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Inside Cebu’s Hidden Oasis: Asmara Urban Resort and Lifestyle Village

Tucked inside one of Cebu’s posh areas, Asmara Urban Resort and Lifestyle Village offers a quick escape from the city’s daily grind and constant traffic.

Photography by Pablo Quiza
This story is taken from our archives. Originally published in Zee Digital Vol. 2

“I designed my first home concept in Rome back in 2000,” Carlo begins. “In 2001, I designed the Atelier-A office in Rome. In 2004, I designed my country house near Rome. In Cebu, I designed and built one house in Mactan and one in Maria Luisa, in between 2008 to 2011. Let’s just say that my creative energy was compressed for a while and since there has been a revolution in the planet—specifically Cebu—I decided to summarize my experiences in a new concept that should be very useful here and can be exported worldwide.”

While he’s a financial analyst by profession, many know Carlo Cordaro as a furniture designer. He’s known to have created avant-garde designs, made with the hands of Filipino craftsmen and using natural resources found in the Philippines.

That said, designing a concept like Asmara Urban Resort and Lifestyle Village isn’t too far off from what he has been doing for so many years. Asmara, as an urban resort, has several objectives — a multifunctional space dedicated to leisure, sports, good food, and, being Italian, a good aperitivo. It’s also a space that can be used for business meetings, small theatre performances, art exhibitions, live performances and any activity that can create a gathering of friends. It opened in time for this year’s World Cup, and for several weeks, the place roared with cheers, from fans of all nationalities, until the early hours.

Asmara is named after the city where he was born, a suggestion by his daughter Camilla. It is a city in Eritrea in northeast Africa, once an Italian colony, where he lived until he was 12 years old. Last year, the city of Asmara had been named a worldwide heritage site by UNESCO for its architectural and urban values. It is considered by many famous architects as The Modernist Secret City of Africa.

“Asmara is a beautiful city built through many years of civil war,” Carlo explains. “The architecture and urban setup has been kept in tact. My grandmother was among the pioneers sent by the Italian government to scout new territories in 1892. She, my mother, and myself were born there. This is the reason, I guess, behind Camilla’s thoughts when she told me: ‘Dad, your story, your life, your memories and part of your soul belong to Asmara.’ I confess that I was extremely emotional when she opened up my mind, and my heart, with this idea. We were removed violently in 1975 because of the civil war and the extremist communist regime who took over and nationalised any property. In one day, we lost three generations of work, memories, lifestyle friends, and sadly, my father was the only Italian killed during the first hours of the civil war.”

Osservare, capire, agire, Leonardo da Vinci said that. To observe existing details to understand its mechanics, and to develop your own idea. I never designed to copy, I can in fact always explain up to the last detail, because it is solely my own line of thought,” he states. “Any building or house I design is a vision in my mind that I constantly review until no improvement can be done.”

Asmara’s main lounge is a big lanai, an open-air space where people can relax while being nestled on sofas scattered around, all from Cordaro’s factory of course. Dominating the room is the large bar, while to the right of the entrance is the swimming pool where guests can take a dip, and to the left are the tennis and squash courts.

At Asmara, visitors can enjoy authentic Italian fare—Carlo shares that he even flew in a wood-fired oven all the way from Italy to ensure that their pizzas are cooked the right way. On any given day or night, customers mill through the impressive double doors, either to play tennis or swim or just to have cocktails. There is no dress code here,
loyal customers dine in their sports outfits, or enjoy beer by the pool in flip-flops. Like a casual country club that welcomes not just members, but anyone looking for company. “Everyone tells me that they really feel at home here,” he shares.“To make a new home for so many people really makes me more than happy. It means I was able to transfer my dreams and emotions in a space that people can be truly comfortable.”

As a fast developing urban center with new buildings popping up in places you would least expect and a population count rising by the minute, Cebu’s prosperity is both a bane and a blessing. Progress brings about the inevitable question of sustainability, the whole premise of utilising resources without taking more than necessary, the rejection of single use objects and creating things that will last for future generations.

Asmara Urban Resort is a sustainable example of architecture in the area. The roof has a slight inclination so all the rainwater is collected and stored in two cisterns for recycling. He designed the reverse pyramid made of glass as a central structure to collect the water from the roof. “We can’t survive without water and this building is sort of a wake-up call that saving and recycling water is a must,” Carlo iterates. “Watching the rain falling inside the building is always an emotional moment for me,” Carlo shares of his favorite spot in the structure. He shares that one day, a baby just sat down in front of it while it was raining, and she seemed to be contemplating the falling water. “This building will be useful for all adults and kids to create awareness about the water problem, and also to be a bit romantic on it.”

Working together with the structural engineer, Cordaro followed a rule applied in some areas of the Philippines, where the building’s height should be lower than the surrounding coconut trees. The wood structure is made of laminated lumber that makes the entire structure typhoon-proof and earthquake-proof, while keeping it light.

“To insert a building in a space is one of the most complicated issues,” he continues. “So my rationale had to face several aspects: the aesthetics, engineering, city and government rules, functionality, costing, and most important to me, I had to design a building open to the public that offers an architectural experience and emotions.”

When asked what he thought of Cebu’s design landscape and how sustainable it is, Carlo replies, “It’s useless to close the gate when the horses are already out, says an old farmer’s proverb. Cebu’s design landscape and zoning are super hot and debated in any Cebuano’s daily conversation, I guess. I always see the glass half full, by the way, and this gave me the energy to create Asmara, a sort of provocation or wake up call as mentioned, where all the citizens start to feel responsible for their city.”

He goes on to share that though it might not be easy to opt for more sustainable options after centuries of progress, it’s best to start from small changes to the biggest ones. “I know the city administrators are well-aware, and already acting and proposing new infrastructures, but the private citizens also have to give their

Asmara Urban Resort and Lifestyle Village has been open for only seven months, and it’s quickly becoming a space where people can easily get together and take a breather from Cebu’s fast-paced lifestyle.

“For 22 years, Cebu and the Cebuanos have hosted me safely and warmly, so I felt that I needed to give back to the city and its inhabitants through this contribution,” Cordaro shares. “I’m not done yet,” Carlo promises. “There’s still a lot of things to do.”


Bunny Pages’ Classic Modernist Home is a Beauty

Cebuano businessman Bunny Pages has a lot of food brands under his belt. His hectic schedule had him wishing for a peaceful and uncomplicated home.

Living life on a full and hectic schedule, the owner of the house, restaurateur Bunny Pages, wanted to create an oasis where he can relax and pursue his love for cars. The outcome was an uncomplicated and compact house in collaboration with architect Ed Gallego.

On a steep slope in Maria Luisa Estate Park, the four-level home was cantilevered to conform to the contours of the terrain. Ceilings and doors were built tall, perhaps as the homeowner himself is on the towering side, and an open design was used to maximize open space, much to his liking.

The architecture of the house is classic modernist with touches of industrial. The view from the windows of the house, the ample ventilation, and a healthy dose of monochromatic colors make it breathe. Sliding glass panels blur the line between the interior and exterior.

The living room spills out into the dining area and the kitchen on one side. At the opposite end, the master’s bedroom directly adjoins the lanai and a den with a most advanced movie projector. The home theater system in here can actually rival a hi-tech movie house in terms of audio-visual equipment and acoustics. The lower levels contain the guest rooms for Bunny’s visiting children, as well as extensive area to house his growing car collection.

At the west end of the property, a soaking pool was built for one to enjoy the view of the city. It also overlooks the nearby island of Mactan. “This is where I have coffee in the morning,” enthuses Bunny. “And when the sun is down and the lights of the city come out, the view looks great.”

“The most interesting aspect of the house,” says Architect Ed Gallego, “is the garage located in the lower level to indulge the owner’s obsession with cars.” Indeed, Bunny Pages also often plays host to fellow car buffs in a comfortable lounge, which opens to the garage. On the same level, a huge room connects to a gym complete with state-of-the-art fitness equipment.

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An Exclusive Look at 856 G Gallery Founder Annie Chen’s Artsy, Indochine-Inspired Home

In designing her home in Cebu, 856 G Gallery Founder Annie Chen wanted to create something that would give her comfort with a bit of pared-down luxury.

This story is taken from our archives. Originally published in Inside Cebu.

By profession Annie Chen is a jewelry designer as well as an art gallery owner in Cebu. She divides her time between her home in Singapore where she lives with her three children, and this home in her native city of Cebu. In designing her home here, Annie, wanted to create something that would give her comfort with a bit of pared-down luxury.

When the owner of this house decided to renovate the interiors, she specified to the architect that she wanted to bring the Indochine theme, which captivated her during a trip to Hanoi; there that cultural hybrid is quite evident. The entrance to the house is a barely perceptible gate in a cul-de-sac dominated by tall fences and breathtaking views of the Alta Vista Estate. Inside, however, the house speaks loudly of its owner’s artistic sense. She has had her house built as nothing more than walls to display art, thus, the interiors are pointedly stark, with bursts of color coming mainly from framed paintings, wall décors, vibrant-color fabrics, and rare antique pieces displayed quite imaginatively.

An avid collector of what could only be described as art exotique, Annie Chen has taken advantage of her many trips abroad to amass a wonderfully unique and diverse art collection. A pair of eclectic montages flanks the entrance door, radiating texture and immediately capturing the visitor’s interest. There are unglazed terra cotta jars and wood sculptures by Jet Florendo.

Many of the paintings are by Nepalese and Filipino artists. Complementing the gallery feel of the house, designer furniture is used in functional precision, as revealed by interior windows and thick-lattice wood-screens. A massive wooden table dominates the dining room as well as a Kenneth Cobonpue two-seater upholstered in bright silk. Most passages are discreet and set in playful floor patterns, but a wrought-iron spiral staircase with solid wooden steps leads down to the more private spaces— three bedrooms, particularly—all furnished and accessorized with natural vibrancy.

“I required romance in the interiors, but I was not also afraid of simplicity,” says Annie. The classic modernist architecture was designed to maximize open space. Says Architect Arsenio D. Abella, “A renovation is an update on an existing building. The architect’s duty is to link his discipline with the client’s dream, passion, and love of life.” And this he has done with remarkable results.

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Beauty & Wellness

Quick and Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas Your Kids Will Love

Going back-to-school means excitement for kids but can be stressful for busy moms. Make life easier with these quick and healthy school lunch ideas.

School season is here! Going back-to-school means excitement for kids but can be stressful for busy moms as meal planning comes into play. Preparing baon for your kids can be a struggle considering both their picky tastes and the nutritional content they need to grow strong and healthy.

Check out these recipes from the Electrolux Life App to help spark ideas for healthy and delicious baon for your kids.

Cheese it up!

Since a lot of kids are not fond of eating vegetables, this Kid-Friendly Chicken & Broccoli Quesadilla recipe is a great way to add veggies in a way kids will enjoy. Start by placing Flour Tortillas on a plate, top it with cheddar cheese, add chicken and broccoli florets. Top it with another layer of Flour Tortillas then place it in a toaster oven at 350ºF and cook for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Cut the quesadilla using a pizza cutter, wait for it to cool and it’s ready to be packed!

Potatoes are usually a crowd pleaser so why not make the most of your leftover mashed potatoes by making Spinach and Cheddar Potato Cakes.

Simply mix together the egg, frozen spinach, seasoned salt, onion powder and ground black pepper in a medium bowl. Add the mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs, and fresh chives. Mix it well until breadcrumbs have been absorbed. Form a scoop of the potato mixture into patties and fry the patties in a non-stick frying pan until golden brown. For the sauce, stir together sour cream and fresh dill and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the dip alongside the cakes!

Turning Japanese

Bring a Japanese flavor to your kid’s lunch with Teriyaki Pork Rolls with strips of green beans and carrots. In a pot of salted water, bring to a boil the thin strips of green beans, sliced carrot, and bell pepper for 2 mins. Once cooked, strain and dry with paper towel then set aside.

To make the sauce, mix soy sauce, white granulated sugar, and water in a small bowl and set aside. Take one of the thin pork cutlets and dust it with all-purpose flour on both sides. Add three of each of the green beans, carrot slices, and red bell pepper slices on the cutlet, season it with salt and pepper to taste. Then roll the pork and close it with toothpicks. Fry the pork until golden brown and remove toothpicks. Add the sauce, continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes until sauce thickened and all sides of the pork are coated.

Healthy Sides

Put a new and healthier spin on your kid’s snack time with this recipe of Baked Zucchini Fries!

First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut zucchini into fries-like size, no need to peel them. In a medium bowl, combine panko, parmesan, salt, paprika, and pepper. Place whisked eggs in a separate medium bowl, and the flour in a third medium bowl. Dip zucchini pieces into the flour, then the egg, then the panko. Dip zucchini pieces into the flour, then egg, then the panko. Once all zucchini are breaded, bake it for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden and crispy. For the sauce, just combine the yogurt, cheese, mayonnaise, and chives to a food processor and blitz until smooth.

Preparing your kids’ healthy and tasty baon is easy with Electrolux kitchen appliances, like the Electrolux NutriFresh™ Inverter Refrigerators, which come with new features to keep produce fresh for longer. The new Electrolux NutriFresh™ Inverter French Door Refrigerator (EHE6879A-BPH) allows you to go from chilling the food to cooking them in minutes. With its special UltraChill -2ºC feature, it preserves the texture and nutrients of meat and fish for longer without having to defrost it.

Different food types require unique storage conditions to stay fresh and the new NutriFresh™ refrigerator comes with a FlexFresh drawer, an optimal storage compartment with five temperature settings (-23°C to +7°C). This enables you to store all types of food – from cheese and wine, meat and seafood, to cold drinks and frozen items – at the temperature they need to remain fresh.

To help retain the juiciness of produce, the NutriFresh™  Inverter French Door Refrigerator also comes with a TasteLock Crisper with AutoHumidity Control which automatically adjusts humidity levels depending on the contents of the drawer. The AutoHumidity Control releases excess moisture from the compartment to help keep fruits and vegetables fresh for up to 7 days. It also has a TwinTech Cooling System that cools the fridge and freezer compartments separately, so food stays fresher and odors don’t mix.

If you are looking for a cooking range, check out the Electrolux Cooking Range with Induction Cooktop & Electric Oven (EKI64500OX). It not only comes with a spacious layout to help you prepare multiple dishes at once, but also has powerful induction zones for speedy cooking and precision heat control that allows you to accurately set your desired flame for perfectly cooked dishes.

To get the full recipes of these dishes, download the Electrolux Life app on the App Store or Google Play store and click the ‘Recipe Finder Powered by SideChef’ within the app to access thousands of global recipes from SideChef’s database.

For more information on Electrolux and its products, please visit www.electrolux.com.ph and follow @ElectroluxPhilippines on Facebook and Instagram.

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