Manila Life


The Next Big Food Entrepreneur: A Hotbed of Food Entrepreneur Startups in Manila! @MercatoCentrale

(Text by Paul Wenceslao, Photos and Video by JR Velasquez)

One bright idea, as the old adage goes, leads to another, and in the case of the Filipino food enthusiast, a family favorite recipe or an odd combination of ingredients scrounged up in the cupboard can perhaps lead to the next local food craze. Mercato owners, RJ Ledesma and Anton Diaz, made this a possibility by holding an annual competition for every budding food entrepreneur: The Next Big Food Entrepreneur.  

Mercato Centrale, operating a popular chain of food markets all across Metro Manila, came as the battleground for the recently concluded competition, in which every aspirant was welcome to submit an application – in the hope of winning P100,000 as start-up capital along with a six-month free stay at Mercato.

For the past three years, The Next Big Food Entrepreneur has produced a slew of new food businesses coming from various places in the country, and this year’s batch of semifinalists is no different, if not more diverse. There were students who aspire to be full-fledged food entreps, an Indonesian food enthusiast, several individuals who luckily chanced up on the competition’s ads, and a Pinoy Masterchef winner. 

“This year’s edition of The Next Big Food Entrepreneur offers a lot of diversity. A large number of creative savory meals were featured,” explains Abbie Sinjian, Experience and Event Manager of the Mercato group. 

The food served by the participants ranged from flavorful Indonesian cuisine to the artfully stylized version of the local snack turon, much to the delight of Mercato’s owners as well as those who sampled the food from different booths during the competition’s awarding ceremony last Friday, December 19.

“We had a hard time selecting the winners, since everyone did a wonderful job and served really good food,” Sinjian added. True enough, each of the booths have the potential to make it big in the Philippines’ bustling food industry. 


The 2014 TNBFE Winners

Being selected as a semifinalist in The Next Big Food Entrepreneur, which subjects participants to actual selling at a couple of food markets, is already considered a win for the budding entrepreneur. After all, booths get to showcase their wares to the buying public, observing how their products perform after making adjustments to both the food and the booth display. It’s the proverbial first step to establishing a food business.

A total of 14 participants made it to the contest’s semifinal round, all of which having dainty booths and serving noteworthy cuisines. The competition was expectedly stiff, and four came out as the big winners: Bakmi Nyonya, Bigorots, Turonne de Manila Café and Hunger Buster.

The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Winner 2014 series:

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Mystery Rooms

10 Most Awesome Live Escape Game / Mystery Room Experience in Manila in 2014!

I love Live Escape Game / Mystery Rooms ever since we tried Mystery Manila’s Justice for Manila. It’s very addicting and a great challenging bonding session with your friends and family. Have you tried it?

It’s great to have two competing pioneers BreakOut Philippines by OutBreak Manila vs. Mystery Manila that continuous to elevate this live game genre in Manila. We tried all the Mystery Rooms and we solved most of it except for BreakOut Philippine’s Adarna’s Lair.  My personal favorite is Rebecca’s Room by Mystery Manila.

Here’s our top 10 Most Awesome Live Escape Game / Mystery Room Experience in Manila in 2014:



Breakout Manila - Adarna's Lair-12.jpgADARNA’S LAIR is the hardest Breakout Philippine’s real life escape room game experience. You play as detectives and find a cure for the initial spreading of the Zombie Outbreak in Manila. You only have 45mins until Dr. Adarna arrives or become a zombie bait.

I must admit this was the most challenging room we encountered, but also the most elaborate in terms of production setup and fun in terms of solving the puzzles.

We “almost” solved Adarna’s Lair, and here’s why we failed…

Read More: ADARNA’S LAIR – The Hardest Mystery Room to Solve in Manila @BreakoutPH

You are a detective trying to discover more about the virus during the initial spreading of the Zombie Outbreak in Manila. Succeeding rumors of Dr. Adarna being involved with the Outbreak, you investigate his house to look for solid evidence and perhaps a way to stop the infection before it becomes too late.

Upon entering the premises, you get a feeling you are not alone. You start hearing sounds you only hear in nightmares. Can you find the information you need and breakout before you become zombie bait?

Breakout Philippines
Paragon Plaza Ground floor Reliance St., corner EDSA, Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila 1550
FacebookBreakout Philippines

Operating Hours
Friday to Sunday: open to the general public from 10.00am to 11.30pm
Monday to Thursday: only available for private bookings and corporate team buildings.


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Mystery Rooms

WORLD OF WIZARDRY: Harry Potter-Inspired Mystery Room @MysteryManila

As featured in 10 Most Awesome Live Escape Game / Mystery Room Experience in Manila in 2014! 

World of Wizardry-11.jpg

WORLD OF WIZARDRY is a Harry Potter-inspired mystery room by Mystery Manila where you can play out your wizard fantasies of mixing potions, conjuring spells, and unlocking the secrets of the room.

It’s so much fun, even if you aren’t a Potterhead… 

Mystery Manila Series:

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Mystery Rooms

BURIED BODIES: Escape from the Graveyard @MysteryManila

Read More: Here are… 10 Most Fun Activities in Manila (2016 Edition)! @TourismPHL

Buried Bodies-16.jpg
BURIED BODIES is the 4th in the Mystery Manila room series of deranged serial killer, Enigma, where he places his victims in locked caskets and trapping them inside sealed tombs

Chained Chamber was first in the series, then replaced by Buried Bodies in the Libis branch. Ticking Time Bomb was the second (also in Libis), and the third was Sinister Sensorium in Makati.

Here’s what to expect from Buried Bodies…

Mystery Manila Series:

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New Year's Eve Party in Manila

New Year’s Eve Manila 2015: Awesome Guide to New Year’s Eve Party in Manila!

12/26/2019: New Year’s Eve Party Ideas: Manila Countdown to 2020!

New Year's Eve Party by Marksim Pasko
(Copyright by Marksim Pasko)

New Year’s Eve (NYE) Parties in Manila is getting exciting in 2015.  You can decide to celebrate in a hotel – Sofitel, Solaire, Manila Peninsula or Best Western, or in the malls – Mall of Asia GMA 7 Countdown and Eastwood Quezon City Countdown.  This year, TV5 is joining the NYE celebration with a Happy sa 2015 QC Countdown and the City of Manila with Sulong Manila 2015 Countdown.

Bonifacio Global City will be the center of the club party scene and after parties for New Year’s Eve. Check out VASK’s Glamorous Black and Gold Affair and the after party at VALKYRIE. Hop on to RAVEN, HYVE, VYNE and SKYE or catch the sunrise at the new club PANGAEA at City of Dreams.

Like us, we would escape the party scene in Manila either go to the Philippine Arena’s 2015 Philippine Countdown in the North or to Taal Vista’s New Year’s Eve Bash in the South.

Here’s the Awesome Guide to New Year’s Eve Party in Manila to welcome 2015:

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The Next Big Food Entrepreneurs: The Four Big Winners @MercatoCentrale

Text by Paul Wenceslao, Photos and Video by JR Velasquez 

Overall Winner

Mercato Centrale, the country’s premier chain of food markets, has served as a launch pad for a plethora of successful food establishments, such as Manang’s Chicken, Spring and Chuck’s Grub among others. Recently, it held a competition for budding food entrepreneurs, doling out a much needed avenue for them to flesh out their gastronomic ideas: The Next Big Food Entrepreneur (NBFE). 

This year’s roster of participants, coming up with a diverse lineup of savory delights and desserts, were given an opportunity to showcase their food creations and test the market, and many of them were able to leave good impressions to the buying public. In joining the Next Big Food Entrepreneur, everyone’s a winner; however, in the spirit of competition, there were four that stood out.

The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Winner 2014 series:

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BAKMI NYONYA: Best Indonesian Cuisine in Manila!

Text by Paul Wenceslao, Photos by JR Velasquez 

Bakmi Noodles 

Emerging as the overall winner of The Next Big Food Entrepreneur, Bakmi Nyonya impressed both the judges and the buying public with their take on Indonesian food – they serve Indonesian noodles topped with mushrooms, herbs, spices and one’s choice between beef, pork and seafood.  

Complementing the noodles are servings of large shrimp dumplings and spiced rice topped with spice sambal. According to Bakmi Nyonya’s co-owner, Gershwin Garcia, they are working with the different layers of flavor, each one being a vital component to one central taste.  

“What’s startling about our noodles is that the overall flavor changes whenever different kinds of toppings are added,” explains Gershwin. “Our bakmi goes well with almost every entrée.” He went on to narrate animatedly how a fellow TNBFE participant’s dish, adobong pusit, perfectly blended with his bakmi noodles.

FacebookBAKMI Nyonya
Telephone: +63 925 870-8899

The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Winner 2014 series:

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BIGOROTS: Bicol + Igorot Heritage Cuisine by Pinoy Master Chef JR Royol!

Text by Paul Wenceslao, Photos by JR Velasquez 

Bigorots 2

Triumph and having a keen eye for detail are the keys to success for Benguet band vocalist, JR Royol. After all, stringing together words for songs and meticulously minding the taste of cooked dishes are never easy tasks. Royol, however, isn’t one to back down from a challenge, and that challenge required him to trade the microphone for cooking equipment for a while and come up with an array of cuisines based on his roots in Benguet and his sheer love for food. 

Prior to joining and winning “Master Chef Pinoy Edition,” Royol has got the Sous-vide method of cooking down pat, and wound up developing yummy dishes, such as the YOLO Humba and his own version of Chicken Pinikpikan (which he proudly calls “Perfect Cooked Chicken”). He has been eying Mercato for a long time, since he views it as a makeshift R&D department for his cooking.

Upon knowing about The Next Big Food Entrepreneur, joining the competition is a rather easy decision.  “Paying customers have no bias; in fact, unbiased feedback is sometimes better than sales,” explains Royol. This line of thinking combined with his succulent creations made him an early favorite to win the competition. 


The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Winner 2014 series:

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TURONNE DE MANILA CAFE: Best Pinoy Dessert Innovation!

Text by Paul Wenceslao, Photos by JR Velasquez 

Turonne De Manila

Who would’ve thought that a regular afternoon snack such as turon could be tweaked and stylized to become an artisanal meal? Danz Semilla, a food enthusiast, didn’t think of it as a possibility, at first. It just so happened that the game of chance landed on his lap, literally, when he had an extra portion of cookies & cream-flavored butter cream and a saucer of turon. 

Creative juices were churned out of Semilla’s mind, as he imagined how the seemingly odd pair would taste like, and alas, he stumbled upon a good idea. Upon mixing turon and butter cream, his taste buds were entranced, so much so that he started building on the idea, taking into account his love for eclairs and turon as well as the unyielding charm of artisanal desserts. The rest is proverbial history. He, then, thought of opening a food store.

Snacking on his new creation, as it happened, was not enough. In truth, Lady Luck would again dab her meddling fingers into Semilla’s life one day while he was going through Facebook. He chanced up on ad for The Next Big Food Entrepreneur at a time when Mercato was nearly done taking in all the participants for the competition. 

Turonne de Manila
FacebookTuronne de Manila Cafe  
Telephone: +63 927 660-8705
Mobile: +632 842-3680 

The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Winner 2014 series:

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HUNGER BUSTER: Best Affordable Gourmet Burgers in Manila!

Text by Paul Wenceslao, Photos by JR Velasquez 

Hunger Buster 2

College is the breeding ground of young entrepreneurs, as students learn the fundamentals on how to come up with a business concept and make its products quite tempting to its target market. Such is the case with Erika Cantor and her friends, owners of the burger booth Hunger Buster. A refined and classy lady, not a lot of people would suspect Cantor as a purveyor of grilled delights in Ateneo de Manila. Well, in this case, big surprises can come in stylish packages. And Hunger Buster’s burgers do pack a wallop in taste and value for money.

Hunger Buster started as a business idea in a class in Ateneo wherein participants are supposed to put up a small business and sell items to students, faculty and other customers. Cantor and her friends – Kenneth Chan, Eries Chan, Brett Monsanto and JC Carlos – unlike the average college slacker, saw this as a challenge not just to get good grades, but to actually make it big on the business front. 

FacebookHunger Buster 

The Next Big Food Entrepreneur Winner 2014 series:

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