Friday, July 14, 2006


This piece on Phuket was published this month in Pilmap magazine. Go out and get yourself a copy if it is available where you are. They most likely edited bits of it to fit in with the magazine's specs. The article below is unabridged and unedited.


The island of Phuket, Thailand has long been known for its wide expanse of shoreline, variety of watersports and, of course, crazy nightlife. There are seventeen sandy beaches, countless restaurants and a plethora of activities to try. Tourists and locals alike flock to Phuket’s lively beaches and bars. The devastating tsunami that hit the area in 2004 has not seemed to critically affect the flow of travelers. Patong Beach, the area’s most popular beach, is lined with bars that come to life as soon as the sun begins to set.

But if the idea of carousing all night does not appeal to you, there is no need to strike Phuket from your list of places to see. Mai Khao beach, a region of calm and quiet, lies about half an hour away from the busy stretch of Patong. This mostly deserted beach is where sea turtles come to lay their eggs. The 11 kilometer span of golden sand on Mai Khao’s shoreline is met by the clear calm waters of the Andaman Sea. Gone are the sounds of tuk-tuks and all-night parties. Instead, there is only the sound of waves lapping gently on the shore and the wind that softly rustles the treetops.

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Pamper Your Senses

Spoil yourselves by checking into the most luxurious resort in the area, the JW Marriot Phuket Resort and Spa. The secluded resort stands alone on the already sheltered Mai Khao beach and is among the best ways to truly enjoy the serenity of the area.

Only minutes away from the airport, the resort boasts 11 hectares devoted to relaxation. Their location puts them right next to the Sirinath Marine National Park, which boasts some of the most diverse marine life in southern Thailand.

The resort itself is a paradise laden with all the trappings of the high-life from the golf carts than transport you from one end of the hotel to the other to high-speed internet that is available in most rooms. A gym, three swimming pools, and a daily schedule of varied fun activities are also open to all guests. Biking trails, jet-skiing and snorkeling can be found nearby. Come sunset, an in-house cultural show is put on in the main lobby.

The Mandara Spa, the resort’s on-site wellness center, offers meditation, yoga, Thai boxing, aerobics and cultural classes as well as the traditional massage therapies and treatments.

Nothing is overlooked during any of the spa’s services from the herbal tea that begins most sessions to the soothing sounds and aromas that permeate the facility. The height of indulgence comes in the form of a variety of half-day spa packages lasting anywhere between 3 to 5 hours. A romantic four hour treatment is also available for starry-eyed couples.

From facials involving ancient Thai recipes to body wraps of freshly picked tropical fruits and honey to Ayurvedic massages, the Wellness Spa has one goal in mind: to give you the most relaxing and stress-free experience of your vacation.

And if you think that spending an hour (or five) at the Mandara spa was blissful, wait til you sample the array of food the resort’s top chefs prepare on a daily basis. A total of seven different restaurants are found within the resort. The Siam Deli is the best place to grab a fresh cup of gourmet coffee and some freshly made sandwiches. Also available are Italian eats at Cucina, Japanese dishes at Kabuki Sushi Bar and, of course, Thai delicacies at the Sala Rim Talay Seafood Market. On Saturday evenings, the ground floor beneath the Marriot Café is transformed into a night market-cum-dinner-buffet. Private beach-side cabanas can also be arranged through the concierge where you and your sweetheart can dine by the beach served by a private staff member.

There are plans to open Thai fine dining restaurant on the beachfront by the first quarter of 2006. Complimenting this is a planned cooking school that will offer short-term classes and private dinners given by prominent chefs.

All your senses are coddled and spoiled. Go ahead and let them, you know you deserve it.


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The outer lying island chains of Phi Phi, Siliman and Krabi should not be missed. The ever-helpful staff of the JW Marriot Phuket can arrange these trips for you with the press of a button. If you choose to book yourselves somewhere else, there are several other tour operators that can take you on these island boat tours. These all-day tours often include stops at snorkeling sites, lunch, a chatty tour guide and mid-day snacks. All you need to bring are your extra clothes, sunblock and a camera!

Known for its limestone cliff sides, rich snorkeling and white sand beaches, the two major islands of Phi Phi have become the must see spot for visitors. Maya Bay is actually the location for Leonardo Di Caprio’s hit movie “The Beach.”

Other highlights of the trip include a stop at Monkey Bay, ruled supreme by a gang of resident macaque monkeys and then another break at Khai (Egg) Island, where the sheer number of curious tropical fish make you feel like you are inside a natural aquarium.

If snorkelers and beach bums find paradise in Phi Phi, then it is the nine islands that comprise the Similan National park that scuba divers think is dreamland. Unspoiled in spite of its worldwide popularity, these islands contain rich evergreens as well as abundant coral reefs. Trekking is also an option for those who wish to explore the natural flora of these islands.

A much closer but no less beautiful option are the islands that comprise Krabi. About an hour away by speedboat, the picturesque Hong, Twin, Tub and Pho Dan islands are perfect for swimming, snorkeling and scuba-diving as well.

On the larger islands in the chain, like the main island of Phi Phi Don, there are tsunami evacuation route markers. In the midst of sunshine and crystal waters, they serve as grim reminders of the time when this paradise was put in peril.

While the dive sites remain largely intact, it was the villages and businesses that took the brunt of the tidal wave. For the most part, the islands and inhabitants of the Andaman Sea have started recovering from the tsunami’s rampage. Villagers are rebuilding their lives. Businesses on the islands are slowly re-opening as more and more of the affected areas are cleaned up.

The Thai people are a hardy bunch. They were, after all, the only Asian country that repelled all efforts of colonization. Their resilience and perseverance has helped them in their efforts to restore the beauty of these island chains. No matter which of these island groups you choose to visit, you are guaranteed breath-taking views both above and below water.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Imperio-Rey Nuptials.

June 4, 2006. Sanctuario de San Antonio.

The Crew. The Old Farts. The "Ateneo CADs friends." Whatever we call ourselves, what we really are is a group of people that have - in the last decade - become a family. We have seen everything: births and baptisms (eight kids now with the birth of Akia), funerals, birthdays (guess who just turned 30? HBD Cookeroo!) and of course, weddings.

We are scattered around the world. Those in Manila have become so busy that it is a treat to get more than 4 of us together at any given time. A visit from one of the OFW Farts is considered special and always brings in a big crowd. Ah but the wedding of an OFW Fart? That's a super special event that merits a blog!

We congregated once again to watch Jun Rey walk down the aisle. Some of us had roles to play. Jenina, Binky, Jay and I were secondary sponsors. Marlon, of course, was the Best Man. Dicey read during the mass. Cybil and Cookie took care of the offertory. Roman whipped out his video cam to record the ceremony. And everyone else? Madly snapped photos as only an Old Fart can. I think we have more pictures than the official wedding photographer. (Even I snuck my camera in my pew so I could take my own snaps during the mass)

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I was just the slightest bit afraid that, given how Jun knows my propensity for small accidents, he made me the candle sponsor. Binky, Jenina and I were making cracks about how I would burn the bride's veil. Or maybe even myself. Thankfully, none of that happened. At the appropriate time, Jay & I walked up, struck our matches, lit the candles (smiled in case someone was taking photos) and made our way back down to our pews.

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Jun Rey and Tin are avid travelers. Together they have made their way through Asia and even managed to get engaged in the Maldives. For their honeymoon, they were going to invade Europe on a Greece-Switzerland-Italy-England route, making it to London in time to watch Wimbledon. And despite the fact that they were on their honeymoon, they still found the time to send us postcards from each and every stop. Thanks for the posties guys! Can't wait to see the photos.

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Adrian, Lala, Kaz, Cybil, Binky, Jay and Jenina.

Everybody looked lovely. I know people are going to say that I am biased because I love you all so much but it's true. The photos prove it: the Crew cleans up well.

Next to Tin, the Best Dressed tag has got to go to Kith "No Longer A Losyang" Vargas. Goddess. To see her in all her Grecian glory, head to this site.

The wedding went on well past midnight. We toasted. We played catch up. We took off our shoes and danced barefoot. We kept going back to the dessert table. We took a lot of photos. We laughed, we drank... we were merry. How could we not be when we were gaining a new person in our extended family?

We ended up in the bridal suite at nearly 1 in the morning. Spread out on the floor and the couches, tired and fighting fatigue, we recounted the booboos and high point of the last sixteen hours. Finally, we couldnt deny that we were all ready to fall asleep on our feet. Reluctanty, we hugged the newlyweds goodbye... with promises to upload photos and trade jpegs.

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Okay, so... to Jun and Tin... congratulations all over again.

The Old Farts

For photos check out:
My pbase
Jun and Tin's Galleries

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Remission: Benjo Marquez

I am posting this for my friend Stalle. Her good friend Benjo Marquez was recently diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin's lymphoma. He and his family need all the help they can get.

There are two big events planned at Capones (July 13) at Embassy (July 20). For more information on them check out the event poster here.

For POKER FANATICS, save the date: AUGUST 12! We're holding a Charity Poker Tournament in Casino Filipino (Airport) that Saturday, from 2pm onwards.

We'll be playing Benjo's music, which friends and supporters can groove to. Plus, free food, free-flowing beer and goodies will be served!

Buy-in for players is only Php 2,000.00, and we need at least 200 players. So if you, your friend, brother, sister, dad, mom, tito, tita or driver wants to join, contact Sookie at 0917-529-8837!

Major prizes so far is a brand new and newly-designed Poker Table from Kustom Kowboys and an overnight stay at Seawind, Boracay :-)

We will be welcoming any other cash donations at the entrance of any of the events! Thank you for all the support!

- Stalle Henares & Friends

Monday, July 03, 2006

Ang Itlog Na Inaalog

I thought I'd posted this when I wrote the La Union Long Weekend entry. Oh well, a bit late but still uploaded. Coming soon: the Pala-One blog and Alex Grasshopper's Baptism in Zamba.

What my blog entry would probably read like if I wrote it in Tagalog: "Mula Petron Station sa NLEX hanggang San Juan, La Union pinaglaruan ko ang itim na itlog ni Phillip. Inalog-alog ko ito habang kumakanta ng kung ano-anong mga house at r & b na tugtog. Minsan, pinapahawak ko din kay Aya ang itim na itlog ni Phillip. Tuwang-tuwa kaming lahat."

In English: From the Petron Station along NLEX all the way to San Juan, La Union, I played with Phillip's black egg shaker. I shook it while singing random house and r&b tunes. Sometimes, I would let Aya hold the egg shaker. We all had a great time.

Which, we actually did. Phillip had his bongos and egg shakers stashed in the back seat of his car. So Aya, Terence and I took turns jamming with whatever song was playing. This was the first time I'd ever gone up to La Union without fighting sleep or desperately trying to stay awake. Normally, I don't sleep at all... or I pass out when we hit Agoo. But it's usually really a struggle for me. This time? Not so much. The great music led to super fun conversations about everything from good music to... honestly, I dont really remember. I just know we passed those 5 hours in a haze of good vibes and good sounds. And that kind of set the tone for the entire long weekend.

Speakin' of sounds... there's this one song that I've been looking for since the weekend. I don't know the artist's name or who remixed it so I can't download it.* All I know is that it is called Sun Shine Through and there's a part that goes "every once in a while I'll feel the sun shine through. Chasing thoughts of a time when it was me and you..." It was the song we played after our super Saturday session... everyone surfed out... hungry... and stoked. If anyone has any leads, leave me a note naman o! Thanks!

Oh and for photos of the weekend? Click this please.

*postscript: I've been told that the song is by Richard F featuring Samantha Stock.