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Destinations

A purr-fect destination

Zest Magazine checks out Cebu City’s only cat café (that is, a theme café with cats as part of the – if not the main – attraction) to find that, while this isn’t necessarily a place for everyone, it’s worth checking particularly for the cat lovers/feline curious.

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Pussy time

Catwoman would have been happy.

Filipinos have a… touchy relationship with cats. Yes, there are lots who love them, that’s for sure. But – for someone like me, for instance, who grew up in the province – we have numerous stories to tell about cats; and these stories are not necessarily nice, e.g. that an aswang (a monstrous character in Filipino folklore) can turn into a cat (usually black in color); that if a cat jumps over a coffin containing a corpse, that corpse will re reanimated; and that if you bathe a cat, a storm will surely come.

But considering that many studies have cited numerous health benefits derived from petting and interacting with companion animals (e.g. cats), I’d say our relationship with cats is… skewed.

And – Hey, considering that there’s even a musical named after them! – cats are, as the cliché goes, here to stay for sure; and are even just continuing to be beloved.

It’s no surprise that, to provide cat-lovers (or even the cat-curious), avenues to be with cats, cat cafés have been popping up everywhere – starting in 1998 when the first such theme café was opened in Taiwan.

And then the cat… craze reached the shores of Cebu this January, when the city’s first cat café was opened.

And so welcome to Cebu City’s – not-too-creatively named – Cat Café.

Apparently, the café had only five cats (of Persian and American Shorthair breeds) when it started operating, with the cats, as one of the “cat ladies” working in the venue said, “extras” of the pets of the cat-loving owners. The five cats were “enough”, considering that the original café (not the “main” café), wasn’t that big a place, and could only hold up to 14 people.

By March, when the “extension” to the café was opened beside the main café (this extension can accommodate up to 10 people), the number of cats grew to 15 – nine of them male, and six females. Nowadays, the main café has two cats, with the number of the pets there kept to a minimum because “that’s where food is prepared”. The rest of the cats are in the extension café.

Cat curious?

Then get to know Chong, Cotton, Bubblegum, Shogun, Samurai, Smoke, Hunter, Macmode, Pumpkin, Thunder, Lola, Ninja, Kush, Cheech, and Boogie.

Most mainly just lounge/lazily lie there, acting like the stereotypical “snobs” cats are deemed to be, occasionally giving the people/us non-felines tired looks. But then, some do stuffs – e.g. eating, scratching, drinking… and even fucking (though I was surprised that they did so sans the usually accompanying noise heard when pusakal/street cats engage in sexual acts).

There’s nothing to worry about the cats, we were told. They’ve been vacc’d; they’ve been toilet-trained; they don’t steal the customers’ food. All good and well.

By the way, since this is a café, how’s the food?

I’d say not bad – even if the choices are limited. The salads are, for the lack of words, pretty common – e.g. Tuna Salad (P180), Vegetable Salad (P110), and Taco Salad (P185). There are only two hot drinks – i.e. cappuccino (P50), and mochaccino (P50). There are only two frappes – i.e. cappuccino frappe (P95), and strawberry frappe (P110), and the latter isn’t always available after selling out. The desserts are surprisingly delectable – e.g. mango cheesecake (P85), banana split (P130), cupcakes (P50).

Suffice it to say, though, that while the food isn’t at all bad, that’s not necessarily why you’d come here.

After all, not everyone can put up with the… stench that numerous cats emit when they are gathered in one place. Not everyone can put up with the furballs (or even just the floating hair) that pets tend to release. And for that matter, not everyone can even appreciate the softness/fluffiness of cats (e.g. I know someone who is literally scared to feel a cat, claiming that a cat’s softness scares her). So, obviously, this isn’t a place that everyone can appreciate.

But for those who just love cats, or at least are cat-curious… well, this one is a must-visit, indeed.

Cat Café is located beside Villa Fatima Subdivision, V. Rama Street corner Bacaio Street, Guadalupe, Cebu City.

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Believing that knowing on its own is not good enough, "you have to share what you know, too", Mikee dela Cruz gladly shares through his writing. A (BA) Communication Studies graduate, he had stints with UNAIDS, UNICEF and Ford Foundation, among others, writing "just about everything". Read on as he does some sharing through Zest Magazine.

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Travel

Travelling farther away from home linked to better health

How often people travel and the range of places visited are important, with those who regularly travel more than 15 miles away from home more likely to report being in general good health.

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People who travel more outside of their local area feel that they are healthier than those who stay closer to home, finds a new study led by UCL researchers.

How often people travel and the range of places visited are important, with those who regularly travel more than 15 miles away from home more likely to report being in general good health.

Those who travel to a wider variety of places are more likely to see friends and family. This increase in social participation is then linked to better health.

Researchers say the results provide strong evidence of the need for investment in medium and long-distance transport options, such as better serviced roads and access to trains and buses.

For the paper, published in Transport & Health, the researchers analysed travel in the north of England, where residents face worse health outcomes than the rest of England and many rural and suburban areas suffer from poor transport accessibility.

Specifically, they looked at the links between perceived constraints to travel outside of the local area, such as a lack of suitable public transport, and self-rated health, considering trip frequency, the number of different places visited, distance travelled, car use and public transport use.

Lead author Dr Paulo Anciaes (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) said: “We expected to find that restrictions on travel through a lack of access to suitable public transport or to a private car would be linked to residents’ perception of their health because of the lack of social participation.

“We explored the links between constraints to travel more than 15 miles from home, demographics and location and social participation in how residents perceived their own health, finding that the key variable is the number of different places people visit outside their local area. This links to more social participation and better health.”

The researchers conducted an online survey of 3,014 nationally representative residents in the north of England. Constraints to travel have previously been identified as contributing to economic disadvantage and a lower sense of wellbeing in the region, but the impact on health hadn’t been analysed before. The team used a research technique called “path analysis”, which uncovers the direct and indirect effects of constraints to travel outside of people’s local area.

The study found that the links between travel constraints, social participation and health are stronger among those aged over 55. Among this group, constraints to the number of different places people can travel to is linked to less frequent contact with friends and participation in clubs and societies.

Dr Anciaes explained: “Those aged over 55 are more likely to face other constraints to travel such as limited mobility. They are also more likely to suffer from loneliness. In the north of England, rural and suburban areas with limited access options are more likely to experience population loss as young people move to the cities in search of work and good travel options. Meanwhile, older generations are left behind in these areas with limited transport options. The range of places they can visit is low, leading to less social participation and lower levels of general health.

“The results of this study emphasise the need for public policies that reduce constraints to travel in the region, by providing better options for private and public transport that allows for more frequent and longer trips.”

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Destinations

The one-and-only Hobbiton from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is now on Airbnb

With access to 44 Hobbit Holes, The Millhouse, The Green Dragon Inn, and other beloved locations from the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, guests will take an unexpected journey into Middle-earth for an experience unlike any other.

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For the first time ever, fans from around the world can explore the faraway lands of their favorite holiday films with an exclusive overnight stay at the original Hobbiton™ Movie Set. Russell Alexander is inviting guests to his family’s property to live like Bilbo Baggins and retreat to The Shire for an overnight stay at Hobbiton, as featured in the famed The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies.

Nestled in the picturesque pastures of New Zealand’s Waikato region on a 2,500-acre working farm, the property’s rolling, green hills – bear a striking similarity to The Shire as described by J. R. R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings, and captivated Sir Peter Jackson’s movie scouts more than two decades ago. The team quickly realized the Hobbits had found their home – and this holiday season, it could be yours.

Alexander will host three individual two-night stays for up to four guests at NZD $10 per night* as an homage to the 10th anniversary of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, courtesy of Airbnb.

With access to 44 Hobbit Holes, The Millhouse, The Green Dragon Inn, and other beloved locations from the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, guests will take an unexpected journey into Middle-earth for an experience unlike any other.

With sweeping views of The Shire, they’ll enjoy:

  • Cozy overnight accommodation curated by the trilogies’ Creative Director Brian Massey, including a writing nook fit for Bilbo Baggins at The Millhouse.
  • Private access to a personal Hobbit Hole, set up for relaxing moments of Preciousss  downtime and afternoon tea.
  • An evening banquet in The Green Dragon Inn with a feast featuring beef and ale stew, whole roast chickens, freshly baked breads and plenty of ale, plus Second Breakfast and Elevenses served daily.
  • A behind-the-scenes private tour of Hobbiton Movie Set.

Now, one does not simply walk into Middle-earth. There are rules.

  • No unexpected parties, please –  unless with Gandalf and company.
  • Bare feet are allowed but wipe them first.
  • Magical rings permitted, but keep them secret, keep them safe.
  • Pony parking is provided only at The Green Dragon Inn.
  • Straying far at night is discouraged, thanks to multiple troll sightings of late.
  • No pets are allowed, except Pickles the resident Hobbiton cat.
  • Never laugh at live dragons…

“For more than two decades, we’ve welcomed millions of passionate fans to Hobbiton Movie Set, but never before has anyone had the opportunity to spend a night in Middle-earth. I am delighted to share the beauty of my family’s farm and pleased to be hosting this iconic location on Airbnb for fans from around the world,” shares Host Russel Alexander.

How to book

Hobbits, elves, wizards and others may request to book one of three overnight stays on Wednesday, December 14 from 10:00AM NZDT/5:00AM PHT at airbnb.com/hobbiton. Stays will take place March 2-4, March 9-11, and March 16-18, 2023. You Shall Not Pass! (without requesting to book, of course).

To request to book, guests must have a verified Airbnb profile, a history of positive reviews and be aged 18+. Maximum occupancy is four persons. Two bedrooms are configured, featuring one queen bed, and the other two king-singles.

Guests are responsible for their own transportation to and from Auckland, New Zealand. Round trip car transportation will be provided for the two-hour journey between the airport and the property. (And just as a Wizard is never late, it’s important our guests arrive at their stay precisely when they mean to).

Travellers looking to book should note that this stay’s rules require strict adherence with local COVID-19 guidelines. Guests are responsible for their own travel to and from Auckland. Airbnb is closely monitoring COVID-19 infection rates and government policies and will offer booking guests a refund of the booking fee ($31) and $1,000 USD Airbnb travel credit if Airbnb determines it is necessary to cancel the stay due to COVID-19 guidelines.

*Plus taxes and fees. These three individual two-night stays are not a contest. The Hobbiton Movie Set is privately owned and operated.

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Destinations

Greenfield District in Mandaluyong kicks off its holiday celebration

To mark the beginning of the district-wide yuletide merry-making, the event kicked off recently with the traditional lighting of the 60-foot Christmas tree at the Greenfield District Central Park,. followed by a magical display of fireworks and Christmas caroling by a 20-piece chorale , setting the mood for guests to get into the holiday spirit.

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Greenfield District, the smart and connected urban center of Greenfield Development Corporation (GDC) in Mandaluyong City, transformed into a holiday wonderland with the launch of GDC’s annual Christmas festivities called “A Christmas for Generations”. 

To mark the beginning of the district-wide yuletide merry-making, the event kicked off recently with the traditional lighting of the 60-foot Christmas tree at the Greenfield District Central Park,.  followed by a magical display of fireworks and Christmas caroling by a 20-piece chorale , setting the mood for guests to get into the holiday spirit.

“After two years of not having face-to-face yuletide celebrations, Filipinos are surely excited to once again gather with their loved ones to celebrate the country’s festive Christmas season,” said GDC President and Chairman Jeffrey D.Y. Campos.  “Greenfield District is a venue where different generations, from senior citizen grandparents to Gen Z kids, can bond with each other by taking part in the fun holiday activities of the District,” he added.

Ongoing  until December 25, Filipinos of all ages are in for a lot of holiday fun at the District. On December 17, families, especially kids are invited to come and meet  Santa Claus at Greenfield District’s “A Night with Santa” , which will feature merry activities and gift giving.

Meanwhile, adults can start their holiday shopping early as the Greenfield District Central Park will showcase weekend bazaars starting this month until December. Shoppers can look forward to discovering value for money gift ideas, trendy fashion pieces, delicious treats and more. While shopping, visitors can also enjoy a quick food trip and engage in Arts and Crafts activities while immersing at the bazaars dressed in colorful Christmas decorations. 

With a mission to build future-ready and sustainable communities for generations of Filipinos, GDC upholds its tradition of organizing events that promote the value of togetherness and spending quality time with the family.

“At GDC, we are committed to not only building properties for generations but also creating verdant, spacious neighborhoods where Filipino families can create beautiful memories together throughout the years. Christmas is a special occasion for many Filipinos, and we want Greenfield District to be part of their memorable Christmas experience every year,” said GDC Executive Vice President and General Manager Atty. Duane A.X. Santos. 

Located at the corner of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard, Greenfield District is accessible to the public through various routes and roadways from the main business districts of Metro Manila, making it an ideal destination for recreational activities, get-togethers, and shopping this yuletide season.

Visit the Greenfield District with friends and family this holiday season.  To know more about the activities at Greenfield District, visit https://www.facebook.com/greenfielddistrict.

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