Team Building Venues near Metro Manila


For all we know, Team Building has been a cliché in any organization –it aims to build more effective, productive, successful and fun working environment yadayada. Seems fun and easy right? But no, you think the executing part is tricky? (because you know that everything can’t be fixed by obstacle courses and high-fives, in fact, it can lead to more eye-brow-raising amongst the team if done wrong) Think again. You are still to be involved in the planning and you don’t have any idea how to begin with all the budget constraint, profiling, and how exhausting it is to find the best location.


caliaraya team building

My colleague was tasked to scout the best vendor and location for our annual team building this coming October. Being “nagmamaganda”, I volunteered to share her adventure (or rather giddy experience). Don’t get me wrong, I had fun though.
As a disclaimer, I am not in any way an expert in this field. But let me list the ideal requirements to ponder when hunting the best team building vendor near the Metro. Allow me to point out a few vital elements. Take into account the location. A word –convenience, you and I know how tiring the week is; last thing you want is a long and uncomfortable commute. You see, we have families and friends we want to spend the rest of the weekend. We also have to consider the capacity of the location, will it accommodate all the employees without having to sacrifice somebody’s comfort or favoring others. How about the food? Yes, that’s a big deal. People want to indulge after all the ridiculous activities (ang nega ko) the organizer asks them to. Speaking of activities, they are essential as those would be the tools to reach your goal – improving social interactions, unity, meeting goals as a team and what have you. Ultimately, the budget. For a company aiming to strengthen its strategic goals and improving profitability(sugar-coating for budget cut, haha cheap ba?), budget is a concern. And so the vendor that provides the best value whilst offering the most reasonable price.
We compared 4 popular team building destinations near Manila and here is the result.

Amansinaya: 3 hours. Don’t be deceived with the map. You have to ask the locals countless times then be prepared to pass through narrow rustic road before you get there (imagine the Shake-Rattle-and-Roll kind with Manilyn).
Caliraya Resort Club:: 3 hours.
Shercon: 2 hours.
Camp Benjamin: 2.5 hours.
Winner: Camp Benjamin. Well, technically, it’s Shercon. Am I math challenged or biased? Most employees live near Camp Benjamin, the qualitative property that needed to be considered. And it is also near Tagaytay so hooray for any side trip after the event.

manila-cavite-batangas map

manila-cavite-batangas map

Venue and Facilities
Amansinaya: Modern-type villas with 16 rooms each, mini pool, main swimming pool within the activity area, water slide, pool bar, and the mountains. It feels serene and quiet. Bring necessities you will need for there are no nearby stores or residences.



Caliraya Resort Club: Unpleasant rooms, bed sheets seems old and dirty, and the receiving area smells so bad –the smell of an old hooker coming out from a hot room (ewww). Pool and other facilities were average. To be honest, this resort is overrated.



Shercon: The volcano view was breathtaking. A great place to escape the busy and polluted city. The place is huge and spacious so be prepared to do a lot of walking (they have few carts though). Explore different kinds of fruit trees like rambutan, lanzones citrus and what have you. The pavilions and rooms are contemporary and cozy. Pools are everywhere. Activities for team building include zipline, maze, wall climbing, obstacle courses, etc.



Camp Benjamin: The rooms were clean, beds were tiny but cozy, bed sheets look new. The swimming pool was lovely. Overall, the facilities are well maintained. The place is green and refreshing. The kind of place you want to de-stress to. Like Shercon, they all have the basic facilities for team building like wall climbing, mud slide, zipline, ropes for obstacle courses etc.


camp benjamin_realduchess_flickr

Winner: Camp Benjamin. Well, look at the picture, it’s worth a thousand words.

Amansinaya. “The food was all right. Enough to satisfy our tummies but it was a bit pricey”- tripadvisor review- MalU
Caliraya Resort Club:. Based on my experience, the food were okay, buffet type, but taste so average and nothing to rave about (mairaos lang pagkain ganun).
Shercon. You are allowed to bring you own food without a corcage fee, yay! But according to a a review (ArielPablo), “The food is okay and the serving is okay”, so I am guessing another mediocre food.
Camp Benjamin. We had a chance to peek at a certain group’s Boodle fight food. It has Chicken (inihaw), Fried Pork (lechon Kawali), Fish and vegetables (looks like pinakbet) with bibincrepe (rice cake crepe style). Food from their restaurant was also delightful with reasonable price.


camp benjamin

Winner: Camp Benjamin. Yes, with my personal judgement, I am biased. On a serious note, the food has some quality compared to the other three.

Budget? To follow, our boss has yet to decide.  


Buffalo Wings: Lava Resto Bar and Grill


buffalo wings slathered with bbq coater accented with basil flakes from Lava Timog

Buffalo + Wings floating on Lava along Timog?  Confused? By now, I suppose most already figured out that Buffalo wings do not come from a buffalo and certainly not cooked on lava. Well, the latter is slightly true but not in the context you think. I know it’s not hard to find good Buffalo wings in the Metro (T.G.I Fridays and BonChon serve mouthwatering wings) but one of the best is found in a new restaurant named Lava along Timog Ave in Quezon City.

lava timog

lava timog

For the past few days, I was pre-hypertensive but heck, if you were to offer me anything grilled and fried, I’ll indulge and surely forgets anything about wellness. More so with a luscious, juicy, tender, and spicy chicken wings.  I can eat them all day.

I’m glad a sweet Aunt from Honolulu sent me some goodies via my restaurateur/part owner cousin Jaja, lest I wouldn’t have had discovered this place – Lava.  I arrived in the restobar late in the afternoon, had some catch-up and some “super-landing tawa” until I wasn’t able to hide myself starving.  I got myself their Pork steak with rice and it was good(or fine), the usual pork drenched in some fancy sauce (remember an ice-cold coke will fill any gap).  But I was very impressed with the next course, the Buffalo Wings courtesy of the host. And while one may argue that it’s impossible to say one is better than the other (just fried chicken wings dipped in a reddish-sweet sauce), that could not be true. I was not expecting it to be that remarkable so much so that I can’t figure out what adjectives to attach with.

lava timog

lava timog

Others might say, Buffalo wings should be crispy on the outside, I’d say not necessarily true. The one in Lava is not that crispy, but I guess they were just overwhelmed by the buttery-sweet-spicy sauce it was dipped on, but ‘twas tender and with bubble-skin-on nonetheless. Those two-cut wings can melt literally on your mouth with the only things left inedible to spew are those equally tasty-tiny-juicy bones. I prefer my wings super spicy, however Lava can adjust it to your preference. There’s this tangy feel on the bbq elixir balanced with spice, and all the freakin’ grease -in a good way (I mean all foods without fat and grease taste dull and boring). Overall, the buffalo wings in Lava is magic and all flowery words you can think are understatement.

sarap-to-the-bones buffalo wings- lava

what’s left? One bone from the host, everything else were mine.

Jaja suggested to pair our pulutan with a locally-made beer I haven’t heard of. This is what I’ve been looking for, an ice-cold beer with citrusy aroma which you can identify with one of that of a western brand in a blind taste test. Oh, beer! You see, I totally forgot that blood pressure thing.

brew kettle- lava

oh heaven! (brew kettle beer)

I also tried their Hawaiian pizza. Look below then you be the judge. :0

lava timog

lava timog

I’m sure every menu in Lava are great, but the rest of the menu will be explored on my next visit. Note: they also have choices of Pasta and burgers. One of their best sellers is the Baby back Ribs- next time my dear.

lava timog

lava timog

lava timog

lava timog

For now, I can’t move on with the Buffalo Wings.

Lava is located along Timog Ave, ground fl of Puregold Junior, just beside Plaza Ibarra Events Place.

Black Wing Shoes: A Shoemaker’s Principle

Behold: The loafers I’ve been excited about for the past couple of weeks are now alternately sprucing up and comforting my feet. It’s been days and I can’t get over it. For those who have no clue as to why I am this thrilled, a month ago, I ordered two pairs of loafer from Black Wing Shoes and blogged my expectations. I also promised to do a follow up post that will focus more on the thoughts of the man behind the business. But first, let me share my current bliss.

driving loafer bws

brown loafer by black wing shoes

Out of excitement, I braved the stormy weather last weekend just to get my orders. I’d say they’re chic and timeless. As I examined them, they are made extremely well, the quality of materials is superb, the stitches look sturdy, the soles made of old plane tires that made them very light and durable. I was delighted by their embedded logo at the soles. And because I understand they can loosen up a bit as you use them, I requested if they can tighten them a little, to which one of the staff gladly worked on right away. I decided to wear the brown one as I head home, and believe me, they’re probably the most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever worn (I rarely rave on anything except for products that exceed my expectations). At first, I thought they’re not that cheap, P3,000 a pair, but for a quality bespoke created by skillful hands, ‘twas a steal.

bws- driving loafer

bws- driving loafer

Black Wing Shoes makes Italian inspired oxfords and brogues if you are into classy and formal attire, while the nonchalant derbys and chukkas are equally gorgeous too. Though I am not a fan of formal shoes like oxfords (yet), I had a chance to examine some prototypes and other client’s orders and I saw that the construction is honorable and the designs are overall pleasant. And oh, they can get modern by infusing your own contemporary design if you will. I plan to get my first Oxford from them soon as I’m under pressure walking close to the likes of Tim Yap wannabes everyday along the alleys of Bonifacio High Street with my rather casual-comforty-me attire.

Buddy, together with his wife Anna, is clearly establishing a firm segment of the market through Black Wing Shoes showing a steady growth in the number of bespoke niche patronizing their collections.  Unanimously hailed by their skill-set, passion and dedication. Their unpretentious shop is located at the heart of Marikina along E Rodriquez Ave.

Let’s talk about the business shall we? By business I mean to look at the bigger picture and the future of Black Wings Shoes. And this has to come from the owner himself – Buddy. So, I prepared some few offline questions which (hoping he can squeeze on his busy schedule) he apparently managed to answer swiftly.

When and why did you put up Black Wings Shoes? “Black Wing started out as a hobby experiment. We wanted to make upscale sandals and entry level canvas shoes and sneakers 3 years ago. Since then we let the market dictate which direction to take the brand so we ended up making mid-priced shoes using all local materials. It eventually became a proof-of-concept that Marikina can still compete using locally available materials if the focus becomes quality instead of quantity.”

As noticed, your business is growing. What are your challenges and in what ways can you surpass these? “The challenge basically is how to address and sustain demand. We can only achieve this through proper strategy and investments. To maintain our quality, we have to continuously invest in people. That means training apprentices who will eventually become shoemakers. It takes a specific type of person to become an exceptional shoemaker so proper training is required to weed out those who can be excellent in their work. This is also key to sustaining the demand. We offer quality handcrafted shoes which is a meld of the old and the new. The story of how our shoes came to be and how everyone is part of the effort to revitalize and show the world that Filipino made shoes still has what it takes to become worthy of attention.”

Black Wing Shoes Staff

Black Wing Shoes Staff

How do you differentiate your business from other competitors? Competitive advantage perhaps? “We just do what we need to do with due diligence. We are not perfect and we make mistakes but we admit our mistakes and always strive to become better. We let our clients see that and that makes them feel that they are part of the brand instead of trying to serve up fast-products. The advantage that we have is the brand and its positioning. The brand experience is vital since our clients are not only “buying a shoe” but have become part of the whole process of “how their shoes are made”.”

What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now, and how are you making it happen? “Right now its our phase 2. We are currently trying to set up our first community based workshop which will cater to lower-end and entry level pairs. Using the knowledge that we have gained from making shoes, we aim to teach and train people from far-flung communities to setup and start working on shoes which is an alternative to trying to work as sales clerks and resto chain staff in the Metro. Most of them live in Montalban and San Mateo wherein if they had to commute to work most of their earnings will just be spent. We have run a couple of tests recently but have yet to refine the process.”

Black Wing Shoes Staff

Black Wing Shoes Staff

Do you plan on expanding your business locally and internationally? If so, how do you see Black Wings Shoes 5 years from now? “We target international but we have no plans to stray from our identity by selling out. We want to adhere to our handcrafted products and would just work around that premise. If we do come out with an RTW line it would all be handcrafted and hopefully be made in communities where they would be available as well to help the local economy at least. I hope that in 5 years that Black Wing will become a premium brand which clients know that will give them great value. We will obviously branch out to other business models to continue growing but the brand itself will remain intact and would share its story so other smaller workshops will be inspired to build their own brands which aims to compete with all the foreign brands that are being introduced into our local market.”

With this kind of principle, without a doubt, Black Wings Shoes will go big time, and I am proud to be one of the first few who believed its premise. I can’t wait to see them on the limelight- in a good way.

I am glad to tirelessly advocate hand making craftsmanship and encourage people to support our local shoe industry. Like Black Wing Shoes, I hope so too that more and more cottage industries will thrive doing what they love doing and offer products out of passion and dedication.

blackwing shoes

To check more of their creations, you may visit their instagram or facebook account.

instagram_black wings

black wings shoes_instagram