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Loggers become river tour guides in Samar

Revenge Tourism is a social phenomenon where people who have been stuck at home, often for months at a time, rush to tourist sites to appease their lockdown fatigue. With easing lockdown and flight restrictions, more and more tourist destinations are experiencing waves of visitors out to re-experience paradise – but what about the people who guide them? The people who themselves work in paradise?

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We’re shooting through a wild, wild washing machine: paddling, cursing, laughing and getting absolutely drenched inside a torpedo-shaped canoe.

We’re in the Ulot River, a 92-kilometer waterway which snakes east to west across Samar. The third largest island in the Philippines, Samar is rough country, hewn from limestone which over millennia formed some of the most dramatic rock formations and cave systems in the Philippines, such as the Langun-Gobingob Complex.

Revenge Tourism is a social phenomenon where people who have been stuck at home, often for months at a time, rush to tourist sites to appease their lockdown fatigue. With easing lockdown and flight restrictions, more and more tourist destinations are experiencing waves of visitors out to re-experience paradise – but what about the people who guide them? The people who themselves work in paradise? 

“I used to help cut and transport logs illegally,” reveals Epifanio ‘Panying’ Obidos, our boat guide. “For generations, we used traditional torpedo shaped canoes called balugo to transport timber. We would get orders to cut down hardwood trees like banuyonarra or kamagong. One balugo can transport over 100 board feet of wood.”

Samar is among the poorest provinces in the country. In 2015, the Philippine Statistics Authority revealed that 45% or nearly half of all families in Samar lived below the poverty line. “The hardest part was that even when we’d risk run-ins with the law by transporting illegally-cut timber, we’d still have barely enough cash to survive. Often we’d borrow money from financiers to buy gas and other provisions to transport the logs they ordered. Even after getting paid, we’d still be in debt,” recalls Panying. 

Things have steadily improved. Samar’s poverty incidence dropped to 30% by 2018, mostly because of small businesses, one of which is the Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Adventure, where boats go bow-to-bow with raging rapids.

“In 2008, to veer away from illegal activities, we started using our torpedo-shaped balugo for tourism to showcase the natural beauty of Samar. We mostly employed locals who formerly worked as illegal loggers or log haulers,” explains Panying. “Back then we only had 12 people and a few old boats – but traversing rivers was a way of life for us, since we’ve been using it for transportation long before Samar’s road network was developed.” 

Each torpedo boat has a three-man crew, comprised of a boat operator, tour guide and a point man, who sits at the bow or front of a boat, deftly using a paddle or pole to keep rocks at bay.

“Now our once-small operation has over 20 boats and employs 70 local people,” beams Panying. In 2018, their group, Tour Guides and Boat Operators for River Protection and Environmental Development Organization (TORPEDO), was recognized by the Department of Tourism for its responsible, community-based operations.

The Ulot River is part of the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP), the country’s largest land-based Protected Area (PA). “The Philippines hosts 247 PAs and practically all of them give locals employment,” explains Department of Environment and Natural Resources Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) director Natividad Bernardino. The stories of many of these PAs are similar to Panying’s – of loggers turned into tour guides, hunters turned into rangers, blast fishers transformed into dive guides.

“For all this to continue, there must be a steady stream of clients,” notes SINP superintendent Eires Mate. “The COVID-19 lockdowns hit the world’s PAs hard, generating all-time visitor revenue lows. Many people were laid off and operations were drastically scaled-down. With our parks again open for business, we invite adventurers to visit the Ulot River and our country’s other beautiful PAs.”

Launched in May of 2022, the Year of the Protected Areas or YOPA aims not just to educate people on the need to conserve PAs, but to encourage them to visit the sites themselves. YOPA hopes to generate funds from tourists to ensure continued management for areas hard-hit by COVID-19 budget cuts.

Declaring natural sites as PAs is among the best ways to protect natural capital. “The jobs generated by sustainable and ethical tourism activities act as economic and social safety nets for locals who might otherwise turn to illegal means to support their families,” says United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative Selva Ramachandran.

* * *

Back in the Ulot River, the going is wet and wild. Our balugo, which traveled easily downstream, is now battling against the current in what locals jokingly call the ‘Salmon Run’ – akin to the epic upriver journeys undertaken by salmon in colder climes. Chilly geysers of water splash into the boat as our engines go full-throttle.

Just as soon as we’re sopping wet, the river calms down, the ride turning tranquil. Like the turbulent COVID-19 era, raging waters and rough times too, shall pass.

I glance ahead and notice what’s written on one of the guides’ shirts: #MAYFORRIVER, a play on #MayForever, the hope that some things really can endure the test of time.

With illegal activities, nothing is certain – but with legal, safe and sustainable tourism, then there truly might be forever.

“You know, if not for ecotourism, I would most probably be dead,” reflects Panying as we quietly glide back to shore. “The authorities would have definitely caught me, like they caught others. I might have starved to death, been shot by the cops or been hauled off to jail.”

He looks up, just a bit teary-eyed.

“In a very real way, ecotourism saved my life.”

Destinations

Fisher Mall launches first roller skating rink in Malabon

Malabon’s first and premier roller skating destination. Located on the 4th floor of Fisher Mall Malabon, RollerDisco combines the energy of roller skating and the nostalgia of disco, offering an opportunity for everyone to create lasting memories with family and friends.

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Promising an exhilarating experience for all ages, Fisher Mall is opening the newest location of RollerDisco, Malabon’s first and premier roller skating destination. Located on the 4th floor of Fisher Mall Malabon, RollerDisco combines the energy of roller skating and the nostalgia of disco, offering an opportunity for everyone to create lasting memories with family and friends. 

“Roller skating brings back memories of my father teaching me how to skate at rinks in Frontier and Baguio,” shares Raymond Del Rosario, President of Fisher Mall Group of Companies. “Our team wanted to bring similar experiences to everyone here at Fisher Mall. Since the opening of RollerDisco back in 2021, we’ve seen a demand given the passionate responses we’ve received from skating communities, enthusiasts, and beginners. We wanted to improve their experience further through our new venue, which we hope will provide more joy and fulfillment.” 

The new RollerDisco venue features the renowned engineered wood flooring and beloved 80’s retro vibes that patrons have come to love. Visitors can also expect colorful neon lights that pulse to the beat of lively disco music, with mirror balls and retro-themed artwork adorning the walls to enhance the vibrant and energetic vibe of the space. 

The rise of e-commerce in the evolving retail landscape has challenged the relevance of traditional retail spaces. Colliers, a leading company specializing in property management, urged mall operators to leverage on the unique advantage of physical retail: enhanced customer experience. There is a need for retail spaces to establish itself as a third space for consumers to enjoy quality entertainment. 

RollerDisco is just one example of Fisher Mall’s response to this. Identifying the need to reinvent retail, the company transformed traditional retail spaces into dynamic community hubs by offering a unique blend of entertainment and social interaction. Fisher Mall regularly hosts events and programs that invite the community to interact with each other and participate in activities that enrich their lives, from creative exhibits to outreach events. These initiatives aim to foster a sense of unity and collaboration among residents while providing a diverse range of experiences that extend beyond typical shopping experiences.

Visitors of all ages skate to the lively music. 

At the heart of Fisher Mall RollerDisco is its mission to serve as a platform for self-expression and creativity, aiming to enhance community well-being and happiness through the promotion of an active lifestyle and positive social interactions. 

“As we transform retail spaces, Fisher Mall strives to create an engaging environment that resonates with today’s consumers,” concludes Del Rosario. “Whether you’re a seasoned skater or a beginner, we invite you to join us at Fisher Mall Malabon RollerDisco for an unforgettable roller skating experience.”

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Destinations

lyf Malate Manila curates perfect weekend getaway

From lyf’s chic accommodation to nearby historical landmarks, delectable true-Filipino cuisine, and vibrant social events, lyf has curated an exciting journey to help you make the most of your stay. Whether you’re a local seeking a quick getaway, or a traveler exploring the city, break out of the norm and change up your lyf-style!

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lyf Malate Manila has curated the perfect weekend getaway for your urban stay. From lyf’s chic accommodation to nearby historical landmarks, delectable true-Filipino cuisine, and vibrant social events, lyf has curated an exciting journey to help you make the most of your stay. Whether you’re a local seeking a quick getaway, or a traveler exploring the city, break out of the norm and change up your lyf-style!

Step outside lyf Malate Manila and dive into the vibrant streets of Malate. Begin your journey at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the city’s rich culture unfolds before your eyes. Explore the historic Rizal Park, where lush landscapes and national heritage converge. Indulge in local experiences like kalesa rides and delicacies such as dirty ice cream for an authentic taste of Manila’s charm. Afterwards, venture to Adriatico Street to discover the bohemian side of the city, where quaint cafés like Café Adriatico serve up original flavors perfected over 35 years. From Jim’s Pares Mami to Wok-Inn, and a variety of street food stalls offering isaw and taho, the culinary journey continues to unfold with an array of street food delights that capture the essence of Manila’s distinct street culture.

As the sun sets, delve into the local art scene with lyf Malate Manila’s curated cultural events, where artists and enthusiasts gather to celebrate creativity. These immersive experiences offer opportunities to connect, engage, and immerse yourself in Manila’s ever-evolving creative community. With lyf’s artistic space and social events, the property transforms into a cultural crossroads where individuals from diverse backgrounds unite to share, learn, and celebrate art and heritage.

Start your second day with a hearty breakfast at nearby eateries in Remedios Circle, or create your very own delight in lyf Malate Manila’s “Bond” kitchen and serve it at “Hangout” which are both located at the roof deck. Here, you can socialize with other travelers and locals while overlooking the sunrise and crafting your own specialties. For those exploring a unique side of flavor, you can explore an array of Spanish restaurants in the area such as Casa Armas, an authentic Spanish restaurant. Let your taste buds dance to the harmonious flavors of Spain, right in the heart of Manila.

Discover the rich cultural offerings of Manila, from the renowned performances at the Cultural Center of the Philippines to the priceless art and artifacts showcased at any of the four National Museums nearby. Take advantage of lyf Malate Manila’s strategic location to explore nearby attractions like Escolta, home to the historic First United building, a masterpiece of art deco architecture hosting vibrant art events in Ermita.

Moreover, lyf Malate Manila caters to the needs of bleisure and business travelers alike with its array of facilities. Whether you’re blending work and leisure or focusing solely on business, the property’s innovative spaces like Connect, a coworking and communal lounge area, and Nook, private working spaces, provide the ideal environment for productivity and collaboration. 

“We always try to make our amenities lively and accessible, and we do our best to bring all sorts of social events into the scene here at lyf. From mixers, live music, and art events, we make it a must that our guests have a unique lyf-style breakthrough in every stay, accompanied by a truly unforgettable Manila experience” said Joyce Pascual Agsaway, lyf Malate Manila’s lyf Champion (Residence Manager). 

Your weekend getaway is thoughtfully designed to accommodate your needs, merging rich, cultural nuances with value for comfort. You can fully indulge in one of the property’s standout features: a myriad of spacious and generously appointed room options. The “One of a Kind” 1-bedroom units are tailor-made for solo travelers and couples, while the expansive allure of the All Together 2-bedroom and 4-bedroom units are primed for families and groups of friends ready to explore the vibrant city. Their fresh and fun architecture and interior is a unique take on modern luxury stays, and perfectly reflects the richness of Manila’s lifestyle.

From the art-adorned common areas to the communal spaces that beckon conversations, every inch of lyf reflects the city’s heartbeat, telling stories that go beyond words. These spaces aren’t – just designed; they are conceived to be platforms for exploration, leisure, and rest as you stay at lyf Malate Manila. 

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Destinations

Lanson Place Mall of Asia offers venue for weddings

The newly opened Lanson Place Mall of Asia offers a charming blend of modern sophistication and timeless elegance, perfect for bringing dream weddings to life, from the grand entrance to the intimate moments, we ensure that every wedding is a distinct and unforgettable experience.

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Every couple has envisioned their perfect wedding, meticulously planning every detail from the outfits to the rings. The venue is such a vital element, and we’re thrilled to offer an option that might be just what you’re looking for.

The newly opened Lanson Place Mall of Asia offers a charming blend of modern sophistication and timeless elegance, perfect for bringing dream weddings to life, from the grand entrance to the intimate moments, we ensure that every wedding is a distinct and unforgettable experience. 

A Bespoke Wedding Experience

Lanson Place Mall of Asia’s attraction is the Saffron Grand Ballroom, a beautiful space perfect for a dreamy wedding celebration. It has a classic elegance and offers a versatile setting that fits any style, making it a great venue for all sorts of events.

The Saffron Grand Ballroom is a spacious, pillarless, high-ceiling ballroom that spans 676 sqm. It features a dedicated lobby, with a grand staircase that leads seamlessly into the ballroom where the magic unfolds. Couples and their wedding entourage can use private dressing rooms, equipped with vanity mirrors and a sizable lounge area, as they prepare for the special day. Couples can also customise the Saffron Grand Ballroom, tailoring the venue to their heart’s desires. 

In addition to the ballroom, the Courtyard, a tranquil oasis on the third floor, provides a harmonious backdrop for intimate wedding ceremonies, seamlessly blending the sophistication of contemporary architectural design with the warmth of nature’s embrace.    

“Every wedding should reflect the couple’s unique story,” said Rheinna Laberinto, Assistant Director of Events. “We want to make sure that each wedding is as distinctive and memorable as the couples themselves.”

Exceptional Management and Service

At Lanson Place Mall of Asia, personalised service begins the moment couples start planning their wedding. Lanson Place’s team of event specialists collaborates closely with each couple to curate a tailored wedding experience that caters to their particular needs and desires.

From hand-picking the perfect menu and overseeing table layouts to managing guests on the big day, the Lanson Place dedicated event specialists meticulously consider every element of the wedding. They make sure the big day is flawlessly executed, allowing couples to focus on celebrating their love. Whether couples envision a lavish ceremony or an intimate gathering, the team of devoted hosts is committed to making every wedding day stress-free and memorable.

“We understand that weddings are one of the most important days in a couple’s life, and we are honoured to be part of that journey,” said Laurent Boisdron, Vice President & General Manager. “Our commitment on your special day is all about you and we pay much attention to detail to ensure that every wedding at Lanson Place Mall of Asia is not only beautiful but truly unforgettable.”

Design a wedding as unique as your love story with Lanson Place Mall of Asia Manila. Discover how Lanson Place Mall of Asia Manila can craft the wedding of your dreams by visiting Lanson Place Mall of Asia Manila’s booth at the Themes and Motifs Bridal Fair this 22-23 June 2024. Avail of the best bespoke wedding packages and make your special day truly unforgettable.

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