Friday, 9 March 2012

Letter from Port Moresby - Film cinema and Figaro come to Port Moresby

The Figaro coffee lounge just before its formal launching a few days ago.

       The dining hall, with ambience exclusive to a Figaro franchise.

Batch‘’65 JPHS
Port Moresby, PNG

TWO cool happenings have descended in this city which I call my second home: a film cinema house and a high-end coffee lounge called Figaro.

Of course, every Pinoy who had a cup at Starbucks would know Figaro – it’s Filipino and a Filipino global franchise promoting our very own “kapeng barako” worldwide.

In Metro Manila’s coffee lounge circuit, Starbucks and Figaro are the Pacquiao and Mayweather of boxing. Owwww?

I said “cool”, referring to the movie house that opened about two weeks ago, almost 25 years after the only known “sinehan” in the city last operated.
It’s actually a generation ago, and you can easily assume that the young generation of Papua New Guinea doesn’t know how a high-tech cinema looks, except for those who were able to go to Australia or to certain Asian countries, including the Philippines, where movie houses are “lima singko”. But these young travelers are very few – kids of well-off Papua New Guneans, who likewise happen to be very few.

In short, they have seen Hollywood movies on through DVDs and those cable TV and Australian shows carried by the local cable TV provider. And pirated movie DVDs from China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, which sell lot hot cakes.
The front of Paradise Cinema at Vision City Megal Mall, Port Moresby’s first-ever movie house in almost 25 years. It has three theatres, with one screening 3D movies. – MWBuzzpic by AP Hernandez

Called Paradise Cinema, it’s designed similar to Metro Manila mall cinemas, with three theaters sitting next to each other, accessed through a main entrance. Each theater screens five latest Hollywood movies a day. In short, the combined film titles screened each day total 15.

There’s just one turn-off: Tickets to ordinary film like “Chronicle”, which was recently screened in the US, cost K25 (25 kina), which, is about Php490! The 3D movies, especially the animations, cost K45, or Php886!

And the dress code is very strict. This is to bar locals who love to walk barefooted or in thongs. No “on” cell phone, no camera, no food from outside except for the pop corns and sodas sold at the lobby counter.

And the premises is swarmed by white-shirted “sekyu”, to flush out “raskols” (local thugs, criminals, holdup men, snatchers, etc).

Security has been the main concern of moviegoers – both locals and expatriates. Because inside the theater, you can easily robbed by the guy next to you.

        A troika of Pinoy expats awaiting the opening of the shop. Notice the store’s 
        shutter still pulled down.

A movie buff like many others, I dropped by last Saturday to see how it was at the cinema lobby. And as expected, there were lots of movie goers, who, for the first time are seeing a grand action on wide silver screen.

My Pinoy friends who went to watch the current titles said they were impressed, and that they felt being “at home”, as in, they were like at SM Mega Mall sauntering the crowded corridors on the way to the theaters.

Paradise Cinema is on the third floor of Papua New Guinea’s biggest and only shopping mall, called Vision City Mega Mall… see?

The mall, which is Malaysian-owned, also hosts some impressive shops – all owned by foreign investors.
        Fr Tom McDonough of St Joseph’s parish blesses the opening of Figaro gourmet 
        coffee shop wihile operations manager Robert Oliver (right) looks on.- Photo 
        courtesy of The National, PNG

WELL, Figaro is drawing a lot of Pinoys who hunger for a coffee lounge in which they would be comfortable to have a chat while enjoying their cappuccino.

Robert Oliver, the proud Filipino F&B Veteran and a Coffee Master, is the ops manager.

He is proud that the owner - a young Malaysian executive in one of the biggest trading houses in PNG who happens to be a friend of mine – has given him an almost a blanket authority to run the store.

He has now initiated the membership scheme, which gives clients merchandising benefits that included magic mugs, tumblers, discount on meals, a chocolate birthday cake in a client’s birth month. Well, just like in Metro Manila Figaros.

The gimmick could work because this is something new in Port Moresby and well-to-do Papua New Guinean kids are big suckers of things new.

At the moment, the shop/lounge employs three Pinoys – Oliver himself, a chef and a store manager.

The rest of the 30 or so staff are locals. Why too many? Well, to make sure that there’s one available to pinch hit for the one who would miss work.

Some key personnel will travel to Manila for training on Figaro franchise operations.

        The shop’s wall panels – oozing craftsmanship only available at Batangas 
        woodwork shops.

One thing impressive with the store is that it has cloned some of the best features that Figaro franchises are best in back in Metro Manila, including wall panels that home in first-class because of impressive workmanship.

Two sides of the walls are covered by finest brown panels with simple geometrical figures but tastefully designed and executed by Batangueno craftsmen.

The lighting is tasteful, no doubt about it, thus oozing such an ambience you won’t find in coffee shops around Port Moresby (but to be honest about it – there’s no coffee shop of this class that I can call here in Port Moresby, even those in hotels with international chains).

And as a franchise, Figaro is using things nearly Filipino – from spices to coffee beans, to cooking wares and menu – to that engaging Pinoy smile.

And Figaro’s franchised “ambyang”.
        The counter and display shelves and glass case.

White expatriates who happened by a few days to the formal opening was impressed with the overall feel. “The atmosphere is this kind we have been looking for in a coffee lounge here in PoM.” (PoM is short for Port Moresby.)

This city of more than 600,000, therefore, is serving the first truly upscale gourmet coffee treats for the first time.

Keeping his fingers crossed, Oliver wished these white men would come back and become addicted to our “kapeng barako” and other coffee and pasta treats with Italian and French-sounding names.

And for Pinoys, definitely a top favorite: “tapsilog” – available from morning to 2pm for only K17 (P333).

Well, one other good news is that, I can have a cup of my favorite gourmet coffee and the gourmet side treats -- on the house.


        Expatriates sample the gourmet treats on offer during Figaro opening. – Photo 
       courtesy of The National, PNG

The Man of the Hour … Robert Oliver (right) who is running the store’s daily operations, backed by a chef and a store manager who are both Filipinos. and some 30 local staff. – MWBuzzpics by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ

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