Tuesday, 17 September 2013

An Oktoberfest Preview (Manila)

Sofitel Philippine Plaza's Mindanao Ballroom

An array of Bavarian sausages
I, together with other media guests, were invited to attend a press conference to be held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza’s Mindanao Ballroom to launch the 2013 Oktoberfest to be held on October 18 and 19 at  the hotel’s newly renovated Harbor Garden Tent. 

The festival started in 1810 when Ludwig, the crown prince of Bavaria, married German Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on October 12 (some say the 17th).  To celebrate the union, the royal couple organized a horse race and invited some 40,000 citizens of Munich to the fields in front of the city gates called Theresienwiese (Theresa’s meadow).  Since then, the Oktoberfest, now an integral part of the Bavarian culture, has been celebrated annually in Munich.  The festival has also spread throughout other countries, becoming the largest volksfest (people's fair) in the world by 1960.  Here in the country, Germans and Filipinos have been celebrating it for 75 years. 

Beer dispensers and mugs
When we arrived at the ballroom, authentic Oktoberfest tables and benches were already set up, providing a festive beer garden setting.  On stage was a beer mug pyramid and the speaker's podium (fittingly a beer barrel).  

Each table was decorated with miniature Philippine and German flags as well as blue and white Bavarian flags, with cold, refreshing San Miguel beer in beer dispensers and 1-liter mugs (called mass in German) at the middle of the table. 

Joining Ms. Astra Alegre (writer for What's On Expat) and I at our table was celebrity actress G Toengi (now a reporter of Rappler) and her husband Tim Walters. To provide a more complete Oktoberfest  look, we were all waited on by ladies dressed in in dirndl (a traditional Bavarian dress with apron) and gentlemen in lederhosen (leather breeches worn with suspenders) and wearing Bavarian-style Alpine hats.  

Posing with a pair of ladies wearing Bavarian dirndl
G Toengi (left) with Ms. Salvador and Mr. Scheile
Sofitel Gen. Manager Mr. Adam Lasker
Mr. Michael Hasper of the German Embassy

Mr. Michael Scheile and Ms. Eiffelene Salvador
Mr. Adam Lasker, Sofitel Philippine Plaza’s Gen. Manager, welcomed us all in his opening remarks emphasizing how the Oktoberfest has helped promote camaraderie among Filipinos and Germans.  

The hotel has been hosting this Oktoberfest for four straight years now.  Mr. Michael Hasper, Deputy Head of Commission of the German Embassy, also delivered his opening remarks.  Mr. Michael Scheile, the chairman of this year's Oktoberfest, and Ms. Eiffelene Salvador, were our gracious hosts for this afternoon's beer fest.  To get us going and to create an appetite for the delicious Bavarian fare prepared for us, they taught us to dance – the Bavarian way, of course - to the tune of the fliegerlied (So a schöner Tag), the favorite Octoberfest song. 

L-R: Mr. Hasper, Ms. Salvador, Mr. Scheile and Mr. Lasker
The German Pronunciation Contest

Crowd dancing to the tune of the Fliegerlied
Models Ms. Janet Emmrich and Alexandra Salmeron assisted in a contest where participants had to pronounce a German phrase as near to its proper pronunciation as possible. Later on, beer drinking contests (singles and pairs) were also held, adding excitement to the crowd.  Winner were awarded gift certificates. 

The star of any Oktoberfest, aside from the beer and the merriment, is the Bavarian food.  We started our food marathon with the soup (goulashsuppe -goulash soup with a bread selection) followed by appetizers (assorted charcuteries with condiments, a Bavarian cheese delicacy called obatzda, etc.) and salads (cucumber salad with dill, potato salad with smoked sausage and onions, etc.) and carvings (whole ham with beer sauce, chicken from the rotisserie with pepper sauce, etc).
The beer drinking contest

Cucumber salad 
Goulash soup
Our main course consisted of a choice of Bratwurst Ring, Cheese Krainer; Munchner Weisswurst and Bratwurst; and Hungarian sausages (during last year’s Oktoberfest, 3,000 guests consumed 950 kgs. of these sausages), all grilled and served with an assortment of mustard.  

There was also sauerkraut (the most well-known German food) with smoked pork belly; Bavarian meat patty; 2 kinds of Bavarian dumplings (bread dumplings and potato dumplings with croutons) and Lyoner potatoes.

Cheese krainer
Hungarian sausages
Lyoner potatoes

Sauerkraut with smoked 
pork belly
Potato dumplings with 
Finally, we topped it all with mouth-watering desserts.  I particularly liked the apfelstrudel (apple strudel or baked apple pie filled with cinnamon, raisins and roasted bread crumbs) with vanilla sauce.

I also tried sachertorte (a chocolate cake, or torte, invented by Austrian Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich) and Bayerische creme (rather like a cooked custard made with egg yolks, gelatin and whipped cream) with strawberries.

Apple strudel with vanilla sauce

For inquiries, please call the German Club at telephone numbers (632) 817-3552 of 818-4236 (for entry and raffle tickets) or Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel at (632) 832-6988 and (632) 551-5555 ext. 6988 (for room reservation).  You can also email them at germanclub@germanclub.ph or fbreservations@sofitelmanila.com

During the festival, the hotel is offering a special rate of PhP5,000 net for a Superior Room, with a hearty and lavish breakfast at Spiral for an additional PhP1,200 net per person. 
This year grand celebration also includes a raffle draw with over PhP4 million worth of major and minor prizes donated by sponsors (round trip, business-class tickets to Germany via Etihad; Mercedes Benz weekend drives with overnight stay in Baguio City; laptops, Canon DSLR cameras; Mac I-Pads; Levi’s jeans; Puma shirts; etc.)). Proceeds go to the German Club’s welfare projects.  

The Bloomfields, one of Manila’s best live bands, will be dishing out good, old retro 1960s rock-and-roll music on October 19.  Oktoberfest will also be celebrated at the Crimson Resort & Spa at Mactan Island, Cebu on October 25.