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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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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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Keep Calm by Knowing These Myths About COVID-19

by Chrissy Grey Resaba


In these times of pandemic, hysteria and panic have taken over the world and nonchalance is a word not to be manifested for today. Worry and fear are enveloping around Cebu with enough evidence of the actions taken by the public – the hoarding of necessities and goods.


Cebu – both the city and the province – is working towards making the island a safe haven from the pandemic caused by the Novel Coronavirus. Entry points of both ports – aerial and naval – are now closed. Curfew hours are being implemented to secure that no one is outside during the hours indicated. Business and academic sectors shifted their modes to work-from-home and online classes. Medical professionals have been on the frontlines battling against the proliferation of COVID-19.


It is quite eerie to look at the main streets of the Queen City of the South having few crowds to none. The hustle and bustle of the metropolis has gone into an empty space. The actions taken by the government and the Republic of the Philippines are for better or for worse; it is only for the good of the public.


Cebu has been under the state of community quarantine and certain measures were implemented to ensure the public’s safety and well-being. However, there are still myths making rounds in social media and the public in general about the ways to avoid COVID-19. These myths are not supported by scientific evidence. The scattering of fake news worsens the situation instead.


Here are some myths about the Novel Coronavirus:


1. Hot and cold weather

Contrary to popular belief, the COVID-19 virus will never die when exposed to hot or cold weather. This type of coronavirus can be transmitted in all areas regardless of the weather.


2. Drinking water

It is necessary to hydrate ourselves and to moisturize the throats but there is no scientific evidence that consuming volumes of water can flush out the virus.


3. Antibiotics

Clear enough from the name of the medicine, antibiotic never kills the virus but bacteria instead. It is not advisable to take antibiotics to prevent COVID-19.


4. Eating banana

There is a video circulating in social media about the banana fruit that miraculously kills the COVID-19 virus. However, if one should be keen enough to examine the video, it is a hoax. To date, there are no approved treatments for the virus. Eating a banana and other fruits can boost the immune system instead but not kill the COVID-19 virus.



Practicing proper hygiene such as regular hand washing with soap and water remains to be an effective way of preventing infection since soap dissolves the structure of the virus. The public should not be very complacent enough to rely on hand washing alone. Maintaining social distance, staying at home, having proper coughing or sneezing etiquette, and putting oneself in self-quarantine if one traveled from outside Cebu or the country are some of the best ways to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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La Liga Henerales: Shaping History Awareness Back Again in Cebu

La Liga Henerales is a community of young talents passionately promotes historical awareness through periodic costumes carefully researched for its authenticity and accuracy and promoted as well in events and schools.

Only few individuals before were into pursuit in this historical awareness project until the age of communication where internet is convenient in the palm of our hands through our gadgets. New information travel fast and data is retrievable, yet also possess a disadvantage with the plethora of different social media platforms carried by various makers as well. In a daily basis, historical backgrounds are unearthed making its trend until now as new discoveries are released, but the idea of these information being shown and shared is as close as not valuing or commemorating to its sources leaving this information just a trend.

There is a certain community of Cebuanos that are taking a quest to rewrite and restructure what was in the past, filling the gaps in facts with further research of variable sources that are made debatable but sticks to it true cause, to unveil the truths of our heritage and our origins, as Cebuanos and as Filipinos as well.

La Liga Henerales is a Cebu-based, non-profit organization composed of a group of talented, committed and respectable individuals from different walks of life, schools and profession whose primary aim is to promote both, Cebuano and filipino culture and heritage that was depicted before in pre-colonial and colonial eras via re-enactment with costumes vested in proper research and investigation to achieve authenticity. They also push their cause on schools and other social gatherings promoting and spreading awareness about our local, and national heroes that we look up to. With these said, they also portray a closer look of the lifestyle of the past to where they perform stories, perform forgotten dances and rituals and portray their individual roles, vital in the fight of our country’s future during those challenging times, and in honor to spread awareness of the lost practices we had in those times.

The Founder

Combining passion and education. Louis Villaflor re-enacts his way patriotism through his periodical costumes and expresses his love for Cebu and Philippines as a culture-centric country.

Louis Kenneth Villaflor, an entrepreneur and an avid history enthusiast and costumer, founded the group on the purpose of re-educating the youth about real local and national history, he saw the opportunity to combine his favourite hobbies which is costuming and story role-playing and the process to instill the historical awareness and value among the youth and in schools, along with a group of fellow enthusiasts who shares his passion about research and history, they took it among themselves to be purposeful in the advocacy in spreading historical awareness in schools or events by wearing periodically correct costumes and sharing the stories and its value to the youth.

Behind the Garments

With the its senior expertise of fashion design and a teacher of the field, his passion also of history caters also in his designs as he pushes through sustainable fashion and historical awareness combined.

Meet Rodney “Pee-Wee” Senining, who has been in the fashion industry since the late 90’s, strives  in concepts of avant-garde, innovation and cutting edge-fashion forward design. And also a teacher of Architecture, Fine Arts and Design of University of San Carlos, he had grown into research of books like the holy grail in the Library Resource Center and is always fascinated of the periodical times and how to preserve it; Hence, his interest had grown for the affinity of Periodical Costumes and Sustainable Fashion.

 Being part of the group La Liga Henerales, he was tasked to instantly be their mentor for the young talents and as the organization is still new and developing with limited funds, resourcefulness and research were done to come up with a good output of photo shoot and was quite proud of it and still promise on the next editions of pieces to be more historically accurate. Even as teacher for Fashion Design in SAFAD, his expertise comes hand in hand with the members as he helps them do research as well. His passion and interest somehow led him with enough knowledge to key the insights of the significant periods and historical backgrounds of it.

Historical Awareness in Cebu

The strength and progress of a country is anchored on how well they know and honor its history. The means of historical awareness in Cebu is almost non-existent among the Cebuanos, although we push forward in tourism and promote beauty through sceneries and other aspects of culture yet never commemorate deeply on historical icons such as our other local heroes, and ancient cultures as well that is almost been forgotten in an urban Cebu. Nevertheless, as long as communities’ like La Liga Henerales are now evolving in a learning state by real discovery by multiple resources, this will always reflect of how we appreciate love, patriotism and honor to our country and would look forward to progress.


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