3 Things I Learned from Winning Cathay Pacific’s Spiral Buffet Contest

It has been a week since I had my first dinner buffet at Spiral Manila. If you know me, you’ll agree when I say I love buffets. Every time our family stays at a hotel, my younger brother and I always come up with strategies to help us maximize the buffet. So, when I recently won two free tickets to Spiral Manila’s buffet, my heart (and stomach) leaped for joy!

The Challenge: Cathay Pacific posted on their Facebook page, “Share your favorite food shots from your #LifeWellTravelled adventures and include a short description of the dish to get a chance to win lunch or dinner for 2 at Sofitel Plaza Manila’s Spiral!”

The Judges: Eight members of Cathay Pacific Airways screened the entries and chose two winners for this food photography contest.

The Winning Entry: I submitted a photo of Coconut Milk Ice Cream in a coconut shell while I was cruising along the Floating Market in Bangkok, Thailand.

By God’s grace, a few weeks after I submitted the entry, Cathay Pacific’s marketing team sent me a message on Facebook saying that I won! Woohoo!!!


THREE THINGS I LEARNED FROM THIS:

1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY

In my 20+ years of existence, I have never won a prize from joining contests online. I figured that it would be difficult for me to win since it would mean competing with hundreds or thousands of people. But, for some reason, the moment I read about the mechanics, I immediately joined the contest and submitted my best options.

If I belittled or doubted at that time, I would have missed out on the privilege of winning tickets to a buffet for the first time! Because of this experience, I am learning to step out of my comfort zone once in a while and take more risks in trying new things.


2. PRAY AND WAIT EXPECTANTLY

After submitting my entries, I knew that it would take a few more weeks before they would announce the winner. So, I literally couldn’t do anything more about the contest except to pray and wait. I remember telling God that I didn’t have any experience in winning from online contests. But, I also told Him that if ever He does allow me to win this time, I want to honor Him with it.

Lifting dreams and desires up to God helps me remove any worries or discouragements. It also allows me to have opportunities to trust and hope that He is able to provide, if He thinks that it would be for the best.

3. SHARE BLESSINGS WITH OTHERS

While I was thanking the Lord for the surprise blessing, I remembered my friend, Hiro, who was leaving the country in a few weeks. Instantly, I knew that he was the one God wanted me to share this prize with. So, to celebrate this simple victory and to serve as my friend’s despedida, we ate at Spiral Manila’s dinner buffet.

The place was beautiful. Of course, the spiral staircase will capture your attention. But, the details of each cuisine in the buffet area were impressive. Not to mention, the servers would always make sure that our glasses were filled with cold water and that our napkins were neatly folded on the table while we were getting refills of food. We couldn’t believe that we were enjoying the dinner at Spiral Manila without paying a single centavo that night — not even the parking fee. All by God’s grace!

I loved the variety of food in the place. I couldn’t help but compare it with the other hotel buffets that I’ve tried in Manila, so far. No doubt, this has the most number of cuisines available. Also, they made the experience pleasurable by using unique plates, platters, and bowls for their food. They even have a room dedicated to all kinds of cheese and cold cuts. Oh my. Hahaha! Unfortunately, our stomachs couldn’t take in everything we saw that evening. But, it was definitely a wonderful and relaxing experience.

We went there at 6 pm and stayed until 10:45 pm, just before the buffet area closed. Towards the latter part of the evening, we were also serenaded by beautiful and classy music from a live band.

Hooray! Thank You, Lord! Thank you, also, Cathay Pacific Airways for making this possible. :)

 

THE BONUS

Before the night ended, I even got a bonus from my friend. He wanted to congratulate me by giving me a gift and encouraging me to develop my skills in photography. It was funny because he first gave me a clue (“relaxation”) and asked me to guess what it was. Immediately, I said “The Spa GC!”. He laughed at how specific my answer was and then he continued to joke about it and asked me to guess again. I explained to him that going to The Spa for a full body massage was my guilty pleasure. I wasn’t really proud of it because I knew that it was expensive. But, every time I think of relaxing, I really imagine going to The Spa. Hahaha. After a few minutes, he got his wallet, pulled out a gray card, and gave it to me.

IT WAS A 2000-PESO GIFT CARD FROM THE SPA!

AGAIN, I COULDN’T BELIEVE WHAT WAS HAPPENING. Hahahaha! Of all the gifts!!! I told him that God really knows my heart’s desires. Haha! Down to the last few moments of our evening, we exchanged more gifts (song, photos, and a book) and stories with each other; thanking God for the buffet prize, our friendship, and for His goodness and faithfulness in both of our lives.

Well… Sometimes, you win. Sometimes, you lose. But, in any case, I realize that it still boils down to how our hearts respond when it happens. Because He graciously allowed me to win this time, I sincerely want to publicly acknowledge His goodness and grace.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is Godʼs will for you in Christ Jesus.” -1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:16-18‬

Until the next contest! :)

BANGKOK TOUR: Grand Palace and Wat Pho

On our second day in Bangkok, we decided to do a Do-It-Yourself tour since the locations were already in the city. In the morning, we visited the Grand Palace. Then, in the afternoon, we went to Wat Pho, one of the famous temples in Bangkok. The second day was very interesting for us because we had just visited the old grand palace the day before. Seeing how the current palace looks like definitely gave us a new perspective on the culture of Thailand.

Here’s a summary of the first part of our itinerary for the second day:

8:00-9:00 – Grab/Uber ride from the hostel to the Grand Palace
9:00-11:30 – tour inside the Grand Palace
11:30-1:00 – walk along the restaurants located near the entrance/exit of the Grand palace and have your lunch.
1:00-1:30 – walk towards Wat Pho. We used google maps to direct us towards the temple. But, if you ask the locals in the area, they are very helpful in pointing the direction. Also, there are also street signs that lead towards the temple.
1:30-3:30 – tour inside Wat Pho

Here are some of the photos from our DIY tour. :)

GRAND PALACE
Address: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, 10200, Thailand
Open: 8:30 am – 3:30 pm
Dress Code: NOT allowed – Slippers, shorts, Clothes that reveal the shoulders and chest, Jeans with ripped parts or holes, Skirts or dresses higher than the knees, and leggings or tight fitting jeans.
Entrance Fee: 500 baht (One ticket includes entry to Vimanmek Palace and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall.)


WAT PHO
Address: 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Open: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Dress Code: NOT allowed – Slippers, shorts, Clothes that reveal the shoulders and chest, Jeans with ripped parts or holes, Skirts or dresses higher than the knees, and leggings or tight fitting jeans.
Entrance Fee: 100 baht

10K at the 41st Milo Marathon in Manila

Originally, I did not want to join a race during the rainy season because I knew that I would have a difficult time training outdoors. However, because of a surprising turn of events, I found myself randomly registering a month ago for the 41st Milo Marathon in Manila today.

It all started when I couldn’t close the buttons of my top after eating a heavy lunch in the office last month. I told my colleagues about it and we all laughed and teased myself because we knew that I wasn’t physically fit anymore. Interestingly, that same day, I received an email about the online registration for the Milo run. I took it as a sign for me to get back to shape. So, I prayed about it and asked God to make it clear to me that day, if I should join the race today.

The only requirements for the registration are the fee and an empty bag of Milo powder, specifically the bag that weighs 300 grams. The registration closest to me was located near our office and near a grocery store. I told God that if He really wanted me to join this, He would provide a 300g bag of Milo powder that night. It’s funny because as soon as I entered the grocery store and saw the section where Milo was kept, there were numerous bags of Milo that weighed 220g, 390g, and 600g. However, there was only ONE bag of Milo that weighed 300g! It was as if it and I were destined for each other. Hahaha.

So, that same night, I had peace in my heart about running at the event today despite my worries of not being able to adequately train. I only had a month left to train and half of that month either had rainy nights or stormy early mornings. As expected, I was only able to train six times outdoors before the race day. (During my first 10K run, I had eleven trainings before the run.)

Slowly, I felt the worries creep in me, especially last night. It was hours before the race and I barely had sleep. I also knew that I didn’t have the best trainings before the run. In fact, my average pace was 12 min/km. (The goal was to run faster than 9 min/km in order to achieve the cutoff time of 1 hour and 30 mins. for 10K runners.

But, by God’s grace, He surrounded me with supportive family and friends and they helped me remember God’s strength in my weakness. (Special shoutout to: My family, Tina A., Hiro, Zeke, Zee, Ira, Juds, and my other colleagues — for the encouragement before the race.).

During my first 10K run a few months ago, my only goal was to finish the run. But, this time, I was faced with a different kind of pressure as I needed to meet the cutoff time in order to finish well with a medal. Here are some of the highlights from today’s race:

GOD’S GRACE

From waking up earlier than my alarms to being at the venue two hours before the call time to having perfect weather to persevering throughout the race and finishing well. God’s grace was very evident today and I can only give Him the glory for this accomplishment.

IMPORTANCE OF REST

As much as possible, I didn’t want to stop running because I was afraid of not being able to make it to the cutoff time. But, before the race started, the hosts reminded us of how crucial it is to hydrate every time we pass by the water stations even if we don’t feel thirsty. This will help the body endure better. Also, whenever I felt like my body was already going to give up, I replaced running with 30-second briskwalking every now and then. If I didn’t rest, I probably would not have survived the race.

THOUGHT-LIFE

I guess what I mean is that our thoughts greatly affect our behavior and response. When I was entertaining thoughts of defeat (not being able to achieve the medal) during the first few kilometers, I saw how my body started to slow down and feel heavier. But, every time I prayed and encouraged myself to run a little further, I end up having the strength to endure. For ten times, I almost wanted to give up during the race. Also, when my body couldn’t take it anymore, I even remember saying “I never want to do this again!” Hahaha. By God’s grace, despite my thoughts, He still allowed me to finish the race at a good pace.

INSPIRATION

The hosts of the event emphasized at the start of the program that this run was specifically designed to inspire and influence others to take home life lessons from running. They mentioned about discipline, hardwork, patience, endurance, teamwork, encouragement, and many more. I almost got teary-eyed during the event because I knew that along with my other fellow runners, I am also learning valuable lessons and am giving myself an opportunity to develop certain characteristics through this. (Bonus na lang yung medal!)

After updating one of my friends about the race, he said: I’m sure this activity will encourage you many times in your life!” …and I do agree with his statement. Somehow, God uses these moments in life to remind us of who He is. In those times when we feel like giving up and losing hope, He helps us to focus on Him and endure further.

During my last kilometer, Chris Brown’s song “Crawl” was playing on my phone where it had the ff lyrics: “So we’ll crawl til we can walk again. Then we’ll run until we’re strong enough to jump. Then we’ll fly until there is no wind, so let’s crawl back to love.”

While I was listening to that song, it reminded me of this verse:

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬

With only two minutes left on the clock, I was able to make it to the finish line on time (with a pace of 8 mins/km!!!) Woohoo! As we speak, I am still very weak and sleepy, I have sore legs, I am feeling light-headed, and I am exhausted. But, despite these, my heart feels very much alive and peaceful now and I thank God for the privilege of experiencing Him in new ways.

Thank You, Lord, for my first medal! This one’s for You!

Did You Pray About It?

What do you when you’re running late for work and your car won’t start after 10 minutes of trying? You call for help. Yup! That’s right. I called for help. My initial response was to call my sister, who eventually went down with my younger brother to help me. However, after many attempts, we still couldn’t start the engine. So, I finally called our dad.

When I relayed the problem and the solutions we tried to come up with, he asked me a question that left me speechless for a few seconds. He said “Did you pray about it?” For a moment there, time stood still as the question echoed in my mind. “Did I pray about it? Did I? I think I did. Oh, no! I didn’t!”

I must have mustered some sort of cry to God when the engine wouldn’t start earlier today, but I don’t remember taking time to pause, lift the situation up in prayer, and trusting that God is able to let it work. I was embarassed to admit it but I quickly replied to my dad and said “Oh, I didn’t po. I didn’t pray yet.”

What was I thinking?! Why didn’t I even pause and pray? I then realized how easily I got caught up with the problem that I focused on trying to solve it without even consulting God.

As dad tried to start the car, He reminded me of two things: 1) Importance of Prayer (Mark 9:28-29) and 2) For me to consider buying a small and affordable brand new car, so that I would avoid having these kinds of problems.

Before attempting again, I prayed out loud with my dad beside me. Surprisingly, the car started after! But, when we switched on the aircon, the engine shut off again. This time, we really needed the help of a mechanic.

At that time, I was already preparing myself to accept the fact that I may not have a car for the next few days or weeks and it honestly gave me additional stress. Commuting to and from work isn’t convenient for me, plus, the limited grab and uber rides wouldn’t help. However, it was also during that moment that God reminded me of how everything is His and how He can take things in my life away from me anytime.

When this happens, will I still thank the Lord? How will I choose to respond? Even though today’s events were a bit stressful, I do appreciate how God is very intentional and personal in the way He speaks to me. Had I not experienced the car’s breakdown today, I would have probably continued to take things for granted. I would have forgotten to take time to pray about the decisions that I will be making for the day.

After waiting for a few hours, thankfully, dad was able to find mechanics who were available to assist me at home this afternoon. As I walked over to meet the mechanics, with a heavy yet hopeful heart, I told God: “Lord, would you please have mercy on me? Please allow the men to successfully fix the car today. Thank you.”

For about an hour and a half, the two men worked on the car and fixed it! Woohoo! We just needed to replace the fuel pump! By God’s grace, I didn’t need to leave the car at a repair shop for a long time. I can use it for my errands and activities in the coming days! Huhuhu.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬

I wish I could say that I did good today. But, my initial response wasn’t something that I was or am proud of. I realize that, sometimes, God uses challenging and humbling times to help me shift my focus back to Him. He knows everything about me and He knows what I need. Why would I not choose to seek Him first?

Seek Him first, Nic. Learn from today’s gentle reminder.