Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Tour of the M/V St. Francis Xavier (Manila)

MV St. Francis Xavier

The M/V St. Francis Xavier (SFX for short), launched last March 19, 2014 at Manila’s North Harbor, is one of 2GO Travel’s (the Philippines’ biggest shipping company) biggest ships.

It is also the third ship of 2GO (the other two are M/V Joan of Arc and M/V St. Michael the Archangel) to ply the Manila-Bacolod City (Negros Occidental) route.  

Its top man is 50 year old Capt. Leo L. Inocencio, a father of four and 16-year ship captain of 6 ships.
The ship's hotel-like lobby

The car deck
This 11,191-ton vessel, with a maximum speed of 19 knots and a capacity of 1,910 passengers and 180 TEU (twenty-feet equivalent units) of cargo (160 huge containers), is 150.87 m. (equivalent to 10 buses joined end-to-end) long and 29 m. wide.  

It was acquired in 2013 for US$16 million from a Korean company (it was built in Japan in 1991); dry-docked, repaired, refurbished in Subic for 3 months to become domestic cruise ship (a breakthrough in the local shipping industry).

The ship's bridge

Capt. Leo Inocencio
One of the most technologically advanced ships to dock at North Harbor, the SFX was also equipped with new technology and safety features that pass international standards and impressed the London Protection and Indemnity (P&I) surveyors that reviewed the SFX a day after its maiden voyage.  

Aside from the standard 3 radars, automatic radar piloting aid (ARPA), a gyro compass and echo sounders, it also has a Global Maritime Distress System (GMDS), a sprinkler system for passengers, and a water mist system (used to expeditiously control and extinguish  fires and protect shipboard machinery spaces).

The economy class restaurant

Salon and spa
As part of 2Go Travel’s “Sarap Maglakbay” slogan, the 2GO group decided to upgrade the SFX (as well as some of its other vessels) to provide the ambiance of a cruise ship, thus giving passengers a more comfortable and enjoyable trip.  

Redesigned to look “affordably chic,” its beautiful interiors were exquisitely designed and upgraded by One Urban to become an extravagantly comfortable floating hotel.  
It features 4 suites, 12 state rooms, 8 cabins, 8 Business Class rooms and 12 Tourist Class rooms, all of which have ensuite toilet and shower rooms and 5-channel flat screen TVs.  It also has 18 Mega Value rooms, 2 Super Value rooms and a contingency room, all with clean and separate restroom and shower rooms for male and female.
The first class restaurant

The open air deck
To entertain passengers when they travel between 19 to 25 hours, a bar features a comedy show and other performances.  A multi-events hall, formerly an empty, high-ceilinged space atop the deck, now features a mezzanine floor. 

A conference hall during the day, it can be transformed into a 500-pax karaoke club or party area at night. 

At its open air deck, guests can converge for island sightseeing and stargazing. Other amenities on board the SFX include spacious, brightly-colored economy and first class restaurants; a relaxing salon and spa; and a 24-hour convenience store.
A typical suite

The multi-events hall
The ship also serves as a training vessel for students taking up tourism and maritime courses.  It undergoes quarterly and yearly audits and it is accredited with the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) as well as internationally-certified with the Bureau Veritas and also American Bureau of Shipping.
The SFX serves the Visayas ports of Bacolod City, Iloilo City (Iloilo) and Dumaguete City (Negros Oriental) and the Mindanao port of Zamboanga City (Zamboanga del Sur). 

Every Wednesday, the SFX plies the Manila-Bacolod City-Iloilo City-Manila route and, every Saturday, the Manila-Cebu-Dumaguete City-Zamboanga City-Dumaguete City-Manila route.
2GO VP - Passage Business/Chief Commercial Officer Mr. Stephen Tagud (center) with VIP guests

2GO Travel: 15/F, Times Plaza Bldg., United Nations Ave. cor. Taft Ave., Ermita, Manila. Website:  www.2go.com.ph. Customer Interaction Center (for schedules, rates and ticket delivery): tel: (+63 2) 528-7000 (trunkline), e-mail: info@2go.com.ph; Website Coordinator (for online ticketing): tell: (+63 2) 528-7209 (trunkline); Tours and Group Sales: tel: (+63 2) 528-7840 (direct line), mobile numbers: (0905) 478-6596 (Globe), (0919) 894-3926 (Smart) and (0922) 205-1963 (Sun), e-mail: Tours_and_Groups@2go.com.ph. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Rizal 101: First Filipino International Movement (Manila)

Rizal Monument
To commemorate Jose Rizal's 153rd birth anniversary and the upcoming 101st anniversary of Luneta's iconic  Rizal Monument, a press conference, organized by Prof. Melissa Grace Dizon-Dulalia, launched the "The First Filipino Historical Tour of Europe: Journey to Switzerland," a partnership with the Philippine Embassy (Bern, Switzerland), E.T. Dizon Travel Corp.2GO Travel, The Hub @ Kilometer Zero, Mario D' Boro Shoes, Cardam's Shoes  and GNN Philippines Uncut Global News Network
The event was held at 2GO Travel's The Hub @ Kilometer Zero, a 5-in-1 (lounge, cafe, bar, restaurant and ticketing office) for 2GO's  passengers as well as the general public. Fittingly, The Hub is just a stone's throw away from the Rizal Monument and the actual spot where the National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal was executed on December 30, 1896.
The Hub @ Kilometer Zero

Why Switzerland? From 1905-1907, a design contest for a monument in Luneta dedicated to Rizal was held.  Sculptors from America, Europe and other parts of the world began sending their entries in scaled miniature plaster cast models.  

In 1908, the winners were announced and the P100,000 grand prize entry was won by Italian sculptor Carlos Nicoli's Al Martir de Bagumbayan ("Martyrs of Bagumbayan").  It  was, however, not able to post the required sizable performance bond and so the P50,000 second-place winning entry Motto Stella of Dr. Richard Kissling (April 14, 1948-July 19, 1919) of Zurich, Switzerland was used instead.  
The bronze statue of Dr. Jose Rizal and the figures around it were cast in Paris (France) and transported to Wassen (a canton in Uri, Switzerland) for mounting and measurement of its rhombic base (of solid Gotthard granite rock), pedestal and 50-ft. high obelisk  The imposing Rizal Monument was started on December 10, 1910 and was completed on April 26, 1913.  The monument was unveiled on December 30, 1913, the anniversary of Rizal's death, and his remains were finally transferred here on June 19. The Luneta was also renamed Rizal Park, dedicated to the national hero and the values he stood for. 
Unveiling the Rizal bust. L-R - Mr. Cunanan, Ms. Dulalia, Ms. Ong, Ms. Tupas and Ms. Golez

Guest of honor Mr. Thelmo Luis Cunanan
Guest of honor during the presscon was Honorary Consul of Georgia in the Philippines Mr. Thelmo Luis "Buddy" O. Cunanan, Jr.. VIP guests at the presscon were photographer Mr. Benjamin S. Layug, Jr., health and wellness blogger Mr. Fernando "Rannie" C. Bernardo, Kho Travel & Tours CEO & travel consultant Ms. Rosanna C. Kho, Nature Awareness and Conservation Club, Inc. CEO and founder Ms. Violeta C. Imperial, Ms. Imelda Ablan Tinonas, Famous Spots Magazine writer/contributor Ms. Almira Tinonas, Cardam's Shoes Owner Dr. Nancy So Ong, Cardam's Shoes Brand/Marketing Manager Ms. Christine Ng, and Cardam's Shoes Marketing Assistant Mr. Vice Mallapre.
The Rizal bust
Also present, from 2GO Travel, were Mr. Stephen Rey Tagud (VP - Passage Business/Chief Commercial Officer), Ms. Grace L. Golez (AVP - Passage Retail Sales), Ms. Bi-Anne Tupas (AVP - Marketing Communications and Public Relations) and Ms. Abbie Gutierrez-Mapue (Area Retail Sales Manager).  
During the presscon, a video presentation on the Republic of Georgia ("Discover Georgia") and the 2GO Group was shown.  Come lunchtime, guests were served a delightful meal prepared by Executive Chef Jonathan P. Landingin.  The highlight of the event was the unveiling, by Consul Cunanan, Ms. Dulalia, Ms. Golez, Ms. Tupas and Ms. Ong, of a bronze bust of Jose Rizal which will later be sent to Wassen (Switzerland), where parts of the present Rizal Monument were originally mounted and measured.

Mr. Thelmo Cunanan and Mr. Stephen Tagud

The Hub @ Kilometer Zero: Bulwagan ng Kagitingan (Hall of Valor), Central Section Rizal Park (just across the Rizal Monument and beside the Chinese Garden), Brgy. 666, Zone 072, Manila. Open daily,  8 AM-7 PM.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

2GO's The Hub @ Kilometer Zero

The Hub @ Kilometer Zero

The Hub @ Kilometer Zero, located at Rizal Park, is a five-in-one (lounge, cafe, bar, restaurant and ticketing office) place for passengers of 2GO Travel, the domestic shipping passenger business unit of 2GO Group, Inc., the country’s biggest total supply chains solution company (which operates 2Go Shipping), as well as the general public. 

The prices of food and drinks here are competitive. 2GO Travel is the new brand name of Negros Navigation, Superferry, Cebu Ferries and Supercat, the country’s leading passenger ships.
Formerly a revolutionary private entertainment and check-in lounge for 2GO VIP travelers  (the first-ever passenger lounge in the country), it was relaunched to offer a taste of history (it’s just a stone's throw away from the actual spot where the National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal was executed in 1896) as well as dining pleasure for passengers (who may want to party “off board”) and non-passengers (“who just want to chill out”)) alike, similar to the luxury and pampering service provided aboard 2GO's newest passenger cruise ships nationwide. 

Definitely a place recommended for hanging out after visiting Rizal Park, Manila's top tourist spot.  Beside it is the park's iconic Chinese Garden.
The adjacent Chinese Garden
This spacious facility has clean, modern facilities, with comfortable and luxurious rooms furnished with handsome and comfortable lounge chairs and plush seating, glass walls that afford guests an unimpeded view of the surrounding greenery and service that is at par with international standards. 

Passengers occupying cabins and state rooms, as well as group passengers, can stay and chill here while waiting for the special free shuttle that will transport them to the ships before boarding time.
The bar area
The satellite bar and cafĂ©, run by expert baristas trained by Mr.Daniel Slakmon (who heads the Hotel Quality and Development Unit of 2GO Travel), a Brit who has been employed in famous international cruise ships as well as private bars, clubs and restaurants, has a menu that offers a variety of refreshments. 

Daniel also conceptualized the drinks, personally concocting a selection of aromatic, smooth and full-bodied coffee  comparable to the best in the country.  It ranges from freshly brewed Batangas coffee to deep and complex-flavored espresso blends (macchiatto, cappuccino, white chocolate latte, vanilla latte, white chocolate mocca, white chocolate macchiatto, caramel white chocolate, caramel macchiatto, vanilla butterscotch cimo, etc.).


He also mixed Philippine fresh fruits with alcoholic and non-alcoholic bases to concoct indulging cocktails such as the Virgin Bloody Mary (tomato juice, Tabasco sauce, fresh lime, fresh lemon and Worcestershire sauce), Margarita, Mango Banana Madness (Fresh Mango, fresh banana, orange juice and passion puree), Magenta Hub Blend, (Fresh strawberries, fresh banana, vanilla, orange juice and cream), Mojito (Bacardi Gold, fresh mint and sugar), Raspberry Banana, Amaretto Sour, 2Go Cooler (Grey Goose infused with passion fruit, cranberry and watermelon), Key West Cooler (a combination of watermelon syrup, passion puree, cranberry juice and 7-Up), etc..
The restaurant, headed by American Hospitality Academy and College of St. Benilde-trained Executive Chef Jonathan P. Landingin (who used to head the kitchen of a cruise line in Singapore before joining 2GO), on the other hand, offers typical regional Filipino cuisine with a twist – the whole-day Bacolod Chicken Inasal sandwich meal and mangosteen mousse, among others.
The Hub @ Kilometer Zero: Bulwagan ng Kagitingan (Hall of Valor), Central Section Rizal Park (just across the Rizal Monument and beside the Chinese Garden), Brgy. 666, Zone 072, Manila. Open daily,  8 AM-7 PM.