My sister and I took Santa very seriously as kids. It was only at the start of my secondary school year when I stopped writing him a letter—you know, to note the things I wanted to receive for Christmas, to check in and say hi. We used to even prepare snacks for him by the window and leave him a cup of orange juice.
Now we may be too old for Santa; it’s just hilarious to watch the children await for his gift every Christmas Eve. But we are never too old to make Christmas wishes.
While most teens and adults are fond of filling their Christmas wishlist with material things like the latest fashionable clothes and accessories straight from the runway, makeup that will make one look like a goddess and the coolest technical gadgets, I have always turned the other way. From the time we kissed the Santa Claus thing goodbye, I have only been wishing for this simple thing called happiness that’s best spent with my loved ones.
Here’s a recall of my top 5 events of happiness that turned up in the last holidays season:
1. Dinner at Seasons, Manila Pavilion Hotel
Date of Visit: December 25, 2012
Location: Lobby Level, Manila Pavilion Hotel, United Nations Avenue corner Ma. Orosa Street, Ermita, Manila
The traditional Christmas meal varies from family to family. Some gather around the table for variations of spaghetti, while others eat ham coupled with wine and some cheese. But for families like ours who wanted to stray away from the conventional meal, a great choice had to be one of those buffet restaurants where unapologetic food would be served to our utmost satisfaction.
So my family, boyfriend and I went to Seasons at Manila Pavilion Hotel to enjoy their bold food items.
I am not sure why many bloggers had rated this four-star hotel-restaurant negatively. Okay, it does not actually live up to its label “Manila’s finest hotel buffet,” but Seasons at Manila Pavilion Hotel was still a great special-occasion venue with an ambiance that made us feel like royalty. Its food variety required us to plan which to go on for a second to nth serving more, particularly in the desserts section. Check out the pictures in my Facebook album.
2. Tour at Zoobic Safari Park
Date of Visit: December 30, 2012
Location: Subic Bay Freeport Zone Group 1, Ilanin Forest, Subic Freeport Zone
After work last Saturday, Mom and I went aboard Victory Liner to meet with the Santos clan in Olongapo City. After four hours in transit, we finally were fetched by my uncle who drove us to the hotel. Our relatives who traveled earlier in the day greeted us, as they had patiently waited for our arrival. In the next morning, we visited my uncle’s house with newly designed interiors and we took off at around 3PM to Zoobic Safari Park where we roamed around exotic animals until dinnertime.
Zoobic Safari Park is a large amusement Park in Subic Bay, Zambales. Together with five families (paternal relatives), we observed a diverse array of animals from many regions of the world in a tropical jungle environment. The zoo was clean and staff were accommodating in assisting us to each stop.
This was the third zoo I have gone to in my entire life. Unlike my visitations in Manila Zoo (back in my kindergarten years) and Haicang Wildlife Zoo in Xiamen, Fujian Province, China (when I was 15), this was not an outbound educational trip with my classmates but one with my family — making the experience more special. 😛
We got a close-up view of many types of deer, ostriches, camels, albino caribou, boars and bears, monkeys, birds, snakes and serpents, miniature houses, ducks, bear cats, guinea pigs, ferrets, potbelly pigs, guinea fowls, crocodiles, dogs, lizards, iguanas, turtles, tiger, lion, rats, porcupines, chickens and much more. They were not only shown to the public far in cages but also appeared in the animal parade, where these trained animals participated in a show put on to engage us audiences.
Highlight of the tour was neither the zootrain escapade nor the walking adventure but the feeding of the tiger which happened when we were inside the safari vehicle (jeepney) with double-gate enclosures. After all, it is the tigers that Zoobic is best known for. When the tiger smelled the raw chicken fed by a pro, it ate the meat on its breath. And we saw just how wide it can open its mouth! Wow. 😯
Certificate of completion and the survivors:
3. Dinner at Meat Plus Café
Date of Visit: December 30, 2012
Location: 6 Sampson Rd., Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo City, Zambales
The next big thing after our exquisite family adventure in the zoo was a heavenly dinner at Meat Plus Café.
On its menu, it says, “CHOOSE YOUR OWN STEAK.” The idea is to choose from the raw meat in their fridge and have it cooked the way you want it.
Aside from that, it offers combo meals, sandwiches, desserts, salads, pasta, fish and cool beverages. Signature dishes are Barbecue Beef Short Ribs, Grilled Boneless Chicken, Hamburger Steak, New York Steak, Tenderloin Steak, and Topsirloin Steak. I had the seaburger (fish burger) meal that came with fries and coleslaw. Mom had the oven-roasted beef belly with rice and my sister had the burger steak meal.
Dad ate his vegetarian dinuguan made of black beans and gluten meat which Mom cooked from home and a plate of French fries with cheese and sour cream with garlic dips. Later, our aunt shared a plate of lasagna into our table plus banana fritters with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
4. Brunch at Xtremely Xpresso Café (Extremely Espresso)
Date of Visit: December 31, 2012
Location: Subic Bay Freeport Zone, 1 Dewey Avenue corner Sta. Rita Street, Subic, Zambales
Designed for sheer pleasure and sophistication, Xtremely Xpresso Café is a combination of a café, restaurant, bakery, deli, and wine cellar in one. It is home to American and Filipino favorites such as waffles and pancakes, pastries and cookies, pizzas, Italian soups and salads, pastas, sandwiches, char-broiled steaks and grilled meat dishes and unlimited coffee refills included in each meal.
Everything looked nice, but I grew tired of the waffle’s taste (with jam and butter) after finishing 1/4 of the whole. I gave the rest of the portions to my parents, and the other leftover piece was packed home. This concluded our last meal before leaving Subic.
5. Lunch at Little Asia (Lucky Chinatown Mall)
Date of Visit: January 1, 2013
Location: G/F Lucky Chinatown Mall, Reina Regente Street, corner De La Reina Street, Binondo, Manila
We spent the first day of 2013 with our maternal relatives dining at Little Asia, Lucky Chinatown Mall which I had reviewed in mid-November 2012 (read my former post here). For the second time, Little Asia charmed us with its food delights that were all conducive to sharing. I still give it 5/5 stars for food taste and presentation. (Eating cheaply here is a totally different prospect.)
Thanks to my uncle who treated us to this feast, we had: Korean Beef Stew (braised Australian short ribs simmered in their special Korean beef broth), Japanese Tofu Steak (pan-fried tofu with broccoli, mushrooms and kuchay), Salted Fish Fried Rice (salted fish, chicken, leeks, lettuce, carrots, green peas and eggs), Seafood Hot Pot (in clay pot), Fish Fillet Wrapped in Bacon (steamed fish fillets wrapped in bacon coated with teriyaki glaze), Salt and Pepper Fried Squid (fried squid tossed in their salt and pepper spice mix), Combination Chow Mein (stir-fried Lo mein with beef, pork, chicken, squid, shrimps and vegetables) and Little Asia’s Crispy Chicken (house special crispy chicken with their savory gravy).
For desserts, we had the Caramel Banana Tower made up with baked wontons, piled with caramelized bananas and vanilla ice cream on the side, Crepe Samurai (baked layers of mangoes, crepes and custard sauce), and a platter of chocolate-coated cereals shaped like flower petals.
All are a testament to the mad genius going on that kitchen. 😉