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Monday, July 8, 2019

During my visit to Manila a few weeks back, I had the opportunity to upgrade to business class via Philippine Airlines. Granted that the tickets in Business Class cost an arm and leg for normal folks like us, there is a chance that you might get lucky. One way is that you participate in the bidding process. A few days before the flight, Philippine Airlines sends out an e-mail asking if you would want to upgrade. There, you could bid to be upgraded. For different international flights, they have minimum bids that you could enter. Lucky enough, I got in with the minimum bid.
Most Philippine Airlines flights fly out of TERMINAL 2 in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. Once you enter, check-in counter for business class greets you. Since I was flying to the United States, there was a separate counter at the end just for business class. It was because additional security was needed for people flying to the States. Prior to bag check-in, another physical check of bags would be done even after the xray machine check prior to entering the building.
Once at the counter, the staff goes through your papers and even asks you if you want to change seats. Since Philippine Airlines uses a Boeing 777-300 ER for these flights, I was able to check out what the seat arrangement would be via seat guru. Take note, you won't really have any problem with toilet lines since there is more than enough for everyone in Business class.  If you're seated where I was (1H), there's actually one infront available to you and 2 at the back, in between the two sections of business class. PROTIP: If you don't want people walking beside you while they enter the plane, go for the forward galley. Also, online seat change via website isn't really truthful. There are other empty business class seats once you check in the counter.
Whenever you're flying out of terminal 2 in NAIA, I would suggest you arrive a bit early so that you could use the lounge. Business class tickets gives you access to the Mabuhay lounge.
Once you pass through immigration control and another security checkpoint, head towards gate 8. Just after gate 7, you'll find the entrance to the Mabuhay Lounge.
After showing your boarding pass to the front desk, you get access to the lounge. Once you enter, you're greeted by a darkened room where you could actually rest up. Here, there are also a couple of computers that you could use to work up. If not, there are tons of sockets around for your laptop and to charge your other devices. Internet access is pretty good considering this is Manila.
The main area has a cocktail/ drink area where you could ask for some spirits, coffee, tea, and water bottles.
On the other side, you have the buffet line up. There are different cold drinks available. From Juices, more coffee, tea, soft drinks, beer, and even yogurt.
The food available is just okay. You get your fill but that's it. There are different dumplings choices which I believe changes during the morning, lunch, and dinner.
Small snacks like mini burgers and mini pizza and the ever famous arroz caldo or rice porridge are available.
On a separate table, they offer "made to order" noodle dishes, fruits, and even salad.
I was feeling a little hungry since it was a morning flight so, I snuggled myself into a corner and got a number of dishes to try. The mini pizza and sandwiches looked a bit dry. The dumplings were just okay. On the other hand, the noodles and the arroz caldo were pretty good. They both hit the spot.
Toilet wise, it may get crowded during the morning rush. There's a couple of stalls and bidet installed. Toiletries were present such as mouth wash and all the usual things you will see in a 5 star hotel.
If the line is pretty long, one could ask the staff for access to the "not-so-secret" toilet. I was able to do my business here in piece. If you wanted to freshen up, they also have a shower that you could use as well.
Since I had a business class ticket, I could board the plane anytime I wanted. Going to the United States would warrant that you pass through a cordoned area and another security check point. From there, a separate line is available to business class ticket holder. Lining up and getting in early would be perfect since, it's one of the perks.
The area might be a little bit crowded so it's better to leave the lounge a few minutes prior to boarding time instead.
Once seated, you are given a glass of sparkling drink and a hot towel to freshen up. Since I was in the forward section, I had a glimpse into the workings of the crew during the flight. If light or sound easily bothers you during a long haul, I would suggest you go for the 3rd or 4th row.
Leg room and space was pretty good. There's a firm pillow and a duvet present. You could actually store your blanket and other things in the storage compartment infront of you. It's like a mini cooler but it actually turns into an extension of your seat once you lie down.
The overhead bin is also pretty roomy since, there's only a number of passenger for such space.
The amenities kit contained mostly Acca Kappa. Socks, and even eye covers were there. I usually tend to just keep these stuffs as little souvenirs rather than using them. A pair of slippers were also provided. You also had noise cancelling earphones to use. I was actually happy with Philippine Airline's inflight entertainment. The selection was pretty good.
The screen was pretty big considering and the inflight remote control was pretty useful. I could also access the flight time and see what's outside through the system. Aside from the free wifi available to all passengers, the business class has an additional 100MB to use. As such, it's better to use the free one prior to this once. It's pretty fast and useful for e-mail and even messaging apps.
Prior to take off, the cabin crew also serves other welcome drinks and refreshments. They also ask for your meal preference. Philippine Airlines offers on demand meals. Meaning you could ask your meal to be served when you want it to. I should have used this amenity as getting the meal through business class isn't as fast as I wanted it to be. They try to serve it by course and for a big guy like me, I tend to eat everything in one go. In any case, here's my meal experience.
Amuse bouche was served first. Together with my drink of choice. They had cocktails available and other liquor but since I was going into the US and I didn't want my tummy grumbling, I just went for soda. 
They then prepared my table by adding a cloth, utensils, and a bread plate. They then serve your appetizer. In this case, soup for me. They also show you a bread basket and let you choose your bread. During this time, they are preparing your chosen meal. I had a small glimpse into their work space and I saw that they had cue cards on how to plate them.
Unfortunately, I didn't know what happened to mine. In all honesty, I was still hungry since it was smaller portion to what I was used to in an airplane flight. Dessert wise, I asked for both options. I went for the cheesecake and the ice cream. Thankfully, both were pretty good.
In the middle of the flight, I was still hungry. I asked for some snacks and they offered this cheese plate. Not bad. Also, they have chips and other sweets that they offer all through the flight. Walking around, I could see them on their work table available for anyone to pick on.
This was the view of the cabin during flight. As such, I would definitely recommend rows 3 or 4 next time around. The second meal would be served roughly 2 hours prior to landing. In hindsight, I should have asked for it earlier and just slept through the morning rush. The flight would have been a good experience if only my seatmate would be a bit more relaxed and quieter. Originally I had the two seats all to myself. Unfortunately, someone asked to move to the window seat and from there, I couldn't sleep right and that person made my flight experience worst. Hopefully, your experience would be better.

Disclaimer: Paid for my ticket. Wrote this based on my experience and opinions.
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Sunday, July 7, 2019

 This coming August 2019, new and old restaurants would be awarded with THE CHOICE.
The Choice is the People's Voice.  For 5 years, people from all over the Philippines has been voting for their favorite restaurants and food. Experiences and opinions make the industry what it is. The choice is your way of participating and have a voice. To be heard, that is what it is about.

This is the time for your voice to be heard. Let us know which restaurants, chefs, and food you look for every single time.  Since 2015, the CHOICE has given recognition to amazing parts of this industry. Please join us by answering:

So please check this out and vote for your favorites!!!!
Our Awesome Planet x The Kain Tulog Gang.


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Monday, May 20, 2019

 One of the most dreaded things that a person has to undergo would be to transact with the government. Unfortunately, we all have to experience this as good citizens. Most if not all would always have some business with the LAND TRANSPORTATION OFFICE or LTO.
This post is about my experience in renewing my non-professional driver's license at the SM NORTH EDSA LTO office in the government's one stop shop in the Annex.  I had an expired license that was roughly 5 months overdue. Good news: everything went perfectly fine.
When you arrive, you will be greeted by 3rd party stalls such as this clinic where you should get your medical exam. You need to fill up a form, pay for the exam, and wait for your number to be called.
Once you're up, you have an eye exam where they will check your eyes through a machine and ask you to read a line on the wall.
After checking your weight, you are interviewed by the doctor. From here, they take a photo of you and print a document which you will need for the LTO.
 Going through this process would take 5 minutes tops if there is no line. After getting your documents, go further in the space to see the LTO desk at the back end. There, you need to submit the paperwork together with your old driver's license. Thankfully, you won't need to answer any forms. They will check your license for hits and liabilities and will then ask you to take a photo.
 Afterwards, you would need to visit the SM CASHIER which is a few desks away. Granted that there is a small convenient fee (I think about 5 Php), this was pretty fast and painless. I had to pay extra since I had an expired license. After paying, you show your papers back to the LTO desk and then they will ask you to go to a back room.
 In the back room, there are two terminals where staff will input your information. You will submit your papers here together with your old license. According to the new rules, you must surrender your old license. You will be able to see the information on screen to double check everything. 
They will then take your photo and ask for biometrics together with a signature for your license.
 Everything ends with you signing out on a piece of paper and receiving your brand new license.
Thankfully, I underwent the entire process in less than an hour. The medical exam took roughly 30 minutes as I was 15th in line. The LTO process though was extremely fast. I believe it only took me less than 20 minutes.
This is how government should work. Painless and easy with the end user in mind. Thank you very much LTO OFFICE SM NORTH EDSA.

Government One Stop Shop

Disclaimer: Wrote this based on my experience. I paid for my license.
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Monday, May 13, 2019

Interesting how the market for Chinese food hasn't really changed in the past year that I was gone from Manila. People are still going gaga over it. I still remember all the craze with the buns and properly cooked dimsum. At Marco Polo's Lung Hin, they would capitalize on the fact that they enjoy having one of the best Chinese Restaurants in the Ortigas Area. LUNG HIN has been known as a the place to enjoy unparalleled views together with scrumptious Chinese Dishes.
Just a few weeks ago, LUNG HIN introduced their PREMIUM DIM SUM LUNCH SET. BY choosing this, guests are able to enjoy unlimited servings of dimsum together with select choices of appetizers,  soup, main course, and dessert.
If you're not familiar with dismum, this would be an excellent place to start. Given that you are handed with tons of choices to pick from, you can't go wrong with any of them. Plus, you get top quality dishes.
If you ask me, I'll go for the tried and tested picks that I learned to love and hold dear.  The Pork Siu Mai with truffle sauce is a twist in it's own. Usually, you see this as a tiny meat flavored dish at supermarkets. Here, it's elevated in a sense that premium ingredients are used. The fact that they added truffles makes everything full circle. 
If meat is not up your alley, the Shrimp Dumpling or Hakaw might be your best bet. Their version is packed with real shrimps and topped with gold leaf. They just make everything here luxurious.
More than just shrimp, they even have scallops as a form of dumplings. The addition of corn bits gave it a bit of a crunch.
Aside from the baked barbecue pork buns, the fried glutinous rice dumpling is a treat. The rice shell is incredibly hot so be very careful when getting it on.
Furthermore, your rice and noodles are also unlimited. You could go for something stir fried or maybe just rice. This had shredded pork and was extremely delicious. It wasn't too oily nor was it overpowering.
On the other hand of the spectrum, you're given tons of choices for your "real meal". Unlike the dimsum, these dishes are not unlimited but would definitely fit the bill.
The Stir Fried Squid with mashed salted egg is perfect for salted egg lovers. This one is actually great with plain rice.
For soup, you could choose between the spinach and the hot and sour. I chose the latter as I tend to stay away from "too healthy" dishes. Each person in the group gets to pick their soup, appetizer, Hong Kong Barbecue, and dessert. For the Main Course, you get to pick based on the number of people dining in. If there are 1 to 2 persons, they get to pick 1 dish. If there are 3 to 4, two main dishes may be chosen and so on.
Since we were a large group, we were able to pick a number of main courses. The HOT PRAWN SALAD can be anyone's favorite. Huge prawns are deep fried and covered with a special sauce.
Visiting a Chinese restaurant would not be complete without sweet and sour pork. These deep fried goodies are coated with a tangy sauce that makes it great for kids and kids at heart. Having berries gives them a contrast to the sweet flavor.
Another excellent main dish would be the Spare ribs with black vinegar sauce. The jolt from the vinegar would wake up your taste buds. Again, plain rice would work with this one.
Dessert is a choice between mango pudding, mango sago with coconut milk, and chilled coffee jelly.
The Premium DIM SUM LUNCH SET is available from Monday to Saturdays lunch time. It's at 1,888Php with a 25% discount as well.
Marco Polo's Lung Hin is located on the 44th floor of the hotel. With unparalleled views of the Ortigas Skyline, this Chinese restaurant has an impressive track record that makes you wonder how they have unbelievably affordable price points. Impeccable dining service and delicious dishes, LUNG HIN is a must visit when in Ortigas.

Meralco Avenue and Sapphire Street
Ortigas Center
San Antonio, Pasig, Metro Manila

Disclaimer: Wrote this based on my experience.
Was invited to check out this new offer from Marco Polo.
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