The Sunday Times Magazine’s best and worst of 2014

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Marian-and-Dingdong20141228As the final days of 2014 come upon us, so has the time to look back on the year that was. To rejoice in its triumphs, marvel at its discoveries, and most importantly, learn from its lessons. Even in the realms of lifestyle and entertainment.

As Filipinos continually develop a more discerning taste in lifestyle—be it the arts, travel, food, or beauty and fashion—the Philippines opened up all the more to new possibilities, opportunities and experiences in 2014, which ultimately made it a year of full of awe, adventure, luscious flavors and great style.

In the ever controversial world of show business, issue after issue did not fail entertain, titillate and amuse, thankfully—whether people admit it or not—have made the difficulties of 2014 more bearable.

Here then is special Sunday Times Magazine retrospective to 2014—a good one overall in terms of news this side of the paper.

Manila’s global chows
FOR years, there has been an influx of international restaurant brands in the country—Metro Manila especially—and 2014 was no exception.


Globally celebrated restaurant franchises have flocked to the city all year round with spots in prime locations, turning more and more Filipinos into veritable foodies.

The first international celebrity chef that introduced the “food hall” concept in Manila was Todd English, bringing with him from New York City such excitement over the summer.

The arrival of Todd English Food Hall at the SM Aura was made possible with the chef’s collaboration with restaurateur Rikki Dee and his group—a coup since the branch is the first franchise outside the original in New York.

The Todd English Food Hall is a European-inspired specialty food hall that offers nine diverse culinary stations to satisfy the most discerning palettes. Offering the finest food with freshest ingredients matched with impeccable service, this food space definitely gives a delectable dining experience set in a stylish and convenient atmosphere.

Following the opening of a new wing in the massive SM Megamall, dubbed Mega Fashion Hall, the introduction of regional restaurant brands such as Tim Ho Wan, Ippudo Ramen, Osaka Ohsho and St. Marc Café to the Philippine market came to be.

“Blacks” and “Pigs” have also become popular in the Manila dining scene with establishments like Black Olive, Black Sheep, Blackbird, Tipsy Pig, and Black Pig rising all around the metro.

Moreover, specialty stores such as Magnum Manila—which serves custom-made Magnum ice-cream bar—also opened during the sizzling summer month. Teddy’s Bigger Burgers meanwhile started serving gourmet, charbroiled burgers in the third quarter of the year.

“With gourmet burger restaurants on the rise and foodies clamoring for burgers that are beyond fast food [quality], we’re looking forward to giving Filipinos a taste of Teddy’s and what makes it cut above the rest,” Teddy’s co-founder Ted Tsakiris told The Sunday Times Magazine during its opening in Makati City on August 20.

Indeed, Filipinos love food and came to love it all the more in 2014.

Juicy bits
What good is it to live life without a little gossip? Whether they admit it or not, Filipinos like to indulge in this “pastime,” which certainly gives color to the monotony of the daily grind.

At the top of this year’s entertainment news of course is the controversial Vhong Navarro-Denice Cornejo-Cedric Lee love triangle that turned into an all-out public squabble between the two camps.

The infamous Cornejo dialogue “Tara sa condo… dala ka foods” was turned into a staple joke among Filipinos, after weeks of following the story, which broke out as early as January.

With two opposing stories from both sides, and with the case still in court, the real truth about the incident may be difficult to come to. But what cannot be denied is that Navarro was indeed assaulted by Cedric Lee and his friends inside Cornejo’s condominium unit in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.

In an interview with Boy Abunda in The Buzz, Navarro said he was set up, beaten, and extorted P2 million.

Amusingly, Cornejo’s camp filed an attempted rape case against Navarro, which was dismissed in court.

Besides Vhong’s sudden misfortune leading him back to unwarranted fame, media personality Paolo Bediones also took some slack as coffee shop talk and nights out were filled with conversations about him in July, when a two-part video of the host and a starlet went viral as soon as it was uploaded on the Internet.

Eat Bulaga’s Wally Bayola also received his fair share of sex video controversy, while the split-up of longtime showbiz couple Billy Crawford and Nikki Gil hit the tabloids, with Coleen Garcia as the bad girl.

But the entertainment scene was not only plagued with negativity.

In more positive news, endless foreign celebrities and singers also came to perform in sold out shows in the country, proof that the Philippines is now considered a premier Asian market in the region. The likes of Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruno Mars, Celine Dion, John Legend, and Jason Mraz to name a few.

And of course, the year 2014 will definitely be remembered as a year of showbiz weddings, starting with TV personalities Iya Villania and Drew Arellano in February, and immediately followed TV host and singer Karylle Tatlonghari and Spongecola vocalist Yael Yuzon in March. Bianca Gonzales also tied the knot with basketball star JC Intal on December 10, followed by Neri Naic and Chito Miranda’s second wedding ceremony on December 13, and yet to happen on Tuesday is the much awaited grand wedding of the so-called “royal couple” Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera.

Biggest fashion craze
With a crowd of over 3,000 lining up for the opening of the first H&M in the Philippines, there is no doubt that Filipinos are fashion crazy, especially for quality-for-cost brands such as the Swedish label. October 17 will be remembered for two things: horrendous traffic along Edsa, and the culprit, the opening of H&M at the Mega Fashion Hall on October 17.

Although fashion does not always make headlines especially in local news, the opening of its three-storey flagship store left everyone talking about it weeks after its opening. With the announcement that “the first 200 customers in line will receive gift cards valued as high as P6,000 each, and items at 50 percent off,” there was indeed much to rave about.

“We have been waiting for the best opportunity to be in the Philippines and now the wait is finally over,” shared Magnus Olsson, H&M brand manager for the Philippines, China and Southeast Asia.

In a statement released a week before the opening, Olsson also said, “The Philippines is indeed ready for the next level of fashion and we are so proud to debut our amazing flagship store at SM Megamall. It is such an exciting moment for us to bring fashionable and sustainable design, with good quality at the best price to fashion-conscious Filipinos. At H&M we always have something for everyone, and we can’t wait to welcome all shoppers in Manila to this fantastic store.”

Other international brands that opened in Manila over the year include Old Navy, Pull & Bear, lifestyle brands Pottery Barn, as well as Crate & Barrel, Spanish brands Uno de 50 and Sfera.

As for globally renowned designers, Tokidoki’s Simon Legno and Kenneth Cole watch designer David Smordoni also flew into Manila to personally launch their brand’s new collections.

For the love of arts and culture
Last but certainly not least, the Philippines thrived in the local arts and culture scene in 2014. To begin with, President Benigno Aquino 3rd named six new National Artists, specifically Alice Reyes for Dance; Francisco Coching for Visual Arts; Cirilo Bautista for Literature; Francisco Feliciano and Ramon Santos for Music; and Jose Maria Zaragoza for Architecture. Not without its share of controversy, Malacañang purposely left out Superstar Nora Aunor for Film, which caused a bit of a stir for a few weeks.

Expectedly, Malacañang defended their position to exclude the 61-year-old actress in the latest list of National Artists, insisting that the President had the freedom to choose which personalities to give the recognition.

“As far as we are concerned, we went through the process. We exercised the prerogatives as laid down by the process. We certainly understand the views of the Noranians and also the artistic community. Certainly, the work of Ms. Nora Aunor is recognized here and abroad,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a news briefing following the announcement of the new list in June.

“The President has the prerogative to approve all or none, without needing to explain,” he defended. Following the 2009 controversy involving Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s thoughtless disregard for the recommendations of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines thus virtually making up her own list of awardees, the named artists are equally thankful that they have finally received the recognition they deserved after the Supreme Court decided the 2009 conferment of National Artists invalid.

The stage also made headlines when international musical productions of Wicked came to town, as well as Stomp’s return, and Chicago’s run in the newly opened The Theater at Solaire this month made theater aficionados of Filipinos. Topnotch reviews were also achieved by local productions including Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert, Grease, and the Filipinized Rak of Aegis.

Literary personalities such as Mitch Albom also came to the Philippines on February, as well as Amy Tan, Leang Laev and Chang-Rae Lee who visited the country as part of National Book Store’s first ever Philippine Literary Festival.

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