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Chicago Charmer

Witty architecture, limitless activities, the Hilton experience and a stunning skyline await the media personalities and tour operators arriving on Cathay Pacific’s newly added flights from Cebu to Chicago.

Witty architecture, limitless activities, the Hilton experience and a stunning skyline await the media personalities and tour operators arriving on Cathay Pacific’s newly added flights from Cebu to Chicago.

We arrived at O’Hare airport, second busiest airport in the world, on a damp, cold and gloomy tuesday afternoon. Not the first impression of Chicago I was aiming for. But in the days to come, my travel companions and I, did in five days what most people would do in a month and I was swept off my feet. For those with us visiting their second, third or fourth time they fell in love with the Windy City all over again. A success story is what it is. A phoenix rising above several tragedies: The Great Fire of 1871, the gang wars of Capone on the South Side and Moran on the North Side in the early 1920’s, political and labor upheavals and an en masse migration post World War ii. Drawing strength from its strategic location, rich diversity and proud citizens, Chicago emerges a formidable “Second City”.

Here is an unmistakable whiff of progress, culture and history in the 52°F air. I, along with lifestyle editors Nelia Neri of Sun Star and Mayen tan of the Freeman and tour operators, Margette villarica of Destination Specialists Inc., Sheila Colmenares of Leisure travel and tours, Aida Uy of Cebu Fortune Travel International, Inc., Victor Carvajal of Travelways Intl. Inc., Andrew Teh of Global Link Travel and Tours received a Passport to Chicago offering free passes and discounts to tours, restaurants, museums and shows from Benjamin Kelner of the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture. With so much to do and so little time, each ticked off items from the many inviting possibilities we could do as a group or on our own.

To ease our eagerness, our ‘travel link’ Eugene Cheng of Unilink, Inc. was there to help us prioritize and provide a van for where the day may take us. Filipinos as we are, the highlights of our trip always involved good food, and lots of it. Our first meal after our long flight was in Chinatown where we enjoyed Lobster atop Chinese egg noodles. The lovely Connie Cimafranca and Port Manager Maggie Wong of Cathay Pacific along with Anthony Legaspi the Director of Sales for Hilton International treated the whole group to try Chicago’s world famous steak house, Morton’s. It was love at first bite as the rib-eye melted its way to our stomachs. Chicago is also home of the original deep dish pizza and for our fill, Eugene brought us to Lou Malnati’s. the warm and cozy restaurant in the idyllic Gold Coast neighborhood was perfect for our lunch date on one of the coldest days of our visit. as with keeping up with touristy traditions, we also enjoyed fresh seafood over at the Navy Pier.

Eugene, a fellow Filipino who is a travel agent in the US, offered up his services to help us maximize our brief stay. He took us everywhere, around the Loop, the Magnificent Mile, Lincoln Park and the Millennium Park. All 24 acres of the Millennium Park multi-tasks as a landmark, central hub, ice skating rink during winter, and a concert venue in Spring. A trip must include trying to find the right reflection on Anish Kapoor’s Cloudgate and admiring the twirling steel ribbons of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. In the neighboring Grant Park, the Art Institute of Chicago houses the nations second largest collection of the world’s most beloved pieces of art like the iconic Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. After gawking at art you can take photos of the many sculptures scattered around the park like the Spearman and the Bowman, the eagle fountains, Agora and Daphne. We walked the distance between the institute to the Shedd Museum, Field Museum (where you can meet Sue the dinosaur) and the Adler Planetarium. It satisfied all my curiosities but you can also thrown in a side trip to the massive Museum of Science and industry, for good measure.

From the bird- eye view of towers, John Hancock and Willis, it’s easy to see why Chicago provides a fantastical backdrop for a whole range of Hollywood films. Chicago even saw the dawn of the silent screen with Charlie Chapman and Gloria Swanson as home to essanay Studios (now part of St. augustine College) and the Selig Polyscope Company at the turn of the 19th century. eighty movies and counting, from rom-com “My Best Friend’s Wedding” to period flick “road to Perdition” to name a few. Its alter-ego of Gotham City (Batman Begins, 2005, and the dark Knight, 2007) is one of the many worlds it doubles as.

The juxtaposition between the modern and the classic gives Chicago its look but it still remains very much a Great american City. Declared in 1991 as the “greatest american architect of all time” by the american institute of architects,Frank Lloyd Wright was a Wisconsin native but a Chicagoan at heart. His signature “Prairie” house with triangular gables, over-scaled roofs, bay windows, wide doorways, cross- axial lay out made of shingle, brick and stone characterizes many

  • by Katsy Borromeo

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Club Serena: A ‘Serene Luxury’ Experience in the Heart of Cebu’s Diving Mecca

photography by GPA Art and Photography

A three-hour drive, or more, depending on traffic, the fishing town of Moalboal in the southwest of Cebu Island is an extremely popular destination for divers and weekenders who love the white sand and pink sunsets. It is also a favorite place to stay for expats looking for a laid-back life of endless coffees or cocktails.

Thankfully, the big chain resorts haven’t discovered it and places to stay are mostly small family-run resorts. But if pampering is what you are looking for, there is only one hotel to book in Moalboal. Club Serena Resort is a 1.7-hectare beachfront property perched above coral rocks, presenting a unique union of luxurious accommodations and a host of activities to be enjoyed. This hidden gem is reached through a dirt road away from the main highway. Fronting a wide swath of white sand beach, it is an easy walk past several smaller resorts to reach the main town.

Recently renovated by noted architect James Jao, the new Club Serena has 17 rooms, three swimming pools, a restaurant, and a beachfront event space, all designed with modern Filipino aesthetic. On the drawing board are more rooms to be added, an expansion of their modern dive shop, and their popular Kids’ Club program. Their food outlet, Mira, offers all-day dining, favorite among visitors and locals, as well as the growing expat community that has settled in Moalboal. 

Club Serena offers diving courses for adults and kids by their resident operator, Seven Seas Aquanauts Phil. Corp, a PADI 5 accredited diving facility operating since 1988. For a complete list of the courses and their rates, please call (+63) 917.872.6367 or (+63) 905.459.5307.

The resort encourages above-water activities as well, and they have several paddle boards and kayaks available for guests to use.

For rates and more information, visit or email or (+63) 917.872.6367 or (+63) 905.459.5307. You can also visit their Facebook page for updates.

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This is How the M.I.C.E. Alliance Initiative will Lift Boracay to New Heights

Leveling up Boracay in more ways than one

by Ryan Daniel R. Dablo

Saying the name “Boracay” instantly casts a spell, taking the listener to a daydream of immaculate, pale beaches, swaying palm trees, the music of breaking waves, and the vacation of a lifetime. The tropical island Eden is storied and renowned – a difficult enchantment to lift from any wayward tourist’s mind. But what if we were to tell you that Boracay is so much more? Can you build upon perfection? Yes, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is how. 

One is never too far away from the beach! BNCC is only a stone’s throw away from the Boracay Newcoast Beach front.

Boracay Newcoast Convention Center (BNCC), located at the heart of Boracay Newcoast will soon host the biggest conventions, exhibitions and other large-scale events in the island starting second quarter of 2022.

After the difficulties of the past few years, the stage is finally set for a massive Boracay reboot. The creative gears turn once more, and this time they will catapult our favorite beach capital to new heights. The cornerstone of this renaissance is the M.I.C.E. Alliance initiative, short for meetings, incentives, conferences and conventions, and events and exhibitions. The establishment of the Boracay M.I.C.E. Alliance will allow focused efforts in creating sustainable and eco-sensitive tourism development projects while synergizing with stakeholders to create long-term solutions and opportunities for all partners. The alliance is set to drive awareness, readiness, and expansion of product offerings that will be crucial in making the island competitive with other M.I.C.E. destinations. Working closely with the Department of Tourism Region VI and the Tourism Promotions Board, the alliance is primed to provide support to the areas that are involved in this major undertaking.

Cleofe Albiso, Boracay M.I.C.E Alliance Chairperson

BNCC enjoys state-of-the-art facilities and can accommodate about a thousand guests depending on set-up and conduct multiple events at a time.

No one is more emphatic than M.I.C.E. Alliance chairperson Cleofe Albiso in describing how the different sectors of Boracay are pivoting from tourism to tourism plus. In brief, Boracay is challenging its own boundaries to become not just the pre-eminent tourist destination but also a corporate and business mecca. Turns out, if a venue is grand enough to host a wedding, wouldn’t it be just as grand to host a white-collar conference? Sky’s the limit for possibilities like this. At this moment, the island is abuzz with networking and making connections, training and empowering the hospitality services, polishing the infrastructure, revving up the transportation facilities, and all-around gearing up to go toe-to-toe with other M.I.C.E. hubs and be worthy of the tagline, “the best place for M.I.C.E. in a tropical paradise.” All hands are on deck and – after the extended global hiatus thanks to the pandemic – everyone is ready, nay, eager to meet and greet the guests. And, of course, we would be remiss not to point out that Boracay is more than halfway through completing such a tall order. The island is as well-oiled a machine as it could be, boasting 294 DOT-accredited hotels and resort, a staggering 4,500 seating capacity for meetings and conventions, and 12,400 room keys available in the island. Talk about volume! Plus, Boracay is already postcard-perfect, the very stuff that vacation dreams are made of. Why not turn the dial up to eleven and let it become a compass point for more than a summer getaway? This is the logical next step in realizing its vision of being not just a place to be, but the place to be.

Savoy Hotel Boracay like Belmont Hotel, and the soon to open Chancellor Hotel is also walking distance away from BNCC making it an ideal spot for both business and leisure trips.

So, yes, by all means think of the idyllic strolls on the beach, the luxurious caress of the ocean as you free-dive, the sheer delight of sand and surf while island-hopping, the adrenaline rush of aquasports, parasailing, cycling, or driving an ATV up Boracay’s foothills, the psychedelic glow of fire-dancing and party lights at night, the breathtaking sunsets, the larger-than-life adventures, or the hundred other ways it can lavish or reinvigorate your soul. Think of all of that, and then some. Because Boracay has its eyes on something greater: it is poised to become the premier starting point and last stop for tourism, entertainment, corporate gatherings, exhibits, and any other event the imagination can dream of. 

Paradise Garden’s Mabuhay Convention Center can fit 850 guests at a time.

For corporate set-ups, a 60 person function room is also available at the Isla Function Room of Paradise Garden.

Think of your company meeting. Now, think of your company meeting and the fun that’ll ensue right after. Picture that in the most scenic of vacation spots. Tempted already? Who wouldn’t be? You’re already in paradise. With business here and leisure literally just a stone’s throw away – heaven on earth, wouldn’t you say? 

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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

(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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