Saturday, October 25, 2014

A pleasant stay at Hotel XYZ

Last week, we came back to Tacloban and this time we stayed in another hotel near downtown. This time, we chose Hotel XYZ for our short stay and they didn't let us down. It was a perfect place to come back and sleep at after a long tiring day. 

Hotel XYZ, even from the outside, exudes a modern vibe. From the lobby, you could already see how they spent effort in designing the place making it look cozy and stylish that I never even knew that a hotel like this exists in the province and a city that was just hit by a typhoon. 

We booked a standard twin room on the 4th floor. Room was small but I didn't bother as it looked so cozy and clean. It didn't felt like you were cramped in a small space as they made use of the mirror effect in a stylish way. I specifically love the bed and the comforter. I always had a hard time waking up as I find the bed so comfy and soft. AC was working properly

The room comes with a flat screen TV equipped with cable channels. It also comes with a fridge, kettle and flashlight and a spacious cabinet with hangers.

Plus points for having a electric socket beside the bed!

Bathroom was surprisingly spacious. It was well equipped with the essentials.

Water pressure and heater was working fine. Shower area has good amount of space and there's also a wire where you could hang your clothes or towel. Looks odd but I say, it's pretty practical.

The inhouse restaurant called ABCD, and Illy cafe that offers pastries and coffee is located at the lobby. Breakfast can be served at your room (call the kitchen for room service) or you may go take it at ABCD cafe. You get to choose from their set menu. I may say that they have one of the best breakfast food I had. I specifically love their longanisa and tocino which has a generous serving. Interior of ABCD Cafe was equally stylish and modern as how the theme goes throughout the hotel.
During our stay, there was a construction going on on the upper floor which they advised us about upon checking in. On 2nd day, we already came back late at night and as we were all tired and wanted to have a longer sleep we asked the front desk if they could delay the construction for awhile as we are trying to sleep till late the next day before we get back to Manila. Nice of them to fulfill our wish as we were able to sleep well that night and wasn't bothered by any noise from the construction in the morning. 


What the hallway looks like. Adequately lit with ambient music playing.

Being relatively new, almost everything was still in place. Hopefully, they'll be able to maintain it as I'll definitely be my first choice of accommodation if I ever get back to Tacloban.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Eating out in CDO: Kagay-anon, RedTail and Panagatan

This will be just a short post regarding three of the places we ate at while we’re at the City of Golden Friendship. Cagayan de Oro’s already a bustling city almost like Manila. I like their Centrio mall with the landscaping in one part of the mall that looks so nice to chill at. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to blog about the famous white water rafting and a lot more fun activities you may do in CDO as I WASN”T ABLE TO TRY ANY OF IT. Yes. I also feel sorry for myself. Tss. I’ll be back, CDO. I shall return.

Well anyway, moving on. Wherever I go, may it be local or abroad, I see to it that I would able to sample out the local fare or go on dine on restaurants which are originally from that place.  So here are 3 restaurants that you might also want to try while in CDO:

1.       Kagay-anon

It is an authentic Filipino restaurant famous in Cagayan de Oro located near Limketkai Center. Kagay-anon basically means someone from Cagayan de Oro. The interior of the restaurant was simple with tables and chairs made of wood. Even their plates are also wooden. The place is spacious enough for big groups and family gathering which they mostly cater to. We ordered Ostrich Salpicao, Crispy Shrimp and another 2 viands that I forgot. As recommended by the server, we tried the Ostrich Salpicao which is very tasty but basically just tastes like a normal meat but still good. I loved the crispy shrimp because of its, uh…  crispiness. Haha! I’m bad with these, sorry. Anyway, Kagay-anon is good for gathering as they offer a lot of choices. Servings are enough with the price which is in the mid-range level. Kind of reminds me of Cabalen. We waited for a bit for our food to be served maybe due to our late arrival, I guess. Well, still it’s worth a try as it’s been recommended by a lot and I even saw it an in-flight magazine on the way to CDO. From the numerous awards I saw in their counter, it seems that they're already an established and very known name in Cagayan so be sure to try out their feast when in CDO.

Limketkai Center, Rosario Crescent, Cagayan de Oro
Contact No.: +63 (88) 856-3688
(8822) 728958/729003
Operating Hours: 9am – 8pm

2.       Red Tail Shrimps and More

We had our lunch here on our 2nd day and just minutes after were seated, groups of people came in filling up the place. Red Tail is located at Papa Jaunito’s Square which is just a walk away from Mallberry Suites hotel. Basically, it’s just like your ordinary seafood restaurant but with a twist. What makes them different from others s on how they serve the food and how they let you eat it. And that is exactly the reason why I loved this restaurant, because of their concept of “kamayan” or eating with your bare hands. Well, not exactly with your bare hands as they also provide you plastic gloves and a bib to prevent food particles in your clothes. They would also line up your table with plastic paper and once your food is served, you may now start your sumptuous meal enjoying it with your bare hands and no one cares if you make a mess.

So on with the food. Those juicy and tasty shrimps are served in a plastic bag submerged in its sauce of your choice that they shake for a bit before serving.  Besides their best selling shrimp (Php335 / lb) in medium redtail style sauce, we also ordered grilled pork belly and Calamari which are all so good, too. You first choose the catch you want (shrimps - Php335/lb, crabs - Php335/lb, local mussels – Php155/lb  or a combination of the three – P395/lb).  Then you choose the flavor (RedTail Style (garlic and butter in a blend of assorted spices), Garlic Butter or Coco Loco) and the level of spiciness (non spicy, mild or spicy) and you’re good to go. If you love shrimps this would be like heaven for you. Definitely a fun dining experience you must try.

Papa Juanito's Square (Limketkai Drive), Cagayan de Oro
Contact No.: 880-3950 / 09178755347
Operating Hours: 11 am – 10 pm

3.       Panagatan

We got to first try this at Centrio Mall but I still suggest you try dining in on their main branch along the main highway at Opol, Misamis Oriental which is on the right side of the road, about 20 mins. from the city. The main branch offers an al fresco dining experience right along the bay. The sea breeze and the view is such a nice treat while enjoying your seafood lunch/dinner.

We ate at the main branch during lunch where a fair group of diners filled the area near the bay. While in Centrio, there’s not much when we visited for dinner on a weekday. Generally, service time on both branch is a bit slow like a minimum of 20-30mins. before food starts to arrive. We ordered a lot that I already couldn’t list everything but the Bouillabaisse soup is the one that stood out the most and also their Bicol Express. The baked scallops and pinakbet was a bit of a miss though, I just expected much more as those are one of my favorites. And also their prawns are acceptable, too,  but I’m still loyal to RedTail on that department. Haha! Anyway, Panagatan is another good choice if you want a variety of Filipino dishes to choose from.

Opol, Misamis Oriental, Mindanao, Philippines
Centrio Mall Branch: 3rd floor, Centrio Garden
Contact No.: (088) 754 487 / 09228586071
Oprating Hours: 6:30am – 10:30 pm 

If I'd choose between the three, I'll go with RedTail for the juicy shrimps, tasty spicy sauce and fun dining experience. But don't get me wrong, the other two is still worth a try among all the other restaurants in CDO. Even if you ask the locals, they'll most probably recommend any of the three, too. It's just that Ocho Seafood and Grill in Tacloban made my standards in seafood and Filipino cuisine, higher than ever. haha!

Hotel Review: Mallberry Suites Business Hotel @ CDO

I stayed at Mallberry Suites Business Hotel for 4D3N last October 5-8, 2014. From Laguindingan airport, it took almost an hour going to the hotel which is conveniently located at the city center near Limketkai Mall. I stayed at the Corporate Solo room which is  good for 1 person only. The room was small as expected but just enough for one people to move around. The bed, which is positioned beside the wall, was just big enough enough for one person to sleep comfortably. 

Before sleeping I usually like to watch some tv shows while lying in bed trying to get sleepy but the the problem is, the cable TV in this room was placed exactly near the foot side of the bed. That's why it's hard to watch without sitting up or positioning your head up while in bed. "tamad problems", yes, but any considerations? Not that it’s a major thing and I know this may be due to room space, but a higher platform might have been handy for this.  In addition, internet in my room was no chance, though it was available in the 5th floor superior room that my colleagues are staying (Update: my boss and another colleague of mine also booked here months after and wifi doesn't work in their room, too).  Corp solo room does not come with a personal ref in the room as compared to the superior room. So if you'll be booking a corporate solo room, just expect the basics.

Bathroom was small. Just enough space for one to take a bath and do one’s own business. Yes, they provide basic toiletries, but it’s better if you bring your own as it could be frustrating as for both shampoo and soap doesn't lather up as much as it should be.

They have 5 elevators, the other 3 is on the other side which is obviously facing a different corridor on the floor. What’s just amusing and annoying  is how I got “lost” on the 2nd day going down from breakfast. It can be quite confusing also (or is it just me?) as the floor where the rooms are have corridors that looks like a maze. Hallway light was dim which I don't usually bother to but not for the day when we watched Anabelle, just imagine me thinking happy thoughts and dashing straight to the end of the corridor where my room is situated, alone. But honestly, a brighter light in the hallway should be considered.

Breakfast buffet was standard, no cereals though. They offer rice, scrambled eggs, meat, fish and fruits. What I only loved and hoarded from their buffet is their creamy scrambled egg, and that's it.

Hotel lobby was spacious, and has a lot of sofa and chairs to lounge on which is a big thumbs up. You can also access the hotel wifi in here which is overly poor inside the room. An open bar is located also at the lobby with a flat screen mounted in the wall where you can watch the news while lounging.

We go out as early as 8am and gets back to the hotel by 10 pm so we weren’t able to try the hotel amenities. Upon touring around the hotel on the 1st night of our stay, I noticed they have 3 in house restaurants, indoor swimming pool, spa, meeting rooms, theater, gym and a game room (billiards, darts and chess). In conclusion, stay was average. Hopefully they’ll do something with their wifi connection. Being known as a business hotel, it's fitting to have a decent wifi connection not only in the lobby but most especially in the rooms, too.

Friday, October 17, 2014

10 points to ponder while staying at Plaza Alemania in Iligan City

Just got back from Iligan and CDO. It was my first time being in Mindanao and it doesn't seem that bad as what the news portrays them to be. It was such a nice experience to see the other end side of the Philippines and its nature's glory. We stayed 4 days in CDO and moved afterwards to Iligan, also a part of our work.

Iligan City is a part of Lanao del Norte which is in the Northern part of Mindanao. From CDO it takes about 1 to 2 hours travel time depending if you're using a private car or public transportation. Bus from CDO to Iligan is available at Bulua Terminal (Super Five) with the earliest departure at 4am and the latest would be at 8:30pm.

Upon arriving at Iligan City, we first headed off to the place we would be staying for 4 days. Hello Plaza Alemania! As what I've noticed, proper hotels is not usual here in Iligan. I've only seen some dorms/bedspacer/hostel around so I think Plaza Alemania would be the only choice for a hotel kind of accomodation. Though there's one nearby that seems like a small hotel operated by the HRM department of a university according to my friend, though I forgot to ask if it's open for public.

Honestly, I wasn't supposed to write about my stay here because I might just sound like a whiner or a hater. Haha! But no I'm not, promise. I just decided to do one for the benefit of those who wants to know what the place looks like. So here's a rundown on how our stay was:

For the first day, I stayed at their Onyx room (photo above) with a rate of 1,700Php/night if you choose to have a plated breakfast (which I suggest you forgo). There was a mix up on reservation, which is completely not the hotel's fault, so I transferred again the next day to my original room. Coral room which is for one person only costs 850Php w/breakfast.

Coral Room

Onyx room (more spacious)

#1.  Front desk personnel was a bit disoriented. I don't know if she doesn't understand Tagalog that much but nonetheless, anyone who mans the frontdesk should know how to communicate effectively and try not to look like a lost one. Or ok, maybe she's just new, let's just her the benefit of the doubt. Though on the following day, talking to that same front desk girl on night shift had been easier. It's a good point that she remembered that I would change room so the transaction was a breeze. I just hope she'll improve herself in the long tun because it seems like it's not the right job for her.

#2. I was assigned at rm 516 the first day. The "5" in the room # doesn't correspond to the floor. If your room # starts at 5, you're on the 4th floor of this hotel. No biggie, just sharing :)

#3 No personal mini fridge in both room. Same goes for the Ruby room that my colleagues booked. Their website states that they have one, they should have been clear on what specific room type has it.

#4. BRING YOUR OWN TOILETRIES. Most often than not, I only bring my own toothbrush and toothpaste because I'm all good with the soap and shampoo that the hotel provides. See, I'm not choosy. Haha. But don't get me wrong, Plaza Alemania provides a guest kit but it just doesn't look right...


A soap which is a bit larger than a coin and a shampoo sachet that looks odd with chinese characters in it.

#5. They also provide you a mug, 3in1 coffee, glass, electronic kettle and a complimetary bottle of water (but there is no ref so yes, you drink that bottle of water in room temp.) in your room.

#6. Softness of bed is so-so. Blanket is just one piece of linen on top of the bed. No comforter or even just a thicker blanket.

#7. No remote for aircon, you just manually adjust it. It's not positioned that high but still you need some height to reach that knob.

#8. Cleanliness, people. CLEANLINESS. I happen to catch a glimpse of a small cockroach strolling above the desk in my first room. So better if you don't leave your food packs open in your room most especially on the desk. I left my box of Morcon inside the plastic bag above the desk and bam! when I returned, red ants were coming out of it. PEST CONTROL please???

#9. Room is equipped with cable TV that has 15 channels but most of the time, only 2-4 channels work. Grainy resolution. Most of the time, only the local channels work plus CNN. So I was atleast saved from the loneliness in the room.

#10. 1st day breakfast was a bit crazy. Got up in their rooftop restaurant before 7am and there were only 2 other customers and us 3. We took a seat first and waited to be handed a menu or at least be instructed on how the hotel breakfast works. But then, it doesn't work like that. We just went up to the counter as soon as we saw one guest approached the only server that time. It was already past 7am when more people started to arrive and there is still only one person in the counter listing the orders, poor guy. As far as I remember, we were advised upon check in that breakfast starts at 6:30am but we were then told by the guy who was already flooded with breakfast orders that the chef is just starting to cook the meals when almost all of the guests are already in there. So much for timeliness. They serve plated breakfast with 3 choices though they do accept crossovers (i.e. rice instead of toast for american breakfast) with a choice of 3in1 coffee or hot milo. On the 3rd day, we had our breakfast past 8am and only a few guests where there. I guess, they just opted to have it delivered to their room, which is a better choice. I asked my colleagues to order for me in advance so when I went up the food arrived just a few minutes after. This time, they were already able to manage it and redeem themselves. There's already a server who will ask for what you need and will refill your glass of water without asking. Each plated breakfast costs 195Php which is added to your room rate if you opted to have one. But honestly, it wasn't even near that worth. Avail the hotel breakfast if you have all the time in the world and doesn't have any plans for the morning, or else skip it.

So that's basically how everything turned out during our stay. Plaza Alemania is beside the main street so it's very easy to hail a jeep going around the city or you could also chance upon a taxi somewhere on the street at the back of the hotel. Shoppe24, a convenience store, is a 10min. walk from the hotel where you can buy your snacks or toiletries. There's also a bakery at the other side of the street, for a light snack. A lot of eateries are also just steps away like a barbeque house that looks like a favorite in the area. Gaisano mall is one jeep away but it's really not .

From what others said, Plaza Alemania is the most decent one around town if you're looking for a hotel. I guess they just need a revamp most especially their bathroom, please lang

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hotel Review: Hotel Lorenzana and the weird sound

Hotel Lorenza is conveniently located at the downtown area of Tacloban City. It houses 50 guest rooms and suites and they have their own in house restaurantcalled Lillybelle's Cafe on the ground floor where they also serve their breakfast buffet. But what's the most important thing to note is that they offer free wifi for guests that which, fortunately, has decent speed and does actually reach the rooms. Free wifi is a must you know. haha! Initially, we booked 4 rooms, 2 deluxe double and 2 premium deluxe as the standard rooms are all booked during our stay. We checked in only around 7pm and were greeted by their nice and polite front desk staff. We had a hard time finding a parking space as they only have 4 slots in front of the hotel and most of the time it's already occupied at night so that's one thing to take note of.

The lobby's interior was nice with just enough space for guests checking in and some chairs for those waiting for someone in the lobby. Checking in was a breeze, present your ID, fill up some guest details and they now give you your room key. Yes, literally a key to you room. :) You may opt to pay as you check out which is good as we decided to cut down the booked room to two. More on that later ;)

Room assignments among the 4 of us was unplanned so we just decided to randomly picked our room key and so I ended up with one of the deluxe double room. At first glance, room size is just the right size for one even though the room was supposed to be for 2 persons.

So this is how my room looked like

It has a queen sized bed with a side table and also a mirror on the side (not seen on the picture above) of the bed which is just kind of creepy. Who would want to see herself at night while trying to sleep? not me. Room also have cable tv with the mini fridge below. Bathroom was also kind of small but enough for one to do what needs to be done. Bath kit includes: shampoo with conditioner, soap, lotion and a dental kit. But what I appreciate more than anything is there power socket near the bed which some hotel often doesn't have. Free wifi access in the room and power socket near the bed? Check.

Before settling in to rest on our first night, we first had our dinner in the nearby Fahrenheit Food Center to have a taste of their famous cheeseburger. And it was honestly good! They also have rice meals in their menu but I haven't tried their fries with mayo which was also one of their bestsellers.

Got back to the hotel and ate our food together in one of our rooms. So here's how their premium deluxe room looks like

Premium deluxe is obviously more spacious. According to their website, this is suited for a family. It has the same queen sized bed but with additional single bed on the side.

Given that space, we can definitely opt to just share this room for two which we definitely did the next day, cancelling the 2 deluxe double room that we had for our first night which was slight because of me. haha! So here's what happened on our first night. After dinner we went back to each of our room. Alone in the room, I just went straight to bed and opened the tv just to have some noise in the background while I'm browsing the net. And some unexpected noise happened. Well, basically it just sound like a knock. Like a sound knocking three times. I thought it was just something that fell or moved from somewhere around the room so I just ignored it. Then after some minutes, I heard it again, same sound, same pattern and same side of the room (on the wall facing outside). Well ok, it was just a sound, nothing extraordinary if you look around. I would seriously sleep and just completely ignore it if only not for the ghost stories we heard earlier that day. After Typhoon Yolanda hit Tacloban, some people had heard voices crying and there was even one story that a jeepney driver had seen someone dripping wet while riding in the back of his jeep then turned out there wasn't really a person there. Okaaaaay. Alone in my room, it was almost midnight and I'm seriously starting to overthink. It happened again, and again. I turned up the volume of the tv but then I heard it again. I was planning to transfer to the other room as they have an extra bed there but I don't know how I can stand up and open the door to run to the room 2 doors beside my room in just a minute. I just can't. haha! So I just hid under the covers trying to sleep as in the morning I will definitely transfer to my colleagues room. So long story short, we just used the 2 premium deluxe room and cancelled the other 2 deluxe double rooms. I definitely need a roommate :) Front desk agreed with no charges for cancellation. Highly appreciate the easy transaction

So besides that creepy night, our stay was good. Still a good place to consider when other hotels nearby are already booked. Some things that they may also consider to improve is their hallway lighting as it was a bit dark. They could also definitely use some light ambiance music in the hallway to set the mood and contrast the dull interiors in the upper floors.

Oh, and for the breakfast buffet? 4-5 choices of viands to have with rice or by itself. They also have choices of bread and spread to choose from. An egg station is also available where you could choose on what to include in your egg omelette. Cereals are also available if you want. Coffee, tea, juice or water is what you could choose from for your drinks.
Will I stay again? Might consider if the other known hotels are already fully booked.