Monday, July 24, 2017

Wimbledon

This post is more than a week late because I got pretty sick last week and wasn't able to write. Nevertheless, I figured it was such an eventful Wimbledon - as usual - that I decided to still write about it.

Roger Federer continues to add to his already legendary status with an 8th Wimbledon title, which also marks his 19th Grand Slam singles title. That is just absolutely staggering in its magnitude. I actually didn't get to see the final because my illness resulted in me being asleep most of Sunday night so I just saw the result the next morning. I feel bad for Marin Cilic though, who lost to Federer in the final, because he couldn't fight as much as he wanted due to an injury. Roger would still most likely have won but it would have been nice to have too have Cilic battle it out in top shape. 2017 now seems like 2007 all over again, with Roger winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon and Rafa Nadal winning the French Open. While Andy Murray is still the world #1, both Rafa and Roger have won more points this year than anyone else. How many more major titles can Roger win? With how things are going this year, I wouldn't be surprised if he wins his 20th Grand Slam singles title in September at the US Open.

On the women's side, Garbine Muguruza won her 2nd Grand Slam title by beating Venus Williams in the final. Interestingly enough, it was almost 2007 all over again on the women's side as well because Venus Williams won Wimbledon a decade ago. She made her scintillating run to the finals and was 1 point away from taking a one-set lead over Garbine, with two breakpoints - set points - at 5-4 in the 1st set. What happened after that was quite unexpected, and a good omen for fans of the Spaniard. Muguruza not only saved those two set points to even things up at 5-all in the first set, she didn't lose another game for the rest of the match. She won the last 3 games of that first set and bageled Venus in the 2nd set - a string of 9 straight games - to claim her first Wimbledon title. Amazing! I was sad at how Garbine was treated by the crowd at the French Open, where she failed to defend her title, so this definitely makes up for that loss. Hopefully she can maintain this level of play or stay close to it. I would love to see her win more Grand Slam singles titles.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Petron Blaze Spikers win PSL All-Filipino Conference

Congratulations to the Petron Blaze Spikers for winning the 2017 Philippine Superliga All Filipino title! They very narrowly defeated F2 Logistics Cargo Movers in what may possibly the tighest volleyball match I've ever witnessed, live or televised: 26-24, 24-26, 24-26, 25-23, 15-11 in almost 3 hours of play. Since Petron also beat F2 in Game 1, they sweep the best-of-three finals and take home the championship.


It is quite amazing that this Game 2 of the finals turned out the way it did because I watched it live at the Filoil Flying V Centre. This was the first time I have ever watched a pro volleyball game live. The awarding ceremony was also held after the match, making my experience even more complete. I think play started at around 6:45pm and finished at almost 9:30pm. The first three sets went beyond the 25-point mark and in fact all those sets featured come-from-behind wins since the team that got to 24 first actually lost the set: F2 was up 24-22 in the first set before Petron won 4 points in a row, Petron was up 24-20 in the second set before F2 won 6 points in a row, and Petron was also up 24-23 in the third set before F2 rallied to win it. The fourth set was very tight yet again and while it didn't go beyond 25 points, it ended up with a scoreline of 25-23. So all four sets were won by the smallest of margins (2 points). It was only the fifth set that was every so slightly less competitive, with Petron winning it with a margin of 4 points. Incredible! My friend and I were saying that this game was definitely worthy of a final, with neither team wanting to give up and both teams very evenly matched. I am so glad that this was my first live game experience. :)


The awarding ceremony wasn't shown on TV but since I was there, I got to see it. I was incredibly happy that finally, Mika Reyes gets an individual award. She was honored as the 2nd best middle blocker. She joined to other DLSU (current or former) players with awards: Majoy Baron as 1st best middle blocker and Ara Galang and 2nd best outside spiker. I am also happy that Aiza Maizo-Pontillas seems to have turned back the clock and found her lethal collegiate form as she was awarded league MVP. Here is the full list of individual awardees:

  • MVP - Aiza Maizo-Pontillas (Petron)
  • 1st best outside spiker - EJ Laure (Foton)
  • 2nd best outside spiker - Ara Galang (F2 Logistics)
  • 1st best middle blocker - Majoy Baron (F2 Logistics)
  • 2nd best middle blocker - Mika Reyes (Petron)
  • Best opposite spiker - Jaja Santiago (Foton)
  • Best setter - Rhea Dimaculangan (Petron)
  • Best libero - Jheck Dionela (Cignal)


I am also happy to see the success that Mika Reyes continues to have: from the DLSU championship last year to the PSL All-Filipino Championship last year to being appointed PSL Ambassador to being part of the Magnificent 7 that played against the world's best in the FIVB World Club Championships to being awarded Miss Volleyball 2016 to making the 14-woman roster of the national team that will compete in the SEA Games and even being named team captain. And now this PSL All Filipino championship and her first ever individual award. That's pretty amazing. In fact, it's quite interesting to note that with this championship, Mika actually wins back-to-back All Filipino crowns at the PSL. Awesome!


I actually came to the game as a fence-sitter since F2 and Petron were my two favorite teams in the PSL and I would have been happy with either team being champion. My friend did tell me though that it would probably be better for me if Petron won that night so that I could witness the awarding ceremony (which is exactly what happened). Needless to say, my first live game experience couldn't have gone much better than that. Congratulations again to Petron and hats off to F2 Logistics!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Congratulations, Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra!

This amazing news made me incredibly happy. The Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra won 2nd place at the the Summa Cum Laude International Music Festival, String Orchestra Competition Category in Vienna, Austria. Congratulations!



I had written before about unexpectedly catching the free Glorietta concert of the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra (MSJO). It was there that I learned that they would be competing in Austria in July and that they had a proper (paid) concert in Ayala Museum on June 29. I was so amazed at the talent of these young artists that I decided to get a ticket to that concert so that I could watch them perform again.



Their Ayala Museum concert, aptly named The Road to Vienna, featured the actual repertoire that the MSJO would play at the Summa Cum Laude Festival (along with several other pieces to fill the two hour show):
  • Divertimento in D major, KV 136, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Romanian Folk Dances by Bela Bartok
  • Ondoy-ondoy by Ryan Cayabyab
  • Serenade for Strings (Finale: Tema Russo) by Pyotr Ilytch Tchaikovsky

Ondoy-ondoy was composed by Ryan Cayabyab and if I understood correctly, he made a special arrangement for the MSJO since one of the requirements in the competition was one piece of a composer from the ensemble's home country. Jeffrey Solares, the conductor, told us that it would be the first time the orchestra would be performing Ondoy-ondoy in front of an audience so it was such a privilege to have been there.



Seeing the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra twice in a month made me very emotionally invested in their participation in the Summa Cum Laude Festival. Of course, even if they didn't win, it would still have been an incredible, possibly once-in-a-lifetime, experience and the fact that they were selected to perform in this festival was a world-class honor in itself. As such, their second place finish is a truly magnificent and special result. I now really want to see the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra in their next concert in Manila. I am sure that show will be magical.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Lakawon and the Tawhai Floating Bar

The main reason I chose Bacolod as my vacation site was because of my interest to visit Lakawon. Or specifically, the Tawhai Floating Bar in Lakawon Island Resorts and Spa. When my friend mentioned it to me and said he could take me there, I searched for images online and it looked like the perfect place to relax and chill. Now that I have been there, I can definitely say it was!


We left Bacolod in the late morning and we arrived in Lakawon at around noon. At the port, you need to pay the P250 entrance fee to the floating bar and another P260 for the two-way boat ride. The boat will then take you to Lakawon island.


It was actually raining when we arrived. I had seen the one-week weather report so I knew that it was likely to rain on the day we visited, but rain was expected the entire week so that day was just as good as any. While bright sunshine was much preferred, I figured it would still be a great experience to just lie about at the floating bar, whether or not it was raining. Thankfully, the rain lasted less than an hour. That gave us enough time to have lunch at the resort (the food was pretty good and quite affordable). By the time we were done eating, the skies were clear again.


We spent a couple of hours on Tawhai floating bar. There are cushions laid out on the front outer edge where guests can just lie down and look out into the sea. If you don't want to lie down while here, there are other seating options, such as bar stools and bean bags. You can also swim around the floating bar (life vests are provided). It wasn't until late afternoon that I had this desire to go swimming but by then we needed to make our way back to Bacolod so I missed that opportunity.


It was a very pleasant and blissful afternoon in a beautiful setting. Given the fact that I enjoyed my day trip to Lakawon immensely and that I missed out on going swimming while I was there, I have a feeling that I will be visiting Lakawon again at some point in the future.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Revisiting Bacolod

I wanted to take a vacation somewhere in the Philippines where I could relax and unwind for a few days but I wanted a place that had a lot of good dining options. I was initially thinking of Tagaytay so that I could just drive there. However, a friend of mine who lives in Bacolod said that I should go there instead and that when I do, he could take me to the Tawhai Floating Bar in Lakawon. I took a quick look at the images of the Tawhai Floating Bar online and that made my decision for me. I was going to Bacolod! (I will be writing about my trip to Lakawon in a separate blog post.)

The Ruins

I stayed at the Circle Inn which was a short taxi ride (or a long walk) away from Lacson Street. I used the Grab app a lot here since it made it very easy to get taxis. (It was my first time to use Grab and I used it quite extensively while in Bacolod.) I went to a lot of the same restaurants I visited in my first trip to Bacolod a couple of years ago. I had batchoy again in 21 (I realized I prefer batchoy without liver), ribs in Byron's, chicken inasal in Aida's Chicken, a few different desserts in Calea, and a few different desserts in Felicia's. I also went to a few new places. I had pasta and cake in Cafe Bob's, which is also where I spent a cozy rainy afternoon reading a book while enjoying coffee. I also wanted to try cansi or kansi, which is like bulalo but with a sour soup, adding a different dimension to the flavor. Sharyn's Cansi House is pretty popular online but it closes relatively early so I had dinner at Eron's Cansi House instead. I also got to have drinks with my friend Bacchus in Brewery in Paseo Verde before we headed to Cocina in The District North Point to meet up with our other friend Dex. My friend Ryan also took me to Portico for drinks on my last night there.

An interesting painting on the wall of Portico

I also decided that I wanted to see the Ruins again. Some call this place the Taj Mahal of Negros because the mansion was built by Don Mariano Lacson as a tribute to his wife Maria Braga. The ideal time to visit this place is in the late afternoon right before sunset and it is recommended to stay there until the sun goes down to see the Ruins lit up but I already did this the last time. As such, I decided I wanted to see it under bright sunlight this time around. It's interesting to note that on my first trip here, the Ruins had no roof but this time around, it does. Looks like they are doing some kind of restoration

Revisiting the Ruins

No trip to Bacolod is complete without bringing pasalubong back to Manila. On my last day, I passed by Bongbong's to get some napoleones and piaya. I also got a box of ensaymada from Felicia's. And when my friend Myna found out that I was in Bacolod, she suggested that I get pili squares from Emma Lacson. Apparently, you have to visit their ancestral house in Silay to buy these goodies so after my trip to the Ruins, I passed by Silay to get a couple of boxes of these pili squares. When I finally got to taste them once I arrived in Manila, I could understand why my friend was recommending them to me. They are pretty good.

Emma Lacson's Pili Squares
120 Rizal Street, Silay City, Negros Occidental (right across BPI Silay)
(034) 495 5047

A couple more things:
  • A taxi ride from the airport to the city center (and vice versa) is about P400. When you book a taxi via Grab, it will indicate that the fare is only about P150 to 250 I think but taxi drivers will ask for P400. I think this is pretty standard since the drivers of both taxis I booked via Grab (to and from the airport) asked for a P400 fare.
  • A taxi ride to the Ruins is about P250. The meter will read about P120-150 but the drivers normally ask for P250 because they generally can't get passengers on their way back to the city from the Ruins.
Room rates at the Circle Inn are about 1300 per night. I also got a relatively inexpensive flight from PAL. I think it cost me around P5000+. All in all, I spent less than P11,000 for 4 nights in Bacolod for airfare and accommodations. Not bad. This trip was both relaxing and invigorating. I am pretty sure I will be going to Bacolod again at some point in the future.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June Hodgepodge

June proved to be another full and productive month for me. First, I got to meet up with several sets of friends. I had dinner and drinks with my college friends at Wine Story in Serendra. For food, they only serve cheese and cold cuts there but they are partnered with other restaurants in the area like Chelsea, Mamou, and Abe so we all actually ordered dinner from those places. We ended up going through a few bottles of wine, all of which were very good. It was an expensive evening but it's not that often that we get together for wine. As if that wasn't enough, I also had another expensive evening with some ex-colleagues at Tomatito. None of us had eaten there before so we didn't realize until we got there that the menu items were pretty pricey. Thankfully, the food was good. The favorite that night was the Salmon TNT, bite-sized smoked salmon with honey and truffle. Our waiter highly recommended this and it really was delicious. For my main meal, I ordered Churrasco de Buey, slow-cooked boneless short ribs with truffle mashed potatoes, potato chips and demi-glace sauce. The serving size was on the small side considering the price (P925) but it was also very good.

Churrasco de Buey from Tomatito

For the first time in I don't know how long, I entertained a few friends in my pad. One of my friends installed The Jackbox Party Pack 3 from Steam on my laptop. This is an interesting compilation of games that require participants to use their mobile devices as their controls. Despite the use of phones, the game is highly interactive and, depending on the group you are in, wildly entertaining. I personally enjoyed Trivia Murder Party the most even if I didn't win any of the rounds we played. Tee K.O. was interesting because you come up with drawings and slogans and you have to mix-and-match the random drawings and slogans you get from the others. The cool thing was that all the t-shirt designs that were in contention for the win had either my drawing or my slogan on it (or both). Of course, the winner is the one who put the drawing and the slogan together so I actually didn't win but the winner had one of my slogans. :) Fakin' It was probably the toughest and most stressful game to play because it was very hard to fake an answer not knowing what the question was LOL. As challenging as I found this game, I somehow ended winning one round and I accumulated the most points in all rounds so I won it overall. Cool.

My winning moment in Fakin' It from The Jackbox Party Pack 3

I also had a few tabletop and board game nights in June. My friend Mich celebrated her birthday in Linden Suites. I got to try Eldritch Horror for the first time and this cooperative game can take several hours to complete. Unfortunately for me, our game master (who also owned the game) had to leave at a certain time so we weren't able to finish. A couple of weeks later, I played tabletop games again with Mich, Myna and Archie at Ludo Cafe. I finally got to try Scythe which I had been very interested in because of all the good reviews it had been getting. I have to say, it lived up to the hype and I really enjoyed it! I ordered it online and it is on its way to Manila from the US so I am looking forward to getting my very own Scythe game and playing it with my friends.

Playing Scythe in Ludo Cafe

I also organized my own game night, also in Linden Suites. I invited a few different sets of friends who are all into gaming so I could play with all of them in the same night. I tried Histrio for the first time (it took a while for me to figure out how the strategy works in this game but once I did, I actually quite enjoyed it). I also finally got to play my own Dungeon Petz game (the first time I played it, we used the game of my friends). I've played this twice now and I haven't won yet but I still really love it and want to keep on playing it.

Dungeon Petz

I also got a few things sorted out this month. I bought my very own HP DeskJet Ink Advantage 3775 All-in-one Printer a couple of months ago but it was only this month that I finally set it up. It took a few hours for me to get it working though; the installation and set-up instructions weren't that straightforward and since it is a wireless printer, I had to connect it to my home wifi for it to work and that wasn't as simple as I expected. Nevertheless, I managed to get it to work and I've been able to print a few things using it already. I also finally upgraded our internet at home. We had one of the slowest internet speeds so I decided to bump it up a few notches. We are now on 16 mbps and my nephews have told me that the improvement has been quite significant. Cool! And finally, I got to have my shoes professionally cleaned. I had a couple of pairs that somehow ended being muddied and I couldn't really clean them that well. I stumbled upon ColorWash one day and I decided to try this place. The cleaning service is quite expensive actually - P700 per pair - but at least my shoes look a lot better now.

Not sure if you can see how much cleaner my shoes are now but they really are

One more highlight in June: I went Bacolod for a few days for vacation. I will, however, be posting about that very fun and relaxing trip separately.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Inspiring Mandy Harvey on America's Got Talent

This video was making its rounds on social media recently and for good reason. Mandy Harvey performed in America's Got Talent and blew the audience away not only for her talent but also for her spirit. Even if you didn't know she was deaf, you would already take notice of that voice. The fact that she has been creating and playing music for more than 10 years after losing her hearing at the age of 18 is inspirational. I was also moved by her reaction to the crowd's reaction (including that initial realization that the audience were loving her at about 3:19). Check it out.


video uploaded by America's Got Talent


She ended up getting being Simon's Golden Buzzer. Well deserved. And truly inspiring.