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Wabi-Sabi: At a Corner Full of Goodness

Discover Wabi-Sabi Noodle House and Vegetarian Grocery – this corner shop in Makati City’s The Collective, offering delectable alterna-food (err, vegetarian cuisines).

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The first time I heard about “this vegetarian place at this corner of The Collective” was from my housemate and his boyfriend. “Blink and you’d miss it,” my housemate said, and then handing me the sandwich he got from the venue for me to try.

The Collective is that, err, “alternative” venue for hanging out located at the very corner of Mayapis and Malugay Street in San Antonio Village, Makati City. To those not in the know (or are just bad with directions, like me), Malugay is parallel to Gil Puyat Ave. (nee Buendia); and The Collective is not that far from the very corner of Gil Puyat and Osmena Highway (a.k.a. South Superhighway), which runs parallel to the riles ng tren (train tracks). Reflective of the decentralization of partying in Metro Manila, this place has become the favorite of the more alternative crowds, from fashionistas to up-and-coming artists to broke/less-moneyed students to hippy expats.

The sandwich I was handed was Bahn My (half: P75; whole: P150), what – initially – looked like some French bread stuffed with a hefty serving of “meat”, slices of tomatoes and some green leaves/veggies. To be had with a specially concocted (secret) sauce, it was actually… tasty, somewhat akin to how I remembered Burger King’s burgers used to taste like, with the tender “meat” emitting juices with every bite.

“That place”, as I ended up referring to it (when my housemate was unable to recall its name) would have been forgotten had it not been for another friend who took me there one evening (they stay open until 11.00PM from Monday to Saturday), ordering for me the sandwich that made me realize this as that somewhat famed venue.

And so started my “real” discovery of Wabi-Sabi Noodle House and Vegetarian Grocery (just call it Wabi-Sabi).

The place can be described in one word: unpretentious. With only seven tables for two (and two additional bar-like seating for four people), it looks more like a more upscale turo-turo (as if there’s such a thing; but you get the point, I hope). Nothing fancy here: no uniformed waitresses waiting on you, no silver chopsticks to speak of, no Chinas in sight, et cetera. This plays with the general notion of vegetarian/vegan dining, i.e. that it remains non-mainstream/non-sosyal – which is fine by me.

The simplicity belies the goodness that can be had in the place, though.

Trying everything in the menu is easy (no printed copy of the menu is available, by the way; everything’s written on the wall, as delis do) since there aren’t a lot of foodies in the list. This is because, as one of the servers said, “everything’s a specialty.”

Start the meal with Veggie Chicharon (cracklings, P45) – these are small pieces of bread-looking stuff that, surprisingly, TRULY tasted like chicharon. Dipped in a mini-bowl of accompanying not-too-sour vinegar, I’d say this is a must-try (not too much, though – not because of worries about high fat content, but after a while of popping these into the mouth, you get that sawa or overwhelmed/”having had too much” taste). The chicharon, too, is much better than the Steamed Mushroom Shumai (P55), which was somewhat… papery for me (sorry). Else, just try the Kuapao (P65), looking and tasting like siopao cum hopia.

The house specialties are the noodle soups: Shoyu Ramen (P105), Miso Ramen (P110), and Viet Pho (P95). How popular these are? Well, quite. On one of the restaurant’s walls, there are pictures of people segregated according to their preference among the noodles (i.e. Noodle War: Ramen versus Pho). I’ve tried all three. The first thing to remember is that while these may be named after Japanese (ramen) and Vietnamese (pho) cuisines, they only have a touch of what may be expected from original/traditional preparations. I’d say they have been localized, which isn’t that bad a thing.

Between the two ramens, I prefer Shoyu Ramen, which was – for me – tastier, complete with deceivingly real-tasting faux meat. Not that the Miso Ramen is bad, actually, particularly when added with chili powder. But the Viet Pho is my favorite, largely because it is refreshing (all those fresh greenies stuffed into it), even as it is filling (a bowl’s still a bowl, you know).

These noodles are better appreciated when chowed with either the Thai Milk Tea (P50) or the Lemongrass Tea (P45) – the former almost (just almost) tasting like the milk teas always enjoyable when bought off some vendors in the streets of Bangkok; while the latter more natural tasting than versions offered by other venues in, say, Greenbelt (in Makati City).

Finish the meal with the specialty cakes (flour-less, anyone?), priced from less than P100 (though, if you ask me, other venues offering vegetarian/vegan desserts may be more worth checking out). But for a meal for two costing less that P400 (at least for the two times I visited with different friends with me), I sure am not complaining.

When the chow is done, step out of the place to be engulfed by noise from neighboring bars (and, yes, they can be REALLY noisy, particularly on weekends). But it’s nonetheless good knowing that at a corner, a hushed and hush-hush place like Wabi-Sabi exist.

And my housemate was right: Just don’t blink – and actually look hard – when at The Collective, else you may miss it.

Wabi-Sabi Noodle House and Vegetarian Grocery is at 7474 Malugay Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City. For more information, call (+63) 9189622935, or email wabidashsabi@gmail.com.

M.D. dela Cruz Tan is the founder of Zest Magazine. And no, the initials (i.e. M.D.) do not make him a "medical doctor" (as many have erroneously thought in the past); he is actually a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales Australia (just don't ask when, he says). He can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (of course), shoot flicks, community-organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

Travel

Planning your holiday getaway this ‘Ber-season? Filipinos are turning to hosting to fund their vacations

According to a recent survey of Airbnb’s Host community, over 25 percent of Filipino Hosts use the money they earn from hosting to go on vacation. Almost a quarter share their space with guests while traveling for vacation or work.

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The ‘Ber-months are finally here and for many, the holiday season couldn’t have come any sooner! With Christmas in the air, Filipinos are turning to hosting to fund their next holiday getaway.

According to a recent survey of Airbnb’s Host community, over 25 percent of Filipino Hosts use the money they earn from hosting to go on vacation. Almost a quarter share their space with guests while traveling for vacation or work.

With a simplified sign-up process to start hosting and more travelers eager to travel and stay for longer than ever before, there’s never been a more opportune time to share your space and fund your next vacation.

Airbnb Hosts enjoy the perks of being hosted

As an Airbnb Host of more than five years and one of the country’s most highly rated Superhosts, Emily Avelino shares that since listing her family’s Cabin in the Clouds and Blackbird Hill Home in Tanay, Rizal, they have been able to save up for overseas trips to visit family. 

“Recently, we were able to visit immediate family in the USA, which we had not been able to do in the past few years. Hosting our properties on Airbnb also allowed us to save up and travel abroad, and share many memorable milestones with the family including road trips, birthdays and long-awaited reunions,” Emily recounted. For her, getting the chance to spend time and create memories with loved ones has been her biggest plus from hosting aside from the additional financial empowerment.

Dwyane Yra Dinglasan, who oversees her family’s Nasugbu Tali Vacation Home, is another popular Airbnb Host and one of Airbnb’s top hosts under 30 in APAC. She too has enjoyed the many benefits of Hosting, including discovering the Philippines’ very own must-see travel spots.

“With the additional income from my Airbnb listing, I now have the opportunity to travel and visit new places in the Philippines — places I would not have been able to go without the extra income. It’s a great opportunity to get to experience new things,” Dwayne shared. “It’s always great to stay in extremely beautiful homes when vacationing in the Philippines, and to get to live different lifestyles is very refreshing. These experiences along with being able to make new friends and meet new people are definitely memorable!”

Just like Dwayne, many more Filipinos are also finding new local destinations that are off-the-beaten-path but nonetheless equally exquisite. According to Airbnb data,  over 60 cities and towns in the Philippines received their first-ever Airbnb bookings since March 2020.

Using Airbnb’s What’s My Place Worth Tool2, here are some luxurious getaways that you can book for your loved ones this upcoming festive season by hosting with Airbnb.

Host a month in Makati, and enjoy a luxurious villa for a weekend in Guagua, Pampanga

If you host an entire unit or property in Metro Manila, your potential monthly income of Php40,0002 could cover a 3-day stay for a group of six at the beautiful Planta Betis Family Villas in Guagua. This serene, expansive stay offers everything you would need for a weekend staycation, from a private pool to an al fresco lanai and dining area, and special access to two restaurants on-property.

Host a week in Batangas, and enjoy two nights in a Central Visayas treehouse

Hosting your property in Batangas or in the Calabarzon area could earn an average of Php2,200 a night2. A week’s hosting could  cover a weekend stay for five in the iconic Treehouse de Valentine in Balamban, Central Visayas. Nestled within a quiet forest, this luxurious rustic treehouse is the perfect hideaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Host a private room for a month in Quezon City, and enjoy five nights of glamping in Bulacan

Hosting a private room in Quezon City on Airbnb could generate approximately Php18,800 a month2 – equivalent to five nights of glamping for a group of five at The Backyard Glamp in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan. This unique, off-beat stay offers the ultimate glamping experience fully equipped with a pool, grill, and bonfire area.

Host for two weeks in Cebu, and enjoy an overnight beachside stay in Davao

Hosting in Cebu City could earn you an average of Php1,770 a night2, and two weeks of hosting could enable you to book one overnight stay for nine pax in a Private Beach House Above The Sea in Davao. This breathtaking space offers a stunning view of both Mount  Apo and the sea, with direct access to the beach for swimming.

Eager to learn more about becoming an Airbnb Host? You can get free one-on-one help from an Airbnb Superhost at https://www.airbnb.com/askasuperhost, and find more useful tips and information at airbnb.com/host.

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Travel

Airbnb data shows how tourism has dispersed post-pandemic

In the Philippines, almost half of local Airbnb hosts surveyed said their earnings have helped them navigate rising costs of living including housing, daily necessities, and home improvement needs.

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As the travel rebound continues to unfold, the benefits of tourism are spreading across the Asia Pacific. In Southeast Asia, new analysis by Airbnb reveals that the resurgence in domestic and inbound tourism is empowering locals to earn a living and make ends meet.

With people continuing to embrace flexible new approaches to travel and living, communities that have traditionally missed out in the past are increasingly well-positioned to secure a bigger slice of the tourism pie, according to new Airbnb report Further Afield: Spreading the Benefits of the Travel Revolution’. Across the region, this has presented fresh opportunities for locals looking to supplement their income as they grapple with rising costs of living.

Across the Asia Pacific, Airbnb nights booked in non-urban areas have increased in South Korea (up more than 180 percent ), India (up about 140 percent), and Australia (up about 60 percent) in Q2 2022 as compared to Q2 2019. In Southeast Asia, searches for stays in Siquijor in the Philippines surged by more than 280 percent while searches for Marang in Malaysia almost doubled.

The typical earnings for non-urban Hosts increased correspondingly in the same period for a number of destinations. In Australia and South Korea, typical host earnings have more than doubled as travel returned in full force. In the Philippines, almost half of local Airbnb hosts surveyed said their earnings have helped them navigate rising costs of living including housing, daily necessities, and home improvement needs.

Not only are travelers eyeing destinations off the beaten path, they’re also looking to stay longer. Notably,nights booked for long-term stays (stays longer than 28 days) in non-urban areas approximately doubled in popular travel and remote working hotspot Thailand in Q2 2022, up from Q2 2019 pre-pandemic.

In Southeast Asia, a number of destinations outside major metropolitan hubs were popular  among travelers on Airbnb for long-term stays in Q2 2022. Examples included:

  • Dapa, Panglao, Dumaguete and Silang in the Philippines
  • Ipoh, Kuah, Semenyih, and Port Dickson in Malaysia
  • Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Lanta and Krabi in Thailand

Mich Goh, Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy for Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said: “More than two years since the start of the pandemic, we continue to see fundamental shifts in travel that are creating new opportunities for off-the-beaten-track communities. It’s incredibly exciting to see travelers so enthusiastic about exploring new destinations, as well as the positive economic impact cascading to locals.

“The increasing popularity of Dapa, Panglao, Dumaguete and Silang reinforce the importance of the Department of Tourism’s plans to drive tourism development in the countryside and promote lesser-known destinations.  We are committed to continuing to work together with governments and stakeholders to keep inspiring travelers to step off the beaten path, and help ensure more communities can share in the benefits of tourism.”

In addition to encouraging travelers to explore further afield through innovative search tools such as Categories and I’m Flexible, Airbnb remains committed to partnering with governments and communities in Southeast Asia, including in the Philippines. The company has partnered with Thailand and Indonesia’s tourism authorities on a range of ‘Live and Work Anywhere’ initiatives to attract global digital nomads and remote workers, as part of broader efforts to drive inbound tourism as travel returns.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the “safe harbor” provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 about us and our industry that involve substantial risks and uncertainties. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this press release, including, but not limited to, statements regarding travel trends, the travel industry and the future of travel, the behavior of Hosts and guests and about our future performance, prospects, plans and objectives are forward-looking statements.

In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements because they contain words such as “may,” “will,” “plan,” “expect,” “could,” “potential,” “objective,” or “continues” or the negative of these words or other similar terms or expressions that concern our expectations. Although we believe that we have a reasonable basis for each forward-looking statement contained in this press release, we cannot guarantee that the future results, levels of activity, or events and circumstances reflected in the forward-looking statements will be achieved or occur at all.

Forward-looking statements are subject to a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties, assumptions, and other factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from the objectives expressed or implied in this press release. Therefore, you should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated in the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the effects and duration of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic on us, the travel industry, travel trends, and the global economy generally; any further and continued decline or disruption in the travel and hospitality industries or economic downturn; changes in political, business, and economic conditions, including current geopolitical tensions and regional instability; and the other risks listed or described from time to time in Airbnb’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), including Airbnb’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2022 and subsequent Form 10-Qs and Form 8-Ks, which are, or will be, on file with the SEC and available on the investor relations page of Airbnb’s website.

All forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release and are based on information and estimates available to us as of the date of this press release. We expressly disclaim any obligation to update or revise any information contained in this press release, except as required by law.

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Destinations

Exploring the largest cave system in the Philippines

Caves are underground chambers, usually situated in mountains, hills or cliffs. Generations of imaginative fear-mongers have made them the home of everything from treasure-hoarding dragons to a whip-wielding Balrog. In reality, caves are special ecosystems which need our protection, particularly from unscrupulous miners who would break apart tons of rock for a handful of precious stones.

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By Gregg Yan

The Philippines has over 3100 known caves. Featuring 12 chambers over its seven kilometer span, the Langun-Gobingob Cave in Samar is the king of them all. Discovered by Italian Guido Rossi in 1987, it was opened to the public in 1990.

We recently explored it to celebrate the Year of the Protected Areas or YOPA, which aims not just to convince people to conserve the country’s 246 protected areas, but to encourage them to visit the sites themselves.

Caves are underground chambers, usually situated in mountains, hills or cliffs. Generations of imaginative fear-mongers have made them the home of everything from treasure-hoarding dragons to a whip-wielding Balrog. In reality, caves are special ecosystems which need our protection, particularly from unscrupulous miners who would break apart tons of rock for a handful of precious stones.

Unique But Threatened Biodiversity

Samar Island, overshadowed by more popular places like Palawan and Boracay, isn’t usually considered a top tourist destination, owing to its long history as a hotbed for insurgencies and a punching bag for typhoons. Though the Philippines’ thirdlargest island exudes rugged beauty, its real value as an ecotourism destination lies beneath the earth.

“Samar is unique because it is a karst landscape made primarily of limestone. Millions of years of weathering has created numerous caves and sinkholes on the island,” explains Anson Tagtag, head of the Caves, Wetlands and Other Ecosystems Division of the DENR. “Caves are special ecosystems which harbor highly-evolved fauna, most of which have adapted to darkness.”

Birds, bats, spiders, snakes, crickets and even blind cave fish thrive inside the Langun-Gobingob Cave. The lack of light confines plants to entrances, but mushrooms and other types of fungi cling to life as discreet denizens of the dark.

“The speleothems or rocks in caves are in a very real sense ‘alive’ – they just grow and move at timescales difficult for people to comprehend,” explains Dr. Allan Gil Fernando, a professor at the National Institute of Geological Sciences in UP Diliman. “The constant dripping of water for instance leaves minute traces of minerals like calcite. Over time these traces pile up to form hanging stalactites and their inverted kin, stalagmites. It takes about a century for a stalactite or stalagmite to grow one inch.”

It is because of their surreal beauty that many caves are sundered.

“People used to enter the Langun-Gobingob Cave to break apart and mine stalagmites plus white calcite rocks for collectors,” says Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) Assistant Superintendent Eires Mate. Our guide Alvin confirms this. “Locals used to mine the cave for Taiwanese businessmen, who paid a paltry PHP7 for a kilogram of rock. Balinsasayao or swiftlet nests were plucked out too, to be shipped to Chinese markets.”

The cave was finally declared a protected area in 1997. “Thank God for legal protection. Mining was effectively stopped,” says Eires. The Langun-Gobingob Cave is just one of many natural systems benefiting from the country’s protected area system.

“Declaring key biodiversity sites as protected areas is one of the best ways to ensure that future generations can continue enjoying their beauty,” says United Nations Development Programme Biodiversity Finance Initiative (UNDP-BIOFIN) Manager Anabelle Plantilla. “Visitors should positively support local communities but be mindful of the environmental impacts of their travels. They should for instance, avoid taking wild plants or leaving trash in tourist sites.”

Year of the Protected Areas

Launched in May of 2022, YOPA hopes to generate funds from tourists to ensure the continued management of protected areas hard-hit by COVID-19 budget cuts.

The Langun-Gobingob Cave is part of the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP), one of YOPA’s six highlighted parks, the others being the Bongsanglay Natural Park in Masbate, Apo Reef Natural Park in Occidental Mindoro, Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park in Negros Oriental, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental, and Mt. Timpoong Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument in Camiguin.

The country’s caves are now open for tourism, but visitors should know what not to do inside them. “Cave tourism should be well managed and there are cave do’s and don’ts,” says Buddy Acenas from the GAIA Exploration Club, a Manila-based caving and exploration group. “A comprehensive assessment should be conducted before a cave is opened for tourism. Trained guides and set trails should be used to minimize human impacts. Like so many of our fragile wilderness areas, caves must be stewarded by those visiting them.”

For its part, the Philippine government is doing what it can to promote responsible tourism. “Our caves, mountains, beaches and other protected areas are now open for tourism. We invite both Filipinos and foreigners to come and visit, but to do so in an environmentally-responsible manner,” adds DENR-BMB Director Natividad Bernardino. “By practicing responsible and regenerative tourism in PAs, we’re helping our national parks flourish and recover from the economic blow they suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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