Monday, December 22, 2014

Fantasy After History in Dapitan City

Gloria's Fantasyland in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte, is the first and biggest amusement park in the Visayas and Mindanao
A fireworks display caps the Festival of Colors parade and show at the Gloria's Fantasyland

Except for the makeshift stalls selling souvenirs, candies and snacks, the iron gate and a small building undergoing renovation, the Rizal Shrine looked like an entrance to an enchanted forest. The park is leafy, shaded by trees and the hills behind it. The museum was closed and under construction, the biggest concrete structure in the shrine. The Dapitan Bay was placid, and the few fishing boats were almost motionless on the water. Huts of bamboo, wood and grass could be seen among the foliage, replicas of a clinic, homes and students’ domicile of Jose Rizal. Old men and women unobtrusively were sweeping off dried leaves and litter and keeping the place clean. They could be hardly noticed except they were clad in all white, a thing one associates with cults. They are actually Rizalistas, members of a group which believes the novelist, eye doctor and the Philippines’ foremost hero is a divine being. They came from all over the country and help maintain the shrine, which is sacred to them. Visitors often chat them up, and they are friendly, but mostly they just go on in their quiet ways, as quiet as the surroundings and most parts of Dapitan City.
During his exile here from 1892 to 1896, Rizal bought about sixteen hectares of land in the barangay of Talisay with money he won from a lottery. Here, he temporarily lived and became very productive—writing, sculpting, studying, teaching, exploring the place and helping out the local community. The place later became a national shrine and a major historical landmark of the Philippines. This is what Dapitan in Zamboanga de Norte is known for. About 650 kilometers southwest of the capital Manila, the city is generally sleepy and rustic.
At the town proper, many structures are old, and there are constant reminders of Rizal. The biggest structure in the area is perhaps the Church of Saint James the Greater, where Rizal attended mass. In front of the church, he made a relief map of Mindanao. The plaza was expansive. Nearby is the Casa Real, Rizal’s official residence in Dapitan, and the old city hall. The street names are associated with Rizal such as Noli Me Tangere and Josephine Bracken, one of his lovers. At the coast, a monument, the Punto del Desembarco de Rizal, was installed, marking the site where Rizal first disembarked. The area, with its historical landmarks and several ancestral houses, was declared the country’s first Heritage Zone in 2011, in time for the 150th birth anniversary of the hero.
There is another face of Dapitan City, and it starts at other side of the Punto del Desembarco de Rizal, where Sunset Boulevard starts and ends with the new, almost palatial city hall, greeting visitors coming from Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte’s capital. The coastal street is lined with resorts, coconut trees and, incongruously, street lamps of futuristic design, similar to those along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. This is the so-called new Dapitan with modern developments, and its brightest structure is the Gloria de Dapitan, an entertainment, business and dining complex in the barangay of Dawo.
Heralded by a wall of dancing and colorful lights, Gloria de Dapitan has bars and restaurants, a bowling center, a fitness gym, a “five-star cockpit,” a beauty salon, a computer arcade, an Internet café, a billiards and dart hall, a disco pub, a coffee shop and bakery, boutiques, shoe and souvenir shops, a pharmacy, a money changer, a spa and food stores. A big water fountain with lights sits in the middle. A call center is expected to be put up in the future.
The three-hectare complex was built by the Jalosjoses, the most prominent political family in Zamboanga del Norte, whose patriarch is the former representative of the province, 73-year-old Romeo Jalosjos. Contrary to many visitors’ conjecture that it is named after former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a political ally, Gloria de Dapitan simply means “glory of Dapitan,” something, it is hoped, that will be the pride of the city.
The most prominent feature of Gloria de Dapitan is the theme park Gloria’s Fantasyland whose façade in the shape of a castle, bathed in light, welcomes visitors. On December 14, 2014, the nightly parade was launched, marking the completion of the theme park. According to Svetlana “Lana” Jalosjos, daughter of Romeo Jalosjos, the vice president for sales and marketing, and the unseated mayor of Baliangao, Misamis Occidental, they have invested about P200 million on the theme park. The presence of such a park, with a level of sophistication and technology unexpected in the region, can be surprising. Gloria’s Fantasyland is the first and biggest amusement park in the Visayas and Mindanao. There is none in Zamboanga City, the most urbanized hub in the region and the country’s third largest city, 156 nautical miles from Dapitan. Even Cebu City, the country’s most important city outside Metro Manila, does not have anything like it, said Lana. It is perhaps the second biggest theme park after The Enchanted Kingdom in Santa Rosa, Laguna. 

Inside Gloria's Fantasyland in Dapitan City
A water feature inside Gloria's Fantasyland in Dapitan City which looks like a sculpture at the Bonifacio High Street in Taguig City

A carousel in Gloria's Fantasyland in Dapitan City
Said to be the most expensive horror house in the country, Gloria's Fantasyland's horror house is impressive
The three-hectare entertainment, business and dining complex Gloria de Dapitan, owned by the Jalosjoses

The 5D theater of Gloria's Fantasyland in Dapitan City

Gloria’s Fantasyland is the brainchild of Romeo Jalosjos. It is said that it is a gift to his daughters, who wanted to go to Enchanted Kingdom when they visited him when he was at the New Bilibid Prison. Jalosjos was convicted of raping an 11-year-old girl and sentenced to two life terms in 1997. His sentence was commuted by Macapagal-Arroyo to 16 years, three months and three days in 2007, and then later to 13 years, five months and 15 days because of good conduct. He was released in March 2009.
In May 2009, Gloria’s Fantasyland opened. Lana said it is the vision of his father that this place will be where people can be children again. Barred from running for public office ever by the Supreme Court, Jalosjos spends most of his time on family businesses, which include the Dakak Park and Beach Resort in a cove in the barangay of Taguilon, perhaps the best resort in the Zamboanga Peninsula and even in Western Mindanao, which started in 1988, and the production of Eat...Bulaga!, the country’s longest running noontime variety show. Dakak and Gloria de Dapitan employ about 1,200 workers, one of the biggest employers in the peninsula, Lana revealed.
Apparently and admittedly patterned after the world-renowned Disneyland, Gloria’s Fantasyland is meant to fill a gap in this kind of entertainment in the tourism of the Visayas and Mindanao, Lana said. She remembered starting out with just 26 small kiddie rides. Over the years, there was a demand for more thrilling rides. Thus, interactive rides were imported from China. The highlights of the park prove to be the 5D theater and the Zimerman, the single-loop and double-corkscrew rollercoaster, said to be the only one in the Philippines. The Ferris wheel remains to be the most conspicuous fixture. The Apollo crudely simulates a ride in a rocket ship. The Galleon is a giant ship that rocks riders to and fro, one of the most fun rides. The classics are present—the carousel and the bumper cars.
The most successful feature of the park is the horror house. The most expensive horror house in the country, Lana described it. It is said to be more “detailed” with eleven rooms and a story as visitors walk through the house. They hired costume and set designers who worked with the popular Shake, Rattle and Roll movie franchise.
To complete the Disneyland-inspired format, the parade was added. For the parade, they hired professionals from Metro Manila such as Peter Macrohon as entertainment director, Wally Tuyan as choreographer, Rolando de Leon, a scenographer who works for the regional branch of network giant GMA 7, as float and costume designer, Joey Nombres as lighting design consultant, etc. For its launch, they invited Eat...Bulaga! hosts Jose Manalo, Wally Bayona and Paolo Ballesteros; the country’s most popular child performer, Ryzza Mae Dizon; and the country’s most popular actress, Marian Rivera, to do a short show. It was an extra treat for the locals, who thronged around the center stage, and for the crowd at the gate, outside the park, squealing at very glimpse of the celebrities when the gate partially opened.
Called the Festival of Colors and described as the “soul of the park,” the parade is a pageant of extravagant and lit costumes and colorful floats inspired by world cultures and civilizations, interspersed with dancers. The floats depict China, Thailand, Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Persia and the Philippines, each with a costumed model riding on them. Models parade in costumes adorned with lights and gigantic skirts. The marching band also shimmers with light. One of the highlights of the parade is 21-year-old Junrey Balawing from Sindangan, who at 22 inches was declared the world’s smallest man in 2011 by the Guinness Book of World Records and rides on the Persia float.
After going through the theme park, the parade is followed by thirty-minute, Cirque du Soleil-inspired show called “Joie de Vivre,” a series of modern jazz, hip-hop and pop dances that feature acrobatics. The dances are energetic and impressive. And the dancers are all locals, Nombres beamed. More than 100 dancers and performers, some of them park employees and most residents of the city and nearby areas, are involved in the parade and show. Lana said the parade and show will be a permanent feature of Gloria’s Fantasyland, mounted daily starting ten in the evening. 

The marching band of the Festival of Colors of Gloria's Fantasyland in Dapitan City glows like phantoms
The Gloria's Fantasyland float in the Festival of Colors

The Queen of Fire in the Festival of Colors parade
The Queen of Water in the Festival of Colors parade

The Queen of Gems in the Festival of Colors parade
Dancers of the Thailand float
The Thailand float in the Festival of Colors parade
The Africa float in the Festival of Colors parade
People crowd around the float to take a picture of Marian Rivera during the Festival of Colors launch in December 14, 2014

Marian Rivera delights the crowds
The Mexico float in the Festival of Colors parade
The Philippines float in the Festival of Colors parade
Dances in the "Joie de Vivre" show features acrobatics

Most of the dancers are locals, and the dances are energetic and fast-paced
The blasé visitor from Metro Manila may find the theme park a tad tacky, and it is, but one can’t help but to be impressed with the level of technology and effort put in as well as to see incongruity in place as rural and laidback as Dapitan City. But Gloria’s Fantasyland is more for the locals, who may not have the chance to visit Enchanted Kingdom in Luzon or Disneyland in Hong Kong.
Capping the parade and show was a fireworks display, enthralling everyone as it sparked the night sky to brightly blossom. Its colored lights momentarily shone on the calm, dark bay, maybe on the shadowy forests and upon sleeping huddles of houses, projecting the happiest place in the Zamboanga Peninsula and auguring a future in appearance might be bright. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Pancake Bibingka and Other IHOP Originals

With the Bibingka Pancake, IHOP is putting a delicious stamp on a Filipino holiday classic. It is served with whole duck eggs, muscovado sugar, and garnished with shredded parmesan, cheddar cheese, and desiccated coconut. It is also topped with a scoop of butter and served on banana leaf.
There is a curious new pancake variety at the international restaurant chain International House of Pancakes (IHOP). This new pancake is dressed in a favorite seasonal snack — the bibingka, the flat rice cake cooked over live coals and topped with slices of salty duck egg (itlog na maalat or itlog na pula) and grated coconut meat, popularly associated with the Christmas season.
The so-called bibingka pancakes have generous slices of salty duck eggs and cheddar cheese between two buttermilk pancakes, and sprinkled with muscovado sugar, shredded parmesan cheese and desiccated coconut meat. Topped with a scoop of butter, they are served on banana leaf for a traditional feel. Surprisingly, they taste like the real bibingka, only much finer and tastier. The heavy rice flour is replaced by the buttermilk mix, with which IHOP is known for. The eggs and the cheese cut back the sweetness and provide a nice counterbalance.
The bibingka pancakes were launched in time for the Christmas season, much beloved by Filipinos, together with other new items concocted by IHOP Philippines including the dulce de leche pancake and the Malagos Chocolate drink.
IHOP does not only allow international branches to innovate and create new dishes for their markets, it encourages the practice, said IHOP Philippines brand manager Patricia Malong.
Since it opened in the country early 2013, IHOP Philippines executive chef Paolo Angelo Gutierrez has introduced several original items that has become popular. The Filipino breakfast items, for example, was introduced in March 2014 on limited time offer, but they became so popular that the restaurant has decided to include them in the regular menu. These Filipino breakfast items are the popular silog combo meals consisting of fried rice, fried egg and a meat such as the tapsilog (tapa, sinangag and itlog or fried marinated beef, fried rice and egg), tosilog (tocino or sweet cured pork), longsilog (longganisa or chorizo), etc.
Now, IHOP Philippines deems the Christmas season as the best time to introduce new tiems on special limited edition offers.
Holidays are a big part of our campaigns,” said Archie Rodriquez, president and CEO of Global Restaurant Concepts Inc., which owns and operates IHOP in the Philippines. “We are proud to celebrate this joyous season with our diners with a Filipino touch.”
Global Restaurant Concepts Inc. also operates Ramen Iroha, California Pizza Kitchen, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Gyu-Kaku and Morelli’s Gelato.
We are very sure that these items bring back childhood memories of a more traditional way of celebrating with family and friends in every bite,” he commented, referring to the bibingka pancake, the dulce de leche pancake, and the hot Malagos chocolate drink. “These tasty treats combine IHOP’s classic recipes with Filipino flavors, giving holiday diners the best of both worlds.”
Compared to the bibingka pancake, the dulce de leche pancake is much sweeter with the two buttermilk pancakes filled with fresh bananas, spread with dulce de leche, topped with a drizzle of dark chocolate syrup, and topped with whipped cream.
IHOP provides you with an excellent hot drink to accompany the new pancakes — the hot Malagos chocolate drink. The drink is made from single-origin cacao beans grown in the Malagos Gardens of Davao City. It tastes almost like the beloved tsokolate eh, creamy and sweet, like velvet to the tongue.

The holidays are sweeter with IHOP’s Dulce de Leche Pancake, two buttermilk pancakes filled with fresh bananas, spread with dulce de leche, topped with a drizzle of dark chocolate syrup, and crowned with whipped cream.
Every cup of the Malagos hot chocolate is made with all-natural, single-origin beans grown and harvested by Davao’s farmers and cheerfully prepared at IHOP’s kitchen.
 More new dishes
Aside from these Christmas items, IHOP Philippines also offers its recently added items, including burgers and desserts.
Aside from the worldwide favorites pancakes and omelets, burgers are also popular in the Philippines. This is one American food item Filipinos embraces to the point that it has been considered by many as a comfort food, having grown up with it. So, the all-day breakfast restaurant welcomes the burger in its menu. All burgers come with IHOP’s own secret sauce along with a choice of seasoned fries or onion rings.
Gutierrez’s new burgers seem to be hybrids of two popular items. Western Hash Brown Burger and the Sunrise Burger, for example, are burgers infused with breakfast elements. The first is made with hash browns, American cheese, tomatoes and bacon, while the Sunrise Burger with sun-dried tomato pesto, red onion rings, American cheese and sunny-side-up egg.
On the other hand, the Philly Cheese Steak Burger and the Cheesy Mac Burger combine the burger with favorite American dishes. The former is a classic Southern burger with provolone cheese, Philly meat, green bell pepper, onions, mushroom and red potato seasoning, while the latter is smothered with macaroni and cheese, bacon, lettuce, dill pickle and more cheese sauce.
The new dessert items are the bread and butter pudding, a slice of warm bread pudding topped with a drizzle of banana caramel sauce, vanilla sauce, honey-pecan nuts and a scoop of vanilla ice cream; and the stuffed and rolled chocolate crepe, chocolate crepes with cream cheese filling, choco hazelnut spread, vanilla sauce topping, dark chocolate syrup, chocolate chips, a side of strawberries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
With these new items, the people behind IHOP Philippines hope to bring more excitement to guests dining in their restaurants. The introduction of IHOP was a major development in the local food industry, attracting numerous foodies. The restaurant has been able to sustain the interest of diners, opening three more branches this year. It is aiming to further strengthen its presence in the Philippines.
Branches have opened at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City; the UP Town Center on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City; the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City; Century City Mall in Makati City; Filinvest City in Alabang, Muntinlupa; and the Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City. A branch at the Ayala Fairview Terraces mall in Quezon City will be unveiled soon. IHOP is also looking to open branches in the provinces outside Metro Manila as well as in Southeast Asia.
Aside from adding branches, IHOP Philippines will also be offering catering services for consumer and corporate events in onsite and offsite locations.
At IHOP, Filipino diners get to enjoy all-day dining from original buttermilk pancakes to sandwiches to ribeye steaks,” Rodriguez said. “The brand has been serving delicious food for more than five decades, from breakfast to dinner, and we are proud to create new moments and memories with our diners here in the Philippines.”

Carbonara pasta. Fettuccini pasta tossed in velvety cream mixed with crispy bason, ham, fresh mushrooms and shredded Parmesan topped with sunny-side upp egg. Served with garlic bread.

Cheesy Mac Burger. IHOP is placing two comfort food favorites in one! It’s a burger made with cheese lovers in mind with Mac & Cheese, bacon, lettuce leaf, dill pickle and more cheese sauce. Made with IHOP’s own secret sauce and served with a choice of seasoned fries or onion rings.

Italian chicken pasta. Grilled chicken over fettuccini pasta, spinach and mushrooms in a house-made tomato Alfredo sauce topped with shredded Parmesan. Served with garlic bread.

Philly Cheese Steak Burger. Taste the classic Southern burger with provolone cheese, Philly meat, green bell pepper, onions, mushroom, and red potato seasoning. Made with IHOP’s own secret sauce and served with a choice of seasoned fries or onion rings.

Pot roast pasta. Chunks of moist, slow-cooked pot roast in a bed of creamy penne, mixed with sauteed tomatoes and a zing of sour cream. Served with garlic bread. 
Sriracha chicken and waffle. Two pieces of fried chicken covered in a sweet and spicy combination of butter pecan sauce and sriracha on a Belgian waffle with a scoop of whipped butter.

Sunrise Burger. Have a taste of sunshine with this burger made with sun dried tomato pesto, red onion rings, American cheese, and sunny side up egg. Made with IHOP’s own secret sauce and served with a choice of seasoned fries or onion rings.

Western Hash Brown Burger. Unleash your inner cowboy with this bad boy made of hash browns, American cheese, tomatoes, and bacon. Made with IHOP’s own secret sauce and served with a choice of seasoned fries or onion rings.
IHOP is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and until 12 midnight on weekends. For the Christmas season, the flagship branch at the Bonifacio Global City accepting orders 24 hours a day and seven days a week from Dec. 16, 2014, to Jan. 3, 2015. To know more, visit its Facebook page (IHOP Philippines); follow its Twitter and Instagram accounts (@ihop_ph); or e-mail at

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Shop by Sweep

In ancient times, people bartered goods. The invention of money drastically changed how exchanges were made and made life generally easier. For many centuries, money has played a very important role. Now, acquiring goods and services is getting even more convenient. With credit and debit cards, people can dispense with the use of cash.
San Miguel Corp. (SMC), the food, beverage and packaging company, launched a new kind of card in early 2014—the Sweep Card. This card is pre-loaded with a certain amount of money, which can be used to pay for goods and services at any of its merchant partners. It is like a debit card, but carries more features.
The reloadable stored value card uses Radio Frequency Identification technology. It stores money in a chip and operates using contactless-enabled point-of-sale terminals. One has just to tap the card at the machine. Sweep is capable of online and offline payment transactions.
The progress of the usage of electronic payment systems has been slow in the Philippines. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas estimates only 1 percent of all payment transactions done in a month is done through electronic means. The bulk is through check and cash payments.
SMC is optimistic that the Philippines will catch on, aiming for a cashless society. The more convenient Sweep card is hoped to change people’s perception of cards.
The Sweep card simplifies the payment system. Unlike a credit card or an ATM card, there’s no need to open a bank account, sign any forms, submit documentation, or even remember a PIN to be able to use and enjoy the benefits of a Sweep card. You just buy a Sweep card at National Bookstore or at select Petron and 7-Eleven outlets for only P100, and you’re good to go. Load it up, then tap to use,” said Aurora T. Calderon, president of Autosweep Post Corp.
Additionally, the Sweep card, which is valid for three years, has no annual fee and no maintaining balance requirement. People can reload their Sweep card over the counter for a fee at National Book Store, Petron, San Miguel Food Avenue, Powerbooks and SeaOil or online through Security Bank’s bills payment facility. They can load any amount up to P5,000 which can be used immediately. However, cash limit of the card will be increased to P30,000 if one registers it on the Sweep Web site.
Sweep card holders are encouraged to register their cards online so that they can access more benefits. Aside from getting an increased cash limit, registered card holders can monitor balance and transaction history online (up to three months back); pay for bills or reload mobile phones online; recover money or points if card is reported lost or stolen; transfer money from one Sweep Card to another at no cost; pay for SLEX, Skyway and STAR Tollways toll fees; withdraw money from any ATM; earn loyalty points from select merchant partners; and keep money safe with the SweepSafe wallet.
The SweepSafe wallet is a virtual wallet to help cardholders manage their money and give it additional security. The Card Wallet, which has a cash limit of P5,000, is used for everyday purchases and activated immediately upon first use of the Sweep Card. On the other hand, the Safe Wallet, which has the P30,000 cash limit, is activated upon online registration and serves as a source wallet for online transactions. The ATM Wallet allows cardholders to withdraw money in their Sweep account from any ATM.

Merchants are also given the option to release customized card designs. Regardless of design, co-branded cards are accepted at all Sweep merchant partners.
Right now, SMC is aggressive in enjoining as many merchants as possible to partner with them. The bulk of their partner merchants are food and dining companies, more than 60 of them. These include Chatime, California Pizza Kitchen, IHOP Restaurant, P.F. Chang’s, Mad for Garlic, Gyu-Kaku, Morelli’s Gelato, Krispy Kreme, Jamba Juice, Max’s Restaurant, Bubba Gump, Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen, San Mig Food Avenue, Kenny Rogers Roasters, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Figaro Coffee, Crave Burger, Wham! Burgers, Yoshinoya, Banana Leaf, Qoola, Mom and Tina’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Mister Kabab, Foodparks by Raintree, Food Arcade by Raintree, Food Odyssey, Food Patio@PBCom, Food and Art Galerie, Early Bird Breakfast Club, Potato Corner, Hungry Juan, Royce, Republiq, Shakey’s, Bread Talk, Kopi Roti, Toast Box, McDonald’s (SM Megamall and Buendia branches only), Juju Eats, 2nd’s, Bangus Specialty Restaurant, Mey Lin, Tokyo Café, Stackers Burger Café, Kogi Bulgogi, Woo Galbi, Parmigiano, Burger Company, Wafu, Tong Yang, Taste of Kebab, Ba Noi’s, Black Canyon Coffee, Detoxify Bar, Murray and D’vine, Plaza Café, Thaicoon, Zigla, Bizu Patisserie, Café Sant Antonio, Lia’s Cakes and Army Navy.
Additionally, card holders can pay for their fuel with their Sweep cards at any Petron stations, while book lovers can use their cards at National Book Store and Powerbooks. Island Spa and City Delivery are also partner merchants. The most recent development is the partnership with SLEX, Skyway and STAR Tollways. Sweep Card holders can pay toll fees in cash lanes by using their cards instead of cash.
A Sweep mobile application is in development. The mobile app, which can be downloaded for free, will have all the features of the Web site and the Sweep merchant finder. This will enable users to locate partner merchants based on their current location.

Visit for more information.

Promos for Sweep users
At Yoshinoya. Get a free Sweep Card for a minimum single receipt of P300. Pay with Sweep and enjoy a free tiramisu for a minimum spend of P300 until Dec. 15.
At Rue Bourbon. Get a free Sweep Card for a minimum single receipt of P1,000. Pay with Sweep and enjoy a free Warm-up Shot for every P1,000 spent until Jan. 29, 2015
At Crave Burger. Get a free Sweep Card for a minimum single receipt of P300. Pay with Sweep and enjoy a free house blend drink for a minimum spend of P300 until Jan. 29, 2015.
At Dunkin’ Donuts. Get a free Sweep Card with every purchase of a Snowman Tumbler. Pay with Sweep and enjoy free brewed coffee for a minimum single receipt of P100 until Dec. 31.