CLARK FREEPORT—Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino, the 300-hectare modern and integrated tourism estate here, feels privileged to host the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit.
Slated from late January to February this year, the Apec meeting will be attended by about 1,800 senior ministers of finance and tourism from 21 countries, the Clark Development Corp. (CDC) said.
“All eyes are on Clark for this milestone event,” said CDC Tourism and Promotions Department Manager Noemi Garcia. She said the Apec delegates will hold a minimum of 33 meetings in 16 days.
Fontana, regarded as the largest and busiest leisure complex in Clark, is reportedly the venue for the opening activities of the Apec.
Fontana, 80 kilometers north of Manila, invested at least P200 million for the expansion of its convention center.
The expanded Fontana Convention Center can accommodate 1,500 guests in a sit-down dinner and some 3,000 people if it’s a cocktail-type event, said Fontana CEO Manuel Sequeira.
“Our new convention center is one of the country’s Top 5 convention centers. We may be among the Top 3,” Sequeira said, adding that the major rehabilitation of the convention center, hosts to major Apec events, along with the construction of new rooms and villas and seven other expansion projects, were completed on schedule.
All activities set for the Apec summit will entirely benefit Clark and its locators, he said.
The very popular Mango Quesong Puti in Apple Basket dessert The very popular Mango Quesong Puti in Apple Basket dessert
“Fontana delivers luxurious comfort married with the security of an American-planned community. All our 479 villas and 60 hotel rooms are designed and furnished to give you the much-deserved respite and relaxation. An ideal place for family and friends, Fontana also combines the enjoyment from a leisure park, water theme park, golf course and casino all in one place,” according to a statement of Fontana, the premier property in Clark operated by the Jimei Group.
Fontana appears to be all ready for the Apec. The improvement of facilities, amenities and other infrastructure-related projects has been given much attention. But what about the general impression on the food it is serving at its 14 restaurants and cafés?
“We want to give a very good lasting memory to all our guests, particularly on the quality and taste of the food we serve,” said Fontana Executive Chef and Food and Beverage Manager Ritchie Yves C. Loteria, 36, who was raised and educated in Italy for 21 years.
“Our guests, including the Apec delegates, should primarily enjoy the local food. Pampanga is known for its very delicious food. Of course, we also serve a variety of equally tasty international recipes,” Loteria said in explaining why many of his menus are authentic Capampangan cuisine. He added that most of his more than 30 assistants and staff in the kitchen are residents of the host area.
Loteria, a celebrity chef, television personality and product endorser, came just in time—before the fourth quarter of 2014—when Fontana was at the height of preparing for the Apec and other prominent events, such as the recently concluded JSK Auto Fun Run 4, Philippine Ducati Weekend 2014 (PDW 2014) and 2014 Tri United 4 triathlon event.
Fontana Senior Marketing Manager Simplicia Roxas-Mak said Loteria is “what the doctor ordered.” He is what the top officials, led by Sequeira, wanted to be on stream to help bring back the image of Fontana as a haven for superbly tasty and affordable meals.
“We always want to recommend to our bosses to get a Filipino executive chef. The first reason is that 80 percent of our clients are Filipinos,” Mak said.
“Business is good at Fontana all-year round. We must give not just a great and fun experience but a delicious variety of food to our growing local and foreign guests,” she added.
Executive Sous Chef Thom Rayandayan said Fontana “is, indeed, back on the map as a premier provider of excellent food.” He is in charge of the eat-all-you-can breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Fontana Café.
“We used to be visited not just for our amenities but also for our great food. It was gone for a while and now it’s back with Loteria at the helm,” said Rayandayan, who has been working with Fontana for over 10 years.
“Look,” he said, pointing at the guests at the Fontana Café during a buffet lunch last week.” We are full and we already need to put additional tables and seats.”
“We definitely have the best buffet in Clark, the most affordable buffet, with drinks already included in our price per person,” they collectively claimed.
Loteria, who studied at the Italian Institute of Culinary and Arts in Rome and used to be connected with Exedra Luxury Hotel in Italy, Chateau 1771 Group of Restaurants, Century Park Hotel and SM Hotels and Conventions Inc. in the Philippines, said “the secret is to unleash the talents of my fellow chefs and our people.” His other assistants are Executive Pastry Chef Dan Jason Acido and Chef de Cuisine Tristan Galang.
“We are happy working together. There is mutual respect,” Loteria said. He also lauded Sequeira, other officials and fellow workers for their all-out support to their collective mission to continuously improve the quality and taste of food at Fontana.
“Our food business is definitely earning,” Mak said. She added that the newly introduced in-house “Villa Catering” is one of the much sought-out services of Fontana for their guests hosting birthdays and other parties at their close-to-600 villa rooms.
Acido, who extensively worked in top bakeries in Saudi Arabia, also expressed optimism working with Loteria. He said their executive chef allows him to do “my thing in order to further improve our cakes and other desserts.”
Acido’s department largely contributes to the high income of Fontana’s food, beverage and desserts section. He said he was given the green light to open a Fontana shop at the Marquee Mall in Angeles City in 2015 to “sell more of our sweet products and to promote Fontana, as well.”
Acido said that among their in-demand desserts are Mango Quezong Puti in Apple Basket and toasted ensaymada. He added that “a client ordered 5,000 pieces of toasted ensaymada during a single break for snacks.”
Loteria said “It’s not just enough that we put premium on the quality and taste of food.” He added that Rayandayan was sent to a food sanitation school and Acido is set to attend a two-week training on macaroon-making in Hong Kong.
“Having all the resources and manpower is not enough to ensure success. It’s about dedication, passion and team work, plus the trust and support of Fontana’s management,” he said.
Image Credits: Leo Villacarlos
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