Thursday, May 19, 2011

Memories over Thai food at the Dusit Thani

Early yesterday morning, my friend Marivic sent me a funny BBM that really made me smile. We continued sporadically exchanging messages all morning, and then finally I said: "Want to have lunch? I'm free for about an hour."

It turns out we both happily had a bit of time to spare, so off we went to have lunch at my favorite Thai restaurant, Benjarong at the Dusit Thani. I was famished since I hadn't even had breakfast, so I ordered all my usual favorites: juicy and moist fish cakes with a tamarind sauce, green chicken curry, pork neck with a sweet sauce, and paad thai noodles. It was so nice to get out of the heat and take a break from a whole day at the office to have real conversation with a good friend, and someone I've known a very long time.


In fact, our reminiscing today started with talking about our very first trip together, which was to Switzerland one European summer many years ago for three weeks of painting and shopping. We spent lazy days watercoloring at a picturesque inn on Lake Como and in a tiny village in the Italian part of Switzerland, went antique-hunting at a flea market in Zurich, watched the opera Aida in the open-air theater in Verona, stayed at a beautiful estate that once was the family home of the poet Dante, and of course, shopped to death in Milan. We hit Milan at exactly sale season, when everything was 80% off. This is still one of our favorite trips to date and yesterday we were trying to pinpoint why we loved this particular trip so much.

"We were young and carefree then," I suggested. "It's different when you travel and you have so many responsibilities and concerns at the back of your mind. In those days, the only thing on our mind were the sales in Milan." I still smile when I remember how the hotel room we shared in Milan was so filled with shopping bags after two days that we couldn't walk through.

Marivic thinks we so enjoyed this particular trip because we were very young and it was our first trip to Europe alone as independent travelers. "Everything was new and fresh," she recalled. "We were excited about everything."


We also started laughing and remembering the different friends we've had lunches and dinners with at Benjarong over the years. This restaurant has indeed held many memories for both of us. Of course, we also started talking about Travelife Magazine and its own memorable journey from an idea to being the Philippines' leading travel and lifestyle publication. And now with Travelife Tours, Travelife Experiences and soon Travelife TV to boot.

"We were both in Tokyo or in Mount Fuji when we started talking about Travelife," she recalled; although my most vivid memory of our first Travelife discussion was in Manila. I said: "I still remember that we'd had dinner in Serendra and then afterwards we walked through Bonifacio High Street. Then we stopped off to have coffee somewhere and that's where we were talking about Travelife."

It was a nice recall of so many memories over many years. I'd been feeling a little heavy that day, perhaps from the pressure of closing our next issue and just trying to fit everything I want to do into 24-hour days. I wish I had 48-hour days instead. "We had so much fun when we were young; but it's nice to be older and wiser as well," she said. I nodded: "Yes. Since we're older and now have more experience, we know what we want and what we don't want. Everything is clearer now although it doesn't mean things have become less complicated."


Then we said goodbye, promising to meet up in about six weeks when we're both in the same city at the same time again. In between we both have so much travel scheduled into our respective itineraries. I can't divulge where she's going, but I can tell you that Kagoshima (Japan), Istanbul, Lisbon (Portugal), Gibraltar (United Kingdom), Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Kuala Lumpur and Penang are all in my calendar in between now and the time we meet again sometime early July.

And if that sounds absolutely hectic, you'll probably be shocked to know that somewhere in this very busy next six weeks of a Travelife, I even have two major parties to plan for Travelife and a store to open. And trips to Cebu, Sydney (next week), Guam and Jakarta/ Borobudur (3rd week of June) as options to include in the next six weeks as well.

I'm going through with the parties and the store opening, but I just couldn't fit Sydney, Indonesia, Guam, etc into my schedule anymore. So instead, Travelife's contributing editor Miko is going to Sydney to represent me, Travelife GM Leah is flying to Cebu, Travelife Business Development Director Gel is going to Guam and hopefully the Travelife editorial team will be journeying to Indonesia.

So that's my Travelife in the next six weeks. And I'm actually writing this out at another airport lounge, by the way.


Anyway, last night -- my last evening in Manila before another trip -- was another pretty eventful evening in my home and favorite city. I stayed working on Travelife's June-July issue until the very last minute, and then I headed to Tower Club at the invitation of John Tanjangco of Bellarocca to attend the opening of the one-man exhibit/ sale of famed artist Juvenal Sanso inspired by his trip to Bellarocca. Bellarocca, by the way, was on the cover of Travelife last year. Coincidentally, the exhibit was co-organized by Gallery Joaquin, which is owned by foremost art collector and art authority Jack Teotico, who also joined Travelife Magazine's Amazing Tour of Turkey last November; and since then we've become good friends.

The exhibit was very well-attended and Sanso's paintings in vibrant hues of yellow and green were so ethereal. They captured the spirit of Bellarocca completely! Jack accompanied me to view a couple of paintings and he told me that Sanso had been so enamoured with Bellarocca that he'd been able to paint everything either on-the-spot or from inspiration and memory.


Jack also made my day when he told me that he'd enjoyed the Travelife tour to Turkey so much that he'd join another one without hesitation, schedule permitting. Lots of people who joined us in November have made similar comments. Most of our participants were not the types to join tours, but they joined us in Turkey because it was a Travelife tour. And the groups we've taken so far have really been so wonderful that even I enjoyed myself immensely, and many of them have become good friends.

Secretary of Tourism Alberto Lim was the guest of honor last night, and I was able to spend a good hour talking to him about tourism and the plans to improve the tourism infrastructure in the Philippines. After viewing the exhibit, we moved to Tower Club's bar, where I sat talking with him and some other DOT officials.


As always in Manila, the evening never ends with one event. On the way into the exhibit, I'd bumped into some friends who had just viewed it and were going on to the Spanish jazz event at the Ayala Museum. Meanwhile, after Tower Club, I headed across town to Sofitel to attend the party of Etihad Airlines in honor of its CEO who was visiting Manila. I'd stayed longer than expected at the Bellarocca exhibit and was wondering whether I'd even catch anything or anyone at the Etihad party; but I decided to go anyway.

At past 9 PM the party was still in full swing with a band playing very nice mellow music from generations past. It was a nice way to wind down the evening, just to listen to the music over a couple of drinks. I also had the opportunity to see the actress and performer Giselle Sanchez, who was also performing that night, for the first time. She was very lively and she sang beautifully -- I loved her rendition of a song from Mamma Mia -- although some of her jokes that night certainly left me open-mouthed. I wish I could repeat them here but I can't.

Have a wonderful weekend, wherever in the world you may be.

Travelife's Special Summer Issue
with Angel Aquino in Boracay
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine's April-May 2011 issue


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