Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Travelife's team of winners

Yesterday, the Travelife team moved its entire office to a luxury hotel for a day of strategic planning and analysis. Travelife Magazine has made great headway in the past years, and we wanted to ensure we maintain our #1 spot in the travel & lifestyle magazine category, as well as to retain our status as everyone's favorite travel magazine. These are two different things altogether and we're lucky and blessed enough to be both.


We were especially revved up when we realized we've been growing tremendously on a year-on-year basis. That alone was cause enough to celebrate, and there was no better way than to head to the Tourism Malaysia gala dinner at the Makati Shangri-la to have some excellent Malaysian cuisine, see all our friends in Tourism Malaysia and just enjoy the entertainment.

The gala dinner was hosted by the Ambassador of Malaysia and the Tourism Malaysia Minister herself, a very dynamic and vivacious lady named Dr. Ng. I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Ng two years ago in Kuala Lumpur during a grand event planned by Tourism Malaysia with Martha Stewart as special guest. I was struck then by her energetic and friendly demeanor; and two years later, she is as amazing as ever.
We spoke for quite a long time at the reception prior to dinner, and then at the end she said: "Join us for a dinner in Langkawi at the end of the month. I'm hosting a royal gala dinner for the incoming Queen of Malaysia."

Of course I said yes, without even thinking about my existing travel plans. I'm sure I already have something booked, but I was just going to have to (happily) move whatever had already been booked for the Queen of Malaysia. I got introduced to Dr. Ng's social secretary who would make all the arrangements, and then we all went in to dinner -- a wonderful spread prepared by the Makati Shangri-la and a team of Malaysian chefs from Shangri-la properties all over Malaysia.


It was so nice to see all of my favorite foods again, and the chicken rice was especially good. There was also a chef making Roti Jala, thin string-like crepes that Malaysians love eating with curry.

Our editor Miko had attended a cooking class to learn how to do this lace crepe called a Roti Jala when we were in Kuala Lumpur (I happily stayed on the sidelines and just ate) and instead of doing it the traditional circular way, he'd done one in the layout of Kuala Lumpur's iconic Petronas Towers. Or at least that's what he said. He's an architect by profession, you see, although travel is obviously his great passion. Well, his lace crepe creation certainly looked nowhere like the Petronas Towers to me, but I decided not to point this out. At least not directly to him.

Remembering this last night, and seeing just how effortlessly this Malaysian chef from one of the Shangri-la hotels in Malaysia flicked his wrist around and created a lace crepe, I wanted to try it too. He was very nice and let me make my own crepe.

You know how some things are harder than they look? Well, this is one of those things. I flicked my wrist using the batter gadget Malaysians use to make this Roti Jala, and globs of batter came out. The result was no delicate string-like crepe at all, but globs of batter dropping rather ungracefully onto the large flat plan. I'd made a thick pancake.


Another interesting highlight of the evening was a karaoke competition with pretty amazing prices. Trips to Malaysia with stays in luxury hotels, just to sing a song and come out the winner! I would have loved to join but musical talent escapes me. Fortunately, we have at least two expert crooners in Travelife Magazine, and one of them was persuaded to join the karaoke contest!

Our contributing editor Miko is an excellent singer, and people who've heard him have confessed to listening open-mouthed whenever he takes the mike. I also remember how we'd been in Colombo, Sri Lanka last April, and he and the other four guys had been trawling the hotel lobby at midnight looking for an open karaoke bar. But last night, he wouldn't budge even if I'd already asked the very charming and pretty girls of Tourism Malaysia's Manila office to try and convince him.

Our managing editor Carlo was more amenable to a performance, and this was even before he found out that Tourism Malaysia was giving away luxury trips to Malaysia as prizes. He sang a really energetic song by Backstreet Boys and dedicated this to "the beautiful Tourism Malaysia minister from all of us at Travelife Magazine." Yes, we're good with stuff like that.


He also gave an incredible performance that wowed even us at Travelife Magazine. So it was no surprise to us that he won first prize!

And when the Tourism Malaysia Minister handed Carlo his certificates for airline tickets and a hotel stay, she asked him: "Have you ever been to Malaysia?"

Carlo took the mike and gave the audience the perfect answer: "The entire Travelife Magazine and Travelife TV teams flew to Malaysia last August and we visited KL, Penang and Malacca. And we all loved it."


And by the way, I hope you'll pardon the indulgence but title of this blog is "Travelife's team of winners." Apart from the two things above -- Travelife growing by leaps and bounds year-on-year and our managing editor Carlo winning first prize last night at the Tourism Malaysia event -- Travelife Magazine also won first prize in a nationwide travel-writing contest sponsored by the Department of Tourism and Bonamine for an article written by one of our editors, Gabby Malvar.

Yes, we bested all the other publications (including glossies and newspapers) to win first prize in this national travel-writing competition.

Our multi-talented creative director Bryan Arevalo also won first prize in the prestigious Metrobank art competition, this time in the oil painting category. So as you can see, we're a team of winners, whether it's travel-writing, singing or painting. Or selling advertising. Our next issue is literally a who's who of the airline world, with page after page of beautiful airline advertisements.

Just another day in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful, Travelife.


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