Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dinner at the VASK dining room

There are wishes that take a long time to come true, and then there are those that happen within minutes! For instance, I wish I could try out VASK and see if it's a restaurant I can bring my culture-buff parents over and if it could a pit stop for me and the museum-hoppers during our next history and culture adventure. 

Right after Kulinarya, Tita Nollie, Seher, and I ended up lounging at Gallery Vask!

Tita Nollie and Seher at the Gallery Vask lounge.

Imagine overlooking Bonifacio Global City and sipping red wine while surrounded by art pieces and illuminated by the glow of yellow light bulbs hanging from inverted white umbrellas. I've never been to a dining room that doubles as a gallery for modern art before. And I am not counting La Cocina de Tita Moning because, for me, eating there is like dining and breathing the old world charm of Manila... so more of a museum feel.

That table is reflecting the umbrellas hanging from the ceiling.

However, for dinner, we wanted to try out the Vask dining room to check out Spanish cuisine. It's funny, really, because the three of us all had food restrictions either due to allergies, religion, or taste preference. So just ordering what to eat for dinner was challenging but fun. We ended up getting a combination of dishes from the modern and the traditional selections. 

For starters, we got bakalao frito con piperrada y alioli, ensalada de queso de cabra y salmon ahumado, carpaccio de wagyu con helado de parmesano, and foie gras on mango toast. All of them, and I mean all of them, were so good! The foie gras balls were yummy, with the mango slices adding enough sourness and sweetness to contrast the richness of the liver. The salad... I just loved the contrast of tastes and textures from the goat cheese, the walnut, and the vegetable greens: a perfect background for the salmon flavors. The bakalao fish with bell peppers was also delicious, especially when dipped in that mayonnaise. It was my first time to try carpaccio and to taste wagyu beef so I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. The thing I noted with the beef was that it was paper-thin almost! And that the beef had a lot of white streaks on it. I thought to myself: I have certainly gone a long way now from the day I first had filet mignon and had mistaken the name for fish fillet. Hahaha! 

Then we proceeded to eat the entrees. We ordered pollo al curry and salteado de portobello y trigueros con aceite de trufa. The chicken in the chicken curry was perfectly cooked, juicy and not stringy at all, while the rice was spicy. I liked the spiciness of the rice because it blended well with the chicken flavor. The rice felt hot in the throat; there was no burning sensation on the tongue. The portobello mushrooms, on the other hand, came on a black slab. I was a bit wary that the dish wasn't so delicious because these were vegetables and they all looked dark... but I was way off the mark. It's so flavorful that I was caught by surprise! I could eat those veggies all day, definitely.

To end our journey into Spanish cuisine, we closed our meal with quesos y texturas and leche frita y pistachio. Sweet goodness! The milk custard cubes were surrounded by pistachios and paired with chocolate ice cream... they weren't too sweet, mind you. I loved the softness of the custard contrasting the roughness of the ground pistachios. And that chocolate ice cream was yummy! The cheeses were a welcome change from the sweet stuff because this dessert was on the salty side but did come with honey.

That was one great dinner. It reflects the genius of the culinary team running the show. I am excited to have a meal there again! Definitely in my restaurant destinations list. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Oh my Darling, oh my Darling,
Oh my Darling, Clementine.
You were lost and gone forever,
Dreadful sorry, Clementine.
This movie was more serious than I had expected. And more complicated. The narrative was arranged in a non-linear fashion, which made me so confused. Apparently, the main story the audience sees is actually narrated in reverse chronology. For some reason, I thought of Rashomon, The Prestige, and Vantage Point while watching the movie because of the non-chronological storytelling style.

The two protagonists met in a train, not knowing that they'd met previously. In fact, they were in a relationship until the girl had her memory erased because she wasn't happy with the guy anymore. The guy was so broken-hearted that he had his memory erased too. The audience took a journey with him, sorting through his memories of the relationship as each one got erased while he was sleeping.

The side stories, protrayed by a star-studded cast, were interesting as well... but not enough to eclipse the fine acting of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. This is only the second time I've watched Carrey in a film that did not include slapstick in it. The first one was The Truman Show. Really good actor. Winslet, on the other hand, played the quirky role very convincingly... and I've only seen her in more serious (or at least not quirky) roles before this movie.

What is it with the movies I am watching lately?!? Three movies (Inception and Transcendence), all with mentally challenging plots and story-telling techniques, in one month! What's next, Memento?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Transcendence (2014)

The world, as we know it, had ended. There was no electricity and no internet. Basically, it looked like the post-computer age... The ultimate nightmare for millennials whose electronics are always at arms' reach. No, it wasn't the aftermath of Typhoon Rammasun. It was the opening scene of the movie, Transcendence

Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, and Rebecca Hall played a team of scientists who wanted to develop a computer with artificial intelligence. Depp's character believed that, at some point, artificial intelligence would have achieved "transcendence", that state in which it would be much better than human intelligence. However, before he had achieved transcendence, Depp's character was injured by people against the technology... He only had a few weeks to live and was convinced by Hall's character to use it to upload his mind into a computer. Everything went downhill after that.

I was willing to suspend disbelief as I watched the movie because the technology being featured was reminiscent of Dr Arnim Zola's computer-preserved mind in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, it became way too much, and I just had to shake my head, when people connected to the Depp supercomputer via the Internet and nanobots (comes with superhuman strength and the ability to regenerate) started appearing. No wonder someone had to pull the plug on Web connectivity!!

The story wasn't so good... I was expecting more when I saw the star-studded cast. And why did the plot-maker put Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman way too much in the background? They could have shone in the greyish light emitted by Depp's computer acting. At least, this time, he wasn't running around like a drunken pirate or an apparently dim-witted tourist. His performance reminded me, somehow, of his portrayal of Sweeney Todd: dark and menacing. Bettany was good, as always, though he appeared to have been given the human version of his role as Jarvis (from the Robert Downey Jr.-led Iron Man series).

The second mind-centered movie I've seen in a span of one month... Just a few weeks after I've watched Inception for the nth time.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review: 47 Ronin (2013)

47 Ronin is the story of samurai who became leaderless (ronin) after their master was obliged to kill himself honorably in a ritual (seppuku) after he had physically attacked an important official. The ronin planned to avenge their master's disgrace and were successful in killing the man who had shamed their master.  After taking revenge, the ronin surrendered to the shogunate authorities, who decided that the ronin were following bushido, the samurai military code. Instead of being executed as criminals, the ronin (restored as samurai) were allowed to perform seppuku.

The theme was very powerful and dramatic. Although I am not, in any way, a fan of ritual suicide because of its violence (or of any other form of suicide), I could see the beauty in having an honorable death: dying on one's own terms, with head held high. There's no shame, within its cultural context, of ending one's life this way. In fact, it could appear as a brave way to go.

However, the movie, I feel, did not have the emotional pull needed to give justice to such a powerful part of the Japanese culture. It was, at its core, a love story after all. Yes, it was a movie about protecting one's honor... but somehow, the love story between the outcast and the damsel in distress was a distraction. I would have loved to see more character development of the outcast in the hands of the ronin... or maybe more emotional depth in the story of the outcast and the girl. I mean, the emotional turmoil of reserved and faceless women blending in the background, was palpable in The Last Samurai. The 47 Ronin version just didn't seem to have that anchor.

Anyway, what made this movie memorable to me was the date when I've seen it. By lucky timing or some weird force of nature, my friends and I got together to watch it on January 30 (after I've had dinner at Yakimix in Alabang Town Center and they had pizza at Sicilysimo in Festival Supermall). This date is regarded as the anniversary of the ronin's vengeful attack on the official. 

Goosebumps all around!!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review: Inception (2010) again

I know... I've watched Inception several times already since watching it on the big screen. However, my latest viewing of it, which was sometime earlier this month, was quite different. I was with friends who have never seen it and I was answering their questions (attempting, more like it) about the movie's premise on dreaming within a dream within a dream and its iconic soundtrack as we went along... and then I did a double take. It may have taken years before I've realized this but I gasped when I did:

The structure of the movie was like a deep dive into Dante Alighieri's Inferno! I am easily frightened by his descriptions (and the illustrations in the book I borrowed from the library) so I haven't been able to progress to Purgatorio and Paradiso. Anyway, my Eureka! moment happened when my friends were asking for a recap on the different dream levels and I realized that these were akin to Dante's Nine Circles of Hell. In the movie, however, there were only three dream levels and then there's limbo. The main characters had to go deep into the dream states into limbo and then use a 'kick' to rapidly climb back up to consciousness as the world crumbled in time with the bass notes of the trombone.

The idea that the dream levels concept in Inception could have been adapted from Inferno was so new to me that I had thought that I was the first to have thought of it... four years after the movie had shown in cinemas. But there are, certainly, many avid fans of Inception and conspiracy theorists who couldn't get over the movie who have thought the same thing. For instance, Eric Buenrostro compared and contrasted the two works of art throughly:


And then, are numerous blog posts referring to Inferno in the context of Inception. The three posts with links below were all written shortly after the movie was shown in 2010.

http://www.streetsoflima.com/2010/07/explanation-of-inception-leonardo.html
http://moviebrit.wordpress.com/reviews/inception-a-review-with-spoilers/
http://starwarsmodern.blogspot.com/2010/08/architecture-of-inception-combat.html

I was actually four years too slow. Hahaha! And I think Inferno popped up while I was watching because I've finally finished reading Dan Brown's Inferno earlier this year!

Friday, July 25, 2014

I attended Kulinarya at Gallery VASK

A few weeks ago, Chefs Chele, Julieta, and Gaita made me starstruck on a Friday because the three culinary greats were at the International Rice Research Institute. Talking animatedly about locally grown rice with members of the Heirloom Rice Project. Including me in the discussion!

I still continue to tell of my experience with touring them and letting famous chefs eat rice in the Grain Quality and Nutrition Center meeting room when I received a personal invitation from Chele to drop by Gallery VASK to listen in on a lecture called Kulinarya that he and Julieta were conducting. One time only. July 25th. It promised to be an experience for the palate... food sensory overload in its gastronomic glory. Of course, I was in! 


I was so happy that I didn't have to troop to Bonifacio Global City alone. Nollie (the leader in the Heirloom Rice Project) and Seher, Matty's graduate student, went too. Incubus' lyrics were playing in my head as I wish the others were here with us.


One thing that caught me by surprise was the handout that the chefs were distributing to the audience. Nollie's name and mine were on a map of the Philippines... the chefs' visit to IRRI appeared to really have made a mark on the way they view rice. Literally, our names were on a map. But more importantly, IRRI is now beginning to be within the sights of chefs! One of my wishes is becoming true. :)


During the lecture, I saw that Julieta and Chele are passionate about maintaining sustainability of food. They were eager to learn and to share the stories behind locally available ingredients that they are featuring collaboratively in a VASK limited edition menu. I was just blown away by how ingeniously they mixed coffee, coconut milk, and chocolate to make their interpretation of cappuccino. Or how they've used leaves of a plant found in Central Luzon as a souring agent that gives a full body of flavor for their interpretation of conchinillo sinigang, stripped down to the basics. And how about that sea urchin meat, sourced from Bicol, wrapped in melted pork lard and marinated in kinilaw sauce? 

I just had to eat there. Someday.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thank God for life's simple joys!

Rammasun's coming and going is as good a time as any to thank God (or whatever you call the Higher Being, if you believe in one... or in several) for life's simple joys. I realize that highlighting them right now is my coping mechanism to what I had expected to be a series of difficult days:  I am not used to see my creature comforts being stripped down to bear necessities. No electricity. No water. No wind (yes, I do miss the air movement... Stuffy inside the house). No telly (oh no!!).

No, this is not a countdown of 100 happy days or 365 days of blessings or something. So don't expect hashtags.

Here we go...

Thank you, God, for good Samaritans!
A metal sheet of my house's roof was torn off by the strong winds of the typhoon. Two guys in the village who didn't have anything to do back home were walking by and volunteered to fix the roof before rain started falling again. They also took care of cleaning the backyard. I did give them some money because the clean-up and repair took an afternoon of their time. So two worries crossed off! Stress level reduced. 

Thank God for these guys! My to-do list was shortened significantly because of them!

Thank you, God, for my family!
My family seems to carry that big red panic button around all the time, with my mom always at a heightened state of worry when I couldn't answer the phone for a few hours. I do understand the need to know what the conditions were right after the typhoon, but with fluctuating cell signal and no electricity, it's highly difficult to stay connected. Calling (and highly worried) while I dealt with one problem after the next, it's just stress-inducing.

On the other side of this whine- and argh-inducing coin, I do thank God that I have family who cares about me. And who are very demonstrative of their concern. Who loves me to bite-sized pieces. I am, truly, appreciating my family. 

Thank you, God, for neighbors!
All for one, and one for all, as Dumas' Three Musketeers always say. I felt that sense of camaraderie when the winds calmed down and people started moving out of their houses to clean the mess that Typhoon Rammasun had made. If someone will paint a mural of the Filipino typhoon-proof spirit, I'm sure that our scene would be a small piece in it: my neighbors and I were laughing about my fallen roof sheet! It's just amazing... I didn't know that I had it in me to be happy (or at least to not be sad) in the face of such a situation. It also helps that these people are my neighbors since I was younger. They're like extensions of my absentee family. Any non-Filipino would've found us weird. But hey, laughter is a better thing to do than whining about how difficult conditions were, right?

Thank God for these neighbors! My goodness, if it were a different set, I might have a different set of reactions!

Thank you, God, for friends!
Well, on day 2 after the typhoon, I was trying to keep my brave face and my go-get-'em voice on mainly for the benefit of my family so they wouldn't worry so much. But much of the strength came from friends who take my mind off my situation. 

My friends, particularly, those into wakeboarding, effectively distract me from the constant reminders of my post-typhoon situation with their stories. They keep the mood upbeat as they sent updates about the conditions in their homes or of the road with the emphasis that they are fine. And when I felt really low (and about to cry with sadness) because I was totally not looking forward to my second cold dinner alone in the dark (with only three candles in front of me as company), i was invited to dinner!! I almost shed tears of joy just seeing lit light bulbs! The joy of hearing music through speakers! The happiness of watching a switched on telly and hearing the whirring of an electric fan! Oh, the comfort of hot soup!!

Thank you, God... You've given me friends who are fountains of positive vibes to (hopefully) last me the weekend and beyond!

Thank you, God, for the things I take for granted when they're easily available!
This one's easy. Electricity and water supply. Intermittent at best, zilch at worst. I've grown up to living through typhoons and later queueing with other neighbors to fetch water by the bucket at a neighbor's hand water pump. See, long time ago, my house used to have an electric water pump. So if there's no electricity, there's no water. So for me, I've never minded not having electricity as long as I have water (that I don't have to get blisters for). Typhoon Rammasun came along and the lack of water through the tap reminds me how convenient life has been these past years. 

I also became increasingly dependent on electronic gadgets. Who wouldn't, with files being passed on via email, conversations being coursed through social media, music being streamed via the Internet, calls transmitted by cell tower signals... Right? Plus laundry washing has always been a breeze because it's done after an hour of flicking the start switch. With that dependency came the steady requirement of electricity, Internet connectivity, and mobile network signal. So a few hours without electronic "luxuries" is an annoyance but a few days without them is absolute nightmare. I had to remind myself the this unplugged and disconnected condition was the opportunity to find peace and quiet and to catch up on my reading. It's also good arm exercise, washing clothes by hand.

Thank you, God... You've reminded me that what I'm taking for granted make my life easier. Without a steady supply of those, You teach patience and appreciation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rammasun, the typhoon

Rammasun, also known in the Philippines as Glenda, is the first typhoon to barrel towards Manila this year. With winds blowing at around 200 kph, it promised to wreak havoc to everything in its path. However, it dwarved in intensity when compared to 2013's Haiyan (typhoon Yolanda), the strongest typhoon to ever hit land anywhere in recorded history... And of all places, it landed in the Philippines.

While my neighbors were sleeplessly waiting for Rammasun's arrival in the neighborhood, I fell asleep! I mean, a typhoon was coming... There's nothing I could do about it... Might as well take some rest and then deal with whatever came after in the morning. And so despite the howling winds, noisy chimes, and rustling leaves, I slept. Extremely confident or stupid, take your pick.

When daylight filled the house, it was time to assess the damage. Part of the house's roof has been blown off by the typhoon!! This is the very first time that a typhoon has done that to my house in its 34-year existence!! Goodness! Even my parents were shocked... And they weren't even physically present! Because of the gaping hole, it was raining by the telly and the stereo. I just had to move them and the rest of the electronic gadgets to a more water-proof location... I still can't believe that I, single-handedly, was able to carry the heavy stuff! And to push a heavy cabinet out of the way too!! Normally, I need help doing those things. This must be like the flight or flight adrenaline rush people keep talking about.



Buckets in place to catch the rain leaking into the house, I went outside to start cleaning up.

If inside the house was bad, outside the house was worse. Tree trunks everywhere. Leaves everywhere. I pulled a fallen tree trunk blocking the garage before I started cleaning up. 

 




(The debris left outside my house after Glenda's wake.)

It took a few hours but at last, the job was done. The whole community was cleaning such that by the time we hit lunch hour, it looked like the typhoon never passed by! My neighbors couldn't help but comment at my predicament, however, because it turned out that my house was the one hardest hit.

  

(The neighborhood looked clean about an hour after the last of Glenda's winds have passed.)


No rest yet for the weary. It was then time to worry about my fridge's contents. Several hours of no electricity meant that everything in the freezer had to be cooked or thrown out. I am definitely NOT interested in getting food poisoned; let the doctors worry about the really life-threatening, Rammasun-related cases, right? So, the fish bones that were supposedly going to be fish stock became adobong isda that was then passed on to the kitties. The pork steak was eventually cooked and shared with friends at dinner. The chocolates were finished off. And the rest of the food was thrown out once I got around to cleaning the fridge.

The amazing thing about this whole experience is that I was able to laugh at the sorry state of my post-Rammasun affairs. Yes, the house was damaged. Yes, there was a lot of things to do. Yes, there's no electricity and no water supply. Yes, I had to deal with several problems in quick succession alone (unlike my neighbors who have families with them). But the bottomline is that I was lucky that this was the brunt of the storm that I got. I cannot complain. I've had it worse before and lots of people had it downright bad right now.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Starstruck Friday with chefs

Margarita Fores. Jose Luis Gonzalez. Julieta Caruso.

Wow! One of the best ways to end the week is to talk food with chefs. And in this case, I was amid three famous chefs, and I just can't believe that I'd beeen speaking with these people! I best know Fores for Cibo, one of the restaurants I frequent when I'm in the mood for pasta in Makati. And she's also behind Cafe Bola, where cousins, nephews, and I used to eat (again in Makati) before we watched a World Cup match in one of the sports bars many years ago. Gonzalez, on the other hand, is the owner of Vask, a Spanish restaurant at the Fort... a restaurant that I will try out at some stage because I haven't eaten in a resto where the chefs practice molecular gastronomy. Then there's Caruso, the former head chef of Mugaritz, just one of the best restaurants in the world.

Who wouldn't be starstruck, right?

But I couldn't go all fan girl mode because they dropped by IRRI to discuss rice. I had to keep my brain in check; they were there for business and I had to put my game face on. 

I learned a lot from their visit to IRRI. For one, Chef Gonzalez had some Arroz Bomba on him... a  Spanish rice variety that is specially used for paella. This is one of those occasions when I was really excited because I have never seen or tasted Bomba before. I wanted to check if the grains were tasty so I munched on some raw grains. It tastes sweet! No wonder it's famous! I just don't know if it tastes the same when Bomba is cooked in water, the way Filipinos do it.

On the other hand, IRRI staff involved in the Heirloom Rice Project were also there to give information about the different types of rice being grown by people up in the Cordillera mountains. These rice varieties are special because the seeds for planting have been passed on through generations. The Philippine government has, thankfully, recognized the importance of the cultural traditions and of the rice varieties, and is currently helping these isolated farmers preserve the rice terraces and continue producing these highly valuable varieties.

There's a tale behind each rice variety and it is fascinating for me, as a rice eater, to learn more about the history and the cultural perspective of the rice I'm eating. The human story behind each packet of rice adds value and adds richness to the experience of eating the rice. And culinary artists, such as these recent visitors, were surely fascinated as well.

I look forward to being in touch with them in the future and eating in their restaurants! Then, I'll be on full fan girl mode. Yumyum!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

IRRI at the World Economic Forum

Dr Robert Zeigler, the Director General of the International Rice Research Institute was at the World Economic Forum in May! 

I took a vacation from my vacation, barely a week in, to watch the discussion on Agricultural Transformation in East Asia as it was being streamed live. Weird that I was watching online because Channel NewsAsia, the media partner of the World Economic Forum, wasn't airing the discussion on the telly. 



I'm sharing the video in this post. It highlights what it would take to feed East Asia in the future.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: Mad for Pizza

Since I was in Loyola Heights on Saturday afternoon and Noan was not on hospital duty, she drove (yes she did!) us to Tomas Morato for some Mad for Pizza goodness. 

The restaurant does not have the metal, urban, grunge look that I have come to expect after eating in Yellow Cab and in Project Pie. It does not have the warm, woodsy, dinner feel of Shakey's or Pizza Hut, either. Instead, Mad for Pizza has a bright and kid-friendly vibe... a good place to eat with the family in tow. It also really helped that the waiters were friendly and helpful for the obvious first-timer in the restaurant (that's me). 

The food... well, it all depends on what people chose as toppings for their pizza, isn't it? Since Noan gave me free rein over the pizza (with the only request of adding feta cheese), I ended up concocting a healthy version with zucchini, artichoke, mushrooms, tomatoes, capers, green and black olives, mozzarella, cheddar, mini clams, and beef steak. Hehehe. It tastes good! But Noan was not so happy... who requests zucchini and artichoke on their pizza?!? Me. The spaghetti bolognese was good too; however, I found it to be on the sweeter side of the spectrum, while I tend to prefer the good old tangy combination of tomato, cheese, garlic, and basil.

And the price... It was budget-friendly! The food was cheaper than I had anticipated. I had thought that the food in Mad for Pizza is expensive because the restaurant is located in the country's closest equivalent to Hollywood. I mean, rich people should abound, right, with the proximity to the headquarters of two big television networks, and the gyms and the medical clinics of the celebrities, plus studios of famous hair and make-up artists? There still are pockets where good food comes at a friendly price.

Off to the next restaurant adventure!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I'm back!

So, five weeks after hitting the stop button, looks like I'm back in the play... at least for the next six months. My schedule is more complicated these days because of a second assignment but good thing I'm spending most of the time with the GQNC barkada. :)

And what a way to start my second week back: I celebrated my birthday with them the same way I've been celebrating my birthday in the lab... with pizza. This year, we snacked on Dear Darla and tribeca mushroom pizza. 



Six months. That time will fly so fast. I don't know what will happen after that but I know that everything will work out as it should be. For the best. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

ending my birthday celebration week with another football match

Since it's FIFA World Cup season, it's nice to end my birthday celebration week with another round of football watching in Makati. This time, I was back at the Burger Bar with Val but Nikos and Matty were not there; instead, we watched with Anna, Kor, and Zia. 

While waiting for the match to start and for Zia to arrive.
This was the quarter-final match between Belgium and Argentina. We were all rooting for Belgium this time because (1) we were supporting Matty, who, in turn, was supporting his Belgian Red Devils by watching the match in a sari-sari store in Batangas; (2) the girls liked watching the handsome Belgian football players play (and we were specially looking out for Mertens and Witsel, among others); and (3) we were rooting for the underdog in this match (Argentina is ranked 5th while Belgium is 11th).

What I found funny while watching this match was that Anna, Kor, and I were more emotionally invested in it while Val and Zia were barely showing their excitement. I think the two guys where analyzing the match more than we did. However, the cheering that we did for Belgium did not result in a win. The Argentinians won! The Red Devils, however, gave the Argentinians a difficult path to the semi-finals. 

It was fun watching the match with them. :)

And because we're at Burger Bar, we opted to go for those yummy milkshakes again. I got the Speculoos Cookie Butter milkshake (again)... two servings of it, in fact; which is why I had to deal with lactose intolerance symptoms the following day, the whole day. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

flowers and sushi rolls on my birthday

And my birthday finally came! It proved to be an incredibly long day. After this, I could say that June 21 was definitely NOT my longest day for 2014. My birthday was, so far. The previous day ended at 2:30am the following day as I was juggling prepping a slide deck, talking with my brother and thanking friends who greeted me at the stroke of midnight online, and watching a replay of one of the football matches.

Just a look at my to-do list told me that this was going to be a tiring and stressful day for me. Could I crawl back into bed instead?

Four hours of driving, an hour-and-a-half of lecture, an hour of waiting, and another four hours of mental work later, it was time to drop what I was doing and to start celebrating my birthday! And I was not alone. Kor, Matty, Joann, and Maya went with me to Nuvali for dinner and coffee. They're the ones that gifted me with the flowers too. And no, wakeboarding wasn't in the plans this time.




 



 

Honestly, I enjoy looking at the colourful flowers, but I am still at a loss with what I'm supposed to do with them after I've received them... because I rarely receive flowers. 

Do I throw them out? 
Do I put them in a vase with water? 
Do I just keep them stuck together in the bouquet? 

Clueless, I've kept them in the car after I've taken photos of them and with them and my friends. I am not kidding. At least the car would smell of flowers...

At Nuvali, our first stop was Domo Tomo, a Japanese restaurant that served the biggest sushi rolls I have ever seen. The ones I've eaten in other restaurants were bite-sized pieces but the Domo Tomo rolls could further be divided into two or three rolls! Nevertheless, I enjoyed eating as much of the salmon sushi rolls as I could while the rest ate the other stuff that I was allergic to. 

Naturally, I remembered to have photos taken when we arrived but forgot to take photos when the food got served. So no pictures available of us with the giant food platters. And I didn't get a birthday cake on my birthday, as I had predicted previously, so there's no picture of that either. 



Just like my family's tradition, we ended the night by having dessert at Starbucks. I couldn't get myself to eat solids anymore (too full) so I just settled on my usual highly customised drink

Thank you for celebrating my birthday with me, for the nth time! Thank you for the dinner and the flowers! It was a really exhausting day but I enjoyed it a lot. :)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

a spoonful of cake on my third pre-birthday night out

Yes, this may not be a milestone birthday but I thought it would be great to celebrate it nonetheless. And what better way to celebrate it than being constantly surrounded by friends, right? I had a solo birthday night out one year and I can say that it was one of the sadder birthdays for me. Ever. But the worst one was the year I actually forgot that it was my birthday... and someone had to remind me about it.

Anyway...

On Tuesday night, I was looking for people to have dinner with because I didn't want to eat dinner alone during my birthday week. Val called up, saying that I could join them if I hadn't eaten yet. And so I ended up at the tail-end of a three-car convoy from Los Banos to Halaan Restaurant in Calamba. Just like on Val's birthday (which we had spent wake boarding in Nuvali), I felt like Charlize Theron's character in The Italian Job because I was driving in a convoy... except that this trip wasn't at high speed and we weren't using Mini Coopers. 

Al fresco dinner with Val, Sonia, Matty, and Hope.

There was a singer serenading the diners at a high volume which was why I barely heard the discussion and could only catch bits and pieces of what they were discussing on economics and on international football. But I quite enjoyed the food... after all, we got sinigang and baked oysters, two dishes I am very fond of.

And since I might not have the chance to get myself a birthday cake, I got myself a chocolate cake with caramel drippings from Figaro right next door. If only it weren't too sweet, I would've finished it. But it was, so I had to bring it home at eat it little by little.

Good times! :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy birthday, Daddy!


 

Daddy and I have very close birthdays so we used to celebrate it on the same day. But now that we are in different continents, we no longer share birthday cakes or celebrations. It's been nine years or so since our family celebrated our birthdays together.

Since I was looking at family pictures when I was alone in the time leading up to my birthday, I might as well share one picture of my family... way back when I was still as fair and had as curly hair as a Sto Nino statue and when it was just the three of us: Mommy, Daddy, and me. That small span of time when I was an only child and was too young to appreciate what that meant. 

Happy birthday, Daddy! :)