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Work confidently at home

To know when to be professional and when to be just chill, dressing up and styling yourself can help.

Care Balleras

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Work confidently at home with Bobbie Cosmetics power look. / Photograph courtesy of Bobbie Cosmetics

With personal and work hours being blurred by the work-from-home setup, getting in the zone is more complicated than ever.

To know when to be professional and when to be just chill, dressing up and styling yourself can help. Here are some tips that might help you to work confidently at home.

Take time
to build base
Keeping a beauty routine can be a great form of self-care. With time on your own hands, you can easily experiment looks to sport for webinars and meetings.

Bobbie Cosmetics Poof! Concealer, which retails for P115, can be an effective base and cover-up for dark spots. And to make it more seamless, pair it up with Bobbie Cosmetics Don’t Go With The Flaw Corrector + Concealer.
For only P299, all discolorations can disappear with simple swipe and buff.

Achieve that
chiseled face
Our faces often appear flat on the screen, but not with Bobbie Cosmetics Squad Contour and Strobe Palette. For only P399, you can amaze your workmates with a chiseled face.

Get the glow
After contour, you should try highlighting your best features. To get the glow that makes one’s face appear youthful and fresh, get the Bobbie Cosmetics Glow Obsession Liquid Illuminator for only P299.

Swipe for the complete power look
Complete your power look by swiping lipstick. Take your pick from Bobbie Cosmetics Matte About Hue lipstick for P165, which is available in 24 timeless matte shades to suit every mood.

And if you are into lighter consistencies, pick from Bobbie Cosmetics Pretty in Tint with varying selections for P145.

Staying at home for work should not stop you from being the best version of yourself. Slay every look while finishing every task.

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5 safe grocery shopping tips during lockdown

Plan your list, schedule your activity on a slow day and other helpful tips to keep you safe while doing your supermarket run.

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Even with eased quarantine conditions, health and safety remain important especially when doing regular errands that entails leaving the hose. When doing groceries and getting essentials for the home, for instance, there’s no harm in taking extra precautions. Here are helpful tips to help minimize the risks while shopping for groceries:

Wear full protective equipment. While wearing a face mask may be enough, you may also want to consider wearing a full set of protective gear. Face shields and gloves can definitely help reduce the risk of contracting illnesses.

Go during off-peak hours and days. Try going to the supermarket when there are fewer people around. Go during weekdays and early mornings to avoid the crowd.

Keep a list and stick to it. The less time you spend in the grocery store, the better. Before going to the supermarket, make a list of all the items you need so you know where to go and finish shopping quickly. Sticking to your list also helps in preventing unnecessary purchases.

Avoid using cash and disinfect your items. Consider paying for your groceries either with credit or debit card or other forms of contactless payment. Paper money has a higher risk of carrying viruses and diseases, so the less contact with other people, the better. Don’t forget to disinfect your hands as well as the items you bought with alcohol or disinfectant sprays.

Shop for groceries online. For those who really want to stay safe while still getting the things they need, online shopping is an option. Most brands are already available from your favorite online stores. All you need to do is wait for your orders, disinfect the products once they arrive, and they’re ready to be used or consumed.

SHOP safe. / PHOTOGRAPHS BY YUMMIE DINGDING FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE @tribunephl_yumi

NutriAsia has an online store on Lazada and Shopee so you can get your trusted food items like Silver Swan, Datu Puti, UFC, Golden Fiesta, Mang Tomas, Locally, Papa and Jufran in the safest way possible.

To start shopping for NutriAsia online, just visit their e-stores on Shopee (shopee.ph/nutriasiaofficialstore) and Lazada (lazada.com.ph/shop/nutriasia/).

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Better days for gourmet gypsy

And now, for even better news. On 16 September, Gourmet Gypsy in Maginhawa Street announced it’s now open for private dining.

Francine M. Marquez

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Chef Waya Araos-Wijangco

Like the heartwarming song “Better Days” by Dianne Reeves, Quezon City’s well-loved restaurant Gourmet Gypsy is bringing back good memories to patrons who missed the cozy atmosphere and soulful cuisine of chef Waya Araos-Wijangco.

And like a prelude to this happy development, friends and habitues of the restaurant cozied up in late August for the “Coming Home Concert,” hosted by singer and stage actor Nar Cabico who is now based in Texas with his partner.

Just like the good old days of the restaurant’s Gourmet Gypsy branch (that permanently closed in May), hearts sighed and memories lingered as it virtually brought its creative community together again to bring cheer to a quarantined audience.

The laidback co-hosting by Nar and chef Waya was matched by unfiltered, “let one’s hair down” performances by seasoned artists Bituin Escalante, Kim Molina and Jerald Napoles and Melvin Sumalinog.

Nar, who rendered his Filipino interpretation of “Better Days,” couldn’t help but get teary-eyed as he confessed that he misses “home” (Gourmet Gypsy) and “family” (the restaurant’s community).

The active chats, greetings and funny comments throughout the show moved him to let out a smile and say in Filipino, “I feel all of you.”

Rebooting the grocery experience
But before this tender moment, Gourmet Gypsy wasn’t spared from the battle to survive in the midst of the economic shock brought by the pandemic. Besides the closure of its Roces branch, the Maginhawa Street restaurant had to adapt to the uncertainty of the times as it devoted its kitchen to serving meals for medical frontliners and, eventually, transitioning its ‘front of house” area as a grocery store.

With stringent protocols, the rebooted Gourmet Gypsy launched a by-appointment store selling ready-to-cook and ready-to-heat Gourmet Gypsy dishes, house-made jams, condiments, baked treats and even family-sized platters to share with loved ones during celebrations and Sunday family meals at home.

True to its spirit of community, its principles of kindness and inclusivity (as Gourmet Gypsy opened employment opportunities for people with special needs), the grocery store also offered artisanal food items, crafts and fresh produce from fellow social entrepreneurs.

At Gourmet Gypsy, chef Waya serves scrumptious meals and soulful cuisine. / Photographscourtesy of Gourmet Gypsy

This new concept was well-received as chef Waya and her team navigate the new-normal through e-commerce while maintaining strict health protocols in their physical shop.

And now, for even better news. On 16 September, Gourmet Gypsy on Maginhawa Street announced it’s now open for private dining. By reservation of up to 10 persons only, patrons can enjoy sitting on the restaurant’s elegant Jerry Araos seats and sculptural tables, while savoring international flavors, and possibly chatting with chef Waya once again.

Private dining services are from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. People may book through (02) 7211-1233 or 0995-382-5736, or through www.gourmetgypsy.ph . Based on the restaurant’s photos on social media, the spaces for reservation are the function rooms and former co-working space of the venue.

Sous vide steak, grilled prawns, paella, porchetta, anyone? There’s more: Gourmet Gypsy’s salads, pasta dishes, keto-baked desserts and refreshing drinks. All these, chef Waya swears, in a deep-cleaned and UVC-sterilized environment.

One can return home to Gourmet Gypsy and let the gentle times roll. But like Reeve’s song, one can’t have these better days “unless you make it through the night.”

Chef Waya and her restaurant is a testament to that Gourmet Gypsy continues to spread goodwill by providing hot meals for locally stranded individuals and other vulnerable communities affected by the lockdown.

Oh, yes, one’s “gotta be patient,” strong-willed, and committed to keeping its team and community healthy and safe like chef Waya.

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ABS-CBN’s COVID-19 response wins a Stevie

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Pantawid ng Pag-ibig At Home Together concert.

Swift and compassionate initiatives to help Filipinos during the COVID-19 pandemic brought recognition to ABS-CBN as it earned a Silver Stevie for Most Valuable Corporate Response at the 17th International Business Awards (IBA). The virtual awarding will be held in December.

The judges commended the Kapamilya network’s various response strategies to serve Filipinos when the COVID-19 crisis hit the country.

According to one of the judges,
“ABS-CBN nobly answered the call to respond to the pandemic through a variety of impactful initiatives. The network’s dedication to their community is noteworthy.”

“This entry is astounding due to the fact that ABS-CBN invested in assistance where needed whilst continuing to employ and to operate as a vital news channel,” noted another judge.

With about 70 million Filipinos watching its programs on TV, ABS-CBN kept Filipinos updated on the pandemic through its newscasts and further engaged its audience with various entertainment programs on multiple media platforms.

Its Ligtas Pilipinas sa COVID-19 information campaign, meanwhile, helped the government educate citizens about COVID-19.

Recipients (photo above and below) of ABS-CBN Foundation’s Pantawid ng Pagibig program. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF ABS-CBN

Another effort that made a huge difference is ABS-CBN and
ABS-CBN Foundation’s Pantawid ng Pag-ibig fundraising campaign in cooperation with local governments and the private sector. The network donated P50 million as seed money to the cause that has raised over P448 million cash and in-kind donations as of 14 August, and has delivered food and basic necessities to over 880,000 families affected by the community quarantine.

Part of this effort was a groundbreaking digital concert featuring more than 100 celebrities from ABS-CBN that received 3.7 million views on Facebook, YouTube, and on ABS-CBN streaming services iWant and TFC.tv.

IBA or the Stevie Awards is considered as the world’s premier business awards that confers recognition for achievement and impactful contributions of companies worldwide. This year’s competition drew over 3,800 nominations from 63 countries.

ABS-CBN has also been recognized by the prestigious award-giving body for its business achievements and public service efforts in 2014, winning the Gold Stevie Award in the Company of the Year — Media and Entertainment category as well as the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Company.

It also won a Grand Stevie Award and Gold Stevie Award in the Services Company of the Year category of the Asia Pacific Stevie Awards on the same year.

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KC’s online show goes eco-friendly

World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines teams up with KC Concepcion to promote sustainable consumption and production.

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KC’S quarantine passion extends awareness to sustainable food consumption. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF WWF

KC Concepcion is the newest addition to the roster of personalities promoting sustainable food consumption and production as she joins World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines’ Kawali-Kasan: A Sustainable Home Cooking Series.

The celebrity and jewelry designer will have special Kawali-Kasan episodes in the second season of her online cooking show, Kitchen Collabs, to inspire her audience to practice sustainability in their own kitchens by sharing healthy and eco-friendly recipes to try, as home cooking continues to become a popular hobby during the quarantine period.

As a long-time food security advocate, KC expressed excitement in using her platform not just to promote mindful consumption practices and support our local food producers, but to also raise fund for WWF-PH’s conservation projects.

“During these challenging times na may pandemic, we just want to make sure that we support those who work tirelessly for us. Frontliner din natin ang mga farmers na Pinoy dahil sila ang nagpo-provide sa atin ng ating mga vegetables, ang ating mga pagkain. Also, when you donate, we will be helping 100 Filipino kids learn more about the environment and how to protect the planet (During these challenging pandemic times, we just want to make sure that we support those who work tirelessly for us. Our Filipino farmers are also front-liners, because they provide us with vegetables and food),” said KC.

The show, which streams live on her Instagram page, launched its first leg of special episodes last 5 September. In the episode, Concepcion and fellow TV personality Karla Estrada taught viewers how to cook pinakbet.

A special edition was also made available on her YouTube channel featuring Lorayne Roque, WWF-PH’s Sustainable Consumer Specialist for The Sustainable Diner Project. Roque further discussed the advocacy behind the Kawali-Kasan project.

“We wanted to show the connection of our food choices to the environment and its impact. Maganda yung we are able to connect with chefs who are also believers of this cause, kasi makikita natin na even in our own kitchen, we can bring our advocacy and make a difference, one plate at a time,” (We wanted to show the connection of our food choices to the environment and its impact. It’s great that we are able to connect with chefs who are also believers of this cause, because through them we are able to see that even in our own kitchen, we can bring our advocacy and make a difference, one plate at a time), shared Roque.

KC is set to hold more special Kawali-Kasan episodes until October 2020.

Visit WWF-Philippines’ official social media pages for further announcements about the succeeding line-ups and to know more about how you can help our environmental front-liners and our planet.

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Lifestyle

Lockdown feasts and faves

S Maison features dishes that many have discovered during the lockdowns and have become family favorites in its Local Flavors Food Fest, ongoing until 27 September at the mall’s atrium.

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SUSHI fix Manila’s Baked Salmon TK. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF S MAISON

With the lockdowns, many have discovered or rediscovered baking or cooking, or shared their heirloom recipes. Some have even established their own food business online with home-cooked food that they think would comfort us.

S Maison features dishes that many have discovered during the lockdowns and have become family favorites in its Local Flavors Food Fest, ongoing until 27 September at the mall’s atrium.

Fedici’s cheesecakes earned a sweet spot for those on lockdown with their premium local quality ingredients. Don’t miss their signature strawberry cheesecake, brulee and white chocolate alcapone.

Brew Fix’s cold-brew coffee helps save the entire species of kapeng barako from extinction. The drinks are intentionally crafted to be more concentrated but having strong, smooth and bold flavors. Watch out for their bottled coffee (cold brew, French vanilla, dark chocolate mocha and masala spiced).

TUNA baked kick.

Kuh Meal has baked macaroni, cookies, strawberry milk and sunflower cake, worth every penny! Have a taste of their cookies, cookie cakes and cheesy garlic buns.

Monkey Pint will let you go bananas with delightful puddings made with freshly local sliced bananas, vanilla wafer cookies and sweet vanilla custard.

Sushi Fix Manila rides on the crest of the baked sushi trend. Have your sushi fix with modern sushi experience with their baked California maki, salmon and tuna sushi bake.

SAVOR this mango cheese tart from Bite N Melt.

Red Mittens Ph serves lemon-roasted chicken and baked sushi. They offer the classic sushi bake. If you’re more of a meat-eater, they also have a baked sushi beef dish.

Bite N Melt caters to egg tart lovers. Bite N Melt offers tarts in five different flavors, classic, mango cheese, cheese, taro cheese and pearl, plus their all-time favorite Buo Luo buns.

Albergus catering has established a reputation for delivering quality food and customer service for more than four decades. They offer a wide range of choices from Pinoy classics to those favorite menus you get to enjoy during special occasions perfect for the family. You’ll love their frozen ready to cook meals at S Maison!

KUH Meal’s strawberry milk.

Oeuvre Mnl’s lasagna has been a lockdown favorite with their beef simmered for four long hours to get that rich taste. Their famous chili sauce is also handcrafted with premium ingredients.

Local Flavors Fest showcases the best lockdown treats and picks in one place, the atrium of S Maison, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

baked sushi from Kuh Meal’s.

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The mama of all machang

A creation of lechon diva Dedet de la Fuente, the Mamachang is a machang lover’s delight.

Dolly Dy-Zulueta

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As a kid, just like other Chinoys, I grew up eating authentic Chinese food in Manila’s Chinatown district of Binondo. One of the dishes is machang — savory, sticky rice cooked in a soy-based sauce, wrapped in lotus leaf with morsels of chicken, pork belly, black mushroom, Chinese sausage and chestnut, and then steamed.

It takes on a pyramidal shape and is tied with twine to keep its shape and make it easy to hold. To eat, unwrap the lotus leaf, pour some ketchup and enjoy.

The name machang comes from the Chinese word ma (meat) and chang (dumpling). There is a variation called tauchang, tau for “beans,” so the tauchang has beans among the fillings.

My late dad used to have machang for a hearty merienda in the afternoon. Unable finish one whole serving, he would share a portion with his youngest daughter, who happened to be me.

Dedet de la Fuente, the Lechon Diva, invented mamachang. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF DOLLY DY-ZULUETA

The machang would also serve as a one-dish meal for lunch or dinner. I have such fond memories of it from my childhood that, upon seeing in a Chinese deli or on the menu of a Chinese restaurant, I find myself ordering it for takeaway.

At home I would steam it — a regular-size one for me and another for my husband Raff. I eat it with tomato ketchup, savoring each spoonful slowly. It is comfort food that always makes me remember my dad.

Recently, I discovered a special kind of machang called mamachang. A creation of lechon diva Dedet de la Fuente, the mamachang is a machang lover’s delight.

Double the size of a regular machang, it takes on a cone shape, wrapped in banana leaf and also tied with twine. The sticky rice within opens up to a variety of ingredients including chestnuts, Chinese chorizo, pork bits, mushrooms, salted egg yolk and cashew nuts.

Wrapped in a banana leaf and tied with twine, the Mamachang takes on a cone shape.

The rice is softer than the regular machang. Dedet made sure that the pork and mushrooms are of the same quantity. Because of its size, one piece should be good for two.

An order from Dedet de la Fuente’s Pepita’s Kitchen consists of two oversized mamachang.

“I wanted my machang to be very special,” Dedet said. The authentic Chinese delicacy played an important role in her life.

She related: “My mom loved it, so I always bought it as a pasalubong for her. From the time I was in high school, whenever I went to Greenhills, I made sure I bought machang for my mom and dad. You see, I grew up getting pasalubong from them, even on ordinary days, so it was also natural for me to give them pasalubong on any day.

“It was our simple way of showing our love for each other in the family. Until to two years ago, I would still do it whenever I went to bazaars or visited Chinatown. I would buy three pieces of machang — two for my parents and one for me.

“My mom, who had moderate Alzheimer’s disease in the last few years of her life, remembered it as her favorite food. Somehow, that part of her life stayed intact in her memory. She may have forgotten many things, but she remembered her love for machang.”

One day, Dedet decided to make her own machang. She searched the Internet for recipes. Feeling that the stuffing of a regular machang was “medyo bitin,” (insufficient), she knew she wanted her own.
She added more chestnuts and Chinese chorizo, along with pork bits, mushrooms and salted egg yolk in generous amounts as well.

“Just when I thought my new machang recipe was done, I counted the ingredients and remembered that my dad’s lucky number is seven, so why not add another ingredient to make it a lucky machang? I added cashew nuts,” says Dedet.

With all those ingredients, her rice dumpling became larger than life, way bigger than the regular machang. She tried packing it like an embutido, but it did not work, so she decided to shape it like a cone, which made it look different from the regular machang, yet still familiar.

In search of a name, Dedet decided to call it Mamachang — because, from the size of it, it would be apt to call it the “Mama of Machangs.”

After three weeks of kitchen tests and sending samples to friends for feedback, Dedet finalized her recipe and started taking orders. The result was overwhelming. Orders poured in and continues to pour in.

Stuffed lechon
That Dedet could reinvent the classic Chinese rice dumpling into something she could call her own comes as no surprise. She has an impressive credibility.

Her Stuffed Lechon, which she submitted as an entry in the Ultimate Taste Test, won the top prize in 2010.

Binagoongan Rice Lechon was her first award-winning stuffed lechon variant. She has since come up with 21 variants, but is actively taking orders for only three: Truffle Rice Lechon, Crab Fat Rice with Spanish Chorizo Lechon, and Truffle Rice with Foie Gras Lechon. Soon, she will also be accepting orders for a new variant called Lechon Tagalog Stuffed with Herbs.

From stuffed lechon, she diversified with stuffed chicken and hit gold again, offering Truffle Rice Stuffed Boneless Chicken and Eight-Treasure Chicken.

Other original ideas from Dedet that have become Pepita’s Kitchen bestsellers include Crab Gulong Gulong (a flaked crabmeat in crab fat sauce dish) and Hiplog (shrimps with salted egg).

Her kitchen experiments have likewise led her to “invent” the Divalicious Labuyo Sauce, which goes perfectly with mamachang and any other viand. All became huge successes, with foodies raving about them and ordering them frequently.

The Mamachang is no exception, as it continues to amaze machang lovers and give them a whole new perspective on how to enjoy the Chinese delight.

For inquiries and orders, send a text message to 0917-8660662.

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Poblacion slowly coming back to life

While Alamat, Ms. Gee, Pura Vida and Polilya are closed, a few others have reopened after the easing of quarantine rules.

Pocholo Concepcion

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Poblacion on a Tuesday night looks forlorn.

But Makati’s old Spanish-era town center, which transformed into Metro Manila’s hottest nightlife destination until COVID-19 struck, is slowly coming back to life.

It’s 7 p.m. and Don Pedro Street, once Poblacion’s busiest restaurant and bar row where people used to spill out on the road, is deserted.

But while Alamat, Ms. Gee, Pura Vida and Polilya are closed, a few others have reopened after the easing of quarantine rules.

I am enticed to enter The Smokeyard for some barbecued ribs. Is there beer, and what time do you close, I ask the guard, who confirms there’s alcohol, and they’re open till 9:30 p.m.

But I gotta walk around first, and make a mental note to get back at The Smokehouse later.

Surprise: Wantusawa is now on Don Pedro Street, sharing space with 5678 —- a new sushi bar that Poblacion pioneer and Wantusawa owner Melvin Viceral opened just before the pandemic hit. There are customers inside. I add the place to my list I’ll go back to in a bit.

Filling Station on Burgos Street. / Pphotographs by pocholo concepcion for the Daily Tribune

Turning right to Enriquez, I enter Oto, the bar known for its top-of-the line sound system and vinyl records. It’s only open for takeout for now, but the manager takes pity on me: One drink, but I also have to order food.

Bartender offers Glenlivet 12 single malt. I agree: Double please, neat, and a glass of water. Chicken with vegetables is also recommended, and I order one.

Small talk with the bartender —- both of us with masks on —- reveals what I need to know. Oto is reopening soon to allow limited diners. Business hours in Poblacion end at 9 p.m. Drinks are allowed but only a maximum of two rounds. The Poblacion crowd is back, though small in number due to lingering fear of catching the virus in a public area.

The single malt gives me a nice buzz. I decide to take out the food and walk around again.

The Smokeyard along Don Pedro Street.

Wantusawa/5678 is now filled to social-distancing capacity, says a guy who steps out of the bar to find a table outside with his companion.

I get back to The Smokeyard. Two middle-aged guys are comfortably seated at the al fresco bar. Around five foreigners are inside, but COVID-19 protocols advise that it’s best to dine outdoors, so I take one of the tables not far from the bar.

The ribs are too expensive (over P1,000) for me that night (I also have chicken bought from Oto), so I choose the beef brisket, plus an Asahi beer.

Oto’s chicken, roasted with a bed of veggies (I spot some broccoli bits and beans) is yummy. Not to be outdone is the brisket, whose smoky-salty taste pairs well with the beer.

Felipe Street looks lonely, but Tambai Alley is open.

A flower vendor offers his wares, and one of the Caucasian guys inside The Smokeyard steps out to buy a bouquet.

I leave after finishing a second bottle, feeling fine and in the mood to cross Kalayaan Avenue and check out the other side of Poblacion.

Before crossing, I take a look at NoKal, which used to draw an overflowing crowd almost nightly. It closed down a few months ago.

Wantusawa now shares space with 5678 on Don Pedro Street.

Felipe Street looks lonely. El Chupacabra is closed but Tambai Alley is open —- although it seems filled to social-distancing capacity, too, like its sister joints Wantusawa and 5678.

I think of walking down the red-light street Burgos, Poblacion’s version of Mabini in Ermita. The place I used to frequent, the 24/7 diner Filling Station, has its colorful neon signs shining bright.
But I opt not to go in, since it’s almost 9 p.m.

While I wait for a cab, two women walk in my direction. Just before passing behind me, one of the ladies, who looks emaciated, says hi, hinting that she’s available.

Setting aside her unhealthy appearance, I think that to engage in casual sex, with masks on in the time of COVID-19, is likewise not an exciting idea.

Next week: Which Poblacion place will host live gigs again?

Flower vendor in Poblacion.

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More shopping experiences under ‘new normal’ at SM Masinag

David John Cubangbang

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It is said that disinfectant foggers reduce or eliminate microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungus, mold, and mildew.

Shoppers can now get their cars safely sanitized while they run errands and do shopping.

Shoppers who have a minimum or accumulated receipt purchase of P5,000 from any mall tenant/s of the same day can avail of a free anti-bacterial fogging for their car interior.

Plantitos and Plantitas need not worry about where to find their latest venture with their plant collection as SM City Masinag opens ‘Green Hub’ – a special store for gardening needs. Green Hub offers a hassle-free plant shopping experience. ‘Plantipolo Blooms’, a local gardening shop in Antipolo City sells ornamental plants, herbs, and pots.

Located at the service lane of SM City Masinag near SM Supermarket, shoppers won’t need to leave the mall to buy plants and other essentials after running other errands.

As the use of bicycles surged in this quarantine period, SM Supermalls installed special racks for shoppers and its employees to park their bicycles. Aside from shoppers’ individual chains and locks, the bike parking, including at SM City Masinag’s Open Parking A, is secured with dedicated security personnel to monitor and guide shoppers on where to park their bikes. A maximum of 72 bicycles can occupy the bike racks at SM City Masinag’s bike parking.

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Gatty’s farm-fresh edge

Francine M. Marquez

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DAVAO’S best. Durian PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF GATTY’S FRUIT FARM

The coronavirus crisis is literally turning out to be a test of one’s strength. And this is not just in conducting business but especially on the personal front as well. With months of quarantine and practicing safety protocols at home and outdoors, the key to surviving is also eating healthy, exercising and doing all we can to stay mentally steady.

With the eased quarantine in the metro and the efforts of government agencies like the Department of Tourism and the Department of Trade and Industry, agricultural products and artisanal food items are made more available through pop-up physical bazaars in malls and through online stores. This is such a boost for our small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).

The Department of Agriculture continues to report that our Filipino farmers are ageing, with the average age as 57 and with the assumption that the average life span of Pinoys is 70 years old. This means that in a few years, we’ll have a shortage of farmers as the younger generation are migrating in urban centers to reach dream jobs in offices, commercial centers, or factories.

But there’s some good sunshine that’s somehow lightening up this pandemic — one that’s a quantum leap above the sweet plantita and plantito phenomenon. On social media feeds, the farm-fresh items that have become inaccessible due to various stages of lockdowns have been made within reach by passionate millennial entrepreneurs who bring in a new face to agriculture with their savviness in technology and digital transformation.

 

Hopefully, this could finally be a shift in everyone’s mindset as this generation of entrepreneurs know the importance of nurturing communities who need to connect with their food and of taking good care of their farmers as fellow stakeholders to truly make the farm business thrive. After all, agriculture is the foundation of our economy. Our rich natural resources are essential in infusing capital for industries.

How refreshing, for instance, to see entrepreneurs like Justin Gatmaitan of Gatty’s Fruit Farm feeding our Instagram with enticing photos of happy harvests from his family’s farm in Davao and Quezon.

From sweet pomelos, durian fruits of all kinds and beautifully shaped dragon fruits to raw wild honey and native chocolates, Gatty’s Fruit Farm truly energizes not just one’s quarantined body but also offers cheer to hungry minds awaiting the end of this pandemic.

In a phone interview, 32-year-old Justin expresses that sense of positivity and verve so important in growing businesses. A self-confessed people kind of person, Justin says his business has also been challenged, of course, but he was able to bounce back with the help of e-commerce, studying the market, “a lot of hard work” and, of course, sincerity.

 

Langkong Lanzones

On starting young, his other hustles and advice to newbie entrepreneurs, here’s our interview with Justin.

How did you get into this kind of enterprise?

I started selling the fruits of my dad in the village Saturday market in high school. My first ever work experience. Started my first business after I graduated as an independent distributor of Nu Skin Enterprises, a skin care and health care company. Learned lots of my business skillset from that one and applied it to the farm to adapt to the digital trend.

How has the farm been since the pandemic? What challenges did you face during this period?

The farm, growth wise, has been standard. The crops in season are blooming and fruiting as scheduled. Major challenge for us is definitely logistics as we opted to sell our fruits in nearby markets instead of bringing them in to Manila. The different rules of quarantine across area borders is too risky and was too much of a hassle for us to push a shipment to Manila. Flights from Davao to Manila are hard too making cargo queues long with a higher risk of spoilage.

 

BUKIDNON Wild Forest Honey.

What harvests have you been producing and are selling now?

We’ve been selling our Longkong Lanzones and Durian in Davao and our papayas in Quezon province. We sell our packed goods here in Manila, our cacao products and honey which we ship nationwide.

What preparations did you go through to run Gatty’s Fruit Farm?

I’ve been in business for 10 years now since I started distributing Nu Skin in 2010. The business experience, discipline and life lessons you learn along the way molds you to the person you are now. The biggest help would be the business, people and communication skills I learned through my 10 years partnering with Nu Skin alongside the discipline I got from being a student athlete (in De La Salle University) up until college playing football.

 

JUSTIN with Gatty’s Fruit Farm’s harvest of sweet pomelos.

What’s your advice for those who want to start an enterprise like Gatty’s Fruit Farm?

Just do it. Start a business. Get out of your comfort zone. Take that risk and take action.

During this pandemic, what are you learning about the business and about yourself as a business leader?

All challenges are opportunities to grow. Learn how to pivot and adapt because if there’s a will, there’s a way.

And as an entrepreneur: Stay positive at all times. Stick with the positive and stay away from the negative. Been applying this for most of my life and amidst these troublesome times its a good reminder to keep at it.

What makes getting into a farm business fulfilling? And how can you inspire other people of your generation to get into the farming business?

Personally, I just love connecting people. I find joy in that. Even if there is no profit to gain, I do it all the time,  sharing good information about what I enjoy or discover. Like sharing your favorite restaurant or movie or favorite video game.

I would probably say entrepreneurship as a whole is fulfilling. It’s an enabler and an equalizer. You can do a lot of great things if you put your mind to it. You can take control of your life. You can make an impact. You can lead others by leading yourself first.

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