Sunday, December 30, 2012

You cannot escape the ‘mall culture’ in the Philippines

It is not a secret that I am not a fan of spending my time inside malls but I can also understand why this has turned into a very popular phenomenon in the Phillippines called: ‘Mall Culture’ aka ‘Malling’

Inside the mall (Ayala Centre in Cebu):

Many malls have incorporated gardens and parks into their design such as this one in Ayala Centre, Cebu with the addition of the Ayala Terraces outdoor eating and recreation area.

In the tropics it is hot all the time with a temperature average between 32C and 40C during summer season and 25C and 30C during rainy season. Throw in the noise and air pollution into the equation, no wonder people prefer to stay inside the malls even if they are not going to shop, eat or do business inside. They just stay inside, hang out, go malling.

Malling has truly become a culture in the Philippines. It is a national pastime.

Some articles I found about this topic:

UK Trade & Investment (2012): Retail in the Philippines
Inquirer (2011): The national pastime
Brunei Times (2009): Let’s go malling
Reuters (2008): ‘Malling’ consumes shoppers in the Philippines

So when we were in Cebu, Dutchman and I could not escape these airconditioned oasis. We mostly did the following:

1) Shop (at SM, Ayala and Robinsons) – we did not have a lot of time so we were always rushing and even driving from mall to mall.

2) Meet and Eat ( with friends, relatives and family) – the malls are a favourite place to meet by everyone so Dutchman and I have given in. I guess it is easy for everyone as it’s a place in the centre of the city, with accessible parking and with many restaurant choices.

Meeting with my cousins in Ayala Centre at their favourite place to eat: Lemon Grass (Vietnamese-Thai Cuisine restaurant) and later having coffee at UCC Coffee.

I met with my BFF as well in the same mall and wrote earlier an entry about it here: Spending time with Rock BFF in Cebu

Dinner with the family here a few times. My brother and his wife had to leave for an engagement in Cambodia, so while they were gone, we made sure to entertain the smart aleck nephew that was left behind. I call him smart aleck because he is far too advanced in IQ and EQ for his age. He is just 6 years old but thinks like an adult. I hope he can follow a school soon that specialises on individual accelerated learning. 

We ate at Cafe Laguna in Ayala Terraces. We were so hungry I forgot to take pictures of the food, instead I only have pictures of the aftermath and the desserts, haha.

Dutchman and I even went to SM Mall to watch James Bonds Skyfall movie, and we also had dinner here with smart aleck nephew. 

Nevertheless, there is one thing I have regretted, I was not really able to shop. My original plan was to shop a whole day. It never happened. I had an hour here and there and had to always squeeze in last minutes.

Viva malling in the Philippines! =)

Travel Period: October-November 2012
Destination: Cebu City (Cebu), Philippines

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lantaw floating native restaurant in Cordova, Mactan, Cebu

When we were in Cebu, Philippines last October-November, I heard from the grapevine that there’s a cool new Filipino native restaurant in town. Of course, moi is not going to miss the world for it especially knowing that the restaurant drifts on water. I right away scheduled the family for a trip to Cordova in Mactan Island.

'Lantaw' is a Visayan word, a Filipino dialect and my mother tongue which means VIEW or SEEN/SEEING FROM A DISTANCE.

Yes, the restaurant floats on water and you will notice this more during high tide when the restaurant glides a bit. The scenery here is divine. Fresh! You’ll see fishermen passing by and if you arrive here before dusk, you will be treated to an exquisite going-down-of-the-sun-from-the-horizon spectacle.

Because we did not reserve a table in advance, but luckily we arrived early, we were not able to get a table on the open deck terrace but in the restaurant itself. This is fine but next time, we will make sure to reserve because the terrace has a much nicer ambiance.

We also noticed that a lot of people who came here were balikbayans, meaning Filipinos who are already living abroad and are vacationing in the country. Include me in the statistics =)

We started with some merienda (snack) and drinks. Banana turon (fried banana crepe) with vanilla ice cream and a fruit cocktail juice. Ordered 3 servings.

Then after 45 minutes dinner arrived!

2 orders of lechon kawali (pan roasted pork), 2 orders of kinilaw tanguige (spanish mackerel fish ceviche), 2 orders of crispy kangkong (water spinach), 2 orders of grilled chicken, 1 order of sisig (marinated-boiled-grilled pig ears-snout-cheeks), 1 order of crab, 1 order of chicken and pork adobo, 1 order of grilled bangus (milk fish) and 1 order of halaan (clam soup).

For dessert we had 3 orders of bibingka (rice cake) with vanilla ice cream topping, and coffee as well.

Is this a lot of food for 7 people?! (6 adults and 1 kid)

This is the reason why I always gain a kilo or two whenever I visit the Philippines. SIGH.

The cast of characters in this eating party: My mom and dad, my brother, brother’s wife (not in picture), my little smart aleck nephew, the Dutchman (not in picture of course) and moi. The only one missing here is my sister who already flew back to Singapore.


3 things you need to know and prepare yourself before coming here:

1) Reserve a table ahead of time, like a week or earlier before said dinner appointment. Due to the popularity of the restaurant, the waiting time to be seated is very long, especially if you arrive in the evening. In fact the queue of people waiting to be seated (those who did not have reservations) was shockingly long. I have never ever seen a restaurant in Cebu with that queue! We were thankful we arrived early.

Go here for details: Lantaw floating native restaurant

2) Because the restaurant is located at the tip of Cordova in Mactan Island, this means that this place isn’t going to be an easy reach for the general public. Thus, you need your own private transportation to get here.

3) Parking is an issue if you arrive later than 7PM, so come early. Not only that you get parking near the restaurant, but you will have the opportunity to see the lovely sunset as well.

But other than those, this new restaurant is a promising addition to Cebu’s growing gastronomic industry. The food here is quite good, and the setting and ambiance are hands down fantastic. Most people actually come here for the latter.

Prices are very reasonable as well. In short, highly recommended!

More pictures here:

The open-air deck terrace. Because this part of the restaurant is very popular, you would need to call and reserve in advance to get a table.

The restaurant is currently building an extension of the deck terrace.

The grilling area of the kitchen:

The lovely views:

This is the reason why you need to reserve a table in advance if you arrive later (after sunset):

I know its dark in the picture but can you see the long queue? See the people on the left waiting on the bridge.

Travel Period: November 2012
Destination: Cordova, Mactan Island (Cebu), Philippines

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Chilling out in Mactan at Crimson Beach Resort & Spa

Come to think about it, it is barely a month and a half since we were in Cebu, Philippines. It felt now like it has been forever. Time flies so fast indeed when you are busy (and enjoying) with life.

I am looking forward to visiting my hometown again next year.

Now, when Dutchman and I arrived in Cebu from Seoul (more entries of our trip to Seoul to come soon, just switching to Cebu for now) last October, my parents deposited us the next day at the 5-star Crimson Beach Resort & Spa in Mactan Island, Cebu. It’s their welcome to Cebu treat for us.

Well, it’s nice to have a sponsor sometimes so Dutchman and I are not complaining =)

After a 5-day city trip in Seoul this is a nice and timely respite. We basically did nothing here but chill. Maximum chill. We spent most of our days at the bar by the pool and beach. I made a separate entry about this a while back, go here: Hanging out at Azure Pool Bar

Trivia: Did you know that most beach resorts in Mactan Island have man-made white beaches?

Hello there!

Looks like the pool is one with the sea.

Unfortunately all the sunbeds on the beach were taken.

Food here is okay. It could be better considering that this resort has a 5-star rating.

I have to tell this story though since it had to do with food. There was this middle-aged American guy relaxing beside us at the Azure Pool Bar. He was alone, and he complained incessantly about his food not being cooked well and so forth. I was actually having a nap when I was roused by this man during one of his many attempts at complaining. Americans tend to have high-pitched louder than normal voices, so yes, his high-pitched voice woke me up from my slumber.

Nevertheless, the waitress had to bring back his hamburger order 3x to the kitchen! And she was apologising profusely to him like he is god almighty. American guy said it is not her fault and he will personally go to the kitchen and complain to whoever has authority there.

Dutchman and I were looking at each other with WTF written across our faces, haha.

I dont know who to feel sorry for? The American who did not get what he wants? Or the waitress who could not stop apologising?

The next day we saw the American guy again at the Saffron Restaurant sitting across us during breakfast. Guess what he was doing this time? Complaining again about his food! He even went to great lengths lecturing the wait staff manning the buffet on what needs to be done.

Oh dear me. All I can think was--Such a difficult person to please, I am glad I am not dating this guy!

On the second night, the whole family had dinner at the Saffron Restaurant in the resort. We took one of those private rooms so we can have some privacy.

We ordered ala carte instead of availing the buffet. You know, you can only eat so much.

Service personnel were very courteous, as usual. Filipinos by default are courteous and very hospitable people . Perhaps an overkill because I had an overdose of it. I mean at every corner I turn to I see a Crimson personnel, who upon seeing me, drops whatever he or she is doing and greets me excitedly—‘Good morning/afternoon/evening maám!’ with his or her hand placed across the heart.

At first it was—‘Oh WOW, how nice and courteous these people are!’ But multiply that 50x a day and at some point you really get dizzy of the act. I know, Filipinos just do not know when to stop (being nice), huh? LOL

Dutchman was getting tired of it as well and he finally asked me, ‘Why do they do that? Place their hand on their chest when they greet guests?’

I told him—It is supposed to mean that their greeting is coming from the heart.

Well, with all due respect, it looks like a SOP thing already. It’s like having a call centre agent on the line who is following his or her call script. Please, it is not natural anymore. It is OA (overacting).

Tip to the management at Crimson: Your service personnel do not have to greet your guests every second around the clock nor place their hand across their hearts. A big and friendly smile or nod will do!

Our room—it is quite big with a little garden view from the tub. The bed was lovely.

The downside at this resort is the internet. They say that they have free internet but it is uber slow. And they also lock many internet addresses. For example, I cannot load my blog using their internet access. I get a message saying that the site is not accessible so I asked reception about this and was informed that I will have to go to their IT and request for access of the said internet address.

What the heck? It is just a blog, not a porn site, ok? Nevertheless, since I am by no chance like the American guy who would go to great lengths in the complaining department, I just shrugged off my hopes of using the internet at this resort. There’s better things to do, or not to do.

Managed to find a sunbed under the shade.

All in all, we had a very nice and relaxing stay at Crimson Beach Resort & Spa. This is a place to chill out, not a place to be on active holiday because there is not much to do inside, outside and nearby the resort.

Thanks again Mom and Dad for the lovely treat!

Travel Period: November 2012
Destinaiton: Mactan Island (Cebu), Philippines

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