Philippines

Galing Pook Foundation Recognizes Outstanding Local Government Programs for 2022

Ten outstanding local governance programs were recognized in the 2022 Galing Pook Awards held at the Ceremonial Hall of Malacanang Palace last Tuesday, November 22, 2022.

Galing Pook Foundation with its co-presenters SM Prime Holdings Inc., and the DILG-Local Government Academy, and sponsors Cebu Pacific and Airspeed named local government units from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao that promote innovation and excellence.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. commended the Galing Pook Foundation for recognizing and incentivizing top performing LGUs. He stressed how strong collaboration between the public and private sector can lead to more meaningful and successful programs that truly benefit the Filipino people.

“The recognition that you give to cities and municipalities inspires them to accelerate their drive towards improvement and it encourages LGUs to adopt practices that make us paragons of excellence in public service. It is necessary for us to underscore the importance of strengthening partnerships between the government and private organizations, such as the Galing Pook Foundation, especially as we bring about meaningful progress in the country.”

Galing Pook Chairperson Mel Sarmiento expressed his gratitude to all the local executives and LGU teams that participated this year: “It’s truly inspiring to see the impact of the work that you do, and I’m sure you’ve brought value to many Filipinos all over the country. Our collaborations bring us closer to realizing our shared vision, na ang bawat pamilyang Pilipino, may simple pero kumportableng buhay.”

The winners of the 2022 Galing Pook Awards were: The Green Wall of Alcala (Alcala, Cagayan);
Advancing and Sustaining Good Governance and Community Actions towards Resiliency and Empowerment (Basilan Province); Bataan Public-Private Partnership Programs (Bataan Province);
Balik-Biñan Project: Tourism Development through Heritage Conservation (Biñan City, Laguna); From Black to Green: Fishponds, Eco-Tourism and Full Employment (Brgy. Cayabu, Tanay, Rizal);
Trekking to Unlock Community Ailments and Difficulties (TUCAD) (Goa, Camarines Sur); “I-BIKE” A Program Promoting the Development of the Iloilo City Bike Culture (Iloilo City); Yaru: A Whole-of-Community Approach Towards Disaster Management (Itbayat, Batanes); Libertad Fish Forever Savings Club (Libertad, Antique); and
Basta Piddigueño, AgriHenyo: Consolidated Farm Production System (Piddig, Ilocos Norte).

The 10 winners were chosen from 18 finalists and a record field of 196 applications from different LGUs in the country.

Launched on October 21, 1993, the Galing Pook Awards has recognized 329 LGU programs from 200 LGUs in the country that have been promoted for replication to benefit more communities.

Caption: President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. recognizes the 10 winners of the Galing Pook Foundation 2022 at the Ceremonial Hall of Malacanang Palace. He commended the Galing Pook Foundation for recognizing and incentivizing top performing LGUs. With them in the photo are: Galing Pook Foundation chairman Mel Sarmiento, Local Government secretary Benjamin Abalos, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

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Pasay City

SM Prime Holdings hold 2022 International Coastal Cleanup together with SM Cares, SM By the Bay

SM Prime Holdings, together with SM Cares and SM By the Bay once again took part in the annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), bringing together thousands of volunteers into an event that underscored the importance of protecting the world’s seas, oceans, and other bodies of water. The event was held last September 17 at the SM By the Bay Central Park, SM Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City.


A total of 2,438 volunteers joined this year’s ICC, composed of students, professionals, and others from different private and public organizations. At the end of the activity, an estimated 12,158 kgs of trash, equivalent to a total of 1,613 trash bags filled, was successfully collected.

Among those who graced the event were Climate Change Commission Vice Chairperson Sec. Robert Borje, Department of Environment and Natural Resources – National Capital Region (DENR-NCR) Regional Executive Director Jacqueline A. Caancan, DENR-NCR Regional Executive Director for Technical Services Engr. Ignacio R. Almira, DENR-NCR Regional Strategic Communication and Initiatives Group Head Chris Villarin, DENR-NCR Communication Development Officer II Ariz Abad, SM Investments President and CEO and 2GO Group President and CEO Frederic DyBuncio, SM Prime Holdings Inc. SVP Glenn Ang, SM Supermalls SAVP for Operations Perkin So, SM By the BAY Mall Manager Marie Charlene Claire K. Canoy-Narvasa and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Philippines’ Markets and Assurance Executive Director Allan Cao.

SM By The Bay and SM Cares’ ICC event for this year was done in collaboration with different private and government agencies


The ICC is a yearly global event that encourages individuals to be part of the movement for cleaner seas and oceans. Every year, thousands of Filipino volunteers from various sectors and communities join the efforts to help ensure the cleanliness of the shorelines and waterways in the country.


“The International Coastal Clean Up is part of the overall SM Green Movement. As a proven responsible property developer and community partner, SM Prime’s various Sustainability programs across its malls, residences, hotels and leisure properties promote resource conservation & environmental protection for an improved quality of life in the communities it serves,” said SM Supermalls SAVP for Operations Perkin So.


This year’s event was made possible by SM Offices, 2GO, PwC, Maynilad, and International Coastal Clean Up Philippines. DENR-NCR, the Climate Change Commission, and the Philippine Coast Guard were also present to provide their support.

Aside from the annual observance of ICC, other sustainability projects of SM Cares include the Trash-To-Cash Recycling Market where individuals can drop off their recyclable waste in exchange for cash; the Plastic Waste and Electronic Waste Collection Programs which promotes responsible plastic and electronic waste management affecting our seas, just to name a few.


SM Cares is the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Prime Holdings, responsible for initiatives that promote sustainability and the development of the community. SM Cares’ advocacies include programs on Women and Breastfeeding Mothers, Persons with Disabilities, Senior Citizens, and Children and Youth, as well as the Bike-Friendly SM initiative, in addition to its Programs on Environment.


To learn more about these, visit http://www.smsupermalls.com/smcares.

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Advocacy, Batangas

Hamilo Coast & WWF: partners in eco-tourism and sustainability

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​Hamilo Coast
, the premier beach resort town in Nasugbu, Batangas, may be the weekend haven of the country’s affluent set, yet it is on track as a thriving model of sustainable eco-tourism practices. 

Touting 5,800 hectares of prime seaside development, Hamilo Coast is a project of SM Prime’s Costa Del Hamilo, Inc. (CDHI), which carefully integrates residential, resort, leisure, commercial, and institutional land uses in the sprawling estate. But beyond its vast scope and stunning vistas, Hamilo Coast embraces sustainable tourism at the core of its philosophy and shows how beautiful beachfront homes can harmonize with nature and the environment.

2022 marks Hamilo Coast’s 15th year of productive partnership with the conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF). Hamilo Coast and WWF have been working together on key areas for sustainability—coastal resource management, ridge-to-reef management, solid waste management, mangrove reforestation, the use of renewable energy sources, and environmental awareness.

This long-standing collaboration with WWF signifies Hamilo Coast’s determination to pursue eco-tourism and sustainability while upholding international standards for leisure property development. 

Ms. Imee G. Francisco, Vice President and Head of CDHI Projects and Operations, takes pride in the partnership’s objectives. “More than building and maintaining a beautiful community, we seek to create and sustain a world that future generations can enjoy. To help serve this end, CDHI continues to develop Hamilo Coast without compromising the quality of wildlife living around it.” 

This year, Hamilo Coast and WWF will focus on addressing the major components on waste management, which include assessment of solid waste, water and wastewater management practices, formulation of environmental management plan, and the promotion of food shed farming systems. Apart from these, Hamilo Coast and WWF will continuously work on programs that will help conserve, protect, and nurture the environment.

For one, Hamilo Coast and WWF’s Ridge to Reef program declared three of Hamilo Coast’s 13 coves–Pico de Loro, Etayo, and Santelmo–as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). These are coastal zones where human activities are strictly regulated to ensure their long-term conservation. Declaring more MPAs would also mean expanding Hamilo Coast’s scope in safeguarding more marine ecosystem and resources. 

Hamilo Coast also continues to implement a mangrove reforestation program in its 24-hectare mangrove belt—one of the largest in Nasugbu. Here, Hamilo has planted 50,000 propagules hand-in-hand with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines.

Mangroves are the first line of defense for coastal communities, stabilizing shorelines by averting erosion and providing natural barriers to storm surges, flooding, and hurricanes. As an effective carbon storage, mangroves absorb six times more carbon than mature tropical forests, making it all the more vital in slowing down the effects of climate change. 

Finally, Hamilo Coast and WWF will further push for environmental awareness by celebrating occasions that show respect for biodiversity. One is the annually held Earth Hour, during which time people are urged to shut down electricity to make a substantial difference in energy consumption. Individuals, organizations, and establishments also come together on Coral Triangle Day to shed light on ocean conservation and the ways we can protect and preserve the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity. 

Likewise, the development boasts the largest volunteer effort for the ocean’s health, made possible with the International Coastal Cleanup, where people gather on the Pico and Santelmo beaches to collect trash and record information on the collected debris. 

For all these sustained efforts, WWF has awarded Hamilo Coast with the Longest Sustainability Partner Award, recognizing the development’s commitment to sustainable tourism and its positive impact on the Philippine tourism industry.

Francisco affirms, “CDHI is proud of how far we have come at Hamilo Coast with the help of WWF. This inspires us to do even more, in the hopes that our efforts will make it possible for future generations to witness the beauty of nature as we see it today.” 

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Uncategorized

Through the Sinag Schools program, SMFI and Maxeon installed solar panels in Batangas

SM Foundation (SMFI), the corporate social responsibility arm of the SM group, together with Maxeon Solar Technologies, recently powered up the Lemery Pilot Elementary School (LPES) in Batangas through the Sinag Schools program.

This social good collaboration between SMFI and Maxeon aims to provide clean and renewable energy to schools in grassroot communities by installing solar panels on an SM school building, especially to those that have low operating expenses.

In addition to the solar panel installation which intends to power positive change in the way energy is consumed in public schools, the program also aims to enhance the understanding of students in terms of energy management and the need to transition to cleaner energy alternatives with lower environmental impacts.

Through the Sinag Schools program, SMFI and Maxeon installed 21 solar panels— estimated to produce 6510 watt-p—on an SM school building in Batangas.
Through the Sinag Schools program, SMFI and Maxeon installed 21 solar panels— estimated to produce 6510 watt-p—on an SM school building in Batangas.

“Through this program, we want to power up the learning and development of young people. We want to help teach young people about solar energy, about renewable energy. We want to power up the next generation to help save our planet,” Maxeon Fab4 General Manager Glenn Everett said.

The SM school building at the LPES, which was donated by SMFI in partnership with SM Prime Holdings (SMPH) in 2017, now boasts 21 solar panels—estimated to produce 6510 watt-p. With the savings on electricity, the school may realign their budget to more efforts and other innovations that will give the students an environment more conducive to learning.

It takes a village to raise a child
SMFI executive director Debbie Sy underscored the importance of collective efforts in advancing the learning experience of every student in the country: “We believe that collaboration can drive growth and become a force for good in addressing societal challenges. CSR partnerships can create solutions that improve society by fostering learning, promoting innovation and gaining access to new technologies, such as the Sinag schools program. CSR collaboration can pool resources, both financial and human resources – between multiple organizations which can amplify social good impact.”

“The establishment of an ever-evolving CSR strategy and partnerships will help companies and non-government organizations in developing and implementing crucial social good programs over decades while having procedures in place that integrate social and environmental priorities into CSR core strategy – all in close collaboration with stakeholders,” she further added.

Moreover, Everett mentioned how SMFI and Maxeon share the similar set of values and interest when it comes to helping Filipino learners: “We have this concept of powering positive change in the world. We are happy to be working together with SM Foundation to power up the Lemery Pilot Elementary School.”

“Individually, we can do so much. But together we can do actually more. For us to bring our solar technology and SMFI to bring in their schools, these things are much better together than they would be apart,” he concluded.

Spreading social good all the way
SM Foundation made sure to truly touch the lives of the learners and teachers of LPES as it donated eight desktop computers, 200 bags with school supplies, and more than 160 pcs brand new kinder and elementary books to further promote the love for reading among the students. Clothing items for parents were also distributed.

For more information about this initiative, follow SM Foundation on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube: @SMFoundationInc.

Maxeon is headquartered in Singapore. The company designs, manufactures, and sells Maxeon® and SunPower® brand solar panels. Maxeon has sales operations in more than 100 countries, operating under the SunPower brand in certain countries outside the United States. Maxeon is a leader in solar innovation with products that span the global rooftop and solar power plant markets through a network of more than 1,700 trusted partners and distributors. A pioneer in sustainable solar manufacturing, Maxeon leverages a +35-year history in the solar industry and numerous awards for its technology.

SM Foundation, through its School Building Program, is an active partner of DepEd’s Adopt-a-School program. This social good initiative aims to promote quality public education by building classrooms nationwide. To date, it has turned over more than 100 school buildings to grassroots communities.

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Pasay City, Philippines

Mall of Asia (MOA) Complex: A sterling landmark of disaster resilience

We all know that the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) is a popular destination for unforgettable gastronomic and recreational experiences, but did you know that the 67-hectare Mall of Asia Complex where MOA stands is engineered to withstand disasters caused by natural hazards?

The foundation of the Mall of Asia Complex was built to be safe and secure because SM Prime Holdings, Inc., one of Southeast Asia’s largest integrated property developers incorporates disaster resiliency measures in every project, with the MOA Complex as one of its biggest investments.

SM Prime collaborated with a team of local and international experts to ensure the feasibility of both water and land before the MOA complex was built and once finalized, Belgium’s renowned coastal development construction company, Jan de Nul, developed it from the ground up.

The reputable Jan de Nul made sure the terrain was stable and the complex’s roads were made resistant to earthquakes and erosion, in accordance with the National Structural Code of the Philippines and approved by both the Philippine Reclamation Authority and the National Government.

Three important disaster resiliency features were used in protecting the Complex and the coastal community of Pasay from tides and waves: One, a three-kilometer seawall built to stand against liquefaction; two, a meter-high inverted wave return to serve as defense against high waves; and three, a drainage channel to prevent floods during storm surges. This was put to test when Typhoon Pedring hit in 2011, and the Mall of Asia Complex was spared from destructive waves and flooding that submerged many other surrounding establishments.

As an added feature, both the Complex’s main road and all its structures are elevated 4 meters above the parameters set by the National Building Code. Pilings strengthened its foundation and greatly improved its soil bearing capacity.

Family fun, leisure and entertainment are the objectives behind the awe-inspiring grandeur of SM Mall of Asia, but this vision is founded on a commitment to safety and a secure foundation throughout the Complex. This is a firm philosophy of SM Prime Chairman of the Executive Committee Mr. Hans T. Sy, a champion for disaster resilience, who continuously invests in DRR and in allocating 10% of the company’s expenditure for DRR in all of SM’s infrastructures throughout the country.

“Today, disasters have become more frequent and severe. The government and the private sector must work together to find solutions for greater resiliency. SM prime as a responsible property developer places Disaster Risk Reduction as one of its core strategies. It simply makes good business sense.” emphasizes Mr Hans Sy. He believes that not only is DRR an effective way to grow the business but it protects the communities where SM is located amid the increasing risks of climate change.

Today, the MOA Complex is a bustling realization of Mr. Henry Sy Sr.’s grand vision for it to become both a premiere integrated leisure destination with a complimentary business and lifestyle district – one of the country’s truly revolutionary mixed-use developments, and a thriving example of disaster risk reduction at work.

The next time you visit the MOA Complex – whether it is to visit the world’s largest IKEA, or to view the sunset from the top of the MOA Eye, or to simply shop and dine with your loved ones – it will be good to know that SM Prime has ensured your safety and security from the time the development was conceptualized and opened in 2006.. to today and tomorrow.

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Advocacy, Batangas

Hamilo Coast: Nurturing nature for 15 years and beyond

The current rate at which individuals observe sustainability practices is far from halting climate change. Whether it is reducing the use of disposable items or saving more energy, environmentally conscious activities will only yield significant results if everyone is “cast in the same mold,” so to speak. That said, high-impact global sustainable development lies within the responsibility of the government and large organizations—conglomerates among them.

Understanding such a role, SM Prime Holdings, Inc., one of the largest integrated property developers in Southeast Asia, has incorporated its sustainable practices in its developments early on. Through SM Prime’s Costa Del Hamilo Inc., a leader in the leisure resort industry and the movers behind Hamilo Coast – this premium seaside complex in Nasugbu, Batangas, fosters a tangible connection with nature. Marking its quindecennial year, Hamilo Coast looks back at its milestones and achievements with its core emphasis on sustainable development.

“Sustainability has been at the forefront of our vision in providing a resort lifestyle. We strive to practice both environmental and social sustainability in our operations through our partners and commnunities,” Franklin M. Bolalin, Assistant Vice President for Hamilo Estate Management, said.

Disaster risk reduction

Every year, the country deals with an average of 19 typhoons, with some often resulting in damages to properties and loss of life. Coastal defenses such as seawalls and breakwater structures are often implemented to resist storm surges. In the case of Hamilo Coast, mangrove trees are the key.

Hamilo Coast’s 100,000 square-meter or equivalent to 10 hectares mangrove belt is one of the largest mangrove areas in the municipality. The sustainable beach resort town has since planted 50,000 mangrove propagules, protected hand-in-hand with the conservation organization World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines.

Biodiversity conservation

Apart from disaster mitigation, mangrove trees also benefit the climate by absorbing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and carbon dioxide. This capacity nurtures the ecosystem and biodiversity in the area, providing habitat for a wide array of species.

Hamilo is home to rich marine life and abundant flora and fauna. Its conservation programs and various sustainability initiatives have nurtured and conserved its precious biodiversity. There are about 96 various bird species found at the estate. Among these bird species are the rough-crested Malkoha and the Philippine eagle-owl.

From growing local plants to conducting regular coastal clean-up drives, coastal resource conservation initiatives are active in Hamilo Coast. With the help of WWF, they can increase their fisheries’ biological capacity and monitor their Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)—the Pico de Loro, Etayo and Santelmo coves which are among the three MPAs for Costa Del Hamilo’s Sustainable Development Project. Hamilo has been working with WWF since 2007 monitoring the health and viability of Hamilo Coast area.

In recognition of its conservation efforts, Hamilo Coast was cited by the World Wide Fund for Nature as its longest Sustainability Partner in 2020.

“Over the years, our partnership with SM significantly contributed to the impact we are making in our work in Hamilo Coast. From liquid waste and coral monitoring, to our present work on integrated waste management and food sheds, we hope that this continuing partnership would help us realize our vision of making Hamilo a holistic model of sustainability”, says Katherine Custodio, WWF-Philippines’ Executive Director.

Green buildings development

The path towards a sustainable future is paved with many interventions, including zero waste, dematerialization, zero emissions and resource efficiency practices. For its part, Hamilo Coast makes its intention to be a premiere sustainability community possible by making sure its buildings are designed with the environment in mind.

Some of the estate’s facilities are powered by alternative sources of energy. For example, its lamp posts use solar power more than traditional ones to function. Natural lighting and ventilation are also noticeable in some of its residential areas, which benefits the environment as well as its tenants. Additionally, Hamilo Coast implements a solid waste management plan that consists of recovery of materials and vermicomposting, among others.

Sustainable living

At Hamilo Coast’s core is how a distinct beachfront home can harmonize with its surrounding environment. As people crave for a more relaxed environment, closer to nature and the outdoors amid a work-from-home setup pushed by the ongoing pandemic, Hamilo homes give access to invigorating landscapes, coves to explore and the calming sea.

Fifteen years later, Hamilo Coast has surpassed its reputation as a weekend respite. It is now one of the best settlement options for people looking to live the coastal life in a sustainable community.

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Philippines

SM Supermalls Celebrates the 124th Anniversary of Philippine Independence

In anticipation of the 124th anniversary of Philippine Independence, SM Supermalls shares why Independence Day is a pivotal turning point in our history.

It is a celebration of our identity as Filipinos. Independence Day represents the core of our beliefs and our identity as Filipinos – a strong and courageous race willing to fight for freedom’s sake. After almost 400 years of colonization, the raising of our flag and the singing of our anthem serves as more than an obligation; it commemorates the heroism embodied by every Filipino who fought for our freedom. This June 12, 2022 at 8:30 am, come in colors of the Philippine flag and head to the SM Supermalls’ Flag Raising Ceremony as we show love of our country and pay our respects to those who fought to protect it.

It is a celebration of our rich and diverse culture. Each year, the month of June encourages us to exhibit our country’s rich culture in many different ways. Whether it be through food, fashion, or art, all 18 regions across the Philippines have so much to offer! At an SM mall near you, enjoy a taste of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao’s diverse cultures through Pinoy Eats and Pinoy Buys until June 12, 2022.

It is a celebration of our love for the country. Putting the country above one’s self is a great honor and responsibility. As Filipinos, it is our duty to keep the flame of patriotism alive by learning Philippine culture and history, to cultivate in us a sense of community and accountability towards our Filipino brothers and sisters. Visit SM City Cebu’s HeroiSM phygital exhibit until June 15, 2022 to explore Philippine history in an #AweSM way!

Celebrate #PinoyFreedom at SM Supermalls!

While we each exude patriotism in our own way, one cannot ignore the pride and enjoyment that comes with Philippine Independence Day celebrations! Commemorate Independence Day in a truly Pinoy way— sumptuous food, the company of loved ones, and great deals on all things local!

At SM Supermalls, activities are lined up to keep #PinoyFreedom alive nationwide! So come and celebrate the #AweSM and historic Philippine Independence Day at an SM mall near you.

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Manila, Marikina, Pasay City

Federal Land helps drive socio-economic activity in Marikina, Manila, and Manila Bay Area with new properties

Real estate company Federal Land, Inc. is on track with its 2022 targets with new properties that are seen to help drive socio-economic activity in Marikina, Manila, and the Manila Bay Area in Pasay City.

“We are optimistic that the sector will see a significant rebound this year. This is the reason we remain aggressive in introducing new properties in key areas in the metro. As more people resume their previous routines, we shall provide them with living options that will fit their needs and respond to their demand for a holistic, sustainable lifestyle,” Federal Land, Inc. sales group head Margarita Saenz-Resurreccion said.

This position supports the findings of the recently released Colliers Property Market Report, which listed “improvement in consumer and business confidence” as among the key market enablers for the sector.

The report, released on February 9, mentioned the overall Metro Manila vacancy rate is expected to go down to 16.2% by the end of 2022, from 17.9% in 2021. “This points out to a healthy supply pipeline,” it said.

Colliers also sees gradual recovery in rents and prices and expects an increase of 1.7% and 1.5%, respectively, as demand grows. It also cited data from the BSP’s latest Residential Real Estate Price Index (RREPI) report showing nationwide home prices increased by 6.3% YOY in Q3 2021 due to stronger consumer demand for residential property.

The group also encouraged residential developers to “continue lining up projects, both condominium and house & lots, in line with the anticipated recovery of the economy and as more professionals return to traditional offices located in central business districts.”

New developments
Federal Land is set to launch new residential towers in Marikina with Siena Towers, Manila with Quantum Residences, and in the Manila Bay Area with Mi Casa.

“All these developments are strategically located in areas with various commercial and lifestyle choices, with nearby schools, hospitals, and major thoroughfares. They feature a wide range of amenities and access to the outdoor space that allow residents to lead an active, well-balanced life,” Resurreccion said.

Located along Sumulong Highway in Marikina City, Siena Towers is a modern take on the town of Siena, Italy, where rural charm and progress abound. It is an ideal option for those looking for an upgraded suburban living and access to modern conveniences at a reasonable price.

For its latest residential property in Taft Avenue, Manila, Federal Land’s Quantum Residences is among the company’s real estate developments that are seeing high demand from property buyers, both here and abroad.

The three-tower mixed-use condominium is designed to fit the modern lifestyle. It is fiber optic ready, so everyone in the family is assured of fast and reliable connectivity for work, learning, and entertainment.

Mi Casa, on the other hand, is an upcoming vertical residence located within the Central Business Park island of Manila Bay Area designed for contemporary Filipino living. It is a tropical-inspired residence nestled in the middle of a thriving community which makes an ideal home for executives and business owners who live a fast-paced life but aspire to go home to a quieter place that allows for relaxation and repose.

“Overall, these properties are good investment options for those looking for a place to live, rent out, sell, or unwind,” Resurreccion concluded.

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Palawan, Philippines

The Royal Treatment at Puerto Princesa: Paradise Regained

With safety protocols firmly enforced, Puerto Princesa is poised to again welcome tourists with open arms. In recent years, the highly urbanized city and tourist haven has been paralyzed by the Covid-19 pandemic, then pummeled by Typhoon Odette. But it is now on the road to recovery—as spectacularly as its scenic, romantic and gastronomic attractions

“The tourism industry is the lifeblood of Puerto Princesa, along with agriculture. Almost 15,000 people directly or indirectly benefit from tourism. In varying degrees, most of the recent construction and development projects are related to tourism: hotel-building, parks, cruise-ship ports, street lights, roads and many more. Unfortunately, some of these have been on hold since the onset of the pandemic,” discloses Demetrio “Toto” Alvior Jr., the city tourism officer.

The Royal Connection

Puerto Princesa, the capital of postcard-perfect Palawan, sprawls across 253,982 hectares of captivating coastlines stretched over 106 kilometers. Due to its strategic geographical location, it has sufficient depth to allow ships of all sizes to anchor, earning a reputation as a “Princess of Ports,” or in Spanish, “Puerto Princesa.”

There’s no contention that Puerto Princesa is one of the country’s greatest pleasures. A holiday destination universally beloved by travelers, beach-combers and trekkers; a bustling business center with a rural allure; a provincial vibe with modern amenities; and a clean and green city recognized for its lush forests, fresh air and frontier character.


Rising Above Covid-19

The city of Puerto Princesa has been struggling to get to its feet since the outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020. The lack of tourists, which is the main industry, has forced hundreds of tourism-related businesses to close, leaving thousands of tourism workers unemployed.

“The public-health crisis forced them to find alternative sources of income, which was made more difficult because of the restrictions of movement due to several lockdowns,” Mr. Alvior reveals. “One factor of low tourist arrivals is the fluctuating number of Covid cases, which in turn affects the determination of quarantine requirements and national government intervention policies.”

Today, Puerto Princesa is experiencing record lows in terms of economic losses, losing around P5 billion a year for the past two years from potential tourist receipts.

“The City Tourism Department has been strengthening its social media campaigns to encourage local tourists to visit local attractions, in a bid to boost much-needed revenues to the ailing tourism sector,” a cautiously optimistic Mr. Alvior says. “We have one important wish in the City Tourism Department, and that is to prioritize the aids for the Typhoon Odette-affected tourism industry here.”

The goal is to regain the city’s glory as an eco-tourism capital. “Our 2022 goals are full restoration of all the tourist attractions affected by Typhoon Odette such as the completion of the construction of the cruise-ship port and other man-made tourist attractions. There will be wide, extensive and aggressive promotions of Puerto Princesa to the local and international market.”

The Last Frontier

Puerto Princesa has a plethora of tourist spots. But many tourists who visit the city put the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, one of the New7Wonders of Nature, on top of their list. As the jump-off point for exploring the world-famous Tubbataha Reef, the city also hosts a fair share of adventurers.

“Since the Covid-19 outbreak, we have never ceased to hope that the future will be better. This year 2022 is no different. And while what we want is a full recovery, we cannot afford to be careless when taking big steps. As we begin to truly understand the gravity of the situation, we also come to realize that our moves must be consistent with the bigger picture such as the national situation,” Mr. Alvior says.

Since February 10, the city has been happily welcoming more visitors once again, hoping that the arrival numbers will soon be back to pre-pandemic levels. In this initiative, the tourism department shares the privilege on with the private sector.

“While the government is the administrator of the State, the private sector is the bloodline. The government and the private sector are two inseparable factors for Puerto Princesa to prosper, and more importantly, to recover,” Mr. Alvior says. “The key to recovery is to enable and support the private sector to keep or resume their business operations. When it comes to the city’s biggest partners, apart from government agencies, it is the collective impact of small-business operations.”

Puerto Princesa may be “The Last Frontier,” but the City Tourism Department is confident that it will always be the first choice of every traveler.

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Pacific Ocean, Philippines, Spain, Travel

Isabel de Barreto “The Queen of Sheba”: The first female admiral in History

Do you know who was the first woman in history who commanded a ship? Do you know who was the first woman in history who crossed the Pacific Ocean? She was none other than a Spanish woman named Isabel Barreto, whose life story well deserves a movie.

Instituto Cervantes de Manila is organizing a cycle of two webinars on this extraordinary woman in celebration of women’s month this March. The first leg will be held this Thursday, March 31, at 6:00 PM, and will consist of a lecture by the famous Spanish historian Elvira Roca (as famous in Spain as Ambeth Ocampo in the Philippines). This lecture will have English subtitles and can be accessed at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82399004400.

The second leg will be held the following Thursday, April 7 at 6:00 PM, wherein the expert Francisco Mellén will talk about the latest findings in the archives on Isabel Barreto. He will be accompanied in a round table discussion by the prestigious historian from Vermont University Juan Maura. The event will have a simultaneous translation in English and will also be held via Zoom. The link will be available on the Facebook page of Instituto Cervantes de Manila.

Isabel Barreto was the first female Admiral in the world, and Philippine history enthusiasts would find it interesting to note that after traversing the Pacific Ocean from the Viceroyalty of Peru, she ended her trip in the Philippines where she and her crew sailed for their lives. Her husband, Alvaro de Mendaña, who discovered the Solomon and Marquesas Islands in the 16th century, had died in the Santa Cruz Islands in the Pacific Ocean. It was upon his death that Isabel assumed the leadership of the expedition en route to the Philippines. In Manila, she was welcomed with great honors as the “Queen of Sheba”.

This noteworthy woman was born in Galicia (Spain) in 1567. During her childhood, the family moved to Peru where she grew up, and married her first husband Mendaña, who was more than twenty-five years older than her. During her stay in Manila, she married a Spanish military man, Fernando de Castro, with whom she returned to the Americas.

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