October 27, 2016

Urbiz Garden Plage

“The amount of happiness that you have depends on the amount of freedom you have in your heart.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh

I’m a plage-aholic. And a plage temptation is hard to resist… especially if the one waiting has a beautiful white cottage right by the sea, with ornamental vines and bougainvillea crawling wildly up to its side. The place seems anachronistic for a town known as a go-to place of hard-core surfers and backpackers. It defies action. It appears to be a sanctuary for those who want to take a break or test their courage to let go of things they can never change. 

Urbiz Garden Plage has been around for almost a decade in Urbiztondo, La Union, the surfing capital of the North. A plage, by the way, is a French term for the beach. And the cottage is right smack in the middle of a lush and sprawling garden by the beach.   

I was too early for my 2 pm check-in. But the staff allowed me to rest in one of their native huts to wait. Waiting gave me ample time to reflect. Whoever said that “good things come to those who wait” - sorry but it’s not true all the time. Waiting has limits and I’ve reached mine. I think my new mantra should be “hope but never expect, look forward but never wait.”

I really love how nature embraces the cottage. The place is surrounded with a lush sea of green and pink and beautiful river rocks.  

The butaca chairs, daybeds with woven mats and soft cushions, driftwood furniture, woodworks, gives the lanai a laidback-feel. Even the cat, Armida Siguion-Reyna and I felt at home. I’m not a fan of Armida but I admire her advocacy for free expression and her belief that the most obscene thing in the world is censorship.

When I finally get to see my room, all I wanted to do was sleep all day. 

Feeling rejuvenated I woke up the next day to new possibilities and a hearty breakfast of fried garlic rice, danggit, and lonnganisa.

It was a perfect day to hit the beach.

I sat by the shore and watched young surfers gliding by and through the majestic waves of the West Philippine Sea. Even the best fall down sometimes.

Bumped into a new friend perhaps I will never meet again.

And patiently waited for my most favorite time of the day. 

Now, I’ve come to embrace impermanence and accept that the changes I don’t want are sometimes the changes I need to grow.

Urbiz Garden Plage
#134 Beachfront Urbiztondo
San Juan, La Union
Tel. No.: 0917-5908256

October 18, 2016

Meranti Hotel

Meranti is the hotel that fried chicken built. Sort of.

The maiden boutique hotel of the Max’s Group Inc. (the company that has brought sarap to the bones Max’s chicken to Filipinos), Meranti is an ideal place for city staycation in Quezon City area. It is located almost just across the iconic first Max’s Restaurant established within the vicinity of Tomas Morato.

Meranti was named after a natural wood species from Malaysia and Indonesia that is identical to Philippine mahogany.  The meranti wood is lightweight, durable, an excellent exterior grade product. Just like the wood furnishings that are of superior quality, used in the hotel.

The hotel lobby looks chic and elegant with its modern drop log lights that look like giant golden cocoons (or glowing cylindrical tubes), comfy sofa and Kenneth Cobonpue rattan wicker chairs.

While waiting for the completion of check-in process, I was served a refreshing welcome drink sago at gulaman. I also found a copy of a coffee table book about the delectable history of Max’s. It is interesting to know that the famous fried chicken was a special creation by Maximo “Max” Gimenez’ niece Ruby upon the request of GIs who frequent Max’s little cafĂ© way back in 1945, during the American occupation period in the country.

The mezzanine is where the business center and an open small function hall are located.

Standard and deluxe rooms are spacious and equipped with amenities that anyone, particularly techies would especially enjoy.

The memory foam pocketed beds is covered in luxurious Egyptian cotton linen with a 400 thread count. The bathroom has a rain shower head with bath essentials that have cool names. There’s a complimentary tea and instant coffee. But the real steal, aside from the free wifi, is the flat screen smart TV where guests can directly access YouTube, Facebook, or Spotify. It also has a screen mirroring capacity, where I got to view on the TV screen anything I browse on my tablet (including my Insta gallery).

I was also touched by the small but commendable gesture of the housekeeping team who made an extra effort to leave a personalized note along with yummy yema balls, which tastes better than Max’s candy bars.

I was expecting that the hotel’s in-house restaurant would be Max’s but instead it is Maple, another upscale restaurant member of the Max’s Group. Maple offers a decent, scrumptious buffet breakfast selection of garden salad, bread with jams, cheese and peanut butter, coffee, orange juice and pink lychee lemonade, rice, corned beef, tocino, daing na bangus, pansit, and fresh fruits.   

The transparent partly glass encased and chlorine-free swimming pool at the hotel’s penthouse is a favorite photo spot among family staycationers.

The roofdeck is a nice tambayan place, offering a panoramic view of the city skyline where the towers of the two biggest rival TV networks in the country can be seen.

It made me reflect… that rivalry always happens, and life eternally presents us with two choices or more. But in choosing, I don’t have to rip myself into pieces just to keep others whole.

Meranti Hotel
#82 Sct. Castor, Brgy. Laging Handa
Quezon City
Tel. No.: 376-6340 to 42