Monday, 23 March 2015

Resort Review: Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa (Puerto Rincesa City, Palawan)

Date of Stay: March 23-25, 2015

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: ********
Rooms: *********
Condition and Cleanliness: **********
Staff Performance: *********
Room Comfort: *********
Food and Beverage: ********
Other Amenities: ********
Value for Money: ********
Sheridan Beach Resort
Sheridan Beach Resort and its signature swimming pool
The 95-room Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa, the only luxury resort in the Sabang area on the west coast of Palawan, was built in 2010 and was developed and operated by Jeco Development Corp.  President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III stayed here last February 9, 2011. Arriving guests at the resort are all offered a relaxing cold face towel and a welcome drink made with fresh cucumber and pineapple.  The very professional, very visible and thoughtful Mike Villegas, the Resident Manager,  sees to it that the needs of guests are attended to.
Front Desk
Front Desk
The “green” resort, known for its energy efficiency projects, is where one can truly take a vacation — without the guilt trip.  On September 30, 2014, it was awarded the Sustainable Energy Finance Award (SEF) of the International Finance Corporation through Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), one among the seven honored for promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy at the recently concluded Energy Smart Forum organized by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP). 
Wind turbines
Wind turbines
Wind turbines cover about 70 to 80% of Sheridan’s electricity requirements. During rainy days or when the solar plant cannot produce or when there is scarce wind to power the wind turbines, the resort has back-up generators.
Solar panels
Solar panels
The resort also has a catch basin for rainwater and a water recycling system in place. They also use LED lighting and their airconditioners use inverters. They also have green landscape features and architecture, so they don’t use air-conditioning in our hallways.
De Luxe Room
De Luxe Pool View Room
The Minimalist-style our guestrooms (the 30 sq.m. Superior and De Luxe Mountain or Pool View Rooms, the 46 sq. m. Palawan and Sabang Rooms and the 76 sq. m. Junior Suite and Sheridan Suite) are all tastefully furnished and decorated in a contemporary Asian style with a touch of local culture.
De Luxe Suite (2)
All have split-type airconditioners, comfortable beds, soft, fluffy pillows, a spacious private ensuite bathroom with hot and cold shower, flat screen cable TV with a DVD player, well-stocked minibar, hair dryer, in-room safe, tea and coffee making facility plus rubber slippers, bathrobes, complimentary bottled water and a large umbrella for the use of guests.  The second floor rooms have a very nice balcony, where one  can enjoy a panoramic view of the large swimming pool, has a retractable aluminum clothes rack where you can hang your wet clothes and towels.
Sabang Room
Sabang Room
Sabang Room Bath
Sabang Room Bath
The Superior and De Luxe Mountain or Pool View Rooms have hot and cold showers while the Palawan and Sabang Rooms and the Junior Suite and Sheridan Suite have bathtubs.  For groups and families, there are 13 connecting rooms in the De Luxe category.
Chaise lounges by the pool
Chaise lounges by the pool
Its big, 340 ft. (104 m.) long, architecturally interesting infinity swimming pool, said to be the largest in Palawan, is located tight smacked in the center of the entire establishment.  Open 9 AM to 9 PM, it has a constant depth of 4 ft. throughout its length and is separated into two distinct sections.
Childrens pool
Children's pool
Here, you can play water basketball. Chaise lounges are actually partly submerged at the pool. The swim up Sip n’ Dip Bar (open till 12 midnight) is located in the middle while 3 jacuzzis are located on the sides.
Jacuzzis
Jacuzzis
There are plenty of dedicated lifeguards on duty here (and the beach) as well as pool attendants. A small but excellent outdoor workout gym, with great, state-of-the-art Sports Art Fitness equipment and weights, overlooks the pool.
Outdoor gym
Outdoor gym
The resort also has a 24-hour, beachfront restaurant (South Sea Restaurant), coffee shop, a bar/lounge by the beach (Blue Bar), kiddie swimming pool, 24-hour front desk, convention center, smoking area, shared lounge/TV area, children’s playground, sauna, a sports bar with darts, billiards, table tennis and a giant chess board game, outdoor sports (Segway, beach bikes, ATV rides), barbecue facilities, library near the lobby, game room, watersport facilities (surfboards, wakeboards, kayaks, body board, etc.) and business center. The first-rate, service-oriented staff, who spoke very good English, were really helpful, very nice and extremely polite and friendly. In 2014, Booking.com gave the resort an Award of Excellence for achieving an overall guest review score of 8.5/10.
Convention Center
Convention Center
Sports bar
Sports bar
The gorgeous, well maintained, gradually sloping, relatively quiet, palm-fringed and sugary fine but not so white Sabang Beach has shallow, crystal clear water but is not ideal for snorkeling or diving. Beware of the undertow at the 6-ft. deep level. The lifeguards use their whistles or bullhorns to call your attention if you venture beyond the safe zone. Facing the beach are benches, sundeck chairs, small tables and cozy, woven reed hammocks under shady coconut trees where we can sit or lie down, nap, read or listen to the waves crashing around you.  The resort takes great pains to maintain the cleanliness of the beach. On March 3, 2014, as a reward for its efforts, the Puerto Princesa City government, through the Oplan Linis Program, conferred the Clean & Green Award (Beaches Category) to the resort.
Beach Area
Beach Area
The resort also offers 24-hour room service, laundry service, shuttle, safety deposit boxes, luggage area, car rental, airport transfer, tours, bicycle rental, babysitting, currency exchange, island hopping and express check-in/check-out.  Wi-fi is offered in public areas (lobby and restaurant) but some rooms are within reach of wi-fi.
Nature Spa Village
Nature Spa Village
The resort also offers Puerto Princesa Underground River (this member of the New Seven Wonders of Nature is just a stone’s throw away) tours, the 800 m. long Sabang X Zipline (where you zip over the sea) Tours and the highly-educational Mangrove Paddle Boat Tours. After a hectic day of island hopping, snorkelling and ziplining, one can avail of the signature Sheridan hilot massage at the intimate Sheridan Nature Spa Village.  Truly healing and relaxing.
Nature Spa Village - Interior
Nature Spa Village – Interior
About 15-20 mins away from the resort is Ugong Rock and the mangroves. It’s also an 1.5 hr drive to Honda Bay. Sabang Waterfalls is about a 2-hour roundtrip trek through a very rocky beach.
All Terrain Vehicles
All Terrain Vehicles
A pair of Xibeihu Amphibious Motorboats
A pair of Xibeihu Amphibious Motorboats
The physical beauty and magnificent sweeping vistas of the surrounding, lush green and uniquely shaped mountains, which serves as the resort’s beautiful backdrop, truly makes one feel like he or she is in paradise. Truly, a a mystical, beautiful vacation hideaway in Palawan where heaven and earth meet …..
Sunset at Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa
Sunset at Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa
Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa: Sabang Beach, Sitio Sabang, Brgy. Cabayugan. Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Palawan Sales Office: Jeco Bldg., Rizal Ave. Extn., Puerto Princesa City.  Tel (+63 48) 434 1448 to 49 and 723 7278. Mobile Numbers (+63 917) 308-3245 and (+ 63 917) 308-3245. Cebu Sales Office: Sheridan Bldg., Ouano Ave., NRA, Mandaue City.  Tel: (+63 32) 236-1001. Fax: (+63 32) 345-1000. Mobile number: (+63 917) 306-6984. Manila Sales Office: tel: (+63 2) 939-8888. Mobile number: (+63 917) 726-5224. E-mail: reservations@sheridanbeachresort.com.  Website:www.sheridanbeachresort.com.
Instagram: @sheridanresorts
Instagram official tag: #SheridanPalawan
Twitter: @sheridanresorts

Monday, 16 March 2015

Concert Review: An Evening With Crosby, Stills & Nash

Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and David Crosby

(Excerpt from my article featured in www.pep.ph)
Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN) may not be familiar among the present 21st century generation of rock buffs but, to the pre-internet 1970s generation of Baby Boomers, the three members of this folk rock super group have already made an instant impact on the music industry by helping steer rock to a more contemplative, song-oriented place. 

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Crosby, Stills & Nash, one of the most enduring musical partnerships of our time,  are revered for their peerless vocal harmonies, inspired songwriting and musical virtuosity. Thus, it was with great anticipation that I, together with my son Jandy, cousin Dr. Miriam J. Nicdao and her husband Jun, attended “An Evening With Crosby, Stills & Nash,” a historic, one-night musical event presented by Ovation Productions at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City. 
Part of the legendary American trio’s 2015 Asian tour (includes several key cities in Japan as well as Singapore), most of the sizeable crowd that night were, like the septuagenarian performers on stage, in the 50s to 70s age group, with gray and thinning hair (I also spotted some legit long-haired hippies), but all looking forward to an evening of soft-rock songs and beautiful harmonies.  The 2-1/2 hour long, 23 song concert promptly started at 8:30 PM with the beautifully touching Carry On, a song about the passing of Crosby’s mother.  

Many of the songs sung that night reflected the trio’s political activism, strongly left-leaning views, and advocacy for peace, the anti-nuclear movement, and environmental awareness. The Graham Nash-penned song Chicago refers to both the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago as well as the trial of the “Chicago Eight,” where protesters at the convention were charged with intent to incite a riot. Then, there’s Long Time Gone, a song composed by David Crosby in response to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.  
David Crosby and Graham Nash

Wooden Ships, a cryptic, apocalyptic, anti-war song written in 1968 in a Crosby-owned boat named Mayan and a fiery workout for Stills, describes the consequences of an apocalyptic nuclear war. The anthemic, rousing For What It’s Worth, one of the most recognizable songs from the 1960s, was inspired by the first of the Sunset Strip riots in Los Angeles in 1966, an event that hit close to home for Buffalo Springfield band where Stills once played with.  

Then there are songs such as Southern Cross. This song, which peaked at #18 on the Billboard singles charts in 1982, is about a man who sails the world following a failed love affair. During the voyage, the singer takes comfort in sailing. The straight ballad Just A Song Before I Go, which made it to #7 on the Billboard singles charts (the band's highest charting hit), is about leaving loved ones behind before going on a concert tour, probably England-born and raised Graham Nash’s undercurrent of regret towards rootlessness.  Strangers Room is a questioning song about walking somewhere, that you never expected to be, then wondering where you’re going to end up next. 
The trio also rendered some sweet, comfy love songs such as the meditative Guinevere, notable for its serene yet pointed melody and its unique lyrics, and Helplessly Hoping (a song about the pain of love), with its elegant, evocative and ever relevant lyrics.  Still’s version of Girl from North Country, its lyrics cloaked in a melancholy of aged regret, was better than Bob Dylan’s original version.  Almost Cut My Hair, an anthem of rebellion and personal freedom which showed Crosby at his funkiest, featured a nearly hoarse but impassioned solo vocal from Crosby and some wicked guitar playing from Stills. Déjà vu, an epic flashback jam, ebbed and flowed with some stirring Still solos. 
Mass audience singalongs during the show were during Our House, Nash’s solo rendition of The Hollies 1966 hit Bus Stop (it reached #5 in the U.K. Singles Chart) and the encore songs Love The One You’re With (#14 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1970) and the nostalgic Teach Your Children (as the song implies, a message to parents to teach your kids to be kind), written when Nash was a member of the Hollies.  Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, the final encore song, refers to singer/songwriter Judy Collins, Still’s former girlfriend.  The lyrics to most of the suite's sections consist of his thoughts about her and their imminent breakup. 
The ever-capricious David Crosby, with his trademark flowing gray hair, walrus mustache rich, baritone voice and lovingly snide grin, had the strongest, firmest vocal presence of the three.   The beautiful and hauntingly lyrical Delta, a lush and gorgeous song of extraordinarily high caliber, is one of Crosby’s finest contributions.  

Multi-instrumentalist and coarse-voiced Stephen Stills, the youngest (at 70) member of the group, showed some vocal wear but He remains as hot as ever playing a variety of guitars, being ranked #28 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 2003 list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and #47 in the 2011 list.  He could still reach and hit those high notes with his formidable guitar skills, particularly in the slow jam and bluesy bends of Don’t Want Lies. 
Graham Nash, with his good, emotional but slightly squeaky voice, is the spryest of the three.  Together with Crosby, Nash is one of the best song writers in rock music.  With To The Last Whalethe quintessential environmental track and an elegiac plea concerning the slaughter of whales, Nash hit his zenith as a creative writer. His Marrakesh Express, #28 on the Billboard 100 Hit List in 1969, incorporated Eastern influences. An ode to wanderlust for a hip generation that made itself at home anywhere in the world, Nash was inspired to write this song during a Moroccan vacation he took in 1966.  
The trio were ably backed up by Todd Caldwell (Hammond B-3 organ), Steven DiStanislao (drums), Kevin McCormack (bass guitar), Englishman Shayne Fontayne (guitar) and Houston native and David Crosby son James Raymond (keyboard), their steady and organic playing providing the rhythmic pocket.  

Crosby, Stills & Nash’s sweetly confined vocals of the past may have a hardened edge to them now but, even as they occasionally showed their age (or maybe just rust), they still sound glorious nonetheless. My only regret from this exciting blast from the past was that the counterculture anthem Woodstock, written by former Nash girlfriend Joni Mitchell, wasn’t played.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Restaurant Review: Mrs. Gaddi’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop (Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya)

Mrs. Gaddi's Restaurant and Coffee Shop

Mrs. Gaddi’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop. formerly Mountain Oasis Rest Area, is located just after Sta. Fe town, beside a Total gas station. 

The food served here is unlike the traditional food offered in most truck shops along the Maharlika Highway. It has a good selection of hearty provincial fare (paksiw na tilapia, bagnet, bulalo, pinakbet, etc.) with steak, sandwiches, fish and chips, enchiladas, burgers and chicken fingers thrown in. Must-have is the strong brewed Kalinga coffee. 
Stone fireplace with painting of "Three Senoritas" 

It also has great ambiance and a cozy set-up, with a large stone fireplace (above which is a huge Aileen Lanuza painting of three women in Maria Clara dresses titled “Three Senioritas”) in the middle, a new (2011) Sanso painting, a lovely set of rattan chairs and a veranda area overlooking the great mountain view.   The restaurant also has a branch in Cordon, Isabela.

Mrs. Gaddi’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop: Maharlika Highway, Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya.  Mobile number: (0917) 832-5554.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Islands Philippines Fun Caravans

In line with the Department of Tourism’s “Visit the Philippines 2015” campaign (launched last September 2014), the Philippines Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA), one of DOT’s most active partners in strengthening the country’s tourism sector, is bringing in the “Islands Philippines Fun Caravans.”  

PHILTOA Pres. Cesar Cruz addressing the press conference held at the Mabuhay Room

Benito C. Bengzon, Jr.
During a press conference held at the Mabuhay Room at the Department of Tourism (DOT), with DOT Undersecretary for Tourism Development Benito C. Bengzon, Jr. in attendance, PHILTOA President Cesar Cruz said that “The Island Philippines Fun Caravans will accommodate both foreign and local markets, where they can choose to bring their own vehicles or avail the caravan vehicle, of course, only if the destinations can be accessed via land transportation. 

The participants also have the option to avail of the accommodations that will be announced prior to the trip—campsite, lodging houses, hostels, or star-rated properties.” Cruz also adds that the project is designed to provide flexibility in the choices of activities and accommodation in each destination based on the interest and affordability of the participants. 

Cruz also shares that the caravans are meant to become interactive and participative, hence, there will be programs that will encourage them to interact and immerse themselves in the local communities. Other facets that are expected to be entailed during each course are a dummy passport which will be stamped by the participating local government unit, mini-trade fairs, a festive welcome reception, and other community-based activities that will highlight the best spots and emerging lifestyle and travel trends in the municipalities included in the itinerary. 
“As our tourism industry further shapes up through “Visit the Philippines 2015,” PHILTOA wanted to contribute through this caravan project, which aims to provide an effective platform for the promotion of different tourist destinations across the country,” says Cruz.
This event will be featuring five major caravan programs and three minor caravans that are all designed to promote, reestablish and reinforce tourism activities across the region. Each caravan is calendared in different months throughout 2015, lasting from 3 to 7 days, depending on the number of municipalities included.
Islands Philippines Fun Caravans - CopyIslands Philippines Fun Caravans
PHILTOA, the largest association of registered tour operators (with allied members from various tourism sectors such as airlines, hotels, resorts, tourist transportation and more), actively contributes to national economic growth and enhances and promotes domestic and inbound Philippine tourism by forging national and global affiliations and alliance with tourism-related associations and organizations.
Cordillera Heritage WarriorCordillera Heritage Warrior
The five major caravans are the Cordillera Heritage Warrior (February 4-8, 2015), the Southern Luzon Kulinarya Caravan (April 25-29, 2015), the Visayas Charm (August 21-27, 2015), the Bicol Express (October 17-22, 2015) and The Plains and Heights of Central Luzon (December 11-17, 2015) while the three minor caravans are Rediscover Batanes (March 26-29, 2015), the Northern Palawan Eco Adventure Discovery (June 19-22, 2015) and Hola Zamboanga (November 13-16, 2015).
Southern Tagalog Kulinarya CaravanSouthern Tagalog Kulinarya Caravan
The Cordillera Heritage Warrior Caravan will encompass San Jose City in Nueva Ecija, Bayombong and Sta. Fe in Nueva Vizcaya; Banaue, Kiangan and Lagawe in Ifugao; Bontoc and Sagada in Mountain Province; and Baguio City and La Trinidad in Benguet.  The Southern Luzon Kulinarya will involve Tagaytay City and the towns of Indang, Kawit and Tanza in the historical province of Cavite; San Pablo City and the towns of Alaminos, Liliw, Majayjay and Nagcarlan in the province of Laguna; Tayabas City and the towns of Lucban and Sariaya in Quezon province; and the towns of Agoncillo, San Juan, Taal and Talisay in Batangas province.
Bicol ExpressBicol Express
The Visayas Charm Caravan underscores the island provinces of Bohol (Tagbilaran City and the town of Anda and includes the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park) and Cebu and Boracay in Aklan.  Optional tours include the Tuki (Whale Shark) Adventure and Olango Island, both in Cebu.  The Bicol Express will cover Naga City in Camarines Sur; Legazpi City, Tabaco City and the town of Tiwi plus Misibis (Bacacay) in Albay; and the towns of Bulusan and Matnog in Sorsogon province.  The Plains and Heights of Central Luzon Caravan will put into spotlight Mt. Pinatubo; Clark and the town of Bacolor in Pampanga; the town of Concepcion in Tarlac, the town of Agoo in La Union; Alaminos City and the towns of Bolinao, Dasol and Lingayen in Pangasinan; Baguio City in Benguet; and the towns of Botolan, Iba, San Felipe, San Narciso and Subic in Zambales. 
Rediscover Batanes highlights the grandness of Batanes’ plateaus; the Northern Palawan Eco Adventure Discovery features the lush islands, pristine coastlines and cobalt waters of the Calamianes Group of Islands; and Hola, Zamboanga spotlights the vibrant culture and diverse landscape of the Zamboanga Peninsula, covering Zamboanga City (includes Sta. Cruz Island) in Zamboanga del Sur and the cities of Dapitan and Dipolog in Zamboanga del Norte.

Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA): 1806 Citiland Tower 10, 1 H.V. De La Costa St., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.   Tel: (632) 812-4513, (632) 822-6964 and (632) 925-6265.  E-mail: info@philtoa.com and marketing@philtoa.com. Website: www.philtoa.com.