A few hours before boarding a flight from Manila to Cebu, I received an email from our GM that requested I “stop in” at our Marina Branch of Zubuchon to say hello to a group brought in by the Department of Tourism. We are big on helping promote the country, the cuisine and its overall image for local and foreign tourists, so we inevitably say yes to most requests from the DOT. As usual, I was casually dressed and unprepared for the hours ahead. This creeping feeling was gnawing at me as the “advance pack” of information trickled in. The group was headed by Allan Pineda Lindo, better known as Apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas, and current Philippine Tourism “Ambassador”. He had assembled some 20+ American personalities with serious “media influence” and that translates into some 20+ million combined followers on their various social media outlets. The scope of that only dawned on me when I started to look up some of their “pages”…
At Marketmanila’s zenith, the blog would get some 40-50,000 hits a day, from say 20,000+ different visitors, and it has been around for some 12 years or so. But never, ever have I thought of “exposure” or “influence” in the millions, as in some of these folks post a picture of a kamias shake and potentially 2-3 million people receive it in their “feed”. Yikes. That is definitely a double-edged sword. And so shallow, if you ask me, but it is how the folks get their data today. So be it. Let’s get with the program. A quick briefing with staff at that Zubuchon branch and the importance of not spilling or tripping or burning a guest with a sizzling plate was emphasized, and we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. SWAT teams arrived (I kid you not) and security swept the restaurant, and in a flurry, the guests (a party that was supposed to be 30 people max), swooped in and ballooned into 75 people including camera crews and security. Egads, talk about being caught off-guard.
Honestly, the only person I even vaguely recognized was Apl.de.ap, and after watching from the sidelines as a rapid service began (they all had flights to catch), the hubbub was beginning to die down and I thanked the Gods for no untoward incidents and the manager of one of the celebrities came up to say thank you and to ask why I seemed not to have had a photo with anyone… I didn’t want to tell him I had no idea who anyone was but he was kind enough to go introduce me to some of their guests. So up top, a photo with the man. The second photo with actress, singer, dancer Cassandra “Cassie” Ventura, who is half Filipino and incredibly nice an charming, see more hollywood style photos of her here. And perhaps the most interesting acquaintance made was with Billy Dec, one of the advisers to President Obama, I gather, and who was the person security was most keeping their eye on. He happens to own several restaurants in Chicago and we spoke for a while about some of the dishes he tried that day. Go to his Facebook page and see the post he did on his lunch at Zubuchon. :)
The guests were incredibly game about having their photos with staff members after the meal, and while we thought they were in a rush, they decided to hang out for about 45 minutes longer, waiting until the last possible moment to head to the airport.
But on the topic of “media influencer” that’s more locally relevant, the staff, jaded folks that they are, were actually not so starstruck by this group of guests, for just the week before they had Piolo Pascual and Dawn Zulueta slip in quietly and with no reservations to have dinner in the midst of the restaurant and a full-house of guests. And we get a “sighting” of this celebrity or other a few times a month it seems. And during the Presidential campaign I think they served all but one of the candidates who were running for major office, yup, including him. And months ago, under great secrecy, we hosted a press conference for the Alden Richards of the “Aldub” phenomena, that had it been broadcast to the public, our glass walls and doors would almost certainly have been damaged by the ensuing melee. Ah, all this for those enamored by celebrity. But with 20+ million followers, you’re darned right we fall into line and make sure we put our best foot forward. As for the supreme wardrobe fail of Marketman in these photos, I deeply apologize. I need to start losing some weight or buying better clothes and keep them in by handcarry for quick changes. :)