Monday, December 6, 2010

Social tourism over cocktails and California Maki for dinner


Last night, my friend Beliz (who is the chairperson of the Gawad Kalinga Hope Ball) and I braved rush-hour traffic to go across town to Club Filipino to attend the December 2010 GK Builders' Night. This particular GK Builders' Night was very apt, as it had social tourism as a theme; so we were very glad to be attending.

Joining us last night were GK founder Tony Meloto and the big bosses of KLM-Air France and the Department of Tourism, who are also very enthusiastic about promoting social tourism in the Philippines via GK. It's really about time that the Philippines on both the public sector and private sector levels get serious about promoting social tourism, as this is really a realistic and potentially very major way of bringing more income sources to the grassroots level. Especially in the First World, many wealthy tourists are looking for more ways to make travel more meaningful for them beyond the luxury hotels and fancy restaurants.

So you have bankers traveling from Tokyo or New York leaving their plush existences to help build homes in Sri Lanka (which is exactly what a couple of bankers I know who work in New York and live in Connecticut did), or Park Avenue socialites (not all, but at least some) flying to Africa to get down and dirty cleaning up the water wells of a mud village in the middle of nowhere. There's no reason why these socially-inclined tourists won't want to include the Philippines and its communities of smiling and happy people in their next itineraries.

Tourist stays at GK Villages

And GK is perfectly primed to launch social tourism in the Philippines. It's got the beautiful villages offering a simple but decent environment for a stay, and these are inhabited by happy, hardworking people -- a great example of what's good and great about the Philippines. Travelife Magazine, as well, has committed to helping promote social tourism alongside all its other amazing travel experiences worldwide, by creating a Travelife Magazine GK experience involving a stay and an in-depth immersion in a GK community for a weekend, that it will offer to its readers and friends together with its travel opportunities in Turkey, Morocco and other exotic destinations.

Stay tuned to this blog and our future issues for more details.

Japanese fusion in Greenhills

After the GK Builders' Night at Club Filipino, Beliz and I met her husband Jonathan and we headed for nearby Bistro Miyake, a fusion Japanese restaurant with great spicy tuna maki and beef teppanyaki. We were really hungry so we ordered almost everything that intrigued us on the menu, including teppanyaki oysters in a ponzu sauce, deep fried tofu, fried rice and all kinds of sushi and maki. For dessert, we shared a chocolate molten lava cake and a mango souffle.

Of course, much of the talk that night still centered on the Salon de Ning refurbishment and launch -- the launch was probably the event of the year, as far as launches go, as it's been a very long time since Manila has seen such a stylish event with Moet and pink champagne flowing like water and caviar available by the moundfuls. Salon de Ning itself was beautifully refurbished out of the old Mi Piace space to the tune of US$2 million. I can tell you that it certainly looks like a $2 million job, judging from all the intricate details and touches.

After so much partying in the past two weeks, it was nice to finally have a quiet moment with good friends over some delicious Japanese food and a couple of bottles of sake, and a whole lot of laughs. Much of what we laughed about is unrepeatable in the public arena of blogging for one reason or another so, unfortunately, I can't write about it here.

But we'd met up thrice in the last four days and spent probably countless hours together, so you would have thought we'd run out of things to discuss -- but there we were still chatting away close to midnight. I thought we would end early and I would finally get some sleep before my recent usual 3 AM bedtime -- but that wasn't to be. When I last looked at the clock before heading off to la-la land, it was just hitting 3 AM.

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