‘Fly the great big sky, see the great big sea’

NZ alumni as country ambassadors, Korea opens up, and where to get Tokyo-inspired cocktails in Makati

MATARIKI Deputy Head of Mission Mr. Tim Given, NZ Ambassador to the Philippines Peter Kell

Just last week, Manaaki New Zealand Scholarship Program alumni and current students got together at Ambassador Peter Kell’s official residence for an evening of fun and reminiscing.

Following Māori protocol, the ambassador and his embassy team sang a traditional Māori song after his official speech. Tutira Mai Nga Iwi, which translates to “Come Together as One” had the students and alumni singing along. Still, it was quite the relaxed event, celebrating under the stars within the theme of Matariki or the traditional Māori new year. The new year also welcomes the Matariki cluster of stars reappearing. In their culture, it’s also a time of reflection—to look back on the past year, enjoy the present, and plan for what’s to come. Amb. Kell, who has endeared himself to Filipinos due to his excellent command of Tagalog, also gave his own rendition of Juan Karlos’ “Buwan.” Incidentally, it was also the ambassador’s birthday.

Students who studied abroad on scholarship usually make some of the best brand ambassadors for a country. This was evident with the New Zealand alumni present at the event who all talk about the fun times they had, the places they got to explore, and how the education they acquired helped them in the careers they are in today.

MAORI PROTOCOL Amb. Peter Kell and DHOM Tim Given lead the embassy team in singing a traditional Maori song

One of the more interesting courses some of the students took was on disaster risk reduction, knowledge that’s very much needed in a country like the Philippines that gets hit with numerous natural hazards every single year. “I wanted to come back, armed with the education I earned in New Zealand, and be of help to my country,” one of the alumni said. “I would still love to visit New Zealand again someday as it holds a lot of good memories for me and I enjoyed spending time in nature there.”

Sending scholars abroad is one of the most effective ways in increasing people-to-people relations between two countries.

The alumni were also joined by leaders from the private sector and local government officials. In attendance were Senator Win Gatchalian, and Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) Sec. Jeremiah Belgica.

Twenty-one ARTA officials and Valenzuela City local government officials are also undergoing Ease of Doing Business GovTech Accelerator trainings through remote learning, in partnership with New Zealand.

Sending scholars abroad is one of the most effective ways in increasing people-to-people relations between two countries and New Zealand is excelling in this, raising awareness about their country and producing their own Filipino ambassadors of Kiwi culture.

BUWAN. NZ Amb. Peter Kell, who knows how to speak Filipino, gave his own rendition of a Juan Karlos song

Korea opens borders, announces visa-free travel options

Things are truly easing up on the travel front with South Korea, one of the countries most young Filipinos have been waiting to open up, is back to processing all types of visas. This, including the C-3-9 tourist visa.

Vaccinated travelers are exempted from quarantine and will have to submit a negative RT-PCR test or lab-based antigen test prior to departure. If Jeju Island is your preferred destination, however, you may skip the visa process as Filipinos can now go to the island visa-free for 30 days. Airlines are reportedly setting up direct flights to Jeju as this goes to print. Do note that you won’t be able to travel outside of Jeju without a visa.

Another visa-free option to enter South Korea is by booking a group tour program with a designated travel agency that will take you through Yangyang International Airport. Via this route, you get 15 days of visa-free stay to explore Gangwon Province and the Seoul Metropolitan Area with your tour group. Do stay mindful of South Korea’s health protocols when you go!

NOT JUST COFFEE After a long work day, one deserves a cocktail (BAD Cafe)

Cocktails at BAD Café

Japan is also set to open up for travelers this month but under strict conditions. If you can’t wait to have a drink in one of the small, quirky bars in Shinjuku Golden Gai, there’s a place to go here in Manila. In one of Legazpi Village’s calmer streets, you’ll find a café inspired by the favorite Tokyo haunts of a Filipina and American couple—Brian and Diane. BAD Café, despite its name, has great coffee, making it the perfect spot to sit down and do some remote work. It’s also a place where you can properly celebrate the end of a long work day as it now serves cocktails.

“The Open Book,” a smooth gin-based cocktail made with elderflower, was a true standout. It’s quite reminiscent of the Hugo, a popular summer cocktail in Berlin that also uses elderflower for a sweet, refreshing kick, just frothier and stronger. Both good things for a cocktail. For lovers of a good malt, there’s “Not Suspicious,” a bittersweet concoction of malt whisky, chocolate bitters, and apricot liqueur. Cocktail genius Kenneth Bandivas (ABV, The Spirits Library) who’s behind their new drink menu, held a masterclass at the café, letting us try each of the drinks on offer. Such a pleasure.

NOT BAD AT ALL At Legazpi Village, BAD Cafe‚ now serves cocktails

We also enjoyed its comfort food, which included deep-fried shiitake mushrooms, Spam fries, salmon croquettes, and fried chicken bites drizzled in a sauce bursting with umami. Great nibbles to go with the drinks.

Was also informed that the café is pet-friendly. From now on, this is where you’ll find me writing on a weekday, dog in tow.