Thursday, December 31, 2015

In-room dining and year-end greetings

We don't usually order in-room meals as we prefer to go out and eat out or at least at a hotel's restaurant. Of course, the better hotels would have really good and even excellent food. Fortunately for us, two of our favorite hotels in Metro Manila where we usually stay at for those short 'staycations' or overnights have great meals to offer for in-room dining. I forgot where I saved the photos from Marriott but following are some photos of our dinner care of room service at the Sofitel.

Bento box with sukiyaki and tempura for the Clairvoyant
Sauces and spices for the bento box
Teriyaki meatballs for our little one
Indian food for me
Fruits for dessert

The food we ordered for in-room dining at Sofitel was good but I thought the food we ordered at Marriott was better and in more generous servings. One order at Sofitel was definitely good for one person but an order at Marriott was good for two (even if you were really hungry and could eat more that the usual single person servings). The Clairvoyant was saying that this compares with the amount of food we ordered for breakfast at our hotel in San Diego, CA last May. The photo below shows a single order of breakfast consisting of bread, cold cuts, fruits, juice and coffee.

We decided to order in as our daughter was a consideration. She can stay put for a while during her meals but eventually wants to get off her seat and wander off. Our experience during breakfast at Marriott led us to decide against eating at the Veranda or at Spiral at Sofitel. Of course, there will be a next time and I'm sure our daughter will get to enjoy the buffet breakfast at Spiral.

I wanted to end the year writing about food. I think food is associated with a lot of good memories especially among loved ones. We always share the food that we have whether its for a feast or a simple meal. Our expressions say a lot about how food is integral to our ways. "Kain tayo!" and "Hapit anay!" are common to me and in whatever language the offer to share food and drink is an expression of peace and of good will. The ways our mothers cooked the food we ate at our tables are expressions of love. And so I end the year greeting everyone with a happy meal and wishing everyone more happy and loving meals to share in the coming 2016!


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Of foggy mornings and a warm December

The late and last typhoon this year to affect Metro Manila and our area in Antipolo brought in much needed rains before Christmas. The rainy days were also a welcome respite from the uncharacteristically warm December that we have had. It is the second to the last day of December today and I can conclude that this is the warmest December we have had in memory. That, of course, refers to all my 43 years of Decembers. It is climate change affecting us and whoever it is who deny this deserves more than a slap in the face to open his/her eyes to the truth.

Nevertheless, the typhoon brought us some very cool mornings and nights and some heavy fog (definitely not smog) over a few days. Here are a couple of photos taken from the back of our home (not) showing the mountains enveloped in fog. A third photo shows the conditions along Sumulong Highway where the visibility is limited by the fog.

This is to the east and you cannot see the top of the mountain as well as the many houses there. Note the roof at the corner of the photo as this will be a reference in the next picture.
This is an even thicker fog with the foliage in the background obscured. That house there is the same one with the roof in the first photo.

Rain and fog limit visibility along Sumulong Highway. This is during the day a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure it was tougher for travelers once it was nighttime and I hope people were more careful driving then.

We don't expect any typhoons this January. It is even rarer to have extreme weather this time of the year. But then that 'extreme' should not refer only to rains and winds but instead also refer to warm temperatures like the ones we experience the past days including last Christmas Day. I do hope that January and February will be cooler even if its just the night times and mornings. It just doesn't feel right to have warm weather this time of the year.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Shopping at the airport

Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport's (NAIA) has four passenger terminals. Of these, Terminal 3 is the largest and the building space has not been fully utilized. Due to the legal issues surrounding its construction, it took so much time for the terminal to be developed so it could be to its full potential. Last week, when I fetched my father who was flying in from Iloilo, I had more than enough time (his flight was delayed by more than 2 hours) to go around and see the new additions to the airport. These included new restaurants and shops at the south wing of the airport. Among the more conspicuous and the newest addition to the terminal's shopping options is Kiss & Fly.

Kiss & Fly is found at the departure level (3rd level) of the passenger Terminal 3.
The interior looks like a department store from the outside.
There's a Starbucks at one of the entrances. I think this is the second Starbucks at NAIA as there is already one at Terminal 1.
Racks of clothing items from top brands like Lacoste and Burberry are in the Kiss & Fly store. Tommy Hilfiger and Eden Park have their own stores inside.

You can now practically do your shopping at Terminal 3. There are many stores selling clothing, shoes, bags, accessories, electronics and toys. The only thing lacking perhaps is a supermarket but then there are at least 3 convenience stores inside that could provide what the other shops couldn't in terms of food and other items. Of course, there are duty free shops in the terminal, and if you are qualified, many shops offer duty free prices when you present your travel documents. So there is no excuse for not being able to get a souvenir for your loved ones or significant others, especially if you are arriving at Terminal 3.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Honey for Christmas

A friend posted about his selling raw honey from his province of Surigao del Norte. These were not farmed but collected from wild beehives in the mountains. I have been aware of the benefits of raw honey as compared with the commercial honey usually found in supermarkets (some raw honey are actually only packaged as such but are actually commercial honey usually with glucose or other ingredients mixed in). Commercial honey is also pasteurized or heated. You can research about this and there are many resources online if you want to know much about raw honey.

I ordered a couple of containers of honey for us to give away to family and friends this Christmas. We always think about what to give away for Christmas and this idea came about as I was browsing my Facebook account and saw an old friend's post about honey. It was an idea that translated into an assembly line for the our gifts that included sterilizing bottles, transferring the honey and printing and affixing stickers on each bottle that contained our holiday message.

We transferred the honey from the container it was shipped on to these jars we got from Ikea. Each jar contained standard 1 cup of raw honey.
Here is a close up of the jars of honey. We had to do a final 'quality check' to make sure that each jar contained about the same amount of raw honey. You can see from the photo some differences in the content of each jar.
Here's an even closer look at a jar of honey.
Another look at a jar of honey this time in daylight.
The color of the raw honey is a golden yellow. My friend says this was collected from tall trees and was lighter colored than the raw honey collected from lower hives. I have yet to research on this color aspect of the raw honey but I guess it also has something to do with the source of the nectar from which the honey was made by the bees. Of course, the taste is also influenced by the source but I am not a connoisseur for raw honey. :)
We still have a container of honey at home that we have not transferred to bottles. One uncle already asked if we had some more to spare as he used honey as a sweetener for his coffee and tea. It's also good for pancakes instead of the usual syrup. I'll try to write about other uses later when I get to try the honey for those.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Missed opportunities, Part 2 - Transport service

I had written previously about a missed opportunity for people we hired to do a landscaping job at our home. It was supposed to be a straightforward contract that we had thought would allow us to have someone maintain our garden and give the 'small time" landscaping/gardening outfit a break in the business (they didn't seem to have much in terms of resources as we observed when they worked for us). We had to terminate the contract and allowed them to finish only the parts they already were working on when we decided enough was enough.

In a matter of days, a somewhat similar situation happened but for another service that I engaged for. This time, I decided to give an old friend a call to engage their services to drive my father to the airport for an early morning flight. I originally planned to take him to the airport myself as I had many times before but I had another appointment that prevented me from doing so this time. My brother-in-law also could not take Tatay to the airport as he had to take my niece and nephew to school and couldn't travel very early in the morning.

Everything seemed to go very smoothly. I am not a stranger to getting transport services whether it be for projects or for personal use. We actually have a suki company, which is owned by our friends from back in college. However, after I saw my old friend advertising his business on FaceBook, I decided to try them out as they operated in the area where my parents resided and my old friend was a kababata and former neighbor in the same village my parents resided in. We exchanged contact information and their driver contacted my father to confirm the arrangements for their trip. So I was surprised in the morning when I checked on my father and he informed me that the driver never came at the agreed time and he had to take a taxi to the airport. It was a good thing that he got a taxi easily and was not delayed. 

I learned from my friend later on that the driver wasn't able to wake up for his trip. This was definitely a classic case of "you had the one job". While no damage was actually done (my father made it for his flight and I didn't have to pay anything for the undelivered service), I assumed that the driver was admonished for his failure to deliver the job he was supposed to. And my friend was very apologetic and offered to fetch my father on his return trip for free. I just assured him that I would probably hire them again for a project or personal trip. I would do so perhaps and also because I believe in giving business to friends and perhaps help them grow. Not that he needed it but because its a principle thing for me. I just hope that such shortcomings on the part of the driver would not be a frequent thing. That will surely lead to lost revenues and lost customers in a very competitive transport service market.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Nihonjin, UP Village

There's another Japanese-themed restaurant in UP Village that we spotted as we made our way to the House of Gyoza. Nihonjin is located along Malingap Street corner Malumanay Street. We had wanted to eat there before but just couldn't find a parking slot at the restaurant, which only has perhaps 3 slots. We finally were able to have lunch there one time we decided to go early.

Nihonjin's menu is relatively simple, focusing on items that are typically associated with Japanese food
The colorful interiors shout Japan at the customer including this scroll, frame, lamp and divider
The frames and scrolls are colorful but remind me of the cheap, touristy souvenirs you can get from the lesser shops in Japan.
The main wall shows what looks like a fake counter
Another photo of the restaurant's interior shows just how big (or small) Nihonjin is
Yasai itame
Tonkotsu ramen
Nihonjin is a good enough Japanese-themed restaurant. We thought the food was okay though a bit on the salty side. We're not sure who does the cooking here or who is supervising cooking but the taste i certainly not along the lines of authentic Japanese food that we had found elsewhere in the other Japanese restaurants in UP Village. In terms of prices, I would say that the prices are reasonable but one has to temper expectations balancing taste quality and cost. Will we return to have lunch here? Probably but not as likely as the other restaurants I have written about in this blog.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Missed opportunities - Part 1: Landscaping bungle

The past week saw us engage two entities for services that we thought we could try out so as to expand our list of providers for services such as gardening/landscaping and transport. I will write about what could be missed opportunities for both entities that we engaged. I was actually surprised about the second one but will talk about that in another post as the circumstances are quite different and, to me at least, was unexpected for their failure to deliver.

The Clairvoyant and I have been talking about how we could refresh our garden at our home in Antipolo. One part of the garden on the north side of our home was ravaged by the combined shade of our neighbor's trees and the acidic nature of the flowers and leaves of the gigantic fire tree they have on their side of the fence. And then there were several parts where the grass needed to be replenished and some plants replaced. We inquired about landscaping and decided to try out a small outfit care of our suking plant shop at the New Antipolo Public Market. 

We asked them to come by our home to see what we wanted done around our garden. We then asked them for an estimate for what we wanted based on the scope of work we discussed and described with them. We thought we were clear about what we wanted in terms of plants, grass and tree pruning, and where we wanted which plants. Based on our agreed scope of work and budget, the Clairvoyant had drafted a contract (We have learned before that having things written down or printed provides much clarity for later reference in cases of dispute or disagreement.).

Work started quite well and after a few minor glitches (including a snooty neighbor), our landscapers were able to complete their tree trimming work. It all went downhill from there. To cut what could be a long story, they turned in very unusual work hours - arriving late in the morning, taking long lunch breaks and returning around 4 PM, etc. They even tampered with parts of the garden that they weren't supposed to work on, seemingly wanting to impose their style on a landscape that we had done when we moved into our home last year. We finally had enough and had to terminate their services before they could do more damage (and headaches).

This was a prime example of a small operation bungling a chance to have a long term client. We thought before that if they did well, then we would probably have them as our regular landscaper who can do maintenance work on our garden perhaps twice or thrice a year. It would have been nice to have a trusted landscaper in the locality. They probably do good work and they showed promise but then they messed it up and just couldn't deliver. Would they be worth a second chance? Perhaps only time can tell and hopefully, if we do give them a second chance (not in the near future), they would do better, stick to the scope of work and make sure they come and work on time.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Marison's again

We were back at Marison's again for lunch and decided to order pancit to go with the reliable salmon. Their sotanghon is really good and is fit to be classified as comfort food.

We also decided to order dessert as we were unable to sample their offerings the last time we were there. We went for their macadamia sansrival and were not disappointed. It wasn't too sweet nor was it bland. It was just the right concoction of layers and the macadamias were as always delightful and crunchy.

Macadamia sansrival


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Revisiting Pinto Museum in Antipolo

We had a chance to again visit Pinto Art Museum, which is near our home (and probably the reason we don't go there so often). There have been a lot of improvements and additions to the place including more eating options. There is also construction work ongoing for what is going to be a building for accommodations. Pinto is said to be soon to become a 'bed & breakfast' and that is something I think a lot of people are looking forward to - a cozy, artsy hotel in Antipolo that's quite near Metro Manila. Following are photos I took while going around Pinto. I didn't provide captions for the photo as I will leave my readers to become curious enough about the place that they would want to come to Antipolo for Pinto and the city's other attractions.

Our daughter loved the place and was expressing her wonder (wow!) about a lot of stuff she saw. It helped that Pinto has an expansive garden with lots of different plants and flowers. There is certainly a certain ambiance to the museum and its gardens that makes people want to either go around or perhaps just sit down, relax and take in the good vibes you can get from the place.

Antipolo is a closer destination to Metro Manilans wanting to have that short break from the urban jungle. There are a lot of small hotels and some resorts in the capital city of Rizal province, which is a highly urbanized city. I think Antipolo has great potential to grow more in terms of tourism. The city already receives a steady flow of visitors due to its being a pilgrimage city (Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) and it wouldn't hurt to have more places of interest (e.g., restaurants, museums, galleries, resorts, etc.) to establish themselves in the city.