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On board Philippine Airlines’ first-ever flight from Cebu to Los Angeles

Zee Lifestyle columnist Mayenne Carmona joins the exclusive media group invited to be among the first to try out Philippine Airlines’ newly launched Cebu to Los Angeles leg.

Philippine Airlines

On March 15, 2016, its 75th founding anniversary, Philippine Airlines marked another historical milestone: an Airbus A34-300, which seats 254 passengers, took its first flight to Los Angeles from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

At present, PAL has 11 weekly flights between Manila and Los Angeles, ten weekly flights between Manila and San Francisco, and four weekly flights between Manila and New York. The flight to Los Angeles from Cebu is an addition to their flight expansion routes.

During a press conference at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, PAL President and COO Jaime Bautista said, “Customers in the Visayas and Mindanao have long clamored for direct flights between Cebu and the US due to the travel convenience this will bring. One can simply take a short hop to Cebu from any point in the Visayas and Mindanao, and connect to Los Angeles instead of flying all the way to Manila. Our goal is to make PAL the airline of choice in all the markets we serve, one that exceeds passenger expectations. We want PAL to be a source of pride for Filipinos.”

PAL VP for Marketing Ria Carrion Domingo said the Cebu-LAX service takes off with the “heart of the Filipino” and the “hospitality and waterproof spirit that the Filipino is known for.”

The PAL crew on flight PR103 were thrilled to pose with their President and COO, Jaime Bautista

The PAL crew on flight PR103 were thrilled to pose with their President and COO, Jaime Bautista

It was a treat for the members of Cebu media to experience PAL’s first flight to Los Angeles on March 15—they are now part of PAL’s history. Members of the media from Manila flew to Cebu and took the second flight on the 17th of March. I represented Zee Lifestyle, but flew with the Manila media because I am based in Manila. Other members of the media on the flight were JoAnne Rae Ramirez of People Asia and Philippine Star; Fil Sionil of Manila Bulletin; and Anna Sobrepeña of Lifestyle Asia. Also with us were PAL’s lovable ladies: Ria, Head of Marketing Activations Pinky Custodia, Marketing Activations Officer Terry Romilla, and External Communications Head and Spokesperson Terry Romilla. EIC of Philippine Star’s Lifestyle Section Millet Mananquil took the flight from Manila with PAL executives.

PR122 (CEB-LAX) departs Cebu every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 6:25PM and arrives in Los Angeles at 5:35PM local time. PR 123 (LAX-CEB) leaves Los Angeles on the same days at 8:40PM local time and arrives in Cebu at 4:40 AM, plus two days.

From personal observation, taking the flight from Cebu was stress-free. There were no long queues at immigration to reckon with. The airport was not crowded—we all felt so calm, like we just came out of a meditation session. Their Mabuhay Lounge serves the best coffee in the whole of Cebu. I have the tendency to speak in hyperboles when I like something, but their coffee was really delicious. Cielo Villaluna can attest to that!

A view of the SLS Beverly Hills from the street

A view of the SLS Beverly Hills from the street

Our brief stay in the City of Angels was truly memorable. For starters, our hotel was world-class. SLS Hotel at La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills is a five-star boutique hotel with interiors designed by Philippe Starck. His designs never fail to dazzle me. His furniture pieces are sleek and on the edge of avant-garde. My room was spacious and minimalist, but with all the essentials intact. I just loved every second of our stay at the SLS Hotel.

The Gala Night was elegant and well organized. The menu of the seated dinner was well planned and delicious. Jaime led the speeches, followed by the other PAL executives. He announced the airline’s new mantra, “Heart of the Filipino,” with a new theme song performed during their Anniversary Dinner in Manila by stellar artists Lea Salonga, Sarah Geronimo and Bamboo Manalac. Versatile chanteuse Zsa Zsa Padilla was the entertainer of the evening.

PAL executives at the Gala Night

PAL executives at the Gala Night

On our third day, we were taken on a road trip to the Chino Canyon of Palm Springs. We took the aerial tramway, the world’s largest rotating tram car. The breathtaking journey began at the Valley Station, and we disembarked at the Mountain Station where we had lunch at the Pines Café. After climbing the rocks and having our fill of picture-taking, we took the aerial tram to bring us down. It was an unforgettable adventure, and was the highlight of our trip. Next stop: the Cabazon shopping outlets. They had all the name brands, both American and European, to the delight of everyone.

The aerial tramway that took us to the Chino Canyons

The aerial tramway that took us to the Chino Canyons

All good things must come to an end. On our fourth evening, we were on our way to Tom Bradley International Airport. As expected, Airport Manager Rex Aldanese and Duty Manager Anna Pesigan facilitated our check-in. We were onboard PAL’s flight 103 to Manila. Although the flight was long, the service was impeccable and the in-flight cuisine was a gastronomical experience. PAL had tapped some of Asia Pacific’s top chefs—Jessie Sincioco, Fernando Aracama, Wataru Hikawa, Ben Lam, Bruce Lim and Yoon Yun Sun—to coordinate with their corporate chef Noel Ramos, and the results were Michelin star-worthy dishes! Being catered to and pampered by the team of Flight Purser Vivienne Pineda, Flight Attendants Maggie Gumaru and Aica Baes. CSM Geb Inocencio, and Flight Steward Jun Jun Uy made the long flight so comfortable and enjoyable. True to PAL’s new philosophy, PAL is indeed the heart of the Filipino. PAL President and COO Jaime Bautista’s goal of making PAL a five-star airline will soon be achieved.


For Our Next Travel Destination, We Dream About Koh Samui in Thailand

Impressive views of the Gulf of Thailand welcome you at the Arrival Sala

Silent Sanctuaries

Mayenne Carmona discovers the Four Seasons Resort in Koh Samui is a quiet oasis to recharge and rejuvenate…

What does one expect from a Four Seasons Resort? Everything! Firstly, it will definitely be ranked no less than a five-star hotel or resort. Most importantly, it would not fall short of all your expectations: excellent cuisine, topnotch comfort at your fingertips in a well-appointed villa, courteous staff who offer impeccable service, and every other detail you could possibly need—down to the last cotton bud. After all, a Four Seasons Resort is always designed by a top-rated architectural team and interior designers.

The moment I stepped into the Four Seasons Resort at Koh Samui, I felt all my cares washed away by the soft waves of the bluest sea. The fresh air cleared my sinuses in no time, and the gentle breeze was a much needed caress to a tired mind and body. It was truly paradise regained for me and my friends. We were a motley group of career-oriented people who needed a much-awaited break from work, and this was the perfect choice for us.

Each Villa has a butler to cater to the guests’ every whim. The afternoon we arrived, we requested a sunset dinner by the beach, and much like a genie, our butler whipped up a romantically set candlelit dinner for six. A five-course delicious Thai dinner was prepared by their well-trained chef.

Our days were spent languishing by the beach, having daily massages, attending yoga classes, doing water sports and enjoying every bite of Thai cuisine. Golf carts transported us wherever we wanted to go within the resort. This vacation brought all my senses to another realm, and restored a weary soul to perfection. 

Four Seasons Koh Samui, I look forward to seeing you again!

Koh Samui is the third largest island of Thailand in the scenic Gulf of Siam. It is a 45 minute flight from Bangkok. Sandy beaches, coral reefs, coconut trees and abundant tourist resources make it a popular holiday destination.

For more information on Four Seasons Resort, visit their website at https://www.fourseasons.com/kohsamui/

(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s March 2016 Travel Issue, “Silent Sanctuaries” written by our columnist Mayenne Carmona for La Vie En Rose on pages 32-33.)

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Get Lost in this Not-so-distant Island Safari Paradise


Tao Philippines Crusoe-style deserted island camp paradise is perfect for those who understand the luxury of simplicity and disconnection.

by Melo E. Esguerra photography by Scott Sporleder

Just when you think Palawan is fast becoming a second Boracay, where congestion of concrete buildings and human bodies have begun to define the island experience more than the pristine beaches of white powdery sand, the Lostboys of Tao Philippines came up with a new island project that guarantees an escape to paradise. They call the island Camp Ngey Ngey.

The Lostboys have taken over the abandoned resort of Manguengey in Busuanga, a remote island in Palawan. They have kept the ruins from the typhoon and built their signature bamboo Tuka huts around the main beach of the island, which serves as the camp area. Just a short walk away you’ll find jungle trails that lead to three other wild beaches, preserved reefs and windswept cliffs encompassed by crystal blue waters. And on certain days, when the winds are strong, one side of the island becomes a good site for surfing.


Eddie Brock, one of the founders of Tao Philippines, explains how this concept of an island safari came about. “When we took over Manguengey Resort, we were stuck with the idea of how to run it. We do not know how to cater to resort guests, the individual choices and needs, and menus,” he admits. “Tao’s expertise is to show travelers something new, something more raw and adventurous. We decided that we will not worry about things we don’t understand, and stick to what we do best. One of the best aspects of a Tao trip is creating an atmosphere of connecting with other travelers, disconnected from digital clot—without the worry of planning, wallets and keeping a status. Five days out in the remoteness with the islanders in control leads to a positive attitude: guards down, inhibition is off and open to meet new friends.”

The camp is accessible through the three day/two night boat safari from Coron, with beach and reef stops en route the camp and back. Guests will be joining other travelers, staying in individual Tuka huts dotted along the beach. There are lounges, a dining and kitchen area, and open hang-out places. Currently, the big mansion from the old resort is being restored into a villa that can accommodate a family or group of friends.

The island can be reserved for big events like weddings, parties and other meaningful gatherings.

In the island, there is no room service, no menus, no WiFi. You will arrive as strangers, you will eat together, swim together, laugh together, drink together, and get to know each other offline. Become part of the magic of Tao, and see what happens!

For more information on how the trip to Camp Ngey Ngey works, log on to www.taophilippines.com


(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s June 2017 Men’s Issue, “Lost in Paradise” on pages 110-113.)

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THROWBACK THURSDAY. Our Stylish Voyage on a Boat with Loida and Richard


With hosts Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau, we take entertaining to the high seas.

by Shari Quimbo photography Steffen Billhardt

The sky was decidedly gloomy on the Sunday afternoon Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau invited a small group of us for a sail, the clouds getting darker as I make my way to Porter’s Marina, where the Blue Planet was docked.

“Richard built the boat himself in Cebu,” Loida explains, going on to share that he was the former honorary French consul in Cebu. “It was built here, and I designed the interiors.”

All that work certainly paid off—Loida and Richard would often sail the boat out to different Philippine destinations such as El Nido, Siargao, Boracay and the Gigantes Islands in Iloilo. These could mean days-long journeys that sometimes meant dealing with some rough seas. Quick day trips, much like the one we were about to embark on, were also a regular past time.

Loida gives me a quick tour of the boat then shows off her tropical spread. With its bright blue and white floral seating, the cabin’s dining area is already a pretty festive site. “I wanted to keep it simple,” she tells me, arranging her fresh fruits around on the banana leaf-covered wooden slabs she was using as serving trays. “And I wanted it to look more local, more tropical. We are on the water, after all.”

The bamboo slats of the dining table were the perfect backdrop to Loida’s spread, which featured tropical fruits alongside an entire roll of lechon belly, fresh lumpia, empanada and steamed shrimp.

The highlight of the table, though, was the chicken liver pate, a dish that Richard makes himself. “Luckily, the French love to cook,” Loida jokes conspiratorially.

Finally, it was time to take the vessel out onto the high seas, and the group makes its way above deck to enjoy the view. The cool sea breeze was a bit stronger than usual, something that had to do with the dark rain clouds looming above us—something that would have deterred any other group, but not this adventurous bunch. Armed with a glass of champagne in one hand and a biscuit smeared with pate on the other, many stand against the railing, admiring the sight of the sky turning orange above the Mactan Channel.

And then it starts to pour. No matter, though—as the rain pounds against the deck, the party finds its way down below. A bottle of wine is opened, and then another, while a second pot of pate is transferred on a plate. Our captain waits until the waves calm before he brings us back ashore.

(This story has already been published in the printed edition of Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s November 2016 issue as one of the Entertaining Features on pages 82-85.)

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