Friday, July 16, 2010

Getting to know the life of a Casino High Roller....

It was a first experience for me - the recent trip to Manila, Philippines opened my eyes and widened my horizon.

It all started with my mother saying that there is a trip to Manila. Of all places, my mother planning to visit Manila was a surprise to me. First, she speaks little English. Secondly, I do not think she will like the place. But the reason was later found - it was a casino trip. Every person should buy at least RM10,000 worth of casino rolling chips (chips for you to gamble and cannot exchange to cash unless you win and are paid cash chips) to be entitled for a trip there - inclusive of flights, VIP junket room service, and 3d2n stay at a 5-star hotel, all food inclusive. It came out that the hotel and casino was Resorts World Manila - sounds familiar? Yes, it is Genting's new hotel and casino which is strategically located right across the airport! So people can fly in, gamble for 3d2n and fly back - just like you driving to Genting, gamble for 3d2n and drive back.

We (my mother, aunt, uncle, cousin and I) left Ipoh by taxi to Penang. Upon reaching Penang, we had a McDonald's breakfast meal and then we board the flight. It was an AirAsia flight direct to Manila - yes, there is NO direct flight to Manila from Penang but then this plane is a chartered flight. Most of the high rollers or people in the flight are from Penang so boarding is from Penang airport.
CHTRD FLT - chartered flight to Manila AK9852

On a chartered flight - our meals are provided for free - choice of Nasi Briyani or Nasi something else but where is the Pak Nasir's Nasi Lemak???

Our flight

The flight took slightly less than 4 hours. I touched down to the ground I missed for 7 years. My first time to Manila was during the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP) 2003. I have a foster family and at least 28 ship's participants as friends. Having joined SSEAYP is like having family members around ASEAN and Japan.


Upon touching down, we checked in at the Marriott Hotel, just next to Maxsim Hotel (the hotel run by Genting). Maxsim was still under renovation so we stayed at Marriott. Maxsim, Marriott and the Resorts World casino are all in a block.

The bus moved very slowly to allow a Resorts World (RW) staff to check our names on the bus. We had 4 buses. We were greeted by smiles and a live band singing at the lounge for us to refresh ourselves while waiting for room check-ins. Pastries and drinks were served.

Our rooms at the Marriott Hotel - twin sharing but my cousin got a whole room for herself. Note that the bathroom picture was taken from the bed (yes, it is transparent!!)

I quickly washed my face, freshen up and headed to the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, a university where Chris (SSEAYP friend, Philippines Participating Youth PPY 2003) lectures there. He has invited me to be among the panel speakers for "Her Stories: Three Perspectives of Women Who Serve". The speakers were Yna who is now a sister (PPY 2003) and Nanay (National Leader 2003). About 100 students packed the small auditorium. I was so glad to accept this privilege to speak to these enthusiastic students. THANKS Chris!

At night, I met with my foster father, Uncle Rod Cornejo at the hotel. He would fly to another province on weekend so that was the only time to meet for a chat. Then my bed was calling.... to sleep.

The next morning we have breakfast at the casino's VIP area but then I was hungry so I ordered a pre-breakfast - a Japanese set at only PHP800 (almost RM64 - a steal for a good filling meal at a 5-star hotel!). I only have a chance to walk around the casino and impress myself at the VIP room.

The VIP room has a whole set of sofa, LCD TV, a dining table, a kitchen and staffs to serve us, a private washroom and three private tables for gambling. The minimum ante was RM1,000. Uncle bought 6 bottles of Remy Martin XO and Blue Label and guests in the room could drink to the max. I did not join them the last night so I didn't know how it felt like. Cameras were not allowed at the casino so could not capture some photos...

Wonder how come I only have this photo at the whole market..... Bons has more on facebook! 

Then Bons (PPY 2003) with her husband Fred brought me to Selcedo market... I must visit this market again if I were to go again. It opens only on Saturdays - morning to 1pm. So much local foods there - all delicious to the max - I spent almost PHP4,000 there!

After that, I went to look for my family who have dinner with the group of high rollers at a Chinese restaurant. The menu included abalone, grilled geese, fish, tiger prawns and crabs. I missed that lunch because I had lunch at a local restaurant, Ebun. When going overseas, I always prefer local specialties. I also bought 6 packs of Champ-o-Rado (a local breakfast - chocolate rice porridge) and my favourite Lambanog. Somehow the taste of the Lambanog did not tasted like what it was 7 years ago.

After the lunch, some went to the Mall for shopping which a few of us went back to the hotel. I got a chance to sit at the slot machine but my Genting card cannot be used. Maybe my green card (lowest level) was not VIP enough. So I lingered with my mom watching them bet at the VIP room. RM1,000 per bet is not for me. Is for the high rollers.... I was watching around and then my uncle took the role of my "publicity manager" publicising my liver donation and that I have a Mercedes scar on my abdomen.

A junket came to help me to get a Gold member card. By the time I took the card, it was already evening and I got back to the room to get ready as Boz (PPY 2003) was the chef of the night. My cousin and I went to his house for a feast of local food!

our favourite dessert..... 

Then back to the casino again.....

My cousin asked me to accompany her betting at the low roller area. Our first attempt was at the slots machine.... I inserted my card, reloaded PHP1,000 and pressed a few buttons to try my luck at the jackpot machine. My cousin was next to me and a few press and she stopped to watch me play. I think I pressed less than 10 times and we were raving at the fourth bonus logo at the last reel.... I striked the MINOR jackpot PHP3,600 and another free 25 spins. By the time the spins were done, I won at least PHP8,000. So I stopped and cashed out the money.

We then played at the smaller tables with ante only PHP200 and bets PHP400. We sat at the table for almost 4 hours for the fun of it. We didn't lose much. My cousin, at almost midnight, said that she felt like drinking. We have private VIP rooms to drink and eat but then we were at the table at non-VIP area. She got the waiter to bring a glass of whisky for me and brandy for her.

So big glasses - everyone at the casino was caught looking at us - but I think looking at the glasses! 

The next day, I met my foster family - mother, sister and brother - but time was limited so we only had about an hour for chat at the hotel lobby. Then we went to the casino to cash out all the chips. At the casino, we got news that the flight was delay so we played a while more and had lunch at the VIP area.

We overheard friends saying that one of our friends won more than half a million RM but he continued playing to lose all. My mom lose at least RM60k on the first day but by the end of the trip she flew back with smiles and RM40k in winnings. But the win was not only monetary.... we had a good trip - my first time flying overseas with my mother! we had fun... we enjoyed the luxury - hotel, food, service were all 5 to 6 stars..... and most of all, I enjoyed the most because I get to see my foster family and friends after 7 years and got to meet new friends at the university where I spoke.

Watching sunset while flying back to Penang.... a reminder that gambling is only a recreation... the sunset, reunion with friends and the experience with high rollers are the winnings