Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Beil Family, Miesbach, Germany

I have a very good family friend in Germany, they live in Miesbach in the southern state of Bavaria, Christian Beil and his Filipina wife Astrid, and their two sons Luis and Simon. This family has hosted me twice in their house in Germany, in October 2003 and in November 2008.

Christian briefly worked here in Manila as a consultant for GTZ, then he met Astrid, his officemate, and several Filipino divers. One of such divers, Mark Agaloos, is a good friend of mine, my "best man" actually in my wedding, and he introduced me to Christian and the other divers. I was the only non-diver who used to hang out with the group then, way back in 2000-2001 I think. 

Last week, Christian emailed us and sent these fantastic photos, below, for their Christmas greetings. Simon is probably 11 years old now, Luis is about 6 years old.

The boys are big now, am happy for Christian and Astrid. Miesbach is at the foot of the mountains of Bavaria, so they near the snow area. The boys love the ice.

Upper photo below, I think this is in Salzburg, Austria. Christian brought me there too in 2008.

Look here, a huge lego car, by Hyundai, not BMW or Benz or Audi.

In 2008, after my week long seminar in Gummersbach near Cologne, organized and sponsored by the FNF, I took the train to Miesbach. I arrived there evening. The next day, Christian immediately brought me to a nearby mountain! What could be a one hour hike became nearly two hours as my legs and lungs were in deep rust for such a hike.

And the next day after, Christian brought me to a glacier in Austria, my first and last visit to a glacier! It's 3,029 meters above sea level, much higher than Mt. Apo, the Philippines' highest mountain at around 2,990 meters.

The two boys in November 2008. Lower photo, with Christian's father (leftmost) and mother (between me and Christian) and their friends. I think that was my last day in Germany that time and would fly back to Manila the next day.

Christian, Astrid, thanks again for all the hospitality. See you again here in Manila, or I hope to go back to Germany again in the near future.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays.

See also:

Salzburg, Austria, February 16, 2009

Miesbach, Germany, February 17, 2009

Bavarian Mountain, Germany, March 07, 2012

Morong Star Beach Resort, Bataan

After checking out of Phi phi resort also in Morong, we checked this place, it’s huge with many water facilities and they have only one pair of guests. The mini zoo – ostrich, wild boar, goats, turkey and chicken, etc. – is also open. Also a hanging bridge. We immediately liked it.

Next question is how much is a deluxe room, air-con for four people plus a toddler, the staff immediately offered us a discount. A beach front deluxe room on the 3rd floor, standard rate at P5,000 a day to be given to us at 25 percent discount, down to P3,750. I haggled for P3,500, they agreed, so we’re in.

I borrowed their trisikad and pedaled the two girls to the ostrich. Elle Marie is covering her nose, some bad smell from the wild pigs’ poopoo, just beside the ostrich cage.

They have a bridge towards the sea but under repair that time. Well they have other facilities that are closed and “under repair” but those that are open are still many. The wild pigs lower left, and the two swimming pools lower right, I took from the rooftop of the 5th floor.


Another view of the bridge to the sea, from the 5th floor. Elle Marie and my wife Ella lower left, Bien Mary and her ate Ann, lower right.

The children's playground. Not real animals, of course. Lower photos, the kiddie pool.

The beach front cabanas. I did not ask their daytime rates, but the staff gave us free access if we wanted them.

Mountains and the sea. That’s what one will see in Bataan, Zambales and many other provinces in the Philippines. If shot on a panorama, the lower photo is just the continuation, right side, of the upper photo. So the mountains and their trees, coconut and other crops at the lowland, then the sea and its fishes and beach resorts. Nice place.


About the food, they cook well. Since we were one of two guests that time, the whole dining area was just for us that night, the other guests ate at their room. Nice music. In front of the dining area is the basketball court. I borrowed their trisikad once again, the two young girls took turns riding in it, I pedaled around the court.

Northern view, towards Subic Bay, covered by the coconut trees.

 It was a relaxing stay at Morong Star. I particularly like the staff, they are very friendly and courteous. I did not ask for a basketball and one staff just gave me the ball, should I want to play with it. Then I rode the kayak, another staff called me from afar, I thought there was any problem, he just wanted to give me a life vest, just for my additional safety. 

Should I recommend this resort to my friends? Yes, definitely. But it depends, if they go there at peak months starting late March to early June, April and May especially, things will be drastically different. There will be hundreds of guests, it can be crowded and noisy. So I recommend that they visit this place in the non-peak season.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Phi Phi Beach Resort, Morong, Bataan

Last Saturday night, December 22, I posted this in my facebook wall,

Merry christmas, friends. Here in a modest beach resort in morong, bataan with my family. After many long days of work + some christmas parties, my body really needed a rest. My two young girls enjoyed d clean sea.

Thanks to friends who liked it, 70+ of them. 

We stayed at Phi phi beach resort and hotel. Clean beach, two swimming pools, each with kiddie and adult pools, clean guest rooms. It has wifi, free, but only at the reception area, none at the guest rooms.


Our deluxe room for four persons + toddler is p4,200 per night, air con w/ cable tv, two wide beds, 1 extension bed, hot water, no breakfast.  

There are many beach resorts there, just about 10 mins from Anvaya Cove and not far from Morong town proper: Bonito, Coral view, Sunset view, La Playa, I think not less than 10. Silent and sleepy area, no karaoke, people are friendly.

Just google "beach resorts in morong bataan", the resorts have their own websites, professionally designed. Of course many photos look nice than the real thing, but they give a good idea abt the resorts. 

A short stretch of beach, about 400 meters long, is shared by about 6 neighboring resorts. So they are alll elongated to acommodate many guest rooms, two storeys. No There is one nearby small fishing village but it is clean, the folks do not litter their garbage. I would assume that most resort staff are residents of this village, so they will also be adversely affected if the beach resorts are dirty and do not attract many tourists and visitors.

Below, my two girls and wife frolicking in the water. No stones, just plain sand, it's safe to walk barefoot in the sand. It's not white sand though like Boracay, but no problem.

There are several boats for rent for those who want to have a joyride around the sea. More photos of my girls below. Sea breeze is really relaxing.

My elder daughter Elle Marie's back after one day at the beach and the pools :-)

For foreigners, safety is good, food is ok too, not the fine dining restaurant type though. Beer is expensive, P60 in can, P50 in a bottle.

On our way there, we passed by Anvaya Cove of the Ayala Land. At the gate, I called up my sister if she's a member as I wanted to enter, but no luck. I know no one who is a member there that I can give to the guards, so I left.

Some observations in subic as we passed by. If it is a real freeport w/ minimal govt bureaucracies and taxes, it shd be a huge commercial, industrial, financial and tourism area now,20 yrs after the americans left. Many areas in subic remain sleepy, idle and undeveloped.

How to go there from Manila: Take NLEX, then SCTEX, Tipo/Subic exit, to Subic airport, Zoobic Safari, exit at south/Morong gate. Pass by Anvaya Cove, to Morong town proper, municipal hall,  about two kilometers or less than five minutes from there.

Distance from Subic commercial area (Puregold mall, Petron, etc.) to the resort is about 32 kilometers. Or from Subic/Morong gate is about 14 kilometers.

Toll fees were high, P218 at NLEX, P168 at SCTEX, then P22 in Subic. But at least travel is  smooth and fast.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

UP Lantern Parade 2012

The University of the Philippines (UP) lantern parade is among the unique annual festivals held in the country. Participants are all colleges of the UP Diliman campus, the major offices like the Office of the UP President, the UP Concert Chorus, the nearby campuses like UP Manila and UP Pampanga, and some student organizations based in UP Diliman.

All photos below did not come from my camera, I got them from the web, just google "UP lantern parade 2012 photos".

Thousands of participants as the different colleges bring in their faculty members and students, they have modest lanterns or exhibits which are either pushed or carried by people or mounted on a truck or a pick up. And there are several more thousands of spectators and visitors. It is a festive and joyful exercise done every year.


Last Friday night, December 14, I attended the parade, after more than a decade of missing it. I brought my  family and even my two young girls appreciated the various lanterns and the festivities. We sat at the Palma Hall steps where parade participants show off their wares and talents.

The most impressive lanterns for me were the following.

First, the UP College of Fine Arts (CFA). This group is a hands down winner each year in the parade competition. Since last year I think, they have been “disallowed” in the prize category because no one, not a single college can put up a serious competition to them. But they are given a special award or citation for their endless and non-tiring effort at entertaining the public. This year, they have a long parade of various lanterns, ranging from scary characters like a monster cockroach and monster “”aliens”, to children characters like tinker bell and forest fairies, to airplanes and different fishes, large and small. The CFA guys are really cool. Their annual participation is almost always the “highlight” of the UP lantern parade.

Second, the UP College of Human Kinetics (CHK). The participation and exhibition by the world famous UP Pep Squad was really awesome. Beautiful young men and women performing high acrobatics like throwing three girls high up in the air, the girls make 2 or 3 somersaults before landing on their back in the arms of 4 boys catching them. Even my two young girls were speechless at those acrobatic performance. The college also paraded the various UP sports teams – swimmers, divers, rowers, others.


Third, the UP College of Engineering (CE). For one, they have the most number of participants, hundreds of students from the different departments (Chemical, Industrial, Civil, Mining, etc.) participated and have their respective lanterns. One department showed a transformer mounted on a truck: an innocent-looking jeepney that later transformed into a giant robot standing high in a ready to fight stance, fascinating.


Fourth, the UP Babaylan. This is an organization of gays, lesbians, transgenders. Their costume was fantastic, some in two-piece attire. One participant looked like a real woman. They are cool and are very open about their chosen gender.

My college, the UP School of Economics (UPSE) also participated, the Dean and some faculty members were there, plus school administration staff and many students. They brought a replica of a bull mounted on a truck, to represent the bullish picture of the economy.

These two guys, they simply danced on a pick up and having a good time, the crowd cheered them as their dance were really funny. 

Fireworks at the University Avenue, in front of the Oblation and the UP Administration building. I did not see this, we went home past 7pm. I think the fireworks were set off past 9 or past 10pm.

I did not like the prolonged mini-rally of the activists like the League of Filipino Students (LFS). They held up and delayed the parade of the Fine Arts, Babaylan and other more colorful, more entertaining participants. 

Well, the lantern parade attracts not only the most creative but also the most mediocre minds in UP. We see both of them there, and others in between.   

Philippine International Convention Center

The Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) was the foremost venue for big regional and international conferences in the country in the 70s and 80s. It has huge space inside and outside the building. Manila Hotel and other big hotels in Makati could also host huge conferences but PICC was built mainly for conventions and conferences, no guest rooms.

I have been to PICC before but only for short visit and not for a conference. My first attendance to a conference there was last November 27-29, 2012, during the one-day Philippine Economic Society (PES) then the two-days Federation of ASEAN Economic Associations (FAEA) conference. The elongated lights at the lobby are quite interesting.

I took several shots from different angles at the 3rd floor looking down the lobby and main entrance.

This is definitely among the top attractions of PICC. Other than that, the lobby is mainly lonely, unless in really big conferences and guests are congregating there, before they go up.

Outside PICC, there is a nice view of the garden and surrounding structures. Here, the Coconut Palace partly covered by coconut trees, and Manila Bay. Lower photos, the buildings and hotels fronting Manila Bay.

Lower photo, view outside the 3rd floor. Inside are several meeting rooms, from small to large ballrooms.

Still outside the 3rd floor, a view of the Manila Film Center (right), GSIS building, other structures. Below, Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel.

The front garden of PICC, facing the Folk Arts Theater (FAT)

It's Christmas time, Peace on Earth. Front of PICC at night. Lower photo, part of the garden.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) I think, is the one managing the PICC. I think they should privatize it, get the money and retire some of the public debt of the Philippine government, or use it as a trust fund to significantly reduce if not abolish the travel tax for Filipinos travelling abroad.

Private hotel groups will be able to remodel it and attract lots of visitors, local and foreign. Something that the Philippine government can still earn lots of revenues through VAT, other taxes.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Crowne Plaza East Kowloon, Hong Kong

This is a newly constructed hotel. It was opened only in late September this year, so we are among the newest guests of this cool place, yes. I am here as one of the international participants of the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia conference, sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and the Lion Rock Institute (LRI). I checked in last November 5, conference November 6-7, and will check out tomorrow and fly back to Manila.

It’s a tall building, 43 storeys high. I took this from the 1st floor, outside the main ballroom. Details here,  http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/crowneplaza/hotels/us/en/hong-kong/hkgtk/hoteldetail

A huge driveway with a water fountain in the middle. This is shared by three tall buildings – Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, and Vega Suites. And it is connected to a modern mall leading to Tseung Kwan O MTR station.

View from the 1st floor, at the main restaurant. Below it is the main lobby. Cool, artsy design.

The marbles look high end. Here is the front of the six fast elevators. Neat and cool. Then inside the elevator, there is a small tv monitor that features some of the hotel’s amenities, with background soft music. I remember my hotel in NYC, the NY Marriott Marquis where I stayed in March 2009. The tv monitor in the elevator gives international news updates, and it hops really fast.


Ahh, our room. We are at the 38th floor, it’s cool. I brought my wife and two young girls. My hotel and plane fare is shouldered by the organizer, so I and my wife just shared for their plane fare. HK-Manila is just 1:45 hour away and there are budget airlines to take. My two girls like their bed, and a huge flat tv to watch the cartoon network.

Nice view from the 38th floor. Holiday Inn Plaza is equally big and tall. Hong Kong is famous for thousands of tall buildings. It has few flat land, it’s mountainous, so whatever flat land there is can easily be snapped for building high rise structures.

The toilets, neat and nice. Upper photo is the male toilet near the ballroom, lower photos the toilet in our room, the hallway.

I am not an art-loving person, but from time to time my eyes would be fascinated by some art works. Like this wall in the ballroom or conference hall. And those hundreds of hanging glass fishes on the ceiling. Cool.

I like this hotel. Well, I’m not really a frequent traveler, and each hotel should be unique. I have enjoyed my stay here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jeeves Manila

I am not into high end clothing and much less, laundry. My clothing are very basic with just few coats for some formal events like attending conferences in hotels or major Rotary events in our district. But last week, I attended a formal opening of a high end laundry shop in a five-star hotel, the 3rd shop of Jeeves of Belgravia Manila at the New World Hotel in Makati.

Our District Governor (RI D3830) in Rotary Year 2006-2007, Raphael "Butch" Francisco, the CEO of Jeeves, invited us to a fellowship during the formal opening of their 3rd shop last October 24. It was also my birthday, nice timing to have nice food and nice drinks in a hotel for free :-) I treated my family to a simple family dinner at a Chinese restaurant the night before.

Below, pretty Maling Francisco, the wife of Gov. Butch and I think CFO of Jeeves. And the twitter account of Jeeves, I just followed it.

Below, I think this is an original Jeeves shop in London. Gov. Butch's nice photo there. Further below, I think their 2nd shop in Manila, in Greenhills.

There were many guests that night at the New World Hotel shop. One British guy, I think he's from the UK Embassy, Sen. Koko Pimentel, Past District Gov. Guiller Tumangan, many others.

And of course, my "classmates" in Rotary during our term, "Lead the Way". There were several photos that night, but these two I got from the facebook photos of classmate Rose Acoba (seated right most upper photo, beside my wife Ella). Gov. Butch and Maling are in the middle, standing.

Thanks Gov. for that wonderful evening of good food, drinks and music, and good company with my classmates and other friends. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Palawan Tour, by Patty Soliman

This is a guest post by a good friend, Patty Soliman. Patty and hubby Noli, were my housemates in the 80s where we stayed for free in the house of another good friend, Monchit Arellano, in Marikina.

Amazing Trip to Puerto Princesa

By Patty Soliman
19 October 2012

October 15, 2012 was the first time Noly and I set foot to this amazing place called Puerto Princesa. When my sister Tricci asked me last February where I would like to go, I immediately said, Puerto Princesa in Palawan. I never thought she was serious booking us right away when she got a promo from Cebu Pacific. I chose to have the trip in October since Noly and I celebrated our 26th Anniversary last Oct.11.

I started searching everything I need to know about the place through the help of those people who've visited the place and made their blogs through Google. And it helped me a lot. Where to dine, places to visit and of course the pocket money more or less I should prepare. But that was also being taken care of. I even made our itinerary for the entire 3-days trip and secured medical certificate for Noly. Just in case someone asked. Two weeks before we leave for Puerto, I called up my cousin, Levi Evangelista whom Ive never seen for the past 20 years and told him I hope to see him there. He was delighted to hear from me again and even told me to call him as soon as we arrived.

Waking up as early as 3AM started our day preparing for this trip as we need to be at terminal 3 by 6AM. I can't complain why she booked our trip to 830AM flight. Contrary to what I hear about Cebu Pacific, there was no delay in our flight and our plane touched down exactly as what was indicated in our tickets. It was the most beautiful 9:10 AM I ever appreciated with full of excitement wondering how would this vacation is going to be. We were picked up from Puerto Princesa Airport by our hotel shuttle.

We checked in at A&A Plaza Hotel and funny, the room given to us doesn't have any windows. It felt like we were in a big cabinet. Good thing both Noly and I are not claustrophobic. As promised to my cousin, Levi, I called him as soon as we settled in our room. He then told me that his son will show us around the city. He was apologizing that he cannot join us due to unexpected matters from work.

His son, Avin, met us at the hotel lobby at around 11:30AM and drove us to Bilao at Palayok. Told him to drive us there as it was the one indicated in the itinerary I made. The first meal we ever ate in Palawan, and can really tell how fresh the fish was. We ordered Grilled Tuna and Beef Lengua. Tuna was really fresh and the Lengua was cooked with cream and Banana Heart and really taste good. Right after lunch, we headed to our first destination, The Crocodile Farm. We parked our van in front of those souvenir shops and were already excited to buy Sky his pasalubong. We paid our entrance fees and went straight to where a little information about Palawan Crocodiles was given to us. We then first saw those cute crocodile hatchlings placed in rectangular deep basins. The big ones were placed in bigger cages with shallow water. The biggest we saw was about 11ft. long. Some tourists were given the chance to feed those middle-sized crocodiles from the hanging raw meat. We made our tour high top from those crocodiles.

Other Palawan animals were introduced to us, like the Kalaw, Bearcat, and Peacock. I never thought we also have Peacocks here in the Philippines and it is called Peacock Peasant. Noly had the chance to try having picture with a Bearcat. It scares me to try, so I was contended to just stand beside him with a huge Bearcat on his shoulders.

Next in our itinerary was supposed to be the Butterfly farm but I begged off. We've seen a lot of Butterfly Farms in other places. So Avin showed us the Mitra Ranch. Upon approaching the place, I felt a familiar atmosphere and Avin told us that the place is similar to Tagaytay. I guess so, because there was a sudden change of coldness from the breeze. It was amazing to see Honda Bay from Mitra Ranch. Our next stop was the Baker's Hill. Noly was delighted to see rare plants while I enjoyed looking at those statues around. He even wanted to buy some plants but I stopped him from buying, not only that it was a bit expensive, told him, we might have difficulty bringing it to Manila.

We then went back to the City proper to buy the pasalubong pearls I promised our daughter at Delma Pearls and Souvenir shop. Noly then chose to buy also for his sister and a Palawan Printed Crocodile shirt for our little Sky. While we were busy buying, we were surprised by my cousin Levi. Finally meeting him again after 20 years! He then took the privilege of showing us the Bay walk, Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral and the Plaza Cuartel while Avin, went to fetch his mom and his other siblings for the dinner Levi set for us. Our City Tour end around 5:30 PM. Levi then, brought us back to our hotel to shower. It was tiring though since we were up since 3AM but it didn't stop us to look forward for the dinner date with Levi and his family.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Galerie Joaquin and the UPSEAA

My appreciation of painting and other artworks can be compared to the appreciation of an average grade schooler of calculus or advance algebra. Nahh, just kidding. I appreciate music, classic rock music especially. But painting, not much. Not only that they are generally expensive for me, my interest of them is generally passing.

But last September 18, 2012, I joined a number of fellow UP School of Economics (UPSE) alumni in trooping to Galeria Joaquin to see lots of beautiful and rather expensive works of art. The galerie is owned by Jack Teotico, a kind hearted and former President of the UPSE Alumni Association (UPSEAA).

It was actually a fund-raising activity by the UPSEAA. Prices of each art work were as is, no discount. But whatever profit margin by the galerie for the sales that night will all go to the UPSEAA fund as the association is helping our alma mater have a great 50th year anniversary in 2015 or just three years from now. There are grand plans for the school such putting up a new school building, expanding the scholarship fund, creating more professorial chairs, and so on.

That is why I said that Jack is a kind hearted entrepreneur and alumni of the school. Every year, there is a general alumni homecoming, sponsored by graduates 25 years ago. And every year, Jack would donate some art pieces to the school for bidding. Whatever amount to be raised will all go to the SEAA fund. Jack is definitely among the most gallant alumni of the school.

There are other rich alumni too, who gave substantial amount to the school, mainly to modernize each classroom. If you see the classrooms there, you will be impressed, they are word-class lecture rooms with high tech facilities -- all from donations of alumni. The taxpayers subsidy alloted for the school only goes for the maintenance (electricity, water, books, office supplies, etc.) as well as salaries of faculty and staff.

Me, I went there just to eat as I knew that Jack would prepare really yummy food for all guests, buyers or plain kibitzers. I was not disappointed as the food was really nice. But I was disappointed also because I thought that there would be some medium or high octane drinks, say 17 percent alcohol content red wine or even 5 percent serbesa, there was none. Disappointing Jack! :-)

There were lots of juices, soda and water.