Hello from sunny Cebu. I'm typing this out by the beach, with a really cold drink in hand and a massage coming up in a while. That is, after I decide if I'm going to have Cebu lechon made into sisig or spaghetti with clams for lunch. Yes, life could be much worse, I must admit.
We arrived in Cebu a few hours ago on a pretty wonderful PAL flight that was on time. The lounge was full so I didn't get much to eat, but fortunately we had a choice of pancit canton or penne with tuna onboard. I even got to catch an episode of Just for Gags.
Then, upon arriving, I literally headed straight to the beach for some R&R (or not quite, actually, as I'm still on the Mac) after our wonderful concert of opera favorites last night in Manila, organized by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in partnership with TRAVELIFE Magazine and the Dusit Thani Manila.
The concert, which we opened to Travelife readers and Travelife Facebook and Twitter friends, featured Czech soprano Noema Erba, Filipino tenor and two-time Aliw awardee Conrado Ong and Filipino pianist, Professor Augusto Espino.
It was a stellar combination, especially as our soprano Noema and our tenor Conrado both finished magna cum laude in their respective music studies in the best universities in the country. Noema finished at the University of Prague's Conservatory of Music and Conrado finished at UP's Conservatory of Music. We literally had two of the most talented classical singers in the Czech Republic and in the Philippines on stage last night.
STANDING ROOM ONLY LAST NIGHT
We had a very full house of VIPs, dear readers and friends. We'd prepared 470 seats, which was the maximum the Dusit ballroom can hold in a theater-style seating with our large stage, and for the second half it was already SRO at the back.
The audience was literally swooning with delight over the lovely voices of both Noema and Conrado. The repertoire was excellent -- full of some of the world's all-time favorite opera pieces. And at the end, the crowd just wouldn't let the artists go.
Curtain call after curtain call came and shouts of "encore" reverberated practically all night -- that is, until Noema and Conrado finally sang everyone's favorite song "Time to Say Goodbye" in English and Italian. Then it was really time to reluctantly say goodbye.
What a beautiful evening -- and those of you who were thinking of going at some point but never got around to calling us for a complimentary e-ticket courtesy of Travelife Magazine really missed out on an amazing performance.
"I was in heaven," one lady told me afterwards, while another said, "My heart soared to the skies." Still another came up to me and said, almost in tears: "For an hour or two, I forgot all my problems. Thank you, Travelife, for giving me joy this evening." We've also been getting dozens of posts, texts and emails. And Meg at Travelife, who was coordinating with many of our readers for last night's concert, told me earlier that so many people are already asking her when the next event will be.
ATTENDING EVERY TRAVELIFE EVENT
You can imagine that all these comments made my day. Again, it was especially heartwarming to see so many -- literally, so many -- of our dear readers who have been attending one Travelife event after another, both paying events and free events, joining us last night. Many of them have joined us so many times that they've become friends. They know our staff and we know them. And they keep telling us that Travelife changes their lives.
LABORS OF LOVE
Each Travelife event is an absolute labor of love. No kidding. Just like the effort we put into our magazine, we put 200% effort into our events. They're not commercial events and we really try to make them special. This is also why we say "yes" so few times even if we're asked by lots of people to create or organize events for them.
Some of the hardworking members of the Travelife team
First, the performance or the reason for the event has to be world-class because we never do ordinary. I personally won't waste my time or put the name of Travelife on a so-so event. And second, we need to have enough time to plan the event properly -- again, because we'll never do a mediocre event, or an event just for the sake of doing something.
In fact, a foreign government entity I happen to like a lot asked me to organize a Travelife event for them last month and I really would have wanted to do so. Unfortunately, I was in Myanmar on the date they wanted, so I had to say no because I will not do an event I cannot personally oversee. That's how committed we are to excellence at Travelife Magazine.
Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar giving the opening remarks last night
FROM OPERA TO 8 TRACK
Anyway, last night, after an evening of opera songs, I joined my friend Gia and her friends at Strumm's to hear 8 Track play as they've started playing again on Mondays this month -- and last night Cita Revilla and Vicky Pangilinan were on vocals as usual, with the guys on the instruments.
It's been awhile since I just sat around enjoying 80s music, so I really enjoyed it. I also saw Francis Manglapus of the Executive Band there last night, and he told me that the Executive Band will be playing next Monday at Strumm's as well. So it will be Executive Band at 830 PM and then 8 Track afterwards next Monday, March 19, for those of you who are interested to listen to two different kinds of great music in one evening.
WORLD-CLASS FOOD IN MANILA?
My friend Choy also introduced me to an American chef and sommelier who'd worked at French Laundry in Napa Valley. And now he's going to be in charge of the food at an upcoming private club/ island resort. I then said to him: "With that kind of a background, why don't you open a world-class restaurant in Manila? We certainly need more of those."
But just then, the band started playing and he said something I couldn't really understand from across the table. But I figured out enough that he was too busy with his current very exciting job.
Then it was time to go to my third appointment for the evening. It was past 10PM and I still had one more place to visit, plus packing for my 9 AM flight to Cebu today. I had to tear myself away as being at Strumm's was exactly the kind of enjoyment I needed after a day's hard work. And as I walked across Strumm's, a couple of people in one of the tables stopped me.
"Congratulations tonight," the guy said, as the girl next to him nodded enthusiastically. "It was a wonderful evening. Thank you." They'd just been to our Czech opera night and they were at Strumm's too. Moments like these really make my day. And bring a few tears to my eyes.
PS: Thank you to Jun Reynales and Joseph Assad for these lovely photographs.
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