Sunday, December 25, 2016

Il Padrino - Coffee Godfather in the Highlands

“Many young men started down a false path to their true destiny. Time and fortune usually set them aright,” Said Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather

“Il Padrino” may sound Italian, derived from the fictional Mafia family living in New York in the 1930s to 1960s, but it is actually owned by a man born in the mountainous region of the Philippines, the Cordilleras. Ervine Pangwi just inaugurated his 7th branch on December 10, 2016 that serves Arabica coffee from his hometown Sagada, one of the major tourist destinations in the Philippines.

Facebook profile photo of Ervine Pangwi 
His venture into this business was triggered by his stubborn belief that a simple “no” is not the end of it. Wanting to have a cafe near his office where he can take his clients and business partners for coffee or snacks, Pangwi offered part of his building to two big coffee franchises but they both turned him down for the reason that the area doesn’t have enough foot traffic.

The persistent businessman wouldn’t take no for an answer, so he started his own cafe. A fan of The Godfather movie authored by Mario Puzo, he called his establishment Il Padrino, Italian title for the novel. Not only was he a fan of the successful movie franchise, he sees himself in the narrative of The Godfather.

He was born in Sagada, about 10 hours drive from the Capital City of Manila. A son of an Anglican Priest, he was raised in a mining town in the province of Benguet.

As a young man, he lived a gambler’s life. During his college days in Manila, he is frequently seen in cockpit arenas. His “survival business” as he calls it, was to sell flowers and strawberries coming from Benguet. Ervine Pangwi would spend eight years to finish his course as a veterinarian when he could have finished it in six.

But like the saying above, “time and fortune set him aright.” Another famous quote in the novel said, “Italians have a little joke, that the world is so hard a man must have two fathers to look after him, and that’s why they have godfathers.” This saying was proven true to Ervine.

At 22, he was married to a beautiful college schoolmate. He had his first child when he was 23 and still in bouts with his cock-fighting derby addiction. His Godfather offered him a business that was connected to his “hobby”.

The poultry supply company is going downhill due to lack of manpower to manage the business. His godfather offered him to take over the business and a loan for additional capital. Pangwi initially refused for the reason that he doesn’t know anything about the industry and may not be able to pay him back.  His Godfather “gave him an offer he cannot refuse,” which is to pay when able. A very generous offer he couldn’t have received from anyone else.

The street-wise young man learned everything about the business and ceased his addiction to derby and thereby resulted to another related business, the Santino Metal Industries. Named after his son derived from Don Vitto Corleone’s son in God Father, Santino manufactures metal cages for Cock Derby, now exported to countries as far away as Guam, Hawaii, and Australia. Santino eventually expanded to manufacture many more metal products and is now a major supplier to several big companies.

With his growing business, he was able to build a building at Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. By this time, his worldwide suppliers frequently visit his office; Pangwi’s creation of “Il Padrino Cafe” was proven a success. Not only was he able to serve his clients conveniently but the area with little foot traffic is actually the only cafe in the vicinity, thus people from other buildings have only one choice.

Eventually, the cafe expanded to five more branches. As a new player in the industry, he would meet a lot of challenges in getting better locations in malls. Eventually, he expanded to several big Malls: the Fairview Terraces, Robinson’s Star Mills, Robinson’s Galleria, SM Pampanga and SM Clark.
On his seventh branch, Pangwi not only wants a superior location but he wanted to bring it closer to home. He had long been searching for a good place in the Summer Capital of the Philippines located in the Province of Benguet where he grew up.

When a friend told him of a vacated place in the central business district in Baguio City, he readily applied. It would take few more months before his application was approved. Eventually, it was accepted and the seventh branch sits on the best location in the City, at the main thoroughfare with lots of foot traffic.

The seventh branch is also the most special as it is now co-managed by his children. He can now manage the business and gets to spend a lot of time with his family. “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man,” said The Godfather.

His daughters introduced several products that cater to the growing number of millennial clients, 3rd wave coffee concoctions. Il Padrino’s clienteles are expanding proving it can compete with the internationally-known coffee franchises.

3rd wave coffee concoctions.
Pangwi said the seventh branch is by far the most successful, “not only because it was closer to home but we feel very welcomed by Baguio patrons.”

Mario Puzo said “Great men are not born great, they grow great,” so is this street-wise businessman from the Mountains who have conquered the Metal Industry World Market and has now come to bring his coffee business home. When you visit Baguio, make sure to visit this newest cafe franchise.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Baguio Artists create street art gallery

Next time you drop by Baguio, don't forget to visit the newest art haven, the Pasa-Kalye creative hub.  

Baguio creative people led by veteran artist Roland Bay-an want to promote this area not only to showcase their work but to bring art closer to the masses and to establish it as a new travel destination in the City.

This activity jump-started when Bookends Bookshop's owner reserved part of her shop for an art gallery. Artists whose artworks were displayed in the gallery started sketching activities for the purpose of helping people in need. This sketch-for-a-cause soon gave birth to more ideas and activities.
Bookends proprietress Maricar Docyogen said, “Pasa-Kalye was conceptualised by artists, an entrepreneur and several media personalities with the Tagalog connotation or meaning in mind.”
“It is the “pasakalye” or introduction of a new concept to make an idle street busy with art, or an introduction to new artists who have potential in the industry. Divide the word into two giving a different meaning: the prefix ‘pasa’ that can also mean ‘into’  thus ‘pasa-kalye’ would mean ‘into the street,' she said.
Into the streets with arts, and like the pasakalye in music, this is a harmonious beginning among artists. Roland Bay-an said it is a good beginning. He believes this activity will continue to grow.
All current activities are being done for a cause. Art auctions, art exhibits, sketching, and workshops have designated beneficiaries. Several sick patients have already received assistance.
One Pasa-Kalye event benefited a limbless artist. In spite of the absence of forearms and legs, he can create artworks using both his elbows to hold the paintbrush. However, due to budget constraints as art materials are not the priority in the family, he only has limited artworks. Through the Pasa-Kalye event sponsored by Davies Paints and other generous donors, he now has supplies of paints, canvas, and paintbrushes. The Pasa-Kalye Group of Artists included his artworks in exhibits.
Although many of the beginning artists are yet to find recognition for their work, they are willing to share their time and talents to help people in need. “This activity is most beneficial for the artists,” said Docyogen. “If we can help the artists, they can have the capability to help others.”
“We are creating this event to help the artists and help people in need at the same time," she said. Pasa-Kalye has a regular weekend activity. “We invite tourists coming to Baguio to consider a sketch by Baguio artists as one of the best souvenirs to bring home,” said Docyogen.
Baguio city is a known haven for artists and many international artists have made this known Summer Capital their home. Many of the local artists have established Art institutions. Tam-awan Village, BenCab Museum, and Vocas are among the most successful to date. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

STOBOSA Hillside Homes Artwork Unveiled

It takes a village to create flowers.

Residential buildings in Sitio Stone Hill, Botiwtiw and Sadjap of Barangay Balili are transformed into a huge canvas to create a Favela-inspired mural masterpiece.

The place now calledSTOBOSA Hillside Homes Artwork was the largest community artwork in the country and the first in the Philippines. STOBOSA stands for the three sitios.
The project to paint 200 houses in an area of 18,000 square meters is a component of the Department of Tourism – Cordillera Administrative Region’s Rev-Bloom Urban Redevelopment Tourism project initiated by Director Marie Venus Tan.

It was made possible through a partnership with La Trinidad-LGU, Davies Paints, the Tam-awan Village Artists, and the Km.3, Balili Community. The mural was unveiled today, June 23, graced by Department of Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr.

The design concept was created by Tam-awan artists Jordan Mangusan, GedAlangui, Clinton Anniversario and Jenny Lorenzo. The concept was inspired by the Favela murals initiated by artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahnin Rio de Janiero, Brazil where they transformed urban residences into a huge canvas of abstract paintings.
Davies Paints donated a total of 2800 gallons of primer and colored paints while La Trinidad LGU provided the scaffolding, brushes, rollers, paint thinners and other materials.

Johnlee Garcia, president of Davies paint, said that the company is grateful to be chosen as the partner in implementing the project.

“Davies has always been passionate about finding ways to help improve communities in whatever way we can and this project is a great opportunity to create a big impact in the area,” he said. “We’re proud to be a major part of this project and we plan to continue these efforts in the future.”
Ms. Gloria Agasen who presides for the women’s group the place was in charge with the actual implementation of the painting project whileCara Cosalan, wife of the incumbent Congressman of Benguet, provided the meals for volunteers.
Work for the project was started on January 18 with volunteers coming from different organizations and institutions. During the 80-day implementation, there are about 520 persons who worked coming from the residents, Boy Scout of the Phils. - Benguet Chapter, Benguet State University, King’s College, Baguio-Benguet photographers, Hikers,and Artists Club, Botiwtiw Women's Brigade and Organization and PNP-CAR Police Trainees.

DOT-CAR Director Tan said the project has encountered challenges like the skepticism of people.With the help of Tamawan Village artists in designing the murals, the projects was initiated. She said she gave full reign to the artist to do what they want with it.
Ms. Gloria Agasen also encountered challenges during the project’s implementation. She said the biggest challenge was a resident who changed his mind in the middle of the project even after acquiring several gallons of paint primers. His big house is the only one with a contradicting painting.

After 80 days, the actual number of houses painted is 180 with 1,000 gallons of primer paints used and 500 gallons of colored paints. There are still 1,300 unused paints for the continuation of the project.
Director Tan said work will continue after the unveiling. “More than the mural, more than the beautification, you will see the community has bonded together to spruce up their areas,” she said.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Mt. Pulag - Grassland of the gods

Mt. Pulag is the third highest mountain in the Philippines with an elevation of 2,926.047 meters above sea level. It is the highest mountain in Luzon and the landscape of the surrounding provinces can be seen from the summit during the day. Lights in distant communities are visible at night. 

Its unique beauty with many characteristics that change as you reach higher elevation - from pine forest to mossy jungle, and finally the vast grasslands - has the locals calling it the "playground of the gods".

There are several routes to get there, from easy to hard trails. The easy route is via Ambangeg with class 1-2 trail and difficulty or 3/9, takes only 3 to 4 hours walk from the ranger station in Babadac to the camp site (4.9 kilometers). Then another hour hike along the grasslands to the summit (2.9 kilometers). The best time to be at the summit is at dawn when the valleys and smaller mountains around Pulag are covered with a sea of clouds, giving you the impression that you're on top of the world. This is the reason why Pulag is being promoted as "adventure above the clouds" by many travel outfits.

Ambangeg is the trail to take if you want to spend more time at the summit with lesser hours of hiking. The most difficult route is Akiki, with class 3 trail and difficulty of 7/9. Tawangan trail comes in second hardest, with class 3 trail and difficulty of 6/9.

Mount Pulag is not the highest but definitely one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the Philippines. A “must visit” on the list of many adventurers, and they were rarely disappointed.

What month is the best time to go there? Every month has its own traits to present to adventurers. As long as there is no typhoon, Pulag is always a great destination. However, during the rainy season, one must be more prepared with rain gears at it usually rains in the afternoon. Good sunrises sometimes are more elusive but some of the best can be seen during these seasons.

This writer has been going up with adventurers to Pulag 13 times (as of this writing) but never tire out in documenting the constantly changing charms of this grassland of the gods. Nothing is constant and what you will witness on your visit will never happen again. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

4,000 IPs join 7th Ibaloi Day

A total of 4000 Ibaloy representatives from the 13 municipalities of Benguet and Onjon ni Ibadoy Hong Kong attended the festivities.

The theme of the 7th Ibaloy Day “Diteng tan Ulnos” or Peace and Order, was aimed to unite all the Ibaloy clans. The solibaos, kalsas or gongs and the tiktik were brought out and played to hark all Ibalois to gather, pray and dance in solidarity. February 23 was a historic day not only for the Ibaloys but for Indigenous Peoples around the World.

Before the Americans and Spaniards came, the city was already discovered and settled in by the Ibalois. Baguio was originally ranchlands owned by the a great number of Ibaloi clans including the Cariños, Carantes, Molintas, Suellos, Tagleys, Pirasos, Pucays and their extended family systems.

Many of these native Ibaloi clans were stripped of their ancestral lands through American colonial legislation, such as the Philippine Bill of 1902, the Land Registration Act of 1903, Baguio Town Site Reservation in 1907, and the Baguio City Charter itself in 1909.

Fortunately, Mateo Cariño decided to bring his claim to court, concentrating on the pasturelands, then called Ypit and Lubas, which were earlier converted by the US colonial government into the facility now known as Camp John Hay.

In his explanation how the Ibaloy Day came to be, Councilor Poppo Cosalan said that Cariño lost the case in the Philippine court. He appealed to the US Supreme court.

“On February 23, 1909, the US Supreme Court affirmed that Mateo Cariño was indeed the owner of Ypit and Lubas, by virtue of the legal concept of "Native Title," said Cosalan. 

Mateo Cariño, however, did not live to claim his victory, having died on June 6, 1908, a year before the final decision of the US Supreme Court. However, he left behind the legacy of the decision on Native Title which has now become part of the laws of the land and even used as legal document in international laws.

Cosalan said “it was during the Baguio Centennial Conference held last March 2009 at the University of the Philippines in Baguio that a resolution was passed that a commemoration of sorts must be done for the Ibalois on the 100th year of the city.” 

“With this prodding, the Baguio City Council decided to declare February 23 as the Ibaloi Day’, said Cosalan.
Members of the Ibaloi clans welcomed the declaration and for the 7th time since the resolution was approved in 2009, the Ibalois heed the call “Calajo” which actually means “Come over” and gathered for one festive day for a solidarity celebration. 

They brought out their tapey (rice wine), dukto (sweet potato) and caught and butchered black pigs and danced the tayaw.

NOTE: To witness the next indigenous cultural activity in the City or in the Cordillera, contact this writer.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Sta. Fe Ridge - A walk in the clouds

Benguet is fast becoming the hiking capital of the Philippines and another trekking destination is officially added to its attractions.

Just a 35-minute drive and a 2-hour hike from the City of Baguio await this awe-inspiring grassland ready for great adventures. Now being promoted as Mt. Ulap, the Sta. Fe Ridge in Ampucao, Itogon has been a favorite hiking destination to those who know the place. The municipality of Itogon and Barangay Ampucao officially launched Mt. Ulap adventure last Saturday, October 31.

Reaching Mt. Ulap will take you about 2 to 3 hours trek entering at the Tutumbek woodlands and pass through the vast grasslands of the entire Ridge.

Like the more popular Mt. Pulag, in Kabayan, the Sta. Fe Ridge features various characteristics; it has 3 peaks that exhibit diverse landscapes and distinctive rock formations that are great photography subjects. The whole mountain showcases a post-card-perfect scenery.

All of the three peaks offer 360-degree vantage points that show the surrounding landscapes of Pangasinan, Philex Mines, San Roque Dam, Mount Santo Tomas, Baguio City and as far as Mt. Pulag. The nearest is the Ambanao-Paoay twin peaks. Another 20 to 30-minute hike, you will reach Gungal featuring several rock formations that are a favorite outdoor studio of hikers. Another 30 minutes, you get to the highest peak, Mt. Ulap.

Several dead trees still standing in the fields added beauty and contrast to the green sceneries. With the freely growing grasses on the vast expanse of the ridge, it is serving as a pastureland for the locals so cows are commonly seen around the grasslands, especially in Paoay where they have a watering hole.

The name Mt. Ulap was derived from the original foundation stone found on the highest peak. The foundation stone was dated February 1, 1939 and inscribed with the word Ulap and a name Lagman. According to Barangay Secretary Maia Nalibsan, “it is believed that Lagman was an engineer assigned to survey the area.”

No other explanation why Ulap was inscribed in the foundation stone but it is a fitting name according to Nalibsan since the ridge is frequently covered with clouds. Ulap is the Filipino word for cloud. It could be therefore translated into Mt. Cloud. (There's another Mt. Cloud in Baguio, which is another perfect travel destination for book lovers.) 

It maybe is a good day-hike destination but this is not an easy trail particularly the route coming up from Sta. Fe. It is comparable to Akiki trail in Mt. Pulag that is not easy to traverse going down. Several hikers had to be rescued during the launching trek due to the extreme condition of the slippery trail. It is slippery due to loose gravels and pine needles. Many of the hikers recommend this to be the starting point and exit through Ampucao-Tutumbek trail. It maybe is a steep climb but a short one. It will take an average hiker an hour to get to Mt. Ulap. 

Recently implemented by the Barangay is a registration fee of P100.00 per person. Students aged 13 to 17 will only pay P20.00 and 12 years old and below are free of charge. Hikers are required to register at the Ampucao Barangay Hall for instructions and request for a guide. Guide’s fee is P400.00 for a maximum of ten persons. 

Barangay Ampucao has established its own search and rescue team to cater to trekkers in emergencies cases.