Lutong Macau

Lutong Macau

Oct 30, 2012
The Venetian Hotel in Macau, House of Dancing Water.

MACAU – When you hear a Filipino say “Pare lutong Macau!” that means that something was rigged. Somebody got a raw deal because the winner has been fixed beforehand. One may think that this expression came about because Macau is the gambling capital of Asia so when there’s a lot of gambling there’s also a lot of swindlers, con men and game fixers. 

But when I tried to find out more about the origin of this expression, it seems that it came from of the way cooking is done in Macau restaurants. The food is cooked in advance. The ingredients are prepared even before the food is ordered. So since the ingredients have been “pre-determined” prior to order, the expression “Lutong Macau.”

However, it seems that almost all restaurants these days do prepare the ingredients before they take the orders; otherwise, the customer (who’s getting more and more impatient) may complain about the waiting. To balance off waiting time and freshness of food, restaurants have to use some form of projection in preparing these ingredients to avoid wastage – what are their bestsellers? What’s the usual volume of order on a weekday or weekend? And these projections are based on past orders and may also depend on what dish the restaurants are promoting at the moment.

Visit to MacauIt’s my first time here in Macau, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China and a Portuguese colony from the 1500s until 1999. Macau’s economy is based largely on tourism.  Its 2011 GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was 292.1 billion patacas (their currency) or US$36.4 billion. For a tiny place with a population of just half a million, their per capita GDP was a whopping US$66,311 in 2011. (For comparison our 2011 GDP was US$224.75 billion but because we’re a huge family our per capita GDP was only US$2,345.)

Macau earnings primarily come from their being the gambling capital of Asia. Gambling was legalized here by the Portuguese as early as 1847. After Macau was handed over by the Portuguese to China in 1999 some changes in the gambling industry also occurred. Gambling monopoly was ended making way for the entry of international players like Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, etc. in 2002.

I’m not a fan of gambling (or the more politically correct tem “gaming”) but I must admit that this industry has brought so much business and prosperity to this place. You can feel the opulence in the well-maintained roads, the efficient transport system, the huge and imposing hotels and other buildings. The Venetian Hotel, where we’re staying right now, is just so big. I think all the rooms here are suites, I don’t mind staying here while Marvin conducts his meetings and presentations. It measures over 70 square meters with living, dining and study areas, two TV sets, big closet, really nice bathroom with separate shower from bathtub, his and hers sink plus, and this is my favorite, an Italian style dresser with mirror and stool similar to those found in boudoir of yesteryears! I don’t have to put my make up kit and other stuff on the sink corner and be worried about getting them wet when I turn on the faucet.

This hotel is a tourist destination because it has its own Venetian gondola ride. For 118 patacas you get to ride a gondola similar to that in Venice, Italy with boatmen and women serenading while you sail on the “river” inside the hotel. If you look up, you see “clouds” which is actually painting on the ceiling but was done in a way that when you walk while looking up, the clouds seem to move with you. On the other floors of the hotel, you also see ceiling paintings similar to those in Sistine Chapel.

Everything seems to be done in a grand way here. The lights at night are Vegas-like. Aside from the casinos, the huge hotel lobby is littered with slot machines, etc. And this is the part I don’t like. I smell cigarette smoke. You just can’t separate smoking from gambling!

Last night we went to see the famous House of Dancing Water at the City of Dreams Hotel, another grand hotel. And my gosh, I was floored! I have seen the Cirque du Soleil and they were really good. But this House of Dancing Water is simply AWESOME! Well, if you consider how teens use that word on almost anything they describe nowadays, then I’m not being fair in describing the show. When I say awesome, I mean I was in awe almost the entire one and a half hours I was watching the show with no intermission!

The set, the performers, they are all amazing. The stage transforms into various things – a river where a small boat floats, the Hong Kong metropolis, the deep part of the sea with a ship, a beach where castaways are pushed by the waves, a jungle, fountains, diving pools, motorcycle tracks, etc.

The performers are great dancers, acrobats, “Evel Knievels” (the late American daredevil and record holder of motorcycle stunts). And mind you they perform in and out of the water. They get wet not just from the “rain” but also from diving in and out of the water. They submerge in and emerge out of the water like magic.

I was really wishing that my sons were with us while I watched and was totally enthralled by the show. My sons, who are also performers, have far greater respect and admiration when they see shows like this because they know what preparations come with a performance and what amount of practice goes to attain a level of expertise. 

One tiny error in the movement of cables, slip of the hand, timing of the dives, turn of the bike, etc. could be fatal. For sure, more than 10,000 hours were devoted to the preparation. There’s a lot of “Lutong Macau” (i.e. in the sense that the ingredients were prepared ahead of time, not rigging of result) to do a spectacular show like this. And maybe, there was a lot of “Lutong Macau” in terms of infrastructure, putting laws into place and other necessary preparations done by this tiny region before it became what it is now – a rich SAR of China with over 28 million tourist arrivals in 2011 and growing.

I long for the day when our tourist arrivals (3.9 million in 2011) will reach a decent fraction of Macau’s. Anyway, we all believe that we’re rich in natural resources – warm Filipinos being on top of the list. I long for the day when our roads will be well maintained and not turned into garbage dump sites. I long for the day when public transport will really be a viable alternative for all social classes. The Philippines has been given positive economic ratings in the last few years and is only one notch away from Investment grade credit rating. Maybe we ought to do a lot of“Lutong Macau” in terms of preparing for that much-coveted Philippine economic take off!