Saturday, May 4, 2019

My Northern Exposure
        I just have to be back in Tuguegarao City. It was a decade ago the last time I visited this charming northern part of the Philippines, in one of the bustling towns of Cagayan Province. I have prepared myself mentally for a gruelling bus ride of 14 hours from the bus terminal in EDSA Quezon City all the way north in Tuguegarao leaving on a 9:30pm trip. It is a very challenging trip but I am all up for it. The reason now is much important to me than that of ten years ago – I will be teaching and sharing my experiences and skills as a photographer to the young and eagerly interested 9 to 12 year old Tuguegaraonons as organized by MindCraft Tutorial and Learning Centre. The opportunity to plant a good foundation to these wonderful kids the value of photography and become a responsible visual story-teller or future photojournalist is just so irresistible. So my journey began last April 26, 2019 for my 2019 Creative Fun Photography Workshop. Here we go!

            Arriving after almost 14 hours of back-breaking trip via Victory Liner bus, and almost mid-day, tired and hunger setting in, I was floored to see how the once quaint little town of Tuguegarao is now transformed into a bustling new town! You see familiar names of new malls, restaurants, banks, convenient stores that are a dime-a-dozen in the crazy Metro Manila now have crept and modernized this locality. Despite such massive developments, the city still has not lost its charm. Something old matches something new worked well so far.  It’s local temperature, as cautioned by my friends from Manila that it will be scorching, to my surprise it was quite manageable – the temperature in Metro Manila is far more unforgiving! Perhaps because Metro Manila is so congested with concrete paths and have cemented the whole city jungle making it totally polluted; with trees chopped off and practically gone, Metro Manila became more like living in a hot toaster. Tuguegarao City is far more habitable now than that of Metro Manila. Anyway that’s enough ranting. So the story goes back to this trip.

            By 11am I was warmly received by Francis Isidro Collado and Teacher Krisette Casibang of MindCraft Tutorial and Learning Centre, discussed our plans and schedule for the following days event. They also showed me the room venue and the logistics that we’ll be using. It was almost 3pm when I checked in the Crown Hotel and Restaurant, my home for the next few days here in Tuguegarao. Touchdown and now feeling back the old memories of this place a decade ago today. I can’t wait to see, feel, and feast on this city that I call as my second home.


   Rested and eager to glide my feet around Tuguegarao, I was invited by Teacher Krisette Casibang to try out the famous “batil-patung” done by the popular Triangle Pansiteria along Luna Street. Started operations in 1972, now almost 48 years old, has been known by practically every Tuguegaraonon as the pioneer restaurant for their iconic Batil-Patung pansit. Originally owned by Ano and Iling Arao, it is now managed by their amiable daughter Ms. Precie Arao with her children CJ and Princess. Some recognizable personalities frequent their pansiteria whenever they’re in town  -- celebrities like Richard Gutierrez, Drew Arellano and Kara David – are regular patrons to this unassuming hang-out place to name a few. Precie graciously gave me a generous serving of their famous pansit, and such serving can be shared by two to three persons. Good thing I was a bit famished due to my long bus travel, I feasted – for almost an hour or two – the generous delicious serving of their batil-patung pansit

           Luckily we decided to walk towards another place for another meeting schedule – the new hang-out place – the Luna Streat Food Park, to meet the owners of Cantina El Cano Mexican Store, Mr. Bryan and Mrs. Sandy Pinson, to finalize plans on having their prepared dishes be featured as part of the photo exercise for young participants for their food photography learning exposure.

The Photography Workshop Begins.

            It was April 27, 2019 at around 9:30am that the young participants for the photography workshop began trickling in and registering at the MindCraft Tutorial and Learning Centre.  Eagerly young students are all ecstatic to start the workshop. Ages between 9 to 12 years old, with combination of hyperactive and shy personalities all mixed together made me excited all the same; and bring out the best in them as far as creativity towards photography is what matters. Bring it on I said to myself.

            Using my crazy icebreaker game of “Two Truths And A Lie”, I introduced myself to my young participants now all focused towards me. One by one, I was able to convince them to open up in order for me and the others would get comfortable, enabling me to break the barriers and be able to gel this group as one cohesive student body for this workshop. Effectively, they all opened up and became active participants – coasting through my power-point presentations, the National Geographic’s inspirational video, and the exercises I challenged each one of them.  Pushed and worked hard to bring out the creativity, each participant were game to do it – made them do all the basic and creative composition methods – and made sure I had it planted deep in them.
    From learning basic exposure triangle, to understanding the different composition methods, to exposing and exercises on portrait photography, food photography, travel photography, to the code of ethics of photographers & photojournalists, I told each and every one of them that no amount of creative skills matter if they will not become responsible photographer. I told them too that these lecture materials I shared with them in this workshop are the same materials I used when I was teaching my Grades 9 & 10 students from St. Paul’s and was patterned to be for college students. Funny thing was, instead of getting stunned and fearful they were more excited and absorbed every lecture and exercise; likened to an empty sponge absorbing new knowledge. Every exercise I gave them have to pass my stringiest standard, thus if I’m not happy with their shot I simply showed them what is wrong and told them, “do it again... give me a better shot... shoot from another angle.” Even Teacher Abby was not able to escape to the young participants as they had her as their model for their Portrait Photography exercise! 

             Gamely each of them worked on the challenge diligently. It was amazing! End of the first day, the participants were treated to a huge pizza for their hard day’s efforts courtesy of Fracasso Tuguegarao Pizzaria. Huge delicious treats for the participants!

            On the 28th, the second day of the photography workshop had a full day schedule of photography exercises; everyone was up and about by 9am. First stop, the Cagayan Museum. With exclusive access given by Mrs. Mabel Villarica Mamba, the young participants were given an
exclusive chance to visit the museum that Sunday morning.They get to not only do their photography exercises within the beautiful confines of the new Cagayan Museum but also discovered and learned on the historical past of Tuguegarao and Cagayan Province. The museum itself had its share of colourful past being once a provincial jail and once as Japanese headquarter during World War II. The children even saw the bullet holes that riddled around the walls of the place, the etched names of former convicts, and other artefacts.

     After the Cagayan Museum visit, young participants travelled towards the view deck overlooking Pinacanauan Bridge and the Cagayan River, and there around 3pm started their creative composition exercises on travel photography in a beautiful environment. No amount of afternoon heat deterred the young participants from taking different positions and angles to capture their desired shots. I gave them the freedom to choose whatever subject they wanted – from the stoned walls, the unassuming flowers, the challenging butterfly, to others. Such a sight would give any professional photographer a run for their money I said.
         By almost 4pm we travelled back towards the city to go do the last challenge for the day – do a food photography exercise and capture the best photo they can do with the Mexican dishes of Cantina El Yano located in Luna Streat Food Park prepared no less by its chef and owner Chef Bryan Pinson and his wife Sandy Pinson. After a few minutes of waiting, the freshly cooked Baby-Back Ribs was served. The participants are all excited and jockeyed to the best position that they can get. Through the courtesy of this wonderful couple, they showcased some of their favourite dishes – the delicious Smoked BackRibs, Tostadas Especiales, Picante Wings, Fish Tostaditos, and others. After asking the participants if they all were able to get their desired photos, surprised to tell them
that they now can eat all of the prepared dishes, and all shouted in enjoyment to feast such fete for free! As they say, it’s good to the last bite. The kids simply adored it.

        By 6pm we head back to the centre to wrap up the two-day rigorous activities. Tired but satisfied, I gave my parting words to my young photography workshop participants. Satisfied to their diligence, perseverance, and efforts to the gruelling challenges I each gave them, I awarded them their individual certificate of completion, and saw in each one of them the satisfaction and success they have achieved. Indeed they have learned something
from me, and are hoping that this will be a start of a good foundation for their creative learning as responsible photographers or, as they say now, visual story-tellers. I have learned well to on this experience with these wonderful children. Such a delight to be in the company of them, and having such supportive parents of these children, all as cherished and valued experience in this trip to me. And after our last group photo together, they all asked in unison – “Sir, when do we do this again? When will you come back?” 
            It was such a heartfelt and humbling experience to have such questions asked to me by these wonderful young participants and also by their parents. Perhaps should fate and destiny would allow us to have another chanced opportunity to happen, it will happen. “Perhaps next time soon!” is the only thing I can muster at that moment.

            Perhaps indeed when the right time is ripe, to do another creative photography workshop it will happen. It is bound to happen. Destined fate would allow that opportunity to be experienced by the next batch of young eager and interested students. Only time can tell though.

The day after: My Short Adieu.

            Last day of chanced discovery of what Tuguegarao City is somewhat my “see you later soon” to this wonderful place. Walked around and visited familiar spots like the St. Peter Cathedral, the horse-drawn caritelas, and usual food spots, and looking at the usual friendly smiles of people around me. On this trip, coming back after 10 years, I will keep this experience through some bits of photographs as some sort of valued mementos... as my cherished Northern Exposure trip to the place I grew fond of.

            Perhaps next opportunity will be laid upon me to grab. For now it was such an exciting and a memorable experience... to have met these wonderful young workshop participants and their wonderful parents. Thanks to MindCraft Tutorial and Learning Center, through the efforts of Ms. Francis Isidro Collado, in making this all happen.

            Until my next adventure all I can say is: Indeed... Life is Good!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

A Game of Money, A Game of Destiny... A Game of Maturity.
Article by Jun Reynales
Photos by Praxis Philippines

“It’s like playing the famous board game Monopoly... on steroids!” says Mari-an Albert, CEO, The Praxis Company – Philippine Branch, as she sheepishly teased and dared me to play their financial literacy game.

With a devilish wide grin I replied back, “Game On!”

A few days prior March 7, 2019, I received an email from their Singapore office (who got my contact information from my SG media network) and invited me to experience their fun financial literacy game. Unfortunately though, the first arranged schedule was no good to me as I already have prior media invitation to do an interview and coverage. Due diligence and persuasion from Bianca Balderas, that young and enigmatic PR lady of Praxis Philippines/Redhill PR Singapore, with such persistence paid off and found my schedule clears last Thursday.

Arrived earlier than 2pm, met Bianca Balderas with a sigh of relieve said, “Sir, you’re here now. Thanks for coming!” Complemented her warm welcome and replied, “Finally! I’m glad to meet you Bianca.”  She followed to introduce me to Mari-an Albert, The Praxis Company – Philippines’ CEO (which incidentally hails to from my alma mater De La Salle University), and Wilma Sanchez, Marketing & Communications Head. With a very comfortable office akin to a bohemian coffee shop Mari-An assured me, “that it’s our office and we serve coffee... but we don’t do pastries, pastas nor lunch.”

Coupled with other eagerly and curious invitees like me, we set up to our selected spot and began to play the Praxis’ Financial Board Game. The game consists of: a pair of dice, sets of cards with headings of Savings, Insurance, Employment, Stocks (of different industry titles), Employment Status, Properties, and of course the different coloured and denominations of play monies. There was also a Banker (who always enticed me to borrow money from the “bank” and issues those pretty little cards labelled “IOUs”. Every step of the way the “banker” either collects or rewards monies to each player. Jokingly teased the “banker”, “you’re like that character in that movie – always present – like death or taxes!” She devilishly responded back, “but of course!” Everyone broke into a good laugh thereafter. “Too bad banker though, I never give in to such temptations -- except for a sweet blueberry cheesecake... should that happens, sorry all-bets-are-off!” I silently said to myself.

The board game is a strategy game, focusing on how you get affected and be able to deal with sudden environmental changes on economy, on security of employment, on health and insurance matters, on retirement preparedness, on monetary situations.

As what Mari-an Albert says, “Praxis has been advocating and teaching the young generations, and as such, even as young as Grade 4 student up to today’s millennial and Generation Z the value of learning to become more financially literate and be able to “master money”. “We have been sharing this advocacy in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines for almost 20 years now.” She added

“This game exposes the player to the simulations o his/her life without the actual fate attached to it.”  “Pretty much a game that after two hours of gaming, you can reboot back to reality but with valuable lessons learned that you can assess and discuss with the other players, and eventually can be applied to one’s future strategy afterwards” Mari-an added.

I agree and love the concept the game brings in and the value of such knowledge that comes along with it, as it expands the financial freedom broadens more towards his/her future. I see the real education that this company espouses to the young generations today. It will definitely serve a good foundation to one.

My experience of this game is FUN – bar none. It gave me the chance to test my skills on effectively strategizing (and bluffing at times) myself compare with other players, who mostly are younger half my age, who eagerly and gamely compete strategies with me. End of the two-hour financial effectiveness simulation game, I guess my age (and experience) was favourable and to my advantage.

For at the game of money, a game of destiny, a game of maturity... serendipity favoured towards me that Thursday, and won me the game! Thank you, The Praxis Company – Philippines for that wonderful and insightful gaming experience. Definitely it is worth to share to everyone who wants to prepare themselves in this game called Life.

Should others want to learn and experience this wonderful strategy game, best suited for companies' HR officers or schools' Guidance Officers to help your company structure or student bodies to expose them the value of having to learn good financial management discipline and gain "financial freedom" this early on. 

Until my next adventure, Life is Good!

Friday, March 1, 2019

My Intimate Moments With A Constant Urban Gardener.
Article & Photos by Jun Reynales.

The year was 1993 when then newly-married couple Carol & Iñaki Goitia started their home gardening venture with just a little spot in their home, little did they know that they will become both passionately into growing organic vegetables that will change their personal lives and to that of their neighbours in Sun Valley Subdivision in Parañaque City.

As Iñaki Goitia was then working with that exclusive 5-start hotel in the middle of Makati City’s business district, Carol, the ever-curious on how to make things work, seemed to have encountered difficulties in balancing finances in a new relationship environment, seeing the costs of groceries as trivial as vegetables starting to go beyond reach (and that was still in the early 90s mind you), decided to act aggressively about it. I knew Carol way
back prior to her escape out from the corporate jungle as a go-getter and focused business tactician. Now without a corporate job to back her up, in a newly-established personal relationship in a married environment, she decided to face the challenge and learn new things in this new unchartered environment to her – being a housewife.

She loves the challenges of doing fancy home
cooked meals for her husband and her family sans the costs of buying the ingredients that the markets and groceries offered. She loves doing and creating exciting and exotic delectable dishes but gets turned off with the hefty price tags on each items. One day, she had enough of it and decided to grow her own food. Yes, she decided that early back then that it was best to plant and harvests the vegetables and plants – by her own. So she starting drafting and plotting a course to achieve such objective (as if likened to a challenging tasked she once was accustomed with unfazed in a corporate setting), she purchased and researched through the different plant and agricultural magazines throughout the different book shops within Metro Manila (back then the internet world still does not exist); she followed through with different trials and errors, while along the way becoming more observant on how lives of
plants and environment grows, and was even teased once by Iñaki, “Honey, are you watching how the plant grows ?” Little did he know that in the near future, almost after two decades, they’d both observe and with much experience be able to share such wonders. But at that time the revelation of their new passion has not yet been fully seen and clearly valued. For it was the beginning for what was yet to come.

As Carol grew more passionate in her growing vegetables, she has done different ways of doing them at first; she did grew in a hydroponic method, then she did it by aquaponic method (and her Tilapia fishes grew big and getting too much for the aquarium... was eventually given a sentence by grilling and an ice cold beer, if you know what I mean. Hehe!) Both of them also became experienced bee farmers and harvests regularly raw fresh honey and bees wax. Thanks to their queen bee and her honey bees, their honey produced are often ordered by some who are into producing cosmetics, and other organic market businesses that you’ve probably encountered on weekends in some organic market events or festivals around Metro Manila. Chances are likely that some of the items being sold came from this passionate couple.

Fast forward to February 2019, Carol is now more experienced and more compassionate urban grower, with years of experience invested on a daily labour of love and sacrifices for their vegetable garden, now regularly produces good harvests that she and her husband shares to their families, their friends, and neighbours who are but often delighted to receive such delicious items free from the couple.

In our recent conversation, I asked Carol – “Is your being an urban gardener giving you satisfaction?” She replied unequivocally, “Yes!”  “You see,” she added “from the first excitement in harvesting my first carrots, my first giant squash, my giant bananas, and other harvested produce was incomparable and cannot be match to whatever achievements I had when I was once working in a corporate world in the city. No match at all.” She beamed proudly.

“How comparable is it then, vis-a-vis now, that you’re pretty much a regular
urban gardener, toiling and tending to your garden daily exposed to the elements?” I asked her. “Totally different now from way back then” she responded, “I was merely working back then to survive by doing routine day office job day in day out.” “Paradoxically, our simpler less-complicated life as an urban gardener or farmer as you may call it as such, gives as much sense of accomplishment today. Now we live to exist and not just to survive. So different life and more appreciative of what nature gives us back as we pay our respect to it.” She quipped.

Exponentially her harvests grew more beyond to what her family and friends can consume, enabling her to share her produce to her village neighbours albeit without asking them even for a single centavo as fee. Ironically, through her good deeds, she gets paid still by her neighbours
without any demand from her and tells her, “just think of it as our little contributions to your efforts to our community and as a joyful reward from the efforts you’ve made.” Sheepishly, she gives in. “Your efforts to our community is God’s gift and we thank you for sharing it with us” as one Spaniard neighbour expressed to her. Every so often, her growing circles of friends from the urban farming or gardening community (and they are growing steadfastly fast) ask Carol on emergency situations, “Carol, we need your help! We’ll buy whatever harvestable items – be it romaine lettuce, carrots, honey, basil, other herbs you got – for our upcoming
vegetarian (or organic) trade show as we want your items. We’ll pay you any amount.” which they actually did. Getting paid or sharing for free their produce and harvest as what they both said, “We cannot eat all of them by ourselves and instead of rotting we rather give it out and share.” “Sharing beyond what you can take is just plainly the right thing to do, as a human being, as a person responsible to his or her fellow being.” Well said. You cannot get anymore satisfaction or accomplishment from such life experience!

On the recent issues with regards to the country’s vegetable problems that mismatched to what is needed by the people, I asked “In your own little way, how would
you help suggest to address such concern with regards to produce getting spoiled and left rotting and just merely left to be discarded?”

Carol simply replied, “As an intrepid urban gardener or as a city-farming advocate, I would suggest doing a multi-cropping approach like what I have been doing for a couple of years now. And that we’re all responsible to making sure that we instead start our own little vegetable garden at home. Nothing fancy nor big, even to just having to grow them in small pots (even old recycled plastic bottles and containers would do), just placing them in a small place... and be responsible about it.” “You see” she added, “the vegetables you produce by your own efforts in your garden taste deliciously different compare to those bland ones sold in the supermarket or groceries, because you know for a fact that you will not introduce fertilizers that will eventually be harmful for your plant, the environment, and eventually to yourself.”  A simple yet logical advice from an experienced urban farming advocate indeed. You are responsible to yourself, your family, your friends, and much more to your community.
She later then shared a story about this celery they both from a supposed “reputable
and reliable” exclusive supermarket or grocery. That celery was so innocently freshly-looking and one fine dandy attractive to feast on. Unfortunately, something came up and they have to be away from home and travel to the countryside to work on their bee farming production for three months. All that time it was left inside their refrigerator at home.

Arriving three months afterwards, she checked her refrigerator to clean it, she was morbidly horrified to see the celery looking as fresh as they first both it – three months ago! Likened to a scene from an old Hitchcock horror movie, she hurriedly got rid of it and cleaned her refrigerator pronto. “Imagine, had we not left the house and consumed that item, we would have ingested unwittingly whatever
chemicals that vegetable was soaked with and created a horrifying damage to both our health and to that of our family?” as what Carol confessed. “God is definitely good to us and save us from such trouble.” She continued.

“So what’s next for you?” I asked Carol.

“From here on, I look forward more to showcase my urban garden or my small vegetable farm lot within the city, in this case, inside Sun Valley Subdivision here in Parañaque City, as a future alternative venue for possible location for environmentally-sounding event like a garden painting seminar event, or a pottery-making event, or a small circle of friends gathering place where friends can enjoy a simple atmosphere of fresh clean air while enjoying your events, as you get to feast off the produce freshly picked from the grounds, cleaned and ready to eat.” “I know it’s still a long way to achieve that but the plan is heading towards that now” she added, “and through this way we can help campaign our advocacy of
sharing our years of experiences to those who truly would want to do urban farming”. She told me proudly. “All they have to do is call me so we can set things in order the day they’ll need my garden.” Sounding excited to the prospect of sharing to others her garden as a simple place for events.

It was such a simple yet fulfilling time spent with this couple – Carol & Iñaki Goitia – sharing their life experiences in urban farming (or gardening to some), learning new trivial things on how to plant, how to make this and that, but most important of all was the value of sharing to what is beyond you can consume and offer to share to families, friends, neighbours without unequivocal expectation of rewards. That simple way of sharing, surprisingly gets good effects towards those who have encountered them, and surprisingly earned rewards far more than what they’ve expected, much more anticipated. It was such a humbling experience for me interviewing them. Like the plants in their garden, the plants bloomed bountiful, the couple bloomed popularly and well-loved by the community!

For not only that be considered a Constant Urban Gardener for me but more so as
a consummate God-loving, neighbour-friendly and compassionately environment-advocate unassuming couple I was most fortunate to have met this one fine afternoon this month of February. Such an apt time to have a wonderful encounter, coincidentally, as it fell just right in time in the middle of that season of love.

Well, until my next travel adventure and new story to come along, I wait. For now, as I feast on a freshly-picked salad seated in an open-air garden enjoying such a wonderful company with this couple, on life’s simple miracle, indeed... Life is Good!        

Monday, January 14, 2019

Creatively Bohemian
Article and photos by Jun Reynales.

The idea of using a co-working space or hub seems to be the hype these days, mostly to the new generation of young spirited individuals fresh with new ideas, sans the financial resources from their lucky and fluidly-rich descendants and relatives of tycoons; sprouted like wild mushrooms in the concrete jungles of the financial districts of Ayala, BGC Taguig, and Ortigas CBD. These young hot-rod creative minds are equipped with awesome world-class ideas and high-calibre design skills to boot. Mostly fresh out from college, they are determined to show that they mean business. With that, opportunities offered by such wild mushrooms (co-working spaces or hubs) in these concrete jungles are welcome news to these start-up business-minded young mavericks. After all, having a business address that run smack in the middle of those high-class business address would definitely add up to the image (albeit with a heavy effect on their pockets) of these young start-up business protégés.

Imagine to my surprise after receiving an emailed invitation from Gizelle Miranda-Hidalgo to visit their newest co-working hub called Space 1851 located, of all places, in Malate Manila area for a day, for FREE. I was surprised to discover of a co-
working hub not in the conventional business district we are accustomed of (and right in the middle to some of the known academic institutions like my alma mater DLSU, St. Scholastica’s College, St. Paul’s University, UP Manila, PWU, Adamson University, PNU, and others). An overly-intriguing arrangement to have a co-working hub that’s situated in a student-populated area have incited my curiosity, and decided to confirm a visit. Emailed back to schedule a visit: January 8, 2019 will be the date the journey begins. Happily, it gave me an excuse to travel back to my old college route from home in Bicutan, Taguig City, all the way to Malate, Manila City, using the old, rickety, but reliable transportation mode – using the trains from Philippine National Railways. I reckon that it is still the best way to travel rather than to stressfully subject myself traversing all the way through the clogged arteries of the streets by means of jeeps, bus or even cars. I admit I am excited with this cavernous adventure as it brings back the joy of how it was during my college days, passing throughout the old classic beauty of Malate Manila, spending days and nights – from learning hours to nightlife fetes – that once romantic lifestyle I once had (Oh how it was to be young once... and crazy! Ha-ha!)  

Arrived my destination in Vito Cruz PNR Station in just 45 minutes (yes, that’s how fast it is to ride the train!), took short jeep rides to my destination in Remedios Street,
and less than a 100 meters walk crossing Taft Avenue, I have arrived Space 1851. Lo and behold... the whole building is clean, crisp, and totally brand new!

I was ushered inside by a very courteous security guard of the establishment who seems so eager to welcome me as one of his “buena mano” visitor with such a smiling glow in his face. Smiled back to such warmth courtesy accorded to me (seldom you see such actions really from them). Once inside I was welcomed by their equally-gracious receptionist named Kim and asked and offered me a hot cup of coffee. I told her sheepishly “as long as it’s not instant coffee” and she acknowledged smilingly back, “we
serve only hot brewed coffee, Sir”. Acknowledged her invitation for that brewed coffee I proceeded to sit myself in a comfy spot in this new and swanky co-working hub, as I eagerly wait for the Space 1851 Community Manager’s Gizelle Miranda-Hidalgo to arrive and answer my curious questions about this beautiful place. Training my sight and observation around the place, I am beginning to realize that this is indeed a cool place to meet, plan things, create things, and plainly be with company of good friends, classmates, and the likes, it is incomparably far better comfortable than those uptight co-working places I have visited and experienced in BGC and Ayala. I think I prefer more this place now.

Short minutes thereafter Gizelle arrived, we exchanged short pleasantries and
greetings; her warm gentle sophistication matched the ambiance of the warmth of the place. She told me early, “Sir Jun, I apologize as I’m not in my top form today because I’m a bit under the weather.”  I told her not to worry as we’ll just take things easy and I’d like to enjoy the place and have the whole day just for this schedule. I also learned later on, she shared that she too was from St. Paul’s, the same school system I once taught photography and photojournalism to bright and beautiful minds of Grades 9 & 10 students. What are the chances for that to happen huh? We both smiled at that fact and made our conversation more comfortable with ease as we have common grounds to start with.

She confessed too that she got hold of my email address (eventually made her decided to contact me) through the list of their other company – Henry’s Photography Shop (where I got my Nikon DLSR & rig a few years back and as its loyal customer), and that she was curious how my photography is different from the rest in the industry, thus made her invite me check out their new co-working community. Okay, one curious question from me now answered. I told her that I got some questions to her about their new place called Space 1851 Co-Working Hub and want to learn more as to share it to my friends and followers. I promised her that it will just be a few set of questions, that’s not going to be toxic on her that day, as not to aggravate her bad throat condition. She graciously agreed. Here is that short interview made:

I asked “Why in Manila, specifically here in Remedios area in Malate?”

Gizelle Miranda-Hidalgo replied, “We wanted to have a community here (in Malate) that would cater primarily to discerning students in the area and in the university belt. And
also, we wanted to revive the old soul and charm of Malate area, as we believe that it is the best place to imbibe the culture and arts’ consciousness, together with college students from the nearby colleges and universities, young local and foreign travellers, young professionals with their upstart businesses.” She added, “Space 1851 is in the area that is rich with historical culture and the arts, and by that, we wanted to grow young and creative people be honed in a teeming with such culturally-rich neighbourhood, consciously be part of their creative processes while collaborating in this community, with a environment feeling that – we bring them back at home”.

I asked “What is the Space 1851’s advantages compare to other co-working places like to those located in BGC Taguig, Ayala CBD, Ortigas CBD, and others?” 

Gizelle Miranda-Hidalgo replied, “My personal experience then working in Ayala
and BGC Taguig CBDs as a young professional, to say that our advantage here in Space 1851, the atmosphere in our co-working hub environment is not too corporate-y or posh-like. We believe that immersed in a community that is rich in history and culture like here in Remedios area in Malate, will not stunt one’s creative growth, on the contrary will spark progress and, working and collaborating in our community with such young creative minds, cohesively inspires. Here you will encounter students, freelancers – all focused in achieving fantastic ideas, eventually came upon to collaborate and work with each other and produced great results.” “In addition to that” she adds, “collaborating and connecting ideas grows and ignites inspiration and fire up creative brilliance. And collectively once achieve, we have also achieved the intention of creating the soul of Space1851... that is distinctly from our community here in Remedios Malate in Manila.”

I asked, ”What current promotions and exciting things that interested students and individuals can look forward when visiting and joining the Space 1851 Co-Working Hub community now, and soon?”

Gizelle Miranda-Hidalgo replied, “Students, young professionals, and creative business individuals can visit our community for only P300 per visit as a day pass as our introductory rate. It’s very affordable. Inclusive to that is the use of our high-speed Wi-Fi connection and unlimited coffee and bottled water. We also have the Daily Space Card promo that they can avail. It is a 10-visit pass that cost less than P1,000 only. What’s nice with that card is it is designed with no expiration so one is not forced to finish it in a month or so, you use it when you need it. So I am inviting all creative-minded and business-loving students, young professionals, young local and foreign travelling individuals (from other parts of the country and other nations) to visit and join our community, and let’s bring out that creative fire in all of us!”

She shared also that, “We are also making this co-working community different as in the coming days from now we are finishing our own coffee shop (to be located on the
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ground floor) to serve everyone our kind of coffees and delicious snacks and pastries. And to those who would need a living accommodation to be able concentrate finishing their paper works, reviews, thesis, projects and research works, or just plainly want to spend more time to create new businesses and projects, we are coming up with an AirBnB accommodations (will be on the third floor area) designed just for that. All these will be opened in a few weeks from now on. Watch out for it.” She excitedly showed me around the co-working hub spots, the free high-speed Wi-Fi, the fresh brewed coffee and water, and also on the upcoming coffee shop and accommodation rooms in the building. She did introduce me too to sibling-owners Nathalie and Diana Ong who were as excitedly-busy in finishing up the whole place. Both excitedly told me that this community will indeed by a cool place to work and be creative!

            Learning all their ideas and plans got me excited, to see this place teeming with
wonderfully-minded students and young professionals, eagerly anxious to create and finish beautiful projects and start-up businesses.  Imagine the idea of having a place young minds meet and collaborate while in a conducive environment rich with chic cultural and historical past like that in Malate. For these young minds must learn and realized that before there was Ayala and BGC there was that nostalgic Remedios and the rest of Malate area, as it was once the playgrounds and learning centre (as it is still now) of our fore parents. And that the endeavour initiated by this company is far from brilliant but amazing!  Now I finally understood that to be creatively bohemian – as a new idea in co-working environment – is a good way to create a conscientious passionate soul fired-up doing a good acumen in making a responsible business.

            This is going to be an unfinished interest for me. I look forward going back, meeting some of these young minds, and who knows maybe my former students from my teaching days at St. Paul College, be able to collaborate, create new opportunities, or create and design workshops and lectures – that will sure instigate and incite more the creative fire inside them still. Serendipity would sway my side if it is destined to collaborate and network with this wonderful co-working hub soon....

            And perhaps a little nightcap visit what was once my local habitué place around Remedios Circle to have a good drinks and cocktails... perhaps with a little bit of mambo here and there. After all, that’s how the soul of Malate marked in my glorious days in that
no so-distant past... immersed in identity also as one Creatively Bohemian guy.

            Until my next adventure and its story... Life is Good!