Friday, 17 February 2017

Resort Review: Vitalis White Sand (Santiago, Ilocos Sur)

Date of Stay: February 17-18, 2017
RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: ******
Rooms: ******
Condition and Cleanliness: *******
Staff Performance: ******
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: *******
Other Amenities: ********
Value for Money: *******

Vitalis White Sand
This 3-star hotel has 27 stylish and comfortable airconitioned rooms with private bath with hot and cold shower, hair dryer, rainshower head and toiletries.  
It also has cable TV; NDD telephone; IR electronic lockset system; coffee and tea making facility; mini refrigerator; complimentary bottled water; writing desk; balcony and free wi-fi. 

The 30 sq. m. Standard Rooms have a queen size bed and mountain (PhP5,000) or ocean (PhP4,500-5,300) views; the spacious 48 sq. m. De Luxe Room has 2 queen size beds and mountain (PhP5,500) and ocean (PhP4,900) views; the Ocean Family Suite (PhP9,500) has two adjoining rooms; while the Penthouse Suite (PhP11,500) has 1 king-size bed and 2 queen-size beds. 

Rates include breakfast and use of the pool and billiards. Children 12 yrs old and below sharing bed with parents are free of room charge.  
For over and above minimum capacity, an additional charge of PhP1,000 net/pax will be charged, inclusive of breakfast. PhP495 will be charged for additional breakfast for 13 years above and PhP350 for  7-12 years old only.

The resort also has a 24-hour front desk, restaurant (Fishermans Boat Grill), coffee shop, outdoor swimming pool, poolside bar (Macario), private beachfront, videoke, billiards, beach volleyball and motorized (jetski, banana boat) and non-motorized (kayak, pedalboat, paddleboard, wakeboard, snorkeling, scuba diving) water sports. Its Vida Verde Spa offers massages, body treatments, facials, manicure and pedicure.

It also offers laundry, luggage storage, concierge, currency exchange, airport transfer, wi-fi in public areas, express check-in/check-out and room service. Vitalis White Sands is located 13.9 kms. from the town center, a 10-min. drive from Manila North Drive (National Highway), a 40-min. drive from Candon City and a 45-min. drive from Vigan City.


Watersports facilities along Santiago Cove
Vitalis White Sands: Santiago Cove, Brgy. Sabangan, Santiago, Ilocos Sur.  Website: www.vitalisresort.com. Reservation and Information Centers: Manila: (02) 404-4784, Subic (Zambales): (047) 252-9978.
How to Get There
From San Fernando Airport in San Fernando City, head north, along Airport Rd. for 950 m., turn right toward Pennsylvania Ave. for 400 m., take the first right onto Pennsylvania Ave. for 290 m., take the first left onto Mabini St. for 1.5 kms., turn right onto Ancheta St. for 300 m., turn left onto MacArthur Highway for 49.9 kms., continue onto National Highway for 19.6 kms., continue onto Manila North Rd. for 20.3 kms., turn left toward Sabangan Bridge for 1.3 kms. then finally turn left onto Sabangan Bridge for 81 m. Santiago Cove will be on the right.

Hotel Review: Top V Hotel (Narvacan, Ilocos Sur)

Date of Stay: February 16-17, 2017
RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ******
Condition and Cleanliness: *******
Staff Performance: ******
Room Comfort: ******
Food and Beverage: *****
Other Amenities: *******
Value for Money: ******

Top V Hotel
This one-storey roadside hotel, beside a Flying V Gas Station and Tapa King outlet (open: 6 AM – 10 PM), has 12 cozy, non-smoking airconditioned rooms with private bath with hot and cold shower, 32-inch flat screen cable TV and WiFi connectivity.  Check out time is 12 noon and check in time is 1 PM.
 
De Luxe Room (Room 112) 

Function Hall
Reception
The de luxe rooms (basic 2/maximum 3, PhP1,785.72) and the two connecting rooms (basic 4, maximum 6, PhP3,526.79) have double beds while the family single room (basic 4/maximum 6, PhP2,232.15) has one double bed and one single bed. Extra adults can be accommodated in these rooms are charged PhP150 per person. Breakfast is not included in the rates.
Swimming pools
The hotel also has two swimming pool (adult and kiddie), well-maintained garden, 200-250-pax function hall, 30-pax function room and free parking.  They offer room service. 
The hotel is a 30-minute drive from Vigan City, a 2-hour drive from Laoag City (Ilocos Norte), a 1-hour drive from Bangued (Abra) and a 4-hour drive from Pagudpud (Ilocos Norte). 

Top V Hotel: National Highway, Poblacion East, San Jose, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur. Tel:  (077) 604-0113 and(077) 604-1103. Mobile number: (0977) 784-1898.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Star Cruises' SuperStar Virgo Makes Manila Its Home Port

SuperStar Virgo

In the past, Filipino families in Manila had to fly to Hong Kong or Singapore to hop on a cruise. Not anymore.  In a press conference held this week at the Passion Restaurant at Resorts World Manila, Mr. Ang Moo Lim, president of major shipping line Star Cruises (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Genting Hong Kong), announced that SuperStar Virgo, known as the "Jewel o the South China Sea" and one of its 6 premier cruise ships for families (the others are SuperStar LibraSuperStar GeminiSuperStar PiscesSuperStar Aquarius and The Taipan) has made Manila (Pier 15, South Harbor), in addition to five other Asian cities, as one of its home ports. 

According to Ms. Andrea Solis Manzano, the company’s Assistant Vice-President for Sales, other cruises only have port calls in Manila. Star Cruises was the first major international cruise line to recruit Filipinos for our cruise ships and, for the past 23 years, Filipino seafarers have been a part of their company’s DNA.  According to Michael Goh, Star Cruises’ Senior Vice-President for Sales, Manila, as a home port, will not only be the start and end of Superstar Virgo’s Manila-Laoag-Kaohsiung-Hong Kong route, it will also put Manila on the Asian cruising map currently dominated by Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, followed by Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan.

According to Department of Tourism (DOT) assistant secretary for tourism and development planning Ms. Maria Lourdes Japson, the announcement came just in time for the completion of the National Cruise Tourism Strategy of the Philippines and she believes this will help make the Philippines a major player in the cruising industry. She also added that, in the last five years, there has been a 52.5% increase in cruise calls in the Philippines. This year, the country expects more than 100 cruise calls and among the favorite destinations are Manila, Boracay, Puerto Princesa (Palawan), Bohol, and Siargao.  To make it more cruise-friendly, the DOT, according to her, continues to improve the country’s facilities and also partners with businesses and other organizations to highlight natural and cultural attractions in more remote places in the country. “We’re confident that the Philippines will become a cruise destination all the more,” she added.

Superstar Virgo will sail from Manila and take its guests, for a 6-day, 5-night trip, to Laoag City (Ilocos Norte), Kaohsiung (Taiwan) and Hong Kong, with no visas (unless passengers plan to hop off in Taiwan and stay for an extended period), no hassles, all-inclusive, duty-free shopping and almost unlimited baggage allowance as some of its perks for Philippine passport holders. The itinerary covers accommodation, on-board meals (at least six times a day), recreational facilities and nightly entertainment culminating in a spectacular grand gala dinner ("High Seas" or "Cruising Day") at the Gran Piazza where guests get to dress up and socialize with the ship's captain and officers (guests must make reservations, in advance, to attend).

Ilocos Norte is known for its Baroque churches, Spanish colonial buildings and white-sand beaches. Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan, is the island’s largest industrial center and second largest city. Besides shopping, Kaohsiung is popular for its temples, museums, street food and other culinary adventures. Hong Kong, the final stop (specifically, in the futuristic Harbour City in Victoria Harbour) is world famous for its shopping, dining, entertainment, and nightlife. Star Cruises arranges short excursions and day tours in each of these cities it will make a stop in.

The initial 15 voyages will run from March 19 to May of this year, dates in summer (the best time to have a cruise for the pleasant weather and calmer seas) that were chosen to avoid the typhoon season and coincide with school break and Holy Week, according to Mr. Goh. For the cruise, standard promotional fares start at US$490 and the highest promotional rate is at US$1,530. For cruise departures on March 19, 24 and 29, Star Cruises is offering  an early bird discount of PhP24,500/person (twin sharing in an Inside Stateroom) and third and fourth persons (quad sharing) can enjoy an additional 50% discount (PhP12,250/person) off. Port and gratuity charges are not included, subject to Star Cruises terms and conditions.

The almost 20-year-old (built in 1999 in Germany) but well-maintained, 13-storey Leo Class cruise ship, the trip’s real destination, according to Mr. Goh, can accommodate a maximum of 2,400 passengers and has 935 cabins (luxurious executive suites with hot tubs, rooms with balconies, cabins with ocean vistas).  It also has 13 bars and restaurants serving Chinese, Japanese and international cuisine; spa; gym; a duty-free shopping center; an outdoor swimming pool (Parthenon Pool) with a 100-meter mega water slide and view of the open sea; jacuzzi, mini golf course; library; health club and spa; basketball court; jogging track; sauna rooms; hairdressing salon; open-style karaoke lounge, observation deck  and and in-house, two-level theater (Lido Theater) that plays full productions that include magic shows, ballroom dancing spectacles and acrobats.

Star Cruises Philippines: 4/ Star Cruises Centre, 100 Andrews Ave., Newport, 1309 Pasay City. Tel: (632) 836 6830 to 32.  Fax: (632) 836-6835.  E-mail: salesmanila@starcruises.comWebsite: www.starcruises.com. For a 360° review of SuperStar Virgo’s cabins and facilities, check out their new VR Virtual Tour at http://www.starcruises.com/virtualtour/en/index.html. For more travel and cruising information, follow Star Cruises Facebook Page

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Concert Review: A Merry Christmas with Pat Boone

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

Christmas came early when legendary American singer extraordinaire Pat Boone held a special, one-night-only Christmas concert (entitled A Merry Christmas with Pat Boone), presented by Ovation Productions, last December 6, 2016 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum (the Big Dome) in Cubao, Quezon City.   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 Boone
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. 
Ms. Aliya Parcs
Pat’s special guest during the concert was the half-Filipino, half Dutch Ms. 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.  Aliya performed Someone to Watch Over Me, All the Things You Are, The Way You Look Tonight, The More I See You, Misty and L.O.V.E.. After a 15-min. intermiss n, Pat made his appearance on stage in his trademark snow-white fringed and sequin coat, white buck shoes, perfectly combed silvery hair and a gleaming smile on his handsome, clean-cut face. He opened with one of his classics, Ain’t That a Shame (Pat’s first Billboard No. 1 single), and it seemed like 1950s all over again.  Pat was accompanied on stage by 4 musicians from California and supported by the all-Filipino AMP All-Star Band.
Pat singing Christmas songs with the CFF Choir
This was followed by Tutti Fruitti (A Little Richard original), When I Lost My Mind (No. 1 in the Billboard Charts in 1956) and Bernardine (performed by Boone in a movie of the same name).  Then Pat sang Love Letters in the Sand, another smash from the 1950s and, in the middle of the number, Boone whistled the tune then asked the audience to whistle along with him. 
After performing the teenage tragedy song Moody River, Pat, being the gentleman that he is, went down the stage and presented a bouquet of flowers and planted a kiss to a 96 year old lady fan while singing the popular April Love (again from the movie of the same name). Boone said that the lady’s name was Star or, in Tagalog, Bituin.  

With Don’t Forbid Me, another 1957 hit of his, Pat narrated that his record only came about because the demo that was FIRST sent to Elvis Presley’s house just laid there UNOPENED with all the junk that comes there.  Though the song Speedy Gonzales, about "the fastest mouse in all Mexico," was not originally recorded by him, Pat made it popular when he overheard it being sung by a vocalist in a local night club owned by a TV producer in Manila (he performed 10 sold-out shows at the same venue in 1961). He rounded off his hit playlist with Blueberry Hill (a Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino hit) and the great country gospel song A Wonderful Time Up There.
Pat, in reading glasses, reading lyrics from the story book Santa and the Christ Child
Then came a series of traditional Christmas carols, starting with Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas/Christmas is Coming, Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland and Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire. Pat performed White Christmas and the medley of O Little Town Of Bethlehem/Hark the Herald Angels Sing/Away in a Manger/O Come All Ye Faithful/Joy to the World with the 20-man CCF Chorus.  Pat also sang two Christmas songs he composed. 

His I Saw Santa Prayin’ was Pat’s attempt to reconcile, for kids, the two main figureheads of the Christmas season – Santa Claus and the Christ Child. Here, he wore reading glasses while reading lyrics from the story book Santa and the Christ Child.  While singing Little Green Tree, he sat on a rocking chair beside a green-lit tree, the very thing he speculated he would do if he were doing Christmas shows in another part of the world and was prevented from being home for Christmas by bad weather or something else.
Pat giving a bouquet of flowers to 96 year old fan
Finally, he led the audience into a sing-along with Silent Night and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. It really is tough for any performer to carry a 90-minute show prancing around (though slower) the stage, but this 82-year-old geriatric teen angel still managed to do it.  After over 5 decades on stage and nearly 50 million records sold, 

Pat Boone still seemed right at home and thrived in front of this devoted Filipino audience, comprised mainly of folks 55 and over, as he took us on this sentimental journey down Memory Lane with his unique variety of songs. His warm baritone voice, though noticeably weaker, lower in pitch and sometimes off key, still sounded velvety, resonant and inviting.  He still retained his sparkling personality, flashy smile and still knows how to sell a song. 
Pat sitting on a rocking chair while singing Little Green Tree
The concert was also an autobiographical one-man show, with unique on-screen video clips highlighting classic performances of Boone’s concert, movie, and television appearances, archived during his expansive career, which illustrate Boone’s easy-going yet intriguing narrative. This “Pat-of-all-trades,” with his down-home personality, absolutely charmed us as he vividly told stories of his over fifty year career as a singer, actor, TV host, author, composer, radio personality, motivational speaker, family man and humanitarian as well as he being a direct descendant of the legendary American frontiersman Daniel Boone.

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.