Sunday, 10 December 2017

STAR Trail Challenge 2017 and Tanay Adventure Camp (Rizal)

The finish line of the Star Trail Challenge in front of Maharlika Hall

Mother and son
Crossing the finish line
The STAR (Sierra Trail Adventure Race) Trail Challenge 2017, where my grandson Kyle participated in the 1.5-km. (gun start: 7:30AM) Kid’s Race on December 10, 2017, brought us to the Tanay Adventure Camp  (TAC), a place suitable for family bonding, team building, excursions, retreats, bikers, runners, hikers and war gamers. Their slogan is "Building Character Through Adventure."  

Though just 1-hour ride from Marikina City (via the Marikina-Infanta Road), the TAC was  still a long 2.5-hour drive from Manila, with views of the scenic Sierra Madre mountain range along the way.

Kyle on stage with his medal and certificate

Organized by Pinoy Trails and Be Trail Ready, there was also 8-km. (gun start: 7AM), 12-km. (gun start: 6AM)  and 21-km. (gun start: 5 AM) races as well as the First Hoka One One Downhill Challenge.  

The latter race was automatically participated in by runners wearing Hoka One One which are powerful downhill running shoes.  It rained all morning but this did not stop runners from competing.  With my daughter Cheska guiding him, Kyle finished his first ever race in third place.

Log House
Barracks I & II
The 3-hectare Tanay Adventure Camp, just 1-hour ride from Marikina City (via the Marikina-Infanta Road along the scenic Sierra Madre mountain range) and a 2.5-hour drive from Manila, was established in 2011.  It has a swimming pool; 2 well-designed, 230 m. long zip lines; 50 ft. high wall climbing facility; an extreme mud slide; rope courses; mountain bike and ATV trail; campsite and accommodation facilities.  

Swimming Pool

Obstacle course
Its multipurpose hall (Maharlika Hall) can accommodate up to 400 persons (seated, no tables) and 300 persons (seated with tables), respectively.  It is equipped with a stage (that can be used for events), its own kitchen area (for prepping up foods for your occasions) and comfort rooms both for male and female(each has several cubicles inside). Rates: PhP25,000 for 12 hours, 8AM – 8 PM, PhP2,100/hour for every succeeding hour.

Private Rooms and Open Cottages

Tanay Adventure Camp offers:
  • zip line/high ropes - PhP300/pax
  • paintball - PhP300/pax, 30 bullets
  • paragliding - PhP3,500/10-15-min. flight
  • 40 ft. wall climb/basic rappelling course/ropes course & obstacle course/team building games/navigation/orienteering/basic mountaineering/outdoor ethics/physical exercises - PhP150/pax
  • Swimming/campfire/bonfire/smokers night/spelunking/cave exploration/water trekking/hiking to Daranak Falls/jungle lane/jungle environmental survival training/basic first aid – PhP150/pax 

50-ft. high Climbing Wall

Campsite Shower Rooms
Tanay Adventure Camp has triple-decker camping areas suitably provided with tents. They rent out the tents (PhP350/night, good for 4 pax) and sound system/tables and chairs (PhP1,500/day).  For those not into outdoor stay, the camp also has dormitory/sleeping quarters that can fit up to 200 persons. 

The second floor  of  the Log House (the ground floor is an office), located at the very highest part of the campsite, has a master bedroom, a kitchen, toilet, dining area and receiving area.  Good for 6-10-pax.  Barracks I (90-pax) & II (104-pax) are both are equipped with their own main comfort rooms and a room with 10 cubicles each (5 on each side) with a sink in the middle. Rate: PhP350/pax, PhP150/pax per succeeding night. 

View of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range above the sea of clouds from TAC

The 4-6-pax Kubo (PhP1,500/night) has a receiving area with a kitchen sink and a room equipped with a double deck bed.  The 8 apartment-type Private Rooms have airconditioned rooms with private bath and a dining area. Rooms 1 up to 4 have a single queen size bed while rooms 5 to 8 have double deck beds. 

Access to swimming pool is free for those staying overnight. Check in is 2 PM and check out is 12 noon the next day.  The Nipa Hut Cottages, beside the pool area, can be rented for PhP600/day + entrance fee while the viewdeck can be rented for PhP3,000/day + entrance fee.

Tanay Adventure Camp: Sitio Malaanonang, Brgy. Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal. Tel: (632) 664-5720 and (632) 267-5170. Mobile numbers: (0925) 732-7248 (Sun), (0933) 437-3106, (0915) 596-6179 and (0947) 457-1164 (Smart). Email:  Website: Entrance fee: PhP50/pax (8AM – 5PM) and additional PhP100/pax for overnight stay. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Celine Dion Live in Manila

World-renowned, multi award winning French-Canadian singer Celine Dion, one of the most immediately recognized, widely respected and successful performers in pop music history, will be performing in Manila, for the first time, in a one night only show on July 19, Thursday, 8 PM - 11 PM at the SM Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City (check out video). 

Part of her highly anticipated CELINE DION LIVE 2018 Tour, she will perform in seven cities across the Asia-Pacific region she hasn’t performed in for ten years, including Tokyo (she is scheduled to kick-off  her tour here on June 26) and Macao, and cities she will perform in for the first time ever, including Singapore, Jakarta, Taipei, Manila and Bangkok.

Dion was originally scheduled to perform at the SM MOA Arena in Manila in November 2014 but had to cancel, at the last minute, to care for her then ailing husband-manager, Canadian music producer  René Angélil, whose health was failing. He eventually succumbed to throat cancer in January 14, 2016. Two days later, Daniel, one of Dion's brothers also died from cancer at age 59.

Dion first gained international recognition in the 1980s by winning both the 1982 Yamaha World Popular Song Festival and the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest where she represented Switzerland.  During her over 30-year career, Celine Dion has sold almost 250 million albums and  has earned five  Grammy Awards (including Album of the Year and Record of the Year), two Academy Awards (both for Best Original Song) and seven American Music Awards.

She has also received 12 World Music Awards, 20  Juno Awards  (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys), and 43  Félix Awards . In 2004, in recognition of her status as the best-selling female artist of all time, Celine received the Chopard Diamond Award at the World Music Awards and, in 2016, the Billboard MusicAwards presented her with the lifetime achievement Icon Award.

Regarded by many as the "Queen of Movie Themes," Dion is the vocal powerhouse behind the hits "My Heart Will Go On" (from 1997 blockbuster film Titanic), "Beauty and the Beast" (duet with Peabo Bryson from the 1991 film Beauty and the Beast), "Because You Loved Me" (from 1996 film Up Close and Personal), "When IFall In Love" (from the 1993 film "Sleepless in Seattle"), "I'm Alive" (from the 2002 film "Stuart Little 2"), and " "The Prayer" (a duet with Andrea Bocelli  from the 1998 film Quest for Camelot).

Her other well-loved hits include  "The Power of Love," "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," a remake of Eric Carmen's "All by Myself,"  "Think Twice," "Tell Him" (with Barbra Streisand), "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," "That's the Way It Is," the classically influenced ballad "My Heart Will Go On,"  "I'm Your Angel" (a duet with R&B singer R. Kelly and Dion's fourth US No. 1 single), "If You Asked Me To," "Immortality" and "To LoveYour More," which was famously covered by Sarah Geronimo.

Some of her songs that were never commercially released in other countries but became hits in the Philippines include "I Love You, Goodbye" and "I Love You." Celine continues to break records, playing over 1,000 shows to more than four million fans, with her ongoing residency (the most successful concert residency of all time, grossing US$385 million) at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada.

The tour is produced by AEGPresents (one of the largest live music companies in the world) and co-produced by Ovation Productions (a pioneer concert promotions company in the Philippines operating since the 1970s, it is headed by veteran promoter Renen de Guia) in Manila.

Photo courtesy of Manila Concert Scene

Tickets for the concert went on sale beginning Jan. 18 at 10 AM on and   However, members of Team Celine, the singer's fan club, can buy tickets in a pre-sale from Jan. 16 to 17. Ticket prices are PhP35,380 for VIP, PhP32,210 for Patron, PhP19,540 for Lower Box A, PhP16,370 for Lower Box B, PhP7,920 for Upper Box and PhP2,640 for General Admission. For more information, visit and

Monday, 4 December 2017

Ed Sheeran Live in Manila

Finally, British singer-songwriter, guitarist and record producer Ed Sheeran  will push through with his much-anticipated Manila concert on April 8, 2018, Sunday, 8 PM, at the Mall of Asia Concert Grounds.  

His original concert date of November 7, 2017, also at the SM Mall of Asia Concert Grounds, as well as “Divide” Asia Tour shows in Osaka and Tokyo (concerts in Taipei, Jakarta, Seoul and Hong Kong) were cancelled), was rescheduled due to a cycling accident (he fractured his right wrist and left elbow) last October 15 in London. 

His second visit here, the celebrated performer first performed in the country last March 12, 2015 at the Mall of Asia Arena (check out video).

The 26-year-old, Grammy Award (Best Pop Solo Performance) winning Sheeran is one of the best-selling artists in the world.  His latest album "Divide" smashed Spotify records, drawing 57 million listens on the first day of its release (nearly twice the previous highest). The album performed especially well in his native Britain (he was born in Halifax) and in Ireland (his paternal grandparents are Irish), where he traces ancestry and whose traditional music he incorporated into two songs on "Divide."

After several years of playing on the street and in bars, the red-haired Sheeran won breakthrough international success with his 2014 love ballad "Thinking Out Loud." This 2016 Grammy Award winning “Song of the Year,” his second single to reach number one in the UK (it also spent eight weeks at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100), is the first song on Spotify to be streamed half a billion times.

For the highly anticipated Divide album tour, Ed is expected to perform for Sheerios (nickname for Sheeran’s fans) in Manila (check out video greeting), aside from "Thinking Out Loud," his other hit singles "Photograph" (reaching the top five on the main singles charts in more than five countries, it peaked at No. 10 in the US), "Give Me Love" (No. 18 on the UK Singles Chart), "Shape of You" (the best selling single of 2017 in the UK), "Castle on the Hill" (No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart ), "Dive” (No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart), “Perfect” (No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart) and "Supermarket Flowers" (No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart), among others.  

His Manila concert is presented by Ovation Productions and AEG Presents Asia. Listen to his 'Divide' album at

Tickets for the show, up for grabs at, are priced at PhP13,040 (Patron A - seated), PhP11,450 (Patron B - seated), PhP8,290 (Patron C - seated), PhP4,060 (Gold, standing), PhP3,010 (Silver, standing) and PhP1,950 (General Admission - standing).

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Hotel and Inn Review: Hotel Monticello (Tagaytay City, Cavite)

Date of Stay: December 2-3, 2017

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

Hotel Monticello

This fairly new, 5-storey boutique-type hotel, opened last April 2015, is a quiet, luxurious and comfortable sojourn just an hour and a half away from Metro Manila. 

Nicely laid out, awashed in dark wood motifs and fitted with contemporary wood furnishings, their 41 rooms and suites are bigger than usual 5-star hotels, with enough space to move around. 

The hotel lobby

All have  individually controlled air-conditioning, 42-inch flat-screen LED cable TV, wi-fi internet access, coffee/tea maker, mini-chiller, mini fridge, ice bucket and electronic safety deposit box.  The beds and the pillows were very comfortable.  

The private en suite bathrooms were equally spacious and have shower a room with hot and cold water, shampoo and bath gel dispenser with extras including bath robes, hair dryer and hamper (laundry bin).  If the person does not have an electronic key card they cannot use the elevator to return to the room.  

Superior Quad (Room 308)

Their 10 types of comfortable, well appointed and modern rooms  all have a touch of luxury. Certain rooms include a balcony and a seating area for you to relax in. The 26 sq. m. Deluxe King  has a king bed and can accommodate a maximum of 3 adults and 2 children.  

The 26 sq. m. Deluxe Twin has 2 single beds and can accommodate a  maximum of 3 adults and 2 children.  The 30 sq. m. Veranda King has a king bed and balcony and can accommodate a maximum of 3 adults and 2 children.  The 30 sq. m. Veranda Twin has 2 single beds and a balcony and can accommodate a maximum of 3 adults and 2 children. 

Second floor lounge area
The 30 sq. m. Superior King has a king bed and can accommodate a  maximum of 3 adults and 2 children.  The 30 sq. m. Superior Twin has 2 single beds and can accommodate a maximum of 3 adults and 2 children.  

The 48 sq. m. Superior Quad, the room that we stayed in (Room 308), has 4 single beds and can accommodate a maximum of 5 adults and 2 children.  The 52 sq. m. Penthouse Firenze has a master and 2 single beds and can accommodate a  maximum of 6 adults and 2 children.  The  83 sq. m. Penthouse Capri has a master and 2 single beds and can accommodate a  maximum of 6 adults and 2 children.  The 112 sq. m.Penthouse Amalfi has a master and 2 day beds and can accommodate a  maximum of 6 adults and 2 children.

Front desk

The hotel also has a 24-hour front desk, a small but well-equipped fitness gym (open 7 AM to 9 PM), massage spa, business center, function rooms, multipurpose lounge, grand ballroom (VIA) and a gift shop and offers room service and luggage storage.

The temperature-controlled swimming pools

Fitness gym
The very cozy and clean lobby was huge, with lots of comfortable sofas provided. An atrium in the middle lets in natural light to all floors of the hotel. There are also a lot of lounge areas even on room floors. Their piano bar (Roma), only open on Fridays and Saturdays, 7 to 11 PM, offers ice-cold drinks and delicious appetizers.  Their pianist’s repertoire was more of OPM and pop-jazz.

Function room

Roma Piano Bar
The bar's pianist
The outdoor, 25 m. long adult lap pool and children’s wading pool, both major attractions and a rare find in Tagaytay, were both warm (it’s temperature-controlled), good sized and relaxing and had a poolside lounge. Open 7 AM to 9 PM, it is a fun place to dip in, even in the cold weather. 

Hotel Monticello’s Soleil Garden, an open pavilion, can accommodate up to 150 persons. Free private secured parking (outdoor and basement) is available on site. Their pretty decent wi-fi is also free to use in the public areas.

Cafe Mercedes

However, their coffee shop (Cafe Mercedes) was small and you might have to wait for our turn to be seated if all tables are occupied.  Welcome drinks were served here. Their breakfast buffet tasted good enough but was limited to only four choices of viand (alternating with longganiza, tocino, dilis, danggit, sausage, corned beef, daing na bangus, hotdogs, etc) plus champorado, rice (plain or fried), soup, a few cereals, bread, brewed coffee, juice (pineapple and orange), hot tea, cucumber infused water, fruits (watermelon and ripe mangoes) and an egg and salad station. The servings from their ala carte menu could do with a bigger portion. The table setting was very clean. The staff was friendly and courteous and their service was prompt.  

Breakfast buffet

Gift shop
Located after Taal Vista Hotel. Skyranch (1 km.) and the PAGCOR Casino (500 m.), the  hotel is located 9 kms. from Picnic Grove, 11 kms. from  People's Park in the Sky and 10 kms. from Taal Volcano (no view of this from hotel as it is on the other side of the road).  

It was also near famous dining places like Joel Torre's Manukan, Cafe Carmencita, JP's Inasal, Mushroomburger (500 m.), Balinsasayaw and Bag of Beans. There aren't any malls or supermarkets close by.  Their room rates are a bit pricey for the location. However, altogether, it was a relaxing family getaway.

Soleil Garden

Hotel Monticello: Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo Highway (past Km. 60), Brgy. Kaybagal South, Tagaytay City 4120, Cavite.  Tel: (+63-46) 413-1111 and (02) 552-5238. Mobile number: (0977) 831-0088. Email: Website: