Hotel review: Marco Polo Ortigas, Manila

Marco Polo in Ortigas, Manila was recently awarded a five-star rating by Forbes Travel Guide for the second consecutive year, which initially made me take note of the hotel and eventually, book a room accommodation. (I also saw last week the Italian film A Five Star Life, about a luxury hotels critic, which made me even more critical of my room at the Marco Polo.)

I booked on a weekend and so I expected more patrons than usual as this is considered a family hotel by most of the reviews I read on social media and websites. Before arriving, I called in to ask if they could accommodate us for an early check in at 1pm as we had finished lunch at 12nn and were already in the area. The staff at the front desk said yes. After doing a quick grocery, we arrived 30 minutes later at their parking garage, which was bright, clean, and well-maintained, though the entry/exit slot and corners are tight—it took some maneuvering to get the parking ticket at the machine slot. It would be great if the staff at the nearby exit booth could also help hand out the ticket if they see people struggling at the machine.

The check-in counter is found on the 24th floor, which we only found out after getting off on the ground floor, after having entered on the 4th floor from the parking lot. The security guy who inspected our bags before entering the building could have informed us beforehand which side of the elevator to take and on which floor to get off to have avoided this hassle. This would also mark the start of the frustrating elevator rides.

Marco Polo Ortigas

Unveiling the view

Checking in was a breeze—there weren’t as many people as I expected. I was asked if I’d like newspaper to be delivered in the morning, which I thought was a classy touch as most hotels I’ve been to no longer do that. On the right is a view of the Sierra Madre mountain range, which was framed to perfection by the grand floor-to-ceiling all-glass window: it was a view which you will not get in Makati. “I’ve booked you on a room with the same view,” Stephanie, the front desk staff, said. She did warn me about the “minimal” noise from the nearby hang-out spot, Metrowalk, but up on the 39th floor, we heard nary a peep from the restaurants and bars down below.

Marco Polo Ortigas

Laguna de Bay view

Sierra Madre mountain range view

Sierra Madre mountain range view; both views taken from our room on the 39th floor with a 50mm lens

The room was well furnished and tastefully decorated, though I dislike the huge painting that hangs above the bed—I think the green color takes away from the warm design of the rest of the place; otherwise, I love the old-school elegance of the room: the gleaming cutlery, the hair dryer with its own cabinet drawer, the welcome fruit (three oranges), the tub with Kohler fixtures, bathroom speaker with volume control, fluffy bathrobes that keep me warm even at 16C temperature—these were hotel standards that I took for granted in the ‘90s and early 2000s and which I rarely see in superior rooms now. And there are modern conveniences as well, such as an A/V panel with USB charger and a Nespresso machine with three complimentary coffee capsules, which was a great brand introduction to me. (Their coffee is strong and filled the room with its rich aroma!) There were also a lot of sockets 😍. With all our gadgets, there are never enough sockets these days. WiFi was fast and easy to connect to, but we were warned that we only have 8 hours’ worth of free Internet (though we actually still had connection the next day). LTE signal from Globe came to about two to three bars of signal, which was not super fast, but still okay for regular surfing.

The relatively flat real estate in the nearby towns and cities provide an unobstructed view of the landscape.

The relatively flat real estate in the nearby towns and cities provide an unobstructed view of the landscape.

Marco Polo Ortigas

The king-size bed is big and spacious enough for two. A glass window separates us from the bath, but blinders can be rolled down for privacy.

Marco Polo Ortigas

The room has a chaise lounge for a closer, panoramic view of the landscape. The oranges were juicy and seedless!

Marco Polo Ortigas

The lovely Nespresso machine which was easy to use and truly an inspired use of brand marketing; I now want one.

Marco Polo Ortigas

The relatively complete cutlery available in our pantry drawer. There’s also an ice box in the cabinet below this.

The bathroom is spacious for two, though the tub only fits one and even barely at that. I brought Lush bath bombs with me, though toilet amenities included a sachet of bath salts (but no hand lotion, which was weird—or was this a housekeeping miss?). The rain shower was fantastic and probably the best I’ve tried: water pressure was strong and the temperature remained consistent throughout my shower.

As for the view, I’m rarely in the area, so the panorama was indeed a treat: way out in the background are the aforementioned Sierra Madre mountain range on the left and Laguna de Bay on the right. Antipolo, San Mateo, Angono, Cainta, and Taytay remain relatively flat, so you get unobstructed views of the land. At night, the view is “still and quiet” and provided an elegant backdrop to our nightcap.

Marco Polo Ortigas

I couldn’t think of a better ending to our night than with a glass of Moscato.

The pool, gym, and spa are all on the 22nd floor. We only got to look at the pool, which is indoor and heated. Because it is enclosed and there is not much room for people to go around, I can imagine how noisy and crowded it would be during peak hours. I like the amenities though, including the sauna, locker rooms, and grooming stations at the men’s room. As I noted in my Instagram, I brought gym clothes and was supposed to work out because I read that the facilities were nice, but I just couldn’t bring myself to sweat when I could relax all day and night long. No regrets.

When I woke up the next day, I checked the outside door handle expecting my paper—there was none; in fact, it would never arrive. We then took breakfast at the supposedly peak hour of 9 a.m. (as the infographic at the restaurant entrance showed) and we were able to get seats quickly, though upon entering the restaurant, we knew it won’t be able to accommodate twice the size of the crowd that morning. The passageway along the buffet line is tight and susceptible to traffic and I don’t think I was able to walk along the length of food stations without ever stopping and waiting /allowing for other people to pass. There are also chairs placed along this path and I imagine it would be a horrible dining experience to be placed on any of the said chairs.

The food itself is mostly limited to breakfast fare, which I suppose is fair enough, though other hotels offer variety that span the length of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. For a Hong Kong brand, the hotel had weak Chinese cuisine offering: there was only the noodle station, but there were no dimsum. For soup, there was only miso. No breakfast sausages, not even hotdog, if we are going to be ultra basic here. Nothing exciting; this is the first time I limited myself to bacon (there were two trays separating medium and crispy—a huge plus!) and hash browns at a buffet. It wasn’t a disappointing experience at all, but there is definitely a lot of improvement here. There is another breakfast option for Continental Club guests on a higher floor, but I read it is smaller and offers fewer breakfast varieties.

As for other dining or shopping options in the area, there are few choices in the immediate vicinity, unless you cross over to Metrowalk (5 minutes), or drive to Robinson’s Galleria (5 minutes) or farther still, Shangri-La Mall (10 minutes), which we did not do. Instead, we hopped over to Sapphire Bloc, which I’ve never been to before, and dined at Japanese restaurant Shinshen, among the other handful of restaurants and bars on the block.

Moving about the hotel could be a little taxing though—there are two groups of lifts which only serve select floors. From the ground and parking floors up, none service the room floors, so you have to get off on the 24th floor to transfer to another lift. Each one is small—if you are a family of four with two heavy luggage and other smaller pieces, you’re probably all it could fit. I noted there were attendants on the ground and 24th floors not only to greet the guests and push the buttons, but possibly, to also control the very probable scenario of a huge crowd waiting to get on the elevator. The ride itself is extremely fast though, and we get from the 39th floor to the 24th in a matter of seconds.

Marco Polo Ortigas

The mood lighting highlights the muted and stylish features of the hotel. This is the hallway on our floor.

Staff members are all pleasant, if not intimidatingly beautiful: seriously, this is the best-looking hotel staff I’ve seen in a while and I don’t know if I should even make that comment in the age of #MeToo. We didn’t make any exceptional requests—in fact, we hardly made any request at all—save for a glass water at the breakfast buffet and request for a late check out, both of which we didn’t get. We did check in an hour early as I’ve mentioned.

Pros: Luxury amenities—props to the rain shower and Nespresso machine; beautiful and courteous staff; the pool and gym seem worth trying, even if I didn’t get to (so make sure you do!); management seems keen on making the extra effort and improving its service—it responds to feedback on TripAdvisor and Facebook; this is more an excellent business hotel than a family hotel to me; good for solo travelers and couples as well

Cons: Unless it improves its menu, I’d rather opt out of the breakfast buffet, save money, and order out instead; this is probably not a hotel you’d book during peak seasons.

Tip: Booking through Agoda is cheaper.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

10:15 a.m.
After work yesterday, I went to Century City mall to buy underwear. I had to dispose two due to holes in them and I noted I run out of good ones after about two weeks of no laundry, hence the necessary purchase.

I rarely get mall time nowadays so yesterday was the only good time I could buy them. Valentine reminder was all over the place: there were two flower kiosks in the ground floor alone. Aside from the customary greeting, P and I aren’t celebrating it.

We are considering having Pa confined to the hospital again. More than a month ago, I was looking forward to spending the three-day long weekend out of town with P, but it looks like our plan’s going to have to change.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2:26 p.m.
My evening CrossFit class was already fully booked, so with 15 minutes left before I had to leave the office to make it on time, I decided to join the 11:30 a.m. class instead. There was one cute guy, albeit small. For the warm up, we did three rounds of 5 inchworms, 5 vertical jumps, 5 hollow holds, 10 seconds of squat hold, and 100m run. Then for the warm up for the second round, we did three sets of 5 good mornings and 5 something-roll with the men’s bar; then it was on to 3×5 135lbs tempo deadlift. For the last segment, we did 20 air squats, 800m run, 40 air squats, 800m run, and 60 air squats with a time cap of 15mins. (My butt better look awesome!) I barely made it at 14:52, but definitely, I felt good that I finished it. I then took an Uber back to the office and got Jollibee takeout. I was away for more than an hour, so I don’t think I can do this again. It would be nice if I could, though; this means I can go straight home after work later.

Monday, February 12, 2018

10:04 a.m.
Started to watch the reboot of Queer Eye on Netflix over the weekend. I’m a huge, huge fan of the original show: back in the days or 15 years ago (!!!) to be exact, @pinayexpat, who is based in Germany, would send me a stack of CDs with recorded episodes of the show and that’s how I would binge-watch it. When I first heard about the remake, I thought it would be a tough act to replace Carson Kressley; talent could be replaced, but Carson has such an enormous personality and the sharpest of wit. And true enough, all the new guys are talented, but none that could make me laugh out loud like Carson did, but that’s okay: the new Queer Eye is on-point, still fun, and most importantly, relevant in these times.

The premise of the show is that five gay guys, or the Fab Five, would crash into a home of a nominated guy (usually by the wife or a friend), for a makeover. Each Fab Five specializes in the following: fashion, food, interior design, grooming, and culture. For the reboot, the producers of the show said they specifically wanted to do it in the red states as “dialogue and conversations are a little more iffy and intense” compared to when the original series would feature guys from say, New York. So for this season, they are meeting guys from Georgia. I’ve only seen five episodes, and so far, being where they are, the hosts and the featured guy have had conversations about racism, Christianity, homosexuality, politics, and police abuse. And instead of shouting matches and name-calling as in de rigeur in social media, they actually engage in what is becoming a quaint practice called a dialogue. They are not forced to switch sides or change points of view either—no dogma is shoved down another’s throat. It’s refreshing how a “makeover” show is able to transcend the vanity of a tadah moment as hugs and tears are shared at the end of almost every episode when both parties realize how they are changed by their weeklong experience. It’s an extremely special moment.

I’m also happy to learn that Netflix picked up Phil Rosenthal’s food show, now renamed Somebody Feed Phil!!! I wrote about Phil here and Netflix couldn’t have been a more perfect platform for him. He approaches his food trips as a documentary, with the same authenticity that Anthony Bourdain has by avoiding tourist traps and interviewing locals. But Phil does it with such wide-eyed wonder since he’s neither a chef nor a food critic, but an outsider, so unlike Anthony, Phil is more endearing and a lot less intimidating.

I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve already downloaded two episodes, a feature on Bangkok and Saigon, and I know I will watch them with regret because I’ve been in those countries and I know fully well I didn’t explore the local cuisine as well as he has/I could have.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

5:35 p.m.

It’s been two days since my father got discharged from the hospital after a bout with pneumonia for eight days. Two Fridays ago, my sister and I went home to Laguna after my mother reported that my father wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t like what I saw: he was struggling to breath even with an oxygen concentrator and he could barely move without triggering a very intense shortness of breath. I told everyone we had to bring him to the hospital and my parents are the type who actually still needed convincing despite the very obvious; I had to plead my case. Preparing our stuff took hours since aside from bringing along the concentrator, an oxygen tank, medicines, and stuff we needed for the hospital, we had to take Prince along with us. As if these weren’t enough it started to rain, so we had to wait for it to stop.

By 2 a.m., we were ready to leave: bringing Pa out of the house to the car—a mere 20 steps away—took an hour. We didn’t have a wheelchair and carrying him seemed like it would exacerbate his difficulty in breathing, so we had to move him in a chair by inches as he had to spend around 10 minutes to recover per movement via his oxygen. Inside the car, we hooked him to an oxygen tank, which we earlier discovered had an air leak. I sped through Laguna to Mandaluyong in under an hour, 10 minutes earlier than Waze’s estimate. Five minutes before reaching the hospital, the air in the tank ran out—he started gasping for breath.

We spent seven hours at the ER. We took turns waiting outside the hospital with Prince, who immediately took to his surroundings, as in he looked so dirty. When we finally got admitted to a room, we wished Ma a happy birthday. I made an appointment with an ophthalmologist that afternoon because on top of all these, as if things weren’t enough, as if I had no urgent paperwork to attend to that will see me go to five public institutions in the same week, I had another developing stye, my second in less than a month and my sixth in less than a year.

I don’t know how and why I have chronic stye. Kulang na lang bunutin ko yung eyeball tapos sabunin ko yung loob ng eye socket ko just to avoid having one again.

By the second day, our hospital bill was P90,000. Good thing I didn’t buy a laptop replacement after having damaged my Macbook Air’s screen in December. I was scheduled to bring it to a repair center last week but no way was I going to do that after having seen the billing statement.

We asked for his prescriptions so we could buy his medicine outside the hospital to stave off costs. We’ve spent P20,000 easily. In one of her Mercury Drug trips, Ma got to talk with a lady whose husband was also in the hospital for a lung-related problem. “Ilalabas na namin sya, di na namin kaya yung gastos,”she told Ma.

Then one day, the nurses told us we were going to be charged a “handling fee” for bringing in medicine from outside. Corkage, in other words. Who ever heard of hospital corkage for medicine? It was a first, even for the resident doctor who overheard the conversation and found the idea incredulous. We did, too, so we revealed our fangs; we never saw a “handling fee” in our bill.

But there were other questionable billing, for sure. For Pa’s thoracentesis, an otherwise outpatient procedure for draining fluid off one’s lungs, he was charged P14,000 when I saw that the same procedure costs P5,000 in East Avenue Medical Center. Of course, the fluid had to be drained somewhere, in this case via a 100-meter tube with an ordinary jar at the other end: that cost a separate P4,000+. Sana sinalok ko na lang ng tabo namin sa bahay; Muji pa yun.

After PhilHealth and a senior citizen’s discount, we spent around P200,000. I don’t know how an average family survives a hospitalization, especially for far more serious diseases that require longer treatments, even a lifetime for some. I said a prayer for each and every person I crossed paths with in that hospital because God knows we all needed it.

I had to be at work, so it was Ma and Ate who handled his clearance and discharge on Tuesday. It was past 6 p.m., when they got home, a few minutes earlier than when I arrived. Fifteen minutes later, the electricity went out. Napikon na talaga ko ng bonggang bongga. I didn’t curse Him but I sure did tell him how I felt. OA na.Yung stye, yung sakit ni Pa, yung gastos, yung hirap ko sa government bureaucracy… Though in hindsight, I know it could always be much worse. Sabi nga sa The Crown, “All it takes is for something worse to come along and you realize it was actually happiness after all.” So dapat thankful ka for the present because it could all go easily downhill from here. Na-realize ko naman yun and quickly apologized to Him. Pero it still took two hours before mabalik yung kuryente. 😅

Review: I’M Hotel’s Onsen Spa

Two weeks of the new year have gone by and I have already ticked off two new experiences:

Today, I’m nursing my aching body. After the Crossfit event yesterday, I went straight to I’M Hotel to try their well-reviewed Onsen Spa because my entire body was hurting and I knew I had to do something before delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) sets in. Glad that they were able to accommodate me even if I didn’t have any reservations: I got in close to 6:30 p.m. and fortunately, in 45 minutes, they would have a therapist available for the treatment I wanted, which was a 90-minute Philippine Hilot (P2,100). I used the time to shower and change into my yukata. Immediately, I was impressed by the service and facilities: the shower/locker room was on an open-air floor right in the heart of the noisy and busy intersection of Makati Avenue and Kalayaan, and yet, with strategic design, they managed to create a private and lush oasis. The shower rooms are so spacious, the one I took could fit 10 people in it. The same floor has a sauna, steam room, and onsen but I knew I didn’t have time for those because what I really wanted was to sit down, have tea, and maybe take a nap at the relaxing lounge before my massage; I’ll try those next time.

So I went up the mezzanine level, where I got to have my fill of ginger tea, which was perfect because I could also feel I was coming down with a sore throat (they also have green and cold tea). I sat in one of the giant recliner sofas and reflected on my day—but not without truly admiring the hotel facilities: I could see part of the swimming pool below as well as the bustle of Makati Ave, from which I felt so isolated and removed. Their website photos do not do them justice.

Close to 7 p.m., my therapist fetched me to bring me to another floor. (I didn’t mind the numerous transfers; the elevator is exclusively for Onsen guests, meaning you won’t run into I’M Hotel guests in their finery while you’re in your robe.) Again, it all looked monastic and luxurious, it almost felt like I was being ushered into a new religious order. The minimalist spa pod looked like it was lifted from a movie set, with its high ceiling ambient lighting. By 7:05 p.m., we got started.

Oh my god—best massage ever (though my massage experience in Bangkok came close because that made me sleep and no other massage has ever done that). At the spa lobby, there was an information sheet I filled out, which included how I wanted the pressure to be, and in the drawing of the human body, I encircled the parts I wanted the therapist to concentrate on: my instructions were followed to a T. His pressure—which never wavered from start to finish—was extremely strong, his hands felt like foam roller. I was wincing the entire time and I wanted to stop him on several occasions, but I knew it was the type of muscle kneading I needed. I also couldn’t count the number of times my body parts cracked, lol. That massage made me feel like a new person and the irony was, I was no longer feeling sleepy (I actually kept yawning during the competition, haha), but energized. Which was great, because I’M Onsen’s Spa’s package comes with a buffet meal! So I changed into my normal clothes, went up to Bloom Restaurant and wolfed down as much as I could because I only had protein shake, burger, and fries the entire day. By the time I was finished, I was so happy I booked a treatment here: it was so worth it.

I want to grow up and be the type of person who gets a weekly treatment here, haha. Five out five stars!

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 1, 2018
11:44 a.m.

And here we are. I already made a short reflection on Instagram and although I haven’t made the time to truly sit down and contemplate on 2017 and think of my resolutions this 2018, these are the things that are on the top of my head.

I learned how to rope climb this year. I gave myself the gift of a 20/20 vision ❤️. I met my financial goal twice over. I made new friends. The universe made me feel small and that’s okay; all my troubles are microscopic in the scheme of things. I ate well this year. I’m spending more time with the family. Love is teaching me to be a better person. I hacked my first coconut; it was such an iconic first that Ma wanted to take a video, haha. Resolutions: 1./ Learn how to do double-unders and pull-ups. 2./ Make use of long weekends to go out of town and not hole up inside the house because I’m too scared of the crowds and traffic. 3./ Go to Taiwan. 4./ Travel to distant places and not be dissuaded by visa applications, 😅. 5./ Control my anger; have more patience. 6./ Rein in my spending. 7./ Lose the snarkiness; embrace kindness. 8./ I want my #bestnine to include more photos with my friends. (I recall resolving to take more selfies; sumobra naman yata dami, haha.)

A post shared by Jason D. (@bluearden) on

Speaking of yearend reflections, there have been a lot of sarcasm on my timeline for people writing “essays” (but really, just 300-word posts) reflecting on the year that it has been. Seemed to have been a Filipino thing as I didn’t see it catch on elsewhere. Good because God knows there are far more reprehensible things in this world that deserve our spite.

On Friday evening, I binge-watched the latest season of Survivor so that I didn’t sleep until 11 a.m. the following day! So I only started my Saturday at 3:30 p.m., though it was Ma and Ate who did all the cooking for our New Year’s eve meal and I caught up on my social media and news feed. Whenever I’m in the family home, I’m deprived of internet connectivity.

It was a quiet salubong (I can’t find the English word for this); we waited for midnight to strike in the quietest ways possible: I eventually finished a bottle of red wine to myself, taken throughout the course of the day, while I played with Prince; Pa was asleep in the couch in the living room, with what has become his personal space-slash-bedroom; Ma was shuffling about keeping the kitchen tidy; and Ate was watching Friends. We all roused from our respective stupor five minutes before 2018 and gave hugs and kisses to everyone. Outside, there were a few firecrackers, but mostly noise from roaring motorcycles, car alarms, audio systems, and plastic horns. By 12:30, the night was still and peaceful.

I already have a few things lined up for me this month: I’ve signed up for my first ever Crossfit games to be held in our box (that’s Crossfit-speak for gym); and I will be driving to Bataan for our family reunion, marking my farthest drive (a whopping 131km) since Tagaytay. Wish me luck, especially for the former; I haven’t worked out in three weeks because of my eye infection and the holidays, leaving me with barely two weeks to prepare.

Friday, December 29, 2017

7:56 p.m.
I call this the Forest Whitaker look:


Taken earlier today to show my friends on Viber how my stye-turned-severe-infection have healed as of today. Two Saturdays before Christmas, I already felt what would be become a stye on the upper lid of my left eye. Unfortunately, it turned for the worse: an internal stye that got majorly infected so that by Wednesday, my entire eye was not only swollen shut but the areas around my temple and above my cheekbone were puffed as well. It was extremely painful: showers were excruciating for even the gentlest water drop would cause shooting pain; the slightest breeze would make me wince. I couldn’t turn my head and sleeping in itself was torment. Many times I messaged P how I couldn’t take the pain any longer, which he interpreted as me wanting to commit suicide, and to be honest, I almost meant it like that.


It was also on Wednesday before Christmas that I went to see a doctor, who prescribed 20 tablets of 500mg antibiotics. I was disheartened when I was down to the last eight and there were no signs of the lump disappearing before Christmas. Eventually, I had to wear my shades during the family reunion, the first major one in more than five years. It was only yesterday that I felt comfortable facing people, because it wasn’t until then that the pus stopped coming out of my eyelid. (Yes, that went on for four days.) So that’s when I had finally gotten around to buying some Christmas presents and a suit which I’m wearing to a wedding next Friday. At this point, I no longer mind the scar: I think it gives my face character.

That’s why I have been quiet the past two weeks, though that doesn’t explain my silence over the past few months—I have a series of entries in my private journal for those and I may share them here in due time.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and a Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

9:10 a.m.
You know traffic is so bad when I haven’t even been to a Greenbelt 3 cinema in close to a year. I savored the seats, which I think is the best of them all (excluding La-Z-Boy types). I also haven’t been able to watch as much movies as from years before when we would run out of films to watch—that’s about once or even twice a week. Now, I have Netflix, plus the nearer Century City and PowerPlant malls, which all absolve me of having to go through horrendous Manila traffic.

IMG_0981We saw Coco, which I thought was about a dog, haha. If I knew this would largely feature skeletons, I probably would have seen Smaller and Smaller Circles instead (promise, I will try my best to catch it in cinemas #golocal), but reviews have all been positive. Good thing I didn’t invite my family to see this, but went with P instead—the movie was about remembering the legacy of family members who have since passed away. So ultimately, it’s a pro-life movie—having children to pass on one’s memories, craft, and business or livelihood. There is a huge deal made with having someone put up a dead family member’s photo on an altar (to celebrate Día de Muertos or Day of the Dead), symbolizing how they are remembered by the living. It reminded me of the guilt I have about not having children, robbing my parents of the joy of becoming grandparents, which they have been looking forward to becoming.

But could it also be vanity? Why do people need to remember you when you have passed away? I have no knowledge of my great grandparents—I cannot even speak their names for their names have never been spoken before me—except that one came all the way from southern China. In a huge family (my mother’s side), memories of ancestors ran dry after only three generations; two, on my father’s. If I die, no one would be indebted to put up my photo on an altar or visit my grave. But the internet lives.

Then over the weekend, I completed watching Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which is also about making babies, though more literal in the sense of an actual intercourse and on a broader matter, ensuring one’s survival—or lineage—in this world. It’s a fantastic series, alarming and terrifying in its probability of actually happening.

Fave hotspot: Seoul Galbi restaurant

This is becoming our default restaurant whenever P and I are in Brgy Poblacion, Makati. Which is interesting because this is an old (Korean, at that) restaurant in an area that has become the hottest spot in Manila for its vibrant local food scene, wherein new restaurants pop up every few weeks.

But for P and I, it’s reliable, comforting, and most importantly, delicious—check out the beautiful spread below.

Seoul Galbi spread

We always go for the pork belly and marbled beef; we tried the pork skin one time, but grilled, it turned out gummy and not crisp as I anticipated. The banchan, those small dishes that come with the barbecue, are fresh and well-seasoned. P loves their steamed egg, which got cropped out of the photo, while I can’t pick a favorite—I enjoy everything. They can be refilled twice, but the staff here has always been gracious and pleasant, I’m sure patrons would be able to charm them for more. (We never made it past to two refills as we always end up full even after round one.) What I do is get a big lettuce leaf, spread the meat on top, add as many of the kimchi as I like, then roll and eat it like a wrap. On some nights, we order rice and pick off the banchan as we eat along.

They use charcoals made from coconut and your server would gladly grill the meat for you. It can get smoky in there, but they have retractable exhaust hoses for every table, so it’s as manageable as it can get. Couldn’t recommend this place enough.

Seoul Galbi is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.