The sound of voices speaking in Tagalog catches our attention as we enter Holiday Inn in Cotai Strip Resorts Macau. “Pinoy,” says one of the bellhops, smiling at our group while helping carry our luggage.
He’s the first among many Filipinos we would meet on this visit arranged by China Sands Ltd., the company that runs Cotai Strip Resorts—an integrated hotel complex that includes The Venetian, Four Seasons, Conrad, Sheraton and Holiday Inn.
We’re here to see a series of promotional events aimed to continually attract tourists to experience Macau as a family. Sheraton had some of its suites spruced up with a DreamWorks characters theme.
Fathers, of course, may try out their luck in the casinos, still the primary tourist destination and main economic driver in Macau. But the opening of integrated hotel complexes such as Cotai Strip Resorts—with interconnected malls offering the latest international branded products at duty-free prices—could persuade mothers and kids to join dad in the former Portuguese colony. (In 1999 China assumed administrative sovereignty over Macau.)
Indeed, we see families enjoying the parade of DreamWorks movie characters at Shoppes Cotai Central. The kids are visibly excited as they take snapshots of mascots from “Madagascar,” “Shrek,” Kung Fu Panda” and “How To Train Your Dragon.”
Children drag their parents to the meet-and-greet sessions including the “Shrekfast with the DreamWorks Gang”—a breakfast event at Sheraton.
The following day, more kids arrive in droves at the Venetian Theatre for the regional premiere of “Turbo,” another DreamWorks animation production.
The kids are fascinated while learning about the prehistoric age at the Dinosaur Live exhibit at Cotai Expo Hall, also at Venetian.
But it’s the sight of many Pinoys working in Cotai that amazes us. They look and behave professionally as wait staff at Golden Peacock, an Indian restaurant in Venetian. At the center of Shoppes at Venetian—the mall whose ceiling creates an illusion of blue sky and clouds—sits a Filipino musician, Karla Diño, who plays the piano.
A group of tourists riding a gondola on the man-made canal is entertained by a singing gondolier who happens to be Filipino.
Dinner at Portofino, an Italian restaurant in Venetian, becomes more engrossing while one is served by Pinoys.
Exploring more of Venetian, we check out McSorley’s Ale House, an Irish pub. Voila, who brings our order of Japanese beer and the British staple fish and chips but a Filipino, Sarah Aquino. She says she’s from Dipolog in Zamboanga del Norte, and the whole family has settled in Macau.
Majority of the wait staff at McSorley’s are also Pinoy, adds Sarah, as she excuses herself to attend to another table full of, guess what, Pinoys.
Hard Rock Cafe
It’s still early in the evening, so we take a walk outside the Cotai complex and decide to have more drinks, this time at Hard Rock Cafe. To our delight, there’s San Miguel Pale Pilsen which is brought to us by somebody whose smile is unmistakably Pinoy. True enough, he greets us in Tagalog.
The band onstage, B & the 80s, performs covers of The Police, AC/DC, Stevie Wonder, U2 and Sade. Composed of one Caucasian and four Asians, the band seems to lack something—an element, an “it” factor, whatever—which makes it hard for us to be totally won over. At the risk of sounding smug, perhaps the band ought to have a Pinoy member soon.
On our way back to Holiday Inn, we are stopped by a group of women who offer their calling cards. “I’m good,” says one. Shucks, they’re hookers and they’re so charming and beautiful with alabaster skin.
We keep walking until we reach the hotel entrance. We take one more look at the women and notice that a female police officer is talking to them, perhaps kindly shooing them away.
But the scene looks calm. This is Macau in the “wee small hours of the morning.”