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Why Manny Osmeña is One of the Most Inspiring People in Cebu

With all his successful business ventures, Manny Osmeña is set on leaving a legacy that might change the world.

Manny Osmeña is the only person at Skillet when we walk in, sitting at a table by the kitchen despite the fact that the sign on the door already announced that the restaurant was closed. He’d asked to meet for the late night interview at the newly opened bistro—where, in his own words, they “serve western food cooked in a Japanese way”—because he had missed dinner for another appointment. 

As we discuss his businesses, advocacies and life philosophy, he digs into the different dishes, occasionally pausing his narrations to tell us why each dish went with the others. He talks in between hearty bites, and something almost passionate is seen in the way he ate each dish, as if he genuinely enjoyed each spoonful. Certainly, Manny O ate with gusto.

Food isn’t the only thing Osmeña regards with such zest. It’s clear that his, and the rest of the Manny O Group’s endeavors, whether in business or philanthropy, are done with a lot of heart. “I’m very meticulous. I’m very obsessive,”Osmeña admits.

It must be said, though, that his love for amazing gastronomic experiences was what spurred him to create the Ibiza Beach Club brand. “I’ve been on a quest for the longest time to take dining to the next level,” he shares, continuing to describe the times he’d visited and dined in Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. Despite the exciting dishes that were often served, Osmeña always found that there was something missing. “That’s when I started Ibiza Beach Club. I said dining has to be a full experience. It has to be all the senses, without the pretense.”

“We’re selling a philosophy,” he adds. “It’s about experiencing impeccable quality in all factors, from the food, environment, ambiance, service—but still very easygoing. It’s not stiff. That’s why we call it lifestyle dining.”

Ibiza had brought a new, upbeat spirit to Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island Cebu, and will be expanding beyond its shores. The flagship outlet will soon open above the streets of Bonifacio Global City, promising to bring the laid-back but world-class experience to the capital city. There are also talks of the possibility of opening other franchises around the world, which would eventually put in the spotlight Ibiza’s most exciting offering—the unrivaled entertainment.

Featuring an in-house cast of singers and dancers who perform themed shows every night, entertainment is very much part of Ibiza’s DNA. The upcoming outlet in BGC also brings with it the opportunity to create a much larger Ibiza Performing Arts Academy, which has partnered with people from Repertory Philippines. “In the future, if someone wants to open an Ibiza Beach Club anywhere in the world, they have to hire the performers from our Academy,” he says.

Bringing Cebuano workmanship abroad isn’t something new to Osmeña. The businessman had been running SkyLogistics for the past 20 years, handling on-ground operations at the airport and being the only airline-catering provider in Cebu. The business had expanded to Manila seven years ago, with his company, SkyKitchen providing in-air meals for Philippine Airlines. “In Cebu, we cater to literally every airline because we’re the only one,” he shares. “Between Cebu and Manila, we make over 20,000 meals a day.” 

It’s certainly impressive, by any standards, but Osmeña isn’t one to rest on his laurels. Wine is a passion that he had developed during his travels, finding it so different from other spirits that seem to be drunk for the pure purpose of inebriation. “I was never the person who would go out with friends and get wasted, and so I never really drank alcohol,” he narrates. “But when I was traveling around Europe, I would be served wine, even for lunch. Wine for them is not to intoxicate them—it’s a flavor agent. I became emotionally attached to it, both good and bad, so I fell in love with it.”

Since then, Osmeña started a small collection of wine, furthering his appreciation by educating himself on what was good wine. His friends had eventually asked him to teach them about wine, when one broached the idea of producing his own. Although the idea had seemed appealing, Osmeña originally thought he had to set up his own vineyard and winery, something that sounded unfeasible—until he later realized that he could just commission a vineyard to make wine for him.

The venture has definitely paid off—despite admitting to a few years of less than stellar creations, his 2007 Bibulus has earned considerable international recognition. The re-created red Bordeaux has 21 accolades in ten countries, including being the trophy winner at the Vinalies Internationales 2013 in Paris, where it won against 1,736 other dry red wines.

It’s clear that no matter what Osmeña sets his mind on doing, he does it with pure passion and drive. His latest venture, though, is something more humanitarian and very close to his heart.

“In the past, the Manny O Group would always give to charity after a disaster, one million here, five million there,” he recalls. “But there was no sustainability. We just gave and moved on. It was Yolanda that woke me up.”

The typhoon birthed what Osmeña calls a burden in his heart, prompting him to create Hope Now Philippines. The Manny O Group partnered with Gawad Kalinga to rebuild communities that were affected by Yolanda, beginning with Bantayan Island, north of Cebu. 

Since that first community, the foundation has built communities in Leyte, Bohol and Samar. Osmeña is, in fact, heading to Manila the day after the shoot for a ceremonial turning over of checks pledged for another community in Sulu. “Last year, after President Duterte won, a movement was created with Joey Concepcion and Ramon Lopez. The movement was called Kapatid Angat Lahat, for inclusive growth,” he explains, showing a photo of the group during a Christmas party in Malacañang—the lineup featured some of the country’s top business leaders such as Teresita Sy-Coson, Manny Pangilinan and Robina Gokongwei-Pe. “I’m part of that movement. One of the things we believe is that the problem in Mindanao has to be solved, otherwise it’ll only get bigger. We decided that we needed to open our arms to our brothers and sisters in Sulu.”

The endeavor started the Save Sulu project, and Osmeña pledged to build a community there, and still there’s more work to be done. Yolanda had also brought to awareness the issues that medical volunteers experience after a disaster. Featuring refurbished Mercedes Benz trucks, the Hospital on Wheels or Gulong ng Buhay (Wheels of Life) will be a mobile medical center that volunteer doctors can use to attend to patients. 

“It took us a very long time to put together a model that is sustainable,” Osmeña admits, sharing that the unprecedented project had caused some issues and delays with the Department of Health. “Hopefully, by God’s grace, the delivery of the first will be before the end of the year.”

The Hope Now presentation says on its very first slide: It’s not all about us. This is a philosophy Osmeña has now embraced, and he believes it’s about time that other people who have been just as blessed as he is do the same. “There are people now who compete against each other—who has the better-looking car? Who is growing his business faster?” he shrugs. “It feels different, it feels good when what you talk about is how much money you give. People can feel it. They can see it.”

The change has created a more positive environment in his family, and has completely transformed the way he does business. “The Manny O philosophy is that we’re all working for a higher purpose. Many divisions of the Manny O Group now dedicate a certain percentage of the profit to give to charity. Manny O Wines, Ibiza Beach Club—25 percent is owned by the poor,” he explains. “We count ourselves very blessed. We already have what we need.”

After all, he continues, he believes that the success he has experienced throughout the years can only be credited to a divine power. “It’s no accident,” he says of the businesses he runs now, and how he had managed to pull through despite a financial crisis some years back. “The Lord could have left me, but he picked me up from my fall. He not only gave me back what I had in the beginning—he gave me a lot more.”

“Everything I have from then to now is a gift. If you ask me how I did all of this, I wouldn’t know. Often I just happened to be the right person at the right time. And what does that mean? It must be divine,” he declares. That mindset has put things in a clear perspective. “God made us all a blank canvas, and it’s up to us if we make a mess or a masterpiece.” In case you’re wondering, this is also the reason Osmeña wears all white.

He pauses in the midst of dessert. “I didn’t give you a chance to ask more questions, I just kept talking.” I agree with a laugh, but as an audience, we certainly didn’t mind. There was something genuinely touching and absolutely inspiring about his outlook on life. “Tony Meloto always said that God’s calling for me was to be the conscience of the rich,” he shares, referring to the founder of Gawad Kalinga. “The mark I want to leave is not as much of being a philanthropist, but being an instrument of philanthropy. I want them to read my words and feel guilty and be convicted, and then be enveloped by compassion.”

These days, he reiterates, this is what he wants to do. When I ask him about what’s next for the Manny O Group, his answer is refreshing and completely unique. “I’ve decided that I want to stop starting anything new,” he confides, sharing that he’s already turned down a few opportunities. “As I said, God has blessed us so much—let’s take good care of what he has given us. And I would like to devote a lot of time in helping in whatever little way I can to help in reducing the trouble in the world. That’s all.”

A businessman who had no plans of building other businesses—it’s something that’s almost unheard of, but it’s clear that Manny Osmeña is set on carving a different path. Whatever path it is, though, we know he will do it the way he eats—with genuine gusto.

 

 Photography by Nath Ybañez

People

EXCLUSIVE: Never Been Released Behind-the-Scenes photos of Zee Lifestyle’s Emerald Issue Cover Shoot

Photographer Jan Gonzales, Margie Lhuillier, June Alegrado, Kryz Uy, Mia Arcenas, Amparito Lhuillier and Alice Woolbright

We celebrate the strength and resilience of womanhood in this year’s Mother’s Day by looking back at these never been seen before behind-the-scenes shots of  Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s Emerald (20th Anniversary) Issue cover shoot featuring the “Leading Women” of Cebu.

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LEADING WOMEN

To celebrate the 20 beautiful years of Zee Lifestyle as the ultimate source of lifestyle news in Cebu, we handpicked 12 strong and stylish women of Cebu from every age group. These women show us that independently building one’s strength of character and living one’s passion knows no age. From the beginning, Zee has always been empowering women, providing the Cebuanas a platform to express their beauty and confidence, share their passions, engage in economic and political participation which yields to viewing women with equality and respect that we deserve.

photography Jan Gonzales
creative director Melo Esguerra
art director Doro Barandino
sittings editor Shari Quimbo
beauty director Romero Vergara
makeup Arnauld, Janice Barillo and Nicko dela Peña
hair Jessie Egos and Jake Arias
fashion styling Clint Potestas
production assistants Patty Taboada and Katrina Labra
locale Marco Polo Plaza Hotel Cebu

Twelve women, two sets and one afternoon. That is how the Zee Lifestyle team decided to celebrate the title’s 20th anniversary issue—with a challenge that, in some ways, is one of our biggest productions yet.

The idea came along when publisher Eva Gullas and editor-at-large Melo Esguerra were discussing a cover story that would best represent the magazine’s history. From commissioning artistic depictions on Cebu to playing with the anniversary’s emerald theme, no idea had stuck until Melo suggested putting a series of women who had already been on the cover of Zee, again on the cover all together.

Oj Hofer and Margot Osmeña

Kryz Uy

Coming up with the list of names, of course, was no small feat. Our covers from the last 20 years have included several strong personalities—from philanthropists and politicians, to actors, and names to soon watch out for, our pages have seen them all. The challenge, then, was to come up with a list of women who had been driving forces in their respective fields when they had first appeared on the cover, and remain as powerful players even today.

Amparito Lhuillier, Kryz Uy, Alice Woolbright, Margot Osmeña and June Alegrado all wearing MIRANDA KONSTANTINIDOU

Photographer Jan Gonzales and creative director Melo Esguerra

With input from editors, both past and present, we rounded up 12 women from different age groups, fields and industries, who are all strong and passionate at whatever it is they do—Amparito Lhuillier, who remains the doyenne of Cebu society as a picture of elegance and class with her continuing efforts in business and social causes; the always-stylish Marguerite Lhuillier, herself an example of sophistication in all her efforts, whether business or otherwise; Margot Osmeña, who as a Cebu City Councilor has spearheaded many urban projects directed for the betterment of living in the city; hospitality mavens June Alegrado and Alice Woolbright, who are deeply involved in the rise of their brands, Bluewater properties and Beverly Hotel, respectively; Christina Garcia Frasco, the current Lilo-an Mayor advocating impressively progressive efforts in the area; former model Fiona King, now a major player in homegrown real estate with projects like Bloq Residences; the fitness enthusiast Danessa Onglatco who has espoused wellness with the opening of Yogahub; restaurateur Carla Yeung-McKowen who is behind the city’s hottest dining outlet, The Pig & Palm; designer Mia Arcenas, whose signature resort wear and accessories are representative of Cebu’s laid back lifestyle; Kym Maitland-Smith, who juggles efforts in swimsuit design through SOLTI Activewear and is building awareness for the vegan lifestyle; and Kryz Uy, whose online presence was a strong one even before fashion blogs were on anyone’s radar.

Kymberly Maitland-Smith

Makeup Artist Romero Vergara, June Alegrado and Hair Stylist Jessie Egos

An impressive bunch, for sure. These women properly embody the characteristics that Zee Lifestyle looks for in one who makes the cover—beauty, yes, but also elegance coupled with individuality, and always a strong drive to succeed in whatever efforts they are directed.

This, it turns out, was the fitting tribute to the years Zee has been Cebu’s premier lifestyle bible, as well as a sign of the things forthcoming. Our 12 cover stars may have been on our pages before, but if their current efforts are any indication, our pages will continue to see more of them in the future. And as continuing purveyors of what Cebu has to offer, Zee Lifestyle will happily be seeing them in the years to come.

FROM LEFT Marguerite wears CARY SANTIAGO; June wears PHILIP RODRIGUEZ; Mia wears MIA ARCENAS; Kryz wears ELIZABETH HALLIE; Amparito wears MONIQUE LHUILLIER; Alice wears PHILIP RODRIGUEZ; Fiona wears VANIA ROMOFF; Margot wears PHILIP RODRIGUEZ; Danessa wears OJ HOFER; Carla wears ALICE+OLIVIA; Christina wears DINO LLOREN

(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s December 2016 Emerald Issue, “Leading Women” on pages 140-155.)

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Culture

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.

The Founder

Combining passion and education. Louis Villaflor re-enacts his way patriotism through his periodical costumes and expresses his love for Cebu and Philippines as a culture-centric country.

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

With the its senior expertise of fashion design and a teacher of the field, his passion also of history caters also in his designs as he pushes through sustainable fashion and historical awareness combined.

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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Culture

After the Razzmatazz and Razzle-dazzle: Post-Sinulog Thoughts

by Chrissy Grey Resaba

Buntings of red and yellow were removed from post to post. Streets were cleared and cleaned. Fireworks displays were faded in the sky. Beats of #prititit and tunes of tourism-booster Cebu tracks were being put to archive once again.

Contingents from different parts of Cebu and Central Visayas had gone back home. Party people had gone sober while some are still recovering. Traffic has gone back to normal. Businesses, as well, has gone back to normal.

However, all the fun and loud chants, smooth grooves, and frenzied choreographies are still replaying from the memory banks of the people who celebrated Sinulog 2020. The queen of all festivals in the Philippines has left again another mark of cultural and festive nostalgia to the people from all parts of the world and Cebuanos alike.

After all the razzmatazz and razzle-dazzle, let’s get to know what are these IG and FB personalities’ #PostSinulogThoughts about celebrating the newly-culminated Sinulog 2020 and how did they differentiate it to last year’s.

 

Eva Patalinjug

Eva Psychee Patalinjug, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International 2018 @evapatalinjug

I celebrated my Sinulog with my boyfriend and some of my close friends, we decided to choose a place where it’s not very crowded where we can see the whole Cebu, talk, and chill the night away. We went to Verified Lounge – Cebu’s newest premier sky lounge – located at the rooftop of the Avenir Building. It was something new for me as the night was calm as I was away from the busy streets of Cebu. It’s definitely one way of enjoying such festivities.

 

Kim Covert

Kim Covert @kimcovert

The Sinulog celebration this year has been one of the most memorable events in my life. Not only was I invited to perform a few of my own songs during the weekend’s festivities but I also turned over my Binibining Cebu Tourism crown to my successor. Last year, I was busy with work and was not able to completely grasp the events. This year’s festival was more organized which is a great success for Cebu. Many have flown in and had spent time with their families in the “Pit Senyor” spirit, others have enjoyed spending time off with friends and colleagues. It was a great way for me to start my New Year and close my Cebu chapter before I leave to the US in a week.

 

Alem Garcia

Alem Garcia @thealemgarcia

Well pretty much, I was still busy doing shows and events for Sinulog. But what made it different this year was the religious celebration made me believe even more that Sto. Niño is indeed miraculous and that He is meant to be celebrated. Even though you are successful in your chosen field, furthermore, everything will be meaningless if you do not have the faith.

Philip Pingoy

 

Philip Pingoy @almostablogger

We all have a Sinulog story to tell. It may be a story of losing faith and finding hope. But what is important is our devotion to the Holy Child Jesus (Señor. Sto. Niño). This year, my Sinulog experience was very different since I am already based in the United Kingdom. Thanks to the internet I was still able to watch the mass and all the festivities in Cebu. I am in UK because I prayed to Sto. Niño. So, let us not forget the reason we celebrate Sinulog and let us continue to share to the rest of the world why Sinulog is the grandest festival in the Philippines. Pit Senyor everyone! I hope you had a good one!

 

Lyssa Amor

Lyssa Amor @lyssaamor

Sinulog celebrates Filipinos’ acceptance of Christianity. This year, I celebrated Sinulog by hearing the word of God. I went to church which I do every Sinulog but the difference now is that I am not in Cebu. It’s my first time to celebrate Sinulog away from home because I’m currently in Japan. Although I didn’t dance the traditional Sinulog dance this year, I wasn’t able to watch the fireworks in Ayala, and didn’t spend time with my friends in Mango and IT Park. Snr. Sto. Niño will always be in my heart and I am forever grateful that our ancestors accepted Christianity and we continue to embrace it up until today.

 

Kevin Geniston @kgeniston

Sinulog will always be a highlight for me as a Cebuano. This year has been fulfilling as I was able to brave the crowd in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu three times to attend the novena mass which had also become like bonding time with my family, daughter, friends and loved ones. I ended the celebration of the Sinulog festivities with a bit of the usual partying and/or clubbing.

Carlo Olano

Carlo Andrew Olano @kalamicebu

My Sinulog this year was a great mix of religious and secular activities. I was able to go to the church and somehow witnessed the Traslacion and the fluvial procession. I also went to many side events like parties, mall events, and fireworks exhibitions. Sinulog 2020 had a fantastic balance of fun, faith, and festivities.

 

Danna Bacolod

Danna Bacolod @dannabacolod

This is the second time I spent Sinulog with Cebu Pacific. We had series of events prepared during its entire week and participated the grand parade by having a float last Sunday. I always feel excited to join Sinulog Grand Parade and see a lot of people celebrating their own way of Sinulog along the streets of Cebu. Guess it’s safe to say that I had so much fun. Even if this was work-related, I didn’t feel like I’m actually working as it was always joyful doing events like these.

 

Nimo Scheming

Nimo Hideki @nimo_scheming

You prolly knew this already but, Sinulog 2020 was by far the most phenomenal Sinulog experience: more laidback than the previous years’. The music in every corner of the streets were still there to help you let loose and enjoy the experience. The surge of people had tested you both mentally and physically. But it was an experience you cannot miss like mingling with people from different walks of life and shouting out “Pit Senyor” to everyone. Summing up my Sinulog experience, I was able to get crazy and enjoy all aspects of the fest.

 

Michael Rey

Michael Rey @michaelsomewhere

I had the most relaxed Sinulog experience this year. I did not party and preferred to witness the grand parade instead. I do think that this year’s celebration was more colorful and much safer as establishments strictly abided the rules imposed by the Cebu City Government. I was also amazed at how the festival of fashion here in Cebu has evolved throughout the years.

Now, how about you? What are your #PostSinulogThoughts this Prititit 2020? Viva Pit Senyor!

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