Monday, August 29, 2011

Philippine Airlines vs Cebu Pacific Air

I love flying, there is nothing in the nature's stockpile of wonder than the gushing wind I feel(in my senses) when I'm airborne. Just lately, I paid Php1,7++ for my flight from Mania to Cebu and back, from August 25 to Sept 3 through Philippine Airlines(PAL). That cheap huh.

And I've flown on the Philippine's two formidable rival airlines so let me tell you how an account went.

That night when I just arrived in my hometown, my immediate supervisor called up, saying I am badly needed in the office on the next day. I said "what!?!?!? I just got off from a plane for crying out loud!!!" But we haggled and ultimately came up to agree that I will be back by Monday August 29.

Sadly PAL tickets are already sold out(it was a holiday and a long week end) so I have no choice but to fly through Cebu Pacific Air(Cebu Pac). I paid around Php3,3++.

August 29th, Monday, my dad took me to the airport. When I got into the check in counter, the Cebu Pac lady told me that the gate was closed, so I have to have my ticket rebooked and wait for my next flight. So I said like "what? my flight schedule was supposed to be 8:20AM, it is still 7:55AM!!!" She said it was closed 45min before scheduled flight. Damn!!!

I went back to the Cebu Pac ticketing outlet to have it adjusted, and I paid around Php1,9++ for that. Essentially, I paid a total that is tantamount to getting one-way ticket through PAL's regular tariff rates.

But the most disheartening of all is an uproariously aggravating experience flying with Cebu Pac. I have flown with them before, so I know and sworn in all goodness not to do it anymore. I just didn't have a choice this time.

First, the lady at the gate didn't even ask which part of the seating arrangement I want to be seated at. I always seat at the aisle because I have diabetes and diabetics like us suffered from excessive urination. I don't want to go through the hassle of inconveniently clearing off my path whenever I want to go to the lavatory.

Second, they don't even have that tube/bridge(I don't know what the right term is) that connects the boarding platform into the plane. What if if will rain, would they refund you on all your wet electronic devices? They can't even let you eat at the plane, much less refund your iPod Touch or iPhones. Even if I don't bring all my virtual concierge devices, I still have my MacBookPro inside my bag. It was raining when I landed but luckily the rain stopped when the doors opened.

And if ever they have one, it's just half-lane, only for the seat numbers 1-15. How heartless this airline company to have thought about that, what if a passenger is a sickly senior citizen. Do they have to go down the tarmac by stairs, walk at the scorching heat of the sun, and climb again at the stairs going to the plane?

Third, I don't mind PAL's Happy peanuts and Bravo biscuits. At least they serve tea and coffee which is all that matters to me. But with Cebu Pac? They don't have courtesy snacks on the plane, instead, they have games. That will only make things worse and cheap. They're the only airlines who mastered the art of cheap tactics, from dancing FAs (which only magnified the Philippines' agogo dancing republic notoriety to foreigners) to something that is akin to noon-time game shows. WTF!!!

Fourth, Cebu Pac has smaller planes. And smaller planes mean smaller engines, and smaller engines means slower speed. For a traveling businessman, this wouldn't be an option.

Fifth, I don't like the old airport. I like the Centennial better but that isn't something Cebu Pac has a control over with, so I will just let it slide. I don't like it because it's so unkempt and screaming for renovation. And there are no regular cabs in it, just airport taxis. So what I did is that I took the Resorts World service shuttle to take me to Resorts World and then took my cab there. The RW service shuttle operates 24x7 at a 30min interval. Of course, you have to be a Resorts World member to avail one. The only thing that I don't like at Centennial Airport is that all their wifi access points are not working.

I never learned from my first mistake, but this is a case where once is a lesson, but twice is never a choice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Legend of India: Cosmopolitan Indian cuisine

Tucked in the heart of Metro Manila's premiere business district, Legend of India is where I challenged my complacently-laden palate by trying out an Indian buffet.

You see, India has a culinary fare that somehow represents a diversity of some sort, from spicy hot to the conspicuous curry based dishes. And while some people are not really at it because of its non-mainstream taste, I took the road less travelled and trotted my way to Jupiter Street to have my lunch. They are convenienty located in between Makati Avenue and Reposo Street(now known as N. Garcia Street).

It was again a buffet, and while they have a limited spread, they have enough Northern Indian entrees for its price of Php290(from one of the groupon sites I subscribed at).

Legend of India is a cosmopolitan Indian restaurant replete with modern design of leather backed chairs and linen clad tables on contrasting black and white. The flat LCD slapped on its wall and the Taj Mahal mural behind a waterfall is a stark display of the uniquely appealing mix of Indian tradition and posh trend.

The menu for that day includes Navrattan Korma, Chicken Tikka Masala, Tomato Fish Sauce, Palak Paneer, Hakka Noodles, Chix Samosa, Hara Bara Kebbab, Aloo Boonda, Manchow Soup, Jelebi Dessert, Saffron Rice, and Garlic Naan.

Their noodles taste like a Filipino brand of pancit which I find just appropriate to acclimatize myself first before immersing into a purely authentic cuisine. The Chicken Tikka Masala is typically Indian, I can say that because I usually have a Chicken Masala on one cafe at our building every two weeks or so. Some things that makes my heart go fonder is the Chix Samosa, another stereotype but a necessary element to neutralize the spice. The Caramelized Jelebi is too sweet, so make sure you take it after devouring them all.

You can also order some cocktail and liquors at the bar to conclude your meal.

If having Indian cooks to prep your food is not enough to bolster its authenticity, I don't know what will.

Cafe Jeepney at InterContinental Hotel

Probably the only cafe thematically centered around the Philippine's uniquely iconic mode of transport, InterContinental Hotel's Cafe Jeepney is where I headed at last rainy Saturday. It is so because I took my gym session too inside InterCon's Gold's Gym Express. And knowing how repulsive I am to crowded places(as malls are during that day), that was viably the only option for dinner I can have.

Best known as a favorite hang out of some of the country's politicians, probably due to its feel good patriotic effect with the peculiarly design elements pivoting at the Philippine's colorful history and a day-to-day transportation for the economic workforce, the Cafe Jeepney is seated at the ground level of one of the longest running hotel chain in the country.

The restaurant's buffet offers a sumptuous fusion of local and international cuisine that includes spread dishes(Inihaw na Pusit, Barbecue Skewers, Chicken Inasal, Kare Kare, Salmon Caldereta, just to name a few), live cooking, and carving stations. But they also have the extensive array of desserts from Apple Walnut Caramel Crumble to Black Forest, Champagne White Chocolate Croustillant, Panacota, Fruit Platters, Mango Cheesecakes, and our very own Halo Halo. Did I mention they have chocolate fountain too?

You see, eating at smorgasbord setting has been probably my second profession(along with my astrophysics endeavor) that I know how not to waste my gastric space. So my rule of thumb would be a little bit of everything, start with the most expensive dishes, no water or any cold fluid in between, just hot soup enough to rid of your ickiness.

And unlike most who started with their dining habit with a soup or a salad, I took salad only at the end of the meal to aid my digestive track's workload and rid off my human bile system before the end of a day.

You can start off with bread, soups, and salads but since it was a buffet, I went directly into the main entree section. One that I particularly keep coming back are the live cooking station including liempo, squid, shrimp, beef tapa, and other grillables. Some sections that make me a buffet piranha are the Japanese maki and the sushi bar section, and the Chinese dimsum area. As expected, I concluded my meal with a sublime Crepe Samurai and a DIY Halo Halo.

Spending at 50% off from a groupon site, it was well worth it at Php808 price tag. Now, if you'd excuse me as I call up for dinner buffet reservations at Resorts World and Sofitel Hotel's Spiral buffet. ;)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Olives Restaurant at Thunderbird Resorts

I became an early riser in La Union because I cannot just flaunt my underclad glory and consequently subject myself to social disdain as I surface from the pool. No, I am not gifted with the build of Chris Hemsworth(Thor) despite my endless gym sessions, that is why I usually use the pool service when everybody else is still sleeping, as early as 7AM.

And after pool time, I usually have breakfast. As if I have a choice, there are only two resident restaurants in Thunderbird La Union, one is Vegas Cafe which opens on a regular business hour and the Olives Restaurant that serves breakfast as early as 6:30AM. So Olives Restaurant that is.

Olives Restaurant is known for its comfort food a la Mediterranean style. Although their menu is not as extensive as I expected, their flagship cuisine is rather the best in its class. I would say that their formidable specialty would be their pizza line as it is traditionally wood-fired, stone-oven done.

I just grab a 14" Thunderbird All-Meat Pizza(Php440 + 10% SC) made of tomato concise, mozzarella, beef, chicken, pork, mushroom and oregano, and an entree of Fettuccine with Seafood Alfredo Sauce(Php450 + 10%SC), and a Cranberry Juice(Php160 + 10%SC).

We used to have wood-fire oven before so I know how anything concocted in that fashion taste like, and I must say, the pizza tastes good enough. Although the pasta is oddly swimming on its sauce, it is sumptuous nonetheless.

I didn't try Vegas Cafe because the social crudeness in me is afraid to find jiggly-bottomed Vegas girls pole dancing while I wholeheartedly, wholesomely devour my food. What am I thinking!!!

Dayrit's Burger and Roast Beef House: Best roast beef in town

Right before we headed off to Thunderbird, La Union, we dropped by at Dayrit's Burger and Roast Beef House, Magallanes(I just knew that they already relocated from their branch at Buendia to Magallanes) to have a monstrous lunch as a precursor to our extensive 8hour journey.

It was a courtesy lunch from Han Jun(thanks Jun), so yeah, nothing best this world can give than free meals and free parties.

Dayrit's has been in the meat business, particularly the beef, ham, sausages, tocino, and corned beef, before commercialized restaurants went sprawling the metro. In fact, they may have acquired enough mastery in curing meats that their Roast Beef has been acclaimed by far the best in town. Even their fresh corned beef is forged in-house from scratch, so you can be assured of the freshness and quality.

So the typical eater in me ordered the proven recipe, Roast Beef Plate(Php300) Sirloin served with baked potato topped with cheese with bacon bits, vegetable, and a choice of bread or rice. And since I will have to endure a lengthy hour of travel, I choose rice instead of bread. And Mandarin Pork Spare Ribs(Php205), served with coleslaw and rice. And Special Iced Tea(Php50).

This is a restaurant with no fancy interior accolades, no bells-and-whistles, just pure unadulterated traditional dining space. Even their signage and menu is devoid of commercial touch and is just made from a computer printed cardboard.

We were slated to eat quick despite the gargantuan quantity because we will be going back to the hotel, where we came from, to get Jeff Liu who slept really late to prepare for his speech, and to fetch Philippe Nipshagen who flew all the way from Belgium.

Special thanks to Scott Humm for the group pic. I was darn too hungry that I forgot to snap right before we eat.

Dinner cruise at Prestige Cruise Ship

Have you ever had any childhood memories of US based TV shows being shown in our local channels? Knots Landing, Melrose Place, Falcon Crest, and Love Boat? Those were the TV shows our parents were glued at while we wrestle with them with rallying cry to switch channel so we can watch our favorite cartoons?

Once we hear Jack Jones singing "Love exciting and new, Come abroad, we're expecting you…. The love boat, soon we'll be making another run..", we know that Mom and Dad are into our singular living room TV set.

Just yesterday, I had that fond recollection(fond because I love the song nonetheless) as I step on the gangplank and the band sang the Love Boat theme.

I was at a Prestige Cruises Inc. yesterday to have my dinner, and more than that, to relish an unimpeded view of the breathtaking Manila Bay sunset.

Located at the harbor square of CCP complex, in between Jumbo Floating restaurant and Gloria Maris, Prestige Cruise has been offering cruise services that includes an hour and a half cruising while you challenge your gastronome with their buffet. The choices were scrimpy but for the price(I got it at 50% off voucher from a group buying site), I could't complain. They have macaroni salad and a roast beef as their main entree. and the rest were DIY salads, chips, and nuts and other hors d'oeures. I normally don't eat rice on a buffet but because their roast beef is so cheesy and tender, I feel like eating it without rice would make me a bit icky. The beef is a lot like tender sections of a bulalo.

If you would like to avail cruising services, I highly suggest booking in the week end 6PM slot so you can also see the spectacular fireworks of the SM Mall of Asia by the sea. Look at me, I acted out like a mutant controlling the fireworks a la gamma ray bursts as I screamed, "behold my powerrrrrr!!!"

It would have been a totally fantastic experience had they not move their boarding place from MOA to CCP Complex, and if they are easy to contact with for reservation(I literally spent one and a half day just to get my reservation).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thunderbird Resorts: Splendor of Santorini

The long 8hour drive, frequent stop over because of my weak bladder(diabetics like me suffered from excessive urination), the forced stop because of traffic violation (thankfully the traffic enforcer didn't confiscate the license), and the wrong turns that had us lost our way(we made a wrong turn from Magallanes so we ended up at the SLEX straight instead of Pasay) really paid off. Upon reaching the place, I was enthralled by the slice and splendor of Santorini, or something like it.

Nestled on a peninsula of over 65 hectares of prime property, Thunderbird Resorts is a Mediterranean-inspired hotel that offers much more than just a relaxing habitat but a prime complex with international casino, all-weather golf course, and the serenity of a beautiful landscape.

True enough, it's a slice of Santorini, even their cafe lobby is called Santorini Lounge. The place is teeming with a paradise resort perched in a 100foot cliff and a nice view of the ocean

All the more it became like an ambient luxury of Greece as friends from all races came in, American, Italian, Chinese, Taiwanese, British, Indonesian, Belgian, etc. It was a wedding celebration of West-meets-East after all, Andrew is from New York and Mariss from Baguio.

A world class, modern comfort awaits one when you enter inside the hotel complex - sizzling night life, diversity of entertainment, and the innovative dining. Some NFF who were there includes Kira Blaco, Scott Humm, Stephen Hennessy, Chloe Hardwood, Marcel Sutanto, Wai Chung, Sarah Jessup, Philip Nipshagen, Jeffrey Jin Liu, Marianna Convertino and her wonderful Mom.

My three day stay was all worth it.

Thunderbird Resorts is located at Poro Point Freeport Zone in San Fernando City, La Union. Be warned to be slaved by your seatbelt for 8hours to get there.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

My first encounter with Stephen Hawking was during college via his vociferously popular book "The Brief History of Time." I was still going out with Opus Dei group by that time but never formally enlisted. Simultaneously, I was also an officer of the school's astronomical society that time. So yes, I am as secular as I am scientific.

Lately I got a book by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow from Amazon CN. For those who have been caving out in the glaciers outside the reach of human civilization, Stephen Hawking is a renowned Birtish Theoritical Physicist suffering from a rare motor neuron disease, locking him in his computer-integrated wheelchair, a lot like the one used by Dr. Charles Xavier, except that Xavier can freely talk, while Hawking needs a voice synthesizer to verbally express his idea. Charles looks vigor, Hawking looks like a vegetable.

He is known for his ground-breaking work on gravitational singularities in the framework of relativity and of course, Hawking Radiation, theoretical concept pivoting on Black Holes emitting radiation.

I remember him being immersed in a heated public disgust for splashing in a British newspaper that God didn't create the universe, that the entire comic landscape is a maelstrom of millions to billions of years of processes framed by our universe's laws of physics. I, just as other people in my field, believe in the same seeding concept. But that doesn't mean that we don't believe in God. We do, but not a personal god. 90% of the world's Nobel Prize scientists believe in God to be more than what we could ever imagine, not a form of energy, not an guiding ether, not a living historical figure, but everything around us and beyond. It took me to study well on M-Theory(Membrane Theory) before I begin to understand the real epitome of divinity. Even humans are a divine speck from the whole strings of matter(String Theory) to the interlocking dimensions, membranes, and blobs. I see the study of M-Theory to be tantamount to looking at a thumb mark of God.

This book is just an encapsulation of quantum mechanics and general relativity in a non-technical language of sub200 pages, explaining how the universe evolved by gravitational law, up into the spontaneous creation of stars, nebulae, planets, moons, and space rocks. It also dispels our very notion about reality and what constitutes it from a quasi-psychological perspective. And to answer, why is there something rather than nothing.

While some may find Stephen Hawking to be annoyingly liberal like modern-day Galileo against Vatican, he is considered to be a rockstar of science by some. Other notable figures that might interest you in the same field would be Neil De Grasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, Carl Sagan, and a lot more.

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