Celebrate Valentine’s Day
at Marco Polo Ortigas Manila

Strawberry Tarts for Valentine's Day, available at Marco Polo Ortigas' Cafe Pronto

Strawberry Tarts for Valentine’s Day, available at Marco Polo Ortigas’ Cafe Pronto

CAN you actually believe it? It seems like we have just welcomed the New Year, 2018, and now January is almost over and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Since Valentine’s is a special occasion that celebrates love and romance, hotels and restaurants—even resorts and other commercial establishments—are getting ready for it this early.

Chocolate hearts available at Cafe Pronto

Chocolate hearts available at Cafe Pronto

Big Strawberry Tart

Big Strawberry Tart

And more sweet treats for Valentine available at Cafe Pronto

And more sweet treats for Valentine available at Cafe Pronto

Marco Polo Ortigas Manila, for one, is bringing the love season to greater heights this Valentine’s, with all its food outlets offering something special for the occasion. Café Pronto celebrates the season with confections that speak from the heart, including decadent Valentine’s cake, chocolate hearts, pralines and strawberry tarts available daily.

Love Potions at Cucina

Love Potions at Cucina

Two to Tango at Cucina

Two to Tango at Cucina

On February 13 and 14, Valentine’s Eve and Valentine’s Day itself, Cucina presents a lavish array of international favorites and elevates its live action stations, especially the popular Seafood Station, for Php2,888 per person. Special Valentine cocktails are also available a la carte.

On February 14, Lung Hin, the Cantonese restaurant of Marco Polo Ortigas, puts together a fine and intricate celebration that accentuates the elegance of Cantonese cuisine. It offers special set menus to choose from, featuring such festive dishes as Sliced Peking Duck with Osmanthus Jelly on Potato Chip, Sautéed Fresh Tiger Prawn Ball in Supreme Stock, and Pan-fried Crab Claw with Foie Gras in Barbecue Sauce.

Wine of the Month, Eclat de Rose, available at Vu's Sky Bar and Lounge

Wine of the Month, Eclat de Rose, available at Vu’s Sky Bar and Lounge

Valentine’s date can be quite an extraordinary experience of romance by sharing drinks over an illustrious view of the sparkling sky at Vu’s Sky Bar and Lounge on February 14. A savory tapas buffet can be enjoyed by guests while being serenaded by the HIWAY 54 Band. Heat up the romantic ambiance even more with a welcome glass of the wine of the month, Eclat de Rosé, a stylish drinks that reveals a beautiful expression of fresh berries and aromatic flowers.


(Marco Polo Ortigas Manila is located at Meralco Ave. corner Sapphire St., Ortigas Center, Pasig City; with telephone number 720-7777.)

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Iloilo Stages Grand Dinagyang Festival


(COMING at the heels of Cebu’s Sinulog Festival and Aklan’s Ati-Atihan Festival is the grand Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo. It traditionally takes place during the fourth week of January and, like the Sinulog Festival and Ati-Atihan Festival, is in honor of the Sto. Nino.

In anticipation of this grand event, I am sharing with you the story that I wrote on the Dinagyang Festival of 2016. It first appeared in Appetite Magazine‘s April 2016 issue.) 


Painted faces and bodies, colorful costumes and high-energy dance performances mark Iloilo's Dinagyang Festival

Painted faces and bodies, colorful costumes and high-energy dance performances mark Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival

DRUMBEATS roll, the festive sound reverberating in the air, louder and louder, in a rhythmic crescendo. The energy level is high. The crowd filling the Freedom Grandstand in Iloilo and overflowing into the side streets cheers and applauds as groups of “warriors” with painted faces, colorful costumes complete with oversized headdresses, and spears and shields on hand, rush forward in a friendly charge. The “warriors” thump their feet and raise their spears, nod their heads and spread their arms, swinging and swaying to the beat of the rumbling sound, in one of the most compelling performances of “tribes” during the Dinagyang Festival. All ten “tribes” competing in this year’s Iloilo Dinagyang Ati Competition moved in basically the same rhythm, each engaging in a seven-minute performance routine that traces the evolution of their faith.

Being a first-time witness to Iloilo’s Dinagyang Festival in 2016, I watched in awe at the color, excitement and revelry of the entire celebration.

The Ati Competition in progress...

The Ati Competition in progress…

A warrior performer

A warrior performer

A much-anticipated annual event that draws big crowds to the Western Visayas province of Iloilo, the Dinagyang Festival takes place every fourth Sunday of January. A series of activities over the preceding days lead up to Sunday’s highlight of the festival, the Iloilo Dinagyang Ati Competition. The Dinagyang Festival itself is a religious and cultural festival held in reverence of the Santo Niño, who is the image of the Child Jesus Filipinos revere. It also traces the arrival of the Catholic faith in Iloilo and the devotion that the Ilonggos have to the Child Jesus. The Ati Competition shows the history and evolution of this faith in choreographed street dance routines, and it’s something that festival-goers look forward to watching because it is marked with painted faces, elaborate and colorful tribal costumes and traditional Ati style dance movements.

On the Dinagyang Festival’s 48th year in 2016, the Ati Competition once again took center stage at the Freedom Grandstand in Iloilo City, where each tribe performed to a full-house crowd before moving on to its four other performance stages spread all around the city—the Iloilo Provincial Capitol, Delgado corner Mabini streets, Quezon corner Ledesma streets, and Iznart St.—to entertain other groups of eager spectators. Each tribe’s performance was as compelling as in the past years, with awesome backdrops and props, several costume changes and adrenaline-pumping dance movements that went on and on.

The Ati Competition was marked by colorful costumes complete with headdresses-IMG_0166Tribu Baybayanon in action-IMG_0396Simultaneous to the Ati Competition was the Parade of Floats, which consisted of fantasy-themed floats put together by major corporate sponsors of the Dinagyang Festival. The crowd gathered at the Freedom Grandstand caught sight of these colorful floats, as they moved down the streets in between performances by the Ati competitors.

While huge crowds built up around the performance stages, the streets all around them also carried on the festive mood. They were lined with food stalls and makeshift dining areas put up just to cater to crowds of spectators who came to watch the Dinagyang Festival. The aroma of a signature Ilonggo dish, Chicken Inasal, cooking on the grill wafted in the air and whetted the appetite of revelers, a lot of whom were wearing Dinagyang Festival shirts and feathered Dinagyang tribal headgears that have become icons of the festival. It was also a curious sight to see mounds upon mounds of fresh oysters in some of the roadside eateries. Just order a basin full of oysters, and the stall owners would gladly steam them so they could be enjoyed on the spot.

Also available were street foods such as Bibingka and Boiled Sweet Corn.

A showcase of the rich heritage, history, faith and devotion, and fun-loving spirit of the Ilonggos, the Dinagyang Festival has become one of the country’s most spectacular religious and cultural festivals. It takes place after Cebu’s Sinulog Festival and Aklan’s Ati-Atihan Festival every January, with all three festivals being held in honor of the Santo Niño and collectively opening the series of festivals lined up for the new year. They are such major festivals that some tourists somehow find a way to do the rounds of all three festivals despite being held only days apart. While there, they take advantage of the time to go around to see historical places and tourist attractions as well as sample the food in the host provinces.

I have seen a lot of festivals around the country, and I could honestly say that the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo is one of the grandest, most colorful, truly exciting and most important festivals in the country. It’s an absolutely compelling tourist attraction that never fails to draw crowds every year. No wonder hotels and hostels, even bed-and-breakfast places in Iloilo are booked one year in advance.

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Diamond Hotel Offers Exciting Deals
for Chinese New Year 2018

Wok-fried Crab for prosperity

Wok-fried Crab symbolizes wealth

THE Year of the Earth Dog promises to be and active and eventful one, with the dog’s energies guided by the earth element in its Yang form. So make way for the Chinese New Year 2018 and kick-start the celebration. Diamond Hotel Philippines joins in the celebration with its high-spirited activities and special perks.

Planning to have an auspicious Chinese lunch or dinner to mark Chinese New Year 2018? Corniche presents its Chinese New Year Lunch and Dinner Buffet from February 15 to 18, 2018, featuring the culinary specialties of the hotel’s new Chinese chef Yang Yong. Priced at Php2,500 nett per person, the Chinese New Year gastronomic feast includes Salmon Yu Sheng for prosperity, Wok-fried Crab for wealth, and Teochew Style Roast Suckling Pig for luck. Other auspicious and symbolic food will also be served to bring a more meaningful celebration and to boost good fortune throughout the year.

Diamond Hotel Philippines' new Chinese chef Yang Yong

Diamond Hotel Philippines’ new Chinese chef Yang Yong

What’s more: For every Php5,000 expenditure, diners get a chance to pick a prize and win something from the Prosperity Tree. And if you spend it at the Corniche Lunch Buffet on February 16, 2018, you get a free 10-minute Feng Shui consultation with Feng Shui expert Angel Macalino.

To complete the Chinese New Year celebration, Diamond Hotel treats its guests to a vibrant Lion and Dragon Dance by the Philippine Ling Nam Athletic Federation at 11:00 a.m. on February 16. The Chinese musicians belonging to the Kim Hwa Ensemble are also providing live entertainment by playing traditional musical instruments.

Then there are the amulets and charms available at the hotel lobby from February 10 to 18, where guests can select the best Feng Shui cures to bring about an atmosphere that will make them stronger and to invite prosperity and health into their respective homes.

And for guests who wish to stay over in the hotel, overnight stays in a Deluxe Room are priced at Php7,500 nett, inclusive of breakfast for two at Corniche, unlimited WiFi access, 20% off on laundry service and on reflexology, and complimentary shuttle service during weekends to Intramuros and SM Mall of Asia. Booking a room may also be done online via www.diamondhotel.com, with promo code LUCKYGETAWAY.

For inquiries, call 528-3000 extension 1121 (restaurant reservations) and extension 1140 (room reservations).


(Diamond Hotel Philippines is located at Roxas Blvd. corner Dr. J. Quintos St., Manila.)

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Morcon a la Emilia
(Chef Myrna Segismundo
for The Maya Kitchen)

Morcon a la Emilia

Morcon a la Emilia

Chef Myrna Segismundo

Chef Myrna Segismundo

CHEF Myrna Segismundo, a multi-awarded Filipino chef who has made great strides in the promotion of Filipino cuisine, was the featured chef in the most recent Culinary Elite Series cooking session of The Maya Kitchen.

Stressing that Filipino food does not need to be made gourmet or fused with other cuisines to be good, Chef Myrna lined up five Filipino dishes for her cooking demo, and one of them was Morcon a la Emilia.

The dish is a tribute to her mother, from whom Chef Myrna learned her very first lessons in cooking, as she was a good cook and served her big brood with good food every mealtime. The recipe of the hearty and filling dish is shared here.

2 kgs. beef sirloin, cut into 2 portions, each measuring 8x5x1/2 inches
juice from 2 pcs. lemons or limes or 10 pcs. calamansi
1 cup soy sauce
1 head garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp. black peppercorns, cracked
1/2 cup unsalted butter
8-10 pcs. sweet pickles, quartered
4-6 pcs. Spanish sausages (chorizo), each cut into 4 horizontal strips
200 grams pork fat, cut into 1/4×2-inch strips
1/3 kg. Edam cheese or queso de bola, cut into 1/4×2-inch strips
150 grams ham strips
1 can pimiento, sliced into strips
5 eggs, boiled, peeled and cut into wedges
butcher’s thread
2 pcs. white onion, minced, sautéed in a little oil
4 pcs. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped, sautéed in a little oil
enough water to cover meat
1 cup tomato sauce
3 pcs. potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup green olives
salt and pepper to taste

1. Marinate beef slices in lemon, lime or calamansi juice, soy sauce, garlic and pepper for 2 hours.
2. Remove beef from marinade and spread slices flat on a tray. Reserve marinade.
3. Spread butter on the top side of each slice of beef. Then line the buttered slice of beef with strips of pickles, sausages, pork fat, cheese, ham, pimientos and boiled eggs. Roll each slice into a cylinder and tie with butcher’s thread to bind beef and stuffing together. Rub and coat rolls with sautéed onions and tomatoes.
4. Place beef rolls in a pot or casserole. Pour marinade over the rolls. Add water and tomato sauce.
5. Cook rolls, covered, over medium heat for about 30 minutes or until sauce thicks and beef is half-done. Add quartered potatoes and olives, and continue simmering until beef is tender. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Cool beef rolls thoroughly. Remove string. Carefully slice the rolled beef into half-inch thick cuts, making sure the stuffing is intact.
7. Arrange slices neatly on a platter. Heat sauce with potatoes and olives. Pour sauce over slices and garnish with potatoes and olives. Serve warm.

Serves 4 to 6.

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Now Serving Exquisite Abalone
at Marco Polo Ortigas’ Lung Hin

Exquisite South African Abalone

Exquisite South African Abalone

IF you’re craving for exquisite abalone, you’re not alone. A lot of people, especially those who have tried it before, dream of indulging in that lavish and luxurious experience of eating exquisite abalone for lunch or dinner.

These marine snails called abalone are, after all, considered to be a fine ingredient in the culinary world. Diners usually indulge in the special treat only during special occasions due to the limited supply—and, thus, high value—of abalone. Besides being delicious, abalone is also much coveted due to its multiple health benefits on the immune system, eyes, liver and kidneys. It is also used as an additional therapy for cancer.

Braised Whole South African Abalone with Oyster Sauce

Braised Whole South African Dried Abalone with Supreme Oyster Sauce

Now, there is every reason to indulge in abalone, as Marco Polo Ortigas Manila’s Cantonese restaurant, Lung Hin, puts the spotlight on the abalone. The chefs, led by Chinese Executive Chef Terry Lai, has made exquisite abalone readily available at the restaurant, with a choice of Braised Whole Australian Abalone with Supreme Oyster Sauce in six heads at Php1,200 per piece, Braised Whole South African Dried Abalone with Supreme Oyster Sauce in twelve heads at Php2,088 per piece, and Braised South African Abalone with Hong Kong Dried Sausage and Waxed Meat Fried Rice in 12 heads at Php3,288 per piece.

Peking Duck with Osmanthus Jelly on Potato Chip

Peking Duck with Osmanthus Jelly on Potato Chip

Enjoy exquisite abalone dishes with other specialties of Lung Hin by ordering set menus that have been crafted to bring the best of Hong Kong to the dinner table. The Sea Special Set Menu includes Peking Duck with Osmanthus Jelly on Potato Chip, Double-boiled Chicken with Red Dates and Wolfberry Soup, and Steamed Cantonese Sausage Rice with Garoupa Fillet, along with Braised Whole Australian Abalone with Supreme Oyster Sauce in six heads. The Healthy Classic Set Menu, meanwhile, offers Braised Whole South African Dried Abalone with Supreme Oyster Sauce in twelve heads.


(Marco Polo Ortigas Manila can be found at Meralco Ave. corner Sapphire St., Ortigas Center, Pasig City; with telephone number (632) 7207777.)

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