Saturday, 2 September 2017

Concert Review - An Evening With Peter Cetera (Pasay City)

To date, I have watched two concerts of the legendary rock group Chicago in Manila but never with its former singer, songwriter and bassist - Peter Cetera. An invitation, from HS batchmate and Videosonic Inc. president Francis G. "Mart" Miranda, to watch “An Evening With Peter Cetera” changed all that.  

Presented by Amplified Production, this one-night only, intimate concert was held last September 2, 2017 at the Newport Performing Arts Center, Resorts World Manila. The Manila concert was part of Cetera’s Southeast Asia tour, which also included KualaLumpur and Singapore. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as Cetera rarely performs in public these days. His last concert here was last Valentines Day 2009 at the Araneta Coliseum. 

Aside from being the voice behind the group, Chicago, Peter Cetera is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee and a Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter (many written in collaboration with DavidFoster). 

An Evening With Peter Cetera

The author (left) with Videosonic Inc.
president "Francis "Mart" Miranda
In his time (from 1968 to 1986) with the group, they recorded 18 of the most memorable albums of a generation with their traditional soft rock, horns-driven sound. Cetera wrote or co-wrote 12 of Chicago's 40 chart hits.

Embarking on a successful solo career since 1986, Cetera has reached No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 chart twice and recorded 10 time-honored CDs.

From the outset of the concert, Cetera, dressed in a snazzy, metallic purple blazer (a la a 1980s Robert Palmer), was in his usual jovial mood, constantly bantering with a surprisingly, initially polite (but later rowdy) audience throughout his 1 hour, 45-minute, 20-song (2 of them performed by his backing musicians) set, which included an equal balance of his Top 40 solo hits and chart-topping singles as frontman with Chicago. 

He performed with his powerhouse 7-piece, Nashville-based electric band – the multi-talented Tania Hancheroff (vocals), Steven Brewster (drums), well-known bass player & background singer Joe Chemay (bass), American Contemporary Christian musician and singer/songwriter Chris Rodriguez (guitar), Boh Cooper (keyboards), Jonathan Hamby (Hammond B-3) and Tony Obrohta (guitar). Incredibly, this band had no horn section.

Cetera opened the concert, electric guitar in hand, with his "Restless Heart" (from his 1992 album World Falling Down), then followed it up with the power ballad "Baby, What a Big Surprise" (from the 1977 album Chicago XI) and "One Good Woman" (from his 1988 solo album One More Story).

Peter then teamed up with Tanya as they sang the song “After All” (a 1989 Billboard Hot 100 hit song originally performed with Cher from the motion picture Chances Are). He then showcased his vocal range, which varies between F Sharp 4 and D sharp 6, on the Oscar-nominated song “Glory Of Love,” a 1986 song composed by Cetera, David Foster and Cetera's then-wife Diane Nini.  According to Cetera, he originally wrote and composed this song as  the end title for the 1985 film Rocky IV, but it was passed over by United Artists and, instead, was used as the theme song for  the 1986 film The Karate Kid Part II. The song got nominated for "Best Song" during the Academy Awards

The heavy, upbeat and rock-oriented “Stay the Night”  (from the 1984 album Chicago 17) was followed by the popular, chart topping 1976 hit ballad "If You Leave Me Now" (Chicago's biggest hit internationally, from the album Chicago X).  Peter kicked up the intensity, at the right time, with "You're The Inspiration" (also from the 1984 album  Chicago 17), a song that, according to him, Kenny Rogers passed up ("Sorry Kenny,"  Cetera said as the song hit No. 1 in the U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary).

Peter, together with Chris, then sang "Wishing You Were Here" (from the 1974 album Chicago VII).  According to Peter, three members of The Beach Boys (Al Jarine, Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson), joined him in singing the background vocals during the song’s recording at Caribou Ranch.  This was followed by "Love Me Tomorrow" (reached #22 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, from the 1982 album Chicago 16).

Cetera then took a brief break to change jackets and several members of the band were placed in the spotlight as they seamlessly covered two Beatles songs, with Tania performing a red-hot rendition of “Oh! Darling” and Chris doing a killer version of “Come Together.”  Cetera returned on stage with the deep cut, Baywatch opening theme song “Save Me” and again sang, with Tania, “Next Time I Fall” (a 1986 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song originally sung with Amy Grant for Cetera's 1986 album Solitude/Solitaire).

Cetera then again teamed up with Chris (in lieu of original lead and background vocal Bill Champlin), to sing "Hard Habit to Break" (from the 1984 album Chicago 17) before going solo again with the minor hit “Dialogue (Part I & II)” (from the 1972 album Chicago V).  "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" (the ending theme in the movie and soundtrack for the 1982 film Summer Lovers), supposedly the last song for the night, brought the crowd up on its feet and wanting more.

The concert really hit the high gear with the encore as Cetera obliged the crowd with his fairly rocking version of the Spenser Davis Groups's “ I’m A Man” (from Chicago’s 1969 debut album, The Chicago Transit Authority) and concluded his impressive performance (with the band's energy seemingly elevated) with the rocking 1973 hit "Feelin' Stronger Every Day" (from the album Chicago VI) and the signature hit "25 or 6 to 4" (from the 1969 second album, Chicago).

Even at age 72 (he will be 73 this coming September 13), Cetera’s unmistakable tenor voice was still as distinctive and powerful as it’s ever been, with its familiar phrasing and pitch.  Not once, during the concert, did he come close to missing a note. Peter even hit the demanding falsetto for "If You Leave Me Now." His voice seemed a little mellower on some of the ballads.

He was also such a great showman, giving background info on a number of his songs.  The band members were also great, especially his talented duet singers Tania (who ably handled the Cher and Amy Grant duets) and Chris.  The venue was perfect for the occasion.  The energy was missing at the early part of the show (maybe it was just the crowd or his solo hits didn't stand up as well as his Chicago hits) but it picked up later on as the Chicago songs excited the crowd. Perhaps, at this point of his 4 decade long career, Cetera wanted to finish strong. This entertaining and deeply satisfying septuagenarian can still rock-and-roll as well as melt a lady's heart.  

Friday, 1 September 2017

The 28th Philippine Travel Mart (Pasay City)

Bic0l Region Booth 

Davao Booth
Capiz Province Booth
The much-awaited Philippine Travel Mart, one of the biggest travel expos in the country, is now back for its 28th edition.  Held at the SMX Convention Center Manila, this three-day (September 1 to 3, 2017) event showcased the best travel packages, promotional deals, travel products and other tourism-related services. They again offered exhibitors the best platform for bigger opportunities to showcase their destinations and tourism offerings to local and foreign visitors.

Ilocos Norte Booth

Cebu Pacific Airlines Booth
2Go Travel Booth
For its main feature, there was a “Sale ng Bayan,” which allowed consumers to book and buy dream holiday and travel packages, both for domestic and international trips; one time promotional deals on international and domestic airfares; accommodation and other tourism related services; all exclusively offered only on this 3-day event. This event showcased products like airways, tourism packages, travel care services, resorts and transportation facilities associated with the travel and tourism industry.

SkyJet Booth

Samar Province Booth
Capiz Province Booth
Joining the sale were airlines and shipping and cruise companies such as Cebu Pacific Airlines, Air Asia, Skyjet Airlines, Camarih Transport, 2Go Group of Companies (2Go Travel) and Sun Cruises, Inc.

Among the many participating hotels and resorts were the Batangas Country Club, Bluewater Resorts, Bellevue Hotels and Resorts, Crown Regency Hotels and Resorts, Dakak Park Beach and Resort, Bayview Park and Hotel, Hennan Group of Resorts, Coron Soleil Garden Resorts, El Nido Y Mar, Movenpick Cebu and Boracay, Novotel, Robinsons Hotel and Resorts, Paradise Boracay Garden Resort and Convention Center, Sophia Garden ResortTagaytay View Park Hotel and many more hotels and resorts in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Sophia's Garden Resort Booth

Caraga Region Booth
Socsargen Region Booth
Tour and travel agencies such as Air You Go Travel Phils., Inc., Acenzie Travel & Tours Services, Batanes Travel and Tours, Bonjour Travel and Tours, Manila Ocean Park/Hotel H2O, Calamian Island Travel & Tours, Donsol Eco Tour Inc., Ellens Travel and Tours, PALS Wonderland Travel and Tours, Rajah Travel Corporation, Fuego Hotel and Properties and several other travel agencies also offered discounts on their products.

Bluewater Resorts Booth

ARMM Booth
ARMM Booth
Theme parks such as  Enchanted Kingdom Inc. and Zoobic Zafari Corp. were also included in the exhibitors. Also participating were Beachbosses Inc.Bonifacio Art Foundation Inc.Costales Nature FarmPhilippine Tarsier Recreation Inc.,  and companies in food retailing, medical and healthcare and other firms with travel related products.

Cultural Presentation

Cagayan de Oro City Booth
Socsargen Region Booth
More than 30 local government units (LGUs) and tourism offices also joined the travel sale to show case their city, town, province and the region’s tourism attractions.  They included the provinces of AklanBatangasBenguetBoholCamiguinCapizGuimarasIlocos NorteLagunaNegros OccidentalNegros OrientalOriental MindoroPalawan and Quezon; the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Caraga Region Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority; the towns and cities of Cagayan De OroCoronIbajayKaliboMalayPuerto GaleraSan Pablo CityTacloban City and Zamboanga City and the DOT Regional Offices of the Bicol RegionCagayan RegionCalabarzonEastern VisayasNorthern Mindanao and Southern Mindanao.

The author (let) with Events Organizer Mr. Pete Dacuycuy and SkyJet's Ms. Louise Santianen

Travel agency booths
Ethnic dancers
As this year’s travel sale theme was “Visit Asean @ 50,″ it also highlighted  ASEAN’s golden anniversary celebration with promo deals and travel discounts to ASEAN member countries such as BruneiCambodiaIndonesiaLaosMalaysiaMyanmarPhilippinesSingaporeThailand and Vietnam as well as to JapanKoreaChina and other international destinations. Aside from the travel-related sale, there were also cultural events such as a Cultural Dance Competition, Harana ng Kundiman, Eco Chorale, Patimpalak ng Kasuotang Pilipino and the Philippine Tourism Quiz Bee Finals. 

Quezon Province Booth

Friday, 21 July 2017

Hotel and Inn Review: Bakhaw Bed and Breakfast (Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte)

Date of Stay: July 21-24, 2017

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

Bakhaw Bed & Breakfast 

The business-friendly, 3-star Bakhaw Bed & Breakfast, just across the road from Sayak Airport (IAO, 200 m. away) which serves Siargao Island (making it an ideal accommodation for jetsetters), has 16 well-appointed, airconditioned rooms with cable TV, desk, coffee/tea maker and a private bathroom with hot and cold shower and complimentary toiletries. 
Bakhaw means “mangrove” in the local language.
Family Room

Complimentary breakfast (6 – 10 AM) is available for all guests. Bakhaw CafĂ©, its in-house restaurant, serves international and Filipino dishes and can seat up to 40 diners. It has a limited hour front desk (open daily, 6 AM – midnight), meeting room for business travelers, designated smoking areas and free parking spaces.  To make arrangements for check-in, please contact the property at least 24 hours before arrival using the information on the booking confirmation.
Al fresco dining area

The B&B also has a small but lush and interesting garden with several tables and chairs where one can lounge. It offers free airport transfers, daily housekeeping, laundry service and room service (during limited hours). This small hotel is a great base for exploring the extensive mangroves of Del Carmen in the western part of Siargao. They also offer tour packages to several beaches and surfing destinations in Siargao and Taktak Falls tours in Sta. Monica.
Front Desk

The B&B, seemingly a residence converted into a hotel, looks already old but it was clean and, most of all, it is near the airport.  Our 4-bed family room (room 12) had some maintenance issues.  The ceiling leaked during a heavy downpour and the bathroom didn’t drain properly (the slope was wrong). There was also a lack of convenience outlets for charging our gadgets.  The Cignal cable service, though not the hotel’s fault, was non-existent.   The free wifi, available only in the lobby, is very poor to pretty much non-existent. However, the ladies at the front desk and restaurant were efficient, charming and helpful. 
Bakhaw Cafe

The hotel is located 14.4 kms./9 mi. (16-min. drive) from the San Isidro Municipal Hall, 15 km./9.3 mi. (19-min. drive) from Dapa Public Market,  23.4 km./14.5 mi. (32-min. drive) from Magpupungko Beach, 29.3 km./18.2 mi. (36-min. drive) from Gen. Luna Pier, 29.1 km./18.1 mi. (42-min. drive) from Doot Beach, 29.4 km./18.3 mi. (36-min. drive) from Gen. Luna Beach and 31.7 km./19.7 mi. (42-min. drive) from Cloud 9 Beach.

Bakhaw Bed & Breakfast: Brgy. Sayak, Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte. Tel: +44 20 3027 6614 and (+632) 750-1501. Call center:  (+632) 662-1111. Geolocation: 9.856886, 126.017677.

It's Business as Usual in Siargao (Surigao del Norte)

Media group with Del Carmen Mayor Alfredo M. Coro II (center)

The 80-seater, 4-engine British Aerospace
146-100 jet of SkyJet Airlines
Last July, members of print media were invited to tour Siargao Island, the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines,” to show that it is still “business as usual” on the island despite the extension of martial law in Mindanao.  Invited were Ms. Bernadette Lunas of Manila Standard, Mr. Benjamin L. Layug of Business Mirror; Mr. Roel Hoang Manipon of the Daily Tribune; Mr. Terence Patrick Repelente of the Manila Bulletin; Mr. Timothy Jay Araneta of EXPAT Communications; Mr. Jimmy Calapati of Malaya Biz,  and Mr. Amadis Ma. Guerrero of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.  Also joining the group were noted photographer Mr. Donald C. Tapan, Ms. Louise Santiano of Skyjet and Publicist/PR Consultant Mr. Pete Dacuycuy.   
Siargao Domestic Airport

Dino Reyes-Chua
This group was brought directly to Siargao via an 80-min. flight from Manila, courtesy of SkyJet Airlines President Mr. Dino Reyes-Chua, riding in style on SkyJet’s 80-seater, 4-engine British Aerospace 146-100 jet.  
The same kind of VIP jet aircraft used by Queen ElizabethPrince CharlesPrince William and the rest of the British royal family, it lends credence to what Mr. Chua said, “We are not just selling seats, we are selling experience.  Flying with Sky Jet is a lifestyle!”
Del Carmen Mayor Alfredo M. "JR" Coro II

Bakhaw Bed & Breakfast (photo: Mr. Pete Dacuycuy)
Upon arrival at Sayak Airport,we were welcomed by our host, the youthful and dynamic Del Carmen town Mayor Alfredo M. “JR” Coro II.  We were all billeted at some of nearby Bakhaw Bed & Breakfast’s 16 rooms. 

After a late breakfast, a press conference with Mayor Coro was held. Coro delivered a “State of the Island” address, narrating how the island has shifted to family-oriented tourism and this is evident in the number of tourists visiting popular spots such as Naked Island, Daku Island, Guyam Island, Sugba Lagoon, Magpupungko Rock, etc.   He also proudly stated that out of 54 mangrove species worldwide, 44 can be found in Del Carmen. In terms of mangrove forest, Del Camen has 4,000 hectares (out of 8,600 hectares total in Siargao) of contiguous mangrove (home to the Crocodylus porosus,  the largest of all living saltwater crocodiles), the largest in the Philippines. 
Check out "Hotel and Inn Review: Bakhaw Bed and Breakfast"
Press conference with Mayor Coro at Bakhaw Bed and Breakfast (photo: Mr. Pete Dacuycuy)

Del Carmen Municipal Hall
After the presscon, we boarded two vans, provided by Mayor Coro, for a tour, with Ms. Roxan Gesto as our guide, of what Siargao has to offer.  We first made a stopover at Del Carmen Municipal Hall where we made a courtesy call on Mayor Coro's office.  
We next proceeded  to Port Pilar where the annual International Sportsfishing Cup (end of April or the beginning of May) is held. The waters to the east of the island offer excellent sport fishing (sailfish, marlin, yellow-fin tuna, wahoo, dorado, etc.), depending on the time of year.
Port Pilar

Tidal pool
We next motored to the nearby Magpupungko Tidal Pool & Lagoon, located on a cove facing the Pacific Ocean.  It is surrounded by limestone and granite formations, the most prominent of which is the iconic Magpupungko Rock. 
As we arrived during low tide, the limestone lagoon was pockmarked with crystal-clear swimming pools of assorted shapes and sizes where one can dip. However, most tourists and locals go here for cliff diving, an extreme activity done from one of the islets. Many sections of the pools are deep enough and, thus, safe to dive from.
Check out "Magpupungko Tidal Flats and Lagoon"
Magpupungko Rock

After a lunch prepared for us by Surigao del Norte District I Cong. Francisco Jose “Bingo” Matugas II and hosted by Mayor Coro at Krokodeilos in Del Carmen, the media group visited the adjacent Mangrove Protection & Information Center.  
Opened last November 15, 2014, the center is a legacy of Metro Pacific Investments Foundation (as part of their “Siargao It Up!”project) and the Municipality of Del Carmen to the people of Siargao.
Check out "Mangrove Protection & Information Center"
Mangrove Protection & Information Center

Mayor Coro with members of media
This facility serves as the center for the protection and propagation of mangrove trees in the coastal estuaries and the rehabilitation of degraded mangroves in the whole island of Siargao, 
It also provides information for locals, tourists and guests on the value and benefits of mangroves in our ecosystem. On display here are educational materials, a collection of sea shells and a complete skeleton of a saltwater crocodile as well as a number of skulls. Outside is a preserved saltwater crocodile. 
Traversing the mangroves of Del Carmen (photo: Mr. Donald C. Tapan)

From the center, the group again boarded outrigger boats for the 40-min. trip to the 87-hectare Sugba Lagoon in Caub Island, passing lush mangrove forests along the way. 

The 30 to 45-min. boat ride to the lagoon from the port was half the fun as we were to traverse wonderful and breathtaking scenery. 

Initially, we entered Del Carmen’s massive mangrove area with a backdrop of small green hills, passing fishermen on their boats, to some offshore islands. 
Island with pocket beaches and houses on stilts

The two-storey pavilion
Then, we went through a narrow passage that opened up into a large bay.  Here, we espied some small, thickly vegetated islands with sandy pocket beaches and small villages with houses on stilts. 
The captivating Sugba Lagoon is surrounded by large limestone hills covered with lush vegetation.  The lagoon has a two-storey pavilion, with a view deck, built by the local government unit to cater to visitors. Here, some members of the group tried stand up paddle boarding, exploring the turquoise waters of the lagoon’s perimeter.
Check out "Sugba Lagoon"
Sugba Lagoon (photo: Ms. Louise Santianen)

L-R: Mayor Coro, Louise Santianen
and Mr. Pete Dacuycuy
Back at Gen. Luna, we joined sponsors and participants of the First Siargao International Marathon (a project of Coro to spearhead a mangrove rehabilitation program) for dinner at Surigao City Mayor Ernesto Matugas’ private resort at Ocean Ridge. 
This 42.195-km. foot race (there are also 21-km. or 5-km. side events), to be held on July 23 at Numancia Elementary School grounds, also aims to promote the island of Siargao as a sports and eco tourism hub. Held in collaboration with the Municipality of Del Carmen, Siargao and the Department of Tourism, it is presented by SkyJet Airlines and is also supported by H&M Sport, Pascual Greek Yogurt, The Live Fit Lab and TetraPak.
General Luna Port 

L-R: Benjie Layug, Donna Estrella and Donald Tapan
The next day, after breakfast, we boarded our respective vans, now with Siargao Tourism Coordinator Ms. Donna Grace T. Estrella as our guide, as we were scheduled to go island hopping at Gen. Luna.  When we arrived at the port, we had to wade the shallow water, as it was low tide, to get to our two motorized outrigger boats moored some distance away. 

Once on board, we proceeded on our 25-min. boat ride to our first destination – Naked Island. Like Camiguin’s White Island, this fairly short stopover is a pure expanse of white sand surrounded by deeper crystal clear lagoon, with no trees or vegetation. Still, its calm waters make it an excellent spot for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing.
Check out "Naked Island"
Naked Island (photo: Mr. Donald Tapan)

Boodle lunch
Our longest stopover was made at Dako (from a Visayan word meaning “big”) Island.  The biggest of the three we were to visit, it has a small village, a long strip of white beach, a green backdrop and aquamarine waters.  Here, a boodle lunch of grilled fare was prepare or us.  
It included chicken, squid, bulis (yellow fin tuna), ganga (spider conch) and hot dogs; steamed rice; and a dessert of ripe mangoes, bananas and sliced watermelon; all washed down with fresh buko juice and soft drinks. 
Check out "Daku Island"
Daku Island
Daku Island (photo: Mr. Donald 
After lunch and some snorkeling, a short 15-min. boat ride brought us to our last island - the beautiful, uninhabited tear-drop shaped Guyam (meaning “little”) Island, located just a few hundred meters north of Daku Island.  

This 4,300 sq. m. (46,000 sq. ft.) islet has a small stretch of powdery to coarse, ivory to white sand and is home to a small grove of coconut, talisay (beach almond) and pine trees that have thrived there for years. 

It also has interesting coral rock formations that are perfect for snorkeling.  Its 230 m. (750 ft.) long coastline can be leisurely walked around in a little more than 15 mins. 

The island is unpretentious but is equally interesting as Naked and Daku Island. 
Check out "Guyam Island"
Guyam Island (photo: Mr. Donald Tapan)

Cloud Nine Boardwalk
Back at the mainland, it was now time to visit the popular Cloud 9 wooden boardwalk which allows surfers to get out to those dramatic and powerful waves, barreling up to 9 feet high, which made Siargao as the "Surfing Capital of the Philippines."  
At its three-level viewing deck, the group enjoyed watching surfers as they tackled the big waves of this famous surf break.
Check out "Cloud 9 Boardwalk"
Surfers at Cloud Nine (photo: Mr. Pete Dacuycuy)

The 3-storey observation deck
The next day, our return flight was cancelled due to bad weather in the morning. The First Siargao International Marathon continued as plan in spite of the rains. The extra day allowed the group to circumnavigate the island in the afternoon. 

Using the same van provided for us the days before, we were driven along the island’s 162-km. circumferential road, admiring some of the coastal scenery and making a stopover at the white sand Alegria Beach in Sta. Monica town.  Located  inside a reef-fringed lagoon in Siargao Island’s northeast, this alternative to the otherwise surfing dominated beaches of the island is another jewel in the crown of the island. 
Check out "Alegria Beach"
Alegria Beach (photo: Mr. Donald Tapan)

Siargao Tourism Office: Paseo De Cabuntog, Brgy. Catangnan, Gen. Luna, Siargao Island. Mobile number: (0921) 718-2268 (Ms. Donna Grace T. Estrella – Siargao Tourism Coordinator)
How to Get There: Skyjet Airlines has daily, 100-min. direct flights from Manila (NAIA Terminal 4) to Siargao (Sayak Airport). ETD Manila at 6 AM (M8-421), ETA Siargao at 7:40 AM. Return flights: ET Siargao at 8:10 AM (M8-422), ETD Manila at 9:50 AM.
Skyjet Airlines: Manila Domestic Airport, Parking A, Terminal 4, NAIA Complex, Brgy. 191, Pasay City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 863-1333 and (02) 823-3366. E-mail: Website: