Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Hotel and Inn Review: Dusit Thani Manila (Makati City)

Date of Stay: December 31, 2013-January 1, 2014

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

Value for Money: ********
Dusit Thani ManilaDusit Thani Manila
View of EDSA, Ayala MRT Station and Ayala Center from our room
View MRT Station, EDSA and SM from hotel room
Dusit Thani Manila, right in the heart of Makati's financial district, is surrounded by malls (SM Dept. Store is right across), restaurants, bars and boutiques.  

Its location, aside from its affordability, is the hotel's most outstanding feature, it being along EDSA, one of Metro Manila's major thoroughfares, which abounds with buses, taxicabs and what have you. The hotel is also located about 200 meters from the Ayala MRT station.
The impressive lobby with its gold leaf-covered columns
The hotel lobby
Formerly the Manila Garden Hotel and, later, the Japan Airlines (JAL)-owned Nikko Hotel Manila, it was acquired by the Dusit group (one of over 22 properties owned in Thailand and overseas) in 1995 and was renamed Dusit Hotel Nikko. On April 2008, it was renamed Dusit Thani Manila.  

The hotel underwent an extensive US$20 million renovation which included  a state-of-the-art monochromatic beige-colored repainting of its facade. In 2011, it won 15 prestigious trophies (including "Hotel of the Year") from the Singapore-based Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards (HAPA).
As one approaches the hotel's driveway, what first comes into sight is its Patrick Blanc-inspired vertical garden, with its 5-piece, 8-meter high green wall.  While bringing an aesthetic beauty to the surroundings of the hotel, it also has a significant impact on environment and atmosphere as it specifically lowers the temperature at the driveway, especially when the afternoon sun rays hit the entrance. Its water feature also helps cool the air that passes through the open spaces between walls. In recognition of these efforts, the hotel received a 2012 Silver certification by Earth Check, a globally renowned organization that grades environmental standards.
Our twin beds
De luxe room
Room 1153The hotel's spacious, impressive and tastefully decorated lobby has columns which are covered in real, elegant gold leaf, just like temples in Thailand.  

The hotel has 538 rooms equipped with state-of-the-art facilities such as LCD flat screen TVs with satellite channels, a work desk, minibar, mini fridge; in-room safe; coffee and tea making facility, air conditioning and free (and surprisingly fast) wi-fi. 

Our ensuite bath had a bathtub.  They even offered, free of charge, a Disney-inspired baby cot for Kyle. Some of the other rooms benefit from Executive Club lounge access which offers complimentary drinks and snacks.
Breakfast at Basix Coffee ShopBreakfast at Basix Coffee Shop
Benjarong Royal Thai Restaurant
Benjarong Royal Thai Restaurant
Basix, the hotel's ground floor, 24-hour coffee shop offers a breakfast buffet of delectable international options.  It included cold cuts, ham, bacon, cheese, bread, pancakes, fruits, etc..  

Dusit Thani also has 3 international restaurants. The Western Tosca Restaurant, awarded "Most Exquisite Dining Experience" in 2011, offers Italian cuisine. The second level Benjarong Royal Thai Restaurant, awarded "Most Authentic Asian Cuisine Restaurant" in 2012 by HAPA, serves authentic Thai dishes.

UMU Japanese Sake Bar & Restaurant, awarded the  "Most Cosmopolitan Bar and Restaurant" in 2011 by HAPA, serves Japanese food and its private rooms offer views over the hotel’s highly-maintained and beautifully manicured  Japanese Garden and koi pond. 
The Japanese Garden and Koi Pond The Japanese Garden and Koi Pond
The hotel also has  meeting and banquet facilities; an outdoor swimming pool; spa (Devarana - awarded "Signature Spa Experience" in 2011 by HAPA); business center; VIP room facilities; flower shop; 24-hour front desk; barber shop; beauty parlor;  24-hour medical clinic; souvenir/gift shop; and wellness center (DFit).
They offer express check-in/check-out; luggage storage, 24-hour room service; airport shuttle; laundry; dry cleaning; ironing service, currency exchange; shoe shine, car rental; tours; safety deposit box, massage and fax/photocopying service.
Dusit Thani Manila: Ayala Center, Makati City.  Tel: (632) 238-8888. Fax: (632) 238-8800. E-mail: dtmn@dusit.com.  Website: www.dusit.com

Monday, 23 December 2013

Circus Review: Magikaria - Circus Vargas

The singing ringmaster Ted McRae
The singing ringmaster Ted McRae

Host Jon Weiss balancing a step ladder
Host Jon Weiss balancing a
step ladder
Host Jon Weiss balancing a heavy steel barrier
Now balancing a steel barrier
The free Benefit Gala of “MagiKaria, A Fantastical Magical Experience,” the newest, most exciting and spectacular production of the internationally acclaimed Circus Vargas troupe, one of the world’s biggest traveling circuses, was held at the SMX Convention Center

The gala was attended by members of media and children of several chosen foundations. The circus was to be officially open to the public on Christmas day (Dec. 25) and will run up to Jan. 1, 2014 at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City.
Patrick Cable and his costume change illusionPatrick Cable and his costume change illusion
Matti the Clown and Jon Weiss doing a comedy skit
Matti the Clown and Jon Weiss doing a comedy skit
Circus Vargas, brings back the old-school circus entertainment you expect to enjoy (tightrope walking, gravity-defying flights, clowns, acrobats, etc.) but with a modern, retro twist bursting with mystery, magic, music and more. 

Plus, it’s 100% animal-free as Circus Vargas is one of a few animal-free circuses performing today.  Circus Vargas, brings back the old-school circus entertainment you expect to enjoy (tightrope walking, gravity-defying flights, clowns, acrobats, etc.) but with a modern, retro twist bursting with mystery, magic, music and more. Plus, it’s 100% animal-free as Circus Vargas is one of a few animal-free circuses performing today.  

 The aerial straps act,  of Victor Kim Tchepiakov
Aerial straps act of Victor
Kim Tchepiakov
The show began with the entry of our host Jon Weiss who did some balancing antics, starting with a folded P1,000 bill, then a baseball cap, an aluminum double step ladder, a full-sized shopping cart and topping it all with a heavy steel gate barrier on his chin.
He was followed on stage by the talented American singing ringmaster Ted McRae who sang original scores composed exclusively for Magikaria.  Throughout the show, Ted would use his distinguished and melodious voice to guide the audience through their Magikaria experience.
The magic really started with the entry of the handsome, young and charismatic illusionist Patrick Cable whose mesmerizing charm and mystifying, extraordinary, unexplainable and elaborate illusions impressed, astounded and enchanted the crowd.
Hayley Kent with her hand balancing and body contortion actHayley Kent with her hand balancing and body contortion act
Michael Ferreri juggling pins
Michael Ferreri juggling pins...
...... then the rings
.... then the rings
Of course, what is a circus without the clowns.  The entry of Matti Esqueda (known as Matti the Clown), a consummate comedian, provided comic relief by incorporating clowning, acting, mime and improvisation of comedic repertoire. 

He also started the performers’ interaction with the audience as he selected a volunteer  to be part of his popcorn tossing comedy act, surprising  him when he tossed the contents of a whole box of popcorn on his face.  All in the spirit of good, clean fun.  Throughout the show, this was to be repeated with the other acts, giving the audience the chance to go on stage and try out what these professionals are doing, whether it be balancing, juggling, acting or just being funny.
Hayley Kent and Master Gaucho Hilario Cabral beating bombo drumsHayley Kent and Master Gaucho Hilario Cabral beating bombo drums
Master Gaucho showing his skill with the boleadoras
Master Gaucho showing his skill
with the boleadoras
What follows next was simply captivating and jaw-dropping, with unbelievable feats of acrobatic and aerial artistry from an astonishing array of world-renowned artists. The aerial straps act, done by Victor Kim Tchepiakov while hanging from the ceiling, was beautiful, fluid and awe-inspiring. Michael Ferreri, a4th generation performer who started at the young age of 13, amazed us with his upbeat juggling style – using pins, balls and rings.
Then there’s Elena the hula hoop master and the flexible American Hayley Kent who did some amazing hand balancing, while doing the ancient art of Mongolian contortion, truly a provocative display of strength and agility.  Hayley also partnered with the internationally acclaimed Argentinian Hilario Cabral (known as the “Master Gaucho”) in a Latin dance combining traditional bombos (Gaucho drums) and precise Gaucho taps.  They also showed their expertise with the boleadora (an ancient Argentine weapon).
Elena showing her skills with the hula hoopElena showing her skills with the hula hoop
A member of the audience joins the Fausto Scorpions
The Fausto Scorpions
Among the acrobats is the Manila-born Abelardo “Toto” Fausto who, together with his wife Ember and two daughters Stephanie and Sherry, form the Fausto Scorpions, the only Filipino group to join Circus Vargas.  During the show, Toto juggles, with his feet, the three ladies as they master balance while being propelled through the air.
The flexible and fearless Kenya Brothers, consisting of Hamisi, Marumbi, Paris and Shee, captivated us with their daredevil act of doing limbo dancing under a flaming, gradually lowered horizontal limbo bar.  Understandably, there was no audience participation here.  Their act was highlighted by a mixture of tumbling and authentic African dance.
The Kenya Brothers doing a flaming limbo dance ......The Kenya Brothers doing a flaming limbo dance ...... 
...... displaying feats of strength
... displaying feats of strength
The finale was an upbeat musical number worthy of a Broadway musical extravaganza as the cast of Circus Vargas said goodbye to the cheering crowd at SMX Hall 4 with flashy white costumes and a fun dance routine. 

I wouldn’t want to give too much away so I suggest you get your tickets to this first and probably once-in-a-lifetime circus and magic show interwoven with a story line.
A touch of BroadwayA touch of Broadway
Tickets are available at SM Tickets, SM Cinema, and Snack Time outlets. Ticket prices are PhP1,990 for VIP, PhP1,790 for ringside, PhP1,290 for platinum, PhP990 for gold and PhP590 for silver.  Special discounts for those using BDO credit cards, SM Advantage and Prestige cards. For information, call 519-8984, e-mail info@tpiguam.com or visit www.circusvargas.com.
SMX Convention Center: Seashell Lane, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City. Tel: (632) 556 8888.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Mixing it Up With Anthony White

Mr. Anthony WhiteMr. Anthony White
Anthony balancing a liquor bottle
Tony balancing a liquor bottle ....
The highlight of the FlairTOURtainment was the  hands-on session on London-style mixology and flair bartending (flairology), showcasing Bacardi-based cocktails,  conducted by Mr. Anthony White. This was to be followed by a cocktail making competition to be participated in by the students.

Barman Anthony White’s hobby-turned-career in “flair bartending” (a combination of mixology and flairing or, for those hearing this lingo for the first time, it is extreme bar tending with a show) started at a very young age of 18 years when, inspired by the bar tenders juggling in T.G.I.F., he also found out he had the skill and the ability to juggle, balance, distract, and entertain from behind a bar counter.
........ then flipping it
.... then flipping it
Working in the pubs in London, he soon learned the tricks of the trade and Anthony was soon showing off his flairing skills at the Octopvs Crawley Bar (in Horsham town center) and Old Explorer Bar, juggling three vodka bottles at the same time, setting on fire a row of drinks and flipping bottles from hand to head.
Loving the Philippines’ tropical weather, fantastic food and friendly people, Anthony decided to live in the country, further mastering the art by working at Hey Jude! in Boracay for many years.  He is now making a name for himself in Manila, working in “Red Rabbit” a speakeasy inside Bugsy’s in Salcedo Village in Makati City.  The much sought-after and talented Anthony also freelances for events.
Mixing drinks was next .....Mixing drinks was next .....
The daquiri prepared by Anthony
A daquiri prepared by Tony
Flairtending (short for "flair bartending") had its beginnings in the late 19th century when barman Jerry "The Professor" Thomas  mixed an original cocktail called the Blue Blazer by pouring fiery streams of boiling water and flaming whiskey

In 1988, flairtending was also prominently featured in the Tom Cruise film Cocktail.
During the session, Anthony entertained us with his showmanship, twirling, throwing and catching bar tools (cocktail shakers, etc.) and liquor bottles in tricky, dazzling ways, in between making cocktails, using skills commonly associated with jugglers.
Anthony assisting a participant preparing a cocktailAnthony assisting a participant preparing a cocktail
The 10 entries
The 10 entries
After this, he further dazzled us with his mixology knowledge by mixing up mind blowing and spectacular cocktails such as a mojitocuba libredaiquirivodka martini and tom collins.  

Later, it was the turn of 10 student participants to try out mixology as they prepared their own signature cocktails using the ingredients at hand (Bacardi rum, lemons, melons, ginger, etc.).
Of the 10 entries, 3 of the cocktails were to be selected by a panel of judges (Anthony, Melissa, Kris and J.R.) as the winners.  Winners were awarded with a bottle of Bacardi flavored rum and a stainless steel Bacardi ice crusher.
Winner No. 1Winner No. 1
Winner No. 2Winner No. 2
Winner No. 3Winner No. 3
Anthony White: mobile number: (0997)778-7371.  E-mail: flairologyph@gmail.com.  Facebook: Flairology.ph.

Wine and Liquor Feature: The Story of Bacardi Rum

A backgrounder on the history of Bacardi, as well as their different spirits, was narrated by Mr. Ito Zamora and Mr. Bobby Campos, Trade Marketing Manager (Offtrade) and Commercial Manager, respectively of Bacardi-Martini Philippines, Inc.
A Bacardi cocktail with bat logo
The Bacardi family of spirits
The Bacardi family of spirit
According to Ito, Bacardi, the largest privately-held and family-owned spirits company in the world, was founded on February 4, 1862 by Catalan wine merchant Don Facundo Bacardi Masso in Santiago de Cuba in Cuba

Don Facundo isolated a proprietary strain of yeast, still used in Bacardi production today, which gives Bacardi rum its unique flavor profile. He also filtered the rum through charcoal, which removed impurities, and aged it in white oak barrels, which had the effect of “mellowing" the drink. The final product was the first clear (or "white") rum in the world.
Mr. Ito Zamora of Bacardi Martini Philippines, Inc.
Mr. Ito Zamora
Hanging on the rafters of the shop Don Facundo and his brother José bought in 1862 were a colony of Mexican free-tailed fruit bats, now the inspiration (a symbol of good health, good fortune and family unity) for Bacardi’s recognizable bat logo, one of only 2 liquor brands (the other is Freetail Brewing Co. in San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.) to use such. 

In 1888, Bacardi was appointed purveyor of Spain’s Royal Household and, today, you can find the Spanish Coat-of-Arms Warrant, along with its 8 earlier medals won, on the label.  Since then, Bacardi has won nearly 500 awards.
P1160220The French vodka Grey Goose - a recent Bacardi acquisition
Bacardi's signature rums
Bacardi's signature rums
After the Fidel Castro regime illegally confiscated, without compensation, Bacardi’s Cuban assets on October 15, 1960 (after 98 years of operation in the country), the company moved the ownership of the Bacardi trademarks, assets and proprietary formulas out of the country to the Bahamas.  

Plants were also constructed in Mexico and Puerto Rico and the company accelerated expansion to more international markets.  Twenty years later, Bacardi became the world’s top selling premium spirit brand.

Bacardi has also diversified away from their eponymous rum brand and is now known for its brand portfolio comprising more than 200 brands and labels. In 1993, it merged with Italian multinational beverage company  Martini & Rossi S.p.A. (the producer of Martini vermouth and sparkling wines Asti and Prosecco) to create the Bacardi-Martini group. 

They also acquired Dewar's Scotch Whiskey, Royal Brackla and Bombay Sapphire gin from Diageo (for US$2 billion) in 1998; the Cazadores Blue Agave Tequila brand in 2002; and purchased Grey Goose (a French made vodka), for US$2 billion, from Sidney Frank  in 2004 and the New Zealand vodka brand 42 Below in 2006. Other brands associated with Bacardi include Drambuie Scotch WhiskeyDiSaronno AmarettoEristoff Vodka, B&B, Benedictine Liqueurs and the U.S. version of Havana Club.
P1160230 - Copy
Bacardi's flavored rums
After narrating Bacardi’s storied history, Ito next introduced to us their rums used to make great-tasting cocktails - the colorless, 80-proof Bacardi Superior (containing 40% alcohol by volume); the highly alcoholic, 151 proof and flammable (should not be ignited or exposed to an open flame) Bacardi 151 (75.5% alcohol by volume), typically used in sweet drinks; the amber-colored, mellow-tasting Bacardi Gold; the traditional, deep, dark and rich Bacardi Black  and their flavored rums such as the lemon-flavored Bacardi Limon, Bacardi Dragon Berry (strawberry flavored and infused with dragon fruit) and Bacardi Apple.
Ito also introduced the Bombay Sapphire Gin, popular in India during the British Raj.  Its flat-sided, sapphire-colored bottle bears a picture of Queen Victoria on its label which boasts of 10 exotic botanicals.  The sapphire in question is the Star of Bombay, on display at the Smithsonian Museum.
Bacardi-Martini Philippines, Inc.: 17/F, Trade and Financial Center, 7th Ave. cor. 32nd St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 478-9501 and (632) 478-6016 (direct line).  Fax: (632) 519-0348.