Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Serendipity from Hong Kong to Forbes Park and the Makati Shangri-la

The Hawaiian  performers at the Makati Shangri-la tonight

Today's blog entry was supposed to be about Hong Kong, where I've just spent the long weekend and then some, meeting friends and having some nice meals, living a TRAVELIFE.

I was planning to write about dinner at one of Hong Kong's best steakhouses, or about my 15-course tasting dinner accompanied about 12 different kinds of wines at the equivalent of the chef's table at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong last night.

One of the 15 courses last night at Bo Innovation in Hong Kong

But these will have to wait as instead I feel like writing about today.


Today in Hong Kong started pretty early with some work and a bit of shopping. I walked around a couple of favorite stores and actually found some safari clothes -- outdoorsy brown jackets, military-style one piece dresses, khaki pants and crisp white blouses. And I don't know what got into me, but I bought myself a safari wardrobe.


If you've been following this blog, you'll know I've just been on the most amazing safari in South Africa last month, where we saw every animal on our wishlist except the cheetah and the black mamba, which is perhaps the deadliest snake in Africa.

Our account of this real adventure is coming out in the December-January issue of TRAVELIFE Magazine, out on the news stands on December 15.

It's got all the information you've ever wanted for a luxury safari, so please make sure to pick up a copy at the nearest bookstore.

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From the December 2012 - January 2013 issue onwards

Holiday issue on sale everywhere
from December 15

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On this safari last month, I didn't really wear real safari clothes -- and frankly, I was perfectly fine. I'd brought outdoor clothes and a thick denim jacket from Paris. Some days I was even wearing a sun dress.

But when I saw all these lovely safari clothes in Hong Kong this morning, I decided to get myself a new adventure wardrobe.

Looks like I'll just have to go on another safari this 2013 -- albeit another type of safari in a different environment. I'm thinking of a desert safari, this time, or one in the Ngorongoro crater.


And then before I knew it, there I was at Hong Kong's airport lounge having an email discussion with someone about the Top 10 restaurants in South Africa for 2012 while waiting for my flight.

I was on the 240 PM flight from Hong Kong to Manila. Fortunately we left Hong Kong and landed in Manila on time. I made it home in time to have 20 minutes to drop my luggage, change into cocktail attire, and then head for the residence of the ambassador of Japan, for a cocktail party to celebrate the Emperor's birthday.

Everything worked like nicely, and I actually arrived in time to hear the speeches of Ambassador Urabe and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario.


Interestingly, when I walked into the residence of the ambassador, I immediately saw several people I knew. And one of the gentlemen said to me: "Everytime I see you, you look completely different. I can't believe it."

Well, tonight, in honor of Japan's National Day, I was wearing a pretty dramatic dress by Issey Miyake.  And the last time I saw this gentleman was just before I flew to Hong Kong last week, at two different events; and I was wearing a very formal terno and a yellow Malaysian silk gown respectively, as I was emceeing both events.

No wonder he's getting a shock.


Tonight was one of those three-events-a-night evening. It's the start of the holidays after all. And to make all three events, I'd planned to stay about 45 minutes in each.

However, I saw so many people at the Japanese ambassador's party that I simply couldn't leave. Or eat or drink. I was just too busy catching up with a lot of friends and contacts. By the end of the evening, I'd had 5 more things added on my Blackberry calendar.


I was also really happy to see a very old friend who I actually hadn't seen for 20 years. We were very good friends a long time back and then we'd lost touch, although I always knew he was around Manila. But you know how it is sometimes, and how life gets in the way of keeping in touch.

Anyway, I was actually having a conversation with my former boss -- who is a very important person in the grand scheme of Manila life -- and an ambassador of a foreign country, when I saw this old friend from across the lawn, walking towards me and looking exactly as I'd last seen him 20 years ago.

I was shocked, surprised and happy all at the same time -- so much so that I actually left my old boss and the ambassador midway in a conversation to meet this old friend halfway across the garden and give him a hug.


I really don't know why we never kept in touch -- I'm sure it was my fault -- but I still remember how we'd met in the East Coast when we were both in college.

He'd come up from his college town to see some friends from Manila at an AIESEC international conference in Boston and I was one of the delegates to this conference. I'd met him on the conference's last day.

I ended up visiting the city where he was going to school -- he went to a very famous school -- just before I returned to Manila from the East Coast, and he was an excellent and fun guide around his city and his school.

Then, some years later, he actually ended up in Tokyo, my city, and this was how we became very good friends in two cities.

Seeing this particular friend tonight made me remember the good old days of college and just after that.


Then, it was on to another event: a Hawaiian dinner and performance at the Makati Shangri-la, with musicians and dancers specially flown in from Hawaii.

I was late, of course, but when I walked in, the music was bossa nova with a touch of the islands -- so mellow and appropriate for 930 PM. The group sang Hawaiian contemporary songs and traditional songs, and two very lovely dancers performed the hula.

I appreciated for the first time the gracefulness of the hula dancers. While watching them, all I kept thinking was: "I need to get myself some hula lessons..."

I even put that on our Twitter.


Later on, Erica Sotto, director of public relations of the Makati Shangri-la, joined us, looking radiant and so happy over all the good fortune in her life. Again, in hindsight, Erica is among those I wish I had had more time to keep in touch with, amidst a never-ending Travelife.

But today, with beautiful Christmas decor all around and Hawaiian music playing in the background, we had a very interesting conversation about luck, life and serendipity.

I need to get myself some hula lessons...

We were talking about the slings and arrows of life, and how things sometimes take the most unexpected turns. Erica said, with lots of wisdom: "Sometimes you just have to let go and allow serendipity to find you. Then the universe will hand you things you never even imagined."

And on this rather profound note, another day ended in my truly never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife. From Hong Kong to Manila, to Forbes Park and then to the Makati Shangri-la.

Forever on a Travelife.

The beautiful dancers from Hawaii


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