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HIPP (Happy Intelligent Progressive Parenting)
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- Maven Magazine
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STAR STUDIO MAGAZINE
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WEDDING ESSENTIALS MAGAZINE
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Compounding the current boom in real estate are major entertainment developments in the Manila Bay area, all set to create lucrative assets that will generate further investment and local employment opportunities for the Philippines
MANILA, Philippines — If you think Bonifacio Global City has had a big impact on the lives of individuals and businesses in Metro Manila, then wait until you hear about the billions of investments pouring in at Manila Bay.
In the recent Asia CEO Forum presented by PLDT Alpha Enterprise, Aseana Holdings, Inc. Chairman Delfin J. Wenceslao delivered an exclusive executive briefing on Entertainment City Manila, wherein the construction of four mammoth casino facilities is currently ongoing. Each colossal complex represents more than $1 billion of direct investments and will include hotels, upscale shopping districts and world-class entertainment venues.
D.M. Wenceslao and Associates, the company where Wenceslao sits as chairman, is the company behind the Bay City reclamation project that started way back in 1989. “Our mandate then from the government was quite simple—we were to create assets, generate income, create employment opportunities and attract more investors to the Philippines,” Wenceslao shares.
Today, the Bay City development is home to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex, the SM Mall of Asia complex, and, in the coming years, will see the rise of the Las Vegas-themed Pagcor Entertainment City and the Aseana City, a mixed-use development that sits on 220-hectares of reclaimed land.
The Reclamation Process
According to Wenceslao, when his company signed to do the reclamation process in 1989, it ended up a most difficult job. “When we signed the contract in September, a coup d’état was launched against the government of President Aquino. Naturally, investors deferred their investments, delaying the project for almost five years,” he shares.
Eventually they started on the project, partnering with the Jan De Nul Group, a company from Belgium that executes dredging, reclamation and marine-related work. “The company is one of the largest in terms of fleet—they have, today, around 60 dredgers operating around the world. They did the Hong Kong Airport and they did Dubai,” Wenceslao says.
The reclamation process is quite simple, says Wenceslao. “The reclamation phase starts with what is called a Trailer Suction Hopper Dredger, a vehicle whose purpose is to suck sand from under the sea, load it on the vessel, and bring it into the reclamation area where it is either pumped or dumped into the area, or reclaimed using a spray-pontoon,” he explains. The vessel that went to the Philippines, he says, has a capacity of around 20,000 cubic meters per load. “Imagine and compare this to a dump truck that carries a load of 15 cubic meters. That’s how big these vessels are,” he shares.
After initially putting in the land, Wenceslao’s company contains it using a structure that contains harbored rocks from Quezon and Bataan. “This prevents the reclaimed area or the sand from going back to the sea. After that, we have a phase called Consolidation Phase, wherein we either wait for the land to naturally settle down or we accelerate,” he informs.
Once the reclaimed land settles, the necessary infrastructure is put in. In Bay City’s case, they created the Macapagal Boulevard, Asean Avenue (the area leading from Roxas Avenue all the way to the sea), and J. Diokno Avenue, which leads from the SM complex to Pagcor Entertainment City. Wenceslao also reveals the creation of the LRT 1 Extension Project and the NAIA Expressway Project. “The LRT extension will be from Baclaran Church leading all the way to the Zapote area. The construction period will last roughly four to five years, assuming that they can bid out the project by next year,” he shares. The NAIA Expressway Project, on the other hand, entails “putting elevated roads coming out from the airports leading to the Bay City area and the South Expressway. This is important,” Wenceslao emphasizes, “because aside from the traffic improvement, the idea is to enable tourists to have a seamless access to the Pagcor Entertainment City.”
The New Vegas
According to Wenceslao, Aseana City is ideally located right smack in the middle of all the action. “If you’re facing the sea, on our right is the MOA development; in front is the Belle Group Development; and on our left is the Pagcor Entertainment City,” he informs.
Wenceslao adds that the total investment of Pagcor City is estimated at $4 billion. “Our own development (Aseana City) is another $3 billion over the next five years. Our mandate at the beginning was to create assets, generate investments and employment, and produce taxes for the government. So far, we’ve produced over P4 billion in taxes to the government; employment opportunities in Aseana is expected to be around 50,000 to 70,000 figures in the next two to three years because the hotel casino projects by themselves will generate a lot of job opportunities in the area. At the rate we’re going, we can comply with the mandate,” he confidently says.
According to Wenceslao, a number of companies have already committed to locate in Aseana City. Current locators include the DFA Passport Plaza, S&R, The King’s School Manila, Solemare Parksuites and Ford Motors. Alphaland’s Alphaland Bay City is one of the much-anticipated projects in the area, which will include an exclusive marina. The Tune Group of Hotels, Subaru and the Blue Leaf Events Pavilion are also set to rise.
The Internet Society discusses potential changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations and how it can stifle businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises, employing Internet-based systems in emerging markets like the Philippines
The open Internet has been quite the nuisance. It has not only acted as a platform for the Egyptian nation to overthrow its dictator, and even exposed the plagiaristic tendencies of a certain Filipino politician, but it has also enabled innovation, economic development and social progress for people around the world.
It really depends on how you want to look at it, but, sarcasm aside, the underlying fact remains that the Internet has provided everyone with a level playing field as it flows through unregulated commercial agreements. From a business standpoint, what this means is that a small business in the Philippines has the same level of access to the global marketplace as a company as big as IBM or GE. Built from the ground up, the Internet has been powered by people, technical experts, civil society groups and governments, all of whom have joined together in a multi-stakeholder model to write an amazing narrative.
It is exactly this “open” aspect of the Internet that global cause-driven organization Internet Society (ISOC) seeks to protect. Backed by more than 55,000 members and nearly 90 chapters around the world, ISOC ensures that the Internet and the web that is built on it “continues to develop as an open platform that empowers people to share ideas and connect in new and innovative ways; and that it serves the economic, social and educational needs of individuals throughout the world today and in the future.”
The World Versus The Web
In a short period of time, the open system of the Internet has had an amazing impact on almost every facet of people’s lives. It has enabled access to new ideas and information, and increased the ways people interact and do business.
However, according to Rajnesh Singh, ISOC regional director, Asia-Pacific, proposals to change the current structure of International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) spell “potentially hazardous implications for the future of the Internet and all its users.”
From December 3 to 14, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will convene a treaty conference in Dubai, which will discuss whether the Internet should now be brought within the scope of its regulations (ITRs) instead of the open, voluntary and multi-stakeholder model that has served it so well. “Based on leaked documents, countries like China and Russia are proposing sweeping changes that would give governments greater control over the Internet, and change the commercial model of the Internet,” asserts Singh. Winthrop Yu, a trustee of the Philippine chapter of the ISOC, says that if these proposals are passed, “they could lead to increased costs for Philippine businesses, which would stifle economic and social growth.”
According to the Department of Trade and Industry, 99.6 percent of businesses in the country are categorized under micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). A significant number of these MSMEs utilize the power of the Internet. “The Internet has become a 21st-century trading route,” says Dondi Mapa, president of the Infocomm Technology Association of the Philippines (ITAP). “Regulating the Internet’s openness may take away the innovation, creativity and dynamic growth that has contributed immensely to the global economy, and has helped shape the economies of developing countries like India and the Philippines,” he adds.
Connecting The Dots
When a communication is sent over an IP (Internet Protocol) network, it is broken up into packets across a series of interconnected networks as it journeys to the recipient. A single communication packet could route through networks hosted in a number of countries before landing at the receiver’s computer.
However, some countries such as the Arab states, Egypt and Russia want countries to have the right to know how traffic is routed. “If this were applied to Internet communications, this would require tremendous and extensive engineering changes. This not only creates massive new costs, but also threaten the performance benefits and network efficiency of the Internet,” explains Singh.
The Internet is a network of networks, and a range of entities from the private sector and government operate the networks through independent commercial agreements. But some parties such as the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association (ETNO) are proposing to replace this with a new “sending party network pays” system wherein the sending network pays for the transmission of data.
This would result in unwelcome consequences. Yu says, “Carriers around the world, including PLDT and Globe, would be required to build and maintain detailed accounting mechanisms to determine who will pay for traffic that flows between networks. This would entail further complexity and cost, which will be passed on to consumers.” He adds that, “local entrepreneurs will have a disincentive to go online since a key benefit of the Internet is that it makes it possible for anyone in the world to create a business with worldwide reach.”
The ITU’s proposals could also broaden the digital divide between developed and developing countries worldwide. “To avoid unnecessary fees, many companies would decline to offer services in countries that are not key to their business strategy,” says Singh. “Award-winning educational platforms like the Khan Academy,” he cites as an example, “may stop offering videos to the Philippines because of the high cost associated with sending videos through networks to a school in, say, the Visayas. Internet users in smaller and less developed countries could lose access to valuable Internet content and services, and get even more cut out of the global economy.”
Bridge, Not Broaden, The Digital Divide
If adapting the ITR treaty to the Internet is a solution in search of a problem, what, then, is the Philippines’ role in all this? According to Yu, the 193 member-nations of the ITU will decide and vote on the proposals as part of an update to the ITRs that were last reviewed in 1988. Each member gets one vote and a majority can enforce changes. The Philippines has been a Council Member of the ITU for over 10 years.
“It’s important that policymakers see how this treaty impacts the Philippines. The question is how will the Philippines vote? The fact is we don’t have a firm position yet,” Yu says. “Early this year,” he adds, “there was a motion to affirm freedom of expression on the Internet. China intervened. Some countries sided with China, including Russia, the Arab states…and the Philippines. We signed on that.”
This time, ISOC and ITAP is urging the government to not just go with the popular vote: “The Philippine economy has been enjoying healthy growth over the past few years and investments have been flowing in, particularly in the ICT sector. Let us ensure we protect these gains—a free and open Internet that allows innovation and creativity to flourish is the only way to do this and keep us globally competitive.”
The advent of electric vehicles, and the push for more fun and environmental means of transportation, has finally brought this world-class personal transporter to Philippine shores
MANILA, Philippines — Guided tours have always been a popular way to get an insider’s view of a tourist hot spot, vacation destination or historic city—and yet a lot of travelers look down upon those who would choose this option over going at it alone.
But lend this old vacation favorite a new and unique twist by offering “gliding” tours using a scooter-like Segway PT (Personal Transporter) through city streets and points of interest around a new city, and even the most “hard-core” of backpackers would change his mind. Segway city tours have grown in popularity all over Europe and the United States, and it’s not difficult to see why—they offer a great 360-degree orientation, lets you cover a lot of track without exerting that much effort, gives you heaps of unique and fascinating stories from your local guide, and you have the opportunity to ride one of the coolest machines in the world.
This particular application of the Segway—the world’s first self-balancing, zero emissions personal transportation vehicle—is exactly what Simply Moving Philippines, Inc. seeks to replicate here in the country. “When you’re in a bus or jeep, they’re noisy and you don’t see the entire expanse of the view. Imagine, instead of going around in Bohol or Boracay using a tricycle that can only fit so many people, you go around on a Segway. You can see and hear everything around you, and you have all your five senses working while touring the place,” shares Managing Director George Apacible.
A manual on operating a “gliding” tour, Apacible adds, was actually part of the package he and his business partner got upon franchising a Segway. “It’s quite specific—the pathways, how it should be like, the terrain, how to gear up, and even the experience of you registering, sitting down and watching the video. They made sure that safety is really a priority,” he shares.
Not Just A Toy
The technology behind the Segway PT consists of an intelligent network of sensors, mechanical assemblies and control systems that balance and move you on two wheels. The moment you step on a Segway, five micro-machined gyroscopes and two accelerometers sense the charging terrain and your body position at 100 times per second.
In plain English, this simply means the Segway moves to your preferred direction faster than your brain can think “left”.
As with any invention ahead of its time, the Segway PT is often misunderstood. Some might think of it as merely a “toy” for hobbyists who can afford to shell out R380,000 for the basic Segway i2 or R450,000 for the Segway x2 that has the size and muscle for off-road use, but the Segway PT is actually considered “serious transportation” for people on the move in today’s changing world.
More than the novelty of riding around the city on a personal transporter whose movement follows the angle of your body, Apacible shares that the Segway was founded on inventor Dean Kamen’s vision of eco-friendly, short-distance transportation alternatives.
It’s as earth-friendly as one gets. A Segway’s lithium ion battery charges overnight for six to seven hours, and it only uses one kilowatt for a full charge. “That’s only R8. It’s a really cheap way to get around with regards to the per-kilometer basis. The battery lasts eight hours for 31 kilometers, and if you divide that R8 per 31 kilometer, you’re averaging centavos per charge. That’s how much electricity you’re consuming. The carbon footprint per vehicle, if a car would produce so much carbon dioxide in the air, is practically zero,” Apacible shares.
He adds that Segway’s environmental application in the local setting is really the company’s main goal when it brought the franchise to the Philippines last year. “We’re starting with the brand, and it’s a very known brand in the personal electronic mobile devices. So using that, the whole thing we want to be a leader in is promoting alternative sources of energy. And together with the e-trike (an ADB initiative), this would really benefit the environment a lot and change our way of transporting from one place to another without affecting the environment,” Apacible says.
In a price-sensitive market like the Philippines, it is not surprising that the main issue Apacible and his company is facing is the cost of the Segway. “It’s always the cost, especially if we’re selling it to individual buyers. Initially, our buyers are really hobbyists—these people spend R8 to R9 million on a car, and a Segway is chicken for them. But we’ve also pitched the product to resorts and the government, and they are actually quite interested,” he shares, adding that the local government unit in Boracay, for one, is promoting electric vehicles. “They’re trying to eradicate all the polluting tricycles, which is why they introduced the e-trikes there. They’ve reached out to us and we’re proposing, hopefully by end of September or October, to have a Boracay tour.”
Another good news, Apacible shares, is that PEZA wants his company to go on an “It’s more fun in the Philippines with the Segway” campaign. “What they want us to do is go to specific tourist destinations and use the Segway to get around. We start from the resort and then go around island-hopping, etc. using the Segway. Going around the country will definitely take on a new and exciting twist,” he says.
While most skincare companies rely on the influence of celebrities to promote their products, this French ‘dermo-cosmetic’ brand lets its strong 300-year history—and, oh, over 300 supporting clinical studies—speak for itself
MANILA, Philippines — Different industries in Europe may be teetering on the edge of a precipice because of the current global economy, but not where beauty and specialized skincare is concerned.
According to Pierre Fabre Dermo-Cosmétique (Pierre Fabre), a company that manufactures and markets dermo-cosmetic skincare products for the care and management of sensitive skin, there are still a few sectors in Europe that remain unaffected by the current crisis. “In this situation we are really lucky,” shares Frédéric Charles, ASEAN Area Manager of Pierre Fabre, “because dermo-cosmetic is really still increasing. In France, we are rising about eight percent, and that’s good considering the period we are in.”
It’s really about people understanding the difference between ordinary cosmetics and dermo-cosmetics, says Charles of the particular industry segment Pierre Fabre’s main brand, Eau Thermale Avene, finds itself in. “Dermo-cosmetic” products are cosmetic products formulated for all types of sensitive skin, and have proven effectiveness supported by biological and pharmacological medical studies. “Our main brand, Avene, is, in a way, a medicated cosmetic,” explains Charles, adding that, at its core, Pierre Fabre is a pharmaceutical company. “Pierre Fabre’s net worth today is roughly around two billion Euro for the whole group, and we reinvest 10 percent of our turnover every year for research. Our main areas are oncology and dermatology,” he says.
Eau Thermale Avene originated from Avene, a small town in the south of France, which is famous for its thermal spring water with medically proven healing properties.
“Avene thermal spring water has a rich history that dates as far back as 1736. Doctors in the surrounding regions used it to cure their patients’ skin disorders. A Hydrotherapy Center was eventually built by the town of Avene in 1743, and its fame eventually crossed the French frontiers when it was used to successfully treat the third degree burns of victims after the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, a tragic part in American history,” narrates Lenard Tiongson, brand manager for the Philippines.
The Hydrotherapy Center temporarily closed in 1965, but in 1975 reopened when the spring became the property of the group created by Pierre Fabre, a pharmacist and industrialist at Castres, France. The acquisition eventually led to a period of clinical and pharmacoclinical evaluation of the properties of Avene thermal spring water, and the dermatological benefits of Avene was recognized.
The brand Eau Thermale Avene was officially launched in 1990, and all the products created under the brand are enriched with the Avene thermal spring water, which have medically proven healing properties. While some may think Pierre Fabre is yet another company offering a bogus claim, Charles asserts that there are more than 300 clinical studies to back it up.
According to French dermatologist Dr. Didier Guerrero, who was recently in the country to introduce the brand before its official launch fourth quarter of this year, Avene has an adapted answer for every degree of skin sensitivity. It is known to cure skin disease like Atopic Dermatitis and Psoriasis. “In Avene Center, we treat patients for three weeks, which is according to the French guidelines. After the treatment, we found that there is a change in SCORAD (Scoring for Atopic Dermatitis), a specific index to evaluate the severity of Atopic Dermatitis. There is a decrease in severity by 40 to 45 percent,” shares Dr. Guerrero, adding that Atopic Dermatitis is “the most sensitive skin condition you can find. And if a cosmetic product is well-tolerated on Atopic Dermatitis, you can use it on sensitive skin and all different skin types.”
Creating A New Market Segment
Avene may have the power of healing water in its arsenal, but how will it fare in a market like the Philippines where most beauty companies promote their products using expensive celebrity endorsements? “As yet, we do not have direct competition here in the country because dermo-cosmetic is a new segment in the market, and we will be the first official dermo-cosmetic brand in the market,” shares Digna Payumo, dermo-cosmetics head of Orient Europharma Co., Ltd., the company bringing Avene to the country.
The main challenge is to be accessible to the people, shares Charles. Pierre Fabre offers its products at an average price of P1,500, something a price-conscious market might find intimidating. “Initially, because of our price, we will deal with a specific part of the population, but slowly, we hope to increase and educate people. In the Philippines,” he says, “you spend a lot of money on products that may not be very efficient, and we want to convince you to get a more appropriate product that may just be a little bit more expensive but one wherein you will be happy with the result.”
As for celebrity endorsements, Charles asserts that Avene will not tread the same route. “While we do have celebrity fans, what is really more important for us is the dermatological aspect. It’s that fact that almost 90 percent of dermatologists in the country already know about the product; 75 percent have been prescribing Avene. We are not a marketing brand; we are a scientific brand,” he assures.
Eau Thermale Avene will be available in selected Mercury Drug outlets.
Aligning with government priorities, making the right investments, and developing the right capabilities—all are part of the equation that makes GE a great global company, and a great local company
MANILA, Philippines — One of the challenges faced by big companies today is to figure out how to get the small ideas up to the level where they are funded and tested. Big ideas are easy—the electric car, solar panels, the barcode, DNA profiling, etc.—everybody sees them; everybody gets them. But it’s the small ideas that can become big ideas that companies have to try to capture.
This is exactly why GE, a global leader in innovation, upholds a program it calls “Imagination Breakthroughs,” wherein senior leaders take a “small idea” or project and sponsor it. “We deal directly with the engineers who are on the ground to cultivate and nurture this small idea because we want to protect it. We don’t want the system to say, ‘it’s only a small idea so we’re done.’ The plan is to both nurture the idea and figure out which ones will become big,” shares GE Vice Chairman and President and CEO of Global Growth & Operations, John G. Rice.
More than discovering the next breakthrough technology that will further propel the company beyond the success it now enjoys, Imagination Breakthroughs are really there to teach the organization that, hey, it’s okay to not get it right the first time around. “Most innovations are a product of trial and error,” asserts Rice. “Thomas Edison invented the light bulb—he invented GE—and he screwed up a lot of light bulbs before he created the one that works, and to this day people continue to make [his idea] better and better. That’s the spirit of culture we always want to have throughout GE. [We want] people who are willing to take a shot at something, and risk failing, in the hopes that their little idea will become a great idea,” he says.
A Global, Local Company
Being GE’s main entry point into the ASEAN region, the Philippines shares a strong history with the company that dates back to the 1890s when the Thomas Houston Electric Company installed the first electric street lights on Real Street in Manila. “Our presence in the Philippines is not new; GE is 130 years old, and for 120 of those years, we’ve been involved in some way in the Philippines. We incorporated our legal entity here over 75 years ago; we have a strong history here that we’re quite proud of,” shares Rice, who, along with GE CEO for ASEAN Stuart L. Dean, was here to attend the GE Innovation Day held recently at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel.
The event, which brought together more than 200 key customers, members of the academe and government representatives, was specifically designed to demonstrate how GE works through innovation and co-creation with local partners to nurture economic development and long-term sustainability. “We realized that to help the country address the challenges that exist with respect to infrastructure, power generation, healthcare, etc., there is a need for GE to think of newer, better ways to do so. If you’re like GE and you do business in a hundred different countries, you have to figure out the right formula in each one. How do we provide services to people on thousands of islands? It’s my third visit in the Philippines in the last 14 months, and that’s what we’re working on, what we’re trying to figure out,” Rice shares.
How, then, will GE bring its global strengths and make them look, feel and act local in the context of the Philippine equation?
According to Dean, the way GE does this is to tailor its investments and innovation according to what the market needs. “There was a time when most countries were focused on power generation in the form of big blocks of power—very big coal plants, combined gas turbines producing 500 to 1000 MW of power usable in big cities. And in the U.S. and Europe, that worked fine because there is population density everywhere,” he says. “But in this world,” he adds, “in the Philippines, Indonesia and most of Africa, the grid isn’t equipped to carry those electrons where they need to go. As a result, you have to focus now on distributing power using smaller power blocks. So when I talk about our portfolio, it’s starting at 300 kilowatts up to a hundred megawatts, and everything in between. Because to solve the power equation in the Philippines, you need to do a lot of things, and one is to figure out how you can get these smaller power generation installations up and running in remote cities and villages.”
The same thing holds true in healthcare. Ten years ago, most of GE’s investments in healthcare were focused on higher end, more expensive technologies. “More sophisticated imaging equipment, computer tomography and MRI machines,” puts in Rice. “These are okay in some of the richest, developed countries. But you’re only going to need a handful [of these technologies] in a country like the Philippines, where the focus should be on the people that don’t have access to ANY healthcare. So we’ve spent the last five years or so recalibrating our healthcare business around technologies that focus on affordability, accessibility, portability—now we have a hand-held ultrasound which gives you the ability to bring healthcare to a remote village in a way that was not possible even five years ago,” he shares.
Growth Prospects In The Philippines
With the country going thru an infrastructure-building period that is predicted to last over a ten-year period, Rice expects GE to grow more here. “We would expect on an ongoing basis to grow at reasonable double-digit rates here because the economy is strong, and we would expect to grow faster than the economy because there is a big demand for infrastructure, and the kind of things we do are what the country needs,” Rice says.
Infrastructure development, Rice affirms, is actually what is driving GE to become more aggressive in the Philippines. “If you follow what we’ve done in the last few years, we put the majority of our investments into basic infrastructure. We moved out of engineered plastics a few years ago, reduced our stake in broadcasting, and we’ve put back capital into our healthcare, energy and gas-related activities. In many respects, we’ve been designing our company over a ten-year period for the kind of world we see today in many places, including the Philippines,” he shares.
One innovative product that GE feels would work in the Philippines is Smart Grid technology. According to GE CEO-Philippines Jocot De Dios, Smart Grid covers everything that happens from the point of power generation to the point one flips on the light switch. “We’ve already made an initial investment in our Smart Meter’s subsidiary in order to get a full idea of the actual requirements of the Philippine grid system. We’ve put in $300,000 as an initial study but obviously that will be a function of how big the market is going to be,” shares De Dios. While some may deem GE’s investment relatively small, Rice asserts that the priority now is to determine the technology’s scalability. “If the pilot works, and you hit the cost targets, and determine the features and capability that’s right for the Philippine market, the better question is really how quickly can it be scaled? And in this case,” he assures, “it can be scaled very quickly. We don’t worry so much about whether the initial investment is big or small, but what we worry about is designing it so the initial investment gives us all the information we need to make the right decisions about how quickly to grow it.”
Da.u.de Tea Corporation brings a greater awareness and more refined appreciation of tea to the Filipino market with its highly customized couture tea blends
If you think tea is boring, then wait until you cross paths with Couture Tea Blender Renee Sebastian. The country’s first Certified Tea Master, Sebastian will prove your perceptions wrong—she’s the person most qualified to tell you how to steep, store and serve tea, as well as determine what type of food best complements a certain blend.
Apparently, tea goes beyond steeping a bag of Chamomile in a cup of hot water. This, among other things, is what you’ll learn after a visit to the newly opened Da.u.de Tea Lounge in Fort Bonifacio. Pronounced “da you deh,” the tea lounge showcases the many things one can do with tea. Ordering their High Tea Set-up gives one a crash course on Tea Appreciation 101—everything, from the jams served with biscuits to the Crispy Pork Banh Mi Sisig Sandwich, and the Macaron Duo and Chocolate and Tea Pudding, is tea-infused.
“Our biggest challenge right now is the current perception of what a tea lounge is,” shares Sebastian. “They think automatically that we don’t have food; that we are just one among the many bubble tea establishments in the metro. So the challenge is for us to get them in first,” she says.
Once customers are in, it’s a very easy sell. Sebastian has meticulously crafted a menu of tea-infused food and drink items that are “very relatable and easy to understand,” she explains. “Everybody knows what chocolate pudding is, what a macaron is, what a pork banh mi is, and we infused tea in them. Even in our spiked teas,” she says of their alcoholic tea drinks, “we have beer infused with tea. We call it the Blackened Beer and the Beer Berry. We have the Manila Moji-tea. People drink it and they’re surprised. As you can see, I’ve really worked hard to use the language you already know, and then surprise you with that extra kick, which is the tea.”
A Wellness Company At Its Core
A proudly Filipino company, Da.u.de evolved from being a fashion business selling ethnic apparel and natural body products in New York City into the tea company it is today. “I know it sounds kind of extreme, from fashion to tea,” acknowledges Sebastian, “but the way I think of it is Da.u.de is total wellness. We cater to both internal and external wellness. Internally, we have tea; and for external care, we have natural body products.”
Da.u.de used to service spas in the Philippines, but Sebastian made the decision to make tea her business’ primary focus. “I officially named the company Da.u.de Tea Corporation, but we can always infuse tea into the natural body care line later on. A lot of what I do, really, is to showcase what you can do with tea,” she says.
Evidently, Sebastian’s passion for tea is undeniable. “It all started in Morocco,” she shares. “It is the number one tea drinking society in the world,” she says, “and when I went there, I started to see what they do with tea. The different blends they make. They were mixing things, and it got me interested because it felt like another form of art expression. I’m an artist by nature, and that’s what got me interested, so I started and made my first blend, shared it with friends, and they loved it. It was very rudimentary, not even at the professional level, but that awakened my thoughts about it.”
Since then, Sebastian went into the tea trade, linked up with a network of tea professionals, and further enhanced her knowledge of the craft by taking up further studies. “I studied under a Chinese tea master, a Japanese tea master, and in America, I studied under a World Tea Champion Blender. Very recently I came back from apprenticing under a Korean tea master as well,” she says.
With that much knowledge of tea under her belt, Da.u.de customers are assured that each of the 55 blends currently available at the lounge are unique, premium, and possess ingredients that Sebastian personally picks from her travels around the world. “Everything I make is unique, but I carry some complex flavors. I have something called Hexie, which is a mixture of goji berry, apples, dragonfruit, nettle leaves, etc., and people have been saying that it’s good but they can’t pinpoint what the exact flavor is, so it’s complex that way,” she shares.
Those looking for an alternative for coffee would do well to try Da.u.de’s Coffee Alternatives, wherein Sebastian “uses the language of coffee, but substitutes espresso with tea. We have affogato, cappuccino and machiatto that has no coffee in it. There are also teas with coffee beans in them, but we don’t grind the coffee. We just steep the tea and get the aroma of coffee,” she shares. Other blends include the Aphriki Masala, Cacao Cimmaron, Idulgashinna Green, Papaya Kamille, Pistacia and the Seffarine, among many others. The Mangga Fruit Tea, Sebastian says, is the crowd favorite so far. “I can’t stock up enough,” she says. “Filipinos like it, and also strangely enough, Korean and Japanese. Unanimous, hands down, they love it. They come back over and over again for it.”
A Rising Tea Culture
Different cultures appreciate and apply tea differently, says Sebastian. The bubble tea market, for instance, is a very Taiwanese Culture. “If you go to Morocco, it’s the mixing of anything with green tea alone. If you go to India, it’s all about the spicy teas,” she explains, adding that different countries have different tea ceremonies as well.
“The Japanese has a very intricate matcha green tea ceremony, while the Koreans have a very nice and meaningful tea ceremony. The Philippines, too, has a tea culture. We just don’t realize it, but our tea culture is embedded in herbal teas. We all have that lola or mom who says when we’re sick, to drink herbs like salabat, pito pito, tanglad and all those other leaves. We have it, we just don’t think of it like the British tea culture of tea time and afternoon tea. Every culture has their own take on tea, and that’s what makes it so complex and interesting,” she says.
With so many countries exhibiting a stronger tea culture, Sebastian still chose to expand her thriving business in New York to the Philippines. “I saw that the bubble tea culture is here, but it’s still not the complete thing. I respect that tea culture, I love it to some degree, but it’s a very small portion of what tea can offer. This is why I created my personal trademark as a couture tea blender, to blend tea in an artisan way. There is a great open market here right now, and there is an opportunity for me to create that market. The tea trend is rising and surging, and it’s nice to be at the front of the pack right now,” she says.
Da.u.de Tea Lounge is located at G/F Net Lima Bldg., 26th St. cor 4th Ave., Fort Bonifacio Global City.