Saturday, November 30, 2019

The epicurious mama

“The epicurious mama”
SunStar Davao, Nov. 30, 2019
To achieve world-class expertise in any field, Malcolm Gladwell, author of the book “Outliers”, says the 10,000-hour rule holds the key. It is basically practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years.

Mompreneur Alexes “Leck” Flores Cruz enjoyed an early introduction to the culinary world when she began baking and selling goodies at age 8.

“My parents are both good cooks. When I was young, I was pretty amazed at how they could practically create dishes from scratch and feed many people during fiestas, family celebrations or office affairs.  I also have an aunt who cooks very well and she taught me some of her recipes. It made me love cooking more,” Leck, an MBA degree holder, fondly recalls.

Leck’s dad was likewise an ardent workaholic and perennially business-oriented. He relentlessly sold cakes, siopao, chorizo, and many more which inspired Leck to pursue her first catering business at age 19.

Seasoned home cook

“I never had any formal culinary course.  However, my countless years of experience in home cooking and checking recipes has helped me create my own dishes. Thankfully, I am also a quick study. When I travel, I watch and learn fast. In addition, I am blessed with a mother-in-law who lets me buy all the ingredients I need so I can freely experiment in the kitchen. I just love cooking for the family during Sundays and special occasions,” reveals Leck who is happily married to businessman Allan Cruz.
Her first foray into the restaurant business was Epicurious Gastropub, the first-ever gastropub in the city. Shortly after, Leck and her family opened another restaurant, BBQ Nation, located in several malls.

Something different yet familiar

“We came up with the name BBQ Nation because we wanted to create or duplicate diverse flavors of barbeque. “BBQ” stands for “Blackened, Basted, and Skewered”, which creates various flavors for the barbeque. We added “Nation” because we wanted to introduce distinct tastes from the other countries I’ve traveled to plus combine and tweak them to suit the Filipino palate,” explains Leck who also teaches part-time at the Ateneo de Davao University.

“I guess I just wanted people to try something different and yet familiar.  I wanted BBQ Nation to remind people of their home, their Filipino culture, and being a Mindanaowan. Our dishes are from different parts of the Philippines so when visitors dine, they can taste a bit of their hometown in ours,” discloses the mom of two with pride.

Food for thought

Leck’s advice for fellow moms who want to go into the food business is, ironically, “not to take any advice from anyone because every mom’s situation is different from the other”.

“I would say, just listen and check if it would work for you. And, before you become a budding restaurateur, try to ponder on the following: What is my food concept and is there anybody else doing it? What are my own strengths, skills, and time available to manage this? What is unique or special with my offerings? How do I make this food business successful? Can I sustain this?,” points out Leck who likewise runs ACrew, a consultancy service that is dedicated to helping homegrown brands with their marketing, branding, HR, and franchising.

“Being a Mom has helped me create the right balance to everything and taught me to value my workmanship more.  Putting up a restaurant is like having a baby.  You go through all the birth pains, growing-up headaches, and yet when you see them grow, it is the best feeling in the world!”, the young restaurateur gratefully expresses.
Certainly, Leck’s 10,000 hours in the kitchen have deliciously paid off!

Sincerest thanks to Leck Cruz for the photos.

E-mail the author at To view more photos, please visit

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Let's go digital!

“Let’s go digital!”
SunStar Davao, November 16, 2019

Marked safe from….

I chuckled when I read a friend’s Facebook post on why she marked herself safe. She proudly survived the recent Lazada and Shopee 11.11 one-day super sale! Well, I hope many of our readers did, too!

Being digitally connected in this age has brought so much convenience to our daily lives that one need not step out of the house to start ticking off their Christmas lists; scoring the latest fashion; buying groceries; replenishing essentials from the wet market; ordering food when pressed for time, and a gazillion of other things.

Definitely, I like being a working mom now compared to when I was a first-time mom 18 years ago. Not only do I have the flexibility in doing household-related tasks, but I also have options for earning income in and out of the office.

From traditional to digital

“In this age, working doesn’t mean you have to be in the office. Working from home is becoming a trend and there are so many ways to earn in digital now,” says Angela Tiotangco-Alvarez, founder of TRIPLE PH (TPL PH), a tech-driven digital and design company with a mission to transition traditional marketing efforts to effective digital solutions.

“Offering online courses, managing social media accounts, teaching language online, writing articles, making and uploading videos on YouTube, being an online tutor, becoming a virtual assistant and selling products online are just some of the many ways one can earn digitally,” shares Angela.

Taryn Mae Navarro, co-founder of TRIPLE PH, adds that product-based businesses can also benefit from digital content marketing. “Let’s say you want to sell cookies or homemade cakes and jams – with a few clicks, you can establish your online presence without the hassle of calling everyone about your new product,” she explains.

Online 24/7

“It's nice to see that a lot of local brands and businesses in Davao are getting into digital marketing. There has been quite a rise in the number of microbloggers/vloggers or influencers in the city that are able to contribute to promoting the product and service-based brands and businesses,” observes Taryn who graduated from Stella Maris Academy of Davao and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde Manila with a degree in AB Multimedia Arts.  

“Davao has always been ready for digital. The local online audience is so responsive to online promotion, and engaging in relatable content and trends,” says Taryn whose company specializes in content creation, brand identities, campaigns, social strategy and more. The Manila-based company has worked with a diverse range of clients in the real estate, food and beverage, travel, and the lifestyle and media industry.

Angela stresses that digital marketing is needed for a brand simply because everyone’s online now. “It's 100% more accessible than traditional marketing. Now, it's part of everyone's daily routine to check their Facebook feed, Lazada account, and Instagram stories - and if we're able to tap those touchpoints at the right place and right time, your brand will be winning,” she emphasizes.

“Using digital marketing sounds so easy, but it's not. It's only easy when you do it right. That's why it's important to find a person or an agency that could guide you on the right way to utilize the available digital tools,” advises Taryn.

Special thanks to TRIPLE PH for the photos on this page.

E-mail the author at To view more photos, please visit

Saturday, November 2, 2019

ANNEfazed through it all

“ANNEfazed through it all”
SunStar Davao, Nov. 2, 2019

It was a pilot’s wife’s ultimate nightmare.

In the late afternoon of February 4, 1994, tragedy struck when 23-year-old Capt. Jacinto Rafael “Boompie” de Borja crashed his single-engine four-seater aircraft at Resa Bay within the Moro Gulf in Cotabato.

“Part of me died with him that day,” recalls his widow Antonette Bernadith “Anne” Feo. Like Boompie, she was only 23 years old then.

Boompie and Anne were high school sweethearts from Tagum City, Davao del Norte. Both blessed with good looks, charming personalities, and successful careers, many looked up to them as their ‘couple goals’. Anne belonged to Club Pen ’91 as one of the in-house models of Penshoppe. Her first national TV commercial for the iconic brand was a big hit in the ‘90s.

“The irony of fate is such that one so young, full of promise, with boundless energy and ambition, suddenly disappeared. In the midst of grief, I was tempted to question what seemed to be the most unfair and cruel turn of events in my life,” recalls Anne, an AB Mass Communications graduate from Ateneo de Davao University.

Left to take care of their 8-month-old baby Ryan James de Borja, Anne eventually learned to give her complete confidence in the Lord. “It’s only through Him that I will understand the purpose of the things I was made to endure,” she reflects.

Picking up the pieces

“It was difficult, at first, picking up the pieces again,” Anne admits. “I am just thankful that I had a solid support system. My family was awesome during those trying times,” she says gratefully.

To provide comfortably for her son, Anne applied as a flight attendant of Saudi Arabian Airlines based in Jeddah. Some found it ironic that a young widow who lost her husband through a plane crash chose to work in the same industry. “I wanted to get over the trauma of what happened to Boompie,” Anne explains. Her stint as an F.A. only lasted for a year, though, because she realized that she spent most of her salary and savings on expensive long-distance calls to her son whom she missed dearly.
Back in the Philippines, Anne thought that it would be hard for her to fall in love again because she married her soul mate. But, by some twist of fate, love found its way a second time. Anne re-married and was blessed with another son, Miguel Antonio Maningo. Sadly, the union lasted only for 10 years due to differences and trust issues. Alas, Anne bravely embraced the life of a single mom once more.

“As a single mom, I’ve found an incredible source of independence and strength in my situation. The best thing I could do for my boys was to show them how to be strong and resourceful individuals,” Anne boldly declares.


Through the years, Anne tirelessly worked as a marketing executive; fashion consultant who specialized in modeling workshops and personality development; opened ‘Butik’, an online boutique selling clothes, bags, shoes, and accessories for women; became an endorser for Griño Dental Inc. Beautederm Corporation, and Promag 300; and ventured into the homemade gourmet business with her bottled BinagoongANNE. In spite of her busy schedule, she also earned her second degree, this time, in BS Nursing from Saint Mary’s College in San Juan.

The hardworking mom also continued being a freelance model for print/TV ads for top brands such as Chowking, Jollibee Delivery, Pediasure Plus, BDO, Nescafe Classic, Tempra, Rebisco, Air 21, Avida, PLDT, Del Monte, among many others.
She likewise found herself acting in front of the camera, one day, when a good friend of hers from the TVC industry asked if she wanted to give showbiz a try. The self-declared “Probinsyana at Heart” landed hosting and acting roles in teleseryes, movies, and iWant TV series like “Be Careful With My Heart”, “Malaala Mo Kaya”, “Nathaniel”, “Ipaglaban Mo”, “Wansapanataym”, “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano”, “Wild Flower”, “The General’s Daughter”, to name a few.
“So far, I consider the role of Nanay Helen, the paralyzed/comatose mom of JC de Vera in “The General’s Daughter” as the most memorable. I enjoyed playing a character that shocked people, had substance, and touched people’s hearts,” she fondly reminisces.
The best is yet to come

“Moving on with life after a loss may be one of the hardest challenges that many of us face. Always keep the faith, pray hard, acknowledge the pain, and share your feelings with family and friends while managing to hold yourself with grace, poise, and class,” Anne advises.

Despite countless trials, Anne maintained her attitude of gratitude. “I welcomed gratitude in tough times. I always noticed the things that were still working. Gratitude made my days brighter.  It became my coping strategy,” she reveals.

Eldest son Ryan (right), now 26, is currently a Business Development Manager of a US-based company while youngest Miguel (left), 21, is graduating soon with a double major in Diplomacy and International Relations and English Literature from the Ateneo de Manila University.

Nowadays, Anne tries not to worry too much about the future because she knows that great things are yet to come. “Yes, I have dreams but there are so many things that I have no control over. I have learned to trust and get the most out of this life my Creator has given me!”, enthuses the multi-faceted mom who is ANNEfazed through it all.
Special thanks to Anne Feo for the photos on this page. E-mail the author at To view more photos, please visit