Define “Media Influencer”… :)


A few hours before boarding a flight from Manila to Cebu, I received an email from our GM that requested I “stop in” at our Marina Branch of Zubuchon to say hello to a group brought in by the Department of Tourism. We are big on helping promote the country, the cuisine and its overall image for local and foreign tourists, so we inevitably say yes to most requests from the DOT. As usual, I was casually dressed and unprepared for the hours ahead. This creeping feeling was gnawing at me as the “advance pack” of information trickled in. The group was headed by Allan Pineda Lindo, better known as of the Black Eyed Peas, and current Philippine Tourism “Ambassador”. He had assembled some 20+ American personalities with serious “media influence” and that translates into some 20+ million combined followers on their various social media outlets. The scope of that only dawned on me when I started to look up some of their “pages”…


At Marketmanila’s zenith, the blog would get some 40-50,000 hits a day, from say 20,000+ different visitors, and it has been around for some 12 years or so. But never, ever have I thought of “exposure” or “influence” in the millions, as in some of these folks post a picture of a kamias shake and potentially 2-3 million people receive it in their “feed”. Yikes. That is definitely a double-edged sword. And so shallow, if you ask me, but it is how the folks get their data today. So be it. Let’s get with the program. A quick briefing with staff at that Zubuchon branch and the importance of not spilling or tripping or burning a guest with a sizzling plate was emphasized, and we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. SWAT teams arrived (I kid you not) and security swept the restaurant, and in a flurry, the guests (a party that was supposed to be 30 people max), swooped in and ballooned into 75 people including camera crews and security. Egads, talk about being caught off-guard.


Honestly, the only person I even vaguely recognized was, and after watching from the sidelines as a rapid service began (they all had flights to catch), the hubbub was beginning to die down and I thanked the Gods for no untoward incidents and the manager of one of the celebrities came up to say thank you and to ask why I seemed not to have had a photo with anyone… I didn’t want to tell him I had no idea who anyone was but he was kind enough to go introduce me to some of their guests. So up top, a photo with the man. The second photo with actress, singer, dancer Cassandra “Cassie” Ventura, who is half Filipino and incredibly nice an charming, see more hollywood style photos of her here. And perhaps the most interesting acquaintance made was with Billy Dec, one of the advisers to President Obama, I gather, and who was the person security was most keeping their eye on. He happens to own several restaurants in Chicago and we spoke for a while about some of the dishes he tried that day. Go to his Facebook page and see the post he did on his lunch at Zubuchon. :)


The guests were incredibly game about having their photos with staff members after the meal, and while we thought they were in a rush, they decided to hang out for about 45 minutes longer, waiting until the last possible moment to head to the airport.

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But on the topic of “media influencer” that’s more locally relevant, the staff, jaded folks that they are, were actually not so starstruck by this group of guests, for just the week before they had Piolo Pascual and Dawn Zulueta slip in quietly and with no reservations to have dinner in the midst of the restaurant and a full-house of guests. And we get a “sighting” of this celebrity or other a few times a month it seems. And during the Presidential campaign I think they served all but one of the candidates who were running for major office, yup, including him. And months ago, under great secrecy, we hosted a press conference for the Alden Richards of the “Aldub” phenomena, that had it been broadcast to the public, our glass walls and doors would almost certainly have been damaged by the ensuing melee. Ah, all this for those enamored by celebrity. But with 20+ million followers, you’re darned right we fall into line and make sure we put our best foot forward. As for the supreme wardrobe fail of Marketman in these photos, I deeply apologize. I need to start losing some weight or buying better clothes and keep them in by handcarry for quick changes. :)


31 Responses

  1. All you need is a couple of necklaces like and you would have been appropriately dressed!!! ;-)

  2. Buttoning up one of the buttons might have done the trick. :)

    Cassie is also the current girlfriend of P.Diddy/Puff Daddy/Sean Combs.

  3. As it has been said hereabouts too often (usually by me), promotion is the lifeblood of commerce. What just happened there is like the free publicity accorded the combed over talking yam by the media back here in the old US of A.

  4. MM, you said “yup, including him.” If the “him” you refer to is the same guy I have in mind, how I wish he choked on a chunk of lechon, rested in peace, and left us alone. This guy is antithetical to a civilized, economically emerging nation. I’m embarrassed beyond words, and concerned how things will play out in the next few years.

  5. OMG, I had no idea they were paid. I assumed it was a free trip, and the invite came from “one of them” but really, paid? Yipes. I should state for the record that we did not do this meal for free, and the bill was fully paid for by the party and/or DOT. The week before, we hosted three well-known instagrammers with millions of followers as well, and we were paid for that lunch as well.

  6. Wow! again, JoKoy was with the group?


    Hmmm… I assume it’s a DOT project/organized tour; with Billy Dec’s dedicated use of the #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines hashtag on his Facebook posts, not sure if they were really paid as “influencers”.

    Anyway it seems to be an overall positive for the tourism industry.
    It’s always a joy to see/read a foreigner’s reaction when they have their first try of our local mangoes. :D

  7. Yay for Zubuchon! I hope we don’t have to elbow anyone when we get to try your restaurant. We’re headed to Cebu in three weeks and you are our second stop, hahaha.

    By the way, your get-up was pretty organic, polo shirt with some beads of sweat, hehe.

    And I liked the Jackson Pollock-esque prints on the walls. Those are all the accessories you need.

  8. Malou, and you’ll really be amused to find out who painted the two pieces… yours truly and the daughter collaborated. In our backyard. With house paint. In ten minutes. It was a gas. And several people have asked to buy them, or at least know where they could buy them. Our crew said “parang imported, mahal siguro” hahahaha. :)

  9. You’re certainly doing your share in promoting the country! A while back (just before I left on my trip where I had dinner at Zubudagat and met you) the pastry chef in our little neighborhood patisserie saw I was holding a bottle of lechon sauce. He asked if I know about Zubuchon, when I told him I was actually going to be at your restaurant, he told me it was his dream to head to the Philippines and eat at your place!

  10. grammar rant (sorry! but it does still matter):
    “it’s” = “it is”
    possessive “its” has no apostrophe

    I’m sure you all know this.

  11. kurzhaar, sorry, a major problem of mine. Will edit. :( Stu, was the chef pinoy? I am always curious how people hear about these things… but with social media, nothing is a surprise, really.

  12. This campaign in London’s Waterloo station might be more effective.

  13. ami, yes, I liked that one too. Clearly the DOT is trying, and it’s going younger to capture the intended audience. But when it comes down to the nitty gritty, the Philippines has too few hotel rooms and they are wickedly expensive compared to our neighbors. Flights internally are way overpriced. Logistics and security are often a problem. And we attract a tiny fraction of the tourists that places like Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam manage to get… I believe when the current DOT secretary took office, he set a goal of some 10 million tourists by this year. They barely made 6 million last year. Fail.

  14. Congratulations! Zubuchon has become a regular tourist spot in Cebu!
    Aside from the lechon, what was their top favorite from your menu?
    Don’t worry, your attire is not so bad and that patch of sweat in front only shows how hard working you are! ?

  15. Betchay, I always try to convince guests to order a variety of dishes, kind of like the way thais do it right… in other words, perhaps lechon for the fat and protein, a kinilaw to start for that rawness and freshness and hit of sour, maybe a dinuldog which is a squash dish with coconut milk and shrimp for richness, or perhaps a spicy bangus sisig as well. I find that most people think in terms of a main course, maybe one other dish and rice. If you are 4+ people dining, it’s a great opportunity to order 4-6 dishes, and taste a little of everything. For me, the ideal dining party is say 6-8 people, and you order some 8-10 dishes, from hot, cold, crunchy, spicy, creamy, salty, fresh, etc. When you hit all those points, the meal seems so much better…

  16. Betchay, that specific party had fish skin tacos with kinilaw, bangus sisig, chicharon bulaklak, shrimp sinigang, adobong kangkong, two kinds of lechon, tomato and duck egg with smoked fish salad, eggplant salad, five pork fried rice, plain rice, pancit (shrimp I think) and dessert platters that feature 4-5 different items. I could have forgotten a couple of dishes.

  17. Am sure the food did all the ‘talking’ and promoting for the country.

    A casual blazer, blue / black / brown, can really come in handy for sudden meetings and such occassions. I have one in the car or in the offices.

  18. MM I was going to ask who the painter is for that background painting. I love it! You and the Teen should “collaborate” more often.

  19., head to National Book Store for their largest canvas, about PHP1,000. Then to the paint store, we only used black and white. Paint the canvas either black or white and let that dry first. Then splatter away. Total price of the painting was less than PHP2,000. Throw in a decent frame and the total price is below PHP5,000 each. Compare that with similar sized abstracts we were considering from galleries at PHP250,000-700,000 and you know why we went the homemade route. Real artists are probably mortified, just mortified. :)



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