Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dutch Treat and another lovely evening in a Travelife

Tonight, I attended a cocktail party given by the Dutch Ambassador, H.E. Gijsbert Anton Boon Von Ochsee and his wife Madame Martine Boon Von Ochsee at their lovely contemporary home, filled with modern art works.

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Ambassador Boon Von Ochsee only arrived in Manila a few months ago.

So it was not so long ago that I used to visit this same house, designed by the architect Chito Antonio, as a guest of the previous ambassador.

Tonight it was very interesting to see the same house styled in a different way, both ways equally tasteful and beautiful in an understated manner.

With Ambassador and Madame Boon Von Ochsee

The first thing I noticed upon entering the house was that the lithograph of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was gone from its usual place.

I love this artwork as it is so simple but it captures the Queen so well; and my eye was always drawn to it first whenever I entered this house.

This lithograph is now in the main dining room, and it looks just as nice in this new spot as it did in the old.


The party was just the right size.

It wasn't a crush of people so that everyone had to stand uncomfortably in a crowded room. Rather, it was just enough to nicely fill two public rooms and the terraces and outdoor seating by the swimming pool.

And it was a very good, carefully selected assembly of guests. So many ambassadors who only make rare appearances in parties were there tonight. It was nice to see so many friends.

Tonight's party made me so happy to be living in Manila, actually, for some reason.


In this small town of ours, it's not unusual to see the same people at events almost everyday.

As long as I'm in Manila, in fact, I see some people so often at parties and functions that I end the conversation with "I'm sure I'll see you soon."

Some people may think this is rather claustrophobic, to be seeing the same people over and over again.

Team Travelife with Ambassador and Madame Boon Von Ochsee

But from another perspective, it's so nice to be with friends almost everyday. And this is how I've been feeling all week.

Tonight, for instance, I bumped into an ambassador of a very important country. I know I'm going to be with him at a sit-down dinner tomorrow night and so we talked about our mutual affection for the guests of honor of the dinner tomorrow night.


The manner in which Ambassador and Madame Boon Von Ochsee entertained tonight, too, was elegant but very relaxed -- and this made everyone relax as well.

This photo was taken at the end of the party

The food was laid out on two pretty tables in the main dining room, and the bar was on the terrace.

Meanwhile, bowls, plates and utensils were nicely arranged on the long sideboard in the public dining room. There were lovely flowers everywhere, including three or four tall vases of flowers that almost reached the ceiling.

Everything edible was made inhouse, and many of the dishes were done according to Madame Boon Von Ochsee's own recipes.

These were all delicious, and I particularly liked the couscous with sultanas and cranberries, the satay sticks, and the strawberry pavlova.


Because I like Ambassador and Madame Boon Von Ochsee a lot, and also because I was having a really nice and relaxing time in their gorgeous garden, I deliberately stayed behind when almost everyone else had left, to have a few moments with them.


Really nice music was playing all over the house and gardens, and it took me back to another era of old-fashioned and glamorous living.

I can't describe the music properly as it was neither slow nor fast; but I can tell you that it made me want to become an artist suddenly, and to just create things. Or to fly to Paris. Which is where I'm headed in a few months, by the way....

The music made me take my camera out to take artsy photos of the interiors, the home, and stolen shots of people.

I can't post most of the photos here for privacy reasons, unfortunately, but I can tell you that they're certainly inspired shots -- inspired by the great music and the lovely evening.

And then, because I still had a blog to write and a pretty long day tomorrow, before my never-ending Travelife for 2013 officially starts this weekend, I reluctantly said goodbye at around 9 PM.

By then, it was just us and a few young people I know pretty well, talking about, yes, the sweet joys of a never-endingly eventful Travelife.


All about a dozen new safari shirts. And how a good one is so hard to find.

Last night, as I was going home from the Peninsula Manila, after a very enjoyable dinner, I received a text message from an old school friend planning a trip to South Africa.

She'd been asking me for tips   and I'd pointed her in the direction of a very nice safari along South Africa's garden route.

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This highly-rated safari didn't involve flying in small planes, and it was luxe enough but still within reasonable price range.

It's a great "starter safari" for people who want as complete and as pleasant a South African experience as possible, rather than a hard-core animal-hunting type of safari in the middle of nowhere.

This was the plane we rode to Sabi Sabi

Those are fun, too, by the way, but they're not for everyone.


Anyway, she must've been happy with it, as she booked it for her trip.

As for me, yes, you might say I'm becoming a safari expert of sorts.

Planning a year of a Travelife....

Since I returned from South Africa late last year, I've been diligently planning my next safari and it's involved lots of research about safaris in general, whenever I have the time.

I'm into hard-core safaris now, but I still want the total luxury experience. In other words, no compromises.


In fact, I'd prefer the complete luxury experience, wow factor and all. And that's what I'm thinking of booking for my next one.

We'd done a fantastic safari at the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve in Kruger National Park last November.

It was great and perfect for an ultra-luxurious and semi-hard core type of safari.

Lunch at Sabi Sabi's Bush Lodge

It had the Big 5, the good food, the Out of Africa rooms, the private jeeps and dedicated rangers just for two people, and the wow factor in terms of design.

Nothing is left to chance at Sabi Sabi, as far as comfort is concerned.

At Sabi Sabi's Earth Lodge, we had a jeep, a tracker and a ranger
all to ourselves for our game drives.
The drives were incredibly personalized.

For my next safari, though, I still want the luxury and the wow factor. But I want a different kind of environment and scenery altogether.

And if you've been reading this blog, you'll know that I now have all the safari clothes for it anyway.


Anyway, my school friend texted me: "Hey, I went to R.O.X. today. There were no more of those safari shirts you mentioned in your blog! You really bought them all."

I laughed.

We'd been on text a few days before as she'd read my blog entry about a great safari shirt I'd bought on a whim at R.O.X. over the weekend. She told me then that she was planning to visit R.O.X. too, to see this very same safari shirt.

I'd then texted back: "You'd better hurry or I might beat you to it. I'm thinking of buying the rest of those shirts up."


It was true.

Good safari shirts are so hard to find. So when you find the perfect one, you shouldn't ever let it go. And, gosh. Doesn't that apply to people as well?

Anyway, back to me telling my old school friend that I was going to buy all those safari shirts, lock, stock and barrel.

I don't know why people don't really believe me when I say such things. When I say I'm going to do something, I really do it. There's no point in wasting effort on words without action.

in the December - January issue of Travelife Magazine
On sale everywhere until February 15

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So when I told my friend that I was really planning to buy up the rest of the stock of safari shirts, I was pretty serious.

The other day, Tuesday, I went back to R.O.X. and bought whatever was left of the safari shirts in my size. So when my friend finally made it to R.O.X., there were no safari shirts left.

Now all I have to do is finally book another safari in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife. 

Either that, or I'll probably have to think about a garage sale soon....


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

2013 Philippine Flow Fest on Saturday, February 2

The Philippine's first ever fire and movement festival is happening this weekend.

Philippine Flow Fest 2013: celebrating the fire and movement arts is a unique and one-of-a-kind event that is taking place this Saturday in McKinley Hill.

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One of the world's most famous fire/flow artist, Thomas "Nevisoul" Johansson of Sweden, is coming just for this event.

Also joining him are the following fire artists:

1) Ian Culp (USA)
2) Aifique (Malaysia)
3) Jana La Fae (Germany) 
4) Justina Flash (USA) 

The PFF 2013 will be a one-day festival that will bring together fire and movement art professionals and enthusiasts from across the country with the goal of showcasing these wonderful art forms through collaborative learning, workshops and community celebration.

Internationally, fire and flow arts communities and festivals are a growing trend and one that is spreading -- excuse the pun -- like wildfire.

With the recent development and exposure of these art forms nationally, the time is ripe to mount an event such as this.

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Workshops and exhibitions begin at 10am and these will be capped by a star-studded gala performance night, featuring the following:

1) Talendadong Pinoy 2012 grand champion fire hula hooper Daniel “Astroboy” Darwin
2) The fire queen of Boracay, Rachel Lobangco
3) Poi CDO
4) Flow Arts Cebu 
5) Planet Zips Luminaries


Other motion artists will be joining this unique event. These include:

1) Parkour Philippines
2) Pangalay Artist Circle
3) Belly Dancers and Pole Academy of the Philippines
4) My Masterpiece Movement
5) Piaget Martelino
5) Tony Piggott and friends 


Musical guests include:

1) Jonan Aguilar and Anak
2) Philippine Beatbox Alliance
3) CJ Wasu and Joey Valenciano on Tabla and Sitar
4) Flippin Soul Stompers
5) Robby “DJ Danger” Sanchez and Rick Sanchez
6) Brigada and Christina “DJ Badkiss” Bartges


10 - 1030 AM : Registration of flow art workshops. Opening remarks
1030 AM - 12 PM : Flow Arts Workshops
130 - 3 PM : Flow Arts Workshops
3 - 330 PM : Parkour Philippines / Philippines Tricking Exhibition
330 - 5 PM : Flow Arts Workshops
5 - 7 PM : Sunset open jam / drum circle / live art community painting mural
7 - 8 PM : Flow/Fire Arts Documentary Film screening
Gala night begins at 7 PM

Venice Piazza
McKinley Hill
Saturday, February 2
10 AM to 2 AM

Free your flow!


2 Greg Doyle dinners in 3 days at the Peninsula's Old Manila

Tonight began with cocktails in the Peninsula's kitchen,
followed by dinner at Old Manila, cooked by Greg Doyle

Tonight, in Manila living a Travelife, I was back at the Old Manila again for a second dinner cooked by Greg Doyle, one of Australia's most famous chefs.

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He's cooking at Old Manila for a week, until Saturday, and this is my second dinner in three days.

I'd been invited by two different people to dinner, you see, and I'd said yes to both even if the venue is exactly the same, because I happen to like both hosts immensely.

Greg Doyle sitting down with us on Monday

For me, these were two entirely separate events. And just my luck that the venue happened to be Old Manila, just when Greg Doyle is cooking.

Actually, Greg Doyle was the very good reason for people to get together for these two dinners.

How often do we get a top Australian chef in town, after all? Once in a blue moon. So, of course, it was a great "excuse" to have a dinner.


On Monday, Peninsula Manila GM Sonja Vodusek had invited the Australian ambassador and his wife, a multinational bank CEO, a prominent lady and myself to sample Greg Doyle's cooking on his first night at Old Manila.

We all knew each other very well, and so we spent the whole evening just talking about anything and everything. I so enjoyed this dinner.

It was one of the most relaxing evenings I've had this year.


Then tonight, I had an equally enjoyable dinner at the same venue, this time as the guest of Australian Deputy Chief of Mission Andrew Byrne and his charming and vivacious wife Dawn.

We were joined by another lovely couple, and again, I had a most wonderful evening.


We began the evening by dropping by the Peninsula's Kitchen Party, which was a casual tapas buffet party with food prepared by Greg Doyle, and held right in the ballroom kitchen.

Lots  of kangaroo on the menu tonight
at the Kitchen Party

The food was laid out on the kitchen counters, reminding me of the galley lunches held on cruise ships during the day at sea.


Peninsula Manila's #2, Oliver Duddler, enjoys his own party

People mingled about, tasting everything, and the mood was very casual.

Kangaroo burgers on offer

There were kangaroo burgers and kangaroo carpaccio, all kinds of cheeses, and a wonderful asparagus capuccino that Greg served drizzled with eucalyptus oil -- of all things.

Asparagus soup drizzled with eucalyptus oil

I drank the asparagus carpaccio out of a glass and immediately, the eucalyptus vapors wafted down me in one powerful stream.

I said to Dawn Bennett: "Great. I just drank my massage oil. Or at least something from my bathroom."

Lots of action at the Kitchen Party tonight


The combination worked very well, though. Who would have thought eucalyptus oil would go nicely in a soup?

I know it gave it a wonderful kick, because, back in Old Manila, I had this same soup again; but this time without the eucalyptus oil.

Boy, did I miss that powerful kick.

Anyway, after mingling with the guests at the Kitchen Party, we returned to Old Manila for a proper dinner.

It was really enjoyable.

The spices from the Bush on display at the Kitchen Party


And the food was superb.

Tonight was so good, in fact, that -- as I type this out at 1230 PM -- I'm trying to check my calendar for another lunch or dinner that's still open to have this meal tonight again before Greg Doyle packs up and leaves.

That's how much I like it.

I had a swordfish carpaccio to start and then roasted scallops to follow.


The piece de resistance tonight was the lamb shoulder, which is not actually on the menu.

But when Greg was running us through the dishes, he happened to mention that he could make a nice shoulder of lamb with some vegetables.

This is what I had, and it sent me to heaven. I would go back to Old Manila just for this dish again.

And on the way out, I saw Greg again. I said to him: "That shoulder of lamb was superb."

Greg replied: "That took 17 hours to do." No wonder.

If you're eating at Old Manila sometime before Saturday night, make sure you ask for the shoulder of lamb -- even if it's not on the menu.


We had so much fun tonight.

And in the lobby of the Peninsula, I bumped into one of the ladies going on a Travelife with me to Sri Lanka next week.

She said: "I joined everything! I said yes to all the optional things on the trip. I'm so excited."

Things like this are so nice to hear, especially after a long but really nice day, and an evening with truly wonderful people, in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.