Just like last year’s Ayiesha Woods, my favorite Contemporary Christian act for this year has racked up a Grammy Award nomination for Favorite Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. American Idol finalist Mandisa Hundley has been recognized for her spectacular debut album, True Beauty.
She’s up against some pretty stiff competition: aside from hugely popular band Casting Crowns (The Altar and the Door), she’s also competing against perennial Christian favorite Michael W. Smith (Stand), critically acclaimed hiphop gospel producer Kirk TobyMac (Portable Sounds), and tremendously talented worship leader Israel Houghton and his group, New Breed (Another Level).
It’s a great field – I love all the nominees – but, of course, I hope the men cancel each other out and Mandisa takes home the Grammy. Hahaha! (It was a really tough field, and some of the artists who I thought were deserved the Grammy nomination for favorite pop/contemporary gospel didn’t make it, including Jeremy Camp’s brilliant Beyond Measure, Reliant K’s Five Score and Seven Years Ago, or Chris Tomlin’s See The Morning. I wouldn’t remove anyone from the current Grammy list, so maybe it’s best to keep it this way. Shame, though: Camp really deserved a nod.)
Mandisa’s True Beauty also finishes at #43 on the Top Christian albums chart for the year, while Only the World, True Beauty‘s carrier single,is the 17th biggest Christian song of the year and the 18th biggest Christian AC song of the year. In the latter chart, she’s the highest ranked solo female artist; in the former chart, she’s a couple of notches behind Sparrow labelmate Britt Nicole with You.
Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson was given the Herculean task of interpreting Somewhere from West Side Story for Movies Rock!, a television special featuring fresh performances of some of the more well-loved songs from cinema. Prior to J-Hud’s version, the versions of Somewhere I’ve heard include Barbra’s version sung at the end of her 1994 concert tour, and the Natalie Wood version in the film.
I think you’ll find this version a significantly satisfactory version. Woods’ version was a poignant one, given that the just-shot Richard Beymer was dying in her arms; her version was a wistful soliloquy on star-crossed lovers doomed to a tragic end. Streisand reinvented the song to become a celebration of the diversity of man; the lyrics are sufficient to be open to interpretation both ways. I imagine Hudson’s take on Somewhere was closer to Streisand’s, and with her bombastic voice ripping into the song with gusto, there was no doubt she would pull Somewhere off with a spine-tingling, hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-standing finale that merited a standing ovation from the live audience.
American Idol Season Five winner Taylor Hicks is coming to Manila for a series of mall shows in TriNoma and Greenbelt, again courtesy of the folks at the Ayala Malls. Keep posted to this particular blog as I gather up more information about Taylor Hicks’ Philippine tour.
It’s that time of year again, folks. A week from today, I will announce the winners of the 2007 Superblessed Christian Blog Awards. In keeping with my tradition of honoring Christian bloggers who have superblessed me throughout the year, I will make a donation to a charity of my choice in the names of the winners.
For our fifth year wedding anniversary, Cathy and I enjoyed a gone-too-fast overnight stay at The Boutique Hotel in Tagaytay. The last time we enjoyed Tagaytay accommodations was two years ago, when we spent an absolutely idyllic third-year anniversary evening at the Discovery Country Suites, also along the National Highway in Tagaytay.
I discovered The Boutique Hotel, a Tagaytay bed-and-breakfast, on TripAdvisor. It got stunning reviews, all of them from couples who said the seven rooms at The Boutique were cozy and romantic. After finding several blog entries and press releases praising the accommodations of The Boutique, I decided to book a room there for our anniversary.
Here are the positives:
The Boutiqueâ€™s emphasis is on reconnection between two people. Based on everything Iâ€™d read, The Boutique is a premium hotel not meant for families or barkadas. Sure enough, everything is geared towards reconnection, from the room design to the amenities, from the bath facilities to the breakfast-in-bed options. Itâ€™s sensual, itâ€™s textile, and itâ€™s intimate.
The homemade bath goodies were delightful. The Boutique experience starts with a trip to the The Pamper Me room, a cozy nook behind the front desk filled with homemade scents and goodies designed to contribute to the overall experience. The couple gets to select room fragrances, shampoo and conditioner, body lotion, and soaps in several fragrances, including peppermint, lemon, and rose. Lavender was our choice of fragrance for the room and Cathyâ€™s soap; I chose an invigorating rosemary and tea tree soap; we also selected rich and comforting milk and honey for our shampoo, conditioner, and lotion.
The room was lovely. We booked the I Surrender guest room, which was right beside the front desk. The amenities inside I Surrender certainly made our stay more enjoyable. The room has a relatively private patio with its own hammock, large rattan love chair, leather-upholstered divan, and table. The Samsung plasma television and the corresponding sound system was arguably the best of all the local hotels at which weâ€™ve stayed. (We watched our own copies of â€œThe Holidayâ€ and â€œBarbra: The Concert,â€ as well as the hotelâ€™s copy of â€œTransformers.â€ Their sound system is quite good for musical DVDs.) We loved the king-sized bed, the abundant number of pillows, and the quality of the mattress.
The food at The Boutique was also quite good. Their Hawaiian Bar-B-Cue restaurant served a delectable baby back ribs â€“ arguably second-best weâ€™ve tried, after Racks â€“ notable for its tenderness and flavour. We also had a very interesting appetizer of French fries and spam served julienne, served with caramelized onions and a tart-sweet pineapple-laced sauce. At night, we were served hot chocolate with churros, a lovely little counterpoint to the Discovery Country Suitesâ€™ tradition of milk and cookies.
The breakfast-in-bed was inspired. I chose their Hawaiian breakfast, which featured homemade breads, marmalades, two Hawaiian burger patties, and a large Spanish omelette; Cathy selected the continental breakfast, which included mini-pancakes, hard-boiled eggs, and a fruit plate. A choice of one cold and one hot beverage each found us choosing a cappuccino, a hot chocolate with marshmallows, and two pink guava juices. There was also a mini-bar, and the prices werenâ€™t half-bad.
The view was breathtaking. Our patio opened onto the back of the hotel, which featured a lovely view of the mountainside. We got some awesome sky shots and some terrific mountain shots. The rooms on the second floor, however, probably had a better view.
In general, front-desk service was good. From calling about the hotel to booking to in-room service, the service was generally good. We asked for a pillow turndown while having dinner; the staff replaced the sheets. Talk about going the extra mile.
Here are the negatives, coming from nitpicky me:
Getting information about The Boutique â€“ and booking â€“ can be tough. The Boutique doesnâ€™t have an official website, so most of the information I needed on the hotel, I gleaned from the Web. You donâ€™t know what makes each of its seven rooms special; without much information, one can be at a loss as regards which room to book and what amenities are available in each room (for example, we didnâ€™t know whether or not I Surrender came with a refrigerator, and I brought refrigerate-only caviar to enjoy with Cathy).
Booking can also be tough. Potential guests in the Philippines looking to book rooms at The Boutique on their own may find the booking experience easier than those based abroad. Why? This Tagaytay hotel confirms bookings with minimum PHP2500/night deposits into its bank account. (To Tagaytay hotelsâ€™ detriment, though, the same can be said for Soniaâ€™s Gardenâ€™s Bed and Breakfast, although Discovery Country Suites makes life a little easier by at least taking my credit card number as booking guarantee.)
White isnâ€™t the best look for long-term maintenance. At night, The Boutique looks absolutely lovely; in the glorious Tagaytay sun, however, the flaws of the chic white of The Boutique, i.e. its propensity to get dirty, can be seen in stark reality. The dark streaks left by rain can mar The Boutiqueâ€™s faÃ§ade; inside, our patio walls were just as dingy.
The rooms, surprisingly enough, arenâ€™t that private. Book a second-floor room, if you can. Since the I Surrender guest room is on the first floor â€“ and right beside the kitchen! â€“ you can get a little concerned about privacy because you can hear voices through the bathroom walls and see sunshine shadows on the patio curtains of people walking by. The second-floor rooms have their own concerns, too, though; apparently, guests on the ground floor can see into their baths.
There may be a couple of cleanliness issues. There was a foldable wooden table underneath our bed for the breakfast-in-bed; when I took it out to examine it, underneath it were dried-up rose petals and little black pellets I realized were mouse droppings, indicating the floor underneath the bed maynâ€™t have been swept prior to our check-in. The next morning, we awoke to find said culprit mouse had helped itself to our leftover churros, as well as the peanuts and chocolate in our mini-bar.
Despite these negatives, overall, we found our stay at The Boutique a pleasant one. The in-room amenities, homemade bath products, and food were the highlights of our stay; the discomfiting thought of people seeing or overhearing us, as well as the rather dirty walls of the outside faÃ§ade, were the low points.