Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ayala museum's historical dioramas

What's the best way to spend a holiday? Fly off somewhere, of course! But if you only have one free day, like tomorrow, June 30, you can do the next best thing--learn some history!

Haul your butt over to the Ayala Museum and check out their historical dioramas. It's a fun and cute way to learn about Philippine history. Because heaven knows we need to learn more about our country's past.

Museum Information
The Ayala Museum
Greenbelt 5, Makati Avenue, Makati City
Museum hours: 9am-6pm from Tuesday to Friday, 10am-7pm on weekends, closed on Mondays.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

see: the legacy of teodulo protomartir

you don't get to see photos of old manila everyday, that's why i really want to make sure that i make it to this exhibit of photos taken by teodulo protomartir.

this exhibit at the silverlens gallery opened last june 9 and will close on july 3. i got this brief description of the exhibit from the website:
Considered as the Father of Philippine photography, Protomartir captured the city in ruins from the Second World War, its battle wounds and its restoration--scenes we thought only survived in memory. He captures post-war Manila's architecture and landscape, with Filipinos going about their daily business in familiar places such Intramuros, Luneta, Ermita and Quiapo as well as in buildings and bridges that are no longer, including the old Sto. Domingo Church, which is one of the six Churches that once stood in Spanish Intramuros...

Beyond historical evidence, the significance of Protomartir's images is meaningful. Protomartir hands to the Filipino people cultural treasures that should remain part of Filipino consciousness and memory. Sixty-four years later, we celebrate Protomartir because through him we were there too.
the photos were unearthed by direk uro dela cruz, whom i know as that guy who directs bubble gang. i just found out that he's a big photography nut, and through his explorations in camera shops, he discovered a box of negatives taken by protomartir. he digitized the images, and now, they're here for us to see. to know more about how protomartir's photos were discovered, read jessica zafra's photographs from the dead.

on july 1, carlos celdran will be there to hold a talk to put the photos in perspective. direk uro dela cruz will also be there to give an introduction of protomartir.

if you're as interested about this exhibit as i am, check out the event details posted below. :) to rsvp to the talk on july 1, use the phone number or email address provided.

event details
exhibit: being there 1946: the legacy of teodulo protomartir
where: silverlens gallery
address: warehouse 2, yupangco building, 2320 pasong tamo extension, makati
gallery hours: mondays to fridays, 10am to 7pm, saturdays, 1-6pm
phone number: (02) 816-0044
mobile number: +63905-2650873; +63917-5874011
email: manage@silverlensphoto.com

photo taken from the silverlens gallery website.

Monday, June 21, 2010

plane rides galore

independence day weekend had me shuttling from airport to airport, catching one flight after another. very jetsetter, as other people had remarked. i could only wish.

we had inadvertently scheduled the long-overdue day trip to bacolod a day before our spontaneous hong kong trip with susie's family. it made for one busy but fun-filled week(end).

about a month ago, susie and i decided to finally grant our friend a's wish to fly to bacolod for a day just to taste their succulent chicken inasal. a had originally wanted to do a spur-of-the-moment thing, but exorbitant plane fares didn't give us the luxury of spontaneity, so we made do with a scheduled, but still bahala na-ish trip.

somewhere along the way, susie's family, on a whim, booked a trip to hong kong, and invited us to join them. i, being beaten by the daily grind, did not have the strength to say no. so what if i only had a few vacation days left? i'll worry about that later. and the trip just happened to coincide with mika's concert in hong kong, which i had been wanting to see. so saying no was definitely not an option.

the result of this weekend? bloated stomachs, satisfied, giddy grins, tired, aching feet, a spankin' new phone, and one broken maleta. the maleta part still hasn't sunk in, but i think it's a small price to pay for such a great week(end). i keep enclosing "end" in parentheses because the getaway stretched until thursday.

photos and stories to come VERY soon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

snore: the manila hotel (part 1of my manila weekend)

Part of the reason I signed up for Carlos Celdran’s My Manila Tour was so that I could finally have a chance to stay in The Manila Hotel. I know that it hasn’t had a good reputation for the past few years, but I’ve always fancied staying in a hotel that has so much history, and holds memories of how my country was like before the war.

The experience was enjoyable, though definitely not perfect. I’ve broken down The Manila Hotel experience in various segments, so read on:

To book for the My Manila Tour, I sent an email to Carlos’s assistant, Lesley, who then referred me to The Manila Hotel’s representatives, Nian and
Gyranne. They told me that I can reserve a room through them (by email), or through The Manila Hotel website, which is what I did.

Since I would have to provide my credit card details, I decided to reserve through the website, which was more secure than my GMail account. At first, I was a bit confused about booking online, because the only price shown was for single occupancy. But once I clicked on “book,” I found out that you had to key in the number of guests per room, and the system will automatically add an additional person charge.

It was also nice that they put the inclusions and itinerary on the site, so you know what you’re going to get out of the tour.

We drove to Manila Hotel and were greeted warmly by the valet. Did you know that valet parking comes free of charge, whether or not you’re staying the night? Pretty cool, methinks.

To check-in, we showed a printout of our reservation, and check-in went off without a hitch. We were escorted to our room on the eighth floor, where we had some down time before the Intramuros tour.

Room and Amenities
The room we got was in the new wing of The Manila Hotel, and was one of the redesigned/updated rooms. While it retained the wooden closet doors, the entertainment console, and antique-style bed, it also had modern accents, such as the mother of pearl frames on the mirrors, a Samsung flat-screen TV, an iLuv mp3 dock, and a waterproof LCD TV by the bathtub. The look was also updated by installing new wallpapers.

It was a pretty good-sized room, and provided us a view of the bay. Being a budget hostel regular, it was one of the more luxurious rooms I’ve been in. It was also newly carpeted, and the king-sized bed had a Senso Memory Foam mattress, which, for someone who has scoliosis like me, was very, very comfortable.

I discovered through the website that the bathroom was newly redesigned as well, and is decked in Italian marble. Aside from a tub, it also has a separate rain shower area, and comes with L’Occitane toiletries. I was stoked when I saw that they also provided a loofah, aside from the usual shower cap, toothbrush, and shaving kit. The bathroom also came with three sets of towels for each guest, and a bathrobe.

Other room furnishings included a safe, a set of office supplies placed in a leather case, complimentary water, a mini bar/ref, coffee-making facilities, and comfy hotel slippers. I was also surprised to find that they offer free wi-fi in the room—I’m so used to being charged for that in other hotels.

During our stay, we also got to enjoy the different facilities in The Manila Hotel. On our first night, we used our coupons for complimentary 2-for-1 cocktails at the Tap Room, which featured very classic bar design (I loved the wooden walls and wooden bar).

For my first drink, I decided to try an alcoholic one, which reminded me of a tequila sunrise, but was called something else. It was too strong for me, so I opted for a non-alcoholic one for my second, which I ended up enjoying a lot! They called it a Fruit Crush, which reminded me of a Piña Colada sans the alcohol. Malou, one of the writers, was able to obtain the recipe from the waiter, and we found out it had coconut, cream, and pineapples. It was very, very yummy.

We were then given a private tour of the MacArthur Suite—a two-bedroom extravaganza with a kitchen, dining room, living room, and an office at the top floor of the old wing of The Manila Hotel. It was decorated with MacArthur memorabilia, but upsized with modern comforts: the kitchen had a washing machine and refrigerator, while the living room and master’s bedroom were both equipped with their Samsung flatscreens.

Afterwards, we were treated to a lovely dinner by Chef Christine Zarandin at the Champagne Room. I loved the charming, Frenchy interiors of the place, which seemed to come alive when it’s filled with happy, chatty people. The food was superb (especially the lobster), but service could use more courtesy and speed. The experience was made more enjoyable by the company we had—Susie and I were exiled to a table separate from the larger group, but we were lucky enough to be joined by Tessa, Carlos’s wife, and their friend Ria.

On the second day, we woke up to a breakfast buffet at Roma, since Café Ilang-Ilang was being renovated. There was a wide selection of breakfast offerings—cereal, various kinds of bread, yogurt, typical Filipino breakfasts like tocino and lugaw, plus a few others that made it quite a good spread.

Carlos was also able to snag us private access to The Manila Hotel Archives, which was tiny room near Mabuhay Palace. As tiny as it was, it included a deluge of memories, among them old brochures, menus of the hotel’s many restaurants, clippings that featured the hotel. The walls were decorated with black and white photos of famous personalities who’ve stayed in The Manila Hotel, among them the King and Queen of Spain and Prince Charles. We also found a signed Philippine jacket by Manny Pacquiao, which sent one of our companions, Colin, quite giddy, as his son happens to love the Pinoy Boxer.

And finally, before we took off for the Imelda Tour at CCP, Susie and I decided to check out the pool area. He decided to just hang out by the lounge chairs while I took a dip in the pool. The water wasn’t as refreshing, because the pool water was warm. Being newly renovated, the pool area looked pretty inviting—it was huge, had its own kiddie pool, and it had a pool bar where you can enjoy a drink or two. The lounge chairs surrounding the pool were comfortable enough, and provided some shade if you’ve had enough of the sun.

In terms of rooms and facilities, I can say that The Manila Hotel is already on its way back to awesome. However, they really need to keep up in the service department.

The staff, while friendly and accommodating, still lack professionalism. I saw this at the reception desk while we were checking out. Our check out process went smoothly, but there was a man who was requesting for something, and he was made to wait for a long time.

He approached the reception desk while we were checking out, and the staff was clearly frazzled. When asked what was taking them so long, one of the receptionists didn’t reply, but decided to dial a number, and grumble “Please pick up the phone, pick up the phone, PICK UP THE PHONE!” That didn’t make the guest feel any better, and it even showed that they lack organization. In situations like that, I believe people should keep calm, and try to pacify the obviously irritated client instead.

There were other instances when I saw that there really is a need to train the staff. I guess, after the physical upgrades, they can concentrate on the people next.

Oh, it definitely was not cheap, but not shockingly expensive either. We paid Php 13,980.00, which already included a superior deluxe room for two, cocktails at the Tap Room, dinner at the Champagne Room, and two Carlos Celdran tours. That comes out to about Php 7,000 per person, for a weekend where you can get to know your country a little better in style. I’d say it’s worth dishing out that much moolah to pamper yourself and soak up some culture every now and then.

Even with a few chinks in the armor, though, I will still come back. It will take a lot of work, but The Manila Hotel can and will get its former glory back, and I will be there to applaud when it happens.

Hotel Information
The Manila Hotel
Address: One Rizal Park, Manila
Phone number: (632) 5270011

Friday, June 4, 2010

seair flies to la union now?

i just found out that the san fernando airport is now open, and that seair now offers flights from manila to san fernando, la union.

flights are every monday, wednesday, and friday. in theory, this should be fantastic news for those who surf in san juan, la union, which is just 15 minutes away from san fernando. instead of taking the five-hour bus ride/drive to la union on weekends, flying should save you time on the road and give you more time to be one with the waves.

however, when i tried booking a flight to la union for june 11-14, i found out that the schedules aren't ideal for the usual la union weekend getaway. the flight leaves at 10am on friday, and arrives in san fernando at 11am (i also can't believe it takes an hour to get there--should be faster. manila to legazpi flights take 50 minutes.). this means you have to take friday off from work if you want to surf on the weekend, instead of just having saturday and sunday on the beach.

the flight back to manila leaves at 1130am and lands at 1230pm. this, again, eats up your working hours (of course, i'm talking about usual working hours for most people), and makes the idea of a weekend getaway quite useless.

then again, the flight wasn't made for those of us who are scrimping. roundtrip flights to san fernando, la union cost Php 7,375.20 per person, which is about seven times what you pay for a bus ride to LU.

so, it's back to partas rides and arnes bus stop meals for us surf-lovin' cheapos.