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Kathleen A. Llemit

Passion pays off

Friday, 26 January 2018 00:00 Published in Life Style

If there's one description for Julie Anne San Jose's singing career, it would be steady. She had her biggest break when social media noticed her YouTube covers. From there, her struggling career as one of the promising young singers who had to do the rounds of reality TV, ended. She created a strong and loyal following; an army of supporters firmly holding on and valiantly defending her through all the malicious attacks and gossips hurdled her way.
It is no surprise then that though physical albums may be facing their waning years, and digital ones are hardly able to stop piracy, Julie Anne's music remains afloat.
It was recently demonstrated when she released the first single "Nothing Left" from her upcoming first album under new label Universal Records.
It debuted at the top chart of iTunes Philippines, with stiff competition from Kpop groups and Hollywood acts.
On top of it, she just recently headlined the first leg of the series of concerts entitled “3 Stars, 1 Heart” with seasoned singers Regine Velasquez and Christian Bautista in Cebu last week. And she happily announces that it will have its second leg in April in Dagupan, Pangasinan.
This year, she says, she will be busy. But for those who have been following her, it had always seemed that way. Year after year, if she's not releasing an album or single, or lending her voice to theme song of a drama, or mounting her birthday concerts, she's starring in sitcoms or dramas.
It is safe to say that San Jose is relatively blessed given the short life span of singers and actors in showbiz.
And her lucky breaks have not stopped. There's that recently released single, which will be part of the new album targeted to be released during the third quarter of the year. It will include two of her compositions including her own mellow Tagalog creation. She has yet to release the title of the track, but she says it has the same vibe as the Marcus Davis-written and produced "Nothing Left."
And then tomorrow, January 27, she will be headlining anew a solo concert entitled #Julie to be held at The Music Museum. She reunites with Marvin Caldito, who directed two of her past concerts, In Control and When Julie Meets Christian.
Julie says it's a more intimate and mature show where she will sing songs that will fit with her concert's theme of "stages of love.”
She hopes for more concerts and songs to sing in the coming days. But with the way she has been busy for the past years, it seems like these will come naturally for her.

***
I admire Culturtain Musicat Productions's spunk and determination to make it on its own.
It was a gamble from the start, but it paid off, to produce a movie musical led by an ensemble of notable theater actors. If this were New York or London, this would have been labeled as an illustrious and winning billing.
But, unfortunately, this is the Philippines and Ang Larawan opened in a film festival often panned for its preference for commercial films.
Commercial films aren't bad per se; in the Philippine setting, however, many are often considered subpar in terms of direction and storytelling, more glaringly so come the annual Metro Manila Film Festival.
But Ang Larawan continued to go on and fight and did not back off from joining after several other films produced by small studios "backed out" after learning of the reinstated criteria for last year's film selection.
The fears of those who backed out where confirmed after Ang Larawan was reduced to more than half of its screens on the second day of the festival's two-week run. But lo and behold, word-of-mouth, glowing reviews and awards night recognition revived the film until it ended its run with 80 screens.
Were they discouraged? "No, in fact we were encouraged," said Girlie Rodis, with emphasis on the last word, to this writer during the thanksgiving party hosted by Solar Pictures, the distributor of the film.
Rodis, co-partners with Rachel Alejandro and Celeste Legaspi, shares that they knew what they were getting into. They had envisioned their production house as a cultural enlightenment tool. This comes as no surprise for the longtime showbiz insider, who has partners in Alejandro and Legaspi, who are seasoned singers and actors.
"We want to inspire people. We want to help people through their minds by exposing them to films that they've never seen before. A lot of them haven't even entered a theater or a stage theater. We wanted to bring the stage to them," she said.
This is no mean feat. Rodis disclosed that the production cost alone for Ang Larawan was around P25 million, excluding promotion of the film. And yes, she valiantly admitted that they "probably won't break even.”
This might be true after MMFF did not release the figures for all film's individual grosses and just released a statement that last year's gross is triple the amount of the previous year. They added that it breached the P1-billion mark.
But raking in the millions seems not to be a problem for them. Rodis had a point when she said that she's not fearful about Ang Larawan's fate. Unlike the top-grossers whose film screenings had ended, Ang Larawan continues to be screened until the second half of the year.
Just this month, they've had screenings outside of the country specifically in several states in the United States. They also had inquiries for screenings in London and Copenhagen.
In the Philippines, several universities have expressed their interest to do block screenings for their schools. Micro cinemas are still showing it including the UP Film Center Cine Adarna on February 5, with Sunday Beauty Queen as a double feature.
And with February as the National Arts Month, there are bound to be more screenings for the film adaptation of Nick Joaquin's play A Portrait of the Artist as a Filipino.
Whether her realistic expectations come true or not, Rodis says they will continue producing movie musicals. These include Katy, Kenkoy Loves Rosing, Alikabok, Saranggola ni Pepe, Sino Ka Ba Jose Rizal? and Firewater Woman.
I hope they continue to pursue their passion with the same fervor through all the challenges that may come; after all, passion pays off in the long run.

‘Rated ramen’ now in Taguig

Thursday, 11 January 2018 00:00 Published in Life Style

Looking around the metro, there is no denying that there are ramen houses aplenty. They range from the insanely expensive ones ensconced in upscale hotels, to holes-in-the-wall in one’s favorite neighborhood. It may seem to some that the ramen market has reached its saturation point.

Even restaurateur Eric Dee agrees. The president of Foodee Global Concepts shares, however, that they have that one ace that will surely bring all food enthusiasts in the metro thronging to their latest venture located at the Central Square in Bonifacio Global City.
There is reason for the hype: Dee has kept up with their group’s conscious effort to bring in rated, specifically Michelin-rated, concepts and chefs, to the Philippines. It isbanmove that he refers to as making accessible “affordable luxury.”
They first brought in Tim Ho Wan in 2014. The “cheapest” Michelin-starred dim sum brand now has seven branches in the country. Two years later, they brought in Milan’s acclaimed Michelin-starred chef Davide Oldani and opened Foo’d by Davide Oldani at Shangri-La at The Fort.
Not a year after, last December, Dee through his collaboration with Brian Chua’s Hersing Culinary, introduced the world’s first Michelin-starred ramen shop, Tsuta.
The one-star ramen shop first opened as a nine-seater in Tokyo’s Sugamo district in 2012. Its proprietor, chef Yuki Onishi, had just retraced his steps into making ramen after dabbling in fashion. Onishi revealed in his 2015 interview with British paper The Telegraph that he was woken up by a call during one “uneventful” Tuesday morning, informing him that his humble ramen shop had earned a star and a spot in the illustrious Michelin Guide. Imagine the already long lines forming at early dawn, even before the rating was given, to double in numbers.
Now, Tsuta makes for another home of authentic Japanese ramen in what Dee shares is among the biggest Tsuta restaurants in all its present locations in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
A far cry from the small Tokyo dining destination, Tsuta in BGC sits 48. The place is divided into two areas. The Bar sits 20 and is perfect for those who want to see the chefs prepare their ramen and side dishes right before their eyes. The couch area, meanwhile, sits 28 people and is perfect for groups and late-night chitchats.
“It is one of the biggest Tsutas. Most of the other stores would have 18 to 20 seats. But we decided to do something bigger, to churn out more bowls. There’s an internal competition that is going on among Tsuta outlets worldwide to sell the most bowls. So if a 20-seater can sell 700, my target’s a thousand if we could. Fingers crossed, hopefully we can get to that point. If we’re able to execute a hundred perfect bowls, why not?” enthused Dee to this writer during the December launch.
Props to Dee for his grand ambition, but space is just one part of the lure. The bigger question is, will Tsuta find its space in a market that’s in its ripest stage?
When this writer first heard that Tsuta was coming to town, there was admittedly more curiosity than excitement. Having been favoring the rich and milky tonkotsu variety, Tsuta’s ramen leans toward the, soy, miso and salt base.
The beauty of these bases is rooted in that Japanese propensity for clean taste and harmony in flavors. Dee even said that it was one of the reasons they wanted to introduce Tsuta to the Philippine market.
Served on a large bowl, Tsuta ramen is as simple as its taste. Its simplicity, however, is one labor of love. Chef Onishi blends three different stocks for his ramen soup base. One stock is based from asari clams, another from the combination of katakuchi (Japanese fish), mackerel and anchovy, and the other from the stock of whole chickens.
Diners can choose any of the three varieties: shoyu (soy-based), shio (Okinawa sea salt and Mongolian rock salt) and miso (Hatcho miso). The most basic of these three varieties features the especially made whole wheat-whole grain made noodles topped with a slice of char siu. Basic shio and shoyu ramen costs P390, while basic miso costs P410.
As one becomes more daring and has more room in the belly to spare, more ingredients in the form of more slices of char siu and a serving of flavored egg can be added. Prices for these bowls range from P440 to P670.
The fairly huge bowl, quite frankly, maybe much for the average eater. But surprisingly, the average eater can finish a succession of these varieties, with pacing of course. Recommended succession is shio, shoyu and finish with a bowl of miso. All, with truffle oil infusion in shio and shoyu bowls, and porcini mushroom oil in miso, included.
What gives then, with all these large servings of richly flavored bowls?
It’s that Japanese preference for clean taste and harmony. On the untrained palate and hands, these hefty combinations would end up a confusing array of flavors, meaning one ingredient can either be overpowering or negate all the ingredients altogether.
With chef Onishi’s recipe, however, the soup with its hefty infusions holds all the flavors together. It glides smoothly without stinging the palate with that ‘kick’. The added ingredients, especially the char siu, which in most other cases would be strongly seasoned, is as delicately flavored, with just a hint of its savory juice.
Even the sides strictly adhere to that clean taste mantra. The aburi niku (P130) this writer had did not feel like one were obliged to finish it for fear of wasting good meat. The bite-sized charred pork cubes are lightly seasoned, so light that one does not feel heavy or guilty popping them one after the other. The other sides are ro-su char siu (P100), roasted char siu with butter sauce, and yuzu wonton soup (P150) minced duck meat wrapped in whole wheat wonton skin.
If ramen is not your favorite, and you just happened to accompany your friend, who is a certified ramen lover, Tsuta also has rice dishes. Their drinks list has the usual iced tea and soda in can, but for those who want their drinks with zing, there’s Brew Kettle (P85) and Kirin (P150). Cap your meal with something cleansing like a serving of wheat tea (P40).
Tsuta may be just another addition to the sea of ramen houses in the metro. Its accolades may lure the curious in the beginning, but if chef Onishi’s recipe should be fastidiously followed, it will certainly rise above the lucrative ramen market in the country.
Tsuta does not accept reservations. It is open daily at 11:30 a.m. until late night or until supplies last. It is located at the upper ground floor of C3 Bonifacio High Street Central in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

Permanently sexier in 21 days?

Tuesday, 09 January 2018 00:00 Published in Life Style

New book by the Alejandro sisters says it’s possible

The holidays are over and most are probably wondering how to lose all the pounds that were gained from the mindless days of binging on carbs and fats. We always include losing weight as part of our New Year’s resolution, yet it is all in vain for most. We welcome a new year full of hope, end it with a bang, and hope to be at our best starting the new year, only to end up struggling. It’s a vicious cycle, indeed.

This should not be the case, says two of the country’s notable healthy eating and living proponents.
After two books, sisters Rachel Alejandro and Chef Barni Alejandro have finally put out not just a cookbook/diet meal plan, but a guide that puts emphasis on breaking those ‘bad’ habits and kissing all the weight-loss related woes permanently.
In 21 Days To A Sexier You, the sisters behind the popular healthy delivery food service and brand The Sexy Chef come out with a well-planned guide to a consistently healthy lifestyle.
Their toned physique serves as their greatest marketing tool, but this book is their best out so far, putting on record their fit and proven lifestyle.
While similar to their previous books, this one not only contains recipes, but explains the potent ingredients to maintaining that ideally healthy fit body.
Rachel, who recently made the news as a producer and lead star of the critically acclaimed movie-musical Ang Larawan, spills the beans on successful weight loss.
“‘Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny,’” Rachel quotes wise man Mahatma Gandhi’s words.
Gandhi’s words constantly reminds her and Barni of discipline and action. As the wise man said, it takes commitment to form essential life values that help man to be his own individual. This helps in the overall outlook, including one’s health. Rachel further shares that she takes these to heart along with the knowledge provided by the experts. She says most behavioral experts believe that a habit is formed 21 days after a constant learning and relearning process.
The book contains 21 tips that help create that habit of conscious eating. These include minding the essentials of weight loss. The sisters believe that effective weight loss includes a diet that fights fat. This diet is heavy with the fat-fighting nutrients, namely, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and Vitamin D.
The idea of highlighting and incorporating any or all four of these fat-fighting nutrients was based on the teachings of their fitness guru Nadine Tengco, who developed a meal plan for the contestants of the local franchise of a reality TV show years ago. The contestants had about three months to lose substantial weight from their obese state. Tengco figured that she had to use all four nutrients for the contestants to be able to lose maximum weight safely.
The sisters and Tengco worked on this diet program, which eventually found its way into The Sexy Chef’s kitchen. The recipes in their newest book are newer ones concocted by chef Barni, who relishes sharing her inventions. The 60 recipes are divided into categories which include breakfast options, mason-jar ready salads, and slimming smoothies and beverages. One of the most interesting items is their Fat-Fighting 4 Smoothie, which contains all the four nutrients mentioned. Each recipe comes with calorie count, serving portions and listing of the food and the nutrients contained.
With these yummy-looking treats sans the guilt, Rachel believes that getting sexier in 21 days, and hopefully consistently and permanently, is easy. What would make it easier to do? Rachel shares her most favorite tip, “Be in the moment!”

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