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Right as Raine Baljak

The reigning (and possibly last?) Miss Cebu Raine Baljak talks how she plans on using the crown to fulfill her causes.

Miss Cebu 2016 Raine Baljak talks about her advocacies for the youth’s health and well-being, natural farming and providing a venue for the disadvantaged children, and how she plans on using the crown to fulfill her causes

Raine Baljak (Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/makeup by Arnauld/hair by Gino Fonghe: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016)

Raine Baljak (Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/makeup by Arnauld/hair by Gino Fonghe/two-piece ensemble by Barbie Alvez: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016)

Dawn was breaking, and while most people have yet to get up and start their day, the scene at the 8 Hills Farm is already quite busy in preparation for this issue’s cover shoot. On one end of the farmhouse, Raine Baljak sits for hair and makeup, talking to the team about the farm. “We have papayas, calamansi, pomegranate, passion fruit, rose apple, lanzones, rambutan, soursop, red custard apple, malunggay, mangoes, ginger, guyabano, and much more,” she explains rather energetically for someone who’s been up since four in the morning. Occasionally, in the midst of her chatter, she would clarify something with mom Merce, who was busy preparing sandwiches and fruits for everyone. Mother and daughter would yell—good-naturedly, of course—over the blasting hairdryer just to be heard across the room.

Raine Baljak (Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/makeup by Arnauld/hair by Gino Fonghe/two-piece gown by Barbie Alvez: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016)

Raine Baljak (Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/makeup by Arnauld/hair by Gino Fonghe/two-piece gown by Barbie Alvez: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016)

Despite the welcome intrusion of the Zee Lifestyle team, it was a wonderfully domestic scene, like a preview of life at the Abellana home when they’ve taken off their high heels and makeup and are ready to relax. Of course, with Merce occupied with the family business and Raine’s increasing responsibilities as the reigning Miss Cebu, the pair barely has enough time to sit down. Although Raine, a media relations officer at Create Cebu, a sought-after model at Origin Model Management, a radio jock on Monster Radio, and the newest member of 22 Tango Records’ street team, is quick to admit that the busy schedule has only brought her closer to her family and that she treasures any free time she has. Whenever she is fulfilling her obligations and attending functions, you can almost always expect Merce standing on the sidelines, proudly supporting her daughter’s every move.

While Miss Cebu is her first pageant, Raine is not a complete stranger to them. Her mom was crowned Miss Cebu Tourism in 1986, while her aunt Mae Beverly Lao-Abellana was a runner up in Binibining Pilipinas in 1981. Her grandmother Maria Fe and great-grandmother Mercedes Durano Lao were also beauty queens, having been Miss Danao during their times. Ever since Raine was little, Merce had always talked to her about Miss Cebu, although Raine herself wasn’t quick to follow into her footsteps. “I was never really interested in the beauty world, because I was more focused on my school commitments,” Raine says, citing her participation in the varsity football, volleyball and basketball teams, along with various school musicals. Other school activities she enjoyed volunteering for were the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Beep Beep Books and other fundraisers.

Her story took a different turn when her grandfather Eulogio was hospitalized. “Both my grandparents influenced me a lot during my younger years, and I wanted to do something to show my gratitude to them—something that would help preserve our family history on this island.” Alongside the beauty queens, the men in Raine’s family were also quite the achievers, with her great-grandfather Gregorio having fought against the Spanish as a Katipunero, while her grandfathers Jovito Abellana and Reuben Lao fought in World War II.

The family history, Raine shares, has given her the confidence and pride to stand tall, although she says that growing up in a clan of leaders, inventors, artists and perfectionists wasn’t easy. “The idea of being ‘good enough’ is never enough, because just as my mother has instituted in me, ‘If you are not practicing, someone else out there is,’” she says. “This allowed me to become very globally aware and conscious of my actions at an early age.” She thanks her mother for giving her the drive to achieve more, but is bashful in confessing that she’s still trying to pick up on the feminine grace that her mother exudes. “Special thanks to Jonas Borces and Mark Shandar for teaching me the ‘walk’!” Raine quips.

Raine Baljak (Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/makeup by Arnauld/hair by Gino Fonghe: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016)

Raine Baljak (Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/makeup by Arnauld/hair by Gino Fonghe/floral gown by Philip Rodriguez: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016)

The early morning sun brought the farm to life, making the greens of the field and the colors of the flowers more vibrant as Raine—decked in an intricate floral Philip Rodriguez gown—hoists herself up on the side of a terrace for the first shoot of the day. It didn’t exactly look like a comfortable spot, yet the beauty queen managed to carry over that grace she is so dedicated to perfect.

Being Miss Cebu goes beyond having grace, as Raine found out herself throughout the entire duration of the competition. “When you’re in a room filled with brilliant, bodacious and beautiful young women, how can one stand out from the other?” she questions. “That’s when personality comes to play, and how being your unique self is your greatest weapon. At the same time, self-esteem and paranoia are your biggest opponents, so my biggest challenge was really myself.”

It’s almost hard to believe that, given Raine’s shining confidence on the stage that fateful January evening. Behind the seemingly poised composure, however, Raine was nervous just like any candidate would be, especially at the final question and answer portion in which the candidates were asked, “If you could talk to the reigning Miss Colombia to convince her to visit Cebu, what would you tell her?”

Raine’s answer, which sealed her victory, was definitely one for the books in Miss Cebu’s recent history. “As a proud Cebuana, I would tell her to visit Cebu because it is where the heart sings. And with that, Cebuanos have a genuine passion and we love to share. Miss Colombia is gorgeous and confident, but during that night, she might have given a little too much confidence and sometimes that gives another meaning. I believe we can show her how to enjoy the little things. Because Cebuanos are happy no matter what, and that’s what makes Cebu where the heart sings.”

“My initial reaction was, ‘Really! This is the final question?’” she reminisces. “But then I was like, ‘Oh, okay, gotta calm down…’ and then I recalled the three prominent historical tourist destinations—Magellan’s Cross, Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, and Fort San Pedro—but I thought locations are worth nothing without the people.”

“That is what makes any history live on, the culture that is deeply embedded in the hearts of the people. Found in our resiliency, compassion and appreciation for the simple things,” Raine adds. “That is why I answered looking into the genuinity of what makes Cebu where the heart sings.”

Winning the crown is just one of the many significant steps that Raine is taking to further her cause. “My advocacy is to create a venue for the disadvantaged children of Cebu to develop their potentials in a safe and nurturing environment, while appreciating art, culture, history and nature,” she shares. This young adventurer hasn’t been given the opportunity to fully work with the government yet because of the upcoming May 2016 election, but her crown has already given her an advantage. “My presence has a significant impact on our community when I participate actively, and when I use social media,” Raine explains. “Whenever I connect with other members of the community to push my advocacy, or to speak up for those who do not get enough credit, I am a voice that is heard.”

Raine Baljak (Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/makeup by Arnauld/hair by Gino Fonghe: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016)

Raine Baljak (Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/makeup by Arnauld/hair by Gino Fonghe/polka dot dress with floral embroidery and matching fringed jacket by Philip Rodriguez: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016)

Raine further regales us with tales of her family’s farm as we move on to the second layout, this time she’s dressed in a stunning white Barbie Alvez two-piece. It looked like any other ordinary photo shoot, except the aspiring singer-songwriter was cradling an adorable—yet rather noisy—kid in her arms.

Even with the flawless makeup and the carefully styled hair, Raine looks well and truly in her element walking around the farm and cooing softly to the baby goat. Her love for the place is quite evident. “Only with Mother Nature I find serenity and sanctuary because I know, this is home,” she shares, explaining how she used to live in Danao until her family moved to the city when she was seven.

Witnessing the development of Cebu City is astonishing, she says, but it’s also painful to face the problems of commuting within the city because of the rush, noise, pollution, and other related stresses. “When I’m in the farm, I feel so refreshed by the space surrounding me, as the only noise I hear are the birds, the bees, the crinkling of the leaves, the goats, or the neighboring cows.” The farm is her sanctuary, where she can free her mind to write a song, draw, or paint at ease. “I like spending my breaks here with my squad goats,” she laughs.

The Abellanas’ family farm, pioneered by Raine’s grandmother, started out with only a few goats, some coconuts, other crops, and one farmer to take care of everything. Since her grandmother passed away, Raine’s aunt Mae took over, and it is currently a work in progress towards being a certified organic farm.

Raine Baljak (Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/makeup by Arnauld/hair by Gino Fonghe/floral gown by Philip Rodriguez: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016)

Raine Baljak (Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/makeup by Arnauld/hair by Gino Fonghe/floral gown by Philip Rodriguez: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016)

It’s hard to talk about Raine without mentioning her vegetarianism—one of the things that she kept highlighting throughout the Miss Cebu pageant. Back when Raine was a child, her immune system had difficulty adapting to the surroundings, leading to diagnoses of eczema, atopic dermatitis and skin asthma. She was 13 when she began exploring the concept of ‘you are what you eat’ and through personal research and the inputs of an allergist and a traditional Chinese doctor, she became a pescatarian. At 17, however, her skin began to react to seafood, leading to a transition to vegetarianism. “But as I learned more about the world and myself, I realized that veganism is the best for myself and our planet, because just as Hippocrates said, ‘let food be thy medicine.’”

Raine plans to take a more proactive approach about her veganism through the family farm. This month, she plans to attain her formal training on natural farming. “With this, I hope to make the concoctions for our own natural pesticides, natural fertilizers, fish amino acids and everything else involved in the processing of our raw produce,” she expresses. “One day, I would like to develop [the farm] to be a venue for healthy living, including yoga, cooking, education and so that it becomes a playground for all ages to come together and enjoy.”

For now, creating awareness on eating clean with proper nutrients, knowing where your food comes from, how they are produced, and living a healthy lifestyle is Raine’s immediate priority. “The more educated we are with our food and the environment, the more concerned we become in taking care of everything around us, so that we do not deplete the resources for the future generations.”

The Cebu City Tourism Commission, through the Miss Cebu pageant, seeks unique, confident, and goal-oriented women of potential and substance to represent the Queen City. With Raine’s achievements since winning the crown and her long-term plans to fulfill her advocacies for the environment and the youth, the Commission single-handedly did quite the Raine check on the crown by handing it over to Raine Baljak.

by Patty Taboada sittings editor Shari Quimbo photography Dan Douglas Ong makeup Arnauld hair Gino Fonghe styling Blaq Mafia locale 8 Hills Farm
Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016. For back issues, subscribe via Magzter.

Design

Filipino graphic designer makes history, joins Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde among genre’s greats

PJ Ong of Inodoro, an internationally renowned graphic designer, is the first Filipino whose work will be part of the permanent collection of Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde

CEBU CITY — In a groundbreaking achievement, Cebu-based graphic designer and art director PJ Ong of Inodoro Design Studio, is set to become the first Filipino artist permanently exhibited at Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g) in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Cebu-based graphic designer and art director of Inodoro Design Studio, PJ Ong

Ong’s recognition at MA-g places him among over 250 avant-garde artists, including iconic figures like Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, signifying a profound milestone in museum history.

“Avant-garde,” is a term that refers to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

“I am extremely honored and humbled. It is a remarkable milestone in my creative journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a prominent platform. The acknowledgment, especially considering Switzerland’s exacting standards in art and design, is truly fulfilling,” said Ong.

 

Part of a stellar contemporary collection

Under the museum’s Contemporary Collection, Ong will join global contemporary agencies such as M/M Paris (collaborator of Icelandic singer-songwriter and composer, Björk), WORK Pte Ltd (brainchild of the “Godfather of Singapore Graphic Design,” Theseus Chan), Bedow (Stockholm), BVD Stockholm AB (Stockholm), Socio Design (London) and Milkxhake (Hong Kong), among others.

Ong’s music packaging design for the Filipino harsh noise duo, White Widow, will be featured in the museum. The band’s album “The God Uterus Dissolves” — released under Melt Records — features an unconventional cassette tape packaging incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, elevating it into a unique and bespoke collector’s item.

The museum’s selection process for its Contemporary Collection involved three categories: Graphic Design, Photography, and Illustration. Swiss-Canadian Fritz Gottschalk, a prominent figure in contemporary graphic design, led the Graphic Design category.

“This is profoundly validating for me as a graphic designer. Being part of a museum’s permanent contemporary collection is a lasting testament to my capabilities as an artist,” said Ong.

‘Poetry you can touch’

The graphic designer from Cebu City further defined the album as a “deliberate departure from the ordinary,” stating that it was a testament to the artist’s and band’s dedication to pushing boundaries and offering the audience a unique and immersive experience.

“Careful consideration was given to every detail, including choosing a premium supplier for the cassette tape. Opting for a screen-printed cassette, where design elements were applied directly to the surface, gave it a contemporary and visually striking result, helping us reinforce the design narrative,” said Ong.

“From the cohesive placement of elements to using symbols instead of track titles on the spine and customizing fonts, every aspect was carefully thought out. Rather than opting for the conventional wire mesh treatment on print, I took a bold step by incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, adding a unique and sensory dimension to the album — almost like poetry you can touch.”

 

Profound honor

Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio under Ong’s leadership has garnered global acclaim for its bold design philosophy, spanning music, fashion, architecture, culture and technology. In becoming the first Filipino whose work will be on display at the MA-g, Ong stated that it is “particularly humbling.”

“Traditionally, these privileges are given to individuals who have amassed decades of experience, attained mastery in their craft, or even as a posthumous acknowledgment. To be among those selected is a profound and unexpected honor,” he said.

“Museums typically focus on visual artists, and for a graphic designer, especially within the realm of commercial work, recognition can be more elusive. I appreciate the challenges of this less conventional route and I am committed to proving the significance of graphic design in the broader artistic landscape.”

Art enthusiasts can anticipate viewing Ong’s work with “The God Uterus Dissolves” at MA-g, scheduled to open to the general public in 2025.

***

About The Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g)

The Museum of Avant-garde compiles an original body of work from private collections, providing a unique perspective on the cultural and artistic significance of avant-garde movements. These movements, synonymous with transformative ideologies and daring experimentations, played a pivotal role in challenging political and societal conventions. For more information, visit www.ma-g.org.

 

About Inodoro

Inodoro is the creative moniker of graphic designer and art director PJ Ong, a prominent figure in the Philippine design scene. Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio, based in Cebu, Philippines, has garnered international recognition for its bold and distinctive design, with a focus on thought-driven imagery and iconic visual language. The studio specializes in identities, custom typography, graphic design and art direction. For more information, visit www.inodoro-design.com.

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Ladies Who Support Ladies

Women’s Circle is an organization composed of Cebuano ladies who are successful entrepreneurs and top executives.  They recently held a fellowship event at the Sheraton Mactan Resort, with special guests from the Women’s Business Council Philippines. Chairperson, Rosemarie Rafael and Council Secretary Cynthia Mamon both flew in from Manila to discuss alliances between the Cebu and Manila groups.

Loot bag from Jo Malone, Sheraton, R&M Chocomanga, gift card from Maayo Clinic, sarong from Ferimar.

The half day event was organized by Perl Jacalan, Gina Atienza and Eva Gullas. Sheraton Resort through its GM Dottie Wugler Cronin supported the event as it is aligned with the hotel’s women initiatives.  The successful event was made more fun with generous give-aways, notably Jo Malone perfumes, Sheraton bags, R&M Chocomanga and sarongs from Ferimar.

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Eight Years of Redefining Hospitality Service

by Allain Dumon Fonte

The person behind the very successful chain of Bayfront Hotel  Cebu is the youngest son of entrepreneur couple, Edgar and Gregoria Cokaliong.  I first met Charlton as a young and dashing gentleman busily working in their textile business.  I am impressed with how he excellently juggled taking care of orders, organizing shipments, arranging deliveries, accounting, and even managing the staff of their textile company.  Charlton is an alumnus of Cebu Eastern College where he finished his primary and secondary education.  He then went to the University of San Carlos and studied accountancy.  He successfully passed the accounting licensure examinations, and worked as a certified public accountant while helping in the family’s textile business; who would have thought that he would venture into hospitality.  

Charlton Cokaliong (Managing Director of Bayfron Hotel Cebu). Picture taken at the Bayfront Hotel Lobby.

In 2014, he first opened Bayfront Hotel Cebu at the North Reclamation Area.  I even wondered why of all the places that he can start a hotel, he had to choose the North Reclamation Area.  I find the location appalling for a hotel.  What view will the guests see?  I would not want to stay in a room where the views are cranes, machines, and container vans from the sea port.  Yet, Charlton foresaw the future of hospitality service.  He knew that with the recent developments of Cebu City, people will prefer to stay in hotels that are near to the city, and have access to almost everything they need.  The hotel is right across SM City Cebu, 10 minutes from the sea ports, 30 minutes from the airport, and 15 minutes to almost all the tourist destinations in the city and in the hills of Cebu.  Then, he made the hotel packages and event packages reasonably priced; yet, with a 5-star quality of service.  I even questioned, are you not losing for the prices that you have set?  However, since the hotel opened and up to the present, Bayfront Hotel Cebu has always been fully booked and is becoming the primary choice of venue for events and celebrations.  Charlton explained that he foresaw that with the rising economy and the rising population of the metropolitan, people will always prefer to celebrate special occasions; yet, considering the inflation every year, people will also choose to become more practical by spending less  without compromising quality.  And this is what Bayfront Hotel Cebu delivers, an experience of excellent hospitality service at a price that no other can match.

Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol Site.

Because of the continuous demand for their hotel rooms and venues, Charlton opened another Bayfront Hotel Cebu in September 2021.  This time the location is at the heart of the uptown of Cebu in the Capitol Site.  Again, Charlton banked on the great location of the second Bayfront hotel.  I once again questioned him on this; considering the competition in the area because of the many up and coming business hotels that offer the same rates and packages.  Charlton smiled and confidently said that apart from the great location, he also banks on the quality of service that his staff can deliver.  “If you take care of your staff very well, your staff will take good care of your customers”.  I have seen first hand how Charlton handles and manages his staff at their textile store, so I know how he also handles and takes good care of his staff in the hotel.  And I realized that this is his biggest selling point, the hotel’s incomparable service and friendliness.  Even though the hotel opened in the middle of pandemic restrictions, the new hotel is getting countless reservations; most especially that the Capitol Site Bayfront Hotel offers an amazing view of the city skyline at its roofdeck bar and pool area.  The gym , pool , and bar amenities at the hotel’s roof deck with its view are a must to be experienced.

Standard De Luxe Room at the Bayfront Hotel Cebu.

Early of 2022, Charlton also opened the hotel’s in-house dining feature.  For seven years, Bayfront Hotel Cebu was catered by a third party food concessionaire.  But, again, Charlton foresees that the Filipino market will be more critical to food and taste.  I asked, why is this?  Charlton explained that with travel becoming more affordable and accessible, people will get to experience different kinds of food and dine in different restaurants.  Hence, people will now learn to benchmark, not only from local restaurants, but also from their dining experiences around the Philippines and overseas.  Therefore, Bayfront Hotel Cebu needs to step up its game in dining.  With the opening of Caja Kitchen, Bayfront Hotel offers more selections of Asian and Filipino comfort food fusion with international cuisines.  With Caja Kitchen, Charlton turned a Filipino menu into an international dining experience. I asked him how he came up with all these.  Charlton  explained that dedication to make his guests happy and satisfied is the key motivation why he does not stop thinking about innovating and reinventing everyone’s hospitality and dining experience. 

Caja Restaurant: Bayfront Hotel Cebu’s in-house dining facility.

In September of this year, the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in North Reclamation Area is officially celebrating its 8th year of wonderful and excellent hospitality service; while the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol turns 1!  Great and exciting anniversary promotions and packages await its patrons and guests!  Please visit the social media pages of Bayfront Hotel Cebu to know the amazing anniversary deals!

With my last question, what does he have in mind now.  Charlton just smiled and said, “Well, who knows?  Another Bayfront Hotel Cebu shall rise soon!”.  After this interesting conversation, I can say that Charlton is truly a man who can foresee the future; may it be in business, in the market, with the trends, and with new experiences.  

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