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Down with the Fitness

Are health buffs this decade’s heartthrobs? Zee Lifestyle introduces some of the city’s trainers, instructors and athletes whose tireless efforts at the gym, studio or field have garnered head-turning results.

Are health buffs this decade’s heartthrobs? Zee Lifestyle introduces some of the city’s trainers, instructors and athletes whose tireless efforts at the gym, studio or field have garnered head-turning results.

Studying Sports Science in college, Pio Solon had an outline of what he wanted to be doing for the rest of his life. As an age-group swimmer as well as teacher and personal trainer, you can bet that he knows his stuff. However, that wasn’t enough; he was working on owning his own gym and being able to provide people with the chance of a lifestyle change.

In January of 2012, he started Epic Performance and Fitness Solutions. He describes what they do as “functional training,” meaning all workouts are tailored for each person. “I envision this workout as a part of everybody’s fitness regimen. We all should do some sort of strength training as there are countless benefits to our bodies besides looking good,” Pio says. And since opening Epic, he has never heard anyone say they feel worse when they get stronger.

Although he struggled when he first opened Epic, being a swimmer who wasn’t used to working on land, he stuck through it and became stronger. “People should be consistent with their workouts. Beginners have to be consistent as it’s the fastest way to achieve progress and meet your goals,” he adds. In the end, all Pio strives for is progress—it’s part of the package when you begin your change at Epic.

Epic Performance and Fitness Solutions

“I was in Brazil on the  Rotary Student Exchange program and looking for a martial art to study. An old man told me that Brazil had its own martial art, created by the African slaves, that was a blend of dance, music and acrobatics,” says Jensen Chow of how he got into capoeira. The idea intrigued him, and now 17 years later, he’s brought the rhythmic art to Cebu. 

A capoeira class involves lots of movement—kicks and hand strikes, partnered drills, acrobatics—all done to the steady beat of the accompanying instruments. “Capoeira is fun, but even more than just moving your body, the art exercises the spirit too,” says Jensen, talking of how it’s also become a form of self-expression through the various movements. As a holistic body workout, capoeira is a great way to get lean, although that’s not purely why you should get into it. “Rather than doing it only for the sake of losing weight, a practitioner will also enjoy themselves,” he says, although he’s quick to remind beginners that weight loss can only achieved when matched with the proper diet, reduced stress and enough sleep.

Watching the various  movements might make capoeira seem daunting to take up, but Jensen reassures that you shouldn’t be intimidated. “Enjoy every part of the art and don’t compare your progress to anyone else but yourself,” he advises beginners. “The goal is not to become phenomenal athletes, even though that may happen; but rather, the goal is to lose yourself in the art and explore all aspects, from the music, song and movements. It can be done by any age, weight or fitness level, and helps increase flexibility, strength, endurance, rhythm and reflexes.”

Sinha Bahia De Capoeira Internacional

Growing up playing  American football, yoga was the last thing on his mind. But when constant injuries pushed him to engage in an activity that didn’t involve getting pushed down and shoved across a field, Robert Vecchioni turned to yoga to help him push through the pain from injuries and strengthen his muscles again.

Robert practiced yoga in Manila, where he was licensed to teach. He has since remained in the Philippines and is currently working as a yoga instructor at Yogahub in BTC. “Many think that yoga is for girls, that it doesn’t give you enough exercise. It actually strengthens your core and is one of the best ways to build up your muscles,” Robert says.

He wants readers to know that  yoga is an exercise for all, and many would be surprised to hear that quite a few professional tennis, soccer, and basketball players regularly do yoga to enhance their skills. “It prevents injuries because of how flexible and agile it makes you,” he adds. Although it may not be enough to just do yoga, Robert says incorporating it into your routine, along with sports or working out, is more than enough to help you get in shape.


The journey began  when this man participated in The Biggest Loser—weighing in at 309 pounds. After coming out of the camp weighing 240 pounds, Alan Choachuy incorporated fitness into his daily routine; he made it a goal that he strived to achieve.

At a current weight of 184  pounds, Alan has come a long way. He owes his strength to his mentor, Coach Jim Saret, who was alongside him every step of the way. In May of last year, he took control of booting up the FITFIL Fitness Boot Camp that drew in over 200 people. Due to the success of the camp, Alan had the idea to start his own camp—METAFit Fitness Boot Camp.

The camp focuses on small  group mentorship to ensure that every participant gets an equal amount of attention from the trainers. “Fitness is not about losing weight. Fitness is about getting stronger, fitter, and healthier,” he says. The METAFit camp is not only for those who want to lose weight, but those who are just looking to get fit as well.

Last year, Alan participated in  Ironman Cebu, which he called a “lifelong dream. It was a very emotional finish for me. I broke down at the finish line while bringing the Biggest Loser banner with so much pride,” he shares. Alan says he just hopes to help everyone achieve everything he has achieved. “I’m living proof that you can be what you want to be as long as you put your heart into it.”

Metafit Cebu

Growing up in Switzerland, a  country where ice hockey has always been a stadium filler, Steven Füglister is no alien to the sport. “I like the intensity, physical aspect and the fast pace of the sport. That it’s a team sport is also a big bonus,” he says.

In truth, this isn’t an easy sport.  Steven describes his training as four practices and two games paired with off-ice practices every week. However, he doesn’t stop there; he works out in the gym, focusing on full-body workouts that help improve his game. Aside from hockey, he plays golf and basketball, but he tells us those are just hobbies.

“If played competitively, it’s  like HIIT Training (high intensity interval training) with lots of stops and gos, so you will definitely stay in shape.” Although the Philippines is a tropical country and time on the ice is limited, Steven says he is surprised to have found so many people—Filipinos and expats alike—who are interested in playing ice hockey. His advice for beginners is to master skating first, as it is a must, before venturing into organized hockey, or any other on-ice sport for that matter.

Being only 22 years  old, Paolo Pascual may be relatively young, but he’s already found his calling— soccer. “It was the only club back then so I decided to try it out. I’ve been playing since I was seven years old,” he tells us. Now, he’s the goalkeeper for the Azkals, the Philippines’ national soccer team, and competes in various tournaments here and in other neighboring countries.

One thing he points out is  that soccer is no walk in the park. The training is intense; his team trains for two hours a day, with occasional double sessions—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The training consists of warm-ups, a couple of runs to keep them quick on their feet, and they spend the rest of the practice doing shooting drills. Paolo doesn’t stop there; he tries to go to the gym at least four times a week to maintain his physical shape.

“I love the challenge that  the sport brings,” he adds. It’s one that takes years of practice with the guarantee that you learn something new everyday. And even after all that, it’s a sport you can never perfect. He agrees that soccer is a great way to get fit, as you do a lot of cardio and quick bursts. “Just don’t give up. Everything requires time and dedication. Once you are committed to the sport, success will follow.” And we can trust what he says, as his own words have taken him very far.


A workout  originally used by Navy SEALs, you can bet that anyone who does TRX professionally knows all about getting and staying fit. Paul Martin Gabatan, the exercise training manager at CITIGYM has been doing TRX for a little over a year now, after taking the TRX Trainer’s Certification in June last year. His decision to pursue TRX was based on it being an all-around system that allowed people to perform hundreds of exercises anytime and anywhere.

However, it wasn’t all easy for  him in the beginning. He had a hard time stabilizing his body, which led him to realize he had a very weak core. He says that as a beginner, the user has control over the body resistance, angle, and stability. “I would strongly recommend that you hire a certified TRX trainer to perform the exercises safely and effectively.”

“The TRX Suspension  Trainer workouts delivers a fast and effective total body workout, helps you build a solid core, increases muscular endurance, and it benefits people of all fitness levels,” Paul says of the system. He recommends atomic pushups, inverted rows, and single-leg jump squats as they give a total body workout. They’re very versatile workouts, also focusing on strengthening and balancing the core.

TRX is perfect if you are  looking to lose weight because it raises your heart rate, thus increasing your metabolism and burning hundreds of calories. “The TRX Suspension Training allows for hundreds of exercises so anyone can reach their fitness goal no matter what level or experience they may have,” Paul adds.



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Citizens of the World: CAMPAIGN 2KRAINE

Asmara Urban Resort and Lifestyle Village

Citizens of the World: CAMPAIGN 2KRAINE

By Eva Gullas

“We are all citizens of the world. What’s good for you, must be good for all. If you are lost, share a plate with a stranger… you will find who you are.”

-Jose Andres, renowned Spanish Chef and founder of World Central Kitchen


Chef José Andrés

Where there are humanitarian disasters, you will find the volunteers of World Central Kitchen.  In their midst will be local chefs, most of them inspired by its iconic founder, celebrity chef José Andrés. Founded in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in  2010, World Central Kitchen established its “chef network,” of global professional chefs. The vision was for a kind of “chefs without borders” program where volunteers would enact positive change by cooking using local knowledge and resources. Last year, they even came to the island of Siargao in response to an Instagram plea for help after typhoon Odette almost levelled this idyllic paradise. WCK sponsored 2 community kitchens for 2 months serving 250 to 500 meals per day in Siargao.

WCK at Siargao with volunteers, December 2021. (Photo courtesy of Ai-Ai Garcia)

Chef José Andrés was born in Spain where he honed his culinary skills at the eponymous El Bulli under Ferran Adria. By the time he moved to the US in 1991, he was well on his way to being part of the celebrity chefs, with his Bazaar restaurant at the then SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills a favorite hang-out for Hollywood stars. Michelin stars and James Beard awards followed closely. These days though, Jose Andres spends his time in kitchens all over the world while his top rated chain of restaurants in the US continue to thrive. There’s a Bazaar restaurant at Las Vegas and Miami, and if you happen to be in the area, check out their amazing servings – it’s worth the splurge especially since it is owned by this great humanitarian!

The Bazaar Restaurant in Miami

With the Ukraine invasion delivered to us in sharp details tru social media and TV, it’s hard to ignore. And so, it was a natural conversation to be able to do something about it even in a small way. On a full-moon evening a few days ago, joining us at a beachside home for dinner was Matthew Wood, the German singer guest of Miranda Konstantiniduo who is here for a few days to shoot his latest music video. Sated with a good meal by the sea, we idly discussed a fund raising event with Matthew. We have been so engrossed with local politics and a looming election in just 2 months, that it was refreshing to talk about something bigger than our small world. Butch Carungay, seated in front of me, took the idea to heart and by the following day, he had the graphics for the event, and a ready rolodex of possible donors for the silent auction. Getting on board the following night was Carlo Cordaro, who happily lent us the second level of Asmara Resort. To complement Matthew, Cebuana singer Doods Osmena also will belt out a few songs. An impressive list of items for the silent auction is being compiled by Butch, composed of overnight stays at top resorts, artworks and furniture pieces from named artists.  We will post a list on the day of event. 

German singer Matthew Wood

Asmara Urban Resort and Lifestyle Village

Ribbon designed by Butch Carungay for guests at the fund raising event

It is sponsored by Zee Publications Inc., in our first foray after having been dormant during the pandemic and typhoon Odette. Zee will soon be launching a new artsy printed magazine called Eatz Cebu! 

This Friday, March 25, at 6pm, we open the doors of Asmara Urban Resort (see map) for this fundraising where we hope you can join us by donating a minimum of $50 to the World Central Kitchen directly at https://wck.org/donate. It will be an evening of fun and fundraising, and entry is tru an email or digital receipt of your donation. 


On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. By February 25, 2022, Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen (WCK) was on the ground serving free wholesome meals to those fleeing the violence. Chef Andrés and his volunteers have already served more than one million meals to Ukrainian refugees, from basements, train stations, and shelters. Still, cooking and distributing food in a war zone comes with unique challenges. “We began operations…over two weeks ago inside Lviv,” says Andrés. “The last two days we saw some missiles falling down. So, the western side of Ukraine, that actually was a safe haven for many Ukrainians leaving war, is already kind of feeling like the war is getting closer.” For Andrés, it’s a humanitarian necessity and a call he answers. “The least we can do at World Central Kitchen is be next to them – making sure they will be fed every day.”


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What Makes an Empowered Woman? Let’s take it from Megaworld Hotels and Resorts’ Managing Director, Cleofe Albiso

What is an empowered woman made of? Managing Director Cleofe Albiso of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts, the Philippines’ largest homegrown hospitality chain with 4,000 room keys and 11 hotels, composes her thoughts and shares that its grit, resilience, and love. 

Cleofe Albiso, Managing Director of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts  

Settling in on her new leadership role at the start of the new year, Albiso looks back even way before joining the organization during the last quarter of 2019 as its Group General Manager. It comes as a surprise when she shares that her years takes her back from being a pre-school teacher in Cebu using her degree in Bachelor of Science in Education major in mathematics finishing Magna Cum Laude. After a while, and with doors opening for her to join the corporate world, she finds herself earning her years in sales and marketing where she has gathered decades worth of exemplary experience being part of the country’s biggest telecommunications group and international hospitality brands. 

With the highs and blows of life and as well as business, she shares that “An empowered woman needs to have grit”. The will to persevere and continue with passion has become her brand of leadership in serving not just clients and guests, but as well as taking care of the people she works with. Through her dedication, Albiso has since continued to climb the corporate ladder and was also recognized as the first Filipino General Manager of a Marriott International branded property in the country, the Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo that is also one of Megaworld Corporation’s many other operated international hotels in the Philippines. 

Fast forward to today, she looks at the future with gratefulness as she embraces the opportunity to empower the lives of 2,000 employees present across 11 hotels and not to mention 3 more properties opening this year as well as in 2023. She shares that “My responsibility can only be best tackled by filling my heart with gratitude and keeping my purpose in close check when times get challenging.” 

More than ever, she has come to understand that “Resilience is her way of life.” She explains that challenges come and go along with every solution that solves each one of them. Safe to say, what she considers as the biggest one yet would have to be this pandemic.  Albiso hopes that after a two year pause and struggle of the industry “My constant prayer is for our fellow Filipinos to help us recover by patronizing homegrown brands for them to explore the Philippines and travel again.” She said that in doing so “this will mean more jobs for the hospitality and tourism practitioners and boost confidence in the total industry to go back on full swing once again.” 

Admittedly, despite being one of the industries at the frontline of the pandemic, she can still say that “The culture of appreciation in our very own organization has been better strengthened during these times”.  The company lives by the Circle of Happiness. She explains that “Our organization operates with a culture that reminds us to love ourselves, our families, our work, our community with the love of God at the center of everything we do.” This pandemic has better reminded them to strive to take care of the wholistic well-being of each employee from physical to emotional and even mental health.

On top of that, Albiso gathers that what allows them to thrive is their team’s collective ability to take care of their key stakeholders, execute efforts geared towards sustaining the business, and making people stay and work passionately.  She further adds “We are a work in progress and there are many more business and service facets that we are focusing on improving” and humbly claims that “The best years for Megaworld Hotels and Resorts are yet to come.”

When asked about what her best advice to fellow women would be as they reach for their dreams, she said “I only found genuine fulfillment when I started having a relationship with God.  It is only by accepting that we cannot do things by ourselves that we become dependent on our creator.” According to her it is important “That we do not give credit to our talent, creativity and hard work (alone) but give glory to the one above us who have blessed us with all that.”  

At present, their properties are continuously looking to hire qualified applicants for vacant positions in front office, security, information technology, food and beverage, sales & marketing, human resources and engineering for Belmont Hotel Manila and Savoy Hotel Manila within Newport City in Pasay across NAIA terminal 3, Kingsford Hotel Manila located in the Entertainment City of Paranaque, Hotel Lucky Chinatown in Binondo, Twin Lakes Hotel near Tagaytay, Eastwood Richmonde Hotel in Quezon City, Richmonde Hotel Ortigas in Pasig, Richmonde Hotel Iloilo in Iloilo Business Park of Iloilo City, Belmont Hotel Boracay or Savoy Hotel Boracay located at the Newcoast Boracay and Savoy Hotel Mactan Newtown in Cebu.

For more information about how you can be part of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts, kindly email careers@megaworldhotels.com. You may also inquire about your future stays through salesinquiry@megaworldhotels.com or connect with them through any of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts’ and its properties’ social media pages. 

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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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