Monday, 21 November 2016

Concerts: A Merry Christmas with Pat Boone (Manila)


Christmas is just around the corner and what better way to spend the holidays than to catch legendary American singer, composer, actor, writer, television personality, and motivational speaker Pat Boone as he holds a special, one-night-only Christmas concert (entitled A Merry Christmas with Pat Boone)  in Manila, presented by Ovation Productions, on December 6, 2016 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum (the Big Dome) in Cubao, Quezon City. 
With a musical career that spans over 5 decades, Pat will take center stage in his trademark white buck shoes, perfectly combed hair and a gleaming smile on his handsome, clean-cut face as he spreads holiday cheers to his Pinoy audience. The new millennium saw the singer turn out regular releases featuring a diverse batch of albums that included Christmas songs, most of which are in his playlist. 

Backed up by a 20-man choir, Pat will also be joined by special guest half-Filipino, half Dutch Aliya Parcs, famous for her song “Stop Think,” the official soundtrack of the Filipino rom-com movie, Bcuz of U, which was aired last 2004. 
During the concert, he will perform his most popular Christmas carols such as White ChristmasSilent NightSilver BellsI’ll Be Home For ChristmasO Little Town Of BethlehemO Come All Ye FaithfulO Holy NightWinter WonderlandThe First NoelSilver BellsGod Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and many more. 
The album collection also includes patriotic standards, a tribute to the Ink Spots, classic R&B songs and 2015’s “Pat Boone’s Favorite Bible Stories & Sing-Along Songs.”  He will perform his greatest hits such as Ain’t That A ShameFriendly PersuasionBernardineSpeedy GonzalesBlueberry HillLove Letters In The SandApril LoveDeep PurpleFascinationTennessee Waltz, among others.
Arguably the best crooner of his time, Boone made his professional recording debut in 1955 and his career attained greater heights when he set several new records in music and entertainment that have remained unsurpassed until today. He has sold 45 million records, had 38 Top 40 hits and appeared in more than 12 Hollywood films. 
Pat has been listed by Billboard as the second biggest charting artist of the late ‘50s, behind only Elvis Presley and ahead of Ricky Nelson and The Platters. In the magazine’s listing of the Top 100 Top 40 Artists for 1955-1995, he was also ranked at No. 9 – behind The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney but ahead of artists such as Aretha Franklin and The Beach Boys. He still holds Billboard’s record for spending 220 consecutive weeks on the charts with one or more songs each week. 
Tickets are priced at PhP5,810 (VIP), PhP5,280 (Patron A), PhP4,755 (Patron B), PhP3,700 (Box), PhP2,640 (Upper Box), and PhP1,060 (General Admission). Tickets are available at Ticketnet outlets nationwide and via online at www.ticketnet.com. For info, call Tel. No. 911-5555.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Resort Review: Basiyaw Resort (Padre Burgos, Quezon)

Date of Stay: October 30-November 1, 2016
RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ****
Condition and Cleanliness: *****
Staff Performance: ********
Room Comfort: *****
Food and Beverage: ******
Other Amenities: ****
Value for Money: *****

Basiyaw Resort
The one storey, no frills, wood, thatch and bamboo Basiyaw Resort, beside Basiao Port, has 4 simple fan-cooled rooms with bath (PhP1,500 per night).  The room facing the beach has a balcony with seating area where you can watch the sunset and, come morning, observe fishermen unloading their catch from their boats. 
Basiao Port
Located offshore, 500 m. from the clear waters of the gray sand Basiao Beach, are Mag-asawang Bagosina (also called Talabaan Islands), two big boulders, 100 m. from each other, that jut out to the sea and are approachable during low tide. The bigger of the two is Malaking Talabaan (Big Oyster).  The smaller island, Maliit na Talabaan (Little Oyster), is a rock formation which juts out to the sea with rocks curiously arranged and piled.  
Magasawang Bato
Though the resort has no restaurant, you can buy fish directly from the fishermen and have it cooked, for a small fee, by caretaker Ms. Lezel Pardito-Salut (whose house is just nearby) anyway you want it (fried, grilled, sweet sour, sinigang, etc.). You can also ask Ms. Lezel to prepare other dishes as well.
Multi-purpose hall
Basiyaw Resort also has a multi-purpose hall with shower rooms (male and female) and a kitchen sink and counter (for those those who want to prepare their own food). For nighttime entertainment, you can rent a videoke machine.  A sari-sari store, where you can buy provisions, is located nearby. For those bringing cars or vans, a parking lot (PhP100/car/day) is located just across the street from the resort. 
Balcony
The resort also offers daylong  island-hopping tours (PhP1,800) to Dampalitan Island, Pagbilao Grande Island and Borawan Island.  Entrance fees (PhP150/pax for Borawan Island and PhP80/pax or the other two) and overnight fees (PhP220/pax for Borawan Island, PhP160/pax for Dampalitan Island and PhP190/pax for Pagbilao Grande Island) are not included. The rocky and undeveloped Dampalitan Island, a 10-15 minute boat ride, boasts of mangroves and a long stretch of white sandy shoreline (Dampalitan Beach) lined with agoho pine trees and palm trees.
Dampalitan Island
Borawan Island is known for its Boracay-like crystal clear waters, beige sand beach (Borawan Beach) and its towering, Palawan-like karst formations and limestone cliffs (perfect for rock climbing, bouldering and rappelling). The island’s name is a portmanteau (a blend of  the world-famous islands of Boracay and Palawan). 
Borawan Island
Pagbilao Grande Island has a 70 m. long and 10 m. wide private white sand beach (Lukang Beach or Puting Buhangin Beachat the southwestern part of the island.  
Lukang Beach
The cove is also known for its beautiful limestone rock formations that form a small, unique cave right at the edge of the cove famously known as Kwebang Lampas.  This easily explored, tunnel-like cave has openings at opposite ends. The water at one end of the cave is freezing cold, while water at the opposite end is warm.
Kwebang Lampas
For those wanting to camp overnight at these islands, Basiyaw Resort also rents out tents (PhP300/tent).  They can also prepare food and send it over by boat. In the near future, the resort plans to add 4 airconditioned rooms with bath.
L-R: Lezel, Melissa, Almira and Jandy 
Basiyaw Resort: Brgy. Basiao, Padre Burgos, Quezon.  Ms. Salut's mobile numbers: (0927) 621-1861 (Globe), (0977) 370-8249 (Globe) and (0907) 214-8455 (Smart).
How to Get There
Distance to Manila: 171 kms.  From Manila, take the South Luzon Expressway. From Lucena City and Pagbilao, continue along the National Highway until you see the sign “Quezon National Agricultural School (QNAS)” on your left (this school has been renamed TESDA). A few feet away, you will see an arch on your right, which says “Welcome to Bondoc Peninsula.”Take a right, passing through the arch. Continue for about 15 to 20 minutes along a scenic, winding road, until you see a fork road. You are now in the Poblacion of Padre Burgos. 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Musical Review: The Jersey Boys

The Jersey Boys: L-R - Christian Bautista, Nyoy Volante, Markki Stroem and Nino Alejandro

(Excerpt from my article featured in www.pep.ph)

The award-winning musical “Jersey Boys,” the bio­­graphical musical based on the story of the 40-year-friendship of the legendary, world-famous Frankie Valli-led American doo-wop boy band The Four Seasons, had its Philippine premiere last September 24, with an all-Filipino cast of acoustic-pop royalty, swoon-worthy romantic balladeers as well as a powerhouse rock musician whose kin are among OPM legends. It will run for a limited 15 shows only, on the weekends from September 23 until October 16, at the Meralco Theater in Ortigas, Pasig City.
This brand new version of the musical, the 40th production of the theater group Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group (ATEG), which recently presented the newly re-imagined production of the disco marathon "Saturday Night Fever: The Musical" (an award-winning and long-running Broadway production based on jukebox hits), featured scenic design and staging to the lights design and costumes that are unique to this production. In the last 14 years, ATEG has brought to Manila stage the best of Broadway via Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, Dream Girls, Avenue Q, The Addams Family and Rock of Ages, among many others.
All four cast members have had a history working with Atlantis - acoustic balladeer  Nyoy Volante (as lead vocalist Frankie Valli) in “Rock of Ages” and “In the Heights;” Asian pop superstar  Christian Bautista (as singer-songwriter, keyboardist and quiet genius Bob Gaudio) in “Ghost The Musical;” singer-actor Markki Stroem (as the hot-headed lead guitarist and arrogant gambler Tommy DeVito) in “Next to Normal” and “Carrie: The Musical;” and The Voice finalist Nino Alejandro (as the hilarious bass player Nick Massi, a founding member of the band) in “The Bridges of Madison County.”
As solo music artists, all four stellar cast members come from different music genres but these intelligent and great musicians truly can understand musical styles from different eras, succeeding in replicating the voices, high-pitched harmonies (especially Frankie Valli’s trademark three-octave range and incredible falsetto pitch) and distinctive doo-wop sound and style of singing of each member of The Four Seasons, getting both the correct signature four-part harmonies and also the proper dramatic impact their roles required.
Their ability to morph into the respective characters they played also made them good theater actors. They obviously did research on who their respective characters (going as are far back as the characters’ birth), but they also did “put a little bit of themselves” into their characters to avoid coming across as too mechanical or robotic in their performances.
The direct and honest Nyoy, with his small stature but crazy, laser clear high falsetto (perfect for the role of Frankie Valli), intensely believes in his character. He convincingly mutates from the unlucky but hopeful teenager to the regretful fallen idol, channeling the happy and angry feelings in his life as he sings.
Christian’s superbly polished performance convincingly portrayed the confident bravado that Bob had and mirrored the precise and calculating nature of his character. Nino’s occasional comic outbursts added to the overall energy of the show. Markki, in his glitter jacket, is as suave as any of the smoothest crooners. Individually, all four were solid performers but they were also tight as a group.
Prior to the premiere of this musical, little was known by the public about the group's history because the magazines of the era didn't write much about them. It showed how the Four Seasons got together, and on to their meteoric rise and descent (truly a classic American story of “rags to riches and back to rags”), all told from different, and often contrasting, points of view of the band members who each gives his own perspective on its history and music directly to the audience (a little distracting at first), via the four symbolic seasons.
Spring, by DeVito, explains how the band forms and Frankie’s coming of age story. Summer, by Gaudio, begins the superstar rise of the Four Seasons. Fall, told by Massi, showcases the band’s succumbing to their newfound Fame. Finally, winter, by Valli, wraps up the show and the band’s story.  The storyline and subplots had a lot of comedic character moments.
The Jersey Boys’ music, by Four Season band member Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe, the Four Seasons' real-life record producer, was set to a generation of iconic and unforgettable hits that continue to be played and covered up to now.  Some 33 songs were featured in the show, including 5 No. 1 hits and 11 songs that made the Billboard’s Top 10.  However, 19 hit songs by the Four Seasons or Frankie Valli didn’t make it into the show, including four Top 10 hits.
The show started out slow as the dramatized account of the stage production made it more of a biopic rather than a musical and the audience had to wait for some time before Frankie made our feet tap to the show’s first real track - "Sherry," followed by “Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like A Man, the three songs that propelled them to stardom. Thanks to Bobby's songs, Frankie continued to have success as a solo artist, hitting the jackpot with “C’mon Marianne,” the almost-never-released “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You" (which Bobby fights to get airplay for) and “Working My Way Back to You."
During the show, other songs were sung during momentous and tragic moments in their lives - "December 1963 (Oh What a Night)" when a tense Bob chalks up a personal first by losing his virginity in a Chicago hotel room at Christmas; the tear-jerking "My Eyes Adored You" when Frankie and Mary divorce due to constant touring strains; “Big Man in Town” when things strain between Tommy and Bob; “Stay/Let’s Hang On!” when Nick declares that he's tired of everything and wants out; “Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby, Goodbye)”  when Frankie breaks up with girlfriend Lorraine; "Fallen Angel" when Francine, Frankie’s daughter with Mary, dies from a drug overdose; and “Rag Doll”  when the original four members reunite on stage one last time during their 1990 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  
Near the end of the show, they sang “Who Loves You” as each member, in turn, took a moment to address the audience, explaining his pride at having been with the band and briefly noting what he did afterwards. The show ended with a standing ovation from the truly appreciative crowd. 
Jamie Esteva Wilson, Bibo Reyes, Nelsito Gomez, Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante (wife of Nyoy), Yanah Laurel, Giannina Ocampo-Van Hoven, Altair Alonso, Steven Conde, Rhenwyn Gabalonzo, Emeline Carmela Guinid, Kendrick Ibasco, Gab Medina, and Timmy Pavino round out the cast.
The 2-level, gray and drab and surprisingly non-descript set (which included a metal catwalk), designed by Faust Peneyra, captured the industrial grittiness and appeal of the Four Seasons’ New Jersey, a reminder of the boys’ working class backgrounds. Placed toward the back of the stage, it served as a concert stage, a recording studio, nightclub, jail cell and hotel room.  It allowed plenty of space for props, items for scene changes (such as a recording booth that was constantly wheeled or shoved into the center stage), choreography being performed and instruments to be placed.  A projection screen is displayed to signal time and scene change.
The choreography (mostly shoulder and leg thrusts), by Cecile Martinez, was simple and uncomplicated but very effective, sexy and cool. The costumes, designed by Erwin Tan, included some vintage suits, ties and dresses, all fun to wear and accurate for the period.
The musical was fast and furious as the scenes were so quick. Members of the truly first-rate ensemble had to play multiple roles, with nearly 80 characters for the women alone, meaning dozen of costume changes and they had to be quick. The colorful lighting, by Driscoll Otto, washed the stage with a Liberace-style essence.
Directed by seasoned stage director and ATEG co-founder Bobby Garcia (he pulled it off seamlessly), the show’s libretto was penned by book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, sound design by Justin Stasiw, musical direction by Ceejay Javier, vocal coaching by Manman Angsico, and hair & makeup design by Johann Dela Fuente.
“Jersey Boys,” truly a piece of theater with a timeless story and a well-crafted biographical musical, is a celebration of the unforgettable music of The Four Seasons and is, at the same time, a gritty but heartfelt true-to-life tale, told with dramatic clarity, of friendship, love, family, stardom, following your dream and dealing with the realities that that brings, creating  a new awareness about The Four Seasons, especially with younger people.  
Aside from bringing their fantastic story to life, this musical also honored the legends who created the music that defined the boomer generation who took drugs, sex, rebellion and  rock and roll to a whole new level. The songs, played with an energy to them that was amazing to hear, lifted us higher and higher and made us leave the theater feeling so good. The show was pure genius.
This 2.5-hour (including a 15-min. intermission) musical is only recommended for ages 12+ as the show contains smoke, gun shots, strobe lights, drug references, sexual situations and authentic “profane Jersey language” (including a lot of f__k bombs).
The Four Seasons who, alongside the Beach Boys, Motown and Memphis soul, fought their way to the top of the music charts even during the phenomenal "Beatlemania," The Rolling Stones and British Invasion in the mid-1960s (the “Golden Era of Music,” specifically the birth of what is now Rock and Roll). These four sons of Italian immigrants went, from singing on street corners in the various housing projects in Newark, northern New Jersey (the title refers to the fact that the band members were all from here), to singing on national television as their songs charted 24 Top-30 hits from 1962 to 1968.  They wrote their own songs, invented their own sound and sold 175 million records worldwide, all before they were 30 years old.
Now in its 11th year on Broadway (it officially opened on November 6, 2oo5 at the August Wilson Theatre), the show won 55 major awards including the 2006 Tony Award for “Best Musical,” “Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical” (John Lloyd Young), “Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical” (Christian Hoff) and “Best Lighting Design of a Musical” (Howell Binkley). At the 2007 Grammy Awards, it won as the “Best Musical Show Album” and, at the 2008 Laurence Olivier Awards in London, it also won as “Best New Musical.”  After setting a record of at least 4,093 performances as of September 22, 2015, “Jersey Boys” has surpassed "Miss Saigon" as the 12th longest running show in Broadway history.
To date, this show has been seen by more than 23 million people worldwide and is currently playing in New York, Las Vegas, London, and in numerous cities across North America and the U.K.  In Asia, from November 2012 to April 2014, an international touring production, starring an all-South African cast, played Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Concert Review: KC and the Sunshine Band in Manila

KC and the Sunshine Band
(Excerpt from my article featured in www.pep.ph)

The still widely popular KC and the Sunshine Band, one of the most progressive bands of the 1970’s (the era where people bought records), is credited with changing the sound of modern pop music. Still as high energy as they were when they first danced into the music scene over 40 years ago, they have sold over 100 million records (in the ranks with artists like Britney Spears, Bon Jovi, Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen) and have garnered nine Grammy nominations, three Grammy Awards (including Album of the Year) and an American Music Award (for Best R&B Artist).
The American musical group took its name from songwriter, keyboardist and lead vocalist Harry Wayne Casey’s last name ("KC") and the "Sunshine Band" from Casey’s home state of sunny Florida, the Sunshine State, where the band was founded in 1973 (in Hialeah). KC wrote some of the biggest and most enduring songs of the disco era. These songs have been featured in over 200 motion pictures and, in 2013, their album “Boogie Shoes” was selected for preservation by the U.S. Library of Congress for its cultural significance. In 2002, KC “cemented” his role in show business with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He also penned songs for Betty Wright and Jimmy “Bo” Horne and, throughout the years, has influenced countless artists and continues to do so today.
Harry Wayne Casey
In a one-night only concert sponsored by Ovation Productions, KC and the Sunshine Band took over the Smart Araneta Coliseum, bringing their impressive musical resume to the stage as they performed songs with a unique fusion of disco, R&B and funk, and a hint of a Latin percussion groove, an audio rainbow of many roots that has stood the test of time. This would be the first time I would see them live, but I have listened to them countless times on the radio, TV and cassettes, when bell bottoms was in fashion, and now in CDs, MP3 and Spotify.
The show started promptly at 9 PM. Prior to KC’s arrival, Fermin Goytisolo (percussions, an original band member), Steve Lashley (bass), David Simmons (drums), Chris Cadenhead (keyboards), Robert E. Lee (keyboards), Jeffery Reeves (lead guitar), Miles Fielder (trombone), John Reid (trumpet), Fernando Diez (saxophone) and Francisco Dimas (trumpet) entered the stage followed by backing vocals Maria De Crescenzo and Anika Ellis-Mungin; and stunning dancers Janell Burgess and Kennetha Morris who grooved as the band performed “Shake, Shake, Shake (Shake Your Booty).”
A couple of verses into this first song, KC finally emerged from the right to the center of the stage and started pounding away at the keyboard. Doing what he does best – entertaining, KC also danced with the ladies from one side of the stage to the other in a theatrical display of dance moves that he created back in the 1970’s. However, by the time he started into the playfully suggestive “Boogie Shoes”(part of the 1977 “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack), his second song, the 65 year old KC already was already catching his breath and sweating profusely.
At the end of this second song, the “Boogie Man” acknowledged that he gained weight and how much older he was (he also had shorter hair, a receding hairline and sported a beard), using the catch phrase “What the hell happened?”referring to how much time had elapsed since he started the band 43 years ago. He also tried to educate all the younger Filipinos in the audience as to who he was, jokingly saying “For you young people, you’re probably wondering who I am. I was your mother’s NSYNC.”Further on, he warned them that this is how Justin Timberlake would look like in thirty years.
Next, he said he wanted to play a few slow songs, however  promising that the remainder of the show would remain upbeat. He then proceeded to play “It Happens Every Night,” “Are You Ready?”and “Please Don’t Go,” before picking up the tempo with the dance-party-inducing “I’m Your Boogie Man,” “Keep It Coming Love,” “Do You Wanna Go Party,” “Rock Your Baby” (George McCrae’s 1974 No. 1 hit), “It's The Same Old Song” (originally a 1965 hit single recorded by the Four Tops), “Give It Up” (No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1984), “Play That Funky Music” (a song written by Rob Parissi and originally recorded by the band Wild Cherry), “That’s the Way (I Like It)” (the band's second No. 1 hit in the Billboard Hot 100) and their first No. 1 hit in the Billboard Hot 100, the eponymous “Get Down Tonight,” with its fast tempo and repeating lyrics. 
In between a costume change, David Simmons performed an energetic drum solo. The band also performed a take on "Stand By Me," a song by Ben E. King, and “We Belong Together” and “Why Don't We Get Together,” two of their latest tracks.
Even after an impressive string of hits and having been in the entertainment industry for over four decades, this “Founder of the Dance Revolution”  still knows how to put on a great, spectacular, high-energy show. Though his singing voice was nowhere near what it used to be in the 1970s, he more than made up for it by plenty of razzle in his dazzle, his sheer energy, great music and by surrounding himself with a talented ensemble of horn players, backup singers and dancers. Add lots of great lighting, glittering production, colorful costumes and cool choreography, then there’s definitely a party going on, with fans mostly spending the entire feel-good concert on their feet, dancing and shaking their booty. Truly, when we hear the upbeat, optimistic songs of these “Kings of Disco,” we get down tonight.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Hotel and Inn Review: Times Hotel (Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei)

Date of Stay: September 10-12, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: *******
Condition and Cleanliness: *******
Staff Performance: ********
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: *****
Other Amenities: *****
Value for Money: ******



Hotel Entrance
Times Square Mall
The 112-room Times Hotel, located within the Times Square  Mall, is a very convenient 5-minute drive from Brunei International Airport. It is also located 2 kms. from the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, 5.2 kms. from the Royal Regalia Museum, 5.6 kms. from the  Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, 6.5 kms. from the Water Village and 11.6 kms. from Jerudong Park.



The  sleek and luxurious, elegantly furnished airconditioned rooms (standard, superior, deluxe and executive deluxe) with electronic key lock; private bathrooms complete with a rainshower head and hair dryer; minibar, flat-screen LCD cable TV (with just 10 satellite channels  including HBO movie channel, National Geographic Channel, a sport channel but  no international news coverage), coffee/tea making facility, work desk and in-room safe. There is no DVD player so your entertainment options are limited. They charge for additional pillows or towels.  Even if some rooms have balconies, don’t expect any view from there and from the windows. There's only one outlet within the room, plus another in the bathroom, which you can use for charging your cellular phones, laptops, cameras and other electronic gadgets.


Front Desk
Swimming Pool
Facilities include a small outdoor swimming pool with sun loungers where you can sit and relax; a 24-hour Front Desk, meeting room and a 32-pax coffee shop (Times Cafe). Wi-fi internet is available in all rooms (spotty) and public areas. They offer room service, shuttle service (surcharge), valet parking, laundry, concierge and airport transfers.
Times Cafe
Times Square food court
Breakfast was good but with limited choices (fried/steamed rice, noodles, cereals, toast, milk, coffee/tea, chicken nuggets and chicken sausage). The hotel was clean and the staff  were pleasant and very helpful.  There are many dining options at the ground level (for Filipino cuisine, try Cocina de Lola) and at the relatively nice Times Square food court. There’s also a multiplex cinema on Level 4, a pharmacy, a full-service supermarket on the ground floor and a bowling alley is a 5 min walk away. There are no international brand name stores at this small mall, but it is still a good place to buy souvenirs.   
Times Square Mall shopping area
It is also a 10-min. drive from the Gadong and Kiulap commercial area. However, it is far from the center (about 20 mins. away) and taxis are difficult to get and very expensive (about 20-30 Brunei dollars just to go to the city center). You can pre-book a taxi via the hotel but it is not always guaranteed they will find one available.
The hotel lobby
Times Hotel: 2/F, Times Square Shopping Center, Simpang 13-29, Jalan Berakas, Kampong Jaya Setia, Mukim Berakas ‘A’, BS2713 Negara Brunei Darussalam. Tel: 673-233-7878. Email: reservation@timeshotelbrunei.com. Website: www.timeshotelbrunei.com.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Concert Review: Kenny Rogers - The Gambler's Last Deal

Kenny Rogers - The Gambler's Last Deal
(Excerpt from my article featured in www.pep.ph)

On September 25, 2015, enduring Country Music Hall of Fame member and Grammy Award-winning pop singer and songwriter Kenny Rogers announced on NBC's Today Show that he was retiring from show business after a final world tour (The Gambler’s Last Deal) to spend more time with his family.  The good news is that final tour also  included Manila (he also performed in Singapore and Bangkok) where he will serenade his Filipino fans for the first and last time in a one-night only concert presented by Ovation Productions at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Kenny Rogers has enjoyed great success during his storied career, playing to millions of fans around the world and performing songs from his catalog of 24 Number One hits and selling more than 120 million albums worldwide. Rogers’ various awards include three Grammy Awards, 19 American Music Awards, 11 People’s Choice Awards, eight Academy of Country Music Awards and six Country Music Association Awards, including the CMA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.  In 2015, Rogers was awarded the CMT Artist of a Lifetime Award. Incredibly, Rogers has charted a record within each of the last seven decades (’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, 2000’s, 2010’s) , making him one of the top ten best selling male solo artists of all time.
Kenny Rogers and his band
Traffic gridlock along EDSA and parking woes made me late for the show’s front act which featured OPM artist Aiza Seguerra (not the advertized Willie Nepomuceno) but I made it in time for the main act with some time thrown in for a quick snack. It being a one-night only concert (plus the first and last time Kenny will do a concert here), the venue was nearly full, the audience consisting of both old and not so old.  The concert started promptly at 9 PM with a video commentary on Kenny’s stint with The First Edition. Soon after, Kenny made his entry, hobbling towards his seat at the center of the stage, then singing “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” a hit of his with this aforementioned band. 
In between songs, the 77 year old Kenny regaled us, backed up by pictures and videos at the video wall, with important episodes of his amazing, six decade (he is celebrating the 60th anniversary of his music career this year) long career – how he first began recording in the 1950s, with a rockabilly band called the Scholars as well as the jazz group The Bobby Doyle Trio, but didn’t achieve success until 1967, when he co-founded The First Edition, and then going solo in 1976. He also recounted that he used the screen name “Kenny Rogers” after being told that his birth name, Kenneth Ray Rogers, was too formal.
He also injected a lot of humor by mocking his age for sharp, self-deprecating laughs - talking about having his knee replaced, but thought his doctor had perhaps replaced the wrong knee. He also told the crowd not to rush to his rescue if he fell, because he had Life Alert (an emergency response company). He also talked about how "very disappointing" it was to see the "101"-year-old Mick Jagger dancing like he was 16 at the Glastonbury Festival in 2013, and how Willie Nelson earned a black belt the day before his 81st birthday. Kenny’s theory for why he didn't have their stamina - "I didn't do enough drugs in the '60s."
In between anecdotes and jokes, the songs came pouring in – “Walking My Baby Back Home” (a jazz standard he usually sang with The Bobby Doyle Three),” “Through The Years” (one of the greatest wedding/anniversary songs of all time in any genre of music), “You Decorated My Life,” “She Believes In Me,” “Something’s Burning;” a shortened, square rendition of the ersatz The First Edition psychedelic song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In);” the USA For Africa anthem “We Are The World” (a song co-written by King of Pop, Michael Jackson), “Love Lifted Me,” “Lucille”  (Kenny called it as “the song that changed my life in music”); Every Time Two Fools Collide”(originally a duet with the late Dottie West  whom describes as an artist who is “such a joy to work with”); “Coward of the County;” “Love Will Turn You Around;” “Heroes” (from his Broadway musical “The Toy Shoppe”); the heart-rending, honest and sweet sounding “You Are So Beautiful (a song he dedicated to the crowd and to his treasured 12 year identical twin sons Jordan and Justin, by his fifth wife Wanda); “The Gambler” (one of the most popular singalong songs in the world); the heartfelt love song “Lady,” “Islands in the Stream” (originally a duet with Dolly Parton) and, during his encore (he didn’t leave the stage as he jokingly said “I might not be able to come back”), “You Can’t Make Old Friends” (also originally with Dolly Parton).
Kenny's twin sons Justin and Jordan
Guest performer that night was Linda Davis, his good friend from the country music scene, who smoothly sang “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “A Lesson in Leavin’,” and “Daytime Friends.” Kenny also did duets with her, performing “But You Know I Love You,” (a 1969 pop hit with The First Edition), “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight” (also originally recorded with Dottie West) and “We’ve Got Tonight (originally recorded with Sheena Easton).
Through much of the 24-song, 80-minute concert, Kenny’s voice was flat and thin, giving out a few times. When he aimed to hit the exuberant high note in "Through the Years," his voice seemed to crash and burn into a sour squawk.  He also seemed to have forgotten some of the lyrics of his songs. Recognizing his shortcomings, Rogers at the beginning joked “We're going to need all the help we can get."  He wasn't kidding.
However, despite Rogers' technically lackluster performance, the Rogers' show was well-received as this was a very forgiving Filipino crowd. Kenny seemed grateful for our help as the crowd just can’t help but clap and sing. Truly, this concert has endeared him to Filipino music lovers with his amazing songs, heartfelt performance, distinctive gravelly voice, gift for storytelling and universal appeal. At the end of the show, Kenny said “I thank you guys for the support for the past 60 years. Thank you so much, everybody here, I really appreciate it. I will miss you, guys!”
The man who sang the iconic “The Coward of the County,” is finally heeding the song’s advice – “Learn to Walk Away.” The encore song “Blaze of Glory,” a hyped up song performed with Linda, very much fittingly capped off a great farewell concert from the well-loved and undisputed king of crossover country music. Its lyrics say it all:
Let’s go out in a blaze of glory

All good things must end
Like two heroes in a story
Let’s go out like we came in
In a blaze of glory

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Hotel and Inn Review: The Oriental Legazpi (Legazpi City, Albay)


Date of Stay: June 18-19, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ******
Condition and Cleanliness: ******
Staff Performance: *****
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: ********
Other Amenities: ******
Value for Money: ******

The Oriental Legazpi
Overlooking the city on the top of Taysan Hill, this modern, upscale, serene and exceedingly intimate, 6-storey destination hotel, owned by renowned real estate company LKY Group, offers spectacular views of Mayon Volcano from its infinity pool deck and each room’s balcony. Formerly the Mayon Imperial Hotel which dates back to the 1970's, it has seen some upgrades and changed the name to The Oriental in 2009. 

Skylight ceilings and expansive glass windows, in the big lobby, light up the space but there is no airconditioning and it can get very hot in the afternoon. Its 115 trendy and very spacious rooms and suites, with chic colors reminiscent of boutique hotels, are classified  into the 34-36 sq. m. De Luxe Twin Countryside, the 34-36 sq. m. De Luxe Twin Mayon, the 34-36 sq. m. De Luxe Queen Countryside, the 34-36 sq. m.  Luxe Queen Mayon, the 72.5 sq. m. Executive Suite, Executive Suite Mayon and the 112 sq. m. Governor’s Suite.  

Rooms feature private toilet and bath with hair dryer, rain head shower and complete bath amenities (their bathroom has no lock though); 32”” LCD/plasma screen cable TV; centralized air-conditioning, minibar; tea and coffee making facility, electronic key card access, IDD and NDD phone; executive work desk, electronic in-room safe; and  balconies or terraces with scenic city views while some have volcano views. Suites include reception and dining rooms. The beds were very comfortable but the rooms need a pesticide run as there were baby cockroaches in the cabinet and table.

There’s also complimentary bottled mineral water, newspaper and Filipino breakfast for 2 (6 - 10 AM). The free high-speed broadband internet was good in public areas in the rooms but can be frustrating inside the room. People at the front desk were not very helpful. Rollaway/extra beds are available and extra-person charges may apply and vary depending on hotel policy

Jasmine, the hotel’s contemporary ground floor restaurant, serves local homegrown cuisine alongside international favorites. The buffet for breakfast (daily) and dinner (Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) was also good. Its 2 ballrooms and function rooms can be arranged to 5 types of set-up: cocktail, theater, banquet, classroom, and boardroom. There’s also a terrace and a sleek lobby lounge with a grand piano. 

Other equally impressive 4-star amenities include a second floor outdoor infinity pool with ay beds, tables and volcano view; a kids' pool; jacuzzi; pool bar; business center; a spa, souvenir shop, a fitness and wellness center and full back–up generator system. The Oriental Legazpi is a winner of the 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.

They offer limousine service; tour assistance; secretarial service; concierge; laundry and dry cleaning services, babysitting; foreign currency exchange; daily maid service; airport and city transfers (available on request); 24-hour room service; wake-up call; car rental and valet parking service.

The hotel is located 7 kms. from Ligñon Hill Nature Park (a 14-min. drive) and 8 kms. from the Cagsawa Ruins (a 14-min. drive). It is also a 15-min. drive from Legazpi Domestic Airport, a 20-min. drive from the city proper, a 10-min. drive from LCC Mall and the lifestyle hub of Embarcadero de Legazpi, a 9-min. drive from Daraga Church and a 9-min. drive from Albay Park and Wildlife.

The Oriental Legazpi: Taysan Hill, Sto. Niño Village, City, Albay, Legazpi Blvd, Legazpi City, 4500 Albay. Tel: 63-52-742-8888, +63-52-4800383 and +63-53-4800385.  E-mail: inquiry@theorientalhotels.com. Manila Sales Office: 4/F PCCI, Commerce an Industry Plaza (CIP) Bldg., Campus cor. Park Aves.,  McKinley Hill Town Center, Brgy. Pinagsama, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.  Tel: (02) 536-9999, (02) 536-1111 loc. 206, (02) 856-4116 and (02) 994-5644. Website: www.theoriental-legazpi.com.