Sunday, 27 April 2014

Restaurant Review: El Ideal Bakery (Silay City, Negros Occidental)

El Ideal Bakery - old of the country's oldest bakeries

An array of pastries
El Ideal Bakery (pronounced as “el idjal”), established in 1920 by the late Cesar Lacson Locsin, is one of the country’s oldest bakeries.  It is noted for its delicious and reasonably priced biscuits, cookies and pastries. 

These include bicho-bicho (a local delicacy made of sticky rice flour, smothered with melted brown sugar and sesame seed), piping hot piaya (a flat pastry filled with muscovado jam and sprinkled with sesame seed), moringa oatmeal cookies, pandan cuchinta with cheese, barquillos (thin hand-rolled wafers, comes in 2 and 8 layer rolls), ube puto, panara and empanada. 
Guapple pie - an El Ideal best seller
El Ideal's own bread products
Though it has undergone minor modifications (airconditioning, new kitchen equipment and newer, more durable chairs and tables were installed), it still retains its pre-World War II brick oven. 

The façade of the house, one of the city’s 29 heritage houses declared as such by the National Historical Commission, also remains the same, giving it a touch of old worldly charm. 
It has name for itself with its famous and not-so-sweet guapple (guava-apple) pie, its recipe created in the 1980s during the sugar crisis in Negros when sugar became too expensive for the pastries to be sold at reasonable prices.  Guava was therefore used as an alternative.  Another popular item is the dulce gatas, Silay City’s version of the pastillas, made with carabao milk and sugar. 
The dining area
Aside from its bakery products (which makes a visit to Silay complete), it also serves halo-halo, tasty batchoy, pancit malabon, fresh lumpia ubod (made of fresh young coconut trunk sauteed in pork, shrimps and hard boiled egg, and wrapped with a flavorful garlic sauce), spaghetti, chorizo recado pudpud (topped with an egg), double deck ham and chicken sandwich topped with melted cheese, spare ribs with rice and achara, among others. 

El Ideal Bakery: Cesar Lacson-Locsin Ancestral House, 118 Rizal St. (near Silay’s Public Plaza), Silay City, Negros Occidental. Tel: (034) 495-4430.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The 9th Locsin Reunion (Silay City, Negros Occidental)

The 9th Locsin Reunion

Since the first Locsin grand reunion held on September 28, 1974 at the Natalio G. Velez Sports and Cultural Center, other grand reunions were held every 4 or 5 years for the descendants of the 11 children of Agustin Locsin and Cecilia Sayson.  This year, the 9th edition was held at the Silay City Civic Center from April 25-26 and more than 450 Locsin clan members from around the country and coming from as far as the United States and Spain were registered. Registration fee was PhP300 for adults and PhP100 for children aged nine years old and below. 

Song and dance number depicting the Locsin saga 

For two days, registrants participated in various activities that were lined up by organizers - a heritage tour of  some of the ancestral houses of Silay City and the new Silay Museum as well as The Ruins in nearby Talisay City; a talent show; fun games; raffles; a gala dinner; a cultural show; and a “Gimik Night.” Newly-discovered branches and sub-branches of the Locsin family tree were also be introduced and relatives, both old and new, reconnected with each other.

Tanda de Valse
Locsins doing a modern dance number
At the gala dinner held at the Kansilayan Gym, awards were given to outstanding members of the clan - Emilio "Jay" Abello VI for cinema and photography; Silay City Mayor Jose “Oti” Montelibano for public service; Robin Abello for information technology; Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin Jr. for journalism; and the Negros Volunteers for Change Foundation Inc. for community & social service.
Teddy Boy Locsin delivering his Teditorial

As with every reunion, the Tanda de Valse (the "shifting of waltzes"), a Locsin tradition, was relived on stage during the cultural show. 

A master composition of Silaynon composer and conductor Jose "Pitong" Ledesma, this musical masterpiece was originally created for a past love and was given life, through dance, by Ms. Medy Locsin-Garcia. During the gala dinner, it was performed by the group of Ms. Marissa Montelibano, the First Lady of Silay City, with the Kabataang Silay Rondalla.  A song and dance presentation,  depicting the Locsin saga, from 1750 to the present, was also performed.  

Joey Benin with wife Bing singing "Forevermore"
Cocoy Laurel and Nisa Limjap
During the talent show, the talents of the Locsin clan members were put on display. Mr. Teddy Boy Locsin delivered his Teditorial, and the crowd was regaled by performances from Mr. Victor "Cocoy" Laurel, Ms. Nisa Limjap, Mr. Joey Benin (former member of the Side A band) with wife Ms. Eva Marie "Bing" Ledesma-Benin, singing Joey's composition "Forevermore,"and daughter Clara Benin, and the Garcia Sanchez School of Dance

Two Sony Bravia 32" flat screen TVs as grand prizes well as Cebu Pacific round trip tickets to Bacolod City were also raffled off to  lucky members of the clan. 

Restaurant Review: Calea Pastries & Coffee (Bacolod City, Negros Occidental)

Calea Pastries & Coffee

Calea Pastries & Coffee, a must try and a Bacolod landmark, is perhaps the city's most famous coffee and cake house.  

This nice go to place for a quick sugar fix, to relax or have coffee and cake with friends, usually fills up pretty fast during lunch and in the afternoon, especially on holidays and when there are conferences in town.   To avoid the crowds, visit during the odd hours (between breakfast and lunch). 
They offer a variety of rich and sumptuous cakes, pastries (tarts, pies, etc.), and cold/hot beverages (cappuccino, freshly brewed coffee, mocha latte, mocha frappucino, etc.) and their prices are reasonable, half the price you would normally pay in Manila (ranging from PhP75-95 per slice). 

However, Calea does not scrimp on ingredients, even if the cakes are very affordable.  The sandwiches (Reuben sandwich, Waldorf sandwich, clubhouse, etc.) served are big portions. They also serve very good pasta just perfectly cooked al dente, plus halo-halo.  Their cozy, very relaxing and tastefully done ice blue and white interiors have a cool retro look, with comfortable chairs and eclectic décor. 
The cozy, very relaxing and tastefully done interior
Choco almond cake
Their awesome cakes are to die for, not too sweet not too bland, just right for your taste.  

However, they have no dessert menu and their cakes lack name plates so customers have to go to the counter and point to what your heart, mind and taste buds desire or ask the food attendants for the names of the cakes to help you make your mind up. 

There are at least 15 kinds of cakes and pastries displayed in their tall glass-fronted refrigerators.
Pecan caramel cheesecake
 Their sinfully sumptuous bestsellers, pleasing to the eyes and sinfully delicious, are the white chocolate cheesecake (with raspberry sauce and topped with grated cheese), the mouth-watering chocolate mud pie cake (ice cream cake with thick chocolate syrup, ground cookies as crust and thinly cut walnuts and almonds) and pecan pie a la mode  (with vanilla ice cream on top).  
An array of unlabeled but delicious cakes

Apple pie
Also try the lemon pie, lemon mousse, pecan caramel cheesecake, banoffee pie, chocolate banana ganache, almond biscotti, oreo cheesecake, tiramisu, caramel crunch, vanilla ice cream pie, carrot cake, chocolate marshmallow ice-cream cake, pecan vanilla cheesecake, blueberry cheesecake and the heavenly French chocolate cheesecake.  

To say that their cakes were delicious is an understatement. For “pasalubong,"Calea provides a specially made box (PhP30) for transport from city to city or airport travel. 
Pies to die for
Calea Pastries & Coffee: Doors 1-4, Balay Quince Commercial Bldg., cor. 15th St. and Lacson St. (in front of L'Fisher Hotel), Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. Tel: (034) 433-8664 and (034) 433-3143. Open Mondays to Thursdays, 8 AM to 10 PM,  and Fridays to Sundays, 9 AM to 11 PM.
Calea Pastries & Coffee: Robinsons Place, Lacson St., Mandalagan,  Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. Tel: (034) 441-3835.
Calea Pastries & Coffee: East Block Bldg., Circumferential Rd., Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.
Calea Pastries & Coffee: G/F, The District Ayala North Point, Talisay City, Negros Occidental.

Resort Feature: Campuestohan Highland Resort (Talisay City, Negros Occidental)

Campuestuhan Highland Resort

The Log Cabin
The 5-hectare Campuestohan Highland Resort, sitting in the boundary of two fast-growing cities and located near the towering peaks of Mt. Mandalagan and Mt. Patag, is known for its cool and refreshing atmosphere and is the perfect summer getaway for those seeking refuge from the blistering heat of towns and cities below it. 

Founded and established by businessman Ricardo “Cano” Tan just a couple of years ago, it was initially designed to be a retirement haven for Cano, his wife Nita and his family whenever they wanted to seek shelter from the hustle and bustle of city life. Later, Cano decided to open the place to the public in order for them to also avail of the cool atmosphere that they were enjoying.
Captain America

Initially, the resort only had the swimming pool and a main log cabin which resembles those usually found in Canadian and American mountains.  Later, as the resort became more popular, other structures and attractions were added.

The resort offer visitors,  in various strategic locations within the compound, a chance to have their photos taken with cool life-size statues of movie icons such as the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park; alien cyborgs (Predator); Marvel super heroes such Superman, Spiderman and Captain America; basketball star Michael Jordan; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; Elvis Presley and many more.
King Kong

Jurrasic Park
Another new attraction is the life-size statue of the giant gorilla, KingKong, sitting atop what looks like a huge rock, visible even from the entrance gate of the resort.  

The statue also has a spacious room inside, with bed and table, which guests may use if they so wish. 

It also suddenly gives out, via a sound system, a deep, loud and throaty growl.  Around the statue are several damaged replicas of aircraft such as a Huey helicopter and a United States Air Force jet fighter, destroyed by the giant gorilla while evading his captors.

Zip Line

The Rope Course
The resort’s 340-m. long zipline, rising 60 ft. above the ground, offers one the chance of viewing the entire expanse of the resort as one zips through its cableat more than 50 kms. per hour, from east to west in only under a minute. To try out the zipline, wearing sports shoes is required.
The Rope Course, another great feature, challenges guests to complete the course without falling off a series of planks, tires, ropes, etc. elevated  10 ft. from the ground. 

If one slips and falls, a harness will safely catch you. Just like the zipline, sports shoes are required if one wants to try out the rope course.   Horseback riding is also offered (PhP150 for 15 mins.), around a safe course, with free lessons in mounting and reining. Sports shoes are also required if one wants to go horseback riding.

The Hanging Bridge

Horseback Riding Field
The resort’s new 100 m. long hanging bridge, on suspension cables, offers a spectacular view of Bacolod City, Talisay City, Silay City and even, on clear days, the coastlines of western Negros and the far-off islands of Guimaras and Iloilo. 

On its eastern side, you will enjoy the lovely mountain ranges of Mt. Patag and Mandalagan. The hanging bridge's sides are lined with 4-ft. high trusses made of huge crisscrossed ropes designed to prevent one from going off the bridge.

The resort's pavilion

Bonita Huts
The resort's very cozy 2-storey pavilion has a restaurant, offering a wide array of seafood and native delicacies at very reasonable pricesthat can seat nearly 200 guests and and  function rooms, on the second floor, that can be used to hold private events or big celebrations such as weddings and events held by business establishments. 

There are two swimming pools within the resort compound.  The old pool is located at the western section of the resort, near the hanging bridge.  The new footprint-shaped swimming pool, situated near the giant King Kong statue, has a 4-ft. deep adult pool at the sole while the 5 toes act as the kiddie pool, with depths of 2 to 3.5 feet of water.  Beside this pool is a  new 2-storey shoe-shaped house which has accommodations for guests at the upper floor and a shower room and toilet at the lower floor. 

Swimming pools and the Shoe House

The children's playground
Campuestohan Highland Resort also has a newly-constructed coffee shop offering hot or cold drinks (aromatic brewed coffee, cool and refreshing melon shakes, etc.), children's playground and, during the Christmas holiday season, Santa Claus and some of his reindeer that serves as the resort's center of attraction.  

The very colorful and safe Dumbo mini-train is another new attraction for both the kids and kids-at-heart (PhP20 per passenger for a 5-min. ride). Bonita Huts, a series of detached overnight accommodations, are designed to resemble the abodes of Hobbits of the Kingdoms of Middle Earth (featured in the Lord of the Rings series). 
Campuestohan Highland Resort: Sitio Campuestohan, Brgy. Cabatangan, 6100 Talisay City, Negros Occidental. Entrance fee is 150/head inclusive of pool fee. Tel: (034) 702-0964. Mobile numbers: (915) 211-1406 and (0917) 300-5007.  Website:

How to Get There:  The 1-hr. Brgy. Alangilan route, from Bacolod City, is better than the Brgy. Concepcion, Talisay City route. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Building Green: An LGU Imperative (Makati City)

Green Building Imperative: An LGU Forum

Vice-Pres. Jejomar C. Binay
The Building Green: An LGU Imperative, a one-day forum held on April 23 at the Molave Room of the Dusit Thani Hotel, was conducted in collaboration with the Climate Change Commission, under the Office of the President, and the International Finance Corp., the private sector investment arm of the World Bank Group.  

Together, they intend to reduce, by 20% a year, the greenhouse-gas emissions of new buildings in the Philippines.  The forum gathered nearly 100 attendees - mayors, building officials, architects, engineers and representatives cause-oriented groups fervently involved in Green Building.  

Sen. Loren B. Legarda
Green building, one of the most important steps that the country must undertake in adapting to climate change and mitigating climate risk, is the practice of adopting sustainable features and measures in the design, construction, operation and management of a structure.  

It significantly improves energy, water, materials and resource efficiency and also reduces the building’s impact on human health and the environment. 
Hans C. Shrader
The IFC, with its global technical expertise, is also supporting the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in updating the National Building Code by conducting technical studies which will set the minimum green features required for new buildings, save energy and water resources, and support cost-efficient operations. 

Mr. Hans C. Shrader, the IFC's Senior Program Manager, delivered the welcome remarks while former senator and now Climate Change Commissioner (CCC) Heherson T. Alvarez delivered a message from Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III who hopes that Green Buildings will gain widespread acceptance among developers and become major players in this trade so, together, they can become agents of positive change, leading the world, not only in building an advanced, more progressive society, but also a world we can bequeath with pride to future generations.  Experts have identified the Philippines as the third among countries most vulnerable to climate change.
CCC Commissioner Heherson Alvarez
Keynote speaker was former Makati City mayor and now Vice-Pres.  and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chairman Jejomar C. Binay who called on local government units (LGUs) to make conscientious decisions that will help reduce our country’s carbon emissions. 

He also proposed that the IFC, Philippine Green Building Initiative (PGBI), the CCC and the DPWH work with the University of Makati in developing a seminar format for a “green” building code for newly elected local executives and newly and well-funded universities in the Philippines.
Autif Mohammed Sayyed

Engr. Laurentino Punsalan, the Chairman of the Philippine Green Building Initiative (PGBI), introduced Sen. Loren B. Legarda, the plenary speaker, who delivered a speech on the Green and Resilient Building: Emerging Need  for Sustainable Growth. 

Legarda, an environmentalist and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, called on concerned government agencies to ensure that the comprehensive land use plans (CLUPs) of local government units are being enforced.

Other speakers were Dir. Estrella T. Villar (Developing a Green Building Referral Code) of the Dept. of Public Works and Highways (DPWH); Mr. Art Habilan (Energy Efficient Buildings) of the Dept. of Energy (DOE); Atty. Roy Reyes (Green Building Legislative Agenda: SB 1928/410/2133) of the Office of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.; and Mr. Autif Mohammed Sayyed, the Regional Green Building specialist of the IFC for the East Asia Pacific Region, who provided technical support to Green Building regulations.

Discussing Green Building Ordinances of their respective cities were Engr. Armand Comandao (Mandaluyong City which, with IFC’s support, passed a green building ordinance that provides incentives such as tax discounts on machinery and building improvements); Atty. Violeta S. Seva (Makati City) and Ms. Frediswinda de Guzman (Quezon City).  A workshop to identify issues and challenges in adopting a Green Building ordinance, facilitated by Mr. Resi Marinas and Ms. Tess Lacerna, was also conducted.   

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Restaurant Review: New Toho Food Center (Manila)

New Toho Food Center

Ground floor dining area
In 1888 (others say 1866), Manuel "Po Kong" Bautista and his 4 Chinese friends decided to set up a restaurant called Toho Antigua Panciteria along San Jacinto (now Tomas Pinpin) St. in Binondo.  They did everything - cooking the food, washing dishes, serving the customers and, after closing time, cleaning.

After awhile, 4 of the owners decided to return to China leaving Toho to Tai Tang. His 7 children eventually took over management of the place.  In 1984, a fire razed the old wooden building and the restaurant was rebuilt, this time in sturdy concrete, and renamed as New Toho Food Center.  Today, Tai Ping's grandchildren manage the place.

Beef ampalaya

Haykang Soup
In Hokkien, the word toho means "just enough."  Four Philippine presidents, actor Fernando Poe Sr. (father of Fernando Poe, Jr.), actress and singer Katy de la Cruz and Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson have all dined here. 

It is also believed that National Hero Jose Rizal, during his student days, frequented the place for its pancit canton and lumpiang shanghai. Still located at its original site, it is the oldest existing restaurant in the country today.

Fish fillet with ginger sauce

Toho beef
Domesticated Chinese comfort food such as sopa de nido (bird’s nest soup), camaron rebosado (breaded shrimp), pinsic frito (fried wonton stuffed with beef) and bijon tostado (toasted fried bihon), popular during the 1930s, can still be found in their menu, a lot of them the core of home cooking. 

People also lined up, as early as 11 AM and again at 5 PM, just to buy their freshly cooked pansit canton (stir-fried noodles), a Toho bestseller.  The roasted, beautifully sweet and tender pork asado, another must-try, is cooked fresh daily, without the use of artificial coloring, and is usually sold out by afternoon.

Pinsec frito

Seafood chopsuey
The pat mi shrimp (battered fried shrimp in spicy sauce) and fried milk (dry-roasted noodles with bits of pork and shrimp that's covered with a sauce made from milk) are also dishes you don't normally find in other Chinese restaurants.  

Just don't expect much from the place in terms of china and glassware and the way it looks from the inside and out.  The second floor, though, has an airconditioned dining area.
Toho has two branches, both using the old name Toho Antigua, at 16 Presidents Ave., BF Homes, Paranaque City (tel: 820-0668 to 69, open 10 AM - 10 PM) and at the second floor of SM City BF, also in Paranaque City.  Major credit cards are accepted in both places.

Old 1954 photo of restaurant

New Toho Food Center: 422-424 Tomas Pinpin St. near cor. Dasmarinas St., Binondo, Manila. Tel: (632) 242-0294 and 241-4208. Open Mondays to Saturdays, 8:30 AM - 9 PM, Sundays, 8:30 AM- 2 PM.