Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ice cream stop at Gelatone

With the trusty camera in tow, Anna and I went to Gelatone in Greenbelt to try out the ice cream and document the "event". That completes our Makati ice cream round for this year (which included Haagen Dazs and Cold Rock). What desserts are we going to try out next year? Hmm...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Trip to Calaruega 01dec08

After taking in the view of Tagaytay Highlands at Palace in the Sky, we drove to Calaruega to see the church and the grounds. Without all the Holy Week pilgrims and wedding guests in the area, I was finally able to see what makes Calaruega a great place for retreats and weddings: the place is very peaceful.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tagaytay 01dec08

After the "photo shoot" at Dampalit Falls, it was time to travel all the way to Tagaytay, a city overlooking yet another body of water (Taal Lake) and a volcano (Taal Volcano). We were showing Aureline, the French student in our lab, tourist spots close to Los Banos.

Picnic Grove was supposed to be our lunch pit stop on the tour of the Tagaytay ridge, but the fees were expensive... so we went to the People's Park in the Sky. We were literally up with the clouds that they looked close enough to be caught! The downside: the view of Taal Volcano wasn't as good as in Picnic Grove. The upside: we had a bird's eye view of Tagaytay Highlands.

With me were: Dara, Ana, Lucy, and Em-em.

Hike to Dampalit Falls 01dec08

The day was perfect for a photo shoot: though cloudy, the day wasn't too humid and it didn't rain! This was good because I specially practised on the water fountain in Fort Santiago for this hike!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Makati and Ayala Avenues 22nov08

light night traffic at the intersection of Ayala and Makati Avenues

While waiting for the traffic light to go green, I noticed a tourist with a DSLR shooting pictures in the Makati area without being reprimanded by security or by traffic enforcers. Thus, I decided to try take a few photos myself. I had to stop for a few hours because of the downpour, and continued taking pictures at night before going home.

Luke's second birthday

Friday, November 28, 2008

IFSA Bingo!

My first bingo social. Staff and students at the GQNPC came over to try their luck and win some goodies. Fe eventually won an umbrella. Kuya Jun and I were there to take photos, mainly of our table. :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


This was my first bingo social, and I just had to document the event! The activity was sponsored by the IRRI Filipino Scientists' Association, and was expected to last til about 9pm because there were about eight games. Unfortunately, I couldn't hang around for the duration of the event because I was also going over to Luke's second birthday party over at Tita Mely's house. Staff and students from the GQNPC lab were there to play too to try their luck with the bingo cards.

First off, I claimed the bingo cards from the IFSA people manning the ticket booths. People getting bingo cards were in long queues when I got there... hence the tension inside contrasted from the relaxed atmosphere by the players' tables. I got one ticket, which entitled me to two bingo cards. The frazzled coordinator mistakenly gave me three bingo cards instead of only two, all blue. After everyone has taken his seat and the tambiolo was inspected, the event officially began.

I had no idea that playing bingo was such an entertaining activity! No wonder people get addicted to playing the game. A big chunk of the entertainment factor rests upon the way the drawn letter-number combination is announced... The announcers, Sylvia Avance and Mon Oliveros, were very effective in announcing the winning combinations.

I was managing three bingo cards, and had trouble in looking at all of them, but the others were looking at six cards, or thereabouts! None of us won though... I left my cards with my office mates who were still playing, since I had to take off earlier than everyone else. Kuya Jun didn't have a chance to win from one of his cards because it was defective.

After this activity, I think I've had enough indoor activities... it's time to move outdoors: Dampalit Falls, here we come!

Friday, November 21, 2008

IRRI Duets 2008

Who says scientists don't have artistic talent? Last night's competition proved them wrong. IRRI Duets night was SRO night... Here are some of the decent shots I captured.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Diabetes Awareness seminar

Rice to control type 2 diabetes? Diet and exercise should do the trick... and for rice-loving people, new rice varieties being developed to have more fibre should help.


Tita Dory's 60th birthday bash

Grain Quality, Nutrition, and Post-harvest Center (IRRI)
Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines

Arvin (from Philrice), Jay and Vito (via phone patch), and other surprise guests that hopefully made Tita Dory's day.

Special thanks to:
Dara and Fe for organising the surprise gifts :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bay Serrano recognised by the KKP (2008)

Bay Serrano was given the award for distinguished teaching by the Kapisanan ng mga Kimiko ng Pilipinas Southern Tagalog Chapter!!!

Congratulations Bay!

Batchmate ko yan! 

Review: Boston Cafe

Cuisine: Desserts
Location:Lopez Ave., Los Banos, Laguna

I was surprised that the restaurant was still accepting customers at 10:30pm. But since I was there already on a drizzly evening, I decided to try their version of my favourite drink (the only beverage I order in coffee shops, actually), the cream-based chocolate milkshake.

Inside, I selected the choco chip drink, and I'm very happy to find that it's not too sweet :) and though the price range isn't exactly cheap, it doesn't break the bank account either.

I liked the clean interiors, the tasteful decoration, and the calming music. It's perfect place for dessert or coffee after dinner. I am not sure if Wi-Fi is available, but the presence of laptop-users in the restaurant suggests that it is a hotspot. The magazine selection is also entertaining, perfect for people going there alone for some down time.

Friday, November 7, 2008

There's a squirrel along Pili Drive?!

That's exactly the question I blurted out while I was driving home tonight along the mainly deserted Pili Drive. The animal just appeared out of nowhere, and crossed the street to go to what I reckon is the corn field. But then again, are there squirrels in the Philippines, and particularly in the UPLB area? 

Could it be a raccoon? But the mystery jaywalker did not have the tell-tale banding patterns on its tail. Could it be a skunk? I hope not! Besides, both of these mammals are only found in the Americas, right? Right?! Apparently not... There is actually a species of skunk found in the Philippines (mainly in Palawan and in the neighboring islands), the Palawan Stink Badger (Mydaus marchei). It's unlikely to be found in the UPLB campus, unless someone caught it for zoology class and then the animal managed to escape.

There are a lot of squirrels, it turns out, in the Philippines, and I had absolutely no idea! There are six species in the Sundasciurus genus which includes the tree squirrels. Flying squirrels belong to two other genera,  Hylopetes and Petinomys, and then there's the pygmy squirrel (Exilisciurus sp.). Most of them are in Palawan and Mindanao, though, so fat chance for me seeing them at night in Los Banos.

Maybe it's just a tortoise-shell cat whose tail is all puffed up because it got spooked. I don't know... nevertheless, I was forced to brush up on Philippines fauna: yes, there are skunks and squirrels in the Philippines, Palawan mainly. But are they found in Los Banos as well?

Zoologists, help!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lugaw Queen

Cuisine: Asian
Location:National Highway, Los Banos, Laguna Philippines
Opened only on October 29, 2008, the Lugaw Queen first caught my eye last night as I was driving home from work. And what made me slow down was the billboard: Lugaw Queen is open 24 hours! Another late night hang-out for me (aside from Goto LB and Mini-Stop)!

Tonight, I decided to try it out, since I left the lab at 10:30pm. Surprisingly, there were a lot of people - families, night shift employees, travelers - at that time of night, considering that the second semester in UPLB hasn't formally started yet (I think). But that shouldn't have surprised me given that the place is so well-lit and clean. And the reasonably priced food helped a whole lot too. The owners must have trained their staff well: even late at night, the people manning the counter were courteous and welcoming... not aloof at all.

I opted to try out the goto, egg, and chicharon lugaw (priced at P35.00 for a big bowlful of soup). It was steaming hot when given to me at the self-serve counter. Yummy! Perfect comfort food for the cold evening. And for those who don't like squeezing calamansi, fret not. The calamansi juice comes in glass bottles... goodbye sour fingers!

The owner or franchiser of the restaurant selected a good location. Situated right across Los Banos' public market (in front of a street lamp too), Lugaw Queen will surely have a big following since there's a lot of pedestrian traffic there the whole day. And since it's one of the more affordable eateries along the national highway open all day, I'm sure night owls from the campus won't mind hanging out here.

My only concern is the parking lot. The space can only accommodate four cars (I think), with just enough space for motorbikes to squeeze through. Perhaps, this shouldn't be too much of a concern for people like me who would most likely venture here late at night, but for people with cars wanting to eat here during the day, it's a very different scenario.

With all that said, I'm definitely coming back to eat here soon.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cafe Breton

Cuisine: French
Location:Sta Rosa, Laguna, Philippines
I loved the galette and the salad! The place is cozy too. Perfect for a quiet night out as an alternative to other coffee shops. My sister and I tried to eat here last year on Christmas eve... it took a year for us to come back. And it's all worth the wait :)

Todos Los Santos: Pinoy Style

On All Saints' Day, people commemorate all the saints - and their dead relatives - by bringing flowers, candles, and food offerings to their graves. 

According to Dr Lafarge, people going to the cemeteries remain quiet and solemn, in France. Nobody stays in the graveyard long enough to hold family reunions at the site. In the Philippines, however, today is another perfect reason for family and friends to congregate and celebrate... only, the party is brought to the grave site (perhaps to allow the deceased relatives to join in the festivities?). Today is even a perfect excuse to wear one's best clothes to impress others.

Today, my sister and I braved the long traffic queue to get to the Sta Cruz public and private cemeteries (with our aunts) to light candles at our dead relatives' graves.

The candle-lighting and offering then became a reunion of sorts because we caught up with a few of our cousins. Some we see every other week; others we see only on All Saints' Day. Take note that this photo was taken past 9pm.

In fact, we were not the only ones to bump into relatives. The cemetery took on the life of a fiesta. The place was so packed that some had to climb mausoleums to find space (or perhaps, just for the fun of being on top). I even heard some teenagers singing "happy birthday" to their peers. Only after 10pm did the evening crowd start to get thin, as seen below.

Traffic flow finally picked up speed close to midnight, as people started to pack up and go home, making sure that the graves remain well-lit. 

With such a lively atmosphere, how could one think that the cemeteries are such scary places?

Happy All Saints' Day!