Weekend at Ramada Manila Central

It has become apparent that I haven’t traveled a lot more than some of my Facebook friends. I realized I do not have enough pre-vacation planning because when my wife made a weekend reservation I never knew what to expect until I got a kilometer closer to the hotel. We got stuck in traffic in the middle of a narrow bridge and at some point bumper to bumper while on an ascending slope.

We were in Binondo, a Chinatown, to check in to Ramada Manila Central for an overnight stay last weekend. For my birthday, wifey got a discount package online and based on recent trips I imagined the hotel to be situated somewhere decent, somewhere driver-friendly, at least.

Spongebob in Binondo, Spongebob in Ramada
Best describes the limited parking slot.

But we soon discovered that not only the streets of Binondo lack parking but as well as the hotel’s. Ramada Manila Central barely has 20 parking slots. Yes, for a 15-storey hotel, it only has that much slots—approximately one car for each floor? Lucky us, we arrived just in time to avail one except that it is a double parking slot which means that I need to leave my car key to the guard on duty.

What lacks in parking though, the hotel makes up in staff courtesy and other hotel accommodation essentials. Upon check in we received a surprisingly nice welcome drink made from cucumber, so good that Marcus who is a very picky kid gave it a thumbs-up. The hotel’s attention to detail also shows in our room. The sheets are clean; towels do not smell clorox-esque but rather refreshingly sweet; and the bathroom fixtures are shiny and everything works—bath tub, rain shower head, and all. The room also has a glass desk and a matching leather chair good for those who need to finish a report while on vacation. In our case, it became a good place to line up Marcus’ Legos.

Breakfast is also something to look forward to. Located on Ramada Manila Central’s ‘M’ floor, the News Café, despite the smallest buffet area we have ever been to, offers one of the best-tasting menus.

Ramada Manila Central breakfast, Buffet, News Cafe
Where do we start from here?

Ramada Manila Central also has a room that anyone who downed extra servings of omelet, steamed rice, and sandwiches for breakfast would appreciate—a well-maintained gym.  Overlooking the busy Ongpin intersection, its gym has several high-end treadmills each facing a flat TV with dedicated cable TV channel; a multi-stack equipment; clean benches and free weights; and a shower room.  Gym is available to any hotel guest with a room access card.

The hotel sits strategically in the middle of popular Binondo Chinatown destinations. The 168 mall is about a kilometer away for those who want to haggle around. Restaurants serving authentic Chinese cuisine are just a few blocks away. And if you want to spend some quiet time in reflection the Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz is just right across the hotel.

Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz
Our view of an early morning rainbow.

Ramada Central Manila is like anything in Chinatown. It is a great bargain for anyone who knows how and where to find it.

***

Our hotel discount package includes a trip to Manila Ocean Park good for two so we have to pay extra for Marcus.

Thumbs up

The Jellies place is a must see. I never knew that jellyfishes can be that interesting to see.

Thumbs down

Makan Makan’s Nasi Goreng and Nasi Lemak. Take my word, do not waste your money on these menu. Buy Jollibee instead.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Wifey and kiddo in a field trip and typhoon Hagupit is lurking.)

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Warning: Unlimited Hotdog and Burger

This should serve as a warning to everyone out there on a diet. There is a restaurant somewhere at SM By The Bay that you should stay away from. It is called the Movie Stars Cafe which is a place that will put to shame a burger store’s “have it your way” promise. Last Friday we were there to have a simple celebration for our son’s birthday but it was only then when I learned that the place my wife has described to me as having hundred plus TV screens actually serves buffet. That very moment I heard the word buffet my focus shifted from counting the LCD TVs on the wall to finding the start of the buffet line.

As the resto’s name suggests, I soon discovered upon getting a clear view of food at the buffet area, the restaurant’s menu are moviegoers’ favorites. Set along the buffet table where a huge head of a seemingly hungry T-Rex hangs overhead, are dishes anyone will find hard to ignore. The queue starts strategically with hotdog rolls and burger buns followed by–to name a few–a variety of juicy sausages, hot off the pan burger patties, chunky fries, chicken teriyaki, and desserts. Everything’s just so irresistible that the glutton in me reared its ugly head and by the time I reached the end of the line, I had so much on my plate that I swear the sharp-toothed dinosaur would have considered me a real threat to his food chain if it were alive.

Diners in this place are also in for other treats. The place has lots of movie mementos including picture frames of Hollywood celebrities and life-size figures of movie characters like the Stormtrooper, Spider-Man, Batman, and Iron Man. Movie Stars’ waiters and waitresses likewise complete the cinematic details as they too are in character with their costumes identifiable with those we see in the big screen. But wait, there’s more! There are a couple of shows which include mask dancers with someone in Darth Vader costume but one who is rather graceful than intimidating. If someone plans a second trip to the buffet table, these shows are best ways to buy time to let that stuffed feeling go away.

(Clockwise) From top right: V for very naughty; Marcus’ shot of Iron Man; Trust me, this batmobile is to die for; Three of us.

Worry not, however. Despite its ambiance that will remind people of Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood and other similar movie-themed restos, patrons of Movie Stars Cafe won’t have a tragic ending to their movie dining experience.For the price of about P700/pax, everyone will leave with still enough budget to enjoy the other attractions along the the stretch of SM By The Bay. Expect though to walk out the door with the realization that you are far from fitting inside one of Iron Man’s armors. And so once again, you have been warned.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (On HBO…without the unlimited burger. Reality.)

Born in 1974?

Life is full of ups and downs. The trick is to enjoy the ups and have courage during the downs – Author Unknown

November 30, 2006 was one of the most exciting times of my life. And the week prior was just as eventful.

I have been writing my birthday as Nov 30, 1973. I just know the date. Lately, though, while processing my Transcript of Records from where I got my Bachelor’s Degree, I had a frustrating and confusing time at the registrar’s office. I learned that they’re reading—or rather interpreting—my birth year on the photocopy as 1972 instead of 1973.

Ti abi. How could this happen? I’ve been using 1973 in my passports, government issued IDs, and licenses, gun license included (I don’t know if it would have helped convincing them if I brought this one along). But it all fell on deaf ears. I was short of choking someone’s neck that day. Good thing, my good side prevailed (play Psycho movie music here).

I left school that day wondering if I would be turning 33 or 34 this year. So yesterday, I anxiously went to claim my birth certificate from our local NSO (National Statistics Office). And there it was, legibly typed written on my birth date space, is nineteen seventy-three. 1, 9, 7, and 3. I’m indeed a certified 33-year-old man.  Never before have I appreciated my age.

***

November 29th

Driving from Starbucks Shangri-La Makati, by the wee hours of the morning, I was made to decide which way would take me home. Going right of the intersection leads to the Skyway ramp while left is a road that looks a lot faster via Coastal Road. So left road it is.

It was wrong decision—I entered a one way street. Upon exiting the lane, I was apprehended by a policeman. His back-up also arrived and both implied that I could get an easier way out of my traffic violation. “Birthday mo na pala bukas…ang layo mo pa,” the apprehending officer said as he takes a look at my driver’s license. He obviously wants me to bribe.

I was in another dilemma. Part of me was anxious to get over it and be home but I’ve been a firm believer that bribing makes one become part of the problem rather than the solution. So I got my ticket and left the policemen with nothing but my driver’s license. I drove away disappointed but proud of what I did. It will cost me more, but at least I made my stand.

***

November 28th

This day was unique for the T3 folks—my wife’s group. Instead of the usual Japanese buffet at Saisaki, this time they turned Chinese. We had dinner at Tong Yang Hot Pot in SM Megamall and surprisingly, majority of the guys are newbie to this sort of dining.

Nevertheless, they enjoyed preparing their own hotpot and grilled foods. There were oysters, dimsums, tuna, salmon, chicken innards, and veggies just to name a few. The men’s favorite was of course present—free flowing San Miguel beer for only P50 ($1). (And if you’re wondering, yes I followed the one bottle per hour rule for drivers like me.)

My wife went creative too. She got me a cake delivered by the waiter right to our table as a repertoire of birthday songs played over the whole restaurant. And it was all for me, for my advanced birthday party.

After the belly busting dinner, a bowling match followed and to cap the night we went to Nipa Hut bar in Pasig where we met up with a couple of ex-Intellites. We also had a couple of sisigs and gambas. And what could be more perfect match to those killers than beers. Yes. Beers. One bottle per hour again. Hik.

***

November 27th

The longest day. Wifey and I together with friends played at Lotus Badminton Center Inc. for almost six hours with rest and lunch included. (If I remember it right, we started playing badminton three years ago and fairly enough, we have improved our game.)

We left the court by past 3 p.m. On our way to SM Dasmarinas I was pondering on pampering ourselves with much needed body massage and hot oil treatment and that’s when our car broke down.

Luckily I was able to park it at the mall and did the troubleshooting right there. It was a busted alternator again (I replaced it approximately six months ago). I had no other choice but to buy a 2nd hand part that cost the same as the painting my wife was planning to buy. Ti abi.

I went home tired and dirty instead of refreshed and shiny.

***

November 26th

As a Sunday routine, I bought my copy of the Philstar (www.philstar.com). I was surprised upon reading that one of my favorite writer Max Soliven (also this paper’s Publisher) passed away last Friday, November 24th, while on his way home from Japan. Sanamagan.

I’ve admired him for his articles in By the Way. He wrote with courage and charisma and his style of writing almost never fails to amaze me. Well, that’s life I guess. Although I know that the list of writers with such caliber as Max are now dwindling in numbers, I just do hope that someone will come at par with the way he does. Wherever you are, may you rest in peace.