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Amanda Booth & Izzara Ugarte: Pair Play

Young and ready to take on the world, Amanda Booth and Izzara Ugarte fly off to separate cities yet remain rooted in a bond that is close to home. Zee Lifestyle catches up with them at Bluewater Maribago, where they’re stylish and sophisticated in designer dresses and SM Accessories‘ latest collection.

ON AMANDA: Black lace body con dress by JUN ESCARIO, multi-strand pearl necklace from SM ACCESSORIES / ON IZZARA: White tie-up blouse and maxi skirt by JUN ESCARIO, multi-strand chain necklace and silver rings from SM ACCESSORIES. (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)

ON AMANDA: Black lace body con dress by JUN ESCARIO, multi-strand pearl necklace from SM ACCESSORIES / ON IZZARA: White tie-up blouse and maxi skirt by JUN ESCARIO, multi-strand chain necklace and silver rings from SM ACCESSORIES. (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)

On the day I’m seeing Amanda Booth and Izzara Ugarte for a casual production meeting before the Fashion Issue’s cover shoot, the traffic on A.S. Fortuna is particularly vicious and I’m running late. “No worries, I just got here,” Amanda texts me. I find her a few minutes later sipping coffee and looking incredibly chic in her sleek ponytail, white button-down and black jeans.

Even though she has been studying marketing for just a year at The American University of Paris, the classic Parisian style has clearly seeped into Amanda’s persona. She had always been well dressed and now that she’s back for the summer, her style is a little bit more polished than the average 19-year old.

It’s a study in contrasts, then, when her cousin Izza walks into the coffee shop, the epitome of laid-back style with her long hair, peasant blouse and white shorts. “I had to take my brother to the airport, and the traffic is just horrible,” she explains, sitting down next to Amanda. For her part, Izza is in town after her year at the University of San Francisco, before flying to Spain to continue her hospitality management course at Les Roches Marbella.

In between discussing the looks and location (“We’d like to have the shoot at Bluewater Maribago, because we really grew up there,” Izza says), the two exchange anecdotes on how they were preparing for the fashion shoot. “We were looking through old issues of Zee, trying to do the poses all the models were doing,” Amanda laughs, and they both strike a common model pose—one hand on the hip, shoulder popped and sultry gaze—before bursting into a fit of laughter.

“We can’t do that!” Izza exclaims. “It’s just not us.”


In some ways, Amanda and Izza do look like opposites—Amanda’s fair complexion and light dusting of freckles are a striking complement to Izza’s tanned skin and sun-kissed glow. But when they’re together and cracking jokes, it’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other begins.

“Amanda is my partner in crime,” Izza declares. “I’ve known her since we were in diapers so it’s very difficult to pinpoint the earliest memory. When we were toddlers, our yayas were sisters. During family events and birthday parties, we would always sit beside each other, with one hand on a barbecue stick and the other spaghetti. We had the same taste and love for food—I always knew she was a keeper.”

Growing up together meant years of shared anecdotes, and both girls have a number of funny stories to tell. “Once Izza, both our younger brothers and I watched Goosebumps together, and they couldn’t sleep that night,” Amanda recalls with a laugh. “Izza’s mom called my mom the next morning because Izza and her brother said that I had coerced them into watching it since I was the oldest in the group. I ended up getting grounded while the three others got away scot-free!”

ON AMANDA: Backless dress by JUN ESCARIO, necklace with bead florets, earrings and bracelet set from SM ACCESSORIES. (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)

ON AMANDA: Backless dress by JUN ESCARIO, necklace with bead florets, earrings and bracelet set from SM ACCESSORIES. (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)

It was especially important for both girls to have the cover shoot at Bluewater Maribago because they say, in many instances, it was the scene of the crime. “Some of my earliest memories of Izza are running around soaking wet from the pool and then sneaking into the kitchen barefoot in our bikinis,” Amanda shares. “All we wanted was to be little elves to the pastry chefs and we would get kicked out of the kitchen! But we always managed to sneak out a few treats.”

Their escapades at the resort included selling buko juice to guests, hunting down Easter eggs the night before the egg hunt and even a few recent injuries. “We used to ride salbabidas (floaters) all day,” Izza says. “A few years ago, we were on the salbabida drifting on the water. Amanda toppled me and kicked me in the face! My nose bled for 20 minutes and my upper lip bruised so badly.”

These days, the girls are a bit more subdued than they were ten years ago, and it clearly shows in how Izza makes sure everything in the resort goes smoothly for the photo shoot. The daughter of David Ugarte and June Alegrado, whose family owns the resort, Izza and her siblings have been helping out in Bluewater’s operations for years. It’s part of the reason why she decided to take up hospitality management in her further studies. “I believe that tourism plays a huge role in any country,” she says. “Hospitality management is tourism. It’s the plane you fly, the boat you take, the food you eat and the place you stay. It’s a diverse course.”

Amanda, a scion of the family behind Mehitabel Furniture, is the daughter of Robert Aboitiz Booth and Tamsin Jackson Booth. “It’s on the creative side, which I think I would be good at. My parents have always thought I’ve had a good eye for things,” she says about deciding to take up marketing in Paris. “I’ve always been interested in media, communications, PR. Besides that, marketing is vital to all industries, so you know you can always get a job with a marketing degree.”

Although they grew up in Cebu, the duo has been living out of the country for years now since leaving to finish high school at boarding schools in the US—Izza in Connecticut and Amanda in California. It’s made them more independent than most people their age, and ready to take on the challenges of their new cities of residence.

“Before I went away, I didn’t even know how to do laundry! That’s one of the first things my mom had to teach me,” Amanda admits. “I am so much more independent now than I was three years ago. It’s funny because now grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do. I love living on my own and doing everything at my own pace.”

“I’ve matured a lot,” Izza agrees. “I’ve come to realize that being shy and not trying to truly express how I feel was a waste of time. We only get one life—say how you feel. No one grows up and becomes an adult, not even our parents. Time just flies by as we strive to be and do our best. All of a sudden, we’re older and adults.” She pauses for a bit and laughs. “I am veering away from the subject, but yes, I have definitely grown personally.”

ON IZZARA: Nude satin dress from JONES NEW YORK, beaded choker and necklace with gem details from SM ACCESSORIES (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)

ON IZZARA: Nude satin dress from JONES NEW YORK, beaded choker and necklace with gem details from SM ACCESSORIES (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)

These little glimpses prove that, through their independent endeavors, the 19-year-olds in them is still very much present—particularly in their eagerness to explore their respective cities. “In San Francisco, when I wasn’t in school, I would be going to different districts with my friends. The city was our playground, and I don’t doubt that Spain will be different,” Izza enthuses. “I will continuously expand my knowledge even outside of school. Spain is so rich in historical events and traditions. Aside from the history, Marbella is right next to the coast so I’ll have the beach 15 minutes away, which is awesome!”

The City of Lights is Amanda’s own playground, and she’s found it very much like her hometown. “There’s a laid-back lifestyle. It’s a big city and people do rush around, of course, but people have such a calm way of going about their lives,” she says. “But people in Paris don’t smile like they do in Cebu.” In the past year, her days have been exploring the city in between her classes and homework. “When it’s warm out, we’d go to a park and have a picnic, but in the winter, my friends and I would go to a café and just sit, talk and people-watch for hours.”

With Marbella and Paris just a short distance away, the cousins are already thinking of weekend trips to each other’s cities. “It’s all we’ve been talking about,” Amanda admits. “We’ll finally be able to be together for each others’ birthday! We haven’t planned any trip yet, but we’ll visit each other, and then we’ll get to other places. This is a whole new adventure for us.”

“We’ve been separated for way too long. For three years, we’ve lived on different coasts, then different countries,” Izza adds. “It’s awesome that we will soon be so close to each other. I’ve never been to Paris, and I am excited to finally go.”

“WhatsApp used to be our best friend,” Amanda says of the time they were living away from each other. “Skype, not so much. Whenever we get a bad connection—which is all the time—we hang up, get back on WhatsApp and blame each other for the bad internet connection.”

“We’re too lazy,” Izza laughs. “Instead, we’ll send voicemails to each other. I remember I was waiting for a pizza outside my USF dorm and I was freezing cold—and I was in shorts, don’t ask why—and I was sending Amanda voicemails and pictures. Technology just makes everything so simple.”

Both girls agree that being away from family is one of the hardest things about living abroad, so it’s comforting to know that someone you’re close to is just a few hours away. “There’s a certain comfort you get from being home that you don’t realize exists until you’re away for a long time,” Amanda says. “For me, that comfort is in my family. They always know how to make me happy.”

That’s why, Amanda goes on to explain, that summers of the past few years have been completely dedicated to spending time in Cebu. “I can travel when I leave here,” she says. “For now, it’s great to be able to catch up with everyone, go out around the city or head for the beach.”

That’s not to say they don’t wish for the little luxuries they’d already gotten used to while being away from Cebu. While Amanda yearns for Paris’ food and street markets, Izza misses something a bit simpler. “Being able to watch Netflix in bed,” she admits. “They need to set up servers in the Philippines.”

ON IZZARA: Maxi dress with tie-back crop top by BARBIE ALVEZ, multi-strand chain necklace from SM ACCESSORIES. ON AMANDA: Backless halter dress by BARBIE ALVEZ, gold bracelet, sculptural woven cuff and gold rings from SM ACCESSORIES. (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)

ON IZZARA: Maxi dress with tie-back crop top by BARBIE ALVEZ, multi-strand chain necklace from SM ACCESSORIES. ON AMANDA: Backless halter dress by BARBIE ALVEZ, gold bracelet, sculptural woven cuff and gold rings from SM ACCESSORIES. (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)


The day of the shoot finds the beds of one of Bluewater Maribago’s villas completely covered in designer clothes and SM Accessories collated especially for the cover shoot. With the variety of items laid out, the girls—hair pinned up and munching on Tostitos and chocolate truffles—look through the collection as they discuss with the stylists the different looks.

“I love full skirts, pantsuits and minimalist dresses—the classics,” Amanda says, admiring the floral prints of a backless halter gown by Barbie Alvez. “My family likes to joke that I’m an old soul.”

Izza shrugs. “My mom says I dress too rugged. Is that what you’d call my personal style?”

That wasn’t always the case, though. “Izza and I have pretty much switched roles,” Amanda laughs. “She was the extremely girly one and I was the little tomboy when we were younger. She always had her hair done up in nice braids and always wore cutesy clothes, while I had a short boy cut because I couldn’t keep my hair from being a mess; and I strutted my stuff in bikini bottoms and no top!”

“She was the most bugoy person I knew,” Izza agrees. “Nowadays, I don’t even brush my hair and I just throw on the first thing I see, while it takes Amanda forever to get ready. Seriously, you have to tell her plans a day before.”

“Now, Amanda’s very classy. She knows what she’s doing,” Izza continues. “But if you really get to know her, she has a super kiat personality. She is not that reserved.”

“She’s definitely very boho,” Amanda says about her cousin. “She’s always in loose, printed dresses. She always wears sandals. Her style is very laid-back—perfect for Cebu!”

ON AMANDA: Backless dress by JUN ESCARIO, necklace with bead florets, earrings and bracelet set from SM ACCESSORIES. ON IZZARA: Nude satin dress from JONES NEW YORK, beaded choker and necklace with gem details from SM ACCESSORIES. (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)

ON AMANDA: Backless dress by JUN ESCARIO, necklace with bead florets, earrings and bracelet set from SM ACCESSORIES. ON IZZARA: Nude satin dress from JONES NEW YORK, beaded choker and necklace with gem details from SM ACCESSORIES. (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)

As they go through the accessories, they help mix and match the items that would suit their outfits and their own personal style. With a wide collection that includes jewelry, bags, home decor, and others, SM Accessories is a growing repository for fashionable accents at reasonable price points. As the fashion accessories authority, SM Accessories features a wide range of jewelry, eyewear, belts, bags and a lot more that are carefully selected by a team of fashion experts to complete any fashion statement.

“During the day, my favorite accessory is my pair of pearl earrings,” Amanda shares, which made the multi-strand pearl necklace a perfect match for her Jun Escario lace dress. Its sophisticated and ladylike look was a fit to Amanda’s classic style. “Sometimes I’ll wear diamond studs at night. When I’m back in Paris, my favorite thing to wear is a brooch. I always have my gold medallion around my neck, a gift to me from my parents.”

That sentimentality is something Izza also shares in her choice of trinkets. “I wear four accessories all day, everyday—a gold ring from my brother’s girlfriend, Nikki; my grandmother Marle’s favorite ring and earrings; and my medallion. Those are my favorites.” From delicate thin rings to a pair of thick gold ones connected together with a light chain, the collection of rings were elegantly playful on Izza’s manicured fingers. “Nail Play!” she laughs, showing off her nude manicure and referring to the nail salon her and Amanda’s mom owned together with a group of friends.

It seems, though, that the similarities in dressing up end there. Asked if they borrow each other’s clothes, and both girls burst out in laughter. “No!” Amanda says. “We look at what the other is wearing and we go, ‘oh wow, I could never pull that off.’”

“She left a pair of shorts in my house, and I have claimed them as my own. Does that count?” Izza jokes. Amanda adds, “She’s had them for five years and counting.”

When it’s time to dress up, the two are supportive of local designers, with Izza naming Mia Arcenas, Jun Escario and Oj Hofer as her favorites and Amanda acknowledging Hanz Coquilla as her go-to. “Internationally, my favorite designer is Raf Simons,” Amanda adds. “Every piece he creates for Dior is breathtaking.”

Decidedly very different in terms of personal style—best exemplified by the favorite things in their closet, Amanda names a red wool Prada dress that “looks like it’s straight out of the 1950s” while Izza’s answer is a T-shirt and Nike shorts—the two have a connection that transcends the cousin bond. Despite being apart for long stretches, every time the two are in the same city, they pick up right where they left off.

ON AMANDA: Backless halter dress by BARBIE ALVEZ, gold bracelet, sculptural woven cuff and gold rings from SM ACCESSORIES. ON IZZARA: Maxi dress with tie-back crop top by BARBIE ALVEZ, multi-strand chain necklace from SM ACCESSORIES. (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)

ON AMANDA: Backless halter dress by BARBIE ALVEZ, gold bracelet, sculptural woven cuff and gold rings from SM ACCESSORIES. ON IZZARA: Maxi dress with tie-back crop top by BARBIE ALVEZ, multi-strand chain necklace from SM ACCESSORIES. (Originally published in Zee Lifestyle August-September 2015: Photography by Dan Douglas Ong)

“We’ll just watch TV shows or do a movie marathon together while eating santol and green mango. It’s one of the first things we do when we’re both back in Cebu,” Amanda says. “We love going on adventures. We once drove to Carcar in the middle of the night, and just stopped to eat at different places on the way. I guess you could say our favorite thing to do together is eat.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I can say anything else,” Izza agrees. “I’ll text her and we would be craving the same cuisines. I found this Buzzfeed quiz online called, What Famous Disney Duo Represents You and Your BFF. I sent it to Amanda while she was in Paris—we both got Timon and Pumba.”

The easy relationship these two have is backed by years of shared experiences and a genuine appreciation for being in each other’s lives. Amanda admits that Izza is the one who got her to come out of her shell. “She’s always said it isn’t worth hiding in the background and letting everything pass you by. It’s something I’ve always struggled with but I’ve come a long way with her help, and I love her for it,” she says. “Izza’s just so lighthearted, so unbothered by everything. I love laughing with her—she has the most genuine and contagious laugh.”

“No one can tolerate my mood swings better than Amanda,” Izza shares on her end. “And I admire her effortless grace. No matter what is going on in her life, she manages to look flawless. She is a great support system and is always there for anyone who needs it, so she’s the mother of the group.”

As the pair bounce off to the bathroom to help each other change into their shoot’s first look, it’s clear that Amanda and Izza will find their shared stories only growing exponentially in the next years. In spite of the different directions their lives take them on, they remain rooted in their friendship—though friendship may seem to be too light a word. “I know that no matter what life throws at us, we will always have each other,” Izza says with a smile. “Always. We are sisters.”

Zee Lifestyle’s August-September Fashion Issue: Amanda Booth & Izzara Ugarte (Sittings Editor: Shari Quimbo/Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/Styled by Blaq Mafia/Makeup by Arnauld/Hair by Carlos Conde/All accessories from SM Accessories)

by Shari Quimbo photography Dan Douglas Ong stylists Blaq Mafia makeup Arnauld hair Carlos Conde locale Bluewater Maribago all accessories by SM Accessories
Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, August-September 2015

For back issues, download the Magzter app on your mobile device and search for ‘Zee Lifestyle‘. Like Zee Lifestyle on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.


THROWBACK THURSDAY: Thanksgiving with the Woolbrights


The holiday season kicks off officially with Thanksgiving. A time to be grateful for family, friends and blessings. Although this is not usually practiced in our tropical country, there are, however, families like the Woolbrights for whom this is a time-honored tradition.

by Janine Taylor sittings editor Katsy Borromeo fashion stylist Mikey Sanchez food stylist Nicolette Gaw-Yu production manager David Jones Cua intern Danica Ronquillo hair and make-up Jessie Glova assistant Jojo Embalzado photography Joseph Ong locale Woolbright Residence


Eddie Woolbright was among the thousands of G.I.’s that landed on the shores of the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. After the war, a few enterprising American soldiers came back, including the 24-year old Eddie who made Tacloban his home, before settling down in Cebu in the 1950s and opened a restaurant and a hardware store downtown—Eddie’s Log Cabin and Eddie’s Hardware and Auto Supply, respectively.

Eddie’s Log Cabin quickly became the hub of social, political and even military scene. It was the first air-conditioned café in town, and more importantly, it offered American diner food including a soda fountain and an ice cream parlor. It was patronized by one and all for its reputation for good food and service.

It also didn’t take long for the fearless Eddie Woolbright to realize that the real estate in the sleepy hillside suburbs was ripe for development. “I will show Cebu what a good planned subdivision is,” Eddie had said, when the late Senator Marcelo Fernan, then a young legal counselor for Columbian Rope Co., took Eddie to see the property. Pretty soon, Eddie had purchased over thirty-three hectares of otherwise undeveloped land from the heirs of the late Arlington Pond.

“Buy land,” Eddie Woolbright was known to quote the late humorist Will Rogers, “because they ain’t gonna make more.”

With his added access to army surplus, he bulldozed tracts of land, and a decade later, Beverly Hills, the first major subdivision in Cebu City, was created, and marketed to the city’s growing well-to-do locals, with the subdivision’s connotations of Hollywood and colonial American aesthetic. Eddie’s belief in the business potentials of central Cebu city enabled him to see much growth in his investments in land development, water drilling, construction, and general trading.

ON THE COVER The Woolbright sisters, Joy, Karen and Alice don Jun Escario’s Holiday Collection, photographed in their home by Joseph Ong. Hair and make-up by Jessie Glova.


Eddie had nine children: Rick, Anita, Marc, Gilbert, Alice, Kathy, Kristy, Karen and Joy. All recall that each holiday was as important to them as Christmas. Turkey Thanksgiving dinners, for example, as it was known in the Woolbright household, began when Eddie’s mom, Nell, came to visit sometimes in the 1960s. Eddie would buy a butterball turkey from the American base in Clark and she whipped up a traditional feast complete with cornbread stuffing, cranberry jelly, candied yams, garlic mashed potatoes and her famous giblet gravy which was poured literally all over the bird, as they do back in her home in Oklahoma. Grandma Nell also taught the cooks at Eddie’s Log Cabin to make the famous Coconut Cream Pie, another Eddie’s Log Cabin standard. Kathy also recollects, “It was also dad’s idea that the restaurant and the hotel should serve breakfast 24 hours, and since I loved my Mexican omelet, sliced ham, buttered toast I enjoyed being able to eat breakfast any time of the day.” 

My dad taught me how to be humble. He told us stories about his younger days jumping trains, eating nothing but grapes for days just to go pick cotton. He had a hard life growing up and I guess he wanted us, his children, to know the meaning of hard work. He would say, “Nobody owes you a life in this world”. I didn’t understand it then but I do now. -Alice Woolbright


FROM LEFT ON JOY Nude dress, models own; ring and bangle by Gladys Young; ON ALICE Sequined LBD, models own; ON KAREN Grey pleated shift dress from Loalde; ring and necklace by Gladys Young.

Shortly after, turkey was introduced in the menu of Eddie’s Log Cabin, both Americans and Cebuanos, with a penchant for this wholesome meal, look for it when November came, and more especially on Thanksgiving Day. “Dad loved quality meat, and passed on this fondness to us, his children,” noted Karen, “So special meals always consisted of a good steak or the tender Prime Rib Roast. Of course, the year was never complete without a Turkey once or twice.”

As the sisters change into various outfits for the photo shoot in their childhood home, each one recalled the happy memories this holiday brings.  

ON KAREN Teal pantsuit from Loalde, belt by Gladys Young; ON JOY Plum cocktail dress, model’s own; ON ALICE Teal corseted dress by Jun Escario, belt by Gladys Young.

Alice, recalls disliking the giblet gravy as a child but since her dad would serve her at the dinner table she had no choice but to eat it. She adds, “He would get upset if we did not try everything.” Funnily enough, she now looks forward to the giblet gravy and can’t imagine turkey without it.  Her dad, she said, employed the same tactic with his customers at the restaurant so after a while, they ended up getting used to it, and will not have their turkey any other way.

Between brothers and sisters coming home from out of town and family members in the States, there was always some degree of traveling or entertaining company. Dad valued the family bond and holidays were the best time to reinforce that. –Karen Woolbright

Happy hour with the Woolbright siblings.

The family pet Chewy joins in on the annual Woolbright Thanksgiving dinner.

Joy Woolbright-Sotto fondly remembers watching her dad carve the bird. “He made sure that each one of the kids learned how to do it properly, with the white meat sliced thinly enough, and followed last by the dark meat,” she says. A feat she now does with ease. Future doctor Karen says that her dad would always carve the wings and serve it to her, which is still her favorite part of the fowl. Kathy though, considers turkey her comfort food. But she says that she loves the Coconut Cream Pie, which is also served on the restaurant’s menu, and that as a child she could eat half a pie in bed. 


Old fashioned roast turkey

Cebu in the 60s and 70s was a very small town, if you wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving, you went to Eddie’s. Eddie’s Log Cabin, like its owner was a trailblazer, the balut dice game originated there, many singers’ careers such as Elizabeth Ramsey’s were given their first break there.  

The torch has been passed on to his children, and they too celebrate it with turkey dinners and all the trimmings, ensuring that the restaurant still serves the traditional menu, down to the Coconut Cream Pie.  Thanksgiving will always be celebrated at their homes, and the Beverly Hotel, the last legacy that Eddie Woolbright gave his children to run.

Another legacy that Eddie left to his children was a love for food and Alice was quick share that she got it too, “I’m usually home during the day and I find myself in the kitchen trying to cook up new dishes to serve.”


Back at the Woolbright ancestral home, which is also now Alice’s home, the dining table has been set, evoking autumn and harvest, the candles are lit, the wine is being poured, the buffet table is groaning under the weight of the Thanksgiving repast. The sisters are seated at the table, each with a glass of wine discussing whose turn it is to carve. The annual Woolbright turkey dinner is about to start and I am glad to be invited to join them at their family home. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.


(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s November 2011 Entertaining Issue, “The Gift that Keeps on Giving” on pages 72-77.)

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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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#CebuPride:  Cebuanos in Multi-awarded Pride-Themed Films

Multi-awarded International Gay Movies with Cebuano Lead Casts

By:  Allain Dumon Fonte


Pride-themed movies are starting to invade the film industry as people become more accepting and are more intrigued on the stories about LGBTIQ.  Many have shared the intensity of emotions and laughed with the craziest jokes on gay-themed movies.  In the Philippines, these kinds of movies were questioned as to their morality and their message to the society.  The strong influence of the country’s religious standards had branded gay-themed movies as sex-oriented and nothing more.  Yet, with Thailand’s more tolerant culture, Thai BL (Boy’s Love) movies and television series have created a new perception to the viewers; and that is gay-themed movies are remarkably alike to all other movies – there is romance, comedy, drama, and the continuing struggle of living like normal people.  Hence, Thai BL TV series have a massive following all over Asia.  At the end of 2019, they became available in Netflix and are being watched by millions of viewers all over the world.

ZEE’s Allain Fonte with the casts of the top-rating Thai BL series (2019) “Cause You’re My Boy” of GMMTV (from L-R) Amp Phurikulkrit Chusakdiskulwibul, AJ Chayapol Jutamas, Neo Trai Nimtawat, Frank Thanatsaran Samthonglai, ADF, Drake Laedeke, Phuwin Tangsakyuen, and JJ Chayakorn Jutamas.

The Philippine film industry is not that far from Thailand’s.  Some of the LGBTIQ-themed movies and television series are slowly getting a following in Asia and are now accessible to viewers worldwide.  A few of these pride-themed movies that casted or directed by a Filipino have already been receiving nominations and awards from Golden Globe, The Berlin Film Festival, the Venezia Film Awards, and even the Emmy’s…and the Filipinos in these films hail their roots from Cebu!


1. Lingua Franca


Lingua Franca is a film directed by a Cebuana, Isabel Sandoval.  Sandoval also plays the main character of the movie, and she even wrote the screenplay.  Lingua Franca tells the story of Olivia, an undocumented transgender woman in New York who works as a caregiver to a senile old-lady of Russian-decent.  When Olivia is challenged to attain legal status in the US, she is left with a “marriage-based green card”.  While in search for her groom-to-be, she becomes romantically involved with Alex, Olga’s grandson.

The film is now available on Netflix and has received positive reviews from the media.  Stephen Dalton of the Hollywood Reporter wrote Lingua Franca is a “heartfelt personal statement rooted in timely, gripping issues that obviously resonate deeply with its author, notably trans rights and Trump-era immigration anxieties”.


Isabel Sandoval wearing Marchesa at the Venezia Red Carpet in the Venice Film Festival (2019)

Isabel Sandoval graduated summa cum laude with the degree in psychology from the University of San Carlos in Cebu, Philippines.  In New York, she pursued graduate studies in Film at NYU.  She is now currently residing in NYC, and already has award-winning films under her belt like Apparition, Lingua Franca, Senorita, Ritwal, The Unstoppable, and Judgement.


2. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

This television series was aired in Netflix and has gained so much popularity because it showed the murder of world-renowned fashion designer, Gianni Versace, by a serial killer, Andrew Cunanan.  Based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History, this television series has 9 episodes of suspenseful scenes, and is star-studded with casts like Ricky Martin and Penelope Cruz.  However, the main actor who played Andrew Cunanan is Darren Criss who gained his popularity after being a regular on the top rating TV show, Glee.  Darren Criss hails his roots from Cebu, Philippines.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story received positive reviews from critics. At the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, it received 9 nominations, and won 3 awards, including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for Darren Criss.


Darren Criss with his dad (left) Charles William Criss, and his mother (right) Cerina Criss. Source

Criss was born and raised in San Francisco, California, USA.  Criss was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended roman catholic schools.  He later moved to Michigan where he studied Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Theatre Performance and minor in music at the University of Michigan.  Criss’s father, Charles William Criss, is a banker and served as CEO of the East West bank in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Criss’s mom, Cerina, is a native of Talisay, Cebu, Philippines.  When he was younger, he visited Cebu a couple of times with his mother.  Darren Criss is very proud of his Cebuano roots and wants to portray Filipino characters in films and in theatres to promote visibility of the Filipinos in the American films.


3. The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela

     The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela premiered at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival where it grabbed the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film.  It was also awarded the Grand Jury Prize in the 10th 2008 Cinemanila International Film Festival at Malacañang Palace’s Kalayaan Hall.  It starred Raquela Rios also known as Minerva to her Cebuano friends.  Raquela  is a local of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines.  The film is directed by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson.


Raquella Rios in Bangkok’s MRT (a scene in a Thai film).

Raquella Rios is a native of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines, and she went to the University of San Carlos in Cebu, studying sociology and anthropology.  Before finishing her studies, Raquella left the Cebu and went to Iceland after being casted by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson for the movie The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela.  She is now based in Bangkok, Thailand as a fashion stylist and wardrobe assistant to some local Thai movies.  Raquella is also an activist for sex workers rights and trans rights in Southeast Asia; pushing for the recognition on the choice of their gender and the right to change their birth names.

Raquella (right) with film director Olaf de Fleur (left) receives the Best Feature Film Award at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival in Germany. Photo grabbed from Berlinale archives.

There are still plenty of pride-themed films in the Philippines that gained recognition all over the world; yet these movies mentioned are special because of the talented Cebuanos that have  brought Cebu to world.  They truly are #CebuPride.

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