Monday, April 16, 2018

Hello and Goodbye

One of the highlights of April so far has been a double reunion with one the first teams I was part of in my previous company. We were called DDC and a lot of the people in that team left many years before I did and I hadn't seen them in ages. That all changed this month. It started out with a smaller reunion, with some of the people I am still regularly in touch with. Seven of us - Elbert, Joseph, Bains, Acky, Gerry, Adrian, and myself - had dinner at Venice Grand Canal mall. I posted a picture of our get-together on social media and many of our other ex-teammates commented, including Reg who is based in Sweden but is in Manila right now and our ex-boss Jon. Both of them suggested we have another reunion the following week with the more complete group so that's what we did. This time, there were 12 of us, including Jon, Reg, Orange, Acky, Bains, Elbert, Joseph, Julius, Kate, Jeff, and Peejay. It was such a great reunion, especially since I hadn't seen many of them in such a long time. In fact, the last time I think I saw Peejay and Jeff was right before they left the team. Dinner was in Ponte Rialto and it started at 7:30pm and if not for the fact that the restaurant closes at 11pm, we would have still stayed. Almost 4 hours of catching up and it was still not enough. Another of our friends, Armi, might be coming home from the US so we may organize something when she gets here.

Sharon also revisited the Philippines but most of her time here was spent in the islands. There was only one night that she was free to meet up in Manila and thankfully, I was available that night. She was staying with Mitch so we decided to meet for dinner in Ortigas. We ended up choosing Lartizan in Ayala the 30th. I had only eaten pastries there before so it was my first time having a savory meal here and it was really good.

I also got to enjoy brunch with Kathy and John shortly before they moved to Netherlands. I used to see Kathy a lot until they moved to Alabang. Last year, they decided to move back to Makati due to many reasons, including to prepare for their planned emigration to Holland and I did get to see her a few times since then. Unfortunately, I had a prior engagement on the afternoon of their despedida but thankfully, Kathy scheduled her party for the entire day, starting at 9am. I arrived in the morning and I stayed there for a couple of hours before saying farewell. Hopefully I get to visit her and John and the rest of the family in Europe.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Sans Rival in Dumaguete

Being the sweet tooth that I am, I made sure I visited the famous Sans Rival Cakes & Pastries in Dumaguete. In fact, I actually visited this place on five of the six days I was there, including right before I flew back to Manila LOL.


There are at least two Sans Rivals that I saw, although two of them are next to each other. The main one is Sans Rival Bistro which is right along Rizal Boulevard at the corner of San Jose street (and on the side of the Bistro along San Jose Street is a smaller Sans Rival take-out shop). There is also another one inside Robinsons Place Dumaguete. I was able to visit both.


As I visited this place quite a few times, I was actually able to try many desserts. One of them was the Date and Walnut Dacquoise (P94/slice, P650/whole cake). It was a unique dessert that I hadn't seen anywhere before so I made sure to try it. Unfortunately for me, I think the slice I got was a really old one since the meringue was already tough and very chewy and the dates were really hard. When I shared this with some other people who had tried this dessert, they said that it was supposed to be really good and it was their favorite. I guess that means I have to try it again if I have a chance.

Date & Walnut Dacquoise

The Choco Cream Banana Cake (P79/slice, P420/whole cake) is ideal for people who enjoy bananas in their dessert and who love chocolate.

Choco Cream Banana Cake

I also tried the Mango Mousse Torte (P73/slice, P480/whole cake). It was good but it'd probably not something I would get again since there are other mango-based desserts that I absolutely love such as the Mango Torte of Dulcelin. There are also other desserts in Sans Rival that I enjoyed more so I would probably go with those instead.

Mango Mousse Torte

The silly thing is that I didn't take pictures of my two favorite desserts that I tried here: Cookie Monster and the Frozen Brazo. Cookie Monster is a really good chocolate cake while their Frozen Brazo is actually prepared with vanilla ice cream. If I get to revisit this place, I would probably order these two again.


Of course, this place is known for its sans rival and silvanas. However, since we do have House of Silvanas in Manila which serves these two same items, I decided to try other items that are not served here. (The owner of House of Silvanas is the granddaughter of the owner of Sans Rival; read more here).

*****

Update: apparently, Sans Rival has now opened in Manila. A facebook post went viral, sharing that Sans Rival from Dumaguete opened a branch in Glorietta 4 near Food Choices underneath the escalator leading to the cinema. That is actually the same spot occupied by House of Silvanas. My guess is that House of Silvanas will be rebranding to carry the name of its mother company since that same facebook post was edited to say that two more branches of Sans Rival are opening in Manila: one in Shangri-La Mall and another one in Robinsons Magnolia. These are the exact same malls where House of Silvanas has shops. I guess Sans Rival is the more well-known brand so it makes sense to leverage its popularity.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Dumaguete

The first time I visited Dumaguete was almost a decade ago when I attended the wedding anniversary of a friend. It was a very short trip - I think it was only from Friday to Sunday - and because my friends and I were asked to perform some songs during the church ceremony and at the reception, most of our time that weekend was spent rehearsing. As such, I didn't really get to go around the city as much as I wanted. I told myself then that I would return but I never got around to it. That is, until recently when I went on a business trip to Dumaguete.


Unfortunately for me, the schedule of my trip was not ideal. I had a weekend engagement prior to my trip so I needed to take the latest flight on Sunday. I then had an event on Friday night so I had to take the late afternoon flight from Dumaguete back to Manila. I would have wanted to spend an extra day or two before and/or after my business trip but there wasn't time to do it this trip. Still, I did get to experience the city a bit more this time around. This included a long walk along Rizal Boulevard, one of the main streets in Dumaguete which runs right next to the sea.

Rizal Boulevard

This lovely view of the sea, or Tañon Strait to be exact, gives Dumaguete a lot of its charm and appeal. Tañon Strait is the expanse of seascape between Dumaguete and Cebu and it is the largest marine protected area in the country.

Tañon Strait

I also got to revisit Silliman University, which is one of the oldest in the Philippines. It is consistently ranked among the top universities in the country. I wasn't able to take good pictures of the school since we could only visit it after work, during which time the sun was already about to set, but I did manage to take a couple of photos of the very beautiful Silliman Hall before sunset...

Silliman Hall in Silliman University

...and after.

Silliman University at night

Our co-worker John took us inside Silliman one night and brought us to Bossing's Tempura, which I think is kikiam fried in batter. It was actually quite good and addictive and if I wasn't going to have dinner that night, I would have ordered a lot more. There are five different sauces, ranging in spiciness for 1 (not spicy) to 5 (very spicy). I didn't want to cause any stomach problems so I only tried up to level 3. :)

Bossing's Tempura in Silliman

Speaking of dinner, while I was in Dumaguete, I got to eat in a lot of good restaurants that offered a variety of cuisines. I had a team dinner in Lab-as, where we feasted on very good Filipino food and a bounty of fresh seafood. I also had a Mexican meal in Mooon Cafe. My co-worker John also pointed out a lot of restaurants that he said were good. He also mentioned about some places where we can get good lechon. I guess Dumaguete is a really good place to go on a food trip. I didn't really take a lot of pictures of the restaurants we visited apart from Sans Rival (which I will write about separately) and Casablanca, which is just a stones throw away from Sans Rival along Rizal Boulevard. Casablanca serves European fare and while I was initially thinking of getting either the schnitzel or the cordon bleu, the waitress recommended the Hunter's Platter, which includes pork medallions, chicken, and sausage and is served with a side of potatoes. All this for only P360. Wow! I ended up ordering it and I gotta say, I absolutely loved it. (I reckon a similar dish in Manila will cost at least P600).

Hunter's Platter in Casablanca

If I had more time, I would have loved to explore Silliman University and the rest of the city center on foot. I would also love to visit Red Rock or Pulangbato Falls and maybe even nearby Siquijor. While I did miss a chance to see more of the natural wonders in the area, I did get to see some great views from the mountains of Negros.


There's really a lot that one can do in this beautiful city. If I get to go on another business trip here, I hope I can spend a few days during the weekend to experience more of Dumaguete.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

FEU win UAAP Street Dance Competition

I wasn't able to watch the UAAP Street Dance Competition when it aired a few weeks ago but I found that FEU won the championship, ending the stranglehold that DLSU and UP had on this event (DSLU and UP had won three titles each, an even split of all six previous competitions held). In fact, when I saw the scores, FEU had more than a 6-point lead over DLSU in 2nd place which had less than 1-point lead over UP in 3rd place. I decided to search for the FEU performance and I gotta say, it's pretty awesome. Check out their championship-winning performance here:


video uploaded in youtube by Albert Fulgencio

Congratulations FEU Dance Company!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Quality time with friends

The great thing about my new job is that for the first time in more than half a decade, I am working normal hours again. By that, I mean an 8 to 5 or 9 to 6 shift, and not midshift or the European shift as I had grown accustomed to in my previous job. This new daily schedule has allowed me to hang out with my friends a lot more recently.

My kumpare Raffa celebrated his birthday in Buca di Beppo on a Tuesday night. Despite it being a weeknight, all of us ex-colleagues who are still based in Manila were able to go. Interestingly enough, I just realized that while half of us were still working for the same company a year ago, we were now all working in different places. What a difference a year makes. Our venue proved to be a good one for us too since the food was pretty good. It was also quite heavy; we ordered two pasta dishes and two pizzas and there were 10 of us but somehow we weren't able to consume everything we ordered. I actually wouldn't mind eating here again. You can't really go wrong with good Italian (or American Italian) food.


My friend Myna also turned a year older this month and naturally, we celebrated her birthday by having game night. I arrived late in the evening due to a conflict and I had very little sleep the night before but I made sure to still go. I got to play Legendary again - two rounds in fact - but we lost both games. It was frustrating. I didn't realize it was so hard to beat the Mastermind in Legendary. In fact, all three times I've played it, we haven't been close to winning. I guess I need to play this game more times so I can finally experience beating the Mastermind, even if I don't score an individual win. I also got to play Dinosaur Island, a game that was only recently released via Kickstarter. It was fun to play and it kinda gave me a bit of a Dungeon Petz vibe (Dungeon Petz is one of my favorite games). I'm looking forward to playing this again.


I also spent a weekend in Pansol with my ex-teammates. When I met up with them for dinner late last year, we started discussing a possible out-of-town trip this summer. While initial plans included Subic, Tagaytay, and even Pagsanjan Falls, we ended up going to Pansol, which I guess is the cheapest and easiest option for us. Apart from catching up with people I used to see almost everyday, the other highlight was the steady stream of food that came out of the kitchen, thanks to Mykel and Nat.

Finally, my friend Mari returned to the Philippines after her US assignment so we decided to have dinner at Wangfu in Ayala the 30th. I suggested it because I wanted to enjoy their Salted Egg Prawns again (and I did). We spent the rest of the evening at Starbucks (although I surprisingly didn't order coffee; instead, I got ice cream from Emack & Bolio's right next to it). Mari had a second get-together that evening so we called it a night at around 11pm. There was talk of having another game night since Basil has a game that we still haven't played so hopefully we get to catch up again soon.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Playtaste by Gaming Library

Gaming Library recently celebrated its 7th anniversary. Along with this milestone, the owners also launched Playtaste, a new board gaming place housed in Spectre Manila. This is a more intimate version of DyceNDyne (which unfortunately closed a couple of years ago). Playtaste was created by Gaming Library, Spectre Manila, and Comic Odyssey and it carries some games for sale (not the full Gaming Library selection, but I'm guessing that if you order in advance, you can pick up your purchase here). There are also some open games that you can play while you are there.


Since DyceNDyne closed, I wanted to support this new board gaming community so I spent one Saturday evening here. Playtaste doesn't have proper meals in its menu but they do have finger food and drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. A lot of my board gaming mates are good friends with the Gaming Library owners, including Kat who was with me that afternoon/evening that I visited Playtaste. JM also joined us for a couple of hours. We were the only guests there that evening so we got to play games with some of the owners of Gaming Library. Cool!

Most of the afternoon and evening was spent playing new games. I say mostly because I started the afternoon playing Azul. My first Azul experience was not so great because the rules were being explained as we were going through game play so I ended up getting massive penalties for making wrong moves twice. This time around, I had a good idea of how to play, and would you know it? I actually won! With a pretty good score too. Cool!

Azul

We were then introduced to Rocky Road a la Mode, which is kind of like a cross between Splendor in terms of scoring and getting free resources (plus it has bonuses that resemble the nobles in Splendor) and Tokaido in terms of board movement (the player behind everyone else gets to move first). It's fun, relaxing, and quick and easy so we ended up playing it twice. I won the first game and ended up in a tie for 2nd in the second game.

Rocky Road a la Mode

We also played Unstable Unicorns, which I is kinda like Exploding Kittens in terms of game play. But unlike Exploding Kittens where players get knocked out of the game one by one, Unstable Unicorn gets played by everyone until someone plays his or her 7th unicorns (that player wins). You'd think this would be quite simple but as it turned out, it was taking quite a while so we reduced the target to 5 unicorns and even then we played for longer than we initially anticipated.

I ended the evening playing GKR: Heavy Hitters, a game which was recently released on Kickstarter. (I think it is not yet available for sale anywhere else.) To quote my friend Cla who saw the picture I took of this game, it looks like Scythe on steroids LOL. And I guess it does. :) Heavy Hitters is a direct conflict game and I don't usually do well in these kinds of games since combat tends to stress me out LOL. I tried to compensate by making the first move and attacking someone but this early aggression backfired and I ended up losing quite badly. Still, it was very interesting to play. I do think it is better for four players than for three. Its name - Heavy Hitters - is also quite appropriate because it is quite a massive and heavy game. :) It makes me wonder how much it will cost the moment it becomes publicly available.

GKR: Heavy Hitters

Kat and I already discussed when our next visit to Playtaste will be. I'm hoping that I get to play with some of the Gaming Library owners again since it is always great to play with people who absolutely love and enjoy board and tabletop gaming

Playtaste
https://www.facebook.com/playtastegl/
https://www.gaminglib.com/
2nd Floor 916 Luna Mencias, Brgy. Addition HillsMandaluyong, Philippines
For table reservations, call (02) 725 3066

Operating hours: Sunday to Thursday - 1 to 10PM, Friday to Saturday - 11AM to 12MN

Thursday, March 15, 2018

From Now On from The Greatest Showman

In my previous post, I talked about how much I love the music and the production numbers of The Greatest Showman. None moreso than From Now On which comes out close to the end of the film. If you don't want to be spoiled, you might want to skip watching this video but if you've seen the film and want to see it again or you are looking for a reason to watch the film, check this out.


video uploaded in youtube by Stark Productions

Not only is the dancing perfectly on point and tremendously well-executed, it is performed with such life and energy and passion. It's like the entire cast erupted in unbridled joy. I enjoyed watching all the earlier production numbers in The Greatest Showman but it was this scene that I immediately wanted to see again. And again. And again. (And now, thanks to this video, I have. :))