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This restaurant in Cebu brings the ‘and’ game

Ampersand at the Banilad Town Centre is one of the latest additions to the local dining scene, bringing together concepts and flavors in a way that earns its name.

Before Ampersand opened in Banilad Town Center last year, it was already garnering many curious queries. Its site had been covered with a sign simply bearing an ampersand, with a notice announcing its farm-to-table concept.

The façade of Ampersand (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, May 2015)

The façade of Ampersand (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, May 2015)

When its doors were finally flung open, everyone was raring to check it out, easily validated by the always-full dining room. The name itself was enough to make me a fan—it’s one of my favorite words, loving how it just rolls off your tongue. “We went with Ampersand because we’re bringing together three concepts—the deli, the restaurant and the bar,” explains owner Chandra Mercado, with partner Chef Tom Hines. Together, they also own Lulu and Hooch in Makati.

These three concepts effortlessly merge in an elegant space that mingles rustic country charm with homages to old world speakeasies. Mismatched dining room chairs—tufted classic shapes, large leather seats—are arranged around wooden tables with weathered metal legs, while spherical chandeliers that look like they belonged in an old English dining hall hang from the ceiling.

The entire place has a rustic country charm (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, May 2015)

The entire place has a rustic country charm (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, May 2015)

The backlit shelves and refrigerated display boxes on one end comprise the deli side, showcasing a selection of cheeses, cold cuts, desserts and other condiments. Behind the counter, the brick wall serves as a backdrop to a chalkboard displaying what’s available—which include childhood staples like pan de coco and Spanish bread, that fondly bring back memories. “It’s sort of a gourmet version of old favorites,” says Chandra, adding that all the breads, cakes and pastries are made in Ampersand’s own kitchen.

Running the length of the restaurant is the show kitchen, where the team led by Chef Fortune Fulgar prepares an array of dishes for the most discerning palates—made all the more tempting with the occasional whiff of sautéing vegetables and simmering sauces. The ingredients used are locally sourced, save for some items like the Chilean sea bass, of course. A hanging herb garden is in one corner of the kitchen for easy picking.

(Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, May 2015)

Ampersand’s red wine-braised ox tongue. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, May 2015)

“Everything is my favorite,” Chef Fortune laughs when asked if he had a particular favorite dish. He did recommend some of the new additions to their menu though. The black seafood cake with golden mixed seafood in cuttlefish ink velouté gives a spectrum of flavors, the panko crust giving way to the soft meat inside, while the seafood bouillabaisse’s creamy tomato crustacean sauce perfectly complements the chunks of fish, squid and shellfish. For those looking for something heartier, the red wine-braised ox tongue is perfectly cooked—tender, full-flavored and accompanied with a rich creamy sauce that’s soaked up by the olive oil mashed potatoes.

It’s hard to imagine you’d still have space for dessert after that, but I assure you, their selection deserves some room. The citron-green tea cheesecake is light and refreshing, the green tea-infused and lemon-glazed homemade yogurt giving the sweetness the perfect touch of tang. A true star, though, is the chocolate ganache cake, layers of decadent chocolate that’s so delectably good.

Chocolate ganache cake. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, May 2015)

Chocolate ganache cake. (Photography by John Ong/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, May 2015)

At the other end of the room sits the bar, where subdued warm lighting casts an inviting glow. Incandescent bulbs hang in varying lengths from industrial-grade pulleys give it that utilitarian chic look. The open shelving that line the brick wall displays an impressive collection of liquors. “We want Cebuanos to try more cocktails, to show them much more than the mixed drinks that are usually offered,” Chandra says. Ampersand pays just as much attention to the cocktails’ flavors as they do with the food, with a list of signature drinks that explore a more unique side of inebriation. The Salcedo Ave. is a drink usually served at Lulu and Hooch, but has also gained popularity for its cool combination of Grand Marnier, Grey Goose, lemongrass syrup, caramelized lemons, pineapple juice, cilantro and ginger ale. Representing Cebu, the K8 is also being served in Manila, its calamansi flavors giving the Bacardo 8 Años Rum a nice kick. A wide selection of craft beers is regularly shipped in from Manila, with more variations to be offered soon.

It’s easy to understand why those who have visited Ampersand are now singing its praises—and it’s clear I’m soon going to be one of them. More than the charming décor and excellent selection of food and drinks, it’s about how they are pushing the local dining standard to another level by adding bold new flavors to the familiar, and doing it with the best ingredients and a great amount of style.

Banilad Town Center
6332. 416 1233 | 63. 915 774 8308 | 921 410 7763

photography John Ong


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The Uncommon Traditions that Mexicans and Filipinos share when celebrating the Day of the Dead.

Dia de los Muertos

By Allain Dumon Fonte

The 2nd of November is All Soul’s Day, a holiday that is very important to many Filipinos to remember our loved ones who passed on. This is also widely celebrated in Mexico as “Dia De los Muertos” or in English, “The Day of the Dead”. And Mexicans celebrate the 2nd of November grander than they celebrate Christmas. Well, you can witness it from the Disney movie, “Coco”.

As All Soul’s Day or Dia de los Muertos is about to end, here are some interesting traditions and superstitions that Filipinos and Mexicans share:


Dia de los Muertos or All Soul’s Day is not practiced on October 31st or on the Hallow’s Eve as many other western cultures practice; but we celebrate it on the 2nd of November. We celebrate November 1st as All Saint’s Day or the Day of the Holy, while in Mexico they call it Dia de los Innocentes or Dia de los Angelitos to commemorate the children who died too early in life.


Both in Mexico and in the Philippines, we visit the grave of our loved ones and we clean it well. This is a ritual to honour their resting places and to let them know that they are never forgotten.


In Mexico, they believe that the scent of flowers attract spirits. So the flower offerings are invitation to their dead loved ones to visit the living families. While in the Philippines, we believe that flowers offered to the dead exalt the souls and somehow fill in the sadness that we feel when missing our dead loved ones.

Most of the time, Filipinos choose all-white flowers to offer because white is the absence of colour, which means the absence of Joy and happiness. White also symbolises purity of soul which we hope our dead loved ones will attain as they journey to heaven. While in Mexico, they have the yellow Mexican marigolds as the official flowers of the dead that will guide them in their journey to the afterlife.


Both cultures believe that monarch butterflies are dead loved ones who visit us and show their appreciation that we have not forgotten them. A presence of monarch butterflies also means that our dead loved ones are always there guiding us and looking after us.


Spending a night at the graveyard and picnicking with the rest of the family may sound very creepy to many; but to both Filipino and Mexican cultures, picnicking and spending a night at the cemetery is a must to show our love to our dearly departed. It is the only time in the year that families gather and tell stories of the dead loved ones and how colourful or how great their lives were.


In Mexico, they have what they call “ofrendas” or an altar where the pictures of their dead loved ones are displayed and offered with flowers, candles, and their favourite food. Very similar to the Filipino culture of cooking the favourite food of our dead loved ones and everyone in the family enjoys the food for dinner.

My family tradition involves me driving all the way to Colon street and buy that famous Snow Sheen’s “pancit canton”. This is my granddad’s favourite snack. Sadly, the old Visayan Restaurant is no longer there. My late uncle and my late grandpa love their sweet ad and sour fish. We also set up an “ofrenda” on their graveyard and eat their favourite food while picnicking in the cemetery. We do not spend a night in the cemetery; but while we are picnicking there, we usually play the songs of Pilita Corrales and Susan Fuentes that my late grandpa used to listen every afternoon while enjoying his coffee, pan de sal, and pancit canton.

What about your family traditions? Share your thoughts by commenting to this article.

MODEL: Michael Joseph Mortola Enriquez & Alexis Wingfield
PHOTOGRAPHER: Gianne Paolo Anciano
STYLING: GPA Lifestyle + Clothing

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Catch Ted Lasso the Emmy Award Winning Comedy Series on Apple TV+

Catch Ted Lasso the Emmy Award Winning Comedy Series on Apple TV+


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

The multi award–winning comedy series airing on Apple TV+ is one of my favorite shows.  Ted Lasso starring Jason Sudeikis is about a fun good-natured American football coached hired by a British soccer club (AFC Richmond in London) to become their new coach.  In spite of the fact that Ted has no experience or knowledge about British football/soccer, his positive demeanor and charm helps him overcome the animosity of the team’s players, staff and fans.  Eventually Ted wins over the team and the locals as they fight for position in the English Premier League.

The show won the 2021 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and 7 Emmy Awards in its 2 seasons and Season 3 is just around the corner.  You can catch Seasons 1 & 2 of Ted Lasso on Apple TV+

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PANDEMIC DIARIES: Twelve Months Later

Photos taken by Pablo Quiza around Cebu City during the months of March, April and May 202

AS WE APPROACH ONE YEAR under pandemic times, we look back at March 2020 with fascination. And awe. We had 12 months of lockdown and survived the so called new normal. We lived with masks and alcohol even today. Carless roads and dark malls. Those were the early days of March, April and May.
It stretched to October and past Christmas. No Sinulog. Virtual parties on Zoom and virtual mass on You Tube and FB Live. We debated on the best meds to take if we get sick and whether to wear masks (please do!). We scampered for face shields and anti-viral sprays. Vitamins C and D and zinc. Later, we survived being swabbed and we learned the difference between a PCR and an anti-gene test. The latter cost less.

We dreaded the declarations of IATF mandated from Manila. And we got mad at the police chief who had a birthday party while his people were busy locking up everyone violating the lockdown. Most horrifying of all, we needed to produce IDs! Are you a resident of Barangay Lahug or Banilad? Are you employed and why are you still working? Everyone suffered thru endless checkpoints. Most sad of all are those using motorbikes, they seem to get the raw end of the deal since those with cars are not as scrutinized. We managed to trick the system by putting a big handwritten note in front of the car: COMPANY CAR, and zipped tru the police desks in the middle of the road. Don’t even think of travelling, by plane, boat or bus. The collection of the required documents is enough for one to get exposed to Covid.

We learned to shop online, order groceries and necessities thru delivery. We slowly moved towards cashless payments. Gcash and banks like Union Bank and China Bank with friendly apps are heroes for making life easy for most of us to spend what little cash we have to spend on Lazada or pay the VECO bill. Oh and we binged on K dramas on Netflix and You Tube, kamsaminada.
As 2021 enters, there are some good news. For those obsessed with news, you already know that 7,000 vaccines arrived last March 2 in Cebu, with more expected in the next few weeks. The death rate is not as high among those who caught this pesky virus, which tells us that doctors in the hospitals have some proven expertise in dealing with Covid. More cures should be in the horizon.

Meanwhile, lets continue dreaming of the day when we can cross borders again, even if its just Bohol or Boracay, Bangkok or Hong Kong. Ready those luggages and bags bought during the 3/3 sale in Shopee in preparation for the day when we can take the ferry or the plane for new adventures.


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