Pinoyspotting: From Boracay to Italy

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Lucca is a small, remarkably preserved medieval city halfway between two more famous neighbors, Pisa and its leaning tower and Florence with Michaelangelo's David and other Renaissance wonders.

We were driving just outside Lucca's Intramuros-like walls when I saw a Philippine flag waving next to Italy's red, white and green banner. It fluttered against a pink stucco three-storey home on Viale G. Puccini, named after the celebrated opera composer, a native Lucchese.

 The Philippine flag outside Apple Lodge (Photo by Pepi Nieva)

The Philippine flag outside Apple Lodge (Photo by Pepi Nieva)

Later, at a gelateria nearby, a Pinoy in a Tagaytay shirt informed us that the flag belonged to a B&B called Apple Lodge.

Nilda Sunico, a Boracay native who came to Italy 23 years ago, runs the inn, which offers four bedrooms with two shared baths, plus lodging for her family. It's a long way for the former OFW who arrived on hotel contract, then worked as "everything" from waitress to barista to domestic help in order to survive in Italy. Two years ago, after managing a similar property, she decided to branch out on her own, leasing and renovating an old house now geared towards budget travelers.

Lucca is a safe, peaceful city with friendly people, she says. It's a great place to raise her two boys Alfred and Frederick, who speak Italian better than their parents' native language.

The city has been good for Nilda's entrepreneurial spirit. Already, she's looking to expand her B&B business and perhaps open an Asian store, which will serve halo halo. She wants to convert her Boracay house into another B&B, perfect for cross marketing (special price for Filipinos!). She also has another job: caretaker for a villa on the outskirts of town.

 Nilda Sunico (Photo by Pepi Nieva)

Nilda Sunico (Photo by Pepi Nieva)

Filipino Chef Flies High in Austin

“Bizarre Foods” star Andrew Zimmern highlights chef Paul Qui, who's making a mark in Austin's culinary scene with his Filipino-inspired cuisine. "He's the first chef of his caliber cooking Pinoy grandmother food, and his spin on these traditional dishes is stunning," writes Zimmern in his August column for Delta Air's Sky magazine. "I waited decades to try dinuguan in an American restaurant. Qui's addictive riff on this classic Filipino blood stew filled with pork, gnocchi, coconut, vinegar and nameko mushrooms was the 'chocolate meat' of my dreams." 

 Paul Qui (Source: andrewzimmern.com)

Paul Qui (Source: andrewzimmern.com)


 Pepi Nieva

Pepi Nieva

Pepi Nieva is a writer and public relations professional who lives in Honolulu and Portland, Oregon. She started her career in tourism in the Philippines and travel remains on top of her to do list.