Walking through history | Inquirer Entertainment

Walking through history

By: - Columnist
/ 01:32 AM October 30, 2014

LONDON—The end is almost here. As of today, there are only five shows left to play—Leeds, London, Paris, Madrid and Lisbon. When the next Backstory comes out, I’ll be on a plane heading home to Manila, gathering my strength for the Battle and Knockout Rounds on “The Voice of the Philippines.”

(To everyone who watched the premiere last Sunday, thank you very much! We have many more amazing artists to grab.)

This is the last installment of my European sightseeing adventures… a few more cities worth remembering and writing about.




We were here less than 24 hours. On the afternoon of our arrival, there was a demonstration at the Brandenburg Gate, which we could see from our window at Adlon Hotel. I was very tired, so I grabbed a nap (we had a show that evening)  while Rob sat at the windowsill, watching the events unfold.

After the concert, I went for a quiet night out at a nearby wine bar and restaurant named Weinstein, with some “Saigon” Stuttgart alums—Lyon Roque (who was also in the original London cast), Anton Perez and Rico Villavert. It was nice to catch up over glasses of excellent red wine and platefuls of regional food.

The next day, we had no concert, thankfully, so Rob and I got up early and took a walk around Pariser Platz for a better look at the Brandenburg Gate. From there we walked to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

It’s an interesting site. From the perimeter, it just looks like a series of large rectangular slabs laid out in a grid. However, walking between the stones gives you a whole other perspective. One minute, a stone is only knee high, but keep going and you’re between two gigantic structures that could have been from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” One minute, the sky feels really close; in the next, sunshine and freedom seem impossible. I snapped a few moody photos from a deep part of the grid. We couldn’t stay very long; we had to quickly pack our things, grab some breakfast, and head to the airport for our flight to Frankfurt.


It was less about the sights than about the food and friends.


Rob, Sheilla and I stayed at the Kempinski Hotel overlooking a beautiful lake. On our first night, our friend Klaus Kabelitz, general manager of Le Richemond Hotel, treated us to a stunning meal. Every course was amazing, but the highlight for both Rob and myself was the venison—medium rare, lean and tender venison. We could not get over how delicious it was.

Klaus and his husband John Ellis (my Old Deuteronomy in the Manila run of “Cats,” now playing Piangi in the West End production of “Phantom of the Opera”) picked us up the next day for a gorgeous Italian lunch by the lake, Le Lacustre. Pasta, pizza, arugula salad with Parmesan cheese… it was a gorgeous afternoon, a great way to spend time with friends before the show.


It seems this city is becoming more famous for its coffeehouses (that aren’t known for selling coffee, if you know what I mean) than for wooden shoes and windmills. This turned out to be another wonderful “Saigon” alumni stop, as well as a great opportunity for nice walks and fresh air.

On show day, we were taken to the famous Rijksmuseum by old friend (and fellow “Saigon” Manila cast mate) Arvin Quirante. He’s also an alumnus of the Amsterdam production of “Miss Saigon,” one of the few who didn’t leave the country after the show closed. He now owns a bed-and-breakfast in the old city (we got to see it; it’s quite beautiful) and, like most of the residents, rides a bike everywhere.

The Rijksmuseum houses a famous painting, “Nachtwacht (Night Watch)” by Rembrandt on the second floor. Because of our very limited time, we headed straight for it. It’s quite the masterpiece, indeed. It feels like a photograph rather than a posed painting. I took a few shots of it (despite the crush of other tourists around me). No flash, of course. We then walked through more of the museum, spying old dollhouses and Chinese-inspired porcelain jars. We took a cab back to the Grand Hotel (which used to be the city hall, and before that a monastery) to get ready for the show.

After the concert, I headed to Arvin’s lovely home, which he shares with his partner Hans. He had prepared a little pica-pica party with invited guests Paolo Basa (former “Penthouse Live” dancer, who was in the city for the Amsterdam Dance Event), Nu Driz (another “Saigon” Amsterdam and Manila alum), Patty and Joel Santiago (Patty, nee Manahan, was an Ellen understudy here… she’s now married with three children—Francisco, Lucien and Jacinta), and Jamaica Salcedo (yet another “Saigon” Amsterdam cast member). After many glasses of wine and lots of loud stories, Arvin and Jam walked Sheilla and me home through the red-light district, along a couple of canals, and by the ceremonial palace. The autumn weather was incredibly mild, making the short walk home a pleasant one.

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My next stop in continental Europe is Paris. I’ve never been, and it’s unfortunate that I won’t get to spend a good chunk of time there. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to it!

TAGS: “The Voice of the Philippines”, Entertainment, Europe, Il Divo, Lea Salonga

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