Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Hotel and Inn Review: Likani Guesthouse (Borjomi, Republic of Georgia)

Date of Stay: November 26-27, 2014
RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ******
Condition and Cleanliness: *******
Staff Performance: ******
Room Comfort: ******
Food and Beverage: *****
Other Amenities: *****
Value for Money: ******

Likani Guesthouse

The homey, 2-storey Likani Guesthouse, located 3 kms. from the Borjomi town center, is easily accessible by road.  Its landmark is the famous Tsqarostan, a water source with free clean drinking water. This guesthouse has 4 rooms which can accommodate a total of 12 persons (25 GEL per bed or 75 GEL per room of 3 beds).
Stairs leading to the terrace
The second floor terrace
View of mountains and forests from the guesthouse

Each room offers great views of the forest-cladded mountains and the Kura River, located just 50 m. away.The guesthouse has shared, fully equipped kitchen facilities (where guests can cook their meals), two dining areas (the one at the ground floor is warmed by a wood-burning stove), two shared bathrooms with hot shower and a washing machine plus free wi-fi access is available.
Ground floor guestroom with double bed
The ground floor room where we spent the night
Room at the second floor
Second floor guestroom with piano

There’s also a garden, barbecue facilities and a second floor terrace. The property also offers free parking and massage therapy and reflexology is available from Ms. Ruby Bebita, an ex-Dubai therapist. Breakfast, included in the overnight rate, consists of sliced bread, jam, butter, cheese and hard-boiled egg plus coffee or tea.
The guesthouse is also located 2 kms from the entrance of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park and near the guesthouse is Camp Sakartvelo, a campsite with a water source where campers could pitch their own tents and cook their own food.  An array of activities can be enjoyed on site or its surroundings.

The dining area and kitchen
Second floor dining area
Breakfast array

They include cycling, horseback riding and hiking. The guest house is located 6 kms. from the Borjomi Train Station and 175 kms. from  the Tbilisi International Airport.
L-R: Guesthouse owner-Ms. Lamina Tomashvili, Ms. Ruby Bebita and the author

Likani Guesthouse Borjomi: 85 Meskheti St., Tsqarostan, Likani, 1200 Borjomi.  Tel: + 995597005282  and + 995577382120.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Hotel and Inn Review: Envoy Tours Hostel (Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia)

Date of Stay: November 25 - December 4, 2014

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *********
Rooms: ******
Condition and Cleanliness: *********
Staff Performance: ********
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: *****
Other Amenities: ******
Value for Money: *******

Envoy Hostel

Hostel entrance
This lovely hostel, situated within just 5 minutes’ walk of the Narikala Fortress, is a good base camp in exploring the historic and stunning Old Town district.  

It offers basic facilities but everything here is really clean. Envoy Hostel offers a range of private (double room, a twin room, standard triple room, family room) and shared rooms (4-bed, 6-bed and 8-bed dormitories).  

All rooms are equipped with individual lockers and feature air conditioning (during the hot summer) and central heating (during winter, the time of my visit).  Free bed linen and towels are provided for all types of rooms but bathroom facilities are shared.  

All shared rooms are equipped with bunk beds, designed specifically for adults that were comfortable.  All beds had shelves, charging stations and lights.  The top bunks don't have spaces on the side for things to fall through if you're on the top.

4-bed dormitory with individual lockers.  Beds have individual lights, charging station and shelves

Room rates include free daily continental breakfast which is served between 8-10 AM (8:30-10:30 AM in winter) in the common room. The shared kitchen comes complete with a stove, tea/coffee facilities and a refrigerator. 

Their breakfast is not luxurious and consisted only of white bread, jam, handmade pancakes, fruits, vegetables and cheese. Breakfast can be enjoyed on the rooftop terrace which is quite big and is equipped with lounge furniture.  Here, you can bond with other tourists and enjoy the amazing views of Tbilisi's major tourist attractions.

Shared kitchen

The staff at its 24-hour Front Desk was very friendly, extremely helpful and kind and took good care of their guests. 

They also organize walking tours for guests. Free Wi-Fi is accessible throughout the hostel, with a PC terminal for use by guests, but is spotty.  On-site parking is provided. They also offer luggage storage, airport shuttle (additional charge), laundry service and tours.

Hostel terrace

Overall this hostel is a home away from home. There are restaurants and cafes nearby. Note that the road on which the hostel is located is very steep and narrow (you will have to walk to the main street) and may pose a challenge for some people (including me) if you are lugging a lot of luggage. Only small vehicles can take you up to the door of the hostel.

Narikala Fortress as seen from hostel terrace

Shared bathroom
Envoy Hostel, 2 minutes on foot to the Metekhi Bridge and a 10-minute drive away from Tbilisi Central Station, is located 300 m. from Metekhi Church and Sioni Cathedral; 400 m. from the Bridge of Peace; 600 m. from Tblisi Botanical Garden (a 5-minute walk away), 700 m. from Avlabari Metro Station (a 10-min. walk away); 800 m. from the Presidential Palace and Pushkin Park; 1.1 km. from Sameba Cathedral; 1.5 km. from Rustaveli Theater; 1.7 km. from Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater; 2.2 kms. from the Georgian National Academy of Science; 2.8 kms. from Tbilisi Concert Hall; 3.4 kms. from Tbilisi Circus; 3.5 kms. from Heroes Square; 3.7 kms. from Tbilisi Zoo; 4.2 kms. from Tbilisi Sports Palace; 5.6 kms. from Medical University Metro Station and 13.1 kms. from Tbilisi International Airport. The Sulphur Baths are a 5 mins. walk away.

View of Tbilisi from hostel terrace

Envoy Tours Hostel: 45 Betlemi Street (on Junction to Orbiri St. leading up to the Narikala Fortress), 0105 Tbilisi City, Georgia. Tel: +995-322-920-111.  Website:

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Colors of Hope Exhibit (Tbilisi, Georgia)

Visual artist Pancho Piano - the first Filipino artist to officially present his work in Georgia and the entire Caucasus Region

For the First Filipino Movement's arts and culture advocacy and 2014 grand finale, Hon. Thelmo O. Cunanan, Jr., Honorary Consul of Georgia to the Philippines, brought master visual artist and mural and stained-glass painter and poet Pancho Piano to the Republic of Georgia where he exhibited some 35 of his artworks at the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts of the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi, the capital of the country.  Entitled "The Colors of Hope," Mr. Piano's paintings depicted his own unique interpretation of famous and historical Georgian landmarks, with the themes of love and care for the environment. 

The Colors of Hope Exhibit at Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts

The exhibit, which is in partnership with Prof. David Lordkipanidze (Director General of Georgian National Museum) and Dr. Lela Tsitsuashvili, ran from November 27 - December 3, 2014.  

A native of Naga City, Pancho has exhibited all over the world, including Vienna, Berlin, Tokyo, New York, Rome, Paris, Brunei, and Singapore. This multi-awarded artist was recently honored as the Most Outstanding Bicolano Artist in 2009.  He was also awarded the My City My SM Award in 2010 and the Orgullo Kan Award for Visual Arts in 2011.  Pancho is the first Filipino artist to officially present his work in Georgia and the entire Caucasus Region. 

L-R: Mr. David Lordkipanidze, Mr. Barcel La Shinski, Ms. Lela Tsitsuashvili, Mr. Pancho Piano, Consul Buddy Cunanan and Consul-General Teimuraz Chichinadze

On December 3, the exhibit culminated with a successful poetry and mural painting demonstration at the main exhibition hall of the museum. 

In attendance were government officials, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, and arts and poetry enthusiasts as well as Georgian print and broadcast media who covered the event.  The televised demonstration, which lasted an hour, was a unique arts collaboration between famous Georgian poet Barcel La Shinski and Mr. Piano, with Mr. La Shinski delivering a series of poems and Mr. Piano interpreting the meaning on canvas. The result was a beautiful art masterpiece.
Mr. La Shinski delivering a series of poems while Mr. Piano interprets its meaning on canvas

After the performance, Consul Cunanan told the audience,"This is truly a historic event in Philippines - Georgia relations. We Filipinos are a happy and optimistic people. We believe that hope springs eternal and we see sunshine even in the midst of adversity. 

Through the "Colors of Hope" exhibition, we wanted to share these values with our Georgian brothers and sisters." "Through these two arts masters, we have shown that we can unite the world and move society forward, using arts as a means for social change."

The almost finished painting

"I want to congratulate the organizers of this event for the beautiful performance this afternoon. Through this event, we can see that arts know no borders and that it can bring peoples closer together. 

I look forward to more Philippine cultural exchanges at the Georgian National Museum," said Prof. Lordkipanidze. "Congratulations to Barcel and Mr. Piano for an amazing performance," added Dr. Tsitsuashvili.  "This is just the start of our collaboration in Georgia. Mr. Cunanan has done a tremendous job and I look forward to working with him to bring more exhibitions to Georgia," said Philippine Honorary Consul-General Teimuraz Chichinadze.

The packed exhibit hall on the final day

The finished painting, along with a multimedia presentation of the poetry-mural painting event, will be on display in Manila in May 2015, during the Philippine - Georgian art exhibition that Consul Cunanan will be organizing, in cooperation with several major academic institutions. 

Mr. Piano and the Philippine - Georgian exhibit will also go on a road show to Prague, Czech Republic and Vienna, Austria in October 2015. The "Colors of Hope" exhibition was made possible through the kind assistance of Qatar Airways, the delegation's official carrier, which generously provided additional cargo allowance for the transport of the paintings and art materials for the event. 

Pancho's rendition of the statue of Kartlis Deda (“Mother of Georgia”)

Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts: 1 Lado Gudiashvili St., 0105, Tbilisi.  Tel: (+995 032) 2 99 99 09 and 2 99 35 66. E-mail: Website:

Monday, 17 November 2014

Dee’s Gourmet Popcorn (Paranaque City)

Dee's Gourmet Popcorn

The commissary
Popcorn is a must-have snack for Filipinos whenever they go on a typical movie date, with choices only ranging from salted to cheese-flavored. Entrepreneur Ms. Lydia Duquesa “Deedee” Ledonio, the owner and brains behind Dee’s Gourmet Popcorn, added more reasons to eat popcorn aside from the usual movie theater versions.  

With creativity and innovation, Deedee used imported (from the U.S.A.) mushroom popcorn kernels (the usual here is the butterfly popcorn), with their beautifully large ball-like shape (best suited for adding coatings), and added more unique flavors.  These, plus their eye-catching, 60-gm. zip lock packaging (imported from Taiwan), caught Manila by storm.  Today, they are the best handmade baked popcorn in town.  
Ms. Deedee Ledonio-Mallari
Baking oven
Popcorn popper
Deedee, an entrepreneur who owns a cargo company (she is president of Columbia Transport, Inc. - Coltrans Cargo Philippines) and spa destinations, dreams big and always goes out of her way to fulfill a dream.  Although it was her first venture into food manufacturing, she hired food technologists and consulted friends from the food industry to develop a set of flavors that would be best for a popcorn brand. She especially wanted a brand that carries her favorite rendition of popcorn, specifically that with a chocolate coating.  And she did it. Today, Dee’s Gourmet Popcorn is the only baked popcorn with a line of chocolate-coated pieces.
Bags of popped but still unflavored corn

On July 8, 2011, after a year of rigorous research plus trial and error, Deedee launched her first branch.  
To introduce her new creation, she also joined food bazaars and other trade events  such as the ABS-CBN MYX Trade Event, World Food Expo (WOFEX) Cebu (April 24-26, 2014, SM Cebu Trade Hall), the 12th Philippine Food Expo (May 16-18, 2014, World Trade Center), WOFEX Baguio (May 22-24, 2014, Baguio Country Club), WOFEX Davao (June 26-28, 2014, SMX Davao), WOFEX Manila (August 6-9, 2014, World Trade Center and SMX) and the Food and Drinks Asia (September 4-7, 2014, World Trade Center).  
Her experience and dedication thus helped fulfill what used to be a simple dream into reality.
Popcorn is measured (60 gms.) prior to packing
Packaging and labelling
Dee’s popcorn are popped using palm olein oil that has no trans fat, making it an alternative healthy snack option.  They are then perfectly baked before being seasoned with an assortment of flavors. 

They come in different flavors, all priced between PhP50-80.   Regular flavors are Buttery Caramel, Cheesy Cheese, Santa Fe Mexican Blend, Salted Caramel and Choco Caramel while their premium flavors are Caramel with Dark and White Chocolate Drizzle, Coffee Almond Crunch, Milky Chocolate, Rocky Road, Chocolate Drizzle with Shaved Coconuts and Caramel with Pili Nuts.  
Packed and ready for delivery
The author with Ms. Deedee
In Metro Manila, Dee’s delicious baked popcorn is now available in SM Supermarkets, SM Save More, 38 Robinsons Supermarkets (Galleria, Magnolia, Eastwood, Ermita, etc.), 12 major Puregold Lifestyle supermarkets (QI, Alabang, Mindanao Ave, Taguig, Southpark, Quezon Ave, Shaw, Fairview Ave, Pioneer Ave, Zapote, BF Homes, CE Kalayaan), 5 Metro Gaisano Supermarkets (Market Market, Alabang, Lucky Chinatown, etc.), 2 Landmark Supermarkets (Trinoma and Glorietta), Cash n’ Carry Supermarket in Makati, 80 Finds Convenient Stores, Malcolm’s Deli (Fort, Bonifacio Global City), Epicurious, all Gourdo's gourmet stores and some Ralph's Wines and Spirits outlets. 

They are also available in 19 CHAMS convenient stores in Cagayan de Oro City (Misamis Oriental); Budget Mart and Crafts of Boracay in Boracay; and Alturas Supermarkets in Cebu (3 outlets) and Bohol (2 outlets).

Dee’s Gourmet Popcorn: Citimotors Bldg., Sampaguita Ave., Brgy. Marcelo Green, United Parañaque Subd. 4, Parañaque City. Tel: 852-7580. E-mail: Website: