Crowne Plaza Ortigas

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Until I was invited by a good friend to attend his son’s birthday at Crown Plaza in Ortigas one weekend, I never imagined that one can enjoy luxurious accommodations in a top hotel’s presidential suite for a  rate one would pay for a regular room in Singapore.

And part of the benefits is breakfast at the club lounge, plus afternoon tea and cocktails in the same exclusive lounge.

The presidential suite is right beside the club lounge. The room is spacious, with a king bed, and all the amenities one would expect. The bathroom is adjacent, and is the size of another hotel room.

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The living room and dining is welcoming. There is a huge TV on the wall facing the sofa. The dining table sits 6. A bottle of wine and a selection of fruits and pastries welcomed me into the suite.

 

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Well I guess if the distinguished guest wants to prepare some food, there is a kitchen adjoining the dining room.

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I love the thoughtfulness. And the fact that there is a varied selection of beverages, including my favorite teas.

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The view may not be spectacular when you look down from your window, as the roofs of the nearby establishments are just at the bottom. But looking farther away makes one feel the magnificence of being on the top floor of this hotel, and in a presidential suite at that.

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As the hotel is quite popular and is easy to find, I am not doing a “How to get There” and not publishing their rates.

And by the way, the Seven Corners Restaurant is one of the top attractions of this hotel. Sadly, I was not able to take a photo as we were all busy partaking of the varied dishes around the many buffet tables.

I give this hotel a Perfect 10 for Value.

 

 

 

 

Degustacion and Tertulia

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The heritage town of Taal, Batangas, celebrated Philippine Independence Day with a weekend Art, Food and Fashion Festival.

The old homes were decorated with Philippine flags and the atmosphere was festive.

Villa Tortuga

Villa Tortuga

 

An art exhibit was nearby, with artists from UST on a reunion.

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Meanwhile, preparations for a fashion show were were being done at Paradores, the town’s premier hotel. A degustacion at Casa Feliza appealed to me the most so I went, having booked well ahead as there were limited seats.

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Why was it a must-go?

The menu is a mouthwatering version of dishes served during the Malolos Convention, prepared by Chef Giney Villar.

Researched by, and presented by Chef Giney

Researched by, and presented by Chef Giney

 

The event host was Elizabeth Angsioco, resplendent in a gown re-created from old gowns.

Beth with media person Howie Severino

Beth with media person Howie Severino

The town’s historian Dindo regaled the visitors with stories from the past, how Taal was also nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO Heritage list, about the festivals in Taal, all in his interesting Batangueno accent.

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To highlist history and the link to the Malolos Convention, a delegation from that Bulacan town was present, headed by their vice mayor.

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The guests included actors playing guardia civil, General Luna, and then president General Emilio Aguinaldo.

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Casa Feliza was home to Feliza Diokno, then the secretary of President Emilio Aguinaldo. Today, it is open as a taverna at the ground floor, and B&B at the second floor. For the degustacion, the table setting was nothing less than impressive.

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I was lost in the bliss of this culinary experience that I forgot to take photos of the dishes. So I instead took a photo of the dessert corner.

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Towards the end, a friend of the hosts recited a poem in Spanish. His original composition in English that he translated to Filipino and Spanish.

An event to look forward to in 2017.

Rodeo Festival 2016 Masbate, Philippines

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I have written about the Masbate Rodeo extensively for three years. For the 2016 rodeo, I will let photos tell the story. Like you were just there.

BARN DANCE: from the streets to the arena:

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MY FAVORITE CATTLE EVENTS

Bull Riding

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Carambola

 

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Wrestling from Horseback

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WATCH OUT FOR  MASBATE RODEO 2017. APRIL 18- 22, 2017

 

LAKWATSA

The 2016 Festival Logo The 2016 Festival Logo

The most exciting National Rodeo Finals is ongoing at the Masbate Grand Arena, with Awards night on the 16th.

I have been attending the festival for three years in a row, and I have booked my flight and my hotel for this year, too. Some friends are saying they will be in Masbate for up to 3 weeks, finding the rodeo week a rather short period to truly enjoy Masbate. Yes, Masbate is the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines, and hosts the biggest rodeo event in the Philippines. maybe even the biggest in all of Asia.  And on top of the rodeo, visitors will find side-trips to be so rewarding, seeing waterfalls, white sand beaches, centuries-old lighthouses, and many more attractions.

First of all, the Rodeo.

Masbate has the only proper rodeo arena in the country. Whereas all the rodeos I have visited make do with…

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Vigan Rodeo at Kannawidan

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Vigan celebrated a week-long fiesta highlighted by an invitational rodeo February 5-6, 2016.

the audience gallery

the audience gallery

 

the improvised rodeo arena

the improvised rodeo arena

Since this is an amateur rodeo competition with students from agri, animal science, and vet med schools from around Vigan were invited to compete. The organizers invited the country’s premier rodeo organization, the Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate, known as VROoM, the technical group of the Rodeo Masbateno, Inc. For perspective, Masbate hosts the biggest rodeo event in the country, in the National Rodeo Finals held for one week in April every year. VROoM handled the Vigan rodeo as guest officers, practically running the event – – from briefing the participants on the rules, to managing the stockyard, to managing the scoring, to managing the sequence of events and competing teams, to performing functions as timers, and to actual officiating and judging on all the events.

Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate (VROoM)

Volunteer Rodeo Officials of Masbate (VROoM)

The event started with a parade around the city, starting from the provincial capitol, and ending at the makeshift rodeo arena right beside the capitol. Opening ceremonies were held, with the singing of the national anthem, the oath of sportsmanship, the introduction of the participating schools, and the talk by the rodeo organizers. An intermission number ensued, courtesy of the office of the governor.

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cowboys and cowgirls dancing on the arena

Intermission: cowboys and cowgirls dancing on the arena

The Events

The rodeo events consisted of carambola (2-men, 2-women, 4-men, 4-women) wherein competing teams run to take possession of a cattle – – – the team to get a hold of a cattle’s neck “owns” it and so the other team will just have to chase the other cattle. They will then wrestle with the cattle and bring it to the ground and tie up the cattle’s feet. A good play is when the cattle is unable to get up from the ground in 10 seconds.

There is also casting down where players use a lasso to catch the cattle, and pulling the cattle until it falls, and finally tie down its feet.

There are also lassoing events where players need to be able to successfully lasso a cattle within a maximum of three throws.

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There were exhibition events of things normally done on the farm, like bull whipping, load carrying,  and log cutting. Plus fun games like egg carrying, and the Miss Rodeo competition where the team’s muses were scored on beauty and personality, talent, and intelligence.

Egg Throw/Catch

Egg Throw/Catch

The event ended with a big party on the second night, complete with catered dinner and entertainment. Overall champion was the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) Rodeo team, the same team that was champion last year.

Overall, the rodeo event was a success and, if Vigan continues to run the rodeo as professionally as Masbate’s VROoM officiated, they could well be on their way to becoming the Amateur Rodeo Capital of the Philippines, an expressed wish of the organizers.

VROoM Rodeo Director briefing the competing teams before an event

VROoM Rodeo Director briefing the competing teams before an event

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VROoM to the rescue when a cow jumped out of the arena and could cause great damage to people and property around the arena

VROoM to the rescue when a cow jumped out of the arena and could cause great damage to people and property around the arena

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Hotel Luna in Vigan

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I did not imagine Vigan will ever have a four-storey luxury hotel. And yet Hotel Luna blends with the heritage village perfectly.

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An old mansion has been converted into Hotel Luna, complete with a grand staircase leading to a spacious upstairs living room that has been turned into a museum. The rooms, typical of old-world mansions, are big. Mine was a Loft Suite (P11,000 per night) with probably 50+ square meters of floor area. It had a comfortable living room with an L-type soft cushioned lounge set, a desk, the coffee and tea bar, plus the wardrobe that came with a room safe. On the same level is a huge bathroom, the size of a room in budget hotels. It had a bathtub reminiscent of the old days, a bath tub with “feet”. The shower stall is separate from the tub. The lavatory is wide and came with a complete set of amenities. The toilet seat is high-tech, with all those buttons for the various functionalities, including warming the seat cover. They also have regular and de-luxe rooms. Please check the website listed below, where you can make inquiries on room rates.

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Breakfast was served at the COMEDOR, a lovely restaurant. The buffet  was sumptuous, and the choices were as varied as when I have buffet breakfasts in high-end Makati hotels. And artwork  enhanced the setting.

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A Ramon Orlina piece at the breakfast/dining area

 

 

The Museum

I first saw a hotel that had artwork by masters in a Baguio Hotel, and I found out Hotel Luna is also from the same group that owns and runs Le Monet in Baguio. The museum is at the second floor of the heritage building, from the grand staircase.

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La Mandolinera by Juan Luna, Year 1800

Lovers of art and culture will spend good time appreciating paintings and sculpture by national artists. Amorsolo. Vicente Manansala. Federico Alcuaz, Ramon Orlina.  BenCab. Eduardo Castrillo. Guillermo Tolentino. Arturo Luz.  Abdulmari Asia Imao. Malang. And even 1800s works by Juan Luna, plus a reproduction of his Spoliarium.

 

Sarimanok series by Abdulmari

Sarimanok series by Abdulmari Imao

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an Arturo Luz

an Arturo Luz

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Dos Marias by Federico Alcuaz

Dos Marias by Federico Alcuaz

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Guillermo Tolentino

Guillermo Tolentino, an untitled 1957 work

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BenCab

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Malang

Malang

 

a reproduction of Juan Luna's Spoliarium

a reproduction of Juan Luna’s Spoliarium

 

FOUR-STOREY HOTEL

Surely there were no tall structures in those days. The 4-storey structure must have been a beautiful addition beside the old heritage mansion. At the center of the 4-storey hotel area is a swimming pool with tables around for drinks and casual dining. On top of the     fourth-level , accessed via a scenic elevator, is the Azotea, the rooftop deck where my friends and I had drinks and bar chow.

The scenic elevator that leads to the AZOTEA

The scenic elevator that leads to the AZOTEA

Truly, Vigan has turned world-class with Hotel Luna.

portion of the ground floor lobby

portion of the ground floor lobby

Website: http://hotelluna.ph/

 

Subic: Ocean Adventure & Zoobic Safari and Convention Center

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Subic has consistently been one of my most-viewed blog posts. I guess it is because this R&R destination keeps on improving itself. The AdSummit #ADSUMMITPH2016 is actually being held now at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC) which was built for these huge ad industry events many advertising congresses ago.

Direk Joey Reyes was a hit

Direk Joey Reyes was a hit. He also said “Think like a fruit. When you mellow, you will start to rot”. How true.

 

words of wisdom

words of wisdom

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Thousands of ad men and women attend the Ad Summit. Many freebies, including Krispy Kreme where delegates queue for this free treat

Thousands of ad men and women attend the Ad Summit. Many freebies, including Krispy Kreme where delegates queue for this free treat

The hotels have also mushroomed. The Mansion Garden Hotel where I am staying is one of the sought-after accommodations. Nice, clean, and most of all it is the closest hotel to Meat Plus, Subic’s most popular restaurant.

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my suite

my suite

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LAKWATSA

I have been to Subic a lot. In one of my trips, with my wife, my daughter and her nanny, plus my driver, I won so much in the casino that the cost of the entire trip was more than paid for. As I checked out, I was given a promo stub to fill up. Apparently, all guests were entitled to a raffle stub with a trip to Malaysia for 2 as grand prize. I won that, too. Tubong lugaw.

Ocean Adventure

This is my daughter’s favorite. Within the park, visitors can watch a seal show, a dolphin show, a whale show, and actually swim with the whales. And ride the whales. The handlers took my daughter from the shore to the raft in what I thought was not possible. The whales were beached on the shore, and my daughter was asked to ride it and hold on to the…

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Masbate: Big City

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I have always been wondering how others who have not been to Masbate think of this place. To confess, I also had images of my 1978 visit ( small, backward, very very provincial)  when I returned in 2013. Back in 1978 there was only one hotel, located near the pier, where hotel staff delivered to my room a pail of water when I took a bath.

MASBATE PROVINCE

Masbate Province has a booming population estimated at 950,000 in 2016. Made up of 20 municipalities and 1 city. Two big islands, Ticao and Burias form the province’s First District. Masbate City and the towns around it, including the province’s biggest town of Aroroy form District 2. The Third district includes the big towns of Placer and Cawayan, the two most populated towns after Masbate City, and Cataingan, the farthest town that is close enough to Iloilo.

Ticao Island Resort is within the First District

Ticao Island  is within the First District

 

Most of the hotels, B&Bs and resorts are in the Second District

Most of the hotels, B&Bs and resorts are in the Second District

 

the Third District hosts more beaches and island resorts

the Third District hosts more beaches and island resorts

Around 80% of land in the province is used for farms and ranches, making Masbate a cowboy country, and officially the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines.

Get to visit a farm and watch how cattle is herded

Get to visit a farm and watch how cattle is herded

 

THE CITY OF MASBATE

Masbate today looks like any provincial city. No, not like the premier cities of Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao. It is the capital city of the province of Masbate, and the center of commerce. It is big and at the same time small. No traffic typical of the big cities. But has all the comforts – – it has malls and department stores, as well as the fast food joints that “define” how cities and towns have progressed. There are banks and other financial institutions that visitors will need to withdraw cash from ATM, or transfer/receive funds thru any of the “pera padala” centers.

Gaisano Mall

Gaisano Mall

Buy things for your gadgets in case you left them at home

Buy things for your gadgets in case you left them at home

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LCC, the largets chain of malls, supermarkets and express stores in the Bicol region is present in Masbate

LCC, the largets chain of malls, supermarkets and express stores in the Bicol region is present in Masbate

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as the provincial capital, Masbate City is where the universities and colleges in Masbate are found

as the provincial capital, Masbate City is where the universities and colleges in Masbate are found

The Grand Rodeo Arena is within the city

The Grand Rodeo Arena is within the city

 

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

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FASTFOODS AND LOCAL RESTOS

Sutukil is the best local restaurant, good food, very low prices

Sutukil is the best local restaurant, good food, very low prices

 

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WHAT TO VISIT WITHIN THE CITY LIMITS

Masbate is not just the Rodeo Capital of the Philippines. Within the city are tourist attractions, resorts, and resort hotels. Transport within the city is via tricycles and fare is only P8 per person.

Buntod Reef is a few minutes boat ride. White sands.

Buntod Reef is a few minutes boat ride. White sands.

 

Visit the Santo Entierro at the heritage house called Villa Bayot

Visit the Santo Entierro at the heritage house called Villa Bayot

 

a mangrove park at the Boulevard, near the hotels

a mangrove park at the Boulevard, near the hotels

 

the famous cowboy monument - - - this is rodeo country

the famous cowboy monument – – – this is rodeo country

 

the cathedral, at the city center

the cathedral, at the city center

 

Tricyles are easy to find, or are on queue in malls, fastfoods, and in many parts of the main street

Tricyles are easy to find, or are on queue in malls, fastfoods, and in many parts of the main street

 

The people are nice, and I have returned many times because of the many friends I have made. They have accompanied me to the different spots around Masbate and have had drinks with them in bars or in a “tambayan” at a friend’s carport.

One of the many bars and restaurants dotting the BOULEVARD area. This one is called "Kuya Nathan".

One of the many bars and restaurants dotting the BOULEVARD area. This one is called “Kuya Nathan”.

Another friend says he returns to Masbate every year not just for the rodeo, but to be with friends we have made. I personally truly believe that visitors go to a place to see interesting sights for the first time, and return to be with friends they made. Masbatenos are truly a wonderful breed of people, contrary to the image created in people’s minds resulting from the past. This is a New Masbate. Come visit.

Buy interesting pasalubong at Fazenda, found on the cathedral grounds

Buy interesting pasalubong at Fazenda, found on the cathedral grounds

 

WHERE CAN I STAY?

I recently wrote about accommodations options, to guide anyone wishing to see this beautiful island province.

20 Masbate Hotels and Other Accommodations Options

 

HOW TO GET TO MASBATE

Philippine Airlines flies daily to Masbate, leaving Terminal 3 at 5:05 am. Visitors will have one full day when they get to the city.

You can also travel by land. Buses leave Cubao and are loaded onto roll-on-roll-off boats between Pilar in Sorsogon and Masbate City such that visitors can travel direct from Quezon City to Masbate City. Travel time is from 16 to 18 hours. Visitors can also bring their cars and take the roro so they can travel around Masbate in their own cars.

Masbate is interesting year round. A bonus when you visit mid April is the Rodeo National Finals

Masbate is interesting year round. A bonus when you visit mid April is the Rodeo National Finals