Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Cebu's Rico's Lechon Comes to Manila (Taguig City)

Rico's Lechon BGC

Lechon-loving Pinoys who have never tried Rico’s Lechon, the beloved restaurant-slash-litsonan in Cebu, are now in for a treat. They need not fly to Cebu to get his/her fill of the real thing as Rico’s Lechon finally opens its first store outside Cebu, at The Fort Strip in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Metro Manila. 

Rico's Lechon, recognized as the “Best lechon” in Cebu by SunStar Cebu (for three consecutive years now), has earned a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor (for consistently receiving great reviews on the travel site) and, in 2017, was awarded at the Asia-Pacific Stevie International Business Awards in Tokyo (Japan). 

L-R: Mr. George Pua (Meat Concepts, Corp. president) and Mr. Enrico "Rico" V. Dionson (Rico's Lechon founder).  Photo: www.philstar.com.

Lechon sisig (PhP320)
Bam-i (PhP280)
This popular chain, home of the “da best gyudlechon, was brought to Manila by the amiable, well-respected actor-turned-restaurateur and lechon lover George Pua, president of Meat Concepts Corp., the group which is affiliated with the operators of KPub BBQ, Thai BBQ, Ogawa Traditional Japanese Restaurant, OPPA Chicken, Modern China and Tony Roma’s. Rico’s Lechon BGC is the first Filipino concept of Meat Concepts Corp. 

A sampler of Rico Lechon's signature dishes

Dinuguan (PhP220)
Chicken Inasal (PhP220)
The iconic Rico’s Lechon was originally founded in 1995 by Enrico “Rico” V. Dionson. For years, George, whose love affair with lechon started when he was only 13 year old teenager in Baclaran, has been a patron of Rico’s Lechon and, personally, he believes it’s the best. To this day, eating lechon is still one of George’s guilty pleasures (lechon was also his late mom’s favorite), consuming 1/4 lechon for lunch almost every day. George loved spicy food and Rico’s Lechon had the spicy variant. In 2013, Rico was introduced to George by a good friend. He offered to buy the franchise from Rico but he initially refused.

Members of media at opening day

Chopsuey (Php280)
Gising-Gising (PhP220)
Still, George and Rico became good friends. The next two years have not been the easiest for Rico. Two of his branches in Cebu City were closed down by the local city government because they didn't have the necessary business permits. With this brewing controversy, Rico decided he couldn’t expand the business anymore so, in December 2017, he decided to entrust his 21-year legacy to George whom he believed would love the brand and could help it grow.

After negotiations and a feng shui consultation (to do a quick “reading” of Rico) with a master based in Taiwan, the deal was closed, giving George the franchise to bring Rico’s to Manila, adding Rico’s Lechon to his roster of restaurants.  Rico also sold 100% of his shares in the brand. George hired Rico’s Lechon staff (from the lechoneros to the choppers) to actually run the show at the Manila branch he plans to open.

Sinigang na Baboy at Baka (PhP390)
Sizzling Tanigue (PhP380)
On August 3, 2018, after 5 dry runs, Rico’s Lechon took Manila by storm as it opened its doors to media guests, including yours truly, at its flagship restaurant (occupying Gordo's old space) at The Fort Entertainment Complex in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. This would be the second time I would dine in a Rico’s Lechon outlet (the first was in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, near the airport, in September 2017). The first outside of Rico’s home province of Cebu, this branch is a more upscale version of its Cebu counterpart (less fast food and more “fast casual”).  More spacious, with a 180-person seating capacity, its bright and comfortable, sprawling interior has a high ceiling, wooden tables and mixed seating. 
Check out "Restaurant Review: Rico's Lechon (Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu)"
The focal point and major attraction

The focal point and major attraction is the restaurant’s own roasting pit (the first in the area, it can accommodate 10 pigs), at the right side of the building, where master roasters tend to each pig for over 4 hours.  Diners are thus assured that what they’re getting is fresh.  The lechon roasting can be seen from the interior via a viewing corner (the only Rico’s Lechon branch with such) and, even from the outside, passersby can see the roasted pigs on the spit, slowly turning into delicious lechon.

The roasting pit

Lechon Humba (PhP360)
Seafood Kare-Kare (PhP395)
Instead of the traditional roasting method, which is done outside in a charcoal pit in open air, this branch does it indoors, using a more modern version, with innovative mechanisms to adjust temperature, air circulation (which plays an important role in the texture and flavor of the meat) and exhaust smoke, thus upholding quality and food  safety standards. In Cebu, one had to arrive early or else be lucky to secure orders of their favorite  lechon  as, by 5 PM, they would be usually be sold out.  With this roasting pit onsite, this would, hopefully, not be so much of an issue.

Pictures of George Pau with celebrity guests

Function Room
Tapioca Pandan
On opening day, we got to sample some of Rico’s Lechon’s signature dishes in its menu - Monggo Soup (PhP190), Gising Gising (PhP220), Chopsuey (PhP280), sizzling Lechon Sisig (PhP320), Bam-i (PhP280), Chicken Inasal (PhP220), the perfectly seasoned and excellently cooked Sizzling Tanigue (PhP380), Sinigang na Baboy at Baka (PhP390), the sweet and savory Lechon Humba (Php360), Dinuguan (PhP220),  Seafood Kare Kare (PhP395) and Sizzling Tanigue (PhP380).  Dessert was the simple but addicting Tapioca Pandan (PhP100), made from pandan, agar-agar, pearls, evaporated milk and condensed milk.

Fried Rice Trio - a George Pau original recipe

The Fried Rice Trio (solo, PhP90; platter, PhP260), which is George’s own recipe, is loaded with three kinds of dried fish: danggit, tuyo and tinapa. A meal in itself, it was so good I could eat it on its own.

Of course, the piece de resistance that opening day was its porcine delight - the freshly roasted and scrumptious lechon itself.  Known for using only organic native pigs (which is more expensive than the commercial ones), native pigs are more tender and have thicker skin which, when roasted, gives it that crunch. The skin of commercial pigs, on the other hand, is so thin that it cracks upon roasting.

A whole lechon

Both the regular Cebu-style lechon, stuffed with leeks, lemongrass, tomato, vinegar, ginger, calamansi (Philippine lemon), spring onions and other herbs and spices, and the trademark spicy lechon (peppered with garlic and chili flakes for that extra kick) came to the table. I loved watching the lechon being chopped while waiting for our order. For the Original Lechon, 1/4 kilo costs PhP250; 550g , PhP475 and 1 kilo at PhP900. Spicy Lechon costs PhP290 for ¼ kilo; PhP500 for 500g and PhP950 for 1 kilo.

The only lechon worth spending calories on is the kind that does not need , or deserve, any sarsa (sauce) of sorts. There’s no need for lechon (liver) sauce with Rico’s Lechon.  However, you can further enhance the lechon’s flavor with a dousing of the resto’s Sukang Lami (PhP140/bottle), a vinegar concoction that brings out the sweetness as well as tempers the richness of the meat. Aside from lechon, the Chicharon Bulaklak (PhP180), one of the restaurant’s bestsellers, is also good with Sukang Lami on the side.

Aside from lechon, the menu includes other Pinoy favorites such as saucy Beef Tripe Kare-Kare (PhP300), Bulalo (PhP640), Adobong Kangkong (PhP180), Ampalaya Salad (PhP160), Calamares Prito (PhP230), Camaron Rebusado (PhP280), the deep-fried Crispy Feetchon (PhP330), Trio Seaweed Salad (Php180), Bicol Express (PhP240), Chicken Skin (PhP140), Pinakbet (PhP260), Eggplant Salad with Salted Egg (PhP140), Garlicky Squid Balls (PhP195), Prichon (PhP260), Grilled Pork Liempo  (PhP220), Pancit Canton (Php260), Pancit Bihon (PhP240), Lechon Paksiw (PhP330), Pancit Canton (PhP260), Pork Pata Kare-Kare (PhP380), Pritchon (PhP260), Pusit na Pinaputok (PhP440), Sizzling Adobong Pusit (PhP320), Sizzling Tofu Steak (PhP240) Ngohiong (deep-fried roll containing a mix of ground pork, minced shrimp, garlic, and spices, PhP190),  Sinigang na Hipon (PhP360), Baked Scallops (PhP290), Tortang Talong with Lechon (PhP160), Grilled Liempo (PhP220), Grilled Pork Steak (PhP280), Tuna Belly (Php380), Grilled Hito (PhP240), Grilled Shrimp (Spicy, PhP190), Grilled Tilapia (PhP240), Grilled Daing na Bangus (PhP250), Grilled Chicken Tail (PhP80) and Cebu Chorizo (Regular, PhP40; Spicy, PhP45).

Rico’s Lechon is also set to open more branches Metro Manila - Top of the Glo (Glorietta 1, Makati City); Cloverleaf Mall (Balintawak) and UP Town Center in Quezon City; Tiendesitas and Portico in Pasig City; Ayala Feliz in Marikina City; and Ayala Macapagal and Blue Bay Walk in Pasay City.

The author (left) with son Jandy

Rico’s Lechon BGC: 5th Ave. cor. 26th St., Fort Entertainment Complex, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila.  It is near Early Night and K-Pub. Open daily, 10 AM – 10 PM. Tel: (02) 828 9352 and (02) 856-0470. Mobile number: (0917) 844-7067.  Website: www.ricoslechon.com.  Facebook: RicosLechonOFFICIAL.

For now, customer takeouts are limited to 2 kilos per person. One would do well to call and reserve a kilo or two in advance. Until after they finish building a bigger commissaryoff-location, they won't sell lechon by the pig just yet. Those who want to order one whole lechon should place their orders in advance because the lechon, cooked very early in the morning, would still be coming from Cebu (their commissary is still there).

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Marry Me at Marriott 2018 (Pasay City)

Marriott Grand Ballroom
(photo: www.bookings.com)
Once again, the country’s top fashion designers, personalities, stylists, wedding suppliers and soon-to-be newlywed couples will gather at the Marriott Grand Ballroom, the country’s biggest and most prestigious ballroom, for the illustrious Marry Me At Marriott 2018, one of the most talked about and eagerly-awaited social events of the year. 

From its facade to its impressive interiors, the Marriott Grand Ballroom is arguably the modern castle for couples who prefer a grand happily ever after.

The grandest and most spectacular bridal event of the year will be held on July 30, 2018, 6 PM. Now on its sixth year, this bridal show will feature floral arrangements and stylish and unique, multi-tiered dream wedding cakes lining the hallway leading to a room that seemed like a grand setting from a story book, each cake designed and carefully crafted by the hotel’s award-winning pastry chefs.  The tasteful menu will feature cocktails; refreshing beverages; delightful desserts on long, immaculate white tables; and a 4-course dinner featuring delectable creations from the Marriott Manila kitchen led by Executive Chef Meik Brammer.

Marry Me at Marriot 2017 (photo: Ms. Mitch Garcia)

Ms. Mitch Garcia and
Mr. Bruce Winton
Then, when guests are happily seated on the modern bleachers, the lights will be dimmed and the pillow lights on the floating ceiling will play an astounding display of colors, complemented by romantic background music, as the 300-foot runway is unveiled with the Marriott Grand Ballroom’s Skyfold technology.  

Mr. Bruce Winton, Marriot Manila Hotel's General Manager, and Ms. Michelle "Mitch"  Garcia, Marriott Manila’s elegant Director of Marketing Communications, will give the welcome remarks.  

Marry Me at Marriot 2017 (photo: Ms. Mitch Garcia)

From their comfortable vantage point, guests will watch the most gorgeous models wearing the most fabulous wedding gowns and suits that showcase the stunning designs of most promising and talented, world-class Filipino designers Rosenthal Tee, Mak Tumang and Amir Sali. Guests will also be treated to special numbers and performances in between designers.

Rosenthal Tee (photo:
Rosenthal Tee, the youngest Filipino designer to be part of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Malaysia in 2014, has created pieces for Filipino celebrities such as Jodi Santamaria and Bianca Gonzales. Her first featured show took place at the 2015 Metrowear Luxe Fashion Show in Manila, where she was the opening designer. 

She has produced collections for several New York Fashion Week featured showcases, including two shows sponsored by the Council of Aspiring American Fashion Designers, and produced by fashion producer Redeemer Resk 'Que.  She makes use of structural elements and natural femininity in her pieces. Sequinslace and glimpses of skin are common elements of her pieces, with intricate beadwork and embroidery techniques.

Mak Tumang
(photo: www.maktumang.com)
Mark Aldane "Mak" Tumang, a proponent of modern techniques, haute couture and the continuous pursuit of luxurious elegance, has become a well distinguished name and esteemed personality in both national and international fashion scene. 

Known for his intricate embroidery, detailed lacework and elaborate designs, one of his most recent popular pieces is the gown of Miss Universe Philippines 2018 Catriona Gray.

Amir Sali (photo: ABS CBN)
Sulu-born and Paris-trained (Ecole Lesage) Filipino designer Amir Sali, an interior designer turned ‘Prince of Beads,”is known for his intricate embellishments and extravagant beadwork.  

Sali, an interior designer turned ‘Prince of Beads,”is known for his intricate embellishments and extravagant beadwork.  

Celebrated around the world for his haute couture pieces, Sali has created remarkable and stunning dresses for princesses in the Middle East and  iconic numbers for Hollywood (BeyoncĂ©, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Halle Berry, Carrie Underwood) and Filipino (Liza Soberano, KC Concepcion, Ruffa Gutierrez and Korina Sanchez) personalities.

Love is an experience that is meant to be celebrated, so if you want your dream come true for a grand happily ever after then this event is the way to go.

Marriott Grand Ballroom: 2 Resorts Drive, Pasay City 1309, Metro Manila.  Tel: (02) 988-9999.  Website: www.manilamarriott.com.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Search For Freedom – A Journey to the Himalayas (Taguig City, Metro Manila)

Janet Belarmino-Forney
The SEARCH FOR FREEDOM - JOURNEY TO THE HIMALAYAS (check out trailer here), organized by the husband and wife team of  Todd Forney (American mountain biker, skydiver, dive instructor, mountain climber and engineless offshore sailor) and Janet Belarmino-Forney (one of the three Pinays who scaled Mt. Everest on May 16, 2007 (the two others are Carina Dayondon and Noelle Wenceslao), is a 12 part series of talk shows that aims to empower people and create interest and a lasting impact by promoting healthy lifestyles, outdoor education and travel. 

Todd Forney
These talks, to be held at ROX at Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig City, will be a mixture of high-quality trekking, mountaineering, climbing and outdoor photographs and videos. The show starts on August 2, Thursday, 7 PM, with Janet as guest speaker.

Speakers during the event will be high-caliber outdoor professionals, truly inspirational speakers who have motivated themselves and others to achieve great things.  Aside from Janet and Todd, other speakers include the abovementioned Carina Dayondon and Dr. Teofredo “Ted” Esguerra (the First Philippine Mt. Everest Team's physician) and more.

Carina Dayondon
The event will also have sections for exclusive partners, via professionals or a company’s representative, to join speakers on stage, and present, via hands-on demonstrations or promotion, their brand and products or directly promote their upcoming events. 

These sections will cover additional topics such as health and wellness, (i.e. vitamins, gear, gyms, events and product to improve health), outdoor gear and apparels (i.e. clothing, shoes watch, bike, tents), communication and lifestyle, (i.e.; phones, computer, travel, insurance, etc.).  

Belarmino Ventures - Nueva St., Brgy. 1, Sinamay, Coron, Palawan, Philippines. Mobile number: (0915) 091- 8102.  E-mail: belarminoventures@gmail.com. Website: www.belarminoventures.com/pinoy-himalayan-mountaineering-club and www.janetbelarmino.com.

R.O.X. - B1, Bonifacio High Street, 11th Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Philippines.  Tel: +632-8564638 to 39.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Boyzone: 25th Anniversary and Farewell Tour (Pasay City, Metro Manila)

Three years after their last concert in the Philippines, the Irish boy band Boyzone will return to the country to perform their career's biggest hits live as part of their 25th anniversary and farewell tour. The concert, produced by OvationProductions (promoter in the Philippines of other well known boy bands such as The Backstreet Boys, New Kids On the Block, Boyz ll Men, Color Me Badd, All-4-One, K-Pop’s Big Bang and also co-producer of One Direction, it celebrates its 40th anniversary next year), is to be held at the Mall of Asia Arena on August 26, 2018 (check out video here).  It is the final chance for their millions of Filipino fans to watch them perform together.

Boyzone in 1998.  The late Stephen Gately is second from right  (Stefan Rosseau/PA)

The band first performed in the country on August 29, 1997 (at New Cebu Coliseum in Cebu City) and, the next day, at the Folk Arts Theater in Manila. They returned, 18 years later, for a one-night only concert (a continuation of the group’s BZ20 Tour, also known as the 20th Anniversary Tour which began in 2013) at Smart Araneta Coliseum on May 26, 2015. The Irish group is planning to split up for good, but not before returning, together for the last time, for a stop in Manila, one of the stops in their world tour. On April 28, 2018, it was announced that the band would formally disband after their anniversary celebrations. 

Formed in 1993 by music mogul Louis Walsh (who is also known for managing Johnny Logan and Westlife), Boyzone was originally composed of five young Dublin Northsiders Keith DuffyStephen GatelyMikey GrahamRonan Keating, and Shane Lynch. One of the most successful bands in Ireland and the United Kingdom, the group had 24 singles in the UK (21 of them in the top 40 UK Singles Chart with 18 in the top 10 and six of them No. 1) and 19 top 5 singles in the Irish Singles Chart (nine of them No.1). They also had five No. 1 albums, with 25 million records sold by 2013 worldwide.

The group initially disbanded in 1999. Despite the fact they've all been pursuing solo projects from car dealerships to soap roles to singing for many years, Boyzone have never permanently split up and they got back together in 2007, originally with the intention of just touring (the Back Again... No Matter What tour). Following the death of co-lead singer Stephen Gately on October 10, 2009 of natural causes from a pulmonary edema resulting from an undiagnosed heart condition (while on holiday at his flat in Port d'Andratx in the Spanish island of Majorca), the boys went on as a foursome, releasing 3 more albums and selling 2 million records, including their fantastic, new final album "Thank You & Goodnight."

The album, released on November 16, 2018 with 12 new tracks, includes a very special tribute to Stephen in the shape of a new song, "I Can Dream."   Guest songwriters Sam SmithEd Sheeran and Gary Barlow have written some songs for this album). To date, Boyzone have released four studio albums and seven compilation albums and, based on BPI certifications, have sold over 13 million records in the UK alone. In 2012, Boyzone was ranked, by the Official Charts Company, as the 29th biggest selling singles artists in British music chart history and is the second most successful boy band in Britain, behind Take That.

The Thank You & Goodnight Tour, which promotes the album, is also to be their last tour. It started on June 29, 2017 in Cartmel, Lancashire; continued to London, York, Edinburgh and, of course, several gigs in their homeland, Ireland. They next hit Asia before returning to Europe. The Asian Leg of the Boyzone 25th Anniversary Tour, starting on the 16th of August in Colombo (Sri Lanka), continues to Prambanan (YogjakartaIndonesia) on August 19, to Singapore on August 21 and in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) on August 24 before proceeding to Manila.

Boyzone is best known for their iconic, most loved and biggest 1990s hits (click on highlighted song to watch it on YouTube) such as “Love Me For A Reason” (an Osmonds' original), “Daydream Believer” (a Monkees' original), “Father and Son” (a Cat Stevens' original), “Should be Missing You Now,” “Close To You,” “Words” (a Bee Geesoriginal), the upbeat, brassy “Picture of You” (from the soundtrack of Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie), “Working My Way Back to You” (A Four Seasons' original), “Baby Can I Hold You” (a Tracy Chapman original), the  country ballad “I Love the Way You Love Me” (a John Michael Montgomery original), “You Needed Me” (an Anne Murray original),  “What A Wonderful World” (a Louis Armstrong original), “Everyday I Love You,” and most especially original material such as the mushy ballad “Key to My Life,” “So Good,” “Coming Home Now,” A Different Beat,” All That I Need” and “No Matter What” as well as Motown hits like The Four Tops’ “Reach Out (I’ll BeThere)Jimmy Ruffin's What Becomes Of the Broken Heartedand The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” among many others. 

Tickets to the concert will be available at www.smtickets.com and all SM Tickets outlets starting Thursday, July 5, 2018. Ticket prices are PhP5,500, PhP5,000, PhP4,000, PhP3,500, PhP2,500, PhP1,000 plus ticketing charges. For info, call telephone number (02) 470-2222 or mobile number (0917) 149-5959.