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! :)

Cafe Seolhwa: Bingsu Date with my Sister

My sisters and I have been roommates ever since I can remember. Whenever I’m with them, I can honestly say that I feel very much at home. I guess it’s because I’ve spent more than two decades making good and crazy memories with them, having pillow talks, playing imaginary drums on our bellies before going to bed, and sharing our clothes, shoes, accessories, and bags with each other. However, ever since we started working, we somehow slowly drifted apart. It was ironic because even though we saw each other every morning and evening, we didn’t have the same closeness and bond that we had before. But, by God’s grace, He still gives us opportunities to develop our relationships at home. One of the major highlights that I experienced recently was the 9-month bonding that my eldest sister (Camille) and I had since last August. Looking back, I realized that it was one of God’s opportunities for us to get to know each other’s hearts more.

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It started when our company transferred to another city last Summer. My sister graciously offered to bring me closer to work and to wait for me everyday since her workplace was also in the same area. I was hesitant at first because I knew that it would be a hassle for her. Picking me up from work everyday meant that she would wait for 2 hours in the afternoon and patiently go through the heavy traffic during rush hour. I was also hesitant because I was used to having my alone time (which my introverted self sincerely enjoyed) to and from work since I was employed almost four years ago. However, because commuting to and from our new office would cost more (considering the time and effort), I agreed to our carpool arrangement.

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This went on for months and even though we didn’t know how long we would be doing it, my sister continued to help me in this aspect. (Thank you, ate!) A few weeks ago, we had some changes in our transportation and schedule and we eventually decided to end our daily carpooling adventures. When it was finally sinking in that we weren’t going to work together and that she wouldn’t be waiting for me anymore, I suddenly had a separation anxiety. We had nine months of driving along C5, watching sunsets together, spotting stray cats and dogs on the streets, talking about the blessings and victories after a long day at work, ranting about stressful and discouraging situations, enjoying the sights of rainstorms and lightnings, taking turns in driving the car home, being silent when we weren’t in the mood to talk, sharing our hearts’ dreams and goals, treating ourselves to fastfood, and playing new songs in the car.

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It was definitely a wonderful set of experiences that my heart will treasure forever. Even though I was hesitant at first, I saw God’s grace at work in our hearts and in my relationship with my older sister. During the past months, we not only had our ultimate bonding experience but she was also able to make good use of her daily waiting time by developing her skills and craft in calligraphy and painting. Also, because of our carpooling adventures, I was able to experience the wonders of walking around the city where our office is and discovering interesting finds like free Krispy Kreme donuts in the morning, new photography sights, and making friends with strangers (e.g. Sweepers, policemen, etc. in Bonifacio Global City) on my way to work. It was also a good cardio workout for me as I enjoyed a 30-minute walk to the office while listening to my favorite songs. Somehow, God still allowed me to have my alone time which filled my heart.

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I know that sometimes we may not fully understand why God allows things to happen in our lives. But, through this experience, I am reminded and encouraged to trust in Him as I welcome changes. From the start, God knew that this would be good for my heart and I’m glad that He allowed my sister and I to share special moments together on the road.

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To celebrate our 9-month adventure, I treated my sister to one of my favorite dessert places in town. This is one of the few and quite expensive treats that I sincerely want my family members to try. I fell in love with Café Seolhwa’s bingsu when I first tasted its soft and sweet shaved and milky ice that melts in the mouth. The flavors that I’ve tried so far are the Mango Cheese bingsu and the Berry Cheese bingsu. I wouldn’t mind ordering them again and again. The only branch I’ve tried so far is the one located inside Bonifacio Global City. I love the artworks inside the store, the Korean music playing in the background, and the awesome presentation of bingsu desserts. One regular size of bingsu costs around Php 240, but it is already good for sharing (2-3 persons). For more details, you can click on the link at the end of this post.

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In the near future, I hope that I can bring the rest of my family there too. But, for this month, I had the privilege of enjoying both flavors with my eldest sister. Hooray! Sometimes, it still feels a bit weird not travelling home with my sister. But, I guess it’s time for me to move on (haha!) and welcome new changes in my life.

Maybe, it’s time for me to have new adventures with my other siblings as well. :)

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To my eldest roomie at home, thank you for graciously, unconditionally, and patiently driving for me and waiting for me for the past nine months. Like what Justin Bieber said in one of his songs: “You know I love you. You know I care. Just shout whenever and I’ll be there!” HAHAHA. See ya later, alligator!

CAFÉ SEOLHWA

https://www.facebook.com/seolhwabingsu/

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Project Pie: A Personal Touch to Pizza

You can’t go wrong with eating pizza and enjoying bottomless iced lemonade on a hot summer day.

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It was fun to be spontaneous again. My dear friend who went on a trip abroad came home a few weeks ago and invited me for lunch today. She asked me yesterday and I immediately said yes! Usually, we would hang out inside coffee shops. But, this time, we both agreed to eat at a lovely and creative pizza place called “Project Pie”. It was my second time to try this restaurant and so far, I’ve had pleasant experiences in both branches (SM Megamall and Eastwood).

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Project Pie offers two ways in ordering their pizza. We can either order by number (pre-set flavors) or build our own pizza by choosing the ingredients and sauce that we want. For our lunch today, my friend (Jessica) and I ordered one banana nutella pizza and one customized pizza which included mozzarella, parmesan, Italian sausage, bacon, basil, prosciutto, and garlic. It didn’t take long before our hot pies were on our table. I think it took 10 minutes to bake each pie in the oven. Not bad!

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The pizza crust was thin, crisp, and chewy at the same time. It didn’t taste like the usual Italian pizza dough, but it was still delicious. However, it would be nice if the pie was bigger especially since it was worth Php 285. Nonetheless, I did appreciate the ff: their use of fresh ingredients for the toppings, how the utensils and dispensers for the drinks were neatly arranged, and the friendly and accommodating crew members inside the store.

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I think one of the strengths that Project Pie has is its drive to engage the customers. Even if their pies are a bit expensive, a lot of customers still line up for them! Personally, I think that the experience of seeing raw ingredients transform to delicious pizza pies in minutes makes it worthwhile. Not to mention, hearing your name being called by their staff as they present a freshly baked pie topped with your choice of meat, vegetables, and sizzling, melted cheese.

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Somehow, it reminded me of my lunch date with Jessica. We could have just updated each other through SMS or online chat, but because we communicated in person and had our lunch and tour around Eastwood together, it had a nice impression on our friendship. Similar to what Project Pie does, there was a personal touch to our experiences today! While we were on our way home, I even found out something new about Jessica! She can also hear and sing harmonies! Woohoo! I love it!

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If you haven’t tried Project Pie yet, I would suggest that you stop by and experience it at least once… or thrice! :P

PROJECT PIE MANILA

https://www.facebook.com/projectpiephilippines/

 

Food Photography Workshop by Artu Nepomuceno

I just came from a Food Photography workshop by Artu Nepomuceno at a dainty Italian restaurant in Burgos Circle named Casa Italia. Sitting in a room with a random group of aspiring food photographers was like a breath of fresh air. Usually, I spend my Saturday mornings resting at home. But today, I was very much eager to learn and have a quick adventure in the city.

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During the workshop, Artu shared about the Do’s and Don’t’s in taking photos of food and drinks, specifically. He also talked about pricing, taking photos at different angles, appreciating the story and people behind the food, and even choosing the right gear, accessories, and props for this type of photography.

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My favorite part of the workshop was the hands-on activity. The participants paired up and attempted to style and take photos of certain dishes from the restaurant. My partner (Joe) at the workshop and I chose the plate of spaghetti. It was challenging because we only had limited props available. But, it was also fun and interesting to experiment with different angles and concepts.

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Afterwards, we all went back to the room and evaluated the photos we took. Artu showed the photos to the group and gave constructive criticism and detailed points for improvement. It was the part of the workshop that I appreciated the most because we were given the opportunities to apply the tips he shared earlier today and at the same time, we learned from the strengths and weaknesses of each photo shown to the group.

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Before today, I didn’t really think about how the number of forks used in a photo of a single dish would have an effect on the overall appearance. Haha. But, even in this simple illustration, I learned from Artu that it is better to use just one fork especially when taking a photo of one dish even if we wanted to show that the dish was for a couple or a pair. Using one fork (one set of utensils) shows the intimacy in the photo which sets a completely different mood. It was very interesting.

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Just before the workshop ended, our speaker asked the participants if we had any more questions. A lady in the room then asked him “Will you continue to have workshops in the future?” and Artu replied, “As long as there are opportunities, the teaching will never stop.” Aaahhh! I love how he casually and sincerely answered it. The teaching will never stop. Of course, on my part, learning about photography will never stop as well. There’s still so much to learn, to experiment with, and to take photos of! This year, by God’s grace, I will be sharing more stories and lessons learned with you through photography. Hopefully, you can share yours with me too!

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Thank you, Manila Workshops, for organizing this event! Thank you, also, Artu Nepomuceno, for graciously sharing your knowledge and skill in photography and food styling. May God continue to use you to inspire the young and young at heart to pursue their passions in life.

ARTU NEPOMUCENO

Website: http://www.open-art.photography/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/artunepo/

MANILA WORKSHOPS

http://manilaworkshops.com/

CASA ITALIA

http://www.casaitalia.com.ph/