Leigh Rioux – singer, host, organizer, stylist

August 12, 2019

NOT everyone here in Cagayan de Oro can be as talented as this woman yet retaining and maintaining that same beauty and poise after all these years. Meet Leigh Rioux! Leigh’s first love and will ever be is singing. That’s why during her elementary years in the early 1990s, the never-shy-and-always-bubbly Leigh joined amateur contests here in the city everywhere she could. (In the pre-cellphone and Internet era back then, amateur contests were the mainstream. They were usually held at the then City Bandstand, now Kiosko Kagawasan in Plaza Divisoria.) Just like everyone of us, Leigh grew up and graduated with a degree in Mass Communication in Pilgrim Christian College. Because of her immense vocal talent, Leigh also had ambitions to use that talent. Her destiny was Japan. For nine years from 2003 to 2011, Leigh became a solo singing performer in the city of Nagoya. By 2012, Leigh came back to her hometown and settled her for good. For two years, she chose to rest and honed her other emerging talents privately. In 2015, Leigh was ready to come back to the spotlight. She was invited and has consistently ever since among the beautiful Kagay-anons modeling in the annual Mags on the Catwalk from 2015 to the present which is held every last quarter of the year. In 2017, Leigh decided to resurrect from her singing hibernation. By then, she started accepting solo gigs in various lounges all over – EBar, Limketkai Luxe, Skybar, etc. Today, Leigh is a regular at Jacko’s Grill in uptown Cagayan de Oro. She likewise started hosting parties and similar events, even corporate ones like the Cignal series of activities here and in Butuan City that year. The year after in 2018, Leigh discovered that she had another hidden talent on the side – event organizing. Thus, she started accepting organizing weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, debuts and other corporate events. At the start of this year in 2019, Leigh also branched out in event styling focusing on such soirees as pre-nuptial, pre-debut and pre-birthday shoots. On the side, she endorses Christine’s Boutique. That’s Leigh Rioux – a woman not just of diligence but of beauty as well. Whether it be in singing, hosting, event styling or organizing, clients will surely be satisfied.

Coffee Space – a new hangout uptown

August 12, 2019

NOW there’s a new café in this bustling city of Cagayan de Oro that brands itself as Pinterest-inspired. When you drive along Macapagal Avenue uptown near the entrance of Courtyard, you’ll probably notice that the entrance of Coffee Space is simply minimalist. But dwell closer to the interiors and you’ll be awed. (Heck don’t take my words. Try it.) Coffee Space’s interiors are inspired by the global travels of its owner Kim Navarro, who benefited largely from his previous soiree as a flight attendant. The brick walls within the café are real and what makes the whole place cooler and even more ventilated. There’s a lighted map of the globe for coffee lovers to have their photos taken Pinterest style. Now let’s get down straight to why we’re here in the first place – coffee! Coffee Space offers the following: espresso, brewed, Americano, caramel macchiato, mocha, latte, matcha latte, cappuccino (goat’s milk add-on), uncola, cola, black tea, green tea, super tea, soya milk, iced tea, seasoned fresh fruit juice, matcha, frappe, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. According to Kim, all their coffee beans are sourced here in Northern Mindanao to promote locally grown produce. All their pastries on the side (chantilly, choco crinkle, kaya tart, peanut butter toast, cinnamon mini rolls, cheese cake {blueberry/strawberry}, espasol, banana cake, ube mango biko) are likewise homemade so Coffee Space can help budding entrepreneurs as well. Coffee Space also offers wine and cheese/cold cuts pairings per bottle. It is ideal both for professionals and students on the go who can simply boot up their laptops and work on their respective assignments. The whole café can be converted into an exclusive hall for functions good for 25 persons. Coffee Space is located at Door #2C, Golden Glow Compound (near Ark Island School), PN Roa-Macapagal Drive, Upper Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City.

Shining On: To bring the Look of Mindanao to the World

July 27, 2019

Kagay-anon Fashion Designer and Stylist Shine J. Casiño is going to the finals of another prestigious design competition this August, this time in Davao City. Habi Kadayawan, a fashion and design competition now on its 3rd iteration has opened itself to entries from other parts of Mindanao to showcase to open opportunities for designers across the island to showcase their ingenuity and their global ready fashion designs. A joint project of the Davao LGUs Kadayawan Executive Committee and the Davao Fashion and Design Council Foundation, Inc. (DFDCFI), Habi Kadawyawan 2019 will pay homage to the journey of Davao’s 11 migrant tribes across the diverse terrain of their ancestral homes in Mindanao to a newfound home in Davao City. “This will be an opportunity for designers to not only showcase their vision and be guaranteed with a start-up capital but also allow them to bring their vision to Manila FAME, the hallmark of Philippine Design Excellence, through the Manila Trade Expo Pavilion,” said Dodjie L. Batu, Chair, Organizing Committee for Habi Kadayawan 2019 and President, Davao Fashion and Design Council Foundation, Inc. Shine was informed last July 15 he had been chosen as a Finalist of the 2019 Habi Luxe Apparel Design Competition which would conclude with the  3rd Habi Kadayawan Design Competition Final Runway Event and Awarding Ceremony on August 9, 2019 at the Ayala Abreeza Mall Activity Center. “I’m looking forward to bring home the title,” said Shine. If he does, it will be only another milestone in a growing collection the Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental born and raised fashion stylist who started his career with a bang in 2000 when he made it to the semifinals of the Alliance Française de Manille (AFM) 2000 Filipino Art Design Competition. The AFM was founded in 1920 and is one of the most prominent foreign cultural institutions in the Philippines. A non-profit organization committed to promoting the French language and culture, It encourages friendly relations between the Filipinos and the French through educational and art programs. Out of 105 submissions nationwide, two of five Kagay-anon who submitted entries were accepted. Shine and his mentor, Melvin Lachica. Both made it to the top 30 as semi-finalists. ‘I was just a fresh graduate of International Studies from Xavier University after 8 yrs of shifting courses and had no previous design experience,” Shine admits. Although he did not make it to the finals, the competition opened doors for the novice designer as he was accepted as an understudy by the late Cesar Gaupo. Shine relates strongly to his mentor who, although only a high school graduate, rose to become a pioneer of local ready-to-wear apparel, making a name for himself haute couture, with his innovative designs and flamboyant colors. He became the head designer the Cesar Gaupo RTW line for SM Store fashion merchandising in the 70s, eventually rising as chief designer for the luxury lifestyle brand Shanghai Tang in Hong Kong in the mid-2000s where he designed their year-round collections, becoming only the third Filipino designers to head the creative design team of a foreign fashion house. Shine was mentored by Gaupo whom he met during the competition. He later came back to Cagayan de Oro and worked for three years with Melvin Lachica’s Atelier Lachica, getting his big break as head designer of Classic Style at Dolores (now Fernandez St.) doing casual, formal to business attires. Next Shine again traveled north to Manila as a designer for Boardwalk, the Filipino direct-selling lifestyle brand under head designer Avel Bacudio at the Tektite Towers in Ortigas  in the next two years before going overseas where he was recruited as a personal designer by a princess of Dubai’s Royal Family who learned about Shine from one of her sewers with whom he worked with in Manila. “I had to submit 30 design sketches a day from which she would choose, and these would be executed,” Shine said. “Although I was her sole designer, I was assisted by many sewers and cutters.” However, his ailing father constrained him to come home to Cagayan de Oro from where he later figured prominently in Look Magazine’s Look of Style Awards nationwide fashion design contest. Organized by Look Magazine and Inquirer Lifestyle, the annual contest aims to provide young and upcoming fashion designers with a venue to express themselves and their visions through their individual three-piece collections. It also aims to help them get started in the clothes-making business In another fortuitous twist of fate, Shine learned of the competition when the organizers visited Cagayan de Oro to coordinate the event. He eventually made it as a Top 10 finalist among 75 entries from all over the country. Meantime, Shine remains on call for his clients who include prominent politicians, professionals and socialites from around Mindanao and Manila. So where does he get his ideas for his award winning creations? “Although I had no formal training in designing, I learned a lot from my unselfish mentors,  and I do a lot of research for each of my commissioned works,” said the quiet, unassuming and humble couturier, a pioneer member of Oro Fashion Designers Guild (OFDG), Regardless of what the outcome of his latest foray in design competition turns out, Shine is clear eyed on where he wants to bring his fashion ideas. “I wanna go global. I want to bring the Mindanao Look to the World,” he replies without hesitation. This would entail modernizing the Mindanao Look focusing on the colorful tapestry of Mindanao’s history and culture, he explains. Mix and match various elements of Mindanao’s various cultures one step at a time depending on his inspiration. Not only for materials, colors but also fashion accessories. For instance for this latest competition, he plans to make liberal use of the Mindanao Silk being produced in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental. “Through my fashion ethic I want to highlight the History and Heritage of Mindanao Culture,” he notes. “I love of my city, my hometown Tagoloan, and I am proud of Mindanao’s culture, people and its colors.” Shine can be reached through his Facebook Page Dress Shop by Shine Casiño through this URL  or his mobile phone #0975-520-8100.

Mixing café and art at Ketkai

July 10, 2019

SIP an indigenous kind of drink (butterfly pea lemonade), sit down and be assisted with artists for an impromptu artwork session and voila! That’s what you get at Dire Husi Sip and Art Café.      Conveniently located at 2/L East Concourse of Limketkai Mall here in Cagayan de Oro City, Dire Husi Sip and Art Café is the latest innovation in the burgeoning café trend in this city by the bay – mixing café and art!      It’s not in every dining joint after all that you get to exercise your hidden artistic talents while relaxing and sipping your fave nutritious drink! It only happens here in Dire Husi Sip and Art Café.      When artist Rhyan Casiño (Dire Husi) and entrepreneur Prince Nestle John Ubalde (Leonora’s Saving Garden) pitched the idea to Limketkai Mall, the mall management immediately liked the innovative concept and approved it.      Thus, Dire Husi Sip and Art Café was opened last July 5 at the space formerly occupied by budding child visual artists who just underwent a month of training in the Limketkai Mall Summer Art Workshop which was also undertaken by Dire Husi.      Dire Husi means “here friend” in Cebuano and Manobo, respectively. It is a group of God-centered visual and music artists here in Northern Mindanao and one of their thrusts is to maximize the God-given artistic potentials of each one of us.      Somehow, Dire Husi Sip and Art Café is the realization of that thrust.      Enter in Ubalde of Leonora’s Saving Garden.      Ubalde loves to tinker with indigenous herbs to cure everyday common ailments such as colds and coughs for his mom Leonora and the rest of her family.      He discovered online the potential of the butterfly pea (clitoria ternatea) and brewed it like tea. To let it transform into lemonade, just put in a few ice cubes and voila! you got butterfly pea lemonade.      This has been Ubalde’s business – Leonora’s Saving Garden – for the past five months, saving his family’s pockets from expensive over the counter cough remedies to his indigenous concoction.      At Dire Husi Sip and Art Café, Ubalde saw that coupling talents nurturing with health nourishment is a sound idea for mall shoppers.      If the advocacy of Dire Husi is to maximize the artist in us, then Ubalde’s advocacy is also to nurture our physical well-being.      Here at Dire Husi Sip and Art Café, you’ll get a free 8”x10” canvas, have an impromptu art session in acrylic, sip your glass of butterfly pea lemonade and bring home your finished artwork all at a worthy price of P250. Of course, you can order your lemonade ala carte at a lesser amount.      For bulk orders of the butterfly pea tea, call Leonora’s Saving Garden at 09567589298.

Himugso Festival Heritage Feature, Birthing A City: La Casa del Chino Ygua, the oldest house in Cagayan de Oro

June 7, 2019

At the corner of Don Apolinar Velez and Archbishop Santiago Hayes streets stands an unimposing two story brick building which has withstood ravages of time, the Philippine Revolution, the Filipino-American War, and World War II. It’s perhaps unfortunate how today, despite the quantum gains made by modern communications, few of Cagayan de Oro City’s growing populace are aware it’s now the city’s oldest surviving residence and has quite a history behind it. Known to local history buffs as La Casa del Chino Ygua*, it has been recognized as a historically significant structure by the National Historical Institute of the Philippines, as confirmed by the NHI marker installed there in April 7, 2000, the Centennial of the Battle of Cagayan, also known as Siete de Abril. According to local historian Antonio Julian Roa Montalvan II, the house was built by Sia Ygua, a resident of Amoy (present day Xiamen) a city in the province of Fukien (now Fujian). Ygua is recorded as the earliest Chinese to have settled in Cagayan. While Amoy was an exit port, most of the Chinese who migrated outside the region came from the Yueyang and Fujian but Ygua was really a native of Amoy. (Montalvan, 2004) In a manuscript transcribed from Sia family records by Johnson L. Sia, a 4th generation descendant of Ygua, he writes how his great grandfather arrived in Cagayan de Misamis (as Cagayan de Oro was then known) in 1854 and opened his business in 1857. Named “Tong Joo” after his second son, it was a typical trading post that dealt in indigenous products like copra, tobacco, abaca and the like. The business prospered and soon expanded to the nearby towns. In time it became one of the largest business establishments in the area (Sia, 2004) According to a short account of the house written by the late Fr. Francisco Demetrio, S.J. in his publication Cagayan (1971), Ygua became friends with the Recollect priests of the nearby San Agustin church. Due to his industry, and the help given him by the fathers, he gradually amassed a fortune. Like most Chinese who settled in Cagayan, he took active part in civic and public life. He was known for his good heartedness. It is said that when he died, practically everyone in Cagayan wore black in mourning (Demetrio, 1971). Ygua built his residence in 1882 at a time when the running conflicts between Moros in Sulu and Cotabato and the Spanish regime in Mindanao and the Visayas was beginning to affect his business. To better secure himself and his trade, Ygua had his house built of sturdy brick and stone which were shipped from Amoy (along with the builders) by Chinese junks in two boatloads. The original house was a two-storey structure constructed on an irregular shaped 2,000 square meter lot. It was located on the corner of what today is Archbishop Santiago Hayes (formerly Victoria) and Don Apolinar Velez (formerly Calle del Mar) streets, and extended all the way to Pabayo street.    The house had a floor area of 600 square meters and was built of brick and stone. In addition, its posts, beams, floors, door, and window jambs were sourced from two large old Molave trees. Alternating planks of 1” x 8” Molave and Balayon wood were used for the floor, while the roof was also made of bricks and stone. (Sia, 2004). In his account Johnston L. Sia claims La Casa del China Ygua was the first brick house in town, but according to Fr. Demetrio, it was the second ‘balay nga bato’(house of stone) in Cagayan, as houses made of brick and stone (which were status symbols then as they are now) were then known. “There were many houses of stone in old Cagayan, so we are not sure if the Sia house was the first. An old house in Burgos yielded 1800s adobe stones and bricks. In fact, nearby the Sia house, just across actually (the empty lot on the corner across it) used to be a big house of stone belonging to Consolacion Roa y Cases Abejuela,” Dr. Montalvan commented.   “Barring any hard evidence, we should deviate from the qualifier first.” The house is now not only the oldest surviving residence in Cagayan de Oro, but also holds an honored place in the country’s history. The NHI marker installed on its Hayes street side recounts how on January 10, 1899, patriotic Kagay-anons celebrated independence through a Fiesta Nacional as a sign of support for the Philippine revolutionary government headed by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.  They gathered in front of Ygua’s house, marched around the poblacion playing music, made speeches at the Casa Real (the governor’s residence), fired cannons and raised the Philippine Flag for only the second time in Mindanao. (Montalvan, 2002) On April 7, 1900, Filipino revolucionarios of the Mindanao Battalion led by Gen. Nicolas Capistrano attacked the American garrison of the 40th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Volunteers near present day Gaston Park in the Battle of Cagayan. However, they suffered many casualties (U.S. records show 52 Filipinos killed, Filipino archives say 200) and were eventually beaten back by the American’s superior firepower. (ibid.) The remains of many fatalities were buried in the backyard of Ygua’s house. To appease the souls and spare the inhabitants from being disturbed, Ygua turned their burial place into a temporary cockpit. The blood from the fighting cocks was believed to appease the restless souls. Until 1971, candles were lighted along the house in memory of the dead soldiers during All Souls Day. (Demetrio, 1971)   When Sia Ygua passed away in Manila, his businesses were left to his managers. In time, two of his sons and a daughter came to the Philippines. The daughter, Sia Hong Moi, married a Manileño and stayed in the capital.  The sons, Sia Simeon Velez and Sia Tong Joo, came to Cagayan de Misamis and eventually took over his businesses. In 1936, Sia Simeon Velez and Sia Tong Joodivided the family property, and the brick house came into the possession of Sia Tong Joo. Sia Tong Joo married Lu Oh O and has six children who stayed in Cagayan: three sons (Sia Bon Din, Sia Bon Suan and Sia Bon Hiok) and three daughters (Sia Pian Tin, Sia Chay Oan and Sia Chay Pin).  They lived in the brick house, and even after the children had grown and had families of their own, the house remained as the center of family activities, being the venue for family gatherings and reunions during festivals like the Chinese New Year. The house suffered extensive damage during World War II. After the war, Sia Tong Joo renovated the house. Because of the shortage of materials, the roof had to be patched using nipa and the walls replaced by talisayan wood. Through these measures the house was given a semblance of its former appearance.  The first major renovation of the house was undertaken in 1948. The damaged bricks were replaced by cement while plywood and asbestos were used for the walls. The 1” x 8” planks were however so sturdy they remained intact. @ Sia Tong Joo left for China in 1948, but his wife and children remained in Cagayan. Eventually, the son Sia Bon Din left and engaged in business in Talakag, Bukidnon and his other son Sia Bon Hiok left for Hong Kong. Meanwhile, his three daughters got married and moved out as well. The house thus eventually passed on to Sia Bon Suan.   Sia Bon Suan married Betty Lim Siok Oan, and had 13 children: six sons (William, Henry, John, Augustin, Benjamin and Peter) and seven daughters (Ana, Corazon, Mely, Mary, Helen, Teresita and Shirley).  Sia Bon Suan and his wife passed away in 1981 and 1975, respectively, and in due time his properties were divided among his children. The brick house was passed on to his fifth son, Dr. Benjamin Sia.  The house was renovated for the second time in 1993 by Dr. Sia to how it looks today.  It has been  over a century and half since Sia Ygua came to the Philippines. His descendants have spanned five generations and have been completely assimilated into Philippine society. More than 200 descendants live all across the country, the majority of who remain in Cagayan de Oro.

Between Heaven and Earth: Pangatlong Tanghalan sa Kampo Juan

May 23, 2019

After two glorious weekends of celebrating the Muses in Manolo Fortich’s version of the Garden of Eden, the first edition of  Tanghalan sa KampoJuan celebrates its grand finale with the Pangatlong Tanghalan this Saturday, May 25 featuring its eclectic mix of the culinary, visual and performance arts with artists from around the region. The evening aperitif will be served by Melbourne-educated and trained culinary enthusiast Jont Cabrera demonstrating his culinary chops in blending Filipino and classical Italian cooking. From L’antipasto to mains and dessert, this will be an exciting culinary adventure featuring local ingredients in Italian cuisine. This gastronomic feast will be followed by another feast for the senses with the Sustainable Design exhibit of Chris Gomez, a multidisciplinary creative and advocate showcasing his artworks and artistry through paintings, furniture, fashion and accessories. Chris is a multi-awarded artist and designer whose accolades include the 2014 Look of Style Awards by the British Council; Grand Prize (Water based Category) in the 2012 Metrobank Art and Design Excellence awards and finalist in the 2011 National Philippine Art Awards. He also became a finalist at the China ASEAN Youth Artwork Creativity Contest in 2008 at Nanning, China before finally bagging the Award of Excellence in 2016. Not the least, the evening and three weekend series will be capped by the celestial choral music of the Youth for Culture and Arts Project (YCAP) community choir, led by Ms Mercibelle Barroso Abejuela.  This Bukidnon-based chorale has performed in major cities in Europe, USA and Asia. A consistent grand slam winner in the Mindanao Association of State Tertiary School Chorale competitions, YCAP will perform a repertoire across many genres: ethnic/lumad, OPM/Original Pilipino Music, pop and classical. Last weekend’s Pangalawang Tanghalan featured French-trained Chef Maricar Urbano, Oro Teatro Bulawanon’s (OTB) premier performance of AngPaglaya, an original play by Maia Fortich Poblete and Bex Espino, and two dance suites by the celebrated Liceo Folkloric Dance Troupe under Artistic Director Roger E. Odron. Chef Maricar was mentored by Celebrity French Chef Herve’ Frerardand and vividly underscored the balance between the science and artistry of the culinary arts with her solid technique, balanced flavor, creativity and presentation. She prepared a 5-course meal straight out of her Don Narciso Restaurant in Claveria, Misamis Oriental.   Oro Teatro Bulawanon (OTB) Founder and Director Maia Fortich Poblete counted Chef Maricar’s amuse bouche Current State as the perfect starter along with Mocktail Drunken Nights and the Pesto-flavored Gail & Gaby. This was followed by her When September Ends salad with mushroom carpaccio, microgreens, and pickled mooli. Her entrée  Under Pressure consisted of  sous vide fish with pineapple-corn salsa, a trio of mashed tuber, and smokey atsal sauce. And for the digestif, there was her Bittersweet Symphony with a classic combination of tablea cake, local ice cream (from La Favorita), and rose crumbs. Thanks to Maia for the heads up! Oro Teatro Bulawanon’s premier presentation of  Maia’s play “AngPaglaya” proved community theatre is alive and kicking with Kagay-anon talents JC Salon, Christy Aboniawan, Leslie Encong-Yap, Kale “Bom” Ramos, Nicolas Salcedo, Mikay Abella, Maria Therese Palma, Allyza Buslon, Katleen Obsioma, Kent Irvin, and Zilpha Ybañez. The stage management was a family affair with Jean Jacques Agbon assisted by daughters Kendra and Nicky. Nico Salcedo used paper bags to create the forest backdrop with a nod to KampoJuan’s sustainability theme, while the costumes were created and styled by Kent Irvin, who also doubled with Nicolas for the players’ makeup. “AngPaglaya” was co-written by Maia Poblete with Bex Espino, and successfully  showcased the talents of Kagay-anons, particularly the youth, as majority of the cast members were senior high school students. Liceo Folkloric Dance Troupe  closed the Pangalawang Tanghalan with its award winning dance performances featuring two dance suites from the indigenous peoples of  Northern Mindanao. “The Bukidnon Suites featured the Dugso, Pimintok, Binaylan, Pig-agawan, Palaspas and Mangangayaw, while the Maranao Suites featured exotic dances as homage to the Sultan with very strong Indo-Malayan and Arabic influences including the Pangalay, Kapa Malong-malong, Kazilimut, Kuntao, Pag-apir andSingkil,” said artistic director Roger E. Odron. The troupe has been a catalyst in promoting the diverse cultures of Mindanao in the Philippines and abroad, representing the country with pride in the ASEAN Dance Festival Exposition in Brunei, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. Today, it continues to share the wealth of Mindanao through its various road shows, and its captivating performances around the country and the world. For those who want to come earlier, you are welcome to enjoy Kampo Juan, named in honor of Dr. Juan Acosta – the patriarch of a patrician family who successfully navigated a career in politics, environment and scientific research. His wife Socorro served as mayor and representative of Bukidnon’s first district, while son Neric is one of the country’s leading environmentalists and daughterMalou has just earned a new mandate as steward of the same district her Nanay Coring used to serve. The Heritage House itself is worth the visit, and there are adventure sports galore also the young and young at heart can while away the time while waiting for the evening’s show. For those who want to immerse themselves in either one or all of these lifetime experiences, please contact Laclac Bongcawel at 09551539105 or email You can also buy your tickets at   Nanay Choleng's Muron kiosk at the ground floor of Ayala Centrio mall or at Kampo Juan Resort, Bgy. Dicklum, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. Tickets are priced at P1,500/person. You can also follow the events through the Instagram account:"tanghalansakampj",   


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