Except for Cherry Ann T. Lim, all the 2014 winners of the Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards were present.
Let’s name them one by one: Sunstar Cebu’s Liberty Pinili (Lim’s co-author of last year’s Agriculture Story of the Year), Gabriel Cardinoza of Philippine Daily Inquirer (winner of Tobacco Story of the Year and Best News Story National), Harley Palangchao of Baguio Midland Courier (recipient of Agriculture Photo of the Year), Mauricio Victa of Business Mirror (winner of Tobacco Photo of the Year), Flornisa Gitgano of Sunstar Cebu (Best Agriculture News Story Regional), Malu Cadelina-Munar of DXND in Kidapawan City (Best Radio Program or Segment), Ruben Gonzaga of ABS CBN’s Agri-Tayo Dito (Best TV Program or Segment), and this author of Marid Agribusiness Magazine (winner of Best Agriculture Feature Story National).
There were also five media personalities from Manila who joined: Joseph Albert Gamboa of Business Mirror, Alfred Yuson and Czeriza Shennile Valencia of Philippine Star, Ann Marie Jambora of Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Editha Antenor of Philippines Graphic.
The Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation, Inc. was well-represented. There were also five, namely: Bayen Elero, director of external affairs; Chita Herce, director of fiscal and regulatory affairs; Dave Gomez, communications manager; Didet Danguilan, communications manager; and Marco Angelo Eugenio, communications specialist.
All of us travelled together to China’s capital, Beijing. The trip was part of the prize of the 8th Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards.
The travel time from Manila going to Beijing was about four hours and forty minutes. We left Manila via Philippine Airlines at 7:15 in the morning and arrived in Beijing at 12:55 in the afternoon. There was no time difference between the two capital cities.
Since almost all of us were already hungry, we immediately went to Huajia Yiyuan Restaurant, an eatery with the feel of an old courtyard. According to the information we got, the Huajia Yiyuan’s family head “continues the long-standing and well established tradition of Chinese culinary cuisine.” The food is painstakingly researched and prepared. In fact, it took them over ten dedicated years of practice to perfect their delicious food.
After eating, we checked-in at the 5-star luxury Hotel Sofitel Wanda. Some 417 designer rooms and suites are available. The hotel tries to blend contemporary French elegance and Chinese traditions. It is located in the heart of the central business district.
We were still very full with what we had eaten for lunch but it was time to have dinner at Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant, which was listed in CNN’s Travel’s “20 Best Beijing Restaurants.” While the restaurant has duck on its name, it serves more than just ducks. In fact, it offers more than 200 dishes. These are prepared by about 300 chefs. The best I tried: Da Dong “super lean” roast duck.
That was our first day in Beijing. On our second day, we were scheduled to visit the Great Wall of China. We went to a mountain pass located in the Changing District. It is one of the three greatest mountain passes; the other two are Jiayuguan and Shanhaiguan.
I thought it was easy to scale the mountains where these walls are located. But it is easier said than done. At first, it was all right since the stony stairs were not that steep. But as we kept going, it became apparent that it was difficult.
It was past 12 when everyone gathered again. Again, all of us were tired and hungry. We had our lunch at Tangrefu Seafood Restaurant. We ate with much gusto. Food kept coming as if it didn’t run out of recipes to cook. Before we knew it, all the dishes were served one after another.
From there, we went to the Olympic Green Common Domain, where the Bird Nest is located. It is said that the design of this large stadium was executed together by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron and Chinese architect Li Xinggang. Since we were tired of walking and the bird nest itself was very far from where our bus stopped we contented ourselves with having photos taken from a distance.
The rest of the day was spent shopping. But the day was capped with a dinner at Capital M, again in the list of CNN’s Travel’s “20 Best Beijing Restaurants.” It is Australian restaurateur Michelle Garnaut’s Beijing flagship and every inch the equal to her Shanghai starlet, M on the Bund. We had an Elizabeth salad (soft leaves and fresh herbs layered with oranges and almonds, rockets, sippets and fartes), steak Diane (beef fillet in a brandies mustard sauce), and its famous Pavlova.
The third day was spent in just one area: Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public square (it is 12 times larger than the Red Square in Moscow). It was designed and built in 1651, and has since enlarged four times its original size in the 1950s. The Square is normally open to the public, but remains under heavy security. Before entry, visitors and their belongings are searched, a common practice at many Chinese tourist sites.
Initially, the Tiananmen Square was the “front door” of the Forbidden City. Touted to be the world’s largest palace complex, it consists of many buildings with 9,999 rooms (9 is a lucky number in China). Covering 72 hectares, it was built in 1406 to 1420.
In 1987, the Forbidden City, now known as Palace Museum, was declared a World Heritage Site, and is listed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
The tour ended with a lunch at the Din Tai Fung, famous for its xiaolongbao (juicy soup dumplings wrapped expertly by hand and cooked in bamboo steamers). The restaurant has been ranked as one of the world’s top 10 restaurants in 1993 by the New York Times. In 2013, it was named Top Restaurant of 101 Best Asian Restaurants poll conducted by the US website, the Daily Meal.
Yes, we had a grand time during our three-day stay in Beijing.