Monday, June 30, 2014

A dash of football on my pre-birthday night out

My birthday week has begun! 

To celebrate it, Nikos, Val, Matty, and I popped into Greenbelt for dinner at Sugi Japanese Restaurant in Greenbelt 2 and to watch the Brazil vs Chile World Cup match. Thank you, guys, for making my birthday week start off with a bang!

Here we go...

With all the options around the area for football watching, we ended up at Burger Bar in Greenbelt 2. The major pull? This restaurant was serving milkshakes, but one milkshake flavour caught my eye. Burger Bar was serving Speculoos Cookie Butter milkshakes!  

Speculoos Cookie Butter Milkshake

I'm a fan of the gingerbread and caramel flavours and of the grainy texture of the Speculoos Cookie Butter bread spread of Trader Joe's... I even eat it straight off the spoon (no bread needed)! It's definitely miles better than peanut butter and chocolate sandwich spreads. So when I saw a milkshake version on the Burger Bar menu, I just had to try it out. 

It was yummy! I can't say that it's better than the sandwich spread but it is definitely one of the best milkshakes I've had in a while. The sweetness was just right and the cinnamon flavour wasn't overpowering (I'm not a big fan of cinnamon). The milkshake was just the right consistency and I couldn't feel any ice chunks... really smooth. Yum yum! The Speculoos-flavoured milkshake may actually be fighting for the top rank with the chocolate cheesecake milkshake I've had at Cheesecakes by Guy in Eastwood. 

With Nikos, Matty, and Val while waiting for the Brazil vs Chile match live broadcast.

At some stage, our attention shifted from the drinks and onto the big screen. With the match airing and the volume turned down low (the other al fresco bars were still open), we had to rely initially on the live Twitter feed and on the comments being posted in the FIFA World Cup app (both via my phone) to understand what was going on. Eventually, my phone died and we turned to Val for his play-by-play comments about who the players were and what clubs they're part of.  He also explained that in case there was a tie, then the game would be extended by 30 minutes (two 15-minutes halves). If there's still a tie, then it would be broken via penalty kicks. Someone had to go home tonight.

World Cup live broadcast over Balls Channel in a few minutes.

It was a long match ending with a 1-1 draw after the both the regular time and the extended time. Brazil won via penalty shoot-out. Overall, it was a really good game to watch. I ended up clapping along with the Brazil supporters in the bar though I was rooting for Chile to win because Chile really fought well. The Brazilians were given a tough time to move up to the next level. 

Biboy, I shall live tweet with you during the next Brazil match. My phone just died last night so I couldn't. Prepare to cry while eating your churros, baby brother.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My birthday wish/shopping list for 2013 revisited

I am going through my blog posts and thought that it would be nice to review what I actually crossed off my 2013 list. I'm amazed that I have realized quite a few items before my next birthday. Seven out of ten... not bad at all!!

Noise-reducing earphones.
Courtesy of my brother. What a very nifty gadget!

Pretty flatware (spoons/forks).
I got these on sale at the Rustan's outlet store. They're quite simply designed, but still pretty enough for daily use.

Vacation.
Yes, I've been able to get one at the end of 2013, finally. I visited my brother, parents, and future sister-in-law while I was on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. And I watched all the tv series on Netflix as much as I could... oh, and I also saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug too. Poor Daddy was lost at why the dragon was talking. :)

A good chef's knife.
I bought this also at the Rustan's outlet store. I even got the steel for free too!

Wakeboarding at Nuvali.
Yeah, well... I went there after my first failed attempt at Caliraya. And it was in Nuvali where I stood up on the board first. What a confidence booster! And now, I could actually say that I can wakeboard while being pulled by a boat. Lots to be improved still though. All these have been possible because I found friends who are also into the sport. :) Thank you Matty, Maricor, Joann, Mai, and Maya!!

Chocolate mousse birthday cake
My absolute favorite cake... I had some of these when I celebrated my birthday with Cindy and Tita Ruby at Faustina's. The best part of having them with me on my special day was that I didn't celebrate it and eat dinner alone. :)

Visiting the masterpieces at the National Museum
Wow! What can I say? The paintings and other artworks at the National Museum are truly priceless. I don't like some pieces while my jaw dropped at seeing two pieces: Manansala's "Bayanihan" and Luna's "Spolarium". Wow!

The longest day in 2014: June 21

June 21st was the longest day of the year. I found myself agreeing when I noticed last night that I hadn't switched on the car's headlights while driving past 6:30pm in Manila. In other parts of the world, the sun is normally far from setting at 7pm, yes... But where I am, normally the night starts at 6pm.

Longest day... Indeed. 

I go out with friends (Ate Bing, Ate Mary, and Man) to visit Dr Jose Rizal typically on his birthday (June 19). Sticking with the history theme, we also visit museums and art galleries to soak a bit more about our cultural heritage. AND we go on a food trip.

This year, June 19 did not work for us, so we decided take our dose of cultural education on the 21st. It proved to be a really long day for me. In fact, this weekend turned out to be a series of really long days. Our route took us to where I've been at least once before but I didn't mind because I learn new things on different visits. Here we go:

San Agustin Museum

I've been to the museum once before the church got renovated. And, I must say, this visit was a much better experience than my first time to drop by! Back in 2006, I thought that the museum should start improving the way it preserved the relics... Eight years later, I find out that the museum's entrance fee was worth it. I was very happy to note that some of the more precious pieces were behind glass boxes; the books were protected in (what I hope are) airtight containers.

Panoramic view of the hallowed corridors of the San Agustin museum.

Walking through the museum was just like walking back to early days of Spanish colonial rule. I could not believe that I was actually staring at a copy of Doctrina Christiana, the first book printed in the Philippines! It's not the original (from 1593) but might be a reprint from the 17th century. There were translated versions as well (in Philippine languages). Paintings done on wood (rather than on canvas) lined the corridors of the museum while statues of saints and Biblical figures, in wood or some other material, were all over the place. Priests' robes and the tapestries used during processions were preserved through the centuries. I was just amazed at how good the people from long ago were at keeping their things in tip-top shape.

Then there's the church itself. Up on the choir loft, I watched the end of a wedding ceremony (including the entourage picture-taking part) while marveling at the wooden carvings on the choir members' chairs. The church's ceiling may not be as grand as Saint Peter's (which I haven't been to yet) but was intricate nonetheless.

The view of the San Agustin Church from the choir loft. 

It's a wonder how San Agustin has stood the test of time, sans one belfry. I am particularly happy to see that the facade had lost it's pink hue. I hope that the restorers would give the facade a design fitting for the oldest standing church in Intramuros.

Coco Bango Cafe and Restaurant

Right across the San Agustin Church, this restaurant was a discovery for us. We stuck with the Filipino theme as hard as we could. Our lunch was tinolang manok, a squid dish, and chicken ala pobre. Man, as always, took care of taking food photos for posterity.


We all had a good laugh throughout lunch as we struggled directly translating food names to Filipino. For instance, how awkward do 'patpat pang mahirap' and 'manok na mahirap' sound when used as translations for steak ala pobre and chicken ala pobre, right? Then there's 'niyeluhang tsaa' for iced tea. I can't remember how we moved from there to the translation of seat belts into 'sinturong pangkaligtasan'.

Not content yet, we tried Spanish-English translations too. For example, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was the founder of Manila City. In Spanish, that title is fundador de la ciudad de Manila, right? Google Translate, right?

And when push came to shove (we were running out of Spanish and Filipino words to translate), we shifted to French restaurant names... Tous les Jours means everyday while Le Couer de France means the heart of France according to Google Translate. But the French pronunciation stumped us all!

National Art Gallery

The National Museum opened the art gallery two years ago but this is the first opportunity I had to visit again. Frankly, I was wowed with how the museum looked... I felt that it's becoming at par with the museums I had visited in other countries! First off, just look at the huge banners heralding the Manansala masterpieces and the works of the Escuela Taller. I thought I was entering Ocean's Twelve's Galleria D'Arte de Roma but no... the real-life museum was much much better. :)


And inside, the wooden floors made me imagine (again) that I was in Da Vinci Code's Louvre Museum because of the parquet flooring... sans the dead museum curator/Priory of Sion top honcho, of course.

Enough of the imagination and the comparisons. I was fully aware that I was going to see Juan Luna's Spolarium but when I actually saw it, my jaw dropped. And my first words, as I stared at it, were the same words I've said more than twenty years ago when I first saw it: What a huge painting!

Viewers of Luna's "Spolarium" and Resurreccion-Hidalgo's "The Assassination of Governor  Bustamante"

I had thought that this was the highlight of my National Museum experience, I was wrong. There was another art piece that made my day: Vicente Manansala's Bayanihan.

Bayanihan

The transparent cubism style of painting made the subjects appear to be in motion. Lively pinks and blues of the subjects' pants contrasted with the yellows and browns of their torsos and of the bahay kubo that they were carrying. The painting was alive. Jaw-dropping moment number two.

Publiko Eat + Drink

Dinner came in the form of pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken and rice. After a day of immersing on all things culturally Filipino, we entered the more cosmopolitan aspect of Filipino culture. Publiko's vibe was more of a pub where people can eat and talk... music wasn't so loud; the place wasn't dark at all. My sister said it's a watering hole. I, on the other hand, thought that the food could totally stand on their own. Dinner was delicious! Kudos to the chef!

Anna caught up with us at this stage. I wanted to have her with us for the music portion of today's cultural educational tour. Hehehe.

Cheesecakes by Guy

My second time here! Promise, the cheesecakes were heavenly (Man's words... I quote him here). Instead of the cheesecake milkshake, like during my previous visit, I got the ChocNut cheesecake. Yum yum! And just like in my previous visit, the servers were really good. It's like being at a friendly neighborhood cafe. Maybe this resto has that homey vibe because Eastwood City has residential areas surrounding the offices. 


I am definitely going back for more cheesecake. :)

Fete de la Musique at Greenbelt 3
My first attendance at this annual musical event was quite an adventure. Anna had wanted to watch the world music performances in a French restaurant near Jupiter St, Makati but we couldn't find the venue (and I didn't like the vibe of the area and parking looked like a pain) so we went to Plan B, Fete's main stage in Makati: Greenbelt 3.


We got there in time for the performances of dub/experimental musicians Caliph 8 and Red-I. The performances were enjoyable (I am starting to appreciate techno versions of what I think sound like ballroom music) but it was a challenge to be an enthusiastic audience member after going round Metro Manila for more than 12 hours! 

We didn't finish Red-I's set as it went passed midnight because we had to pack up and go home.

The longest day indeed. And I had spent it outdoors. :)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

my reading list for 2014

I was a bit wary about shifting from paper-based books but now I fully appreciate the e-book format. While I love turning the pages of real books, I know that they can weigh me down during the times when I have to wait in line or when I'm taking a walk (armed with my camera of course). I'll probably stick to paper-format textbooks and reference materials but if I can get e-book formats for my leisure reading, I think I'll go with that more and more.

Enough of that...

This year, I'm listing books as I start reading them. That way, I can see just how many books I've gone through for 2014. Here we go...

1. Inferno by Dan Brown (2013)
2. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (2009)
3. Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling (2012)
4. Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan (2005)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

And the FIFA World Cup 2014 begins...

I used to play soccer. No kidding! I had to stop, however, when the ball hit my face and broke my eyeglasses in high school (as you can see, I'm used to having my face get hit by hard surfaces while playing sports). Since then, I watch soccer matches from the relative safety of bleachers and on the telly... I am not watching the matches as closely this time around as compared to many years back when I'd drive all the way from Los Banos to Makati on school nights to watch the live midnight games with my cousins and nephews!

Anyway, the FIFA World Cup 2014 has started on June 13 and I've watched the first two games so far (Brazil vs Croatia and Mexico vs Cameroon). The nice thing about this World Cup, is that there are more ways to see the games... other than going to sports bars, or actually flying to the venue. The game times are still off for people living in my time zone this year but at least the replays can be seen during more reasonable hours over cable tv. If the live telecast is not available, blow-by-blow reports and real-time photos can be followed through Twitter or the other social media sites (the online equivalent of following the games via radio, methinks). Someone has even developed a means of monitoring the origins of World Cup tweets at real time! I particularly like the FIFA app for iOS and the website designed and implemented by Franck Ernewein because each tweet lights up its geographical origin:


Now that the biggest game in the planet is being played in the fifth biggest nation in the world, I wonder what the atmosphere in the fictional Quidditch World Cup is like. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The day I gave in to temptation

... also known as the Cara Mia gelato.


Whenever I have to speak in public (i.e., training courses, seminars, conferences, lab tours), I've developed the habit of not projecting my voice too much and I avoid ice-cold food and drink before the event . After the event (especially if I didn't use a microphone), I normally don't talk for an hour to help rest my throat.

However, there are times when I forget that I have to speak in a few days AND then get tempted by ice cream cravings. One example: when Anna and I passed by Cara Mia Gelateria in Alabang Town Center last Sunday. I've been wanting to eat ice cream for several days already but I was nursing a sore throat so I didn't really need to eat ice cream. The pull of chocolate ice cream was just too strong... and so I ordered two heaping scoops of ice cream.

Did I enjoy eating the ice cream? Absolutely. But now, I'm suffering the consequences. Sore throat worsened by the ice cream AND my first speaking assignment is in three days' time! 

What was I thinking?!?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

I can't believe that this movie is actually seven years old! And that I saw it in the cinema with one of my housemates in Queensland back then. I write about it now while watching it being shown in HBO.

Before this movie, I have only seen the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and I don't think I've read any of Jane Austen's classics (unbelievable, but true) at that time. I'm amazed that the members of the book club were so immersed in the stories that they could relate with the characters in the Austen classics.  

It must be cool to find a set of friends who are so into books that they could discuss the characters' motivations and the plots passionately. Maybe I need to find friends like that: they make reading classics sound fun... not as a school requirement. I have yet to return to reading The Little Prince (Antoine Saint-Exupery) and The Prophet (Kahlil Gibran) because I absolutely did not appreciate these works of art when I was in high school. I didn't even finish reading them.

When I had finished watching the movie in 2007, I went to the bookstore and got myself a copy of the Jane Austen collection! I haven't finished reading the books though. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hooked on Arrow

I admit: I am a weekend couch potato. There's a whole list of television shows I go through on Saturday and Sunday evenings (which means I am normally on do-not-disturb mode then). That is, until recently of course.

If there's one tv show I really drop what I'm doing for these days, it's Arrow.

While I was on Christmas break last year, the tv series piqued my interest as I was browsing my parents' Netflix subscription. Intrigued, and having no idea what this was about (as usual), I started watching the show with my mom. We quickly realized, as we were going through Season 1 episodes, that Arrow was a show we couldn't stop watching... after an episode ended, we had to go to the next episode to see what happened next. It was like watching a 22-episode arc of cliffhangers! So when I got back home, I just had to continue on watching Season 2, one episode a week, since I don't have Netflix at home.

The premise of the show is not all that different from Batman's origin storyline... if we're basing this on the Chris Nolan universe. Oliver Queen has a lot of things in common with Bruce Wayne. They are both billionaires. They both have secret lairs and secret lives. They both fight crazy criminals while hiding behind masks and using a lot of high-tech toys. They both received military training in the worst of environments. And even Ra's al Ghul's League of Shadows crosses over once in a while! There are differences between the two characters, of course... For one, Oliver Queen is known to be a playboy; Bruce Wayne, while also attractive, is portrayed to be more serious in his relationships. Batman is also a bit more of a lone wolf while Oliver, despite his objections, has two... no, three... no, four... well, he has a team backing him up. 

I wonder what it would be like if Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen were in the same city. That would be so cool!

Anyway, back to my Sunday evening channel pit stop. The cast and the crew of Arrow have definitely made their mark on the small screen because the series is so well-made. Imagine watching on one hand, flashbacks of Oliver Queen on the island providing the audience an idea of how he got transformed into a fighting machine; and on the other, Oliver trying to live like the typical run-of-the-mill company CEO while living a double life as Starling City's resident vigilante... yes, all in one episode. We also get to see the other characters develop and we get to understand their motivations a lot more as they get their own story arcs. 

My favorite subplot so far? Ironically (but maybe not unexpectedly), it's not about Arrow or Oliver Queen. I like the character development of Moira Queen (from Season 1 to Season 2) the best of them all. At first, she was this mourning widow and grateful mother; but she turned out to be not as innocent as everyone expected. In fact, she was in the midst of the planning leading towards the chaos and destruction that happened in Starling City. And instead of seeing her as a pure villain for the rest of her life, we find out that she's really just a mother protecting her kids! We, the audience, kept riding the emotional roller coaster ride that is villain-today-heroine-tomorrow Moira Queen until the Arrow writers pulled a Games of Thrones at us. 

Just like that, Moira Queen was DEAD! 

It's very rare for me to be shocked by television series story arcs because a lot of them are so predictable; however, this surprise thrown at televiewers was so shocking that my jaw-dropped while watching the episode "Seeing Red". The cast was so good in this episode. The writers, geniuses. And Doug Aarniokoski, you are one great director!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

Two cancer patients met at a support group session, became fast friends, and fell in love... setting things up for them to end tragically. Basically, that's the premise of The Fault in Our Stars, a movie adapted from the book of the same title by John Green.

I know a lot of people would be moved (even to tears, perhaps) by the romance between the two characters. For me, the tragedy that was of cancer patients Griffin and Phoenix was more difficult to watch because I felt that they've accepted their fate and were just spending as much time together before one had to leave to die alone. A Walk to Remember was also a difficult movie to see because the sick girl knew she was dying, she had warned the boy not to fall in love with her, and yet he still did (knowing full well eventually that she's dying). Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters, in The Fault in Our Stars, were also stricken by cancer but somehow saw the beauty of being alive and were able to travel on their good days. The sense of humor and optimism carried by these teenagers gave some hope that not all is tragic in cancer after all.

While I wasn't particularly moved by the two teenagers, I appreciated more the subplot involving the parents. See, there were three sets of parents shown in this movie: the Lancasters, Mr and Mrs Waters, and Peter Van Houten. The three of them were pictures of parents' reactions in the face of their children's impending death. Hazel's mom and dad were ever supportive, as if their world was revolving solely around Hazel. That is, until the dad jokingly told her that her parents were not sentimental people; perhaps, this was a first clue. Hazel's parents turned out to be preparing for their future loss by learning of ways to help other people going through the same difficulties. They might grieve the same way Augustus' parents did during his funeral but their world did not look like it would be filled with alcohol like Mr Van Houten's when he wasn't able to come to grips with his daughter's death.

Is it a good movie? I'd say yes. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Review: Arabian night (?) at Raha Sulaiman Restaurant


One evening, Manuel, Ria, and I were all geared for a long drive. However, we were dissuaded from doing so. Therefore, our long road trip became a food trip! A restaurant caught our eye in Pagsanjan, named Raha Sulaiman; probably a new place or it's just an establishment we hadn't noticed before. We thought it would be a good time to try it out.

The restaurant held a lot of promise. We were expecting a unique dining experience since the menu featured international cuisine and the sign said there's Arabian food. However, I was not quite happy to learn that the restaurant was not serving basmati rice for South Asian and Middle Eastern food items. The food itself was good though... if only the restaurant owner/s can decide what its specialty is. After all, it was quite disconcerting to pair hot and sour soup (Chinese) with chicken biryani (Indian)... and we did just that because these items were on the menu.  

The servers also need a bit more practice during our visit. They seemed to not know how to handle situations in which the customers' food or drink orders were not available. And when it was time to serve the food, the servers also appeared to be at a loss. There was one authoritative-looking guy who took over serving the soup; while good, I just wished at that time that he and the servers had discussed who would be serving what away from the customers... and not in front of us.

In short, I would probably go back and try the food here again in a few months.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Video: Wakeboarding in Anilao, Batangas


On that fateful day when I was able to successfully stand up on the wakeboard, I was also still photographer and spotter (assisting the boat driver in communicating with the wakeboarder and making sure that the rope is not under the towboat). After our day out in the water, I took care of the post-production bits. 

Without further ado, the video documenting our Sunday wakeboarding session is included in this post. If I were to write the credits for this video, it would go this way:

Cast and crew: Joann, Yvette, Maya, Rochie, Kor, Matty

Music: "Stringed Disco" (by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 

            Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
 
            http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Look, Mom! I'm wakeboarding!!

For the past several months, I've taken up a sport that I have meant to try since the Republ1c Wakepark in Nuvali opened: wakeboarding! It's even part of by 2013 birthday wish list!

Ironically, my first (and disastrous) bout with the wakeboard was in open water, being pulled by a towboat... NOT in the wakepark. Subsequent trips to Republ1c definitely helped me prepare mentally for my second round with the towboat. Instead of in Caliraya Lake, however, I found myself spending a Sunday 80 km away from home, in the waters of Anilao, Batangas. 


I am thankful to Maricor and to Joann for kindly taking photos and videos of me in and on the water. This was a rare opportunity; normally, I'm the one behind the lens.





As luck would have it, I was an (un)lucky product tester. Matty had devised a way to attach a video camera on the wakeboard rope and it was during my turn in the water when the contraption was tested. The rope mount was so heavy that it made the rope unstable when the towboat started pulling... I never had a chance (as a newbie to the sport) to be successful on my first try that day.

Wakeboard rope mount = EPIC FAIL!! (and I attribute the expression to Joann)

 

In my subsequent attempts, the video camera was mounted safely on its monopod away from the water.  And I successfully stood up on the wakeboard!!



Exhilarating. That's how I'd describe the very first time I successfully got up the board. I was jumping for joy when I got back to dry land! Now that I've gotten over one of the biggest hurdles, I think that I will miss that feeling of excitement. The next time I'll feel it, I expect, is when I start being able to actually carve the water and when I am able to cross over the wake.

Now, however, let me continue to relish the feeling of success.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Lunch party with the Aunarios

I got invited to Tito Tony and Tita Ching's house for a lunch party. As always, time spent with my dad's best friend's family was time well spent. :) 


Thank you for inviting me over!