Satisfying food experience at Novotel Manila

Food plays a big role in our overall hotel experience.

One of the greatest things I looked forward to at this year’s Blogapalooza was our two-night stay at Novotel Manila—a first for this annual event since its inception in 2011. The relatively new hotel, which is part of Accor Hotels, is located at the Araneta Center. It’s perfect for both a leisurely stay and a business-related trip.
The hotel boasts of stylish posh rooms with soft beds, carpeted floors, elegant toilet and bathroom, and a view of the bustling city. I had a rejuvenating comfortable sleep, but truth be told, what I loved the most about the hotel was the Food Exchange Manila buffet breakfast.

The feast was a mixture of Asian (Filipino, Indian, Japanese) and Western (American, English, Italian) cuisines that created a flavorful revelry in my mouth. Even the coffee, which was served in a French press, added fun and excitement to my breakfast experience.
Appetizing salad greens and other colors!

Refreshing drinks
One of the food choices that I will never forget is the shabu-shabu. It would have tasted better, though, if I added more spices to it.
Experiment with as many flavors as you can to make your finished product more exciting.

The homemade corned beef is one for the books as well. I’m not a fan of corned beef, but I really enjoyed Novotel’s a lot.
Juicy and chunky corned beef–perfect for meat lovers.
Then there’s the taho. Yes, it’s everywhere here in the Philippines, but mixing the ingredients all by yourself is another great experience in itself. The homemade soya milk was rich and flavorful.
When I was a kid, I would always wait for the vendor’s reverberating voice exclaiming “taho” on the streets. Upon hearing it, I would hastily grab a mug and ask for P5.00 from my mom, so I could enjoy this morning treat. Twenty four years later, I experienced not only the joy of eating it, but also the fulfillment of making my own cup of taho.
The Filipino food, on the other hand, was nothing out of the ordinary, but it was worth a try as well, so on the second day, I dug in some sinangag (fried rice), longganisa (pork sausage) and tinapa (smoked fish). Usually, I give Filipino food a pass at buffets, but I really wanted to stuff myself with rice, so why not?
One of the choices I wished I had tried was the Indian food. Too bad only the photos I took are my memories of it.
Conclude your breakfast experience at Novotel by taking your dose of fresh fruits, or fresh fruit smoothies.
Here’s a tip: To fully enjoy the buffet, get a little of something to get a taste of everything.
Thank you, Blogapalooza and Novotel, for another palatable dining experience!
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Uniting PH at Blogapalooza 2016

In politics, what do you do to dominate the race? Get the right numbers.
And how do you get the right numbers? Unite your allies.
While this post is not about politics, this strategy seems to be what Blogapalooza has implemented in preparation for year 2017 dubbed as “The Domination.” On November 5, 2016 at Novotel Manila AranetaCenter (more about my Novotel experience on my next post), the event-turned-company gathered bloggers from Northern Luzon, National Capital Region (NCR), Visayas, and Mindanao to unite them as one collaborative organization of bloggers.
From being an annual event which kicked off in 2011 with the aim to connect businesses and bloggers, and which used to be organized by When in Manila, Blogapalooza is now a company headed by its chief executive officer, Ace Gapuz, who is nicknamed “Blogamomma.”

She said on her welcome address that she was “serious about getting to know each of the bloggers.” The aim now is not only to connect businesses and bloggers, but also to connect all bloggers to one another. And that, perhaps, was the reason why instead of getting famous personalities and internet celebrities, Blogapalooza invited representatives of Pangasinan Bloggers, Cebu Bloggers, Davao Bloggers, and Cagayan de Oro Bloggers to form the panel and discuss what blogging on the countryside looks like.
Some of the key points tackled were the history of groups they were representing, how they met the pioneer members and how the core groups were formed, their purposes for blogging, and what they do for a living, if blogging is not their primary source of income. Well, generally for most bloggers, blogging has never been a source of income since writing for or promoting the products of a company often means free trials, product samples, and gift certificates in exchange.
The panelists agreed that their groups started with passion and that’s what has been driving them for the last several years in continuing their undertakings despite the fact that they’re not earning real money from blogging. Each group’s chief aim is not to make business, but to allow a convergence of their interests. They don’t demand any amount to be paid by companies who ask for their services, but they don’t refuse if they’ve been offered.
Speaking of companies, various brands have once again graced the event to offer bloggers product samples, gift certificates, and trial vouchers and to find partners in campaigns that will help them gain more exposure.
Krispy Kreme treated bloggers with their design-your-own-doughnut activity. All the bloggers needed to do was to download their app, create an account, type in a promo code to get a virtual coupon and redeem the coupon to get their turn in designing their own doughnut.

I can’t thank Vaseline enough for the free facial wash product they’ve given away.

Vita Coco is great when ice cold. Refreshing, cool and healthy drink.

Oh, somebody’s happy he’s got several months’ supply of pens!

Well, you’ve just made my mom happy, Pond’s.

They also prepared exciting games and gave cool prizes to those who won. The event culminated with the introduction of Buzzin, the much awaited big reveal and the newest platform which allows businesses and bloggers to connect with one another in a faster and easier way, bringing Blogapalooza to everyone every single day.
To see more about what happened at Blogapalooza Horizons 2.0, watch this video by Keng of the World.

Gapuz said that four years—2011 to 2015—of exploration was over. This year meant opportunities for Blogapalooza and all the bloggers who took part in it. And next year, the domination begins.
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First night’s mission: Experience downtown Davao

I took a deep breath as soon as I stepped out of the arrival area at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Davao City International Airport). It was both a feeling of relief that I made it to NAIA on time and of great satisfaction that I finally got the chance to travel again after a while. I’m blessed to be here.
Wasting no time, I hailed a cab to take me to the hotel where I was billeted at. I was in a dilemma at first though. I thought that if I took a cab at the airport, the driver might ask for a higher fare, just like what taxi drivers in Manila do most of the time. I thought of walking towards the gate leading outside the airport’s vicinity and hail a cab there instead, but I immediately dismissed the idea as soon as I realized that doing so would require much effort.
It was 7:45 pm and my stomach was starting to grumble, so I swallowed all bits of hesitation. The taxi driver was courteous enough to admit that he didn’t know where my hotel was located, so I just pulled out my phone and fired away Google Maps. I found the exact location and told the driver where to take me to. He obliged.
I initiated a conversation with him by asking a few questions, starting with, “Are you going to ask for an additional amount on top of the metered fare?” I almost sounded suspicious rather than inquisitive, but the driver willingly answered my query.
“Ay, bawal po dito ‘yan, Sir. Bawal pong mangontrata dito,” he said.
(“That’s not tolerated here, Sir. Demanding a fixed amount is not allowed here.”)
That’s great! My first impression: Dabawenyos are honest, obedient and disciplined.
We talked a bit more about the traits of Dabawenyos, the tourist spots, the food, the surroundings, and the bombing that shocked the nation, among others. That’s one way of getting to know the place—asking questions and seeing from the perspective of a local.
About 20 minutes later, we arrived at Bahay ni Tuding where I settled down for a few minutes before heading out for a night stroll. My mission: Wander around and experience downtown Davao at night. Oh, yes, Bahay ni Tuding is in the downtown area where you can find almost everything.
Since the hotel’s restaurant was already closed by the time I arrived, I opted to dine out. The receptionist advised me to try Kusina Dabaw. I obliged.
I found in the menu a dish that was new to my ears. Balbacua. I asked the waitress what it was, but since my stomach was already complaining, I placed my order upon hearing “beef.” Several minutes later, my order was served and, well, it was something I never expected. Apparently, balbacua is a thick soup dish with cow’s skin, seasoned with chives. I learned later on that it is a specialty dish in Davao and there’s a place in the public market called Balbacuahan, a strip of eateries serving the dish.
I didn’t like it though. Not that it wasn’t delicious at all; it just wasn’t my type of food.
As it turned out, I didn’t have a satisfying dinner, so I strolled around, looking for some redemption.
I stumbled upon a brightly lit old house that had been turned into a café and bar. Letting my curiosity take over, I entered Claude’s Le Caféde Ville.

Built in the 1920s, the old structure is owned by the Obozas, one of Davao’s highly esteemed families.The foyer was adorned with family mementos ranging from framed photos, plaques and trophies, and bottles of wine, among others.

Inside, it felt like I was transported by a time machine. A wooden floor, wooden walls, and old furniture made up the interior bathed by dim lights, adding to the serene and relaxing ambiance of the place.
They serve Irish coffee (I forgot the price), wines (P300 per glass) and cocktails (P250 per glass). I had a glass of Bacardi cocktail and a plate of cashew nuts. One thing I realized, though, was that the place is better enjoyed when you’re with someone, or with a group, because it is a place for a good conversation. There’s no live band; just some old music playing softly in the background.
A few minutes later, the waitress approached me and asked, “Sir, okay lang ba kayo? Kayo lang mag-isa?”
(“Sir, are you okay? Are you alone?”)

I just smiled and said that I was okay. In my mind, though, I screaming, “I don’t feel lonely. I’m just enjoying my time alone.” And then I left (of course, I paid the bill first).
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