Friday, January 1, 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2010

May everyone of us be showered with the very best of the year 2010.

Alright, your Pinoy Traveler just woke up perky on a gloomy Cebuano lunchtime of January 01, 2010! That is what we get for having partied with less booze and more views the night before! It was for me an interesting experience of a very unlikely celebration! Well, its a new year and time to make or accept changes!

Why Cebu?
Why not?! Actually, these past few weeks saw the family become a bunch of pinoy travelers - thanks in part to the so many school and office breaks PLUS the 13th month pays and annual bonuses! The year 2009 ended with the family scattered: some are in Legaspi to watch the dear old Magayon acting up again; some opted to repeat last year's blast at the dear old Tagaytay abode (y'all better clean it up and make some repairs!); while yet another bunch wanted to celebrate just at home sweet home in QC. So, divided we roam... your PT decided to cancel the 30DEC CEB-MNL flight and set out to experience a bisdak new year! yey!

Reservations
Called some fellow hermits (w/ itchy feet that is) also holed up in the queen city. What to do? Easy! We decided to hit Mr. A's for dinner with a plan to troop to Marco Polo for the countdown then probably hit the streets and the bars thereafter.

Marco Polo's dinner buffet was at P1,500++ inclusive of a glass of champagne for the new year's toast and a supposedly grand view of the city firing up at midnight. Expensive! Hitting Blu over at its 23F would have been more expensive. But they had a P400++ gimmick that starts at 11PM inclusive of just the glass of champagne and a view of the spectacle from their Grand Balcony together with those who availed of the buffet. Okay, done... reserved! Thus, dinner was decidedly at nearby Mr. A's so we could easily slide to Marco Polo around elevenish! Mr. A's said no need to reserve, just come over and binge!

Twists
About 1PM, 31DEC09 the skies started acting up! It continually rained with that kind of shower that most everyone hates - too light a rain to hole up at home but too damn just right to soak you if you dare romp around. Tsk tsk tsk. At 330PM, telephones rang... "are we on?", "wouldn't we get wet in this pesky rain?", "does the Grand Balcony have a roof?", “can your car climb the slippery when wet path to Mr. A’s?" and so many other questions. If anything, thanks to the rain, we suddenly learned how to make conference calls with our cellular phones!

As the lines burned, your old PT sneaked to surf for Crown Regency Hotel perchance there might be something better under the killjoy of a weather. Whoa! Cheaper! They had a P1,000 buffet dinner with either one of the skywalk, edge coaster or 4D movie for free! Buzz buzz buzz... done! At exactly 5:52PM everything has been firmed up... all plans totally and drastically changed - dinner at Crown Regency Hotel & Towers and onwards to the countdown. Buffet tables open at 6PM but we all decided to appear around sevenish!

Dinner
It simultaneously served at the Sparkz (37F) and the Stratus (35F) restaurants, both with bands playing live! And OMG it was bustling! More diners were at the bigger 37F. The Stratus seemed to be just for spill over patrons, though it did look full too! We settled at the Sparkz on the only available table near the stage/band. Fairly old music. Standards if you may. But this is the Visayas, so expectedly, the singers, old dads they may be, were naturally good!

Food was good enough though not something I would call anyone about. The choices were well, a plethora! The marble finished buffet tables were properly labeled for easy access, as they were long and lined almost half of the room. There were separate rows for Japanese dishes, Chinese dishes, desserts, appetizers, fruits, Western dishes, Filipino dishes etc. It was a merry act of walking around if you wanted bread, butter and soup (placed at the “American Dishes”), lechon (at the “Filipino Dishes”), maki (at the “Japanese Dishes”) and so on. White rice was over at the Filipino side. I saw a little creeper running about as a middle-eastern lady was scooping rice from it. She did not seem to mind. I told the food attendant about it and without saying a word nor looking at me, he grabbed the whole tray and ran with it to, I don’t know where. He came back with a purportedly fresh tray and I told the lady to change her plate – she did not! Gosh! Yellow rice was over at the Chinese side. Ah, kids of all ages lined up at the halo-halo and ice cream bars. They were the longest!


A not so admirable little glass of iced-tea complimented the buffet. Like everywhere else in this country, it is more like sugar melted in water with a hint of tea. When will that ever change?! At least a steady flow of ice-cold tap was always ready and poured once a waiter or waitress sees your goblet about empty. And the drink lists were laid out on a row that displayed all the kinds of drinks and cocktails available for a separate charge! I thought that was a nice setup!

This buffet was not really for me. More of a buffet for the gluttons! Imagine, those were open and kept constantly replenished from 6PM until past midnight… you decide when to stop and when to binge again whether that be the soup, the lechon, the ice cream, the fruits, sashimi, halo-halo or the maja blanca! OMG!

Aside from the band, diners of course had a view of the folks circling the building via the skywalk over at 37M (mezzanine). Brrr… they’re so brave! It was raining!

Roaming around
We joined the buffet patrons a few minutes past seven so we were full at about 8PM. And even if the band was good, we could not keep ourselves to the dinner table. So we went out to roam whatever else invited our curiosity in this hotel (tallest edifice in Cebu).

By the way, just for everyone’s appreciation, the process goes like this: you buy your tickets down at the ground floor lobby’s reservation desk (not the front desk) of Tower 1. It’s a table near the elevators. You are given a nicely printed ticket for the “event”. Then you go up to the 19F, which is some kind of a lobby with shops and waiting lounges. This is where you also cross a bridge going to Tower 2 (Club Ultima) where other facilities are located. You go to the “Sky Ticket Counter” where the ticket you just bought downstairs is cut into three – one part becomes your dinner ticket, another part becomes your “countdown ticket” and one part they keep. Then you are given a new barcoded ticket for the turnstile entrance on this floor just a few inches away, and another barcoded ticket for the free ride (edge coaster OR skywalk). The latter you can bring to 18F to be changed again into yet another ticket if you opt to watch the 4D movie instead of the ride. Complicated, right?! But I must tell you, it was orderly! By the way too, the inside part of your arm gets to be ink-stamped 3 times – 1) on entry at the 19F entrance, 2) on entry at the restaurant and 3) on entry to the countdown area (roofdeck). Gosh! But that is/was for them to ensure that you don’t encounter any hassles as you kept going in and out of those facilities.

Then you go up that fancy elevator with a view of uptown Cebu to either the 35th, 37th, 38th, or elsewhere. But let’s go back to roaming, aight?!

After dinner at 37F, we decided to go down and see the 35F buffet. Just to see how it was over there really. On entry, employees asked for our tickets but we just had to flick our arms and show the stamps. So we were in. I just glanced at the buffet tables and saw that food was the same as at 37th. Yes we could have eaten yet again, if we so desired. Gosh! But OMG, the band here was better. They had a sexy young lady of a crooner dishing out acoustics type of music and popular ballads. So we stayed a bit to listen to her. We ordered beers (P100 per bottle). During her set break, a hotel employee gamely went up to the microphone and gave lovely vocals to an otherwise ‘usual’ instrumental intermission from the keyboardist. This got everyone on their ears as the dude sang really well. It was more of a play rather than serious entertainment but the man did not know we were all gladly entertained by his daring act hehe! When I requested that he sing Visayan songs, he gladly obliged but sang a Cebuano version of “Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang”. Whoa! THAT, made the lady singer drop her spoon and run back to the stage to join him in the duet. And they did it uniquely with the man singing Cebuano while the girl sang the Tagalog version. Grand, really grand! Thunderous applause from the guests and his fellow crews. Was he a waiter? Am not really sure. Probably one of the buffet assistants. I just know he wore a uniform and had his name plate tucked to the left chest area just like all the rest. Surely, a scene-stealer and we liked him hehe!



We went back to 19F so we could pass via the bridge to Tower 2. Nice cozy lobby there. We peeked at Wang Shan Lo, their famous Chinese restaurant and marveled at how bustling it was too. No this resto was not part of our buffet package. Just the same, there were a lot of diners there too. Next we walked up the stairs to 20F to see Mr. Grill. Aha, the grill is grilled! Open air, therefore smoking area! Also some diners and drinkers over there, mostly foreigners and their Filipino families. There is another facility one floor up but we did not go to check it.

We went back up to 37F and up the stairs to 37M. People! It was a bit of a crowd but bearable. Many were just shooting pictures while others were queued at the sky walk. Some companions went for it. I did not hehe. Another flight of stairs (waiting for the elevators took ages) and we were at the 38F – that famous edge coaster where some folks were also queued up. The lobby in this area looks good with tiny blinking lights in all of the black ceiling. Nice exaggeration of a starry night! Ah, here anyone could go out into the open balcony where the coasters pass, so people were out taking pictures even if it was constantly raining. The telescopes where you drop a ten peso coin to operate were rather untouched. Probably because of the downpour. Hmm, some folks are just really brave. I mean not just brave to take the edge coaster but brave to ride it under the rain. Gosh! There was even an old lady who dared and I could see that she was shivering under that windy rain.



There was another flight of stairs going further up but it was barricaded by a row of seats. I asked the guard what it was and he told me, that is where we go later at 11PM for the fireworks! Uh-huh… and I wondered why it had to be closed since I guessed, no one would go up there any earlier with the unrelenting pesky shower of a rain!

Alright, while some companions were at either the sky walk or the edge coaster queues, the rest of us trooped back to 35F for more of the music from the girl. Others got scoops of ice cream, others the desserts and yet others, the P100 per bottle beer.

Now now… my lungs started craving for its fair share of pollution. So I asked a waitress where would be a smoking area, if any. She told me it is over at Mr. Grill, 19F, Tower 2. I have just been there and thought it would be too distant to be away from my companions. I said, I just won’t smoke for the meantime. Later the same waitress came and told me I can actually go to the 36F restaurant which is a smoking area. Not part of the package we paid, that would have meant an entrance fee of P500 but consumable with 5 bottles of beer. I thought that would’ve been fine. I excused myself from the pack and a non-smoking companion came with me. Waitress said it would be fine if he just wanted to see the place.

Upon emerging from the elevator, the 36F lobby looked nice with minimalist setting but some costumes and props were in all ugliness scattered at one side of the floor. We walked up to the desk and the folks there motioned for us to enter. Whoa! On entry, the dark facility smelt of not only your simple cigarettes but more vividly that of real big cigars. My nose twitched but I thought that would have been bearable if only for me to be able to puff a stick or two. There were girls in sexy costumes, belly dancing and/or pole dancing. Ah okay, those props outside must be theirs since the colors matched (red).

A staff approached us as we stood there and asked for out tickets. I said none but I showed her my wrist with the stamps. As I continued to tell her that I know the entrance is P500, she held me in the arm and slowly dragged me out into the lobby purportedly for her to properly hear me since the music inside was too loud. I obliged while my companion remained. There, after expressing an irritated “kinsa ba nagpasuod ani” to her companions, she started telling me that this facility was not part of the buffet package we bought. I told her I was aware of that and came ready to pay P500 as entrance fee so I could smoke and probably drink all the five bottles of beer. She then retorted that I should buy the ticket at the ground floor lobby. She looked and acted rather piqued at whoever has sent me to her hehe!

Ha? I have to go back to the 19F and take another elevator to ground floor lobby just for that entrance fee?! While the dancers were already looking at me rather interestedly, I said “oh okay, if I need to go back to ground floor, then I’ll just smoke there. I did not come to watch your “show” nor craved for beer, really”. The dancers reverted with “sige na seeer, we have a nice show”. I just told the staff to go call my companion who was still inside. When he was out, all he could say was “this is the sleaze part of the hotel and it teems with DOMs (dirty old men) sitting alone, drinking booze and watching the girls dance. This is very much for you”! I slapped him in the back and we went out to the ground floor. Hmm, that girl acted as if I was some kind of leech or dirt that needed to be washed away immediately.

After two sticks of cigarette over at the sidewalk near the hotel’s entrance fronting Jones Ave., we went back up. Just peeped at the 4D theater and joined companions at 35F. All were busy telling jokes and in no time it was 1120PM. We trooped to 38F and found the rest of our companions there. The stairs to the roof deck was already open and people lined going up. We joined them.

Countdown
The narrow flight of stairs going up to the open roof deck was literally full. A staff stood guard to collect our tickets and yet again stamp our arms. That was stamp number three! Gosh. It was rather slow since those who emerged at the top would hesitate going out due to the rain. But like the many Koreans already on the deck, we decided to brave it out. It was cold. And with the winds, rain smashing on our faces hurt a bit. But the city has started to fire up. OMG!

We could just imagine that had it not been raining, there would have been more of those fireworks. And they’d be more beautiful to watch… had it not been raining... sigh! Just the same, we dared stay even if we were already soaking wet. This was a first time for me to realize that the phrase “fireworks lighted up the sky” was grossly inapplicable hehe! They were almost all down in the city below us!

All eager eyes were trained at the Guadalupe and Lahug areas (known to have more residents that can afford fireworks) but the colorful bursts started flickering in the Mandaue and downtown Cebu areas, then at the SRP and V. Rama! Wow, colorful! And, against the law or not, we saw a lot of flares lighting up the sky. Yep yep, those red glowing lights used by ships in times of emergency.

Then the whole city was noisy. Firecrackers and fireworks started competing to break our eardrums. But we were high enough to be affected. And the city flickered. Somewhere near the capitol was a beautiful show. Oh there was one too somewhere near Ayala! And IT Park! Or was that Waterfront? “Look there!” somebody shouted and all heads turned to the direction of the reclamation area. Beautiful! Ah, this time I wished my head could turn 360 degrees hehe!

Music at the roof deck was increased to a thumping level. The DJ over at a little enclosure was saying “you folks down there, come up now and see the city aglow”! Hmm, their sound system was probably wired to some if not all lower floors and facilities of the hotel.

“Five minutes”, the DJ announced, and folks started dancing and jumping vigorously, I started to think the roof deck might crumble hehe! The fireworks were now at every millisecond everywhere in the city. “One minute!” more people were rushing up the stairs and more people soaked in the rain. “55 seconds…!” everyone was cheering. “Ten, nine, eight…” OMG all of us were shouting! The video below is not a representation of what we experienced. Far from it really. Just the same I uploaded it :)



“ZERO! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! And on that queue, the city seemed to have heard us! More fireworks (including that of Crown Regency) shot to the air that made the city look like a fairyland with multicolored lights everywhere. Even the mountain residences fired up. Some seacrafts down at sea also fired up. Even out at the airport area, the SRP again, Marco Polo again, Mango Ave., Fuente, E-Mall! OMG what a fantastic sight! And kisses and hugs were all over the Regency’s roofdeck. Wow! Wow! Wow!

Well, as the fireworks became fewer in between, people, all wet, started trickling down the stairs to 38F where some kind of a jolly commotion was taking place. Oh, a TV station’s crews decided to hold their coverage by the door with the telescopes behind them, as their equipment couldn’t bear the rains up from where we were. A crew approached me for an interview and I ran away hehehe!

Post Countdown
Half past 1AM, we decided to go down and out of Regency to hit the bars. We had previous knowledge that many of the reputable bars in the city were to open at 1AM. Seeing that the streets were rather empty, one suggested that we joy ride around town just for a go-see. Wow! I have never seen Mango Ave., that desolate! And Colon was eerily silent!

A multicab-ful of drunks dangerously overtook us near Crossroads as it flew very fast. A few meters on, we saw it screech to avoid collision. Due to brakes being slammed with their vehicle running so fast, it slid to turn so that it was now facing us. OMG! Good that the vehicle it was about to ram was quick enough to avoid it by swerving towards the sidewalk in its lane. All those times, the passengers and driver of that multicab were shouting like hell as if they won the lotto. Damn drunks… good their vehicle did not topple over. Otherwise they would have been front page of all the dailies new year issue!

We decided to hit Formo. Some tables were already occupied and in no time, folks came in droves, some still wearing their party costumes. The waiters got busy but many of them seemed to have been magnetized by the flamboyant dressers that their attention was totally just on those. Our re-orders started to be coming in too slow and one of us was already starting to fume. He called a waiter aside and though hushed, angrily exclaimed… “do I have to park a Porsche in front of this bar so that you can give me my beer pronto?”. The waiter apologized and we decided to call it a night… Well, I was actually irked to have witnessed that ‘healthy’ balding man with a camera (owner?) finish his beer, order for one, finish it again and ordered another. That, as we all waited for ours. Hey, we have been to Formo many times, and we know that these waiters are good. However, you have to be flamboyantly gay who speaks so loud and strutting sashaying all over the place for them waiters to attend to you promptly. Hah, I know someone who won’t be going there for quite a time hehe!

If at all, thanks to Formo, we all hit the sacks at about 3AM and not too drunk!

So, a really Happy New Year!

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