Tuesday, 26 September 2017

32nd Negros Trade Fair (Makati City)

The annual Negros Trade Fair (NTF), the proudly longest running provincial trade fair in the Philippines, is now on its 32nd edition. 

Held from September 27-October 1, 2017 at the Glorietta Activity Center in Makati, it was anchored on the theme “Food for Thought” which will highlight popular Negrense cuisine, the best Negrense chefs and the best locally sourced ingredients. 

Negrosanon-inspired products taking center stage include poultry meat products (chicken, duck, lamb), dried fish, fresh seafood (including blue crabs), and a soothing array of locally-produced tea or coffee paired with an assortment of delectable Negrosanon-inspired ready-to-eat finger foods and pastries.

Chef Tom Bascon
Chef Claudia Schulze
Food stalls featured Ilonggo dishes such as kansi, KBL, La Paz batchoy, and chorizo pudpud by Inasalan sa Dalan; ready to eat adobo pitao (quail adobo) by T-Flavors; assorted delicacies and pasalubong (including the famous Napoleones) by Virgie's Homemade Products; recado and hamonado chorizo by Ereneta-Manaloto Chorizo; batchoy, pancit Molo, and kansi panada by Ilonggo Chef JP Anglo of Sarsa Kitchen; handmade ensaymada by Felicia's Pastry Shop (Bacolod); bottled condiments, sauces, and honey by Christdel's Garden; the dulce gatas of El Ideal Bakery; freshly made piaya, in assorted flavors, by Fresh Start and Sir Jess Deli & Cafe (Bacolod); assorted local snacks and delicacies by Sugarlandia; and bottled sauces, dips, and ready to eat food by Casa Carmela.

El Ideal Bakery

Other food stalls include Margie’s Cakes & Pastries, Veloria Squid Rings, Shiena's Homemade Products, Ading's Gourmet Tuyo, JDL Nachos Factory, Clara's Foods, The Sweet Life by Ange, Cibo, Manolo's, Elsie's, Aidas and Kusina Jamora.

Since it began in 1985, the NTF continues to provide the small and medium enterprises of Negros Occidental with an affordable venue for the current 72 exhibitors from the Association of Negros Producers (ANP) to showcase their individual ingenuity as well as provide a platform for possible export trade.  This highly successful event continues to highlight the best of Negros’ artisanal products (Creative Definitions, Domesticity, Kiculo, Silay Export, Art Energy, etc.), attractions and personalities.  Products range from food (natural and organic), fashion accessories, garments, furniture and furnishings, gifts d├ęcor and house wares.  Tourism is also presented.

The stage with the Maria Ledesma Golez Ancestral House backdrop

The Negros First Booth
Art Energy Booth
The “Arima!”(referring to the gathering of hacienda workers, around 6 AM, in front of the “encargado” or overseer), a cocktail reception on September 26 (around 6 p.m. Tuesday), was the opening ritual for the NTF. It features 6 guest chefs with Negrense roots (Claudia Schulze, Joel Torre, J.P. Anglo, Tom Bascon, Nico Millanes and Don Colmenares) who will use ingredients from the Negros First Booth in cooking various dishes for visitors.

The whole day of September 27 is Silay City Day. Silay City (“ang Banwa sang Dulce”) was one of the first local government units to extended support to this economic-tourism event.  September 28, another special day, features a special performance of the St. Scholastica’s Manila Choir on stage, with the Maria Ledesma Golez Ancestral House, a Silay heritage house, as backdrop, the. This will be followed by “High Tea Time.” 

Negros Trade Fair: www.negrostradefair.com.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Restaurant Review: Rico's Lechon (Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu)

Rico's Lechon - Mactan Promenade

Cebu, dubbed as the "Lechon Capital" of the Philippines, prides itself in having perfected the art of roasting pigs and its unique-tasting lechon (from the Spanish term meaning “”roasted suckling pig”) is known for its tastiness and crispiness. 

The Cebu lechon differs from its Manila counterpart in that its meat is already flavorful, thus obliterating the need for the traditional liver sauce (sarsa) of Luzon up north.

When you ask locals where we could find the best lechon, you will be pointed to Rico's Lechon, the pioneer of the famous spicy lechon, usually served hot and fresh. Opened in 1997 by Enrico “Rico” V. Dionson, the original Rico's started as a commissary that sold lechon by the whole along Highway 77, Talamban, Cebu City. 

On our way to Mactan International Airport for our afternoon flight back to Manila, we dropped by for lunch at the Rico ‘s Lechon branch at the Mactan Promenade , behind Chika-an. Opened last February 2, 2016, it is a short 10-min. drive to the Mactan International Airport. 

The Spanish hacienda-style interior

This 2-storey restaurant, the second restaurant (after Mabolo) opened by Mr. Dionson, has a 107 sq. m. dining area that can seat 160 customers at one time. 

Its fancy, Spanish hacienda-style interior, done by Sheila Solon, featured wooden ceiling beams, wooden floor inlaid with baldoza tiles, round arches and grilles mounted on the walls.  

We were all seated at the second floor dining area which can seat 40 customers and be converted into a function room for birthdays and other celebrations.  

As eating lechon is central to our Cebu experience, we tried out the restaurant's signature spicy lechon

Seasoned with traditional herbs and spices, garlic and leeks are infused in the meat (but not the skin) and the spiciness from the chili brought out the garlicky and tangy flavors.  It has less fat as they only used organic and native pigs.  

The juicy and flavorful meat was cooked well and tender and the golden-brown skin was crispy and crunchy.  We loved its aroma and taste. The cooked rice, served in small kalderos (traditional metal pots), is an added attraction in this restaurant, providing a more Pinoy feel to our meal.

The second floor dining area

lechon monggo
They also have other dishes that uses lechon. We were also served lechon sisig (PhP160, fatty, juicy but a bit salty), chicharon bulaklak (PhP100, deep-fried ruffled fat) as appetizer and lechon monggo (PhP140, monggo beans simmered slowly then cooked with vegetables and lechon), a superb combination with spicy lechon.

Other lechon-themed dishes include lechon dinuguan (PhP80), lechon paksiw (PhP170), sweet and sour lechon (PhP170), lechon fresh lumpia (PhP130), fried lechon lumpia (PhP130), lechon with oyster sauce (PhP190), lechon with tausi sauce (PhP190), sinigang lechon (PhP190)  and lechon broccoli (PhP190).

Spicy lechon

Pancit canton
Other than lechon, the restaurant also serves Pinoy favorites in their menu.  We also tried out their pancit canton (PhP150, also in a kaldero) and kinilaw na tanique (PhP130).  

Other dishes include Bicol Express (PhP140), sizzling squid head (PhP140), tanigue steak (PhP190), camaron rebosado (PhP140, Filipino version of the Japanese shrimp tempura), gambas (PhP140), the light and healthy chopsuey (PhP150 and calamares (PhP140).

The lechon is cooked every morning and delivered to two of its branches and other restaurants, or shipped to Manila. 

Lechon sisig

Kinilaw na tanigue
The price of a whole lechon varies from PhP3,000 – 6,500, depending on the size ordered. Rico's delivers their roast lechon nationwide with an additional fee of PhP900, plus the shipping charges for airport to airport orders.

When you eat their lechon, it's best to eat it with lots of rice and homemade pinakurat vinegar and kalamansi. The price is reasonable.  Their irresistibly delicious lechon is definitely one of the best and a must-try gastronomic treat when in Cebu. 

Their slogan, "Da Best Gyud", lived up to our expectations. A must when visiting Cebu, it is a perfect stopover the moment you arrive in Cebu and an excellent center to buy hand-carried pasalubong  (in easy-to-carry, take-home boxes with orders accepted as early as 8 AM) for friends and relatives back home.

Chicharon bulaklak

Rico’s Lechon: Mactan Promenade, Airport Road, Ibo, Lapu-Lapu City 6015, Cebu.  Open daily, 9 AM -10 PM.  Tel: (+632) 231-5580.  Mobile number : (0995) 618-9363. E-mail: promenade@ricoslechon.com. Website: www.ricoslechon.com. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RicosLechonOfficial 

Rico’s Lechon: Matumbo - Pusok RD, Lapu Lapu City 6015, Cebu.  Mobile number: (0995) 618-9363.

Rico’s Lechon: F. Cabahug Street, Mabolo, Cebu City.  Tel: (032) 260-2443.  Mobile number: (0927) 352-2078. E-mail: mabolo@ricoslechon.com

Rico’s Lechon (Corporate Office): One Paseo Saturnino, Maria Luisa Road, Banilad, Cebu City.  Tel: (032) 344-0119 and (032) 239-2830. Fax: (032) 344-1343. Mobile number: (0915) 703-3964. E-mail: info@ricoslechon.com.

Rico’s Lechon (Commissary): Highway 77, Talamban, Cebu City.  Tel: (032) 344-0119 and (032) 239-2830.  Mobile number: (0915) 703-3964. E-mail: commissary@ricoslechon.com.

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