Monday, January 31, 2011

Make Freelance Writing a Career

To travel constantly and to be able write about one's trips is a dream many people have. And as the people behind Travelife Magazine, the Philippines' leading travel and lifestyle publication, we can confirm that it's a great career and a pretty fun life of nonstop mindblowing experiences. Just now, as we type this out, we're looking at our diary for the first half of 2011 and already we're getting palpitations. And not from excitement -- although, of course, we're super excited to be embarking on another round of adventures. The palpitations are from stress -- how do we fit all the travels in?

Amazing travels in first six months of 2011

We're supposed to go to Dubai and Cebu in February, Bora at the beginning of March, and Sri Lanka shortly afterwards to visit all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites (and you can't imagine how excited we were, planning the itinerary for this visit!). Then in April, we're off to Malaysia and Japan; and in May, it's Turkey and Morocco. In June, we're taking a cruise from Lisbon, Portugal to Barcelona, Spain. And that's just the first six months of 2011!

Oh yes, and we're also supposed to put out a magazine, maintain a blog, produce a couple of events -- please join us for Travelife India Night at the Dusit Thani on February 25 -- and undertake a handful of tours, and shoot the episodes for Travelife's upcoming TV show. And, when we're actually in Manila, we can't resist joining friends and associates at events, parties, dinners and long nights at clubs like Salon de Ning and Opus. So you can imagine how fun and exciting everything is, but also just how stressful it is to try and fit 10 lives into just one.

Starting's always the problem

Anyway, that's for another blog entry. Back to writing -- a wonderful and timeless craft that is so loved by many. It's one of the most satisfactory experiences one can undertake; and when it's travel writing, it's a hundred times wonderful because you're encountering so many new stimuli, learning so many new things and you get to share your experience with readers as well. So, yes, writing for a living is lots of fun -- even when you're not writing for Travelife!

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To find out more about

writing for Travelife Magazine, click here.

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The problem, for many people, is not the desire to write but the basics on how to start a writing career.

"Where do I start?"

“How can I get published?”

“How can I start freelancing as a writer?”

These are some of the questions people have regarding finding work or making a living as a writer. Fortunately, three very lively and nice ladies who actually have made a good living and a great life as freelance writers -- they actually travel as much as we do, would you believe -- have organized a two-day workshop precisely to answer questions like these and help you start out on your new career as a writer.

Workshop for aspiring writers

The “Jumpstart Your Freelance Writing Career” workshop is a two-day workshop that offers practical tips on how to get published, crafting stories, and writing them. It also aims to dispel the myths that surround freelance writing and help people start out with the proper mind frame needed to start a career as a writer.

Organized by Writer’s Block Philippines, this workshop is a must for anyone considering a career in writing -- and for anyone hoping to write for Travelife Magazine, of course!

Reasons for the workshop

Why did they even think of organizing such a workshop?

“At one point, we also asked ourselves those very questions and came across their answers largely through trial and error," recalls Ana Santos, one of the three ladies behind Writer's Block. "That’s why we started “Jumpstart." It was time to come out with something that would help make the process a bit faster for aspiring writers.”

Meanwhile, Nikka Sarthou, a full-time freelancer for the last five years, explains: “We all graduated with a Communications degree, but discovered that while school can teach you how to be a good writer, how to make money from writing is another story." She herself is the best evidence that freelance writing can be a lucrative and highly satisfactory career.

This is the second workshop under this theme so far. “Jumpstart Your Freelance Writing Career“ was launched last year and was warmly received by the writing community, prompting Writer’s Block Philippines to do another run. This time, the event will be held in partnership with Enderun Extension, which is Enderun Colleges’ resource for continuing education.

Nina Terol-Zialcita, a self-confessed political animal whose area of expertise is arts and culture and changemaking, adds: “The workshop also includes a portion on ethics in light of blogging and citizen journalism. To keep up with the latest communication trends and what it means in terms of writing opportunities, this latest version of the workshop will include on-line engagement and even a portion on journalism fellowships and grants.”

Partnering with Enderun Extension and Travelife

Enderun Extension (as well as we at Travelife Magazine, of course) was happy to partner with Writer's Block for such a worthwhile endeavor. “A writing workshop conducted by Writer’s Block Philippines will provide the perfect complement to our line-up of courses that cover sales and marketing and business management," said Daniel Perez, director of Enderun Extension. "Writing is an essential skill whatever your business and is perfectly in line with our objective of providing world-class culinary education that is holistic in its scope and world-class in standard.”

And just in case you're wondering if we'll be sharing any of our own Travelife secrets, the answer is yes. We'll be visiting the workshop sometime to give everyone a little pep talk!

“How to Jumpstart Your Freelance Writing Career 3.0” will be held on February 5 and 12 at the Enderun Extension College at 110 Campus Avenue McKinley Hill, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. Participation fee of Php 4,500 covers two-day course fee, CD hand-outs, workshop kit/goodie bag, and lunch with light snacks courtesy of Enderun. To reserve a slot, please call: Enderun Extension and ask for Monica or Flo/ Tel. 856-5000 local 505

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To reserve a limited seat,
please call Rachel at 813-8400
or email
Tickets for the dinner and concert
cost PhP 1499 per person.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

The perfect wagyu steak

Looking for a great steak place to get my wagyu fix just before leaving Tokyo for Narita Airport and on to Manila last week, we ended up at the top of the ANA Intercontinental Hotel, at the teppanyaki grill Akasaka.

The best deal in town

Teppanyaki is expensive everywhere, but for lunch in Tokyo, where competition among restaurants is extremely tough, even a first-class restaurant has reasonable lunch sets. (So if you're visiting Japan, make sure you book all those Michelin-starred restaurants at lunch...) We decided to avail of a lunch set serving 150 grams of Japanese sirloin beef with grilled vegetables and garlic rice. There was a cheaper set for 3000 yen that served Australian beef; but as I was already in Tokyo, I decided on the more expensive set that offered real Japanese beef.

The fuss about wagyu

By the way, in case you were wondering what all the fuss about wagyu actually is, wagyu literally means Japanese beef. It's not a brand name for a steak, it's just plain Japanese beef. Any beef you buy in a supermarket in Japan that indicates it's local beef is called wagyu. However, as almost any kind of Japanese beef is tender and superior to our own beef, it's become a brand in itself. Then of course there are steaks being marketed as Australian wagyu or US wagyu -- this just means that it's beef from cows that have been raised in the Japanese style. If you're looking for real branded Japanese beef, on the other hand, these include Kobe, Matsuzaka, Maezawa, Yonezawa, and Omi beef.

This is what you call a steak with a view!

Here's my perfectly cooked sirloin steak...

Perhaps the atmosphere had something to do with it, but we had an excellent and tasty lunch that day. The Akasaka Grill is located on the top floor and it has three teppanyaki counters around which are seats for lunch and dinner. From the restaurant's large windows, too, is a beautiful view of Tokyo, with its skyscrapers and greenery, that is just so relaxing to see. So you get a really great deal of a good meal at a reasonable price (for Tokyo standards, at least) and a lovely view. Few people probably know of this restaurant, as well, because we've usually been able to get a good seat at this restaurant even at last-minute notice.

The lunch itself began with a salad with Japanese dressing, and the meat and grilled vegetables followed. I wanted to have my rice with lunch, however, so I requested the chef to cook the garlic rice early on so that I could have it with my steak instead of with pickles and miso soup as the Japanese usually do.

Steak done to perfection

The result was a steak done to perfection, with heavenly garlic rice to accompany it. And the Akasaka had prepared two kinds of salt and three different kinds of sauces to accompany our steak: a bearnaise sauce, a Japanese ponzu lemon sauce, and a black pepper sauce.

That's the sashimi starter
and the three kinds of steak sauces.

That's our garlic fried rice being cooked...

This has got to be one of the most
relaxing teppanyaki grills in Japan.

And after the meal, I ordered tea with lemon.
Look at what a lovely peeled lemon
they served with my tea!

It was the perfect way to end a stay in Japan!

To reserve a limited seat,
please call Rachel at 813-8400 or email
Tickets for the dinner and concert cost PhP 1499 per person.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Dinner and music at Opus every weekend

Last Thursday night my friend B and I headed over to Opus, one of my current favorite restaurants, for a nice long dinner. Friends will know what a harrowing two weeks or so it has been due to some unfortunate personal circumstances, and Thursday night was my first proper meal in a very long time. I'd had a really good meal and a great time the last time I was in Opus (which was three weeks ago) -- in fact, we'd had so much fun that we all headed home past 5 AM -- and, boy, was I surprised to see about 300 people still on the dancefloor at Republiq at that time of the, morning. I remember looking out the car window on my way home and seeing the marathon runners already on the road in Bonifacio Global City.

Great dinner of short ribs and strawberry pavlova

Thursday night wasn't one of those marathon nights -- but it was a good night all the same.For once in these past fourteen or so days, I was actually in the mood for food, and I scanned the menu with relish and settled on the exact same meal I'd had weeks before that I liked so much: the shortribs done sous vide with lashings of mashed potatoes tinged with horseradish. For starters B and I had the potato soup, which was really excellent; and we ordered some red wine to go with dinner.

When we got to Opus, the place was barely full. But midway through dinner it started filling up so fast that when I next looked, there were no empty tables left. And a couple of tables down from us were some of Opus' 11 owners (all well-known names in the party and club scene...basically Manila's "masters of the nightlife") hosting a dinner with friends. We saw a lot of people we knew at the table so after B and I had had our long chat and catch-up session, and the strawberry pavlova to share, we joined Stephen Ku's table and basically had a second dinner.

Other Opus owners include visionary and ideas man Erik Cua, who looks so young and nice that when we first met him sometime back we all guessed he was fresh out of college; dynamic PR guy GP Reyes, master events planner Robbie Carmona, and top media personality Tim Yap. Erik Cua did Opus' simple but very chic Soho-New York interiors with its luxury Renaissance feel and very comfortable seating, by the way; and the other owners are also all doing their part to ensure Opus' success.

Second time around

"My god, you certainly can eat," B said, as another plate of short ribs was placed before me and I reached out for a fork and knife with relish. "You've got to remember -- I basically haven't eaten in ten days," I replied.

Opus Chef Carlos Miguel joined us as well, and I told him how much I loved his short ribs -- so much so that I was telling all my friends to order this when at Opus.

Stephen and his friends were trying out a couple of new cocktails as well. B and I'd already had tea and all, but we decided to join everyone else anyway and order one for the road. It was a really creative menu of interesting-sounding cocktails; and B ordered a cocktail with balsamic vinegar (which sounds strange but it actually worked) while I had something with mint that was extremely refreshing.

Something happening every weekend

The restaurant and its great food isn't the only reason to visit Opus either. A few steps away is Opus' cavernous bar and party place all done up in modern, white interiors. Every time I'm here, I'm always reminded that this scene could easily be one of a chic bar in an old warehouse in Soho. It has that kind of vibe. On Thursdays, Opus owners Jason Soong and Marco de Guzman host Viva, a Latin-themed night; while on Fridays, owners GP Reyes and Manolet Dario organize an evening called Uber Disko. On Saturday, Louie Ysmael (who is also an Opus owner) hosts a wonderful evening of dance music from past generations called Legendary. With so much happening over at Opus, well, you know where we'll be when we're not blogging or traveling...

Opus' Party Schedule

hosted by Ivan Zalameda

hosted by Marco de Guzman

hosted by GP Reyes & Manolet Dario

hosted by Louie Y

To reserve a limited seat,
please call Rachel at 813-8400 or email
Tickets for the dinner and concert cost PhP 1499 per person.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Sailing the Rhine

The delights of a slow riverboat through Europe

I’m typing this out on my Mac as our riverboat sails today along the Rhine river from the historic city of Speyer to the wine-and-party town of Rudesheim amidst gloriously sunny weather. Speyer itself is a charming town with a handful of churches, and one disproportionately large compared to the rather modest-sized town it is. It has one major thoroughfare that serves as the main shopping street and the only place to go for any nightlife -- it's got cafes and restaurants on both sides of the street.

My husband and I are both avid cruisers, and this time we opted for a river cruise instead of the usual ocean voyage that I so love. We boarded our boat in Basel, Switzerland and are spending a week slowly gliding our way through Germany towards the port of Amsterdam.

Compared to the glamour and excitement of the luxury ocean cruises, with their formal dinners, Broadway shows, and on-board casinos, river cruises are all about small-town warmth and modest comfort. Size has much to do with it, of course, as river boats are constrained by the width of rivers and of the locks, which control the smooth flow of water. We’re passing through 14 locks on our Basel-Amsterdam route and our boat barely makes it through some locks without bumping the sides.

Every inch of space counts

Meanwhile, sea vessels are all about ego, although I personally prefer the smaller cruise lines which have 250 passengers at most, compared to the super ships that are really more floating cities than passenger vessels!. Our river boat has only 3 short decks vs. the kilometer-long 12 or 14 decks on some ocean ships, and each nook on the ship is so well-placed that I cannot find even one unused spare square meter of space. The cabin rooms too are testaments to excellent space planning. The rooms are only as big as some people’s dressing rooms, but within half an hour of unpacking, we had found satisfactory storage for every clothing or cosmetic in our tiny closet of a room, and had our five luggages out of sight under the bed. It took us about half a day to get used to our new "home," but afterwards we were extremely comfortable.

Informal camaraderie

Life onboard is also more relaxed than on an ocean liner, and again, it’s all about space. Riverboat cabinets won’t hold evening gowns and tuxedoes, so almost all meals are informal save for the captain’s dinners, which is a rather dressed-up affair. We were invited to be one of the six passengers joining the captain and his senior officers for the captain's dinner, and it was quite an enjoyable experience. We first had very private cocktails with the captain; and then when everyone was seated, we were escorted to our table at the center of the room and served a meal with lots of flourish.

However, this dinner was the exception. The generally relaxed atmosphere onboard promotes a jovial camaraderie -- people certainly seem friendlier in jeans and t-shirts than in gowns and diamonds. And because this ship is small and there’s not much to do – no chaotic schedules involving yoga in the gym, lectures in the theater, bridge in the cardroom and cooking demonstrations in the galley all at 10 a.m. – you’re more apt to spend time getting to know fellow passengers when you’re not out sightseeing. When you're out of your room, your options are pretty limited. One of the few places to hang out is the top deck, where picturesque villages and snippets of regular life pass by as you lie on sunbeds. It’s also the main place to make new friends.

Shared tables and new friends

Due to space constraints, dining on a river boat is mostly shared tables, enabling you to meet practically the entire ship by the end of the week. On this particular cruise, my husband and I are the only ones from Asia, so we tend to stand out and be easily remembered. The majority of cruisers come from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa. On our first evening, we sat with Jenny and Neil, a couple from Rotorua, New Zealand, who welcome Asian exchange students into their home every year. Meanwhile yesterday, at lunch in a historical restaurant in Heidelberg, we ate with a retired pilot from Dallas who flew B-52 planes in the Vietnam War. Yesterday’s dinner onboard was with Willy and Jill from the Canadian side of Lake Superior. Willy was once a famous hockey player whose story appeared in the cult movie “Slap Shot” starring Paul Newman. Meeting such people made the cruise so much more enjoyable.

To reserve a limited seat,
please call Rachel at 813-8400 or email
Tickets for the dinner and concert cost PhP 1499 per person.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Istanbul all over again

Tonight we drove down the South Super to someone's beautiful house in Alabang, to join the grand reunion of the Travelife Magazine Amazing Turkey Tour Group 1. We had two groups to Turkey in November -- both equally fun and full of interesting and lively personalities. After our return to Manila, many people in both groups had been clamouring for a reunion but, of course, it's always quite difficult to get one organized around busy schedules.

It just so happened that Group 1 had Amy, a professional events organizer among the group, so with the help of several determined ladies in the group and the generous hospitality of Noreen Fong, Amy was able to organize a New Year's party for Travelife Magazine's Turkey Tour Group 1 -- complete with baklava for dessert and music from Istanbul's Reina on the sound system.

Our Travelife Turkey Groups were composed of people of various generations, occupations and inclinations; but luckily, everyone got along pretty well and had a fabulous time both in Turkey and at the reunion. Tonight we had a wonderful evening partaking of a delicious potluck dinner and then sitting around afterwards reminiscing about our trip, planning to join future ones -- some are considering Morocco, while others have their eyes set on our Spain food and wine tour in September -- and then comparing notes on purchases made and food tasted in Turkey.

Everyone agreed they'd put on pounds during the trip, and many said they really appreciated the taste of Turkish delight when they unwrapped their Turkish delight purchases in Manila and ate them there -- so much so that most wished they'd bought more in Istanbul.

When we looked at our watches, it was close to midnight. We'd spent a good four hours reminiscing about Turkey; and with everyone all together, it seemed we were back in Istanbul again, eating at Kosebasi Levent instead of in Alabang.

To reserve a limited seat for India Night,
please call Rachel at 813-8400 or email
Tickets for the dinner and concert cost PhP 1499 per person.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Not all that glitters is a Michelin star

This appears in the December-January issue of Travelife Magazine. Get your copy of our latest issue in the bookstore today.

Two years ago, when the global stock markets were at a high and we were all much more carefree, my husband and I planned a trip to Paris with Jojo and Fides, good friends we’d both known a very long time. Jojo had once been my husband’s work colleague, while Fides and I were at school together. It was a happy coincidence that we four eventually became good friends. Since then, we've traveled to various places together, including to France and Japan. Fides and I also visited Turkey together last November, and had a wonderful time.

My favorite trips to Paris

I’ve been to Paris so many times but my favorite trips have been the two times we four ventured to Paris for food and wine. For our first trip, I’d taken an apartment along the Avenue George V with a wraparound balcony boasting a view of the Tour Eiffel, a kitchen fronting the Four Seasons George V Hotel, and the wonderful food store Hediard literally across the street. On our second visit four months later – we had such a great time on our first trip that we planned part two almost immediately after -- I leased a beautiful four-bedroom apartment two blocks away from Elysee Palace with a gorgeous living room that opened up to a private garden – an almost unheard-of luxury in the heart of Paris, and perfect for our restaurant forays.

When Jojo and Fides arrived, they took about ten minutes to settle in and then Jojo said, in his typical finance world fashion, “Let’s cut to the chase and eat at the Tour D’Argent.”

Wine as the main course

The Tour D’Argent isn’t exactly known as gourmet paradise so I was far from enthusiastic. It once had a stellar reputation but it subsequently lost its stars and its gourmet allure as it became more of a tourist attraction than a temple of dining. But it has the best wine cellar in Europe so we were really going for liquid nourishment. Fortunately, I didn’t put up a fight and steer everyone towards L’Espadon at the Ritz, which would’ve been my choice just because I’ve always enjoyed it there.

That first meal together at the Tour D’Argent was perfect in every way, and just thinking about it now makes me smile. We had excellent food (so good that we returned one more time on that visit to have that meal all over again) and superb wine -- chosen by Jojo from a wine list as thick as two encyclopedias (the non-digital kind), and straight out of an ancient cellar deep underneath Paris. But it’s really true that the company makes the meal. We talked and laughed for hours; afterwards, we crossed the Seine River and the Ile de la Cite towards the Marais for coffee and a bit of puttering around the shops. Nothing extremely glamorous, but so wonderful all the same.

Choucroute on a whim

For the other days, we took turns choosing restaurants, trying to achieve a good balance of Michelin-starred establishments and spur-of-the-moment brasseries. Later on we took votes as to which of the other fancy restaurants we liked best. Jojo liked our meal at the Carre des Feuillantes, a two-star Michelin right off the Place Vendome, where our wine friends Peter and Elisabeth took us. The restaurant staff, who knew of Peter's reputation as a wine authority, treated us majestically; and afterwards we met the famous chef behind the kitchen counter, Alan Dutornier. My husband says his favorite is the fine dining restaurant of the Hotel Bristol, where we formed a table of six Filipinos from Manila and enjoyed a very long and good meal. Meanwhile, I think Fides and I both liked the first time we ate at the Pre Catelan, a beautiful restaurant set in a park-like surroundings. We enjoyed our meal there so much that right then and there we decided to return for another meal the following evening. Interestingly, our second time around was not as good as the first.

Spur-of-the-moment choice

But the casual dining choices were just as fun. For instance, Fides and I consider our inspired decision to enter a typical brasserie in the 14th arrondissement as one of our best lunches in two weeks together in Paris. We’d ordered choucroute because everyone else seemed to be having it; then just as we were finishing up, the old lady at the next table was served the largest ice cream sundae we had ever seen, made with our favorite Berthillon ice cream, and topped with a mountain of cream. It took us all of three seconds to decide to have one each.

But the truly enjoyable meals were the ones we cooked at home, on those few evenings we didn’t feel like venturing out, made from fresh produce from Paris’ wonderful open-air food markets. One Sunday dinner, for example, we steamed and buttered large white asparagus, pan-fried fillets of sole, and stuck a chicken smothered in garlic and herbs in the oven. Then we opened a very nice bottle of white wine and just chilled, discussing travel, life, good food and wine.

How breakfast became dinner

Another evening, we hosted a party for 15 friends in Paris and visitors who had joined us for a portion of our holiday from places as diverse as Palo Alto, Oxfordshire, Vancouver, and Singapore. It was such fun to buy produce at the markets and create dishes from inspiration. I still remember looking at a large fruit basket on the breakfast table one morning and suddenly having the idea to cover a large cut of pork loin in grapes, oranges and apples and slow-roasting this in the oven. Pork and fruit do go together in traditional dishes, after all.

The result was an incredibly tasty dish. When I first took it out of the oven all covered in blackened fruits, however, Elisabeth, one of our Parisian guests who had trained at Rome’s top restaurant, had quickly offered to help out, probably thinking I had burned dinner. I hadn’t, but dinner was most certainly cooked.

All’s well that ends well, said the Bard -- maybe because he missed the global financial crisis. I had the mixed fortunes (as I think everyone did) of enduring it, as the crisis began just as this enjoyable episode ended. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy exactly as we were checking in at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport for the flight back to Asia. Through it all, I remember thinking how apt Rick’s words were in the movie Casablanca: We’ll always have Paris.

To reserve a limited seat,
please call Rachel at 813-8400
or email
Tickets for the dinner and concert
cost PhP 1499 per person.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winners of Salon de Ning Rose Champagne

Last week, as part of our online X games, we posted this photo and asked our Facebook friends to post their wackiest answers with a bottle of incredibly delicious Salon de Ning Rose Champagne from the Peninsula Manila's Salon de Ning as a prize for the two wackiest answers.

This is what we posted on Facebook: More merry adventures with X. Guess where and when this was taken and win a gift certificate for a bottle of one of our favorite champagne at one of Manila's coolest hangouts. We've upped the stakes. One bottle of really good champagne worth PhP 4500 goes to two of the most creative/ hilarious responses. Guess away!

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Click here to access Madame Ning's Twitter account

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We then requested Jonathan Crook, general manager of the Peninsula Manila, to choose the best answers. Everyone had such fantastic answers, and some even sent in responses by email and text. To everyone who participated in the fun, thank you very much from all of us at Travelife.


The champagne prize for the wackiest answers go to Daniel Jose Katigbak and Malu Francisco. Congratulations! Please call Rachel at the Travelife Magazine office at 813-8400/ 892-2620 for details on how to claim your bottles of Salon de Ning Rose Champagne.

"Salon de Ning at the Peninsula Hong Kong...
accidentally taken when someone sat on the camera."
- Daniel Jose Katigbak

Close up, reeeeeeally close up,
microscopic shot of the garter of a man's briefs."
-Malu Francisco


"X wearing a black shirt tied around by a rope
on New Year's Eve at Salon de Ning.
- Shawnaleh Brauner

"Being so privileged, X was given VIP tickets for a rock concert.
Dressed like a rock star, he blended superbly with the crowd
and armed with his ever reliable cam, he aimed to take the perfect shot.
Surprisingly he felt a wave hit him at a split second
and so he landed with a big thud on the floor!
Amazingly, he was able to take those pictures!
Lo and behold, he got a very nice close up shot
of the guitar strings of the lead guitarist!
What a masterpiece!
- Cel Peniero

"X tripped while holding a camera
and accidentally took a photo of a sidedeck
- Joyce Lovete Cabral

-Justine Timberlic

"These are the ropes used to tie up our baboys before they are
lechonized and devoured for our media noche.
- Bisai Salomon

"It's a boxing-ring. Maybe a Pacman fight?"
- Nigel Sutherland

"Before New Year's at midnight...
waiting for fireworks through the backyard sampayan
- Meyan Aclan Chaneco

"Its after the Travelife party at Rue Bourbon.
X got super drunk and found his way onto the Superferry to Cebu.
Then X woke up on the sidedeck
from the spray of sea water half way through the trip.
When X head got around to it and realized his troubles,
he took a picture via cellphone and sent it to head office
hoping you could find him by GPS!!"
- Shane Lawlor

"The ropes on the deck of a cruise ship."
- Paul Bate

"Looking through the window inside a jail cell.
Say, caught by the police for DUI during New Year's Eve,
waiting for the fireworks to start and light up the sky =)
- Lani Matugas

"Travelife office balcony at New Year's Eve
just before 12pm, while X was
waiting for the firework display to start."

- Shane Lawlor

We also asked people to guess
where they thought this photo was taken.

"Balducci at the Fort."
- Rosemarie Dimaranan

"Chateau Hestia, Tagaytay"
- Candy Dizon

"Boxing ring."
- Ning Buning

"The port for Corregidor near the CCP docking area,
taken around early morning 2am
- Catherine Choachuy

"Salon de Ning."
- Sandee Masigan

"Pier One."
- Resly George Amador

"I guess it's in the Fort."
- Benedict Baladad

"Cebu jail at night.
Watch out for those crazy zombie dancers."
- Gavin Lee

"Chicago freeway at midnight."
- Jojie Chua Atienza

"The deck of a cruise ship."
- Emma Jane Holder

To reserve a limited seat,
please call Rachel at 813-8400 or email
Tickets for the dinner and concert cost PhP 1499 per person.


Lobster, Crabs and Boracay

Tonight, some of the Travelife Magazine team decided to accept an invitation from our friends at the Marriott Hotel to try out their new seafood buffet at the Marriott Cafe, called Ocean's Surf at Marriott Cafe. There's a lavish buffet spread every night at the Marriott Cafe, but on Fridays and Saturdays for the rest of 2011, the hotel is putting out a grand seafood buffet cosing PhP 1750 nett for adults and PhP 875 nett for children over 12, filled with tempting displays of crabs, lobsters, shellfish and all kinds of fish.

I'd had a big Chinese lunch today so I was fully intent on going to Marriott and literally picking at my food. However, I tasted the crabs first and they were incredibly fresh -- so I just had to have a proper serving. The increase in seafood really makes a big difference not only in taste but in presentation. Everything looks just so much more colorful -- and I've placed a couple of great photos here, taken with my mobile phone, to prove my point.

The seafood appetizer buffet is a lavish arrangements
of fresh rock lobsters, oysters, clams, shrimps,
seafood salads and appetizers.

Steamed or grilled seafood with
an assortment of dips and sauces

Seafood can also be prepared to order,
including baked or sauteed with garlic

Later on, after I had had my share of appetizers, I went for some freshly-cooked pasta at the pasta station.

A great marinara pasta

"What do you recommend?" I asked the chef, who was holding a frying pan in one hand and who was ready to take my order.

"The marinara is very popular," he said. I took him up on his suggestion and tried the marinara, which was incredibly good. The noodles were done to just the right point of al dente, and the tomato-based sauce was very flavorful. So again, I threw my caloric concerns to the wind and went back for a second helping.

"What did you put in that sauce?" I asked the chef. "That was really good."

He smiled at me. "We make our own sauce from scratch here," he said.

So our team had a very good time relaxing after a long day and tasting everything that caught our fancy. I also had some roast beef and then a variety of desserts from the sweets display, which also had an ice cream bar and a very good quality chocolate fountain.

Conversations with an airline man

Then just as I thought I was ready to finish up and leave, Andrew Budiman, the very amiable country manager of Singapore Airlines, walked in and sat next to us. I'd just seen him at someone's birthday lunch on Sunday, which, coincidentally, was also a buffet spread.

"It's good this is a seafood buffet," he said. "Much healthier."

I looked at him amusedly. "That's what you think," I said. "I can tell you that I have not felt this full in a very long time."

We ended up talking for quite a bit and the conversation was really interesting -- from a Christmas holiday in Boracay and the situation in Indonesia, to the way airlines allocate seats and tickets.

Andrew was completely enamoured by Boracay although he had the fright of his life landing on that short Caticlan runway -- a fact I found pretty funny, considering he's an airline man. "I usually ride big airplanes but I've been on pretty small planes before," he explained. "And small isn't a problem at all. I used to take planes from Vancouver to Seattle and they were really small. The problem is that runway. I thought we'd hit the fence when we landed as we literally stopped right in front of it."

"The other problem with Boracay is that it's getting too expensive," Andrew continued. "Especially compared to its competition, like Bali. In Bali, you can get very good accommodations even for about US$120 -- but in Boracay it's hard to find a similar quality for that price."

"And in Boracay, it seems locals and foreigners are charged different rates," he added. "We often had to pay higher rates for riding the jeep or bus, just because we were foreigners. If it was PhP5 for locals, it was PhP50 for us."

But these experiences didn't deter him from waxing rhapsodic about Boracay. "That's a beautiful beach," he said. "From now on, I'm going to be Boracay's ambassador. It's a pity not enough people outside of the Philippines know about it yet."

To reserve a limited seat,
please call Rachel at 813-8400 or email
Tickets for the dinner and concert cost PhP 1499 per person.