Friday, September 3, 2010

Hotel-hopping in Cebu

The Travelife Magazine team was in Cebu earlier this week for a short but very productive stay to check out what's happening in the Philippines' southern capital. Our base for operation was the Marriott Cebu, located right in the heart of the business district, and literally our home away from home. The hotel is near the new IT Park, which is full of businesses and dining and entertainment establishments, so it's incredibly convenient for Cebu visitors in the city for business, to attend an event or to catch up with friends. One of the coolest places to hang out in these days is a place called Penthouse, which is located in one of the buildings along the IT Park's major thoroughfare. All the young people were talking about it as a must-visit place.

We were based in the city, but of course we had to make time in our busy schedule to visit Mactan Island for some R&R. There are so many new resorts in this area, including the Imperial, which is supposedly owned by a very rich Korean businessman, and Crimson, a Bali-style resort owned by Filinvest which just opened a few months ago. Imperial, which is a mammoth resort all done up in cream and marble, has quite an interesting story behind it, which perhaps I'll leave you to ask them yourselves if you ever end up staying there.

Irresistible creme brulee

It was high time we got a glimpse of the sand and sea, we reckoned, so we hied off to the resort area to visit our friends in that area. We arrived at Shangri-la Mactan just in time for lunch. Walking around on the ground floor after a quick visit to the pool area, we were torn between Tea of Spring, the Chinese restaurant, which was serving very tantalizing-looking noodles, and the buffet spread at the Tides. However, volume and color beckoned -- even from afar, I could see a halo-halo station and a beautiful Japanese spread with salmon and tuna sashimi -- and so we hied off to the Tides buffet, throwing our concerns about calories to the wind.

We weren't disappointed. Shang's buffet even had an Indian curry station with very good chicken curry. The piece de resistance was the creme brulee, which came in tiny porcelain cups. "This is the most popular dessert here," the waitress told us, so we took her word for it and ordered one each. The creme brulee was incredibly rich and full of the creamy taste of egg. I had already had a halo-halo by then, but I finished my creme brulee anyway.

Shopping for necklaces at 70% Off

We spent the afternoon relaxing around Mactan until early evening, when we passed by the factory warehouse of accessories manufacturer and exporter Avatar on our way back to the Marriott. It took a few phone calls and several minutes of aimlessly driving around to set our compass straight, but eventually we made it to Avatar and were happily rewarded by a large sign on the gate that said something like "SALE. Up to 70% off." Just in time too, as the salesgirls were almost about to close shop as we drove in.

That was all we needed to close all conversation for the rest of the trip. The girls of Travelife quickly parted ways at the showroom door and began rummaging through what seemed like thousands of necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings. Frankly, all the searching gave me a headache and everything was starting to look the same after a while. But by then, I had found a handful of pieces that I thought were unique, reasonably priced, and good to wear with a little black dress. In fact, I ended up wearing one to dinner at the Peninsula, back in Manila, last night.

Anyway, my shopping itch was satiated after about ten minutes so I crossed over to the company offices to borrow their WiFi and surf the Net. But Isay and Eunice of Travelife were still completely engrossed in their shopping. Eventually they emerged with big smiles and rather big bags of accessories that I understand would have cost them a fortune in Manila, where Avatar is sold in Greenbelt.

Cebu Lechon on our mind

It had been a long day and by then we were ready for dinner. All the way back to Cebu City, we discussed food specialties in Cebu. Eunice, one of my editorial team members, was intent on finding her way to some market famous for selling danggit, and she was planning to buy a kilo of it. Meanwhile, I could not get the idea of having Cebu lechon out of my mind. Cebu lechon is roasted with all kinds of herbs and is so juicy that one hardly needs any kind of sauce to accompany it. I'd had such a big lunch but the thought of roasted pork was foremost on my mind after only a few hours.

Fortunately, we happened to take a peek at the Marriott's restaurant called Garden Cafe on our way up to our rooms to deposit our bags and shopping. And guess what they had? The famous Cebu lechon was right there, amidst other delicious offerings on their buffet menu that evening. That, of course, decided the venue for dinner for us. In fact, the food looked so good that we decided to just go straight to dinner. Why wait, when the lechon was practically beckoning from the buffet?

The lechon was just as wonderful as imagined, and Marriott served it with a soy sauce mix full of onions and garlic. They also had an incredibly delicious humba on offer that I was sure would make my arteries harden in a matter of minutes. But I just didn't care. All in all a wonderful evening spent laughing about office misadventures and enjoying Marriott's great buffet spread.

The talented Kenneth Cobonpue

Next morning, it was so tempting to just relax before our flight back to Manila. However, I just couldn't leave Cebu without visiting Kenneth Cobonpue's showroom. I'd heard from the locals that it's quite difficult to get an appointment at the last minute, but fortunately, we were able to get someone to show us around with a lot of help from my kind Cebu friends.

Kenneth's showroom, which is behind a set of nondescript and rather rundown buildings next to a cemetery, is simply beautiful. The generally ramshackly scenery around as you drive into his guarded property gives no inkling whatsoever to the truly artistic but usable creations inside. It was such an oasis of calm, good taste and beautiful design. I walked in and almost immediately wanted to order everything -- basically to overhaul my entire house.

Fortunately, I'd ordered several Cobonpue pieces way back from Budji Layug in Manila, when Kenneth was not quite yet the international designer he's now become. This was so long ago, but I was happy to see these same pieces in his showroom -- albeit at much higher prices. But that's to show you that while his ideas are so cutting-edge, his designs are based on such classic principles that you never tire of them. I have four chairs from his different collections, and they remain my favorite pieces to date.

His new designs, too, were simply too easy to fall in love with. I especially liked a chair made of colorful and very soft fabric, that looked like petals or a fallen flower on a chair. But when I sat on each one, I just didn't want to leave.

Quick and delicious lunch at the Marriott Cebu

However, lunch was approaching by then and soon we were needed at the airport, if we were to make our Manila flight as scheduled. We returned to the Marriott, thinking we were going to grab some fastfood lunch, when I happened to see a sign in their restaurant advertising Executive Lunches.

"What's your executive lunch like?" I asked the head waiter. "It's good, reasonably-priced and quick. We aim to serve you a three-course meal in under an hour."

Perhaps the best Brazo de Mercedes in Cebu

I looked at the price. It was P550 for a three-course meal including a glass of iced tea. Then I looked at my watch. We had an hour for lunch and we all seemed to be thinking along the same lines. Without another word, we found ourselves a table and ordered the chicken from their executive lunch. It came with a delicious salad of grilled asparagus and an honest-to-goodness good Brazo de Mercedes for dessert. Now I always like the look of the Brazo de Mercedes when I see it in restaurants, but I have almost never tasted one I actually liked. Most of the time, it's just full of sugar and egg white so it's light but just all empty sweetness.

The Brazo de Mercedes at the Marriott Cebu was exactly how I wanted it. The egg white portion was light but not empty in feel, and the yellow center was so rich and delicious. We all ended up finishing our desserts.

And yes, our lunch was served in under an hour -- giving us lots of time to get to the airport for our 3:30 pm flight back to Manila.


1 comment:

  1. I can only imagine the experience of having buffet at Marriot, the food presentation looks marvelous.