Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Hotel and Inn Review: Dorsett Regency Hotel (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Date of Stay: December 28, 2010 - January 1, 2011

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

Dorsett Regency Hotel is located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle.  Its 30 sq. m. (322.9 sq. ft.) Deluxe Room has 2 double beds, 32-inch flat-screen LCD satellite TV, minibar, in-room safety deposit box, coffee/tea making facility and bath. The hotel also has 38 sq. m. (409 sq. ft.) Deluxe Premier Rooms an,d  45 sq. m. (484.3 sq. ft.) Junior Suites.
Deluxe Room 
Its food and beverage outlets include  the lobby level, 80-pax Window’s Cafe and Lounge (with its dedicated bar), the first floor, 150-pax, all day (6 AM-1 AM) Checker’s Cafe and, beside it, is the cozy, 25 pax Cellini’s Italian Restaurant.  
Checkers Cafe

The hotel also has a swimming pool (4th floor), 4 function rooms (10-200-pax), gym and offers limousine service, tours, concierge, valet, laundry, dry cleaning, pressing and 24-hour room service. The hotel was a stone’s throw away from KL’s finest shopping malls (Pavilion, Star Hill, Lot 10, Sungei Wang, Berjaya Times Square and Low Yat Plaza), eateries, tourist and entertainment spots.

Dorsett Regency Hotel: 172 Jalan Imbi, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Tel: 603-2716 1000.  Fax: 603-2715 5000.  E-mail: reservations.kl@dorsettregency.com.my. Website: www.dorsetthotels.com/malaysia/kualalumpur/.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Hotel and Inn Review: Corregidor Inn (Cavite)

Date of Stay: December 10 -11, 2010

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

Corregidor Inn

Hallway leading to the rooms
Corregidor Inn, sometimes called the Corregidor Hotel & Resort, is strategically located on top of a hill at the center of the island (Middleside), between the North and South Dock.   

The hotel has 30 airconditioned standard twin room with bath (PhP2,950) and a lone but more opulent and roomy suite located at the end of the hall.  All are furnished with exquisite rattan furniture but have no cable TV (the lobby has one showing only local channels). 
The standard twin room

This Spanish-style hotel, manned by a helpful, efficient and super friendly staff, has rustic capiz windows and tiled roof.  Its La Playa Restaurant, with its wide collection of local and foreign dishes, offers lunch buffets and a la carte meals.  

Its airy veranda dining area has a good view of the island's beautiful surrounding scenery as well as the mountains of the Bataan Peninsula across the sea.  About 50 m. from the hotel is an outdoor, modest-size fresh water swimming pool.  The inn also has a bar, business center, library, tennis court, basketball court and a souvenir shop.
The inn's swimming pool
La Playa Restaurant
The whole island is powered by its own power plant and, during the night, the generator would be shut down for about an hour to allow for refueling.  The nearby Corregidor Hostel has dormitory-type accommodations at its 2 wings.  Each wing has 13 double deck beds, good for 26 guests.  The hostel also has a conference room here companies can hold seminars and team building sessions.  
Corregidor Inn: Signal Hill, Brgy. San Jose, Corregidor Island, Cavite.  Mobile number: (0917) 527-6350. E-mail: corregidor_inn@suncruises.com.ph.  Website: www.corregidorphilippines.com/corr_inn.html.

Sun Cruises, Inc. (SCI) - Reservation Office: CCP Terminal A, CCP Complex, Roxas Blvd., Manila.  Tel: (632) 831-8140 and (632) 834-6857 to 58.  Fax: (632) 834-1523.  E-mail: suncruises@magsaysay.com.ph.

Sun Cruises, Inc. (SCI) - Sales Office: 21/F,  Times Plaza Bldg., Ermita, Manila.  Tel: (632) 527-5555 local 4511 and 4512.  Fax: (632) 527-5555 local 4513.  E-mail: sales@suncruises.com.ph.

Corregidor Island: Adventour Challenge (Cavite)

Emerging from a Japanese tunnel
The Corregidor Adventour (the word is a hybrid of the words “adventure” and “tour”) Challenge, an Amazing Race-like challenge, is the latest effort of Sun Cruises, Inc. (SCI) in promoting Corregidor Island, aside from its being a historical treasure for history buffs, as a nature and adventure destination for adventure lovers.
Solving letter equations
Participants who join are first briefed on the rules of the challenge then are grouped into teams.  They then donned Adventour T-shirts and are provided with flashlights and a survival kit consisting of oatmeal cookies and bottled water.  

Just like the Amazing Race, the Adventour Challenge is a race against time and participants have to tackle obstacles that require mental and as well as physical exertion as they hike trough sites that are, more often than not, not part of the regular tour.  

At Battery Way, they have to search for a bamboo containers that store pieces of a map giving directions to theirnext destination and challenge.  

Without going to much detail, they next have to duck walk along a dark, gecko-inhabited Japanese tunnel (exiting via a ladder); solve letter equations at the Hospital Ruins, figure out counting squares puzzles at the Spanish Lighthouse, and engage in games of trust (a blindfolded team member is guided through an obstacle course by the others), all in the quest to other pieces of our map (also stored in bamboo containers) as well as directions to their next challenge.

The last and most difficult challenge, held at the Parade Grounds, involved rolling a plastic ball, along a railing of two short bamboo poles, to a basket located some distance away at the sunken field.   This isn’t easy as it seemed as it required great composure, very steady hands and you could only guide or stop the ball with a bamboo stick (touching wasn’t allowed) and if the ball fell, they have to go back to the starting point and do the challenge all over again.  The first team to finish wins.

The Adventour Challenge is an ideal team building activity, testing our ingenuity, powers of observation, planning skills and ability to manage time, resources, endurance and stamina.  

Sun Cruises, Inc. (SCI) - Reservation Office: CCP Terminal A, CCP Complex, Roxas Blvd., Manila.  Tel: (632) 831-8140 and (632) 834-6857 to 58.  Fax: (632) 834-1523.  E-mail: suncruises@magsaysay.com.ph.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Resort Review: DJ Paradise Resort & Hotel (Malolos City, Bulacan)

Date of Stay: October 24-25, 2010

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

The very popular 5.7-hectare, Class AAA DJ Paradise Resort & Hotel has 22 airconditioned rooms with bath, phone, fridge and cable TV(11 standard, 4 de luxe, 5 executive and 2 suites).  

It also has 12 airconditioned cottages with bath, 12 airconditioned rooms with bath and an apartelle with 20 de luxe twin rooms and 8 dormitory-type rooms.  

One of the original Bulacan resorts to offer large pools with water slides, it has 9 swimming pools (including a 1,500 sq. m. wave pool with cascading waterfall), all open 24 hours, with 4 fiberglass water slides, and a jacuzzi.  
Our standard room

There's also a restaurant, coffee shop (Sampaguita), 300-pax banquet/convention hall, 3 airconditioned function rooms, 8 poolside kiosks, picnic sheds, disco, basketball court, driving range, putting green, business center, amusement park (kiddie train, bumpcars), bowling lanes, video arcade and tennis court. 

One of the resort's huge pools
The kiddie pool
The restaurant

DJ Paradise Resort: MacArthur Highway, Brgy. Dakila, Malolos City, Bulacan. Tel: (044) 791-5129 (connecting all departments), 662-4135 & 791-5384.   E-mail: info@djparadise.com.ph.  Website: www.djparadise.com.ph

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Grand Launch of the Chefs on Parade (Pasay City)

Chefs on Parade

The Grand Launch of the Chefs on Parade (COP) , to kick off the series of events leading to the three-day grand showdown in,2011, was held at Oceana Event Place, the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) Manila’s latest event venue and satellite campus,  at the SM Mall of Asia Complex.  

The COP, organized by the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines (HRAP) in 1974, is the longest running culinary competition in the Philippines and Asia.
Riding on the theme “Ultimate Asian Showdown,” the HRAP rolled out a major party, hosted by Ms. Cory Quirino, to welcome a power-packed combination of guests from different sectors, lead by DOT Secretary Alberto Lim, as well as general managers of various hotels; executive chefs; food and beverage heads; and presidents and deans of several universities and colleges. . hosted the program.  

The print, television, and online media were also invited to witness the return of what is expected to be one of 2011’s biggest culinary event. 
Tastes of Hanoi

During the Grand Launch, seven exhibitors brought out their best talents, treating guests to delightful offerings from the flair tenders from the College of Saint Benilde; the cake decorators from Edsa Shangri-la; baristas from The Coffee Beanery; sugar pullers from the Lyceum of the Philippines; ice sculptors from The Manila Pavilion; banquet table decorating ideas from Sofitel Philippine Plaza; and sushi-making by Century Park Hotel’s Executive Chef Shinji Furukawa.
Prizes were raffled off to lucky guests while special Chefs on Parade aprons and San Marino gift packs were given to everyone.  HRAP President Humphrey O’Leary III and Chairman Richard Masselin gave short speeches and presentations.  

The program ended with a toast headed by the COP 2011 Organizing Committee members whose untiring efforts in making sure Chefs on Parade 2011 will be bigger and better than the previous ones were evident during the event.
Tastes of Manila

Chefs on Parade 2011 will definitely be the event to watch out for with its unbeatable line-up of exciting activities: the Ultimate Asian Showdown among individuals and groups in the professional and student levels, the presence of local and international celebrity chefs and culinary experts, the various seminars and workshops, food and beverage tastings, trade exhibits, the Larry J. Cruz award, the coffee table book, and so much more.
Oceana Event Place: Bldg. A., San Miguel By the Bay, Seaside Blvd., SM Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City. Tel: (632) 556-3195 and (632) 886-0811. Open daily, 4 to 10 PM.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The CompanY: 25 Years and Counting

The CompanY

L-R:  Annie Quintos, Moy Ortiz, Sweet Plantado,
Jay Marquez and Cecile Bautista
The vocal harmony act The Company has a repertoire which  alternates from rhythm & blues; mainstream & smooth jazz; to pop and rock.This versatile and talented quintet had their beginnings in 1985 when alumni of the Ateneo College Glee Club (my brother-in-law Mark Sta. Maria is also an alumni of that same glee club) decided to form the group.  

Initially, they sang as backup vocalists to a number of 1980s pop stars before turning professional.  Through the years, they underwent a number of personnel changes (including a major change in 2005).  Today, the group is composed 3 ladies; Sweet Plantado (soprano), Annie Quintos (soprano/alto) and Cecile Bautista (alto), and 2 guys; Jay Marquez (tenor) and Moy Ortiz (tenor 2/bass and the quintet's general manager). 

Aside from doing the concert rounds, they have also recorded 19 albums (the latest, Lighthearted, just this March).  Now on their 25th year, they have also shared the stage with international solo artists such as Basia, Jim Brickman, Michael Buble, John Ford Coley, David Pack, Noel Pointer, Kenny Rankin  and Steve Tyrell, and fellow groups such as Ambrosia, Kalapana, The Manhattan Transfer and Survivor. In 2006, they were also involved in the highly-rated ABS-CBN TV series, the Pinoy Dream Academy. 

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Launch of "A Tourist Guide to Notable Philippine Historical Landmarks, Monuments and Shrines"

Book signing with my family in attendance

Front Cover
During the Philippine International Bookfair held at at SMX, my fourth book (my third with New Day Publishers), "A Tourist Guide to Notable Philippine Historical Landmarks, Monuments and Shrines," was launched at the New Day Publishers booth. 

Historical landmarks, monuments and shrines, all hallowed or held in high deference, offer our people a more intimate encounter with our national heritage and historical lessons of the past.
They have the very souls bequeathed to them by the ideals, visions and spirits of our great Filipino heroes and illustrious leaders (Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmeña, Wenceslao Q. Vinzons Sr., etc.) as well as of people who have achieved an enduring contribution toward the enrichment of Filipino cultural heritage (painters Juan Luna and Vicente Manansala).
They also highlight important historical events (Birth of the First Philippine Republic, Trial and Execution of Bonifacio, Tejeros Assembly, Leyte Landing, etc.) and notable battles of past wars (Pinaglabanan Memorial Shrine, Battle of Alapan Historical Monument, Mount Samat National Shrine, Corregidor National Shrine, Pulang Lupa Battle Shrine, Tirad Pass National Shrine, Bessang Pass National Shrine, etc.) for which they have been built, thereby serving as mute witnesses to the heroic spirit of the Filipinos of yesteryears.

Oftentimes, the physical structures of these properties of architectural, cultural, historical and social significance, are historical artifacts by themselves (Aguinaldo Shrine, Barasoain Church Historical Landmark, Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery Historical Landmark,Leon Apacible Historical Landmark, Marcela M. Agoncillo Historical Landmark, etc.), all monuments that depict the local aesthetic values of their builders as well as the artistry, craftsmanship and industry of Filipino artisans and laborers who were responsible for their construction.
Published by New Day Publishers in 2010, ThIS book is available at select National Bookstores and Powerbook outlets. You can also email New Day Publishers at sales@newdaypublishers.com and newday@pworld.com.ph for details, or call telephone numbers 928-8046 and 927-5982.  You can also order, via the internet, at www.newdaypublishers.com.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Hotel and Inn Review: Marriott Hotel Manila (Pasay City)

Date of Stay: June 12-13, 2010

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

The 8-storey Marriott Hotel Manila, located within the 25-hectare, mixed-use Newport City (which includes the world-class tourism complex of Resorts World Manila) project of property giant Megaworld Corp.,  is the first in Metro Manila to carry the Marriott name and the second in the Philippines after the 301-room Cebu City Marriott Hotel. 

The Marriott name had its beginnings in food and beverage when, in 1927, J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott opened their first A&W (after Alice and Willard) Root Beer stand (with nine stools) in Washington, D.C. During the next decade, Marriott expanded its food-service business to include “in-flite” service (later to become the world’s largest airline catering business). 

By 1957, its business extended to hotels when it opened their first Twin Bridges Motor Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Today Marriott International Inc. is a leading worldwide hospitality company, with over 3,100 operating units in the United States and 67 other countries and territories. 

Mr. Richard Saul, Marriott Hotel Manila first general manager, sums it all up when he said that “Marriott represents a five-star international product that customers can rely on.”

This five-star international standard, plus the best of Philippine hospitality and a distinctive touch of Philippine flavor and color, makes this hotel unique among other Marriot hotels. 

As one enters the lobby, guests are presented with a unique, not-too-stiff and living room-style zoning arrangement that defies convention and emphasizes convenience, rest and creation: a front desk (and the panic-and-frantic pace associated with it) that is almost hidden from view; an  interactive social zone with television sets on both ends (allowing guests to be both social and business-like at the same time), and the Lobby Bar with its high tables and communal tables (for groups that may want to enjoy snacks and canapés) and, for the private person, an individual zone where one can sit down, read a book or enjoy his cake, salad and cool drink.

From the grand lobby, it is impossible not to be drawn to Marriott’s seamlessly integrated restaurant outlets (all with splendid views of the Villamor Golf Club’s fairways) that literally flow from one to the other, each offering something distinct and different for the guests.

The casual Marriott Café, a bright, bold, upbeat and modern version of an all-day dining buffet restaurant, features live and engaging open-theater kitchens and a vast, sumptuous buffet of local and international favorites from the Western world all the way up to China, plus an equally irresistible à la carte menu to order from. 

The sophisticated Cru Steakhouse, a paradise for meat lovers, serves the finest dry-aged, prime cuts of succulent steak (you can choose your cut and see how it is prepared) perfectly paired with the freshest seafood (oysters, lobsters, etc.) and fine red wine.

Meanwhile, the Velocity Sports and Entertainment Bar, an updated and upgraded version of a contemporary sports bar (with multiple, giant flat-screen TVs showing the hottest sporting events from around the globe), offers a central bar, live entertainment, local tap beer and cocktails (complemented by a simple finger-food menu), private zones (for guests who want to watch sports at a corner all to themselves), ample open space for moving around, and distinctive but complementary pieces of furniture.

Java+Coffee Shop specializes in excellent grab-and-go choices of energy-boosting gourmet coffee, freshly baked pastries, breads and other wholesome refreshments and snacks.

Of course, what is a hotel without its rooms.  The 342 exquisite deluxe rooms and suites are all first-rate, all exuding class and comfort, with luxurious bedding, high-speed Internet, 40-inch, full high-definition LCD TVs with IPTV,  new jack pack plug-and-play systems, in-room safe, minibar and spacious work areas.

The two top floors house executive-level rooms and 19 deluxe suites. From the Executive Lounge, guests can enjoy a spectacular view of the Villamor Golf Course.

To relax and unwind, there’s Marriott’s signature Quan Spa, a full-service spa that offers various treatments and services to pamper guests. The spa has four single treatment rooms, one couple’s room, one bathing suite and a reflexology lounge. 

The hotel also has a fully equipped health club (offers cardio equipment, free weights, fitness classes and a pool), grand ballroom, six meeting rooms, business center plus a swimming pool. 

Marriott Hotel Manila: No 10 Newport Boulevard,Newport City Complex, Pasay City.  Tel: (632) 988-9999.  Fax: (632) 836-9998.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Philippine Kayaking Series, First Leg (Anvaya Cove, Morong, Bataan)

Anvaya Cove Beach and Nature Club

Jungle survival training demonstration
The first leg of Philippine Kayaking Series, dubbed the “Canon Powershot Kayak Explore Anvaya Cove-Subic Bay!,” held at the exclusive Anvaya Cove Beach and Nature Club (a 320-hectare leisure development by Ayala Land in Morong, Bataan) and Subic Bay Freeport Zone, is a kayak marathon organized by Mr. Valentin "Val" Camara, Philippine Kayaking Association president, and wife Ms. Andrea "Didi" Camara.  They will play host to 150 elite athletes which includes co-organizer Kayakasia Singapore’s Cher Huey and his 10-man delegation.  

The Novice Race gets underway
The 40 advanced class kayakers, took off, for the 25-km. first leg (estimated time of completion is 2 to 2.5 hrs.) from Anvaya Cove, and arrived at the Subic Boardwalk .  Once all kayakers were in, lunch was served. 

Later, an Aeta group, led by Tata Kasoy, did a native dance number and a jungle survival training demo (including how to start a fire, make cooking utensils, cooking food, etc,) using the versatile bamboo.   

Next in the agenda was kayaking clinic (teaching the basic skills) hosted by Val, and the novice race, done in two heats, for first-timer kayakers (including car racing driver Ms. Gaby de la Merced) on tandem sit-on sea kayaks.  
Romeo Castro & Alexis Atutubo
The novice race was won, with a time of 9:33, by Ms. Alfie Argana (a beauty and wellness spa manager from Cagayan de Oro City) and her 10-year old son Lance Argana.  Second were Karem Miranda and Neil de la Merced (brother of Gaby) followed by the pair of Kate Edrosolam and Patrick Hong.  

After this, the second 25-km. leg, from Subic Bay back to Anvaya Cove, was on its way.  At Anvaya Cove, the first in was the duo of  Mr. Romeo Castro and Mr. Alexis Atutubo (clocking an impressive time of 3:48:35), followed by Mr. Edward de Vera and Ms. Raven Qua while in third were Ms. Ranessa Santos (Anvaya Cove Activity Manager) and Mr. Mark Broncales (Anvaya lifeguard). 

Cher Huey (who arrived an hour late for the race due to an over-subscribed plane booking) and his Filipino partner still managed to place a respectable seventh (with a time of 4:37:14). 
The Novice Race winners

The day’s culminating activity was the Anvaya Cove Barrio Fiesta which featured a dinner buffet of local cuisine and Filipino dances and music. This was followed by the awarding of prizes, emceed by Mr. Joselito "Lito" Cinco, for the top three finishers, which included Canon underwater cameras, airline tickets from Cebu Pacific, Red Bull gift packs, outdoor items from R.O.X. and the Primer Group, David’s Salon gift certificates, Mojos sandals, magazine subscriptions from Action Asia, and overnight accommodations at Subic Bay International Hotel (where we stayed overnight) and Caylabne Bay Resort. Later, five locals did some brave kayaking, in the moonlight, over Subic Bay.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Hotel and Inn Review: Grand Mercure Beijing Central Hotel (People's Republic of China)

Date of Stay: May 25-28, 2010

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

The stylish, 4-star Grand Mercure Beijing Central Hotel, formerly the Grand Mercure Xidan Beijing Hotel, is located in Xidan commercial and shopping area, a10-min. walk from Chang’an Street, 1.5 kms. from the Forbidden City and 2 kms. from Lake Beihai Park and the famous Tiananmen Square.
Grand Mercure Beijing Central Hotel

This international standard deluxe hotel  has 290 (we occupied 4) well-appointed rooms (de luxe double, superior twin, superior double, executive twin, presidential suite), all decorated in a modern style and furnished with cable TV, in-room safety deposit box, minibar and a private bathroom with bathtub. Free wi-fi, for internet and emailing needs, was available at the hotel lobby.
Room 603
The hotel has 2 restaurants and a coffee shop (Amazing Thailand Coffee Shop). The V9 All Day Dining Restaurant serves an international buffet while Cantonese dishes are offered at the China Kitchen Restaurant (with 10 individual VIP rooms).  It also has a bar, 24-hour Front Desk, business center, free parking on site, meeting/banquet facilities, souvenir/gift shop and a fully-equipped fitness center with heated indoor swimming pool, massage center and sauna facilities. An exemplary level of secretarial service is provided by The Executive Club.
Amazing Thailand Coffee Shop
The hotel also offer tours, travel assistance, car rental, airport shuttle, currency exchange, laundry, pressing and dry cleaning services, concierge and room service.
Heated Indoor Swimming Pool
Grand Mercure Beijing Central Hotel: 6 Xuanwumen Nei Ave., Xicheng District, 100031 Beijing, People’s Republic of China. Tel: (+86)10/66036688.  Fax: (+86)10/66031481.  E-mail: info@grandmercurebeijing.com.