By Carlo Rivera
This story is taken from our archives. Originally published in Zee Digital Vol 1.
If you need proof that Cebu is fast becoming a travel hub, you just need to check the numbers. More than 10 million passengers—domestic and international—passed through the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) in 2017. That shows a rise of almost two million people from the previous year’s nine million passenger traffic count.
As the country’s second biggest gateway, the MCIA had struggled with overworked runways and lack of passenger terminals, especially as it continued to accommodate more flights daily. It was timely, then, that GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC) came in and cemented the plans for expansion.
GMCAC won the 25-year public-private partnership contract to take over airport operations from the government. Since their appointment in 2014, they have put in considerable improvements to make airport functions more efficient. Previously cramped corridors were opened up and brightened, allowing for a smoother flow of foot traffic and airier interiors. Creature comforts like restrooms were updated, and thoughtful details such as the breastfeeding station were installed. Most notably, GMCAC
installed an electronic boarding pass reader, so passengers can move into the predeparture area more quickly.
Of course, that has been overshadowed by the buzz generated by Terminal 2. Its inauguration celebration was attended by President Rodrigo Duterte, and a number of prominent Cebuano personalities who were all curious about the new terminal. It officially opened its doors on July 1, and has since seen the opening of a number of new direct routes. The expansive development of terminal two is what the buzz is all about.
“The construction of a new world-class passenger terminal is meant to drive further growth in passenger traffic, which translates to a more robust tourism environment for the region,” says Andrew Harrison, GMCAC’s Chief Executive Advisor.
Touted as the country’s only resort airport, the MCIA Terminal 2 is a lifestyle destination all its own. The design is a collaboration between the hong Kong-based Integrated Design Associates, and top Filipino interior design and architecture duo Budji Layug and Royal Pineda.
The terminal features a series of 15-meter high arches that evoke the image of waves, a fitting homage to the seas surrounding Mactan Island. Supplied by the European company Rubner Group, each arch was shipped in one piece and created with wood from a sustainable supply.
More importantly, the new terminal will also serve to highlight local Cebuano talent—world-renowned designer Kenneth Cobonpue is coming in to create pieces for the interiors, while celebrated fashion designer Cary Santiago designed the airport’s staff uniforms.
On his end, Kenneth is excited to create a world-class terminal with his frequent collaborators Budji Layug and Royal Pineda, and believes the design will make history. “We are hopeful that this is going to be the best airport in the country.”
The aesthetic elements aside, it’s clear that efficiency was a top priority in coming up with the design. A two-level forecourt segregates the Arrivals and Departures area. There are 48 check-in counters, which are expandable to 72, and provisions for seven passenger boarding bridges. It’s also equipped with 12 escalators and 15 elevators, facilitating the easy movement of passengers, especially persons with disabilities.
To further enhance customer service, there will be a premium lounge at the International Departures area. Passengers who are either leaving or coming can enjoy a number of in-terminal activities, or visit the new retail and dining concepts. There’s even the option of enjoying Cebu’s famous lechon in one
of the stalls at the terminal.
With Terminal 2’s completion, GMCAC is anticipating another rise in passenger count, especially as more routes are being opened from Cebu. After all, GMCAC shares that they can accommodate an estimate of 13 million passengers annually.
Since the beginning of this year, MCIA has already welcomed an addition of six airlines on its roster—Air Juan, Juneyao Air, OK Air, Lucky Air, Sichuan Airlines, and Pan Pacific Airlines. Qatar Airways also announced its return to Cebu during ITB Berlin, the world’s biggest travel trade show. On the other hand, airlines who are already servicing Cebu have pledged to add more flights to their current offering. Just recently, Air Asia introduced direct flights to Shanghai.
That said, GMCAC is also hyping up its penetration of the Chinese market. “We have four new Chinese airlines that opened,” said Avigael Maningo, GMCAC Corporate Communications Manager. “The Chinese market has become the highest spenders in Asia, and we are trying to bring them to Cebu.”
With all the brands coming in, GMCAC hopes the year will end with more direct flights from Cebu to destinations in Southeast Asia, Australia and Europe.
Furthermore, the new airport project has opened doors to foreign investment opportunities in the country. According to GMCAC President Louie Ferrer, they are looking to promote Cebu to other untapped markets. GMCAC credits the remarkable growth in MCIA’s passenger traffic to its destination marketing initiatives, and its positioning of Cebu as a gateway to the rest of the Philippines, and
as a major transfer hub to international destinations.
It’s clear that Cebu is fast becoming the international travel hub of the Visayas and Mindanao regions, with residents from neighboring provinces taking their connecting flights from the MCIA, instead of through Metro Manila. It would definitely be a more efficient option—Cebu is closer to the southern regions of the Philippines, and international flights here could free up the already highly congested Metro Manila airports.
The challenge, then, is making sure the MCIA does not fall into the same trap its northern counterpart did. Although there’s yet to be any concrete confirmation, there are already plans of reclaiming land to expand the runway. There’s also talk of designating runways strictly for take-offs and landings, which would make air traffic flow more seamless.
According to Branding head JR Torres, the next step is renovating Terminal 1. GMCAC is hoping to bring major upgrades by next year, with some noticeable improvements on the old
structure and its processes.
In the meantime, we are invited to experience MCIA Terminal 2. Although it’s not yet functional in its entirety, and we hear there are processes that need to be streamlined, we’re extremely proud to have such a monumental gateway in Cebu. Its towering facade of curves and glass is a promise—one of progress, development, and bringing the rest of the world a little closer to home.
Tea with Coralie
When a basket filled with tea goodies of macaroons, delicate cakes and sandwiches was delivered, it came in the signature purple color of this iconic brand. “Very Charriol”, as Coralie , the CEO of the Swiss brand, might have put it. She didn’t actually use that term to describe the savories. Rather, she was describing the cable bracelet that makes their products distinct. Avid Rustans Cebu shoppers will find the Charriol boutique just off the main entrance of the department store, near the familiar scented hall at the first level. On display are an array of earrings, bracelets and watches enticing to those looking for retail therapy with pieces that are timeless and yet not overtly breaking the credit card limit.
The tea Zoom party, as arranged by our host Ginggay Joven, and Luzanne Manlapit who is the brand manager of Charriol in the Philippines, was as good as any press-do from pre pandemic normal times. And an intimate peak at lifestyle editors’ lives as most of us were zooming from our living rooms, including Coralie who was answering our questions from her home in Geneva. Like most of us, she readily says, “I have a travel bug, and on weekends, I dream of where I can go!”.
Philip Charriol, Coralie’s father who started the brand in 1983, was a frequent visitor to the Philippines, making Manila (and Cebu) a side trip to his rounds of Singapore and Hong Kong. He made many friends in Asia and it was a sad day when everyone heard of his passing more than a year ago in a car accident at the Le Castellet racing track in southeast France.
These days, the company is in good hands with Coralie. She is set to debut a series of new collections building upon her father’s vision, including a reimagined Celtic collection, a line of watches first introduced in the 80s. The latest Celtic Legacy watch has a more striking face with two dials and bigger bezels available in gold or rose gold. The cable bracelet is made up of 6 strands of steel and titanium alloy that are flexible and durable. It comes in an elegant 30mm case, making it an equally perfect accessory for both a lunchtime affair as well as to a glitzy night on the town.
Also new are their ocean-themed pieces. The Forever Starfish watch comes in two iteration of stainless steel or rose gold case with a white mother-of-pearl dial. The second one is the Marina bracelet collection — the Charriol signature cable tied around a porthole and clasped together by a Charriol dial, it’s a fresh and young take for an everyday jewelry.
As a contemporary business leader, Coralie shared cautionary tales of polar bears and melting icebergs. Through their Charriol Living initiative, Philippe Charriol is a partner of the global organization Lonely Whale. It is a community of international businesses cognizant of the harming effects of disposable stuff in today’s world. Particularly single-use plastics, which are harmful to marine life when they end up in our seas. She co-produced a compelling documentary titled The Story of Plastic (www.storyofplastic.org) “a searing expose revealing the ugly truth behind plastic pollution and the false solution of plastic recycling”.
The company is committed to being socially conscious. Pretty soon, all Charriol packaging will be made of paper and sustainable materials. “We are interconnected tru our oceans”, she explains. In addition, part of the proceeds of selected ocean-themed Charriol pieces like the Forever Turtle watch, the Forever Waves and Ocean bracelets, will go to the Lonely Whale organization.
Philippe Charriol comes up with new design for watches once a year or once every two years to keep it fresh. Their jewelry line is much more frequent with bracelets and earrings. When asked if the company will be coming out with smart watches, Coralie was quick to reply that although other prestige watch companies have tried it, Charriol will not be producing one. “But I am coming out with something by October which is a kind of an accessory to a techie watch. To connect Charriol to technology.”
Coralie Charriol, the CEO of Charriol showing the Forever Starfish collection using mother of pearl face and their entry level cable bracelets in bright colors.
Screenshot of the Zoom tea party attended by top Manila lifestyle editors
The tea goodies for the tea party delivered by the Charriol team
The Charriol boutique inside Rustans at Ayala Center Cebu
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.