Fiesta dining in casino

Published December 21, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Jullie Y. Daza


Jullie Y. Daza

For the first time in two years of lockdown I dared set foot in a flashy hotel-casino-resort and not feel guilty about it (without an escort).

To reach the restaurant where I was to meet friends, I was advised by a tallish usherette to walk through the casino, straight from its entrance all the way to the exit where I would find Haliyu, the hotel’s newest restaurant. Named after a “warrior- goddess of the moonlight,” it’s an all-Filipino restaurant, from its lush but calm interiors to the fiesta-colorful menu, which despite its pricey dishes attracted a full-house (40 seats) on a Saturday night.

Mask on, I hoped I did not run into anyone I knew and have to explain that I was not in City of Dreams to dream of hitting the jackpot but to meet friends to discuss a book project. The dinner was Tikya Laurel’s idea, to hear book editor Blade Bigornia’s and book design artist Nonon Padilla’s thoughts about putting together the columns and diaries of Rod Dula, known for his columns in Malaya, his work in the old DOT, his connoisseur-grade flair, and his aspirations to live the life of a non-French tourist guide in France for Filipino tourists.

I imagined that Tikya, herself a good cook after her own Mama Rosa’s image, picked Haliya in the hope of somehow including her brother Rod, aka Rudy but best as Dula, in the meal, if only spiritually, in a manner of speaking. With the help of COD’s vp for communications Charisse Chuidian pointing out how a certain dish was special or different from “the usual,” I listened to my tablemates make their choices. If Dula were present, how many tales would he concoct about adobo, pako, or caldereta before Chef Edmund could start cooking!

It was a pleasant sensation to observe that the dishes as they arrived were totally in keeping with the mood of the huge paintings hanging on Haliya’s walls. Painter Yana Ofrasio’s murals explode with the technicolors and vibrancy of a fiesta – how we love food, how we love to be invited to a fiesta, how we love to socialize, dress up, laugh, live, and be happy together! How in December 2021 it’s the way to go!