Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Delicious home-cooked food, a full glass of wine and good company

Delicious home-cooked food,
a full glass of wine and good
company

Dinner parties are one of the great joys of life. There’s nothing like lingering at the table enjoying a delicious home-cooked meal, a full glass of wine and, of course, good company.

But, what makes a good dinner party? Here are a few tips.

Plan ahead. Take your time and have fun setting up your home for the party

Try and have everything ready at least an hour before your party starts. It can be uncomfortable for guests if they arrive and see the host still arranging the table.

And plan your music ahead of time. You don’t want to be fumbling through CDs while your guests are arriving. And make sure the music is not too loud. You want people to chat in comfort, not strain to hear what other guests are trying to say across the table.

Guests will feel especially welcome if you treat them to a special cocktail (with or without alcohol) or a glass of wine. One of the best hosts in Bacolod invariably welcomes guests with a glass of red wine.

On the other hand, there are some hosts who don’t drink and provide no booze at all. But their parties are usually good and the food always very tasty, so no problem, I bring my own booze. Always a good idea to have a bottle of something in the car when this happens.

For those guests who don’t drink always have plenty of bottled water, soft drinks and fruit juices on hand. And don’t forget to have lots of ice.

If you’re providing wine, always buy more than you need. Running out of booze can a be a real party stopper.

Dinner parties are one of the great joys of life

Dinner parties are one of the great joys of life

A buffet is definitely the best way for a dinner here. When I first came to live in Bacolod 11 years ago, I tried a formal Western-style sit down dinner party inviting eight people (my table seats eight) and stating a certain time for dinner. Only five people turned up on time and an hour after we’d started a further six people showed up. This would not have been a problem had I offered a buffet.

As for the food, you might have a cook or you might prefer to cook yourself. In my case, I like to cook myself.

Be careful to avoid large centerpieces on tables. One host I know has some beautiful centerpieces, but they are so big, it’s almost impossible for guests to see each other across the table let alone speak to each other. Ditto large candles or candelabra.

Do make an effort to introduce your guests to each other. It’s an obvious point, but quite often one doesn’t have a clue as to who the other guests are. Finding people with a common interest can be one of the keys to having your guests enjoy themselves.

Keep things organized and simple, and you will be guaranteed an enjoyable and stress-free dinner party.

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Can you take me to …?

As we all know, in life you basically get what you pay for. Take a taxi in London and you’re 98 per cent certain the driver will not only know the street you want, but he’ll also know the shortest route.

A London cab - professional drivers, but fares are sky high

A London cab – professional drivers, but fares are sky high

It takes two years to train as a cabbie in London, and there are severe penalties if a driver engages in hanky-panky.

But, when you reach your destination, be prepared to sell your home to pay for the ride. It’s usually an arm and a leg job

By comparison, taxis in Manila are dirt cheap, but it’s more miss than hit that the driver will know the street you’re looking for.

How many times have we all gone round and round in circles asking people if they know where to go as the driver clearly doesn’t?

Avoid old bangers if you can - the aircon rarely works well

Avoid old bangers if you can – the aircon rarely works well

I’ve even had a taxi driver who didn’t know how to get to Manila’s Terminal Two from Makati. I had to show him the way.

And I’ve yet to find a cabbie who has a map. As I said, you get what you pay for.

Perhaps the mayors of Manila might consider providing free maps for drivers. Maybe a great project for a Manila-based Rotary Club.

And, if you’re a foreigner, look out. One in three taxis I’ve taken recently in the capital have tried to diddle me such as not turning on the meter or keeping the meter running from the previous passenger.

These days, at the risk of being punched on the nose I tell the drivers who try it on that I’ll report them to the LTO.

As for taxis in Bacolod, apart from equaling Jeepney drivers for bad driving, they tend to be a sad bunch.

I once had a driver point to the flag fall on the meter and say “Sir, these are dollars, not pesos”. When I suggested we go to City Hall to clarify the matter, the driver turned to me and said “Just joking sir”.

But not all taxi drivers are bad. I’ve had some really good ones. Unfortunately, it’s the majority of drivers who give the good ones a bad name.

Taxi drivers in the Philippines have a poor reputation internationally. A professional tour guide told me it would be a real shot in the arm for the tourist business if we had honest and helpful taxi drivers. He cited the City of Davao where he said the taxi drivers are very tourist-oriented.

We live in hope.

Marapara Rotary donates school bags and supplies

Bata Elementary School oic Mary Jane Asan, Marapara Rotary members Gemma Lopez, president Rico Cajili, Mike Bantug, Fidel Henares, Jojo Montinola (I-r back row). Bata students Charlie Dorias, Matty Prevano, Jenelle Natasha Jarder, Angelica Serdeña (l-r front row)

Bata Elementary School oic Mary Jane Asan, Marapara Rotary members Gemma Lopez, president Rico Cajili, Mike Bantug, Fidel Henares, Jojo Montinola (I-r back row). Bata students Charlie Dorias, Matty Prevano, Jenelle Natasha Jarder, Angelica Serdeña (l-r front row)

 

For the third consecutive year, the Rotary Club of Bacolod Marapara donated school bags and  supplies to Grade 1 students at the Bata Elementary School 11 in Bacolod City at a special ceremony on Thursday.

The bags and supplies were turned over to the school’s officer-in-charge Mary Jane Asan by club president Rico Cajili assisted by club members.

Speaking at the ceremony President Cajili said he was pleased the Rotary Club of Bacolod Marapara
was once again able to support the children at the club’s adopted school.

School oic Marty Jane Asan said the bags and supplies would be very useful, especially for those children from poor families which cannot afford to buy such items.

The bags were donated in association with three South Korean Rotary Clubs and the Rotary Club of Metro Iloilo.

The Rotary Club of Bacolod Marapara undertakes many community activities each year including medical missions for indigent patients who might not otherwise have the chance of seeing a doctor.

It’s main fund-raising event is the annual ‘Rotary-Golf for a Cause’ tournament held at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club.

Special Citation

Robert Harland, NDB features writer, chef and former graduate from the Institute for Culinary Arts at the University of St. La Salle, received a special citation from the university on Wednesday for winning a silver medal for the Philippines in the 2012 World Marmalade Championships in England in February. Pictured with (l-r) ICA director Chef Richard Ynayan and Br. Ray Suplido, USLS president and chancellor

Robert Harland, NDB features writer, chef and former graduate from the Institute for Culinary Arts at the University of St. La Salle, received a special citation from the university on Wednesday for winning a silver medal for the Philippines in the 2012 World Marmalade Championships in England in February. Pictured with (l-r) ICA director Chef Richard Ynayan and Br. Ray Suplido, USLS president and chancellor

 

Buried Treasure in Burma

World War 11 Spitfire inspector Ellen Harland. Still going strong at 91.

World War 11 Spitfire inspector Ellen Harland.
Still going strong at 91.

During World War 11, my mother Ellen Harland, then a 20 year-old slip of a girl, worked at the Supermarine factory in Southampton, England. They turned out Spitfires, the famous British single-seat fighter aircraft that did so much to help win the war.

My mother’s job was to inspect the wings as each aircraft was assembled. The Spitfire’s elliptical wing had a thin cross-section, allowing a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters. Speed was seen as essential to carry out the mission of home defence against enemy bombers.

During the Battle of Britain, concerted efforts were made by the German Luftwaffe to destroy the factory. The first raid, which missed, came on 23 August 1940. Over the next month, other raids were mounted until, on 26 September 1940, the factory was wrecked, with many aircraft production workers being killed or injured. Fortunately, my mother survived.

But work continued, though the British Government decided to disperse production to a number of smaller factories in the Southampton area.

Some 20,351 Spitfires of all versions had been produced when production stopped in 1948.

Imagine my mother’s surprise when she read recently that 20 of these iconic aircraft had been discovered in Burma (Myanmar) having  been buried during  the war to prevent the Japanese getting their hands on them. It is quite possible some of the aircraft were inspected by my mother.

The iconic WW11 Spitfire - 20 still buried in Burma

The iconic WW11 Spitfire – 20 still buried in Burma

The planes were shipped in 1945 from England to Burma: waxed, wrapped in greased paper and tarred to protect against the elements.

They were then buried under 40 feet of soil deep in the Burmese jungle in the crates they were shipped in, rather than let them fall into enemy hands, said British farmer David Cundall, an aviation enthusiast who has spent 15 years and about $200,000 (P13m) in his endeavors to reveal the lost planes.

Thanks to the efforts of British Prime Minister David Cameron it is planned to exhume the planes and return them to England.

Only about 35 Spitfires are currently flying. Each plane is said to be worth around US$3m (P129m).

Customer service. What’s that then?

Good customer service is vital to the success if any organization. And it often differentiates a company from its competitors.

A company with good customer service will almost certainly get repeat business so it will benefit with greater sales and profits. But a company with poor customer service will usually lose customers, which means a loss of sales and profits.

According to research, when a customer is dissatisfied with the treatment he’s received from a company, he’ll tell about 25 people. Those people in turn are likely to mention it some time or other in the future. So, the bad news spreads.

Take Globe Telecoms for example. Their people in Bacolod are terrific and couldn’t be more helpful. But, I found it a different story when dealing with their head office in Manila.

And say what you like about the Philippine Postal Service, but I have nothing but praise for them. I have always found them helpful and efficient. And in 11 years I’ve only lost one package.

Helpful and efficient

Helpful and efficient

Wedgwood - outstanding customer relations

Wedgwood – outstanding customer relations

An example of outstanding customer service was my experience with Wedgwood, the British china tableware company. Years ago I bought a Wedgwood china clock in Singapore. The actual clock was brass. I put it in storage and decided to use it last year. When I unpacked it the brass was badly tarnished.

Thumbs down for Sheaffer pens

Thumbs down for Sheaffer pens

I photographed it and emailed the picture to Wedgwood in the UK and explained the problem. By return, I received a polite and apologetic reply and in five days, a new brass clock movement arrived and it was free of charge. That’s terrific service.

Other companies I’ve had good experiences with include Philippine Airlines, Ibis Hotels in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific and Hertz car rentals.

On the other hand, I’d had dismal dealings with Cebu Pacific (who hasn’t?), Sheaffer pens and Tipco, the Thailand-based juice company.

Tipco - good juices, but would not admit to packaging problems

Tipco – good juices, but would not admit
to packaging problems

By and large, I find Bacolod companies practice good customer relations, but usually only if you deal with the boss. It seems that few employees are given the authority to act on their own which is a pity.

Company bosses should remember that good customer service is much cheaper and far more effective then getting new customers through expensive marketing programs. And happy customers invariably will recommend a business to others.

Word of mouth is a very cost-effective marketing tool, but can also be the most detrimental if you are not looking after your customers.