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The House That Food Built

Made for a family with the passion and panache for cooking, this seaside getaway houses the traditions of Balinese architecture as well as of its food-savvy residents.

Made for a family with the passion and panache for cooking, this seaside getaway houses the traditions of Balinese architecture as well as of its food-savvy residents.

It all started when the owners, a family that leads the local restaurant industry specializing in Filipino cuisine, purchased this property from a friend—an expansive lot extending from the main road towards a cliff that conceals a strip of white sand beach. The estate boasts of an extensive view of the Camotes Sea, Leyte, and the Camotes group of islands and is located in Tagnucan, Borbon, less than a couple of hours ride towards the North from Metro Cebu. Away from the rush of city life, the traffic noise, and the electricity of a metropolis in the midst of rapid economic growth, it was decided that it would be in this humble, fourth-class coastal municipality that the family shall install their comforting hideaway—a place to recharge their souls and to remember their reasons for what they do, how they do it, and why they should continue doing it.

The family’s matriarch comes from a long line of fine cooks with a rooted home cooking tradition, so it is not surprising that her food would become an instant hit soon after opening their first restaurant. From one humble restaurant, they have spawned six branches around the southern regions of the country in a span of ten years. Since the family’s applied craft has now become a landmark, it was time to take root again, manifesting their love of food and family tradition in the single, most representative sign of familial bond—a house.

The family asked Albert Garbanzos, a long-time collaborator in their restaurant business, to render the architecture, one of Balinese motif. Balinese architecture is known to bring together the natural elements within and outside the structure. Houses often open to the surrounding vista showcasing glistening coastlines, rolling hills, majestic mountains, or lush forests. The use of natural materials is highly emphasized allowing an obvious use of wood and stone. Roofs made of clay tile are also common in Balinese residential architecture as well as the incorporation of foliage such as bamboo and other indigenous tropical flora. The layout is usually of a square template, signaling the four directions of the Balinese compass. Earth tones dominate the color scheme as if to mimic the hues of the earth. It was the family’s wish that the house reinterpret these Bali-inspired specifications in order to bring about their own ideas.

Construction took about six months and by 2009, the house was finished. Some areas became collaborations between Garbanzos and the owners. Certain details had to be adjusted to meet with the family’s vision, like the grand adobe wall edging the interior living area as well as the massive wooden trusses for the ceiling. The building is executed in full modern Balinese theme—it is widely earth toned with an extensive use of hardwood and natural stone, the overhanging clay-tiled roofs are complete with spires, and finally there appear to be no walls especially towards the direction that beholds the fabulous view.

Outside, the entire cliff is terraced for a more efficient use of space as well as to make the house look even more elevated, even as it is already perched on the highest peak along the coast. The infinity pool rests on the middle level in between two separate gardens and outdoor entertaining spaces. These spaces, as well as the rest of the 4,000-square-foot property apart from the building, were taken care of by landscape architect Jaime Chua. Flora consists of a variety of palms, bamboo, and flowering shrubs. Hut lamps line walkways and light little tableaus of foliage, bouquets of different shades of green in various forms and configurations.

In its interiors, the house departs from its Balinese theme, if only in the most minimal sense. Designed by Nancy Roble, the arrangements are succinct yet still visually stimulating. The palette ranges from earth tones, mostly browns, punctuated by sudden bursts of bright, tropical colors. The main door opens to two sentinel-like Buddha figures and a large table lamp with a ripple detail on its body and flanked by vessels with frangipani blooms and massive fern leaves. A quaint courtyard centered by a cluster of healthy bamboo divides the main interior space from the entry doors. The largest interior space includes the living and entertaining area as well as the dining space. Here, the interior design takes center stage, a subdued mix of Southeast Asian antique décor, modern furniture, and local art by Dodong Bandibas. In harmony with the Balinese motif, the interior spaces have their share of foliage too, from orchids to birds of paradise and bird’s nest ferns.

It is interesting to note though that despite the entire Balinese theme of harmony, the makers of the house still had their bits of disagreement as far as the relationship between architecture and interior design were concerned, surfacing as ideas were thrown around back and forth. In the end, the matters were resolved peacefully and professionally and ultimately, the family’s vision was achieved.

Today, the owners come to their seaside hideaway as often as they possibly can. And when they come, they bring with them the reason for their success and their distinct bond —the love of home cooking. On these days of leisure and fellowship, the house receives not just the fresh salty breeze of the Camotes Sea but also the rich and unique aromas of the family’s famed renditions of Filipino cuisine. Most of the family’s celebrations are held here, in the privacy of the house that their passion had built. On not so ordinary weekends, they would gather and hold cook-off contests among themselves and even if only one family member wins, everyone is full and satisfied in the end.

by Russ Ligtas photography Jon Unson


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Arcane: League of Legends: Netflix Review

Rating: *****/*****

League of Legends a very popular video game that’s been around for over a decade has now been adapted into an animated series on Netflix.  The series, Arcane: League of Legends was just released on November 6, 2021 and starring Hailee Steinfeld.  As a person who doesn’t play LoL, I was very surprised by Arcane’s story and the quality of the animation.  The title theme song is by Imagine Dragons and soundtrack is very cool.

Rottentomatoes gives the series a 100% score!  Here’s what they say:

“Newcomers should be equally enthralled by Arcane’s compelling narrative, richly developed characters … “

 Critics Consensus

“Arcane makes an arresting first impression, combining a spectacular mix of 2D and 3D animation with an emotionally compelling story to deliver a video game adaptation that could become legendary.”

Well then, this is a must see for me!  Now out on Netflix

… zen

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ALBUM REVIEW: Red (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift

RATING: ★★★ / ★★★★★

You probably don’t need to be reminded of why Taylor Swift has decided to release re-recordings of her previous albums, starting with Fearless (Taylor’s Version) last year and now with Red (Taylor’s Version). However, if you somehow missed one of the biggest music controversies in recent history, here’s a quick summary: in 2019, talent manager Scooter Braun acquired the record label Big Machine and as part of the deal acquired ownership of the master recordings for the first six studio albums by Taylor Swift. Swift has been trying to buy the masters to her songs for years but she’s been offered nothing but unfavorable conditions — therefore, as a countermeasure, she is re-recording all of her six albums and so far has released two.

It’s a bold move on Taylor’s part, but lucky for her, the re-recordings have done incredibly well especially with the re-recording of her 2012 album Red. On its first day of release, Red (Taylor’s Version) has broken two Spotify records: one for the most-streamed album in a day by a female and another for the most-streamed female in a single day both in Spotify history.

It’s hard to review an album like this when Red (Taylor’s Version) is, for the most part, just a recreation of the songs of Red. There are new songs, of course, but the majority of the tracks are simply re-recorded versions of her already existing songs. The Immaculate Collection by Madonna, this isn’t — save for All Too Well, there are no new instrumentals or parts of the song here, just plain re-recordings of her previous songs.

Unfortunately for Taylor Swift, some of the songs don’t really benefit from being re-recorded. The original version of We Are Never Getting Back Together, for instance, while far from Swift’s best song at least had the energy and emotion you’d expect a bitter break-up song like it to have. In the new version, Taylor Swift just sounds lifeless and bored, especially when it comes to her spoken lines.

It’s difficult to blame her when she’s expected to still give convincing performances of experiences she’s had over a decade ago. How do you expect a singer in her 30s to sing a song about how excited she is to be 22 and still make it sound as convincing as she made it when she was actually 22?

That being said, some of the songs also benefit from being re-recorded. There’s a sense of nostalgia added to many of these songs. Taylor Swift sounds older and, in a way, that adds even more emotional depth to some of her tracks. And for anyone not wild about these songs simply being re-recordings, Swift has six new “From The Vault” tracks which should be enough to tide you over.

All in all, Red (Taylor’s Version) doesn’t always work, but for Taylor Swift fans, it’s a way to listen to versions of her songs that are hers. It’s why the “(Taylor’s Version)” at the end of these songs are so important and it’s great to know Taylor Swift finally has versions of the songs she wrote which she can call hers.

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Cycling has been a growing sport and hobby for many years but it’s popularity has erupted since the Covid pandemic.  People biking to work and for recreation is an everyday sight in Cebu.  More and more are joining the ride.  Many are quite serious about cycling.  I know three ladies who are among those who’ve gone long distances across Cebu.

How did you get into serious cycling?  What was your motivation?

Blinky de Leon.  Event Host, Product Endorser & Influencer

“ I’ve been into cycling since I was a kid. A little backstory, I was around 10 years old when my dad surprised me with my first custom-made mountain bike. I still keep it until now, in fact I had it refurbished. It’s the most sentimental thing I ever received since it was his way/gesture to catch up with me after not seeing each other for almost 6 yrs. My dad is based in Germany and he also loves cycling and makes his own bamboo bike.”


“Just a year ago though, my friend Gazini randomly, out of nowhere, picked me up from home to bike with her to the South of Cebu. I felt really excited and motivated to get back on track because it’s very nostalgic and brings back so many great memories. And since then, the rest was history. We’ve been joining different groups, tried different routes and conquered different heights. I’ve met so many cyclists with very inspiring stories in the bike community who kept me feeling motivated too. I also look forward to the sights and the adventure that comes along with it.”


Yumz Mariot. Branding & Marketing Consultant

“I used to bike along with rock and wall climbing. I am lousy with ballgames which is why. Our usual route were Talamban and Mactan but one time, managed to ship gears all the way to Dumaguete for a quick ride to Valencia, the next town located at a higher elevation. Those were days when I did it for fun and what bike I was using did not matter.”

“Fast forward to 2021, a year after the pandemic lockdown began, I realized I have been lazy to do any fitness routine. Too caught up on juggling between house chores and Work from Home deliverables (I work as a Branding and Marketing Consultant), I started to feel my body needs to move as much as my brain does. A hysical fitness routine is as important as what I eat, or what I read or watch. So I decided to invest on a decent MTB, just very recently and got myself a much necessary restart. What motivates me even more is the area where I currently reside at. It is vast, fresh, green and safe for solo bikers like me.”


Prime Sarino. Digital Media Creative

“I started biking as a young teenager and I got the idea to start it as an adult hobby 3 years ago. I was already into running and I thought it would be great to venture into another outdoor activity to keep me occupied after work hours and weekends. I was set to travel for a year so I had to put aside the idea first but came pandemic. We were all forced to stay put and everything was put on hold. Cycling became my diversion. My cyclists friends invited me to quick and short rides. I enjoyed my first 50km ride and the sceneries and routes most of all. It also helped channel a positive mindset during the hard hit season of the pandemic. Not to mention it’s also another way to stay fit when we were forced into inactivity during the quarantine.”

Next in Part 2, we ask the ladies about their cycling experiences and memorable moments…

by: Zen

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