Wednesday, March 31, 2010

pasig ferry and binondo

because i haven't had the drive to go out of town recently, i thought i'd stay close to home and rediscover places here that give manila its charm.

so one march weekend, i, together with a bunch of friends, trooped to the guadalupe ferry station, and hopped on the ferry to escolta, hoping to fill our tummies with nummy chinese chow in binondo.

the ferry ride
the first time i rode the pasig ferry, the fare was just P25.00--flat rate, one-way. that was three years ago, and the price has now gone up to P45.00 one way. quite pricey, i have to say, but it's still one of the most comfortable ways to get to manila from our neck of the woods.

we got to the station 15 minutes before the next trip arrived. the ferry station is pretty decent--seats for waiting passengers, turnstiles by the ticket counter, and restrooms for the passengers' use. the staff were also helpful enough.

the ferry got to the station at 3pm on the dot. embarking and getting off was a breeze, and the ferry didn't waste any time at the dock. before we knew it, we were floating on the pasig on our way to escolta.

i found the ride much more relaxing this time, maybe because the air conditioning was fully functional, and our ferry didn't have a flatscreen with air supply karaoke videos playing. passengers are free to roam the ferry throughout the ride. there are also restrooms on board. we're all hoping that they put an area or a small bar where people can buy snacks and drinks.

an hour later, we got off the ferry and on to escolta. the binondo arch was just a few meters away.

in binondo
we didn't count on being in binondo so late, and some of us hadn't had breakfast or lunch to save tummy space for this trip. this, it seems, was a mistake. the moment we got to ongpin, we went to cafe mezzanine for our "first" meal.

because we were all famished already, we ordered a feast: kiampeng, different kinds of siomai, adobong tofu, pata tim, radish cake, lechon macau, and other things that i can't remember at the moment. we decimated the dishes in less than 10 minutes, and by then, we all felt stuffed and had no space for anything else.

so after cafe mezzanine, we decided to just explore and let our feet take us wherever. we saw shops selling jade, gold, and other trinkets, a lot of fruit stalls along the street, a chinese grocery that sells large and thick haw flakes, hardware stores, and a security equipment store.

we eventually ended up in soler, and found this quaint little cafe called cukeng coffee shop. we all needed a break, and decided to go in for a cup of tea or coffee. the place was homey and comfortable, and had knick-knacks all around, including an old-school coffee maker made of glass.

some of us ordered milk teas, and to our surprise, our orders came in lovely pots and cups. their coffee drinks looked great, too. it was funny to see sisig and lechon kawali in the menu of a coffee shop, though.

after a half hour of talking and goofing around in cukeng, we decided to head back to the ferry station. unfortunately for us, the schedule that they gave away at the guadalupe station wasn't followed. according to the schedule, the last trip on saturdays from escolta was at 8pm, but we arrived at the station at around 715pm, and we were told that the station was already closed. how's that for efficiency.

by this time, we were all exhausted already, so we tried looking for a cab. unfortunately, cabs are hard to come by in binondo, so we eventually ended up walking to intramuros, burning all the calories we've consumed in the process. everybody seemed happy about that little tidbit (that's why i had to write it here, too).

when we got to san agustin church, we hailed an avanza taxi, who offered to take all six of us back to makati for P200. we were in no mood to argue, and the price actually wasn't so bad, so we all hopped in and ended the day's adventure. :)

more photos of the pasig ferry ride and our day in binondo.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

april events at instituto cervantes

more european films, a jeepney poetry tour, and a day of books and roses fill up the days of april, thanks to instituto cervantes! the best part is, all events are free!

cine chileno. before the regular screenings at 6pm every saturday, chilean films will be shown at 4pm as well as a gesture of solidarity with chile after the quake.

10 april, 4pm
la fiebre del loco (loco fever)
in spanish with english subtitles
director: andrés wood
duration: 94 minutes
cast: Tamara Acosta, Emilio Bardi, Loreto Moya, María Izquierdo, Luis Dubo, Julio Marcone, Luis Margani

One winter, the Chilean officials allowed for a short period the harvesting of the valuable and aphrodisiac shellfish "el loco" in the seaside village of Puerto Gala , where fishermen and prostitutes live and wanting to earn money. Greed and lust take hold. Greed is embodied by Carlos Maldonato, "El Canuto," who, after convincing his friend Jorge, the priest Luis and the whole community, bought all of the shellfish for a Japanese company. El Canuto also wrangles to get into good stead with an old flame, Sonia, who is now the proprietor of " La Pincoya ," a local restaurant. But "el loco" proves to be more effective and more damaging than anyone could have guessed because after the selling part, people disclose a secret with tragic consequences.

17 april, 4pm
taxi para tres (a cab for three)

in spanish with english subtitles
director: orlando lübbert
duration: 90 minutes
cast: Alejandro Trejo, Fernando Gómez-Rovira, Daniel Muñoz, Elsa Poblete

A poor taxi driver with a big family to support is given a difficult choice from 2 small time crooks: drive them around while they rob, or get locked up in the trunk.

24 april, 4pm
una casa de locos (the spanish apartment)

in spanish with english subtitles

director: cédric klapisch
duration: 120 minutes
cast: Romain Duris, Cécile de France, Judith Godrèche, Audrey Tautou, Kelly Reilly, Cristina Brondo, Federico D''Anna, Barnaby Metschurat, Christian Pagh, Xavier de Guillebon, Kevin Bishop, Olivier Raynal

Xavier is a 27-year-old Parisian who decides to go to Barcelona for the last year of his university studies in economic sciences. When he arrives in Barcelona he looks for a place to live and finally finds a flat in the centre which he shares with 6 people each from a different European country. All of them are in the same situation; all of them are studying in Barcelona through the European university exchange scheme (ERASMUS).

regular film line up. screened at the salon de actos, every saturday at 6pm:

10 april, 6pm
amor idiota (idiot love)

in spanish with english subtitles
director: ventura pons
duration: 105 minutes
cast: Santi Millán, Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, Marc Cartes, Mercè Pons, Jordi Dauder, Héctor Mas

Idiot Love begins as Pere-Lluc drowns his sorrow with alcohol after learning of the death of a close friend in Buenos Aires . Wandering home after his bender, he slams into a ladder being used by a young woman hanging banners on the street. When he attempts to wake up from his stupor, all he can see is the woman. Mesmerized, he claims he’s in love with her and sets out to win her affection— even though she’s married.

17 april, 6pm
lo que s
é de lola (what i know of lola)
in spanish with english subtitles
director: javier rebollo
duration: 100 minutes
cast: Michaël Abiteboul, Lola Dueñas, Carmen Machi, Lucienne Deschamps

Leon, a lonesome man who watches the world as if it were a show, suddenly becomes fascinated by an ordinary woman, Lola, deciding from then on to devote himself exclusively to her... She never even knows he exists.

other events. instituto cervantes has cooked up a host of other events for us to enjoy.

17 april, 12nn-10pm
berso sa metro: poetry jeepney tour

filipino and spanish poets read along the streets of manila

An interesting way of spreading literature, this poetry reading tour comprises of three venues with Filipino and Spanish poets reciting some of the most relevant poems in each stop. With participants onboard an electrical jeepney, this tour is truly a unique way of reminding people of the beauty of words as they speed to their destinations. This is an extension of the promotional reading campaign through MRT and LRT, which received an Anvil Award of Merit for Educational Public Relations Program during the 45th Anvil Awards Competition.

24 april, 10am-6pm
rosas y libros, día del libro (books and roses, international day of the book)

book fair

As celebrated yearly, Instituto Cervantes de Manila, in collaboration with various bookstores and other institutions, will offer a Book Market during the Open House and Book Party on the 24th of April. From 10 am to 6pm, bibliophiles can get their hands on a wide selection of books: children and young adult titles, dictionaries, novels, and non-fiction titles, at the Día del Libro book fair. Available at even madder prices, brand new books go for as low as Php20.00. And to make the deal even sweeter, Instituto Cervantes gives a red rose with every purchase. Also, get a chance to mingle with your favourite authors as they grace this event, signing copies of their latest works. And to cap the day, a Book Party with a live band will entertain you until midnight.

get more info from the dia del libro facebook page.

24 april, 10am-6pm
pintas historias (color your world)

coloring activity for children

Instituto Cervantes, in collaboration with Faber-Castell, organizes anew a fun-filled activity for children ages 3 to 12 years old during the celebration of the International Book Day. Color Your World will start at 10AM until 4PM to make a whole day of painting and reading fun for the young artists.

24 april, 4pm
bersong europinoy

poetry reading

Instituto Cervantes in Manila will once again hold the "Bersong EuroPinoy" during the celebration of International Book Day. It will be a poetry chain of European and Filipino poems, a celebration highlighting the Spanish Presidency of the European Union.

24 april, 6pm
canciones de la revolucion filipina (songs of the philippine revolution)
a lecture-concert by Raúl Súnico, Musical arranger-pianist-composer
performers: coro tomasino

Among the many testaments to the close cultural ties between Spain and the Philippines is a little-known genre of songs of the revolution with Spanish and Filipino lyrics that emerged in different parts of the country.

Find out about Instituto Cervantes's Cultural Events and Programs at Cultura En Manila.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

where to go, where to go?

last saturday, i boarded the pasig ferry once again to escolta, and we thought we'd take binondo by storm, but unfortunately, we were no match for what chinatown has to offer. will post about this soon, i just keep forgetting to upload my photos.

now, i'm trying to think up of my summer getaway. i'm thinking either zambales or punta fuego before the holy week, just so i can soak up some sun.


lately, it's been harder for me to decide on where to go. it's either too expensive or i'm just not interested. i haven't felt like this before, and it's annoying the hell out of me. i have a list of places to visit, but when i look at it lately, i just don't feel excited. wonder what's going on?

i think there are just too many things going on inside my head. i need a vacation.



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

competitours: travel, complete, win big!

have you always dreamed of joining and winning the amazing race? now, you can live out your fantasy of racing through your dream destinations with competitours!

competitours pits you against 16 other teams as you breeze through four european countries in a span of nine days. during the day, you will have a choice between 8-10 challenges, which will earn you points upon completion. at night, you get to interact and party with your "tour mates."

unlike amazing race, though, there are no eliminations in this race, and you even get a chance to research. assignments are received every night in the form of a virtual mission packet, where you get to choose 2-5 challenges out of the 8-10 given. the packet indicates whether your challenge is in the city center or the outskirts, so you get to customize the tour to your own liking.

what's the prize? this being a contest, there IS a prize, of course, and it's pretty sweet. first placers win USD 5,500, second prize is USD 2,500, and third prize is USD 1,000. the competitours dynamic way of scoring levels the playing field and makes the competition even more exciting: you never know who will win until the very last day.

for this much excitement, there IS a price to pay: the tour costs USD 2,675 per person, to be paid after finishing the tour. a USD 100 deposit is required to join the nine-day tour. the fee includes roundtrip airfare, lodging for seven nights, intercity transport (eurail tickets), two days of admissions for group challenge sessions, welcome and awarding parties, up to 70 challenges, and of course, the chance to win USD 5,500.

it won't cover the fee you'll pay for the whole tour, but i'm sure the experience will be worth it. if i had the moolah, i totally would. :)

tour information
price: USD 2,675 per person
duration: 9 days
destination: 4 european countries (you won't know where until you get there)
email address:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

CX offers hk disney packages

for those who're looking to go to HK disneyland this summer with their family, you should check out cathay pacific's buy 2, get 1 free! vacation packages.

all packages include:
  • roundtrip airfare, MNL-HKG-MNL via cathay pacific
  • hotel accommodation
  • hk disneyland park admission ticket
  • return hotel transfers
booking period is from now until 7 july 2010, travel period from 1 march to 15 july 2010.

promo information
cathay pacific and hong kong disneyland's buy 2 get 1 free vacation package
phone numbers:
manila - (632) 757 0888
cebu - (6332) 231 3747
davao - (6382) 222 8901

Friday, March 5, 2010

snore: island pacific hotel hong kong

starting this month, "snore" is going to be my title for accommodation reviews here on i gotta go! :)

hong kong is filled with many, many, many hotels, but my challenge in finding one has always been the budget. hong kong shopping and food may not cost much, but affordable accommodations in my favorite city have always been hard to come by. the budget hostels are not very desirable compared with singapore and thailand.

while hunting for a hotel for this year's hong kong birthday trip, i checked out agoda, asia travel, and just my luck that my birthday falls on the week of the chinese new year celebrations, which meant hotel rates were jacked up.

i was intrigued when i found island pacific hotel on agoda. it offered a rate of USD 93 per night, much, much lower than the rates for the other hotels i've been eyeing. i flexed my google muscles, and searched for reviews of the hotel, and they were very encouraging. read on to find out how my experience was in this western district hotel on hong kong island.

like i've mentioned in a previous post, i booked our rooms for island pacific hotel on, because the site offered easy cancellation terms and low rates.

of course, during my online search, i also checked out the official website of island pacific hotel, to get as much information as i can. i like it that they disclosed the size of the room on the website. hong kong hotel rooms are notorious for their "cuteness," and it helped that i knew that we were going to be billeted in a 20-square-meter room.

island pacific hotel is in the western district, occupying connaught road west, centre street, and des voeux road west. it's just a 35-minute bus ride from the airport: from the airport bus terminus, we got on bus a10, which cost us HKD 48 each, and got off at the fourth stop, on connaught road, in front of connaught garden. from there, it was just a short walk to the hotel.

the sheung wan MTR is quite a long walk away, but the good thing is, the tram to kennedy town stops in eastern street along des voeux road west, which is just a two-minute walk away from the hotel.

des voeux road west is also known as dried seafood street, where you can take home dried fish, dried mushroom, and even sharksfin (if you fancy that). a 7-11 is close by, as well as a cafe de coral, my favorite breakfast place when i'm in hong kong. dimsum and noodle restaurants are a dime a dozen on this street as well, but most don't speak english very well.

we entered island pacific hotel through centre street, and were warmly welcomed by the island pacific staff. the lower lobby has a set of narrow escalators that lead to the main lobby.

check-in was hassle-free, but the front desk could really use more people. i just presented the printout of our reservation via even though our preferences were already stated in the reservation form, i had to repeat this to the hotel rep to make sure that we get double beds and one room with an extra bed. it was a nice surprise to have one of our rooms ready at 12noon, even though the official check-in time wasn't until 2pm.

i wasn't pleased, though, that nobody assisted us with our bags when we went up to the room.

room and amenities
i already knew the room was going to be small, but that didn't keep me from being surprised when we entered room 1104. i got a little bit worried that it wasn't going to be enough for the four people who'll be sharing it, but they managed to fit themselves in.

room size aside, everything else exceeded my expectations. the room was decent--clean and neat, with a view of victoria harbour, and it provided us everything we could need during the trip. i was actually pretty impressed at how they were able to fit everything in such a small room.

superior rooms at the island pacific hotel are furnished with either two twin beds or one double bed (take note, double, and not queen. this is hong kong!), individually-controlled air conditioning, a mini bar, tea- and coffee-making facilities, a desk, telephone, iron and ironing board, an olevia flat-screen TV, JVC audio system, and in-room safe. the bathroom includes basic toiletries, a telephone, bathtub, shower with hot and cold water, and a bath towel, hand towel, and face towel for each guest.

all the amenities were in perfect working order. we were particularly impressed with the air conditioning unit. since the weather in hong kong was at 8 degrees then, i chose to heat the room rather than cool it, and it worked perfectly. susie told me that even in the marco polo, the heater wouldn't work as well. plus points for island pacific hotel on this one!

the hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool and a gym, available for the use of the guests. but who wants to swim in chilly, 8-degree weather? :p

service was superb. no complaints on my part (save for them not helping us with our luggage :p). the staff was always very warm and friendly, and well-trained. i called the concierge a number of times to inquire about airport express rates, and to ask about their shuttle service schedule, and i would always be greeted warmly before having my query answered.

the elevators were small, but they were FAST. i never noticed elevator speeds before, but this one took us to the eleventh floor in less than 10 seconds.

a favorite offering of island pacific hotel is the complimentary shuttle service to central. on mornings when we'd be in a hurry, we would take the shuttle to IFC, which was just a mere 5 to 7-minute ride. we were fine with following the shuttle schedule, but the staff never made us wait longer than 5 minutes for the ride. the shuttle service starts at 730am and ends at 7pm, and leaves every 30 minutes.

on one occasion, my sisters' room had to be made up for the day (their room was an utter disaster--there were clothes flung everywhere!), the cleaning staff accidentally picked up my sister's personal bath towel together with the hotel's (it was white, too, with faint gray stripes, so it was easy to mistake it for a hotel towel).

when we got back to our rooms, my sister told me that her towel was missing, and i told her to call up the concierge. it didn't take long before the hotel sent someone up to clarify the problem. my sister described what her towel looked like, and the staff searched for it in the laundry room. they then went back up to her room, showed her the towel, and told her that they will have it washed and sent to her the next day. my sister came back home with a nice-smelling towel. :p i think the situation was handled very well.

our rooms cost a total of HKD 2,452 each for a three-night stay, which would come out to about HKD 800++ per night. the extra bed, however, cost HKD 300/night, which was quite steep, considering it really was just a mattress. room rates don't include breakfast (it's quite rare for hong kong hotels to include breakfast anyway).

for the quality of the rooms and the high service standards, i would say we got our money's worth. the shuttle service was also a great plus. it made shuttling around pretty easy when we got tired of taking the tram.

would i go back to this hotel? definitely. i do think, though, that island pacific hotel is better suited for those who've been to hong kong before, and would like to explore a different side of hong kong island. first-timers would find the slow tram ride a hassle, since it will take longer for them to get to the more touristy spots.

for my style of traveling, though, this hotel is just perfect: in a quiet, less touristy neighborhood, surprising gems found in every corner, authentic chinese restos every few steps. the amenities were more than adequate, and the staff was a champ. they'll be seeing more of me in the years to come.

see more photos of island pacific hotel hong kong.

hotel information
island pacific hotel hong kong
address: 152 connaught road west, western district, hong kong
phone number: +852 2131 1188
email address:
rates vary. consult online booking engines, or call the hotel

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

air asia's big sale is on!

i'm not going to keep this from you (because i won't be going to london this year). the air asia big fare sale is now on!

tried booking for a roundtrip ticket, KL to london, and i'd be spending Php 26,712 for it all-in. of course, i have to add some moolah for my checked luggage and such, but this is a pretty good deal for a european destination.

check out the promo and you might just find yourself traveling to one of your dream destinations. :)

promo information
air asia big sale
booking period: march 3 to 7, 2010
travel period: 25 september 2010 to 13 february 2011, for KL to london flights, travel period is from 1 november 2010 to 13 february 2011.

european films at instituto cervantes this march

every saturday, instituto cervantes has free film showings that are open to the public. here is this month's film line-up:

6 march, 6pm
la conjura de el escorial (the el escorial conspiracy)

in english with spanish subtitles
director: antonio del real
cast: Juanjo Puigcorbé, Jason Isaacs, Julia Ormond, Jürgen Prochnow, Joaquim de Almeida, Jordi Mollà, Blanca Jara, Pilar Bastardés

A fast-paced historical thriller with political and detective intrigues in the context of the struggles between the House of Alba and its followers on one hand and the House of Mendoza with Antonio Pérez and the Princess of Eboli on the other. On the night of Easter Monday 1578 some hired killers ambushed Juan de Escobedo, killing him…. A historical film based on an actual event in which power and death conspire at the court of Philip II.

13 march, 6pm
arritmia (guantanamero)
in spanish with english subtitles
director: vicente peñarrocha
cast: Nicolás Belmonte, Mohamed Chafik, Rupert Evans, Ismael de Diego, Derek Jacobi, Ako Chávarri, Said El Mouden, Carolina Chico Hernández

Ali is an Arab prisoner in Guantanamo that manages to escape of its sentence in a dream that takes to discover a completely new city for him. In his trip, Ali will know Manuela, a Cuban dancer; she will help him to know that strange but frightening beautiful city. After a serious event, Ali will leave his dream and will discover that nothing is what it seems.

20 march, 6pm
in spanish with english subtitles
director: brad anderson
cast: Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Kate Mara, Eduardo Noriega, Thomas Kretschmann, Ben Kingsley, Colin Stinton, Mac McDonald, Etienne Chicot

Transsiberian an uncommonly absorbing experience. One of those legendary train trips that people used to dream about taking, the Transsiberian Express has probably seen better days. An american couple, Roy and Jessie, decide to return home the long way from their recent sojourn in Pekin and meet another couple from the West, Carlos and Abby, with whom they quickly form that tenous bond that often unites fellow travellers away from home. When Roy gets separated from the train at a stopover, Jessie begins to realize that their compatriots arenŽt exactly who or what they seem to be. But the real dangers of their unforgettable trip have only begun to surface; Russian cops, mobsters, and locals are still to come.

27 march, 6pm
la caja (the wooden box)
in spanish with english subtitles
director: juan carlos falcón
cast: Ángela Molina, Elvira Mínguez, Vladimir Cruz, María Galiana, Antonia San Juan, María Galiana, Joan Dalmau, Manuel Manquiña

In a fishing village in the Canary Islands, the hated Don Lucio suddenly dies and his wife doesn’t have room in her house to keep a vigil over the body so her neighbour Isabel takes responsibility for the body, and while the widow forgets her sorrows, all the neighbours visit the body laid at rest to settle old scores with the deceased. Rest in peace Don Lucio …… if you can.

venue information:
instituto cervantes de manila
address:855 t.m. kalaw street, ermita, manila
transportation: take the LRT and get off at United Nations
phone number: 526-1482
email address: