Monday, February 15, 2010

Philippine Star Ball - Day #1 and #2 by Marie Laderta

Dancer's Log Day #1: Feb 11, 2010:
By: Marie Laderta

Watch out, here we come. We have arrived in the Philippines, a motley crew of 10 tumbling out of our 10 hour Hawaiian Airlines jet straight from Honolulu. We are tired and excited all at the same time. Ants in our pants, can hardly wait to get to the Makati Shangrila, our little piece of heaven where we will be staying for our 10 days in the Philippines.

Let me introduce you to our cast of world travelers for this monumental Philippine trip:
Led by our resident ballroom dance professionals, Lucas Jaime and Yanna Samkova, are Honolulu dancers David Easa, Maria Handl, Nancy Luckie, Ivan John, Paul Laderta, Connie Laderta, Wes and Sandy Numazu, Fil & Elvie Padilla, Remy Brion, and yours truly. Joining our group from Sacramento is Elvie's sister Telly Bertrand. Yes, we have a good group, a sizeable group.

No sooner are we out of customs into the main hall, we are met and greeted by the Shangrila representative who immediately ushered us to the private air conditioned lounge where we wait for the car to the hotel. We are given the VIP treatment, cold water and wet towels to freshen us up! The pampering has just begun....a la Shangrila!

In less than 10 minutes we are whisked away to our home away from home where we were promptly taken to our rooms and retired for the night, BUT not after Bunny and I, with Ivan and Nancy, checked out the Rizal Ballroom where they were setting up for the 3rd Philippine Star Ball!

Dancer's Log Day #2: Feb 12, 2010:
By: Marie Laderta

We are up, earlier than usual, partly  because of the time change and partly because our good ol' reliable teacher Yanna, true to her word, had arranged our first tour in Manila. Yanna & David Easa arrived a day ahead of us and set up the city tour to get us oriented to Manila. Some of us have been here before but never seen some of the sights, and for others who are first timers (David Easa, Ivan John, Nancy Luckie, Wesley & Sandy Numazu), we thought the tour would provide a good intro to the Philippines.

We had left it to Yanna to make the first day tour arrangements, and being one of the most sensible people I know, she made sure the tour was in the afternoon! Yes, that way we got to sleep in if we chose to but most importantly, it allowed us to indulge in the gourmet buffet breakfast at the Circles restaurant on the first floor of our hotel. Of course as soon as we got there, we made a bee line for the would be that the bunch of us who were staying at the hotel congregated in this dining area every morning....I personally love this part of my trip because we get to regroup and recount the previous day's events and plan for the next over the most ono spreads while drooling over ballroom super stars in the flesh like Yulia Zagoruychengko & Riccardo Cocchi; Sergey Surkov & Melia; Slavik Kryklyvyy & Anna Melnikova; Angelo Madonia & Alessia Betti, and Arunas Bizokas & Katusha Demidova.

Yum, scrumptious  breakfast buffet every morning, you name it they've got it, from the sashimi counter to the Filipino longanisa and garlic rice, omelet bar, cereals and other high fiber selections for the health-conscious
(Like my fellow blogger David Easa who is fastidious in keeping to an athletic diet, shall we say while he cringed watching Bunny gobble up a plump ol' scottish banger!).

The City Tour:

First let me introduce you to the tour guide of the mostest, Mr. Ricardo Cruz. He has three kids by three different women and proud of it! There you go, a typical Filipino! I asked Ricardo if he were famous and he said yup he is a famous guide and boasted that he gave a tour to the National Geographic group, supposedly an experience that indoctrinated him to the hall of tour guide fame.

Our first stop was the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonafacio.

The American Battle Monuments Commission is responsible for the commemoration of the achievements and sacrifices of our armed forces in battle.

The remains of 17,206 servicemen and women who gave their lives during WW2 are interred in this Manila cemetery. 36,279 Missing of WW2 whose remains were not recovered or identified or who were lost or buried at sea are commemorated by name on the walls of the memorial here. Most of them gave their lives in the defense of the Philippines, or in the regions from Australia northward to Japan.

The 152 acres of this cemetery site was donated by the government of the Republic of the Philippines. The design for the cemetery and memorial were done by American artists and architects. No wonder it's a well-manicured piece of art!

All the mosaic came from Italy, and the marble head stones from the Philippine town of Romblon, Visaya.

Lucas says (with tongue in cheek), the only problem here is you don't live to tell!!!.

End of Memorial visit and our cruiser jumps onto McKinley Road.

Interesting tid bits  noted and from our guide along the way:

"Joey Pepperoni," Italian restaurant.

Famous Guide Ricardo Cruz noted I have a long nose as compared to a flat nose like his. Says his flat nose is typical of a Filipino.

He also pointed out that there are three kinds of Filipinos - Mastisos, Morenos (look like muslims with sharp eyes) and Kayumangis (Ricardo said they have "scattered noses" and brown skin).

We pass through Pasay, sin city of metro Manila with the largest "chicken farm" and "tiger show" per the famous Ricardo get the picture..Pasay is speckled with places where women hate to wear dresses, and big men wearing leather jacket stand guard at the doors.

Ah.. we weave through a sea of jeepneys and Ricardo gives us the historical dope on this popular mode of local transportation. The jeepney came into popular use after the Liberation. Everything about the jeepney is locally made except for the Japanese diesel engine.

Next we pass through a reclaimed area, project of Imelda Marcos, called the Satellite City, anticipated to house casinos & entertainment centers hoping to garner the reputation as the future Las Vegas of the Philippines.

There's the Mall of Asia which has more shops than the Mall of America, again according to Ricard the Cruz-man. Across the Mall is the Heart of Jesus Catholic church. Per Lucas, our resident comic, all the women go there and say "don't let me spend all the rent money please."

Next we spot the Seafood Market by the Bay (Manila bay) - don't miss it.

Another must see is the Amazing show (because they are great impersonators) at the Manila Film Center which houses the original version of Gone with the Wind.

As many times as I have been here, this was the first time for me to see the Coconut Palace built for Pope John Paul II who declined to stay there. Instead, the Palace was baptized by the residency of Sean Penn. Now wonder why it's called the Coconut Palace? Yup, everything in the palace are made of Coconut! Imagine eating coconut cake or buko (young coconut) pie in the Coconut Palace! What a life!

Hmm, I never knew there was a look alike of the famous Hong Kong floating restaurant, the Jumbo. There it was, an exact replica of the Aberdeen Jumbo right in the heart of Manila!

Ricardo Cruz our guide tells us that because the ratio of men to women in the philippines  is 4 women to 1 man, after they give birth, the women have to engage in aggressive physical fitness, and they do this en masse at the park by the Jumbo Restaurant. So, if you are interested in seeing post partum women trying to recover their shape, go there!

Rolling along Roxas Blvd...we come across the US Embassy, a former villa which headquartered the Japanese imperial army during WWII.

The Faith Healers Society across, 2nd floor of the Bay view prince Hotel. Here is a place where, if you have faith, anything is possible!

Next is a stop at Fort santiago where we got a brief history of Philippine's National hero Jose Rizal - among other things, I found out that Jose Rizal was a medical doctor, imprisoned at Fort Santiago before he was executed, and he married Josephine Bracken, a Polynesian-looking woman right before his death.

On that note, we end our eventful sightseeing tour with a lovely folkloric dinner at Barbra's where we were thoroughly entertained by a different kind of dancing, none other than the Philippine folk dances by the Internationally renowned Bayanihan Dance troupe who, like what the Harlem Globetrotters did for basketball, brought international acclaim to Filipino folk dancing.

End of Day #2.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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