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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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Cebuano Pride: The National Museum of Cebu

Pride of Cebu

By Eva Gullas 
photos courtesy of DOT
“With the National Museum of Cebu, the cradle of Christianity in the country, we open the doors to a temple in history and culture, inviting tourists and locals to witness our archaeological and natural treasures. The NMP-Cebu is not just a museum but a bridge to our past and a window into our future,” declares Christina Frasco, our Secretary of Tourism, at the ceremonial opening last July 28.
Located at the heart of the city’s historic port area, the former colonial Customs House, built in 1910, was transformed into an elegant edifice worthy of the city’s place in history. It was in Cebu where the Spanish conquistadors first landed in 1521 and where Magellan met his end at the hands of the local chieftain Lapu-Lapu. Starting August 1, the National Museum of Cebu will open its doors daily from 9 am to 5 pm except Monday.

Cebu City Tourism’s Neil Odjigue, Cembeth Hortillano and CCTC Chairperson Joy Pesquera

Worth checking is the first floor, where a few art pieces from national artists like Cebu’s own Martino Abellana, Fernando Amorsolo, and Jose Joya take pride of place. On the right wing are finds from archeological digs found all over the islands. Called Ang Karaang Sugbo or Old Cebu, they include a gold death mask and ancient vases from China. There’s also Kinaiyahan: Cebu’s Natural Wonders, which features an impressive wall containing the different layers underneath our soil. There is also a display case that interactively showcases the various elements around the area, like gold, copper, and gypsum. Another wing is Paglawig: Cultural Movember Across the Seas, showcasing the islands’ maritime history and sea bounty, including rare shells.

Museum Director Jeremy Barns, Maryanne Arculli, Andronik Aboitiz and wife Doreen, Amanda Luym

Some of the abstract art from the New York collection

It is on the second floor, though, where the museum shines. Up the grand staircase, guests are greeted by Elmer Borlongan’s massive Battle of Mactan, facing a facsimile of the Sta Maria galleon, Magellan’s flagship. Then on to a limited-time exhibit on loan from the Philippine Center New York Core Collection of 1974, a treasure trove of almost 90 paintings collected by former First Lady Imelda Marcos, including Ang Kioks, Sanso, Manuel Rodrigues, and many more representing both avant-garde and classic Filipino masters. The New York collection is only available until March 2024 and is not to be missed.

Writer Eva Gullas beside Elmer Borlongan’s Battle of Mactan

The National Museum Cebu has been years in the making, and this cultural milestone has finally been made possible under the new administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who famously said during the inauguration, “I am a museum fan, and I can stay in art museums for hours and hours.” He added, ” museums are considered valuable natural assets to a nation as they build a sense of community, document history, inspire creativity, promote tourism, and unite people through a shared heritage.” Kudos to the National Museum Board of Trustees, chaired by Andoni Aboitiz and Museum Director Jeremy Barnes, for this cultural gift to Cebu!
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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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