Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Caracol Festival 2012: A Mardi Gras in Makati

Makati  held its annual Caracol Festival last February 26 with a parade of colourful costumes depicting nature and a group dance performance that replicated Mother Earth’s sea, forest, flora and fauna to the amusement of the crowd.

The event began at 4:00 pm with a parade around Ayala Triangle, from Ayala to Paseo de Roxas and finally Makati Avenue which ended in the intersection of Makati and Ayala Avenue, near the statue of Gabriela Silang where a stage was constructed for the event. 

Crowds gathered along the streets with their friends and children delightfully watching and taking personal photos of the parade in progress.  The variety of colourful costumes parading in the street created an atmosphere of merriment, a sharp contrast to the daily busy, all-business aura of this intersection. A mix of Makati officials, media, bloggers, and  photographers were positioned in front of the stage while waiting for the performers present their special numbers for the grand battle in street dancing.

Caracol, the official festival of Makati, promotes the importance of conserving and preserving our natural resources.  It underscores the commitment of the city government to the global campaign of safeguarding our environment.  Caracol, which is the Spanish term for snail, is a time when people are urged to enjoy life and the bounties of Mother Earth. During the festival, students from the different schools in Makati compete with each other in a street dance performance dressed as trees and fruits, marine life, species of endangered animals, flowers and fauna. This is the project of the city government of Makati, through its Museum and Cultural Affairs Office (MCAO

 “Visitors and tourists are welcome to join us in this yearly celebration.  Our Caracol Festival this year promises to be more fun and exciting, spiced up by the combination of ethnic, classic and modern dance movements gracefully performed by gaily dressed students and residents,” Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin S. Binay said.

Festival goers are also encouraged to wear body paints, masks and other costumes depicting flowers, birds, fruits, animals and endangered species, and join in the parade and merrymaking according to Mayor Binay. He also said Caracol, Spanish term for snail, refers to the ‘shell’ that people carry around as a shield against life’s harsh realities, so the celebration calls for people to forget their troubles and delight in the moment.
Aside from performances by public school students and residents from the first and second districts, there was a special intermission by Ayala Land featuring the La Salle Pep Squad to promote its 2012 slogan, “Make it happen, make it Makati!”

Competing dance groups from the elementary, secondary and tertiary levels were dressed in ingeniously designed costumes that portray various forms of flora and fauna, including species facing extinction due to the environmental degradation.

The MCAO has assigned a specific theme and dance movement for each category, as follows:  Elementary level, Flowers and Insects to be performed in ballet or waltz movements; High School, Marine Life in retro or pop; and College/Open level, Endangered Species (except Marine Life) in precision movements.
Participants in the elementary level are from East Rembo Elementary School, Pembo Elementary School and Rizal Elementary School. The secondary level were represented by Benigno Aquino National High School, Fort Bonifacio High School and Makati High School.

At the tertiary/open level, two groups represented the different colleges of the University of Makati, namely, Center for Performing and Digital Arts (UMAK-CEPDA), and Center for Human Kinesthetics (UMAK-CHK). There was also a Dance No Doubt Group which represented a private organization in this level.

Consisting of 30 to 40 members each, every group has been given P60,000 as their participation allowance. 
The winning teams won trophies and cash awards. The First Prize was P60,000.00; the Second Prize was P50,000.00 and theThird Prize was P40,000.00. The overall champion received an additional P60,000.
A special cash prize of P20,000 each were given to the groups with the Most Original Costume and Best in Choreography. 

Meanwhile, one group each from Districts I and II in the non-competitive category exhibited their skills in ballroom dancing at the festival, to represent the 33 barangays of the city.

MCAO has been conducting “teaser” shows to drumbeat the grand event, which started at Glorietta Activity Center last February 4, Glorietta 4 and 3 Park last February 11 and 18, respectively. Another show was held on Saturday, February 25, at the Glorietta Activity Center.

Caracol 2012 is presented by the city government of Makati in cooperation with Ayala Land, Ayala Malls, Department of Tourism, and Manila Bulletin as the official media partner.

Celebrated every last Sunday of February, Caracol was conceptualized in 1986 and ushered in the Fiesta Islands Program of the Department of Tourism in 1989. Since then, the festival has been excitedly awaited by city residents and visitors alike, including foreign tourist.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


paella madrilena

Spice up your Valentines Day with a hot date at Poquito Mas, the only Splatino restaurant in the country. What is Splatino, you ask? . . .  It is the combination of SPanish, LATin, FilipINO Cuisine.  Feel the passionate, feast-loving personality of these Spanish-speaking regions---which introduced the “hot tamales” and “flamengco dancing”--- through its hot and savory dishes. Classic favorites such as Gambas, Salpicao, Burritos, Enchiladas, and Sisig come together under one menu . . . and also under one dish.  You can order a combination of any of these dishes, like Spanish paella with Pinoy sisig, if that is what your heart desires. Being flexible with special requests on the menu is one of Poquito Mas’s strong points.  Other special requests, like for theme decors or Latin entertainment, are also accommodated for events like Birthday Celebrations, Debuts, Club gatherings, and Corporate meetings.

“A Little of Everything”
That is the meaning behind the name of the restaurant Poquito Mas:  bit of Spanish, a bit of Mexican or Latin, and a bit of Filipino in every set meal.  Buffets are offered for lunch and dinner where customers have an opportunity to sample several dishes in one visit. The Mexican Sampler on the menu, which feeds four, is a MUST try as it offers a variety of Mexican favorites such as burritos, tacos and dumplings in one dish. Taco dumpling, a restaurant original, should also be on the list for first time visitors.

Siblings Marissa and Paolo Rodriguez explain the customer service philosophy behind their family-run business. “We build relationships with our customers.  We try to know them by name, take note of their birthdays then personally greet them.” With regards to the preparation of their menu, Paolo, Marketing Director of Poquito Mas, explains: “Every dish is first tested by the family. Most of the dishes that pass and end up in the menu are someone’s favorite at home”

A Southern Appeal
Located in Alabang, with a branch in Santa Rosa, Laguna, Poquito Mas is a cozy, Spanish villa-styled restaurant that offers Makati and Ortigas residents a change from the hustle and bustle of city life to a quiet, country-like ambience.  Its location, being somewhat out of the way for non-South residents, adds to its charm of being a relatively little known place for a privileged few to share.
Perhaps one’s first reaction may be hesitation to enter as its building design projects that of a fancy restaurant.  Don’t let looks deceive you.  Despite its shabby chic appearance, its prices are really quite reasonable.  With a full meal that will cost you around P600 for a pair, you still have extra for a couple of drinks.  Poquito Mas offers mouth-watering meals at a price range that you wouldn’t believe.

 For those who don’t have romantic dates, celebrate the season of love with a good friend or a family member/s.  Since love is in the air, this is a good time to reunite with long-time buddies to express your love and appreciation to them for being a part of your life. 

Published at No Curfew 2009

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chinese Food minus the Oil and Cornstarch (and Vetsin)

The highly popular P.F. Chang’s China Bistro has opened its first branch in Alabang Town Center, Muntinlupa City, marking its first venture into Asia.  The restaurant, which has over 200 branches in the US and 12 worldwide, delivers a unique blend of Chinese cuisine, wines, desserts, and impeccable service.

For those unfamiliar with P.F. Chang’s , the restaurant serves cuisine inspired by the different regions of China with a culinary thrust of simplicity, using only natural and fresh ingredients with no garnishes and artificial flavours.  Described as “authentic” due to its origins in China, the recipes are actually fusions recreated by Mr. Chiang to suit his personal taste if he felt that it originally didn’t have the qualities he wanted.  “I decreased the oil and, if possible, did away with the traditional use of cornstarch.” according to Philip Chiang, restaurant co-founder.
Diners will enjoy signature dishes like Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Mongolian Beef made from US Angus beef caramelized in the wok with garlic and scallions, and the flavourful Northern-style Spare Ribs.  Being a dynamic modern bistro, P.F. Chang’s also offers signature drinks like Asian Pear Mojito, Lucky Cat Martini, and Organic Agave Margarita.  The menu of tempting desserts include Banana Spring Rolls, made of crispy banana bites with coconut-pineapple ice cream drizzled with caramel and vanilla sauces; the Great Wall of Chocolate, a luscious six-layer chocolate cake frosted with semi-sweet chocolate chips, served with a raspberry sauce.
Servers or “meal creators” of the restaurant are also trained to help dinners gain a memorable dining experience by offering personalized care.  The can give recommendations for everything from dipping sauces to wine and drinks for a satisfactory dining experience.
The restaurant chain has recently won the Best Overall Beverage Program from the 2012 Cheers Beverage Excellence Awards, and topped the Zagat survey for Most Popular Full Survey Chain.  “Recognition by esteemed survey is always welcome and speaks well for what we do, but we do not sleep on our laurels but constantly try to improve our products,” explains Mr. Chiang.
Mr. Chiang was running two other Chinese restaurants in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood when fellow restaurateur Philip Fleming approached him with an idea.  Together they opened the first P.F. Chang’s in 1993 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The business has since grown with dine-in, take out, and party reservation services.  John Travolta, Gwen Stefani, Justin Beiber, and Selena Gomez have been among the many celebrities spotted at the restaurant’s different locations.
For the opening of this first location in the country and its 217th restaurant milestone, Mr. Chiang has flown in to be a part of the celebration. “Since this is our first foray into a totally Asian environment, with a large Chinese community, and my first experience in the Philippines, I don’t know yet what might distinguish us from the other restaurants here but I feel that we’ve always raised the bar in terms of the Chinese dining experience in countries we’ve opened.” He said.
P.F. Chang’s partner in the Philippines is Global Restaurant Concepts, Inc. headed by president and CEO Archie Rodriguez.  “When looking for restaurants to bring home, we like to consider some points: Is our dining experience consistently memorable?  Is the service and culture above par? Is the concept sound?  Will the menu and atmosphere appeal to families?  And we believe P.F. Chang’s scored high marks in all of these categories.” He said.
When asked what are the three words that best described P.F. Chang’s dishes, Mr. Chiang anwered“Tasty,Simple,Healthy”.   P.F. Chang is located at The Street in Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa City and will soon open more branches in the Fort area, Taguig City.
the author with Philip Chiang

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Valentine's Date at the Museum

A Painting exhibit entitled “Sygnos” was launched February 7, 6pm at the Ayala Museum. Featured painters include; Joey Simsim, Marga Rodriguez, Milmar Onal, Manju Gagoomal, Wayan Narra, Indigo Narra, Benedict Abigan. Guests included Singapore Ambassador and other embassy officials. The exhibit is ongoing from Feb. 7 to 19, 2012.


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