I have always volunteered for causes that I believed in. When I was young and energetic, my folks thought volunteering for Red Cross was but a passing passion, when in fact I volunteered for 4 years – my entire high school.
I took a hiatus to focus on “adult life” until I met Antoinette Taus this year, who is nothing but inspirational in all the work she’s doing to support Sustainable Development Goals. In one of her foundations’ feeding programs called HashtaglunchbagPH, I persuaded Mary and some friends to volunteer pack food for 1,000 kids in Payatas, which was initiated by Fox Life Asia to usher their arrival in the Philippines.
I liked Fox Lifa Asia’s Page since that day and found that they had a contest going on, where I submitted a short video to answer the question: What would you do to turn your life on?
Here’s the video in case you were curious.
And so, as I was walking towards my work station one night, I just got a Facebook message from Fox Life Asia, saying I was short-listed as a possible contest winner. A day after giving our US visa information, they confirmed me as a winner which entitled me to 2 RT tickets to Las Vegas, 4 nights in Planet Hollywood and 2 tickets to the Miss Universe Coronation night. One of the perks of having a US Visa readily available, huh? Here’s how we got ours.
Fast forward to November 25, 2017, our flight via Cathay Pacific and American Airlines to Las Vegas from Manila. This is Mary’s first trip to the US and my second.
After nearly 22 hours of flights and lay overs, we still managed to check-in at the hotel at noon of the same day, November 25, due to timezone differences. To avoid jet lag from settling in, we showered and changed and went out that afternoon.
As is only expected, the food serving in the States is like twice that of what we’re accustomed to back home. The weather is colder but not much, considering November is supposed to be the coldest month in Las Vegas. There are so many buskers, people in costumes posing for photos with visitors for a “donation”, and people giving out “free” tickets to shows. We walked on and just wanted to see some of the strip.
The Miss Universe tickets we got the following day had us sitting in the middle section, a little bit far from the stage but not too far as general admission. In the morning of our second day, we went to Fremont Street Experience, known to most as the old Vegas to check out the place, contrary to most instructions saying to not go there in the morning because the happenings are at night. There are pasalubong / souvenir stores, more buskers and performers that are raving from last night’s party.
One can also find the Heart Attack Grill where customers wear a hospital lab gown and the world’s largest burger is served. We didn’t have the appetite for that so we just ate somewhere else. We were in a hurry because I forgot to take into consideration that while the airing is 7pm Eastern, we were actually in the Pacific time zone which meant the show starts at 4pm.
Mary has never attended her prom in high school and she wanted to feel like it that night, so I had to rent a 3-pc suit from Gardini Fashion Center to dress up to the occasion.
Here’s the part that made the trip even more exciting. As we sat on our seats from the mid-section, struggling not to notice that everyone else held their drinks (the beverages were expensive), a lady asked the guests in front of us if they wanted to move to the front row. Mary and I were talking to each other about who should approach the lady and out of adrenaline, I stood and asked her, “do you still have two of those?” and she handed us two tickets, just like that, to Row 1 of the Golden Circle – man that’s literally just right beside the runway!
And so there we were, cheering and dancing and getting on our feet (sometimes at the cameraman’s behest) especially when Rachel Peters and all the other candidates walk down the stage. Such blessing!
The night ended with Miss South Africa being crowned as the new Miss Universe but all the ladies that night were winners in their own right. Here’s our own coverage of the Coronation Night ala FootlooseTomcat.
After about 4 hours of cheering, we had dinner at Noodles, an Asian restaurant right in the heart of the casino floor of Bellagio. We called it a night after that and got ready for the following day’s day tour to Grand Canyon South Rim.
We got the tour from the Las Vegas Grand Canyon Tour Company for only $85 per person including snacks, buffet lunch, entrance fee, excluding driver tip. It also came with a $50 coupon when you use their promo code in the Lyft (like Grab) app.
We got picked up from the hotel at around 630am and were dropped off at a little past 9pm. The bus is supposed to have WiFi on board but it didn’t work.
The next day, we had to take a picture at the Fabulous Welcome to Las Vegas sign, and visited one of the two premium outlets. Unlike my shopping experience at the Cincinnati Premium Outlet, we didn’t find super cheap deals here, and it could have been because they went all-out during the Black Friday sale. So we moved to a Ross nearby and bought a few things there before heading back to the hotel. A casino/hotel hopping spree then ensued.
Although we wanted to extend the vacation, our pockets and jobs back home called us back to reality. Las Vegas is, after all, an expensive destination. And even if the room was paid for by Fox, there was a $39.99 per night mandatory “resort fee” which we didn’t expect and is therefore outside the budget.
Luxor, the Egyptian-themed casino and hotel, was one of the last ones we visited, as we headed to the airport.
On the next blog, we will share more details on the Grand Canyon trip and tips when vacationing in Vegas.
For now, allow us to profusely thank once again Fox Life Asia for giving us this once-in-a-lifetime chance to fly to Vegas and turn on our lives, emotions, appetite and wanderlust.
And even if I didn’t think it that way at first, volunteering has its rewards too. I got to be friends with Toni, and yeah, fly to Vegas for free, too!