbies which is costuming and story role-playing and the process to instill the historical awareness and value among the youth and in schools, along with a group of fellow enthusiasts who shares his passion about research and history, they took it among themselves to be purposeful in the advocacy in spreading historical awareness in schools or events by wearing periodically correct costumes and sharing the stories and its value to the youth.
Behind the Garments
Meet Rodney “Pee-Wee” Senining, who has been in the fashion industry since the late 90’s, strives in concepts of avant-garde, innovation and cutting edge-fashion forward design. And also a teacher of Architecture, Fine Arts and Design of University of San Carlos, he had grown into research of books like the holy grail in the Library Resource Center and is always fascinated of the periodical times and how to preserve it; Hence, his interest had grown for the affinity of Periodical Costumes and Sustainable Fashion.
Being part of the group La Liga Henerales, he was tasked to instantly be their mentor for the young talents and as the organization is still new and developing with limited funds, resourcefulness and research were done to come up with a good output of photo shoot and was quite proud of it and still promise on the next editions of pieces to be more historically accurate. Even as teacher for Fashion Design in SAFAD, his expertise comes hand in hand with the members as he helps them do research as well. His passion and interest somehow led him with enough knowledge to key the insights of the significant periods and historical backgrounds of it.
Historical Awareness in Cebu
The strength and progress of a country is anchored on how well they know and honor its history. The means of historical awareness in Cebu is almost non-existent among the Cebuanos, although we push forward in tourism and promote beauty through sceneries and other aspects of culture yet never commemorate deeply on historical icons such as our other local heroes, and ancient cultures as well that is almost been forgotten in an urban Cebu. Nevertheless, as long as communities’ like La Liga Henerales are now evolving in a learning state by real discovery by multiple resources, this will always reflect of how we appreciate love, patriotism and honor to our country and would look forward to progress.
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