Saturday, 27 October 2007

The Flavors of Spain in Batangas

Cooking demonstration with Chef Mikel (left)

A delectable array of bite-size tapas
The Spaniards are at it again, trying to conquer the Philippines, not with galleons, swords and arquebuses, but through the Filipinos’ heart, via the stomach.  This invasion, truly of a different sort, is led by Club Punta Fuego Resident Chef Mikel Arriet Arruiz and his culinary team.   This traditional “welcome invasion” is called the “Flavors of Spain.”   

Fuego Hotels, together with the Trade Commission of Spain, hosts this much-awaited, 30-day traveling caravan of rich and varied Spanish cuisine, now on its fifth year, to be held at Punta Fuego Yacht Club in Nasugbu, Batangas. 

Mr. Alfredo Roca (Chief Operating Officer) and Ms. Michelle "Mitch" Garcia (Marketing Communications Manager), both of Fuego Hotels and Properties Management Corp., invited a media team to cover this event.
Morcilla de Arroz con Tomate
At the Marina Bar, a table filled with a dazzling buffet of irresistible wines and ingenuously-prepared, delectable and tempting Spanish cuisine awaited us.  

Its numerous piece de resistance included top of the line, dry-cured Real Iberico ham, chorizos of every variant, manchego cheese, black blood sausage, charcoal tempura shrimps and small but sumptuous, bite-size appetizers called tapas (called pintxos in Basque).  These tapas included  Morcilla de Arroz con Tomate,  Pintxo de Ensaladilla RusaPuding de Pescado, Pintxo de Jamon con AtunPincho de Pimiento Asado con Anchoas, Tartaletas de MariscoChorizo a la Sidra,  Calamares Andaluza and Txistorra.
Pintxo de Ensaladilla Rusa
Puding de Pescado
Puding de Verduras

Chef Mikel Arriet Arruiz
Tapas, when combined into a full meal, made for a perfect repast.  Tapas (called pintxos in Basque and pulutan or pica-pica in Filipino), derived from the Spanish verb tapar, meaning “to cover,” was said to have originated during the reign of King Alfonso XII (1857-1885).  

The king stopped by a famous venta (inn) in the windy Andalusian city of Cadiz, where he ordered a glass of sherry. 

To protect the wine from the beach sand, the waiter covered the glass with a slice of cured ham before offering it to the king. 

After drinking his wine and eating the ham, he ordered another sherry with the same tapa (“lid” or “cover”).  

Others say that, during long siestas or between sips, one would put a slice of bread over his wine glass to prevent fruit flies or dust from falling into one’s sweet sherry drink.  Later, it became a habit to top this “cover” with a snack.

Gallo Durum Wheat Spaghetti with Fresh
Watermelon Balls and Saffron
Chef Mikel, the star of this running fiesta, arrived in Manila in 2004 by way of the lovely town of Andoain, Gipuzkoa in the Basque Region of Spain, known for its gastronomic delights and for having produced a good number of the world’s best chefs. 

Young, hardworking, good-looking, always smiling but soft-spoken, Chef Mikel also oozes with talent and is passionate when it comes to his trade.  He has worked in many prestigious fine-dining restaurants in Ibiza,  Tenerife and Barcelona in Spain as well as  the Martin Berasategui Restaurant in Lasarte, awarded the highly coveted 3 Michelin Stars, the highest honor given to a restaurant.  Aside from Spanish cuisine, his expertise also includes Italian and French cuisine.

After this late lunch, we crossed over, by speedboat, from the yacht club to Terrazas de Punta Fuego where we witnessed a cooking demonstration, again by Chef Mikel, at Café Sol. Using Spanish Gallo durum wheat pasta and the freshest ingredients (basil leaves, watermelons, mushrooms, native pechay, walnuts, etc.), he combined and transformed them into full, delectable but healthy pasta dishes, using traditional cooking techniques, saffron (the world’s most expensive spice), garlic, blue cheese and a lot of olive oil.   
Gallo Vegetable Spaghetti with Blue
Cheese,Walnuts and Native Pechay
After this cooking demo, yours truly, Ms. Mira B. Gloria of Highlife and 13 others sat as judges in the Wine Challenge, sampling shots of three red and two white wines from ADP Industries, ATR-Torres and Barcino Gourmet, judging on the 2S (sight and sound) and 3Ts (taste, touch and totality), the winner being designated as the resort’s official red and white house wine for 2008. 

Come sunset, it was party time at Terrazas Beach Plaza, co-presented by Landco Pacific Corp., Prestige Cars (BMW), the Trade Commission of Spain and Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) and hosted by Mr. James Deakin.  Again featuring a sumptuous tapas spread, plus lechon, lenguapaella, bottomless sangria and a host of desserts, it also featured a fashion show by Waicoco Swimwear, the electrifying music of the Brass Munkeys and a raffle draw of prizes including Nautica watches, gift certificates from Washington Emporium, American Express, Digiprint, Taal Vista Hotel and Pearl Farm Beach Resort and gift packs from SMART Infinity.
Fashion Show of Waicoco Swimwear

The Brass Munkeys

Fuego Hotels and Properties: 15/F, 139 Corporate Center, Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City.  Tel: (632) 750-1999.  Fax. (632) 750-1893. Website:

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Restaurant Feature: Rafael's Farm Garden Restaurant (Babatngon, Leyte)

The boating lagoon

The entrance to main building
Rafael's Farm Garden Restaurant, in the next town of Babatngon, is just a 13-km./30 min. drive from Tacloban City. This peaceful, 16-hectare place in the middle of farmland, because of its ambiance, is a perfect place to dine, get close to nature and relax  with its beautiful, well-maintained landscaping.  

There were many open green spaces to walk around, a wishing well, a manmade waterfall, a calesa, a treehouse for children to play in and a lagoon where one can go rowboating.  A wooden platform leads to a gazebo at the middle of the lake.  At night, fireflies swarm at a nearby tree.  The restaurant was named after the grandson of owner/entrepreneur Rene Tampil. Rene is also the owner of meat shops and the "Join Us" fastfood eateries in Tacloban City. 

The thatched-roof main building, with its native decor and open on 2 sides, has a wooden floor, conversation areas with sofas, interesting coffee tables, old and lamps, sculpture pieces, and an infinity pond with koi fish around the perimeter. A favorite weekend destination, it is truly a nice place for one who wants to get out of noise and stress of city life, even if just for a few hours.

The conversation area and infinity pond

The main dining area has dining tables topped with crocheted tablecloth and wooden chairs with woven abaca backrests and seats covered with banig.  All around are artwork (done by local artists) for sale.  

The menu features a wide selection of delicious Filipino dishes (fish sinigang, grilled herb chicken, kinilawkare-kare, crispy chicken kawali, coco chicken stew, garlic butter fish steak, yellow pork chop, baked scallops, classic baby back ribs,  etc.), salads (farmer's salad, garden fresh salad, etc.), desserts (buko gelatin, halo-haloturon, etc.), pastries and beverages (lemon grass tea, ginger tea, iced tea, etc.), all at reasonable prices.  You can avail of a set meal consisting of salad, a side dish, rice, main course and dessert for PhP220. 

Rafael's Farm: Brgy. Pagsulhugon, Babatngon, Leyte.  Tel: (053) 325-0729.  Mobile numbers (0918) 669-9909 and (0915) 920-0325.  E-mail: and  Website:


Thursday, 11 October 2007

Hotel and Inn Review: Hotel Don Felipe (Ormoc City, Leyte)

Date of Stay: October 11 -12, 2007

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

Hotel Don Felipe

One of the hotel's rooms
This quite old, standard-class hotel, close to the pier, has 73 rooms.  Some are fan-cooled single/double rooms (PhP360-420), great for budget-conscious travelers, while others are neat and spacious airconditioned rooms with bath, IDD phone and cable TV (economy single/double, family, standard, superior single/double, junior suite, senior suite, PhP580-2,880).  

Guests staying at rooms at the front of the hotel have a great view of beautiful Ormoc Bay and the sight of ships entering the city's busy port. 

This hotel, the tallest building in the city, also has a ground floor restaurant (El Comedor Restaurant) serving Mexican cuisine, a coffee shop (Bahia), bar, disco, ballroom, 3 function rooms (Malaga, Granada and Mungia), business center, gym, spa and a souvenir shop.  It is also walking distance to Gaisano Department Store.
View of Ormoc Port

Don Felipe Hotel: A. Bonifacio St., Ormoc City, Leyte.  Tel: 561-9620-21, 225-2460, 255-3540, 255-2007, 225-4661 & 225-3580-81.  Fax: 225-4306.  E-mail:

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Hotel and Inn Review: Leyte Park Resort Hotel (Tacloban City, Leyte)

Date of Stay: October 10 - 11, 2007

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

Leyte Park Resort Hotel - Driveway

Standard twin room
The Leyte Park Resort Hotel, a 6.13 hectare, standard class hotel, sitting atop a hill,  was built by former First Lady, Imelda Marcos in 1979 but was closed for 3 years until it was reopened in 1994 following renovation and refurbishing. 

The hotel has 100 well-furnished airconditioned rooms with bath, cable TV, NDD phone and minibar (single/twin standard, PhP2,250-4,800) within the main building. 

From the room balcony, one has a gorgeous view of beautiful San Juanico Strait (the world's narrowest navigable body of water), Mt. Danglay and San Pedro Bay.   It is also not far from Tacloban's heart and soul.  The hotel also has 50 villas (some with private infinity pools) and cottages.  Leyte Park Hotel still has the potential to be the best hotel in Leyte but it needs a further overhaul. 

The hotel has a number of food and beverage outlets.  Its specialty restaurant, San Pedro Bay Seafood Restaurant, offers  seafood and cultural presentations.  Its second floor coffee shop, Veranda Cafe (open 4 AM-2-AM), offers international cuisine as well as Samar/Leyte gourmet favorites.  The cozy Lobby Sala Grill, adjacent to Veranda Cafe, offers grilled seafood.  The Tavern Videoke Bar offers cool drinks, videoke and billiards. The Pool Patio Pizzeria, open 9 AM-12 PM, offers snacks and frozen delights while Park Cafe offers expresso.

View of San Pedro Bay, Mt. Danglay and the villas below 

The hotel also has a 100-150-pax airconditioned ballroom dancing pavilion (Don Joseph), bar (Bacchus), 500-pax plenary hall, four 40-pax function rooms, 20-pax executive rooms, 80-pax President’s Hall, business center, two swimming pools (open 10 AM-12 midnight), game room, barber shop, health and fitness center, beauty salon, clinic, two tennis courts, skating rink, target shooting range and gift and handicraft shop (Philippine Treasures,open 9 AM-6 PM).  

They also offer catamaran dinner cruises (Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays) at San Pedro Bay on board the Lara Lynn.  The hotel also offers room service, safety deposit boxes, tours and airport transfers.

The hotel's two swimming pools

Leyte Park Resort Hotel: Magsaysay Blvd., Tacloban City, Leyte. Tel: (053) 325-6000,  325-5585 to 86 and 325-7859.  Fax: (053) 325-5587 and 321-1099.  Mobile number: (0922) 372-2829.  Email:  Website:

Manila office: Unimasters Conglomeration, Inc., 1002 Orient Square, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. Tel: (632) 631-6015. Fax: (632) 687-5884.  Mobile number: (0922) 326-6563. Email:

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Hotel and Inn Review: Hotel Alejandro (Tacloban City, Leyte)

Date of Stay: October 9-10, 2007

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

Hotel Alejandro

De luxe room
This 2-storey, standard-class hotel, built in 1932, was formerly the residence of the late Dr. Alejandro Montejo (after whom the hotel was named).  During World War II, it was occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army and later, during the liberation, by American war correspondents.  

The hotel has 20 airconditioned de luxe rooms with bath, cable TV, IDD/NDD phone, work desk and minibar.  The hotel also has 2 executive suites and 30 standard rooms (PhP1,100-1,765).  
World War II Museum

View of city from roof deck
The hotel's ground floor coffee shop, Café Teresa, offers American, Spanish and Filipino dishes and has a 50-pax function room and wi-fi internet access.  

The hotel also has a 250-pax banquet hall (Commonwealth Hall) and the fourth floor, 40-pax function room (Liberation Room).   

The 200-pax roof deck terrace has a lap pool, a poolside bar and cafe and a great view of the city.  The hotel also has a computer room and souvenir shop.

One of the hotel's attractions is its World War II Museum which displays 450 original photographs of the October 1944 Leyte Landing and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.   

Hotel Alejandro: P. Paterno St., Tacloban City, Leyte. Tel: 321-7033, 523-7873, 321-7677, 321-7688 and 321-7509-10.  Fax: 523-7872. E-mail:  Website: