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Girl Wonder: Ayla Gomez

A part-time model, online store entrepreneur, and bag and accessory designer, Ayla Gomez may be a laidback boheme with an invitingly easygoing deameanor, but Zee Lifestyle finds out nothing about her success is accidental.

A part-time model, online store entrepreneur, and bag and accessory designer, Ayla Gomez may be a laidback boheme with an invitingly easygoing deameanor, but Zee Lifestyle finds out nothing about her success is accidental.

It’s a windy afternoon just off the holiday season, and the team is trying to keep the makeshift white background for the photo shoot from flying off the rooftop of Harold’s Hotel. Once we have the billowing sheet under control, Ayla Gomez emerges on the balcony for her first shot. She’s smiling shyly and comfortably quiet, carrying her outfit in the kind of cool girl nonchalance that everyone tries so hard to emulate. She brushes her long hair off her face and bobs along to the music of Two Door Cinema Club. “I listen to a lot of indie bands, some folk, old school rock, chillwave, house, and of course, we can’t resist some pop,” she shares, before listing Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Feist, Toro Y Moi, Girls, The Drums, The Horrors and Kings of Convenience as bands she’d seen live and loved. Finally, the photographer motions that the shoot is officially starting, and we see her relaxed charm turn into steely confidence once the camera starts clicking.

She moves in front of the camera with an ease that comes from years of experience, having worked as a model for various magazine and newspaper editorials since her first photo shoot for the cover of Zee Lifestyle’s February-March 2005 issue. Then, she had just graduated from high school and preparing for her move to Manila to study early childhood education in De La Salle University. “I think I look younger in this one than in that first shoot,” she laughs. “I think I was a lot stiffer then, and really conscious about how I looked. I definitely wish I knew my angles and facial expressions more— basically just how to work the camera.”

Today, it’s clear that she’s learned to do just that, moving and posing fluidly through each layout. It might have helped that the photographer Emman Montalvan is a childhood friend, and the one who got her into modeling in the first place. “He was my neighbor during college. He was taking up production design in Benilde, and he would ask me to model for him for his school projects.” She’d since done campaigns for Spruce, a consignment store in CDO, since 2010 and Sueno de Espadrilles in 2011, and did a photo shoot for Vanilla Label by fashion designer Vania Romoff—though she admits she doesn’t see modeling as a main career choice. “I never really signed with an agency, because I didn’t really think of it as a job. It was just something to do every now and then.”

Of course, that’s not to say she doesn’t enjoy doing it. “The best part is getting all dolled up and being styled, and who doesn’t like a good photo of themselves?” she laughs. “I enjoy doing different looks, which I normally wouldn’t wear or think of putting together. I have definitely learned how to dress, and picked up a few tips here and there from stylists and make-up artists.” She does admit that she has a lot to learn, but also dares to dream when thinking about who she would model for in the future if given the chance. “I’d have to say Marc Jacobs, Topshop because I frequent that store a lot, and Zac Posen! I love his gorgeous gowns,” she gushes. “I also would really love to model for a great Cebu gem, Cary Santiago. There’s really nothing like his intricately detailed dresses and the workmanship that goes into each one.” After the interview, she sends an email to add, “I would have to add Chanel and Roberto Cavalli!” that was ended with a sheepishly cute “hehe.” That little exchange showed off the bright and bubbly persona that emerged from the reserved Ayla infront of the camera. Off-duty, she transforms into someone who answers questions with a flurry of sentences that are excitedly strung together. “Most people think I’m shy and very quiet, which I can be at times. But I’m very easygoing and I love to goof around.” The open and animated way she shares her life stories projects a youthfulness that seems to defy her age of 26. “Honestly, I still feel like I’m 21 inside, and sometimes even younger when I’m with my nephews. I won’t lie though, I’m also a bit freaked out about the idea of turning 30.”

In truth, she’s further from her 30’s than she thinks, which makes her list of accomplishments even more impressive considering she’d just emerged from the younger half of her roaring decade. She’s started two online stores, models for various brands, and is the marketing manager for her mom Melinda Garcia’s Club Serena Resort in Moalboal. “I’ve been going there since I was a child,” she says of the family property. “It’s my happy place, specifically underneath my favorite tree next to our beach house.”

Whether it’s her dad Quintin Gomez waking her up on weekends by bringing the family’s dogs into her room or the elaborate Theme Park birthday parties she had in her backyard and later at theme parks, Ayla’s been gifted with a childhood of normalcy that attests to how much family plays an important role in her life. “My best memories were from when our whole family would spend Holy Week together at the Moalboal beach house, my tito’s farm in Bohol, or at our close family friend’s ranch in Bukidnon,” she recalls fondly. Of course, time has seen the group of cousins growing up and having their only families, which means less time to spend basking in the sun and playing shato, but Ayla still looks forward to the Christmas holidays spent at her grandmother’s house. “Every year she serves a huge feast, but the staples are always roast beef, turkey, lechon, and her famous callos and bacalao.”

Her familial ties carry over to her business life, when she opened The Lost Nomad with cousin Paolo Sarmiento. “Like how most things start out, it was over drunken talk,” she jokes about the beginnings of the brand. “Whenever my cousin visited Manila, we would always find ourselves talking about how cool it would be to collaborate and work on a store that sold bags.” After more discussions over coffee, the duo dove right into the project, looking for manufacturers that could create their concept of usable but stylish travel bags. Created to represent the modern day nomad, The Lost Nomad’s collections are on display on the website www.thelostnomad.com.ph, which show the collection of roomy duffels in bright primary colors, or clutches and backpacks in prints that bring to mind exotic locales. Their bags marry form and function, deceptively compact but in truth providing a good amount of space to carry travel essentials, while maintaining a design that maximizes on beautiful details and quality materials.

The inclination to designing bags stemmed from a recent realization that she’s turned into a shoe and bag lady, the kind who immediately gravitates to those specific accessories when entering a store. “Every girl turns into one sooner or later, I think,” she laughs. “I guess that’s where designing bags really started, with my love affair for owning nice-looking bags that didn’t hurt the pocket too much.”

Her first creation and current favorite is the Hatra, a weekender bag made of colored canvas and faux carabao leather accents. “Paolo and I discovered that there aren’t a lot of stores that sell nice affordable weekenders of good quality. So our first design was one that showcased a certain style. We made the blue and red for the more classic traveler, and the teal and yellow with stripes for those who like color and prints.”

“The Lost Nomad for me is laidback, but has a good sense of style and what looks good without sacrificing functionality,” Ayla says about the brand. “It’s a store that will hopefully inspire you to travel and explore beyond the four walls of your personal comfort zone. It’s also about spontaneity and the awesome stories a good adventure can bring.”

Creating The Lost Nomad, though, might have proved less of a challenge than it would have been for most, considering Ayla already had experience with putting up The Little Pinky Store after she graduated from college. The store boasts of a collection of quirky accessories, the kind that immediately adds a sweet kind of spunk to any sort of outfit or room. “Having a lot of time on hand after graduation helped me realize I had more of a creative brain than I originally thought,” she says. “The items that I sell are generally a reflection of my personal style and things that I would wear myself, or would like to have in my own home.”

Actually, The Little Pinky Store feels very much like an extension of Ayla’s closet, a collection of her own designs and items picked up from her travels that properly encapsulate the alluring character that she makes up for the brand. “A TLPS girl is most definitely someone who likes the sand between her toes and the sun on her skin, has a knack for traveling, a fun outlook in life, likes to dress up and wear cute little things. She loves color, bold prints, appreciates good music, food and handmade things,” which sounds very much like Ayla herself.

“My personal style would have to be a little boheme chic—sometimes feminine, sometimes masculine but mostly casual. I love the way Kate Hudson, Rachel Bilson and Alexa Chung dress.” The laidback look is evident in her daily uniform of denim shorts and a white tee with flats, and her closet filled with pieces from Zara, Topshop, Renegade Folk, Lulu Swing, Spruce, H&M, Urban Outfitters, and clothes found while rummaging through tiangges and local markets. For nights out, she sticks to keeping it simple but fashionable in a sense that best represents her personal look. “It’s always jeans with a plain top, topped off with a great bright or printed blazer, then some sexy black heels and a few bangles,” she enumerates. “I take literally ten minutes to do my face—just some mineral foundation, a subtle smoky eye with eyeliner, and maybe a red or nude lip to balance it off.”

When traveling though, her The Lost Nomad luggage will always have a bikini and pair of shorts packed, along with her favorite pair of Keds. “Unless of course I’m going to be in New York for the winter, then it’s just all sweaters and socks,” she adds. “I’m a very organized packer and actually take pride in my packing skills!” She breaks out in laughter before saying, “That sounds funny. Anyway, I know how to make a lot of things fit into a small maleta. I’d like to say I pack a few days before the trip, but that’s really not true. I’m good at packing, but also hate the idea of it, so I usually just start the day before and finish a few hours before I have to leave.”

It may not be a surprise considering her line of bags, but it must be said that Ayla loves to travel. “It has a lot to do with how I view life now,” she shares. “I used to be quite close-minded when I was a lot younger but now I’m more open to trying new things, discovering new places, and am more accepting of other people’s views and ways of living.” She has fond memories of trips around Europe, including her irst time in 2005 with her grandmother, aunt and a large group of cousins. “We ate frankfurters in Germany, visited Disneyland and went up the Eiffel Tower in Paris, chowed down a whole paella in Valencia, Spain, visited relatives in Barcelona. The list just goes on from that trip!”

The wonder at new places clearly hasn’t stopped with age. Just last year, a trip to New York to visit her brother led to her first experience with snow. “It was always a childhood dream of mine. Happiest day ever!” she gushes. As for big travel plans and extreme destinations she wants to have on her passport one day, Ayla lists down Angel Falls in Venezuela, Corsica, the Maldives and Africa with her dad. “I’ve always wanted to go on a hot-air balloon ride over the Serengeti. I would also say Antartica, although I don’t know how well I would do with the bone- throbbing cold winds.”

For now though, Ayla is happily content to stay put, though she shuttles between Cebu and Manila, where she’s based. “I love Cebu because my family is there, and that you can easily go to the beach for a day out. And in Manila, there’s always something new to do or go to. There are also a lot of art events and galleries, plus the concert scene is getting better. Plus my dad and my boyfriend live there too.”

Having been with her boyfriend since her sophomore year of college, Ayla is happily committed to someone who supports her endeavors and allows her to let out her goofy side when they’re together. “We’ve been dating for six years now. Yup, that’s quite a long time but it doesn’t feel that long. So that should be a good sign,” she says as if expecting the usual awe that comes from hearing about long-term relationships at a young age, especially now in the age of social media. “I think in a way the internet can be bad for dating because some of the mystery is gone because you can easily look someone up on Facebook. But then, it can also save you from going on a really bad date by doing a little research first. But what would I know about how it is now? I’ve been dating the same guy for years,” she laughs.

That might be true for the dating scene, but that doesn’t mean Ayla isn’t as online as the rest of the population her age is. “I haven’t been as active on Facebook as I used to,” she admits. “Looking back at my old status’ makes me cringe sometimes, like I really said that or why the hell would I post that?” She laughs before adding, “But I am active on Instagram! I love taking photos, so go figure.”

At the enthusiasm over her Instagram profile, there’s a glimpse of how young she actually is—part of the generation of 20-somethings who are now comfortably shuffling between addressing grown-up responsibilities and indulging in bouts of responsible immaturity. Of course, she’s recently gotten a lot more laidback. “Lately I find myself wanting to just be at home and spend time playing with my nephews or hanging out with my cousins,” she says of her days in Cebu. Now, she’s also gotten into archery, though her plans include concrete ones to address her growing business portfolio. “I want to take a short design course at Parsons for The Little Pinky Store and The Lost Nomad,” she says. At the mention of opening an actual store in the future, she turns giddy. “That’s the big dream! As of now, online is the best thing, but we’re definitely going to make that happen in the future. Fingers crossed!”

  • by Shari Quimbo
  • sittings editor David Jones Cua
  • photography Emman Montalvan
  • make up Angela Montalvan
  • hair Romero Vergara
  • assistant Jessie Egos
  • fashion stylist Dominic Sy
  • assistant Lor Yutico
  • locale Harold’s Hotel Rooftop

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Congratulations to Our New DOT Secretary! The Story of Cebu’s Power Couple

Congratulations to Our New DOT Secretary!

The Story of Cebu’s New Power Couple

Whether it’s spearheading progressive efforts in Liloan or spending weekends with their kids, Christina and Duke Frasco do things as a team. On their ninth year as a wedded couple, they share a side of themselves we haven’t seen before.
Republished  from Zee’s Digital Issue dated January 2018
by Gia Mayola photography Dan Douglas Ong sittings editor Shari Quimbo hair and makeup Arnauld stylist Vanessa East

ON CHRISTINA Sleeveless top, jeans and pumps, model’s own. ON DUKE Pierre del Hierro sweater, from RUSTAN’S AYALA CENTER CEBU. Joggers and sneakers, model’s own.

Despite it being a day for family, Christina and Duke Frasco gamely accepted our Sunday-scheduled photo shoot. Not that they had any choice, considering that most days found their schedules fully packed.

The dynamic couple is hard to pin down for a reason. Christina is the mayor of Liloan, a first-class municipality in Cebu. On the other hand, Duke was appointed Cebu Port Authority Commissioner by President Rodrigo Duterte just last year, willingly giving up his position as Liloan’s vice-mayor alongside his wife. While they have a lot on their plate because of work, having three young children is an added responsibility.

PUBLIC SERVANTS

Driven by her administration’s goals for sustainable and inclusive development, Christina has introduced various innovations to public leadership, focusing on stakeholder participation in community governance and equitable access to government service.

She established the Liloan Community Action for Reforestation and Environmental Sustainability (LILOAN CARES), which brings community stakeholders together to periodically engage in environment programs. She also put up a Green Points System, which grants incentives to businesses that implement environment-friendly measures. Additionally, she has introduced an engaging approach to recycling in schools, and prohibits the use of plastics on certain days of the week. She has also founded Operation Second Chance providing rehabilitation and livelihood to drug surrenderees, and the Liloan Leading Empowered Action Against Drugs Summit (LILOAN LEADS), among many others.

On his end, Duke is a dynamic and engaging leader who thrives under pressure and focuses on realizing long-term goals and sustainable development. His governance has garnered him multiple awards—The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines Award 2014 for Public Administration, from the Junior Chamber International (JCI), Inc. and the Gerry Roxas Foundation.

With his first two terms as mayor, Liloan elevated from a third-class municipality to a first-class one. He boldly spearheaded a comprehensive overhaul of the municipal tax code, and the modernization of local business processes.

ON CHRISTINA Josie Natori knit sleeveless top and lounge pants, from RUSTAN’S AYALA CENTER CEBU. ON DUKE T-shirt, model’s own. Ricardo Preto trousers, from RUSTAN’S AYALA CENTER CEBU.

THE LOVE OF LILOAN

Goal-driven and full of ideals, the couple has helped develop Liloan into what it is today. The municipality is one of the most progressive in Cebu, even establishing the Liloan Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Federation during Christina’s term, the first in the country spearheaded by a local government unit. Liloan prides itself in having the first LGU-established gender-neutral public restroom in the country.

“Our dream is to become a city,” Christina divulges. She envisions Liloan as an ideal place to live, study, work and invest. “In preparation for that, we are focusing on improving public infrastructure, opening up and improving road networks, and ensuring strict compliance with our Zoning Ordinance and Comprehensive Land Use Plans to ensure that development is regulated, deliberate and sustainable.”

This year, Liloan is launching tour packages that will feature its cottage industries and various tourist sites. Health services are being professionalized, scholarship programs expanded, and more investments channeled into its law enforcement and disaster response programs.

“We are also enhancing our community governance programs focused on protecting the environment, providing economic opportunities through livelihood, and reaching out to all sectors and stakeholders by incentivizing participation and compliance with our laws and regulations,” Christina adds.

Duke shares that every now and then, he offers input to his wife. “I advice Christina on various matters, especially regarding the projects started during my term, such as our scholarship program and purok system,” he says. “Being the party chairman of our local political party, I am also in continued contact with our local leaders.”

ON CHRISTINA Cropped top and jeans, model’s own.

THE PORT AUTHORITY

Beyond Liloan, Duke is enjoying his new position. “Since the thrust of the Cebu Port Authority spans the entire Province of Cebu, I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to improving the transport of people and goods throughout Cebu, through the continued improvement of existing ports and establishment of new ports.”

New ports, such as the plans of moving the Cebu International Port north, off the coasts of Consolacion and Liloan to decongest the city. 

“A port is always a welcome development considering it will further boost the economy of Liloan and Consolacion, and the entire Northern Cebu,” Duke says. “It provides livelihood opportunities for our people, which are relevant factors for cityhood. Moreover, the more ports, international or domestic, that we develop here, the better it will be for the people of Cebu.”

The addition of more ports will complement the project he has been working on the past year, the ferry boat system. He laments the terrible traffic that Cebuanos experience each day, comparing the travel time it takes from Liloan to Cebu City ten years ago and now. The ferry boat system includes developing ports in strategic locations in the Province of Cebu, connecting ferries or boats that can accommodate 80 to 200 people per boat. That includes room for motorcycles and possibly vehicles.

Duke expects this to be a game changer for the Cebuano. “Hopefully, it will relieve us of the stress and frustration we experience each day going through Cebu traffic,” he says. “I can just imagine our fellow Cebuanos feeling relaxed on a boat, feeling the sun and sea breeze on their faces, as opposed to the honking of horns and uneasiness of sitting in a PUJ or in your vehicles, not knowing whether they will arrive on time at their destination.”

Aside from his work with the Cebu Port Authority, Duke is also involved with his family’s business Titay’s as the Chief Financial Officer, and as a member of the Board of Directors. 

ON DUKE Pierre del Hierro sweater from RUSTAN’S AYALA CENTER CEBU. Jeans and fedora, model’s own.

A GREAT PAIR

It’s evident that the two make a great pair. They met back in June 2007 at Gwendolyn Garcia’s—Christina’s mother—inauguration as the re-elected Governor of Cebu. Duke was among the officials invited to attend, having just been elected into his first term as the Mayor of Liloan. Christina had just recently passed the bar exams and became a lawyer.

“I suppose you could say that we met at a time when both of us were at a turning point in our lives,” Christina recalls. “It is a blessing that our paths crossed at a time that it did. I was taken by Duke’s charisma. To me, he exuded kindness and humility. Of course, bonus sad gyud na guapo kaayo siya (it’s a bonus that he’s so handsome)!”

“I thought she was beautiful, elegant and well-spoken,” Duke adds. “When we were introduced, I was speechless!”

They’re naturals in front of the camera, effortlessly settling into the poses the photographer asks them to do. At one point, they’re locked in an intimate embrace and looking into each others’ eyes. Duke sweeps in for a kiss that makes everyone in the studio coo.

“I couldn’t help it,” Duke defends himself with a laugh, holding Christina closer as she giggles.

“He can’t resist me,” she tells us with raised eyebrows.

FAMILY TIES

The couple comes from political families, and it’s interesting to note that neither of the two had initial plans of running 

for office. Duke was in the audit and finance industry in the US, working for global consulting firm Protiviti right after finishing his double degree in Business Administration (Finance and Business Law) and Accounting at the Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

“I had no plans at all,” Duke admits. “My father, who had been Mayor then Vice-Mayor, died unexpectedly. The barangay captains of Liloan contacted me because the wanted to have me run for the position. It took me a couple of years before I finally decided to come home and run for Mayor in 2006.”

On Christina’s end, she had spent nearly ten years focused on building her career as a lawyer. After graduating from Ateneo Law, she practiced litigation, international arbitration and corporate law with one of the top-tier law firms in the Philippines, Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & Delos Angeles, being the head of its Cebu office.

“I knew that I wanted to make something of myself out of my own achievements, outside of and away from politics,” Christina shares. “I must say though that being exposed to public service at a young age led me to an inclination to help others. I always felt a sense of duty to my country, because that’s what I saw in my family as I was growing up.”

Despite initially having no plans to follow in their family’s political path, they both express a deep appreciation and admiration for their respective families’ contributions to Cebu. “He was Mayor of Liloan for close to a decade, but served Liloan all his life,” Duke says about his father, the late Panphil B. Frasco or Dodong Daku. “He was a man of the people, and Liloanons still speak of his kindness and humility to this day. I also greatly admire my uncle Gerardo ‘Dodong Gamay’ Frasco, for his pragmatism and wisdom, which has guided our family to carrying on the Titay’s legacy spanning 111 years.”

“For me, they have set the bar to which I would like to contribute to Cebu as a Cebuano,” Christina says of her own family. “For his statesmanship and brilliant legal mind, my grandfather, former Governor and Deputy Speaker Pablo P. Garcia. For her passion towards community development and social justice, my grandmother, the late Judge and Cebu CFI Community Cooperative founder Esperanza F. Garcia. For her great love for Cebu and legendary work ethic, my mom, former Governor Gwen F. Garcia.”

NEW LEADERSHIP

As two young personalities in government, they hope to be able to empower people through education. For ten years now since Duke’s first term and continuing though Christina’s current term, they have a scholarship program that has benefitted over 6,000 students.

They believe that an educated population is an empowered population, capable of becoming financially independent and discerning in their choices. “For us, this is key to breaking out of the bonds of poverty and patronage,” Christina affirms.

The Frascos hope to introduce innovations to governance, like reducing redundancies and bureaucracy through the use of technology, and being more connected and transparent through the use of social media. They also support the call for Federalism, believing that it will give local governments more leeway and funding in improving local infrastructure and creating more locally-relevant projects for the people.

Considering that standpoint, it’s no surprise how vocal the couple has been in their support for the controversial President Rodrigo Duterte. “President Duterte has political will, and he is a law and order President,” they say. “We believe that his extensive executive experience sets him apart as a leader because he knows the value of enforcing the law in order to have a stable society. At the same time, he recognizes the necessity of governing in a manner that is compassionate and responsive to the needs of the people.”

In the face of many conflicting views toward the President’s brand of leadership, both Duke and Christina acknowledge that opposition is necessary for a working democracy, but hope that Filipinos can come together and support his national agenda of building a stable and peaceful society. “We owe it to our country to set aside what divides us, and to unite behind our common goal of attaining a better life for our countrymen and for our children.”

Aside from their daily responsibilities, the couple also fosters their own advocacies. With education being high on Duke’s list of priorities, Christina also extends efforts for the empowerment of women and children. “The promotion of inclusive development as well—giving equitable opportunities to vulnerable sectors such as the LGBT and the youth,” she adds.

EVERYDAY LIFE

Being in the government means a lot of responsibility for the couple, and a typical day for them is being up 6:00 in the morning to have breakfast with their children before school, then going to their respective offices for work.

For Duke, work is either at the Cebu Port Authority to attend board meetings, or at their Frasco Group Office to attend to business matters. He also attends to pressing concerns in Liloan if need be, which shows how he is still dedicated to it even if he is no longer its Vice-Mayor.

Christina is either at the Municipal Hall to sign papers, attend meetings and meet constituents at the office, or scheduling visits to Liloan’s barangays and puroks.

To keep from getting too stressed or burnt out, Duke says, “I go to the gym and I run. I also like to Netflix and chill.”

Christina, on the other hand, makes time to paint and experiment with new dishes for Duke and their kids. She mentions that, if their schedules permit, they try to devote their weekends to their kids—watching movies, eating out, and traveling. “When Duke and I get home, we also make a conscious decision not to talk about work,” she finishes.

A COUPLE AT WORK

While some people might find the idea of a married couple working together as a possible hindrance to getting things done, the Frascos think otherwise. To them, it is an advantage because their vision and values are aligned. “We are able to enjoy our victories together, and we’re able to lift each other up in tough times, knowing that we will have each other’s back,” they share.

Duke and Christina are celebrating their ninth wedding anniversary this year, and it’s no question that the romance is still very much alive between them. They share that their marriage is anchored on their love for each other, their love for their family, and their shared goals for the future.

At the same time, they emphasize that retaining a sense of individuality is also important, along with having a healthy respect for each other’s differences. Compromise is key, and they constantly make sure to keep their values and goals in check, adjusting each other’s expectations as necessary and working out their differences.

Considering all that Duke and Christina have accomplished at a young age, we had to ask if they had plans of running for higher office. “We have great plans for the future, not just for ourselves, but also for our family and for Liloan,” they said. “As Cebuanos, we would like to continue to contribute to the development of Cebu. However, we also realize that ultimately, it is for the people to decide whether they would want us to continue to serve. As for the rest, it is in God’s hands. So we are focused on doing as much as we can in the here and now, with the opportunities that we have been given, for which we feel very blessed.”

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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. 

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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.”

SOURCE: MSNBC

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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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