Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Concert Review: Chicago in Manila


(Excerpt from my article featured in www.pep.ph)
After their successful concert show in Manila last September 2009, Chicago, the legendary, self-described rock and roll band with horns, returns to Manila’s Smart Araneta Coliseum to continue their legacy of music they inherited from their parents and their teachers and have brought to millions of fans. Considered one of the longest running and most successful pop/rock ‘n’ roll groups in history, Chicago comes in at #13 in Billboard Magazine’s list of Top 100 artists of all time.
Their lifetime achievements include a Grammy Award and multiple American Music Awards, being elected as Founding Artist to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and having a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame plus Keys to and proclamations from an impressive list of US cities. A Chicago street was also dedicated in their honor.

Formed in 1967 at band member’s Walter Parazaider’s apartment in Chicago, Illinois, the band released their debut album “Chicago Transit Authority” in 1969 (inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014). Since then, they have had record sales topping the 100,000,000 mark and  had 21 Top 10 singles, 5 consecutive Number One albums, 11 Number One singles and 5 Gold singles. An incredible 25 of their 36 albums have been certified platinum and the band has a total of 47 gold and platinum awards.
Aside from Walter Parazaider (on saxophones, flute, clarinet and  backing vocals), other original members of the 1967 band include Robert Lamm (on keyboards, vocals, 12-string guitar), Lee Loughnane (on trumpet, flugelhorn, guitar, percussion and vocals), James Pankow (on trombone, percussion, keyboards and vocals).  Joining them are Jason Scheff (since 1985, on bass guitar, vocals and keyboards), Tris Imboden (since 1990, on drums and percussion), Keith Howland (since 1995, on guitar and vocals), former long-term Santana member Walfredo Reyes, Jr. (since 2012, on percussion) and renowned jazz artist Lou Pardini (since 2009, on keyboards and vocals).

The sizeable crowd that night at the Big Dome for this one night only concert were mostly grey-haired, in the 40s, 50s an 60s age bracket, but included a lot of teenagers (probably accompanying their parents or grandparents).  The 2.5-hour (with a 15-min. intermission in between) concert featured 30 of Chicago’s past hits, instrumental pieces and some of their songs from their latest albums. The concert started on a slow note but soon picked up when they sang the Grammy Award winning “If You Leave Me Now” which, according to Robert (who thanked the audience), became a hit in the Philippines as well as all over the world.
With this song, the audience soon joined in and also did so with “Will You Still Love Me” (a solo of Jason on keyboards), “Look Away” (a solo with Lou on keyboards) and the pensive “Colour My World” (with Walter performing the highly recognizable flute solo).  Other songs sang in the first half included “Dialogue 1 & 2,” “Alive Again,” “Wake Up Sunshine,” “I’ve Been Searching So Long,” “Call On Me,” “Another Day in New York City,” “Now” (a new song from the band’s latest 2014 album, “Chicago XXXVI), “Make Me Smile” and “So Much to Say, So Much to Give.”

Friday, 15 January 2016

Hotel and Inn Review: The Wings Transit Lounge (NAIA 3 Terminal)

Date of Stay: January 15, 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 Wings Transit Lounge

The newly-opened, 34-room Wings Transit Lounge, is now open, for 24 hours, to both airline passengers using the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 as well as the general public.  

This new innovation  may just turn around the country’s reputation as having one of the worst airports in the world by breathing life and sleep-ability back into NAIA.  Since its soft opening last June 20, 2015, it has added to the passengers’ convenience and allowed families of mostly overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) the privacy and comfort of a proper send-off.
Front Desk

This 402-sq. m., simply designed but world-class lounge, located at the general-access section, Level 2 of NAIA Terminal 3's Pre-Departure Area (near MacDonalds), is the first airport lounge in the Philippines and a good addition to the many amenities of NAIA Terminal 3.  

This “pay-per-use” space is run by SM Kenko Spa, a member of the Jipang Group of Companies (the same company that manages Networld Hotels), a team of businesses that promises “World Class Japanese service within your reach.”
Lounge Area

Sleepy travelers and guests in need of a nap can avail (7.5 hours), for PhP700 (7.5 hours) (US$14.63) per person, of 24 leather reclining chairs and cable TV at the Lounge Area, inclusive of unlimited finger buffet.  For an extended stay, guests must shell out an additional PhP175 (US$3.66) an hour. Shower access costs another PhP300 (US$6.27).   

Customers can also indulge in aesthetic and luxurious wellness services such as spa and massage to help you depart feeling refreshed. A massage at any of their 5 massage beds will run you PhP675 (US$ 14.11) for 1 hour, PhP550 (US$11.5) for 45 mins. and PhP350 (US$7.32) for a 30-min. massage.   Aside from massage, they also offer manicure and pedicure, each for PhP300 (US$6.27), and foot scrub for PhP600 (US$12.54). A package including all three costs PhP1,000 (US$ 20.9).
Massage Area

Typical capsule
Stair to Capsule Area
For those looking for a bed, a single sleep, exclusive 2.5 m. x 1 m. capsule features a partial or fully enclosed sliding shade that cocoons one from light and crowds. There are 17 capsules with separate sections for the men and women.  

Rates begin at  PhP1,000 (US$ 20.9) for 7.5 hours.  Rates include unlimited finger buffet and access to Wi-Fi.  
Like a hotel, the lounge also has 16 twin rooms (for two people) that has double deck beds and an extra folding bed that cost PhP1,800 (US$37.63, inclusive of light meal and bottled water). You pay PhP350 (US$7.32) for every hour extension.  For extra guests, there are additional charges ranging from PhP 800-900 (US$16.72-18.81).
The Capsule Area
Twin Room

There’s also one family room that can accommodates four persons.  Rates are PhP3,200 (US$66.89).  Every additional hour costs PhP530 (US$11.09). The twin and family rooms' 90 cm. wide beds may be perfect for pint-size Asian guests but may be a little too tight for Westerners. 
All capsules and twin and family rooms are provided with an electrical outlet (for charging mobile phones, laptops and other electronic gadgets) and a safety deposit box (for storing valuables).  

All rooms are inclusive of unlimited finger buffet and shower (guests are provided with towel, soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste). Set check-out times are 8 AM to 3:30 PM, 4 PM to 11:30 PM and 12 midnight to 7:30 AM. Lounge, capsule and rooms package comes with free baggage storage.  For extension of storage, additional charges apply - PhP250 (US$5.23) for 3 hours, and PhP350 (US$7.32) for 24 hours.       
Family Room

The lounge also has a simply-stocked, self-service pantry offering, aside from a great view of the airport tarmac and runway, a finger food buffet prepared by celebrity chef Pablo "Boy" Logro consisting of brownies, macaroons, muffins, soup, biscuits (Fita and soda crackers), cereals, coffee blends (premium roast coffee, mocha, caramel macchiato and cappuccino), Nestea iced tea, Nestle lemonade, bottled water and hot chocolate (Milo).  
Self-service pantry

There’s also a dining facility where you can order meals. Here, you can even cross order for fried chicken with rice (PhP250), chicken pasta alfredo (PhP175), clubhouse sandwich (PhP200), tonkatsu ramen (PhP245-280), bibimbap (PhP230), katsudon (PhP180), gyoza (PhP150), tuna steak (PhP220), gyudon (PhP250), grilled salmon (PhP290), buko pandan (PhP90), mango chi (PhP60), turon chow (PhP80), banana split (PhP190), halo-halo (PhP120) and a healthy drink (PhP180) from their three Jipang-managed restaurants in NAIA 3 - Let's Chow Rice and Noodle Haus  Kaishu Express and Le Amoretto CafĂ©. 

At Le Amoreto, you can order all day breakfast for PhP170, with a choice of either pork tocino, daing na bangus, corned beef, beef tapa, hot dog, bacon or pork adobo, plus plain rice or toasted bread, scrambled or fried egg, orange marmalade or butter/strawberry jam and tea or unlimited coffee.
The dining facility

There’s also a small but cute business center where you can use the two computers and a printer to print and scan documents.  The six shower and comfort rooms utilized a university type design. 

The hallways are decorated with a couple of bulletin boards, where you can leave travel quotes and pictures. They really made use of every square meter available.
Business Center

Hallway to twin rooms
Hallway with bulletin boards
With the opening of this transit lounge, NAIA 3 now has relatively inexpensive services to make a transit or layover more tolerable (and sleepable) for worn-out travelers. 

This is wiser option for those looking for some rest between two flights, those whose flights are delayed or those arriving in the wee hours of the morning.  Surely, it is a better alternative to camping out at the hard floors of the airport lobby and hallways. The lounge is also is very near other food stalls and boutiques.
Wings Transit Lounge: 4th Level, Mall Area, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3, Andrews Ave., Pasay City, Metro Manila. Tel: (632) 886-9464 and (632) 833-7299. E-mail: thewings@jipang-group.com. Website: www.jipang-group.com/thewings.  Facebook: TheWingsTransit Lounge. Sales and Marketing Executive: Ms. Maricar Vea. Mobile number: (0925) 500-6484.  E-mail: sales1spa@networldhotel-manila.com.