Thursday, May 21, 2015

TRAVEL | Island-hopping in Matnog, Sorsogon

matnog sorsogon 01
It may be a cloudy day but the sheer beauty of Matnog's sand and sea still shines through.

On our recent trip to Sorsogon I was nearly bummed out when I woke up to the sound of rain on our second day. Rain may be a welcome relief to a hot and humid weather but no, not on my vacation! Especially on a vacation where I'm going to the beach!

But we were still pushing through, of course, because everything was already arranged by the staff of the very chic Siama Hotel. At least the rain started letting up by the time we boarded our van. We were headed for Matnog.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

DINING | A quick take on La Finca Tagaytay

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Stylish ceiling at newly opened La Finca.

A little over a month ago, and while on a strategic planning session with colleagues in Tagaytay, we tried out a new restaurant called La Finca for dinner. It's one of two restaurants at the very fab Domicillo Tagaytay bed and breakfast, both of which weren't open yet when Kwittiegirl and I stayed there in January this year.

I wouldn't call this a proper restaurant review because I had not taken any photos of the food. Well, except for dessert after the thought came to mind. I didn't bother checking the prices either because we were a big group and I wasn't the one ordering. I just ate. A lot.

But anyway.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

TRAVEL | A quick look around Sorsogon City

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The beauty of the sunset afterglow.

We took to Sorsogon City over the recent Labor Day long weekend not for anything really but to stay at the lovely Siama Hotel. Well, we did book a little island-hopping trip in Matnog, which was several kilometers away but still part of Sorsogon province. Before that, though, we decided to have dinner at some place in the city and hired a tricycle to also take us around town.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

FASHION | Sun's out, guns out

It's summer. Enjoy! Let loose! It's the season for wearing less. Or in case you've been quietly toiling it out at the gym for weeks, or even months perhaps, it's the perfect time to show off those guns.

Yes, wear a tank top. Here are a few ideas I've put together:

Long and loose
There are tanks and sleeveless shirts that are a bit lengthier than the usual. This type, especially the slimmer ones, go perfectly with joggers or pants with a more relaxed fit, or in this case trousers that rest mid-calf. I think even guys like me with really no guns to show can pull this look off.

tank top pairings 01
Torcy sleeveless t-shirt and Pheda 3/4 trousers, both from SILENT Damir Doma.

Meshed up
Mesh tank tops. But how about holding back a bit on the mesh? You know, a tank that's just partially in a mesh fabric. A white one like shown here can be worn with joggers. Choose ones with a relaxed upper half and a slimmer bottom that hug your legs a bit.

Monday, May 11, 2015

DINING | My Mother's Garden: Inside the home of a national artist

my mother s garden 01
The design of this tropical home reminds me of old movies from the glory days of Philippine cinema.

This is a long overdue post but still, allow me.

Last March while staycationing at the wonderful The Henry Hotel Manila, we thought of venturing out of the compound for dinner on one occasion. We weren't sure where to go until Kwittiegirl stumbled upon an interesting place called My Mother's Garden online. Perfect, I thought, because it wasn't far from our hotel.

My Mother's Garden is not exactly a restaurant per se but it is a restaurant nonetheless. Confused? It's actually a house -- the home of National Artist for Architecture Pablo S. Antonio, Sr. no less. Antonio was regarded as a pioneer of modern Philippine architecture during his time and is responsible for designing, among several other buildings, the Manila Polo Club and the main building of the Far Eastern University.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

TRAVEL | Siama Hotel: A tasteful retreat in Sorsogon City

siama hotel 01
Siama Hotel's elegantly designed pool.

Siama Hotel had been on my radar ever since I saw it on Deal Grocer although the hotel has been around since 2013. Siama really appealed to me design-wise and it immediately became one of my target vacation spots. Finally over the long Labor Day weekend that longing came true.

So was the whole wishing and hoping worth it? Here's a rundown:

Inquiries and reservation
Okay, I hit a bit of a snag on this aspect. There may not have been any mix-up but I wasn't quite satisfied with how our reservation progressed. The long and short of it was that it took them a while to respond to my emails even after calling or texting them.

I was antsy because we already booked our flight and I needed the quote corrected, plus the bank details so I could make the deposit to confirm my reservation. It was only when Kat, who apparently owns the hotel, got hold of my message that things got a lot faster. Nonetheless, I suggest someone check the hotel's email more regularly.

The hotel website had very little to offer in terms of information but Kat told me they're working on improving it. They're also thinking about having a booking engine on their site although they still have to weigh the cost against expected benefits, considering Siama has only 25 rooms. You can still book online, though, via Agoda. As for us, our booking was processed via email exchanges and was confirmed after a 50% bank deposit.

Location
Siama Hotel is tucked away in a quiet spot in the outskirts of Sorsogon City, which is about an hour away from the nearest airport in Legazpi City. The area is dominated by coconut trees with a few residential houses and yes, it's quite far from the city proper. The location, however, suits this kind of hotel perfectly.

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At the end -- or rather, the start -- of this dirt road is the main gate to the Siama Estate, an enclosed compound where the hotel stands. I took this photo in front of the hotel.

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The understated but still impressive hotel facade. Had fun with one of those spruced-up pedicabs for an instant #ootd post.

Check-in
No snag this time and the hotel staff were quick to greet us and help us with our luggage. Processing didn't take long and it was nice to sip on fresh buko (coconut) as welcome drinks. They were likewise quick to orient us of what to do when we need something. The front desk service, by the way, is only from 6 or 7 in the morning to 10 in the evening.

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The common lounge area. That's the front desk at the far end of the photo.

Architecture and interior design
Ah, the design, which lured me to this hotel in the first place, did not disappoint. Siama has two adjacent buildings that together form a U-shaped perimeter for its simple but beautiful rectangular pool, with coconut trees and lush giant ferns filling in the gaps.

Following a tropical theme, the hotel uses a combination of hardwood and bare concrete. Coupled with touches rooted in traditional Filipino design, the resulting effect is elegant but still relaxed, something that has that upscale tropical resort feel to it even if no beach is in sight.

siama hotel 05
The other end of the common lounge area. Meals are sometimes served here, and why not? I mean, look at those handsome long tables!

siama hotel 06
The lounge offers guests several table and seating options.

The common area at the main building's ground floor is literally an open-air space with no walls. However, sliding doors of some native woven material fill in the gaps between the columns, offering occasional shade from direct sunlight and protection from rain splatters, as the need be.

Even the corridors outside the rooms are never totally closed spaces. The one on the second floor above the lounge, for instance, are covered with slanted frames of slatted wood. It looks good outside but the effect from behind it is also worthy of notice.

Siama Hotel's tasteful design is rivaled only by its equally handsome furniture. Kat, after all, is the better half of furniture designer Milo Naval. From hardwood tables and chairs, to rattan-framed couches and rattan-woven lamps, the hotel is expectedly filled with Naval's beautiful works. I also learned that Kat is friends with Rene Alcala, who owns the also elegantly designed Domicillo Tagaytay bed and breakfast. They also furnished two of the rooms there, she added.

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The slatted wood frames provide the corridor on the main building's 2nd floor a veiled look into what's outside. And when the sunlight hits this part of the building, the effect is just wonderful.

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The perfect marriage of gray concrete and wood.

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Those lamps I really like.

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Touches of beauty are seemingly everywhere in this hotel.

Our room
We got a family suite, comprised by two adjacent rooms. We were lucky Siama has an ongoing summer promo and we got it at a discount. The rooms, though identical, aren't exactly the same. Aside from the bed arrangement, there's a slight difference in the bathroom and in the furniture used.

siama hotel 11
The lovely view outside is this room's TV.

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Our room's minimalist bed setup.

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The perfect work desk, made even more perfect by the view offered by the room's huge windows.

Both rooms are definitely spacious, with white walls and tainted wood plank flooring, accented by bamboo, rattan and other light-colored wood furniture. The slatted bamboo wall behind the bed provides a slight veil so the entire room isn't visible all at once upon entering.

One thing to take note of -- and probably for a lot of travelers -- is that there are no TVs in any of Siama's guest rooms; no WiFi even. While we're fine with the idea of staying unplugged, others may find this a letdown. There are no phones either to dial "0" when you need anything, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

Probably my only letdown with this room is the absence of any coffee and tea-making facility (sounds so trivial, I know). There is complementary coffee at the lounge, yes, but sometimes I just have those late-night coffee cravings that can't be satisfied here. And oh, the family suite doesn't have any balcony or porch unlike the other rooms. I wish they had an in-room safe, too.

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Our spacious bathroom. Only one sink, though.

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A peek into the toilet and shower.

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It's a different furniture layout in the other room. Sorry for the mess.

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Our bedroom slippers. So cute how they used banig (native woven mat).

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The other rooms had either balconies or porches for outdoor lounging. I envied them a bit. Just a bit.

Consistent with the bedroom, the bathrooms were also generous with space. They're nice and clean, with fully functional hot and cold water. Pressure's good, too. The water doesn't appear to be chlorinated, though, so don't get all weirded out because it's fine.

Dining
Siama doesn't really have a proper restaurant, and meals are either served at the common area at the reception or at the adjacent building next to the pool.

That other building is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass panels lovingly adorned with capiz shell curtains. The room is air-conditioned and pretty much like a restaurant, especially with the type of tables and chairs used. The other end of the room is set up like a living room, replete with couches, an entertainment system, and a piano.

siama hotel 19
The adjacent building that serves as an alternate dining venue. It's also a function room, I guess.

siama hotel 20
Inside the same building. It very well has a restaurant setup, except that there's often no one here unless this is where they host meal times.

siama hotel 21
The room also has couches and a TV, sort of a living room in a way. There's a piano, too, on the right side next to the wall.

siama hotel 22
The dinner buffet spread on our second night there. There's chicken, pork ribs, Bicol Express (a traditional spicy dish from the Bicol region), ginataang langka (unripe jackfruit cooked in coconut milk), and steamed fish.

siama hotel 23
I guess it was just us eating, so there was no buffet. The food they prepped for us, though -- misua soup with patola (sponge gourd), fried fish, chicken, ginataang malunggay (moringa cooked in coconut milk) with crab meat, and my favorite ampalaya (bitter gourd) salad -- was more than enough for our group of three.

Guests are often asked if they're having lunch or dinner at the hotel. This is because they don't stock up much on food and only buy what's needed for the day. What you get, as a result, is food that's always fresh off the market.

If there are enough guests dining, they set up a buffet. Otherwise, they prepare a variety of dishes that's just good for your group. At any rate, there are always five dishes to expect, plus rice and dessert (drinks not included), for a price that ranges between Php 550 to Php 700. The same holds true for breakfast, except that the cost is already included in the room rate.

Short orders are likewise available but I had no idea what they offered. I did see a couple gorging on pasta and sandwiches one evening, though.

But is the food any good? I daresay yes! Siama serves up local Filipino dishes, especially those from the Bicol region. It's simple but really good fare, which reminds me of the food served at Pandan Island in Mindoro Occidental.

Facilities and amenities
Siama Hotel is a place to relax and it sure does not provide a lot of unnecessary distractions. At the very least it has a beautifully designed swimming pool and a lot of green to cover for a leisurely stroll or jog. You can also use those spruced-up pedicabs by the hotel facade. It's fun!

But if you're really wont on falling into an electronics relapse, there's cable TV next to the front desk and WiFi at the common area.

siama hotel 24
Simply beautiful.

siama hotel 25
The same pool, taken from another angle. That's the occasional dining area in the rear. And my, look at those ferns!

siama hotel 26
From website photos I saw, I think this is supposed to be one of three or four such structures where guests can have massages. I guess they're no longer used because the bamboo pathways aren't in such good shape anymore. Nonetheless, it was nice roaming around the grounds.

siama hotel 27
Forget TV; ride a pedicab instead.

siama hotel 28
But if you really want to watch TV, there's this corner for you.

Services
The hotel can arrange for airport transfers for Php 6,000. The rate, however, is per van (subject to maximum seating capacity) and already covers trips from and back to the Legazpi airport.

They can also arrange some tours for you, among them whale shark-watching at Donsol, a scenic trip to Bulusan Lake, and island-hopping in Matnog, among others, all of which are in the province of Sorsogon. Please note, however, that Siama does not operate these tours and instead just coordinates with local tour operators for these trips. As such, fees are settled directly with these entities; only the van rental is charged by the hotel.

We experienced a bit of a mix-up with our Matnog island-hopping trip, though, that involved the boat operator and our lunch at Subic Beach. While Siama may not be directly responsible for such boo-boos, I still think they should do something about it, like tighter coordination with the operators perhaps, because ultimately these also form part of the overall experience of the hotel's guests.

Staff service
Save for the minor inefficiencies during reservation and that mix-up with our tour, Siama's hotel staff are great. They're polite, very assisting, and are never intrusive.

*******************************
In hindsight
Despite a few things they can still improve on, Siama Hotel is worth a stay. Aesthetically it's already a winner and when you factor in other things like the unassuming but very delicious food, the experience becomes an even bigger winner. It can be a bit pricey for most people but it is the perfect place to get away from it all. The hotel may not be for everybody but it is for me.

It just might be for you, too.

siama hotel 29
Looking up to perfectly blue skies...Ah, what a wonderful world! What a wonderful life!

*******************************
GETTING THERE

By air + land
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific/Tiger Air operate multiple daily flights to Legazpi City from Manila, Cebu, and other select domestic locations.

From Legazpi you need to travel by land to Siama Hotel. For convenience you can simply arrange for an airport pickup service directly with the hotel like we did. Travel time is approximately an hour to an hour and a half.

Alternatively, you can take either a van or bus to Sorsogon City from the Legazpi City Central Terminal. A tricycle can take you there from the airport. Upon arriving in Sorsogon City, take one of those yellow tricycles going to Siama Hotel. Those guys are more familiar with the hotel, I was told. I just don't have any idea about the fares, though, as I haven't tried it.

By land
There are several buses that ply the Manila-Sorsogon route but which I'm not familiar. You can check and book online, however, with Pinoy Travel. Once in Sorsogon City, hop on one of those yellow tricycles to Siama Hotel.

If you decide on taking a Manila-Legazpi bus, however, just take either a van or another bus bound for Sorsogon City. Take a tricycle once there.

siama hotel 30
We reluctantly had to leave Siama after just 2 nights. On the other hand, this kitty can continuously enjoy it for as long as he wants.

siamahotel.com
facebook.com/SiamaHotel

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

LOOKBOOK | 02May2015: Checked out, checked in, and went around town

01ADM_3599

Yes, my joy couldn't be contained after the Mayon Volcano showed up somehow on a very cloudy day, not to mention that that day began with really heavy rain. And yes, I did check out (of our hotel in Sorsogon City), traveled some 60km and checked in (at another hotel in Legazpi City), and went around town (still in Legazpi) -- all in one day.

Monday, May 4, 2015

LOOKBOOK | 01May2015: Off to the islands

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Because I brought almost nothing but tank tops for our little summer trip, what else would I wear to an island-hopping adventure but a tank top! I think I scored enough additional cash as a pedicab driver to afford such a trip.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

LOOKBOOK | 30Apr2015: The pedicab driver

01ADM_2838

So Mayweather won (although in lackluster fashion) and I'm back in town. What's the connection? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I'm just here for an outfit post. This was last Thursday at Siama Hotel in Sorsogon City (more on that in another post). It was particularly humid that day and we were waiting outside for our ride to go around the city. The spruced-up pedicabs looked very inviting.

Friday, April 24, 2015

FASHION | Get away from it all with these getaway bags

Spring, summer or whenever, there will always come times when you just want a quick escape. Even I make those occasional quick trips somewhere. And for those times you have to pack light because it's just a short trip after all.

Now to get yourself ready, first you need a bag, a proper bag that will fit all your essentials but which won't saddle you with all that bulk. Take a look at these five beauties here:

2015 04 24_getaway bags

(1) Getaway duffel from Owen and Fred
It's a casual design and which could be your perfect getaway bag. The leather trim and polished metal add an upscale touch.

(2) J.W. Hulme continental duffel bag
For a more elegant and dignified look. Crafted in the USA by the century-old leather shop, you can't go wrong with this one.

(3) Pebbled leather Wythe weekender by Ben Minkoff
Still what I would place under more elegant options for a weekender bag, this one, though, has a touch of sportiness or edginess, thanks to that contrasting side stripe.

(4) Color Visetos weekender by MCM
Another classic option, when you want your weekend bag monogrammed.

(5) Tumi Alpha 2 satchel
Okay, so you don't want any of that leather in your getaway bag because leather probably reminds you of work, from which you want to escape in the first place. This one here is crafted from ballistic nylon for a really casual look so you can feel completely relaxed throughout your trip.

So, are we set for the weekend?

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