Monday, December 11, 2006
A dozen years. Amazing when you think about it. We’ve been hanging out for a dozen years. Well okay, some of us have been hanging out with some others for longer than that and we all knew each other since we were freshman, but for the most part it’s been a dozen years since ‘the clan’ has been together.
Over the last several years, we’ve managed to catch up as a group at least a few times each year. The coolest thing though is that we’ve found ourselves hanging out more often recently. This was triggered by the fact that Trixie came home recently along with her new daughter Ianne (short for Isabelle Anne). We set up a welcome dinner for Trixie shortly after she got here, and what was great was that there were a lot of folks who made it – Lala, Anna, Jay and Trina, Letlet and Gosh, Kermin, and myself (and of course Trixie). We had so much fun during dinner that despite it being a Wednesday, we decided to go have coffee after that and wind down until about midnight. It’s not very often that we ‘oldies’ who all have corporate jobs actually stay out ‘til midnight on a weekday.
It was during this get-together that we decided to have a baby shower for Trixie coz we didn’t get to throw her a party while she was pregnant in Canada. So a week and a half later, we all head to Marikina to the Lazo residence. Interestingly enough, it was the exact same group of people that showed up. The only difference being that this time, the clan kids were present too. It was potluck and we all ended up bringing way too much food for 9 clan members + their kids and their yaya – we had barbecue, liempo, spaghetti, lumpiang shanghai, salad, ice cream, and cake. We were initially thinking of having a videoke night like we had during our Christmas party last year but when we got there, we all got so engrossed in our fun conversation that we ended up foregoing the videoke machine. Instead, the Lazos put on some Disney CD that contained, for the most part, the ‘High School Musical’ soundtrack that kept looping the entire night, sending all the kids into a continued dancing frenzy the entire night. Suffice it to say I’m not a fan of the campy music of that show, but I managed to keep hearing it in the background and not go crazy. =)
We set the next clan gimmick, our annual Christmas Party, on the 16th of December before moving to the 23rd so that Val and Louie would have already arrived here from Boston (We've since decided to add another get together to celebrate Christmas with Lala right before her birthdday on the 19th coz she'll be in Quezon on the 23rd and it's rare that she gets to join us during Christmas parties and her bday). Then during the weekend, I get a text from Lala announcing that the December birthday celebrators (i.e. her and Trixie) would like to treat the rest of us to a birthday blowout in Dampa in the Ortigas Home Depot area. So for the third time in the last 4 weeks, we once again hung out over dinner and later on coffee – Trixie, Lala, Letlet and Gosh, Mitch, Jay, Kermin, Jed and me. We disbanded at around 1115, mainly coz Mocha Blends closes at 11pm.
When you take into account Jed’s birthday celebration on the 26th of October, that means we’ve actually gotten together 4 times in the last 6 weeks. All of this truly has to be a post-college graduation record. And all this 12 years after we all got together and decided to call ourselves ‘the clan’. Pretty damn cool if you ask me.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Last July 22, I went to Leo’s Leisure Park with about half a dozen ex-colleagues. It is in not-too-far-away Angeles, Pampanga (about hmm 2 hours from Makati) and it in fact would’ve been a lot easier to find if it weren’t for the near-obscure kilometer signs on the road (we should’ve turned left after KM79 along Macarthur highway but none of us in the car saw the sign so we ended up taking a long detour).
Meann learned about this place from some TV show that she couldn’t recall. Leo’s Leisure Park was okay, but if you do decide to go here, make sure you have great company and you bring a lot of stuff to entertain yourselves with because at night, there’s really nothing to do except sing in the Karaoke bar (which unfortunately we didn’t do =)).
We got there around lunchtime and had a pretty good meal before heading out to the pool. We decided to play a couple of games with a kiddie beach ball that we “borrowed” from one of the families who were there with us. I say “borrowed” because it was just lying around the pool and no one really got it from us when we were using it. Initially, we split in two – the 30-and-up group consisting of me, Daniel, and Lucasz and the 20-somethings with Meann, Marc, Tin, and JB. The object of the first game was to keep the ball in your team for as long as you can (if the other team manages to get a hand on the ball, they gain possession).
The oldies dominated this game so we decided to change games and switch up teams. I was now teamed up with Daniel, Meann, and Tin while Lucasz, JB, and Marc were grouped together. The object of the new game was to get the ball to the goal (teams had goals on opposite sides of the pool) but there’s a catch: the person holding the ball cannot move from his or her place – they have to pass the ball to a teammate within 5 seconds of getting the ball. My team won decisively, but I have to say it was incredibly tiring! Still, it was loads of fun. We then ended up “winding down” by playing volleyball and trying to keep the ball in the air as long as we possibly could.
We decided to have dinner outside the premises. We spotted a Chinese restaurant along the road on our way to Leo’s, and I suggested that we could have our dinner there so we did. I can’t recall the name of the place, but the price was decent and the food was good. Suffice it to say, we all stuffed ourselves, which isn’t surprising considering all the energy we spent earlier that day.
After dinner, we walked over to the café right next to the resto. It was called Mom and Tina’s bakery café. It had a really nice warm country kitchen feel to it, from the selection of food to the décor. I had brewed coffee (2 cups actually) and a Mango walnut torte, which is essentially mango refrigerator cake (or mango icebox), and it was really good!
The food was so delicious and the ambience so inviting that we ended up having lunch there the next day (or breakfast – we got up close to noon and so it was our first meal of the ay). And everyone seemed pleased with the food they ordered. I ordered Shepherd’s pie (pictured below), and when Meann and Daniel had a taste of it, they liked it so much they decided to order one for themselves and share it. The bread that came with it was really good too. Meann asked them if they had another branch, and to my surprise they said they had a branch somewhere in Libis. So all I need to do is find it and then I can bring my friends there.
Anyway, going back to the Leisure Park experience, the night was spent playing Taboo and 1-2-3-pass. Seems that with this set of people, I am the Taboo king – during Richie’s despedida, I didn’t lose any game of Taboo and here I had the least number of losses of anyone (I lost just once; teams were constantly shuffled to make sure things were more or less even). 1-2-3-pass was a lot of fun too (as it always is).
All in all a great weekend. Would I recommend Leo’s Leisure Park? Probably not – I would suggest other places to go for the same price, unless I guess you want something different. However, they are still in the process of developing it so maybe a year or so from now it’ll be a much cooler place to hang out in.
I would, however, really recommend Mom and Tina’s bakery café. They really do have a wide selection of good food, and the ambience really makes you want to chill there. If I find out where it is in the Libis area, maybe I will blog about it again.
Monday, November 20, 2006
It was a decisive win – knockout in only the 3rd round which is a far cry from the last two battles these two boxing greats had (one going the full distance and the other ending in a 10th round TKO). I was actually worried that Pacquiao wouldn’t do that well. Mainly coz I thought that he was spending too much time working on his endorsements and heck even his album. So I was very pleased and relieved even that he won.
Of course, I’m still not a fan of boxing or any sport that requires one person to beat up someone else. I mean, losing in any sport sucks as it is. But it must suck a hell of a lot more when you lose because you’ve been hit so hard in the head so many times that you can’t even stand on your own two legs anymore. I actually felt bad for Morales. But not bad enough that I would want him to win of course.
It’s great that with Manny’s win, there is another positive headline about the Philippines (or someone from here).
On the other side of the world, massive props go out to Roger Federer as well. This guy won every single round robin match he played against stiff competition – Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian (who is one of a few people who have a winning head-to-head against Roger), and Ivan Ljubicic (although okay, Ivan has never beaten Roger ever). Then in the semifinals, he beat his nemesis Rafael Nadal (who is one of a few people who have a winning head-to-head against him) before absolutely crushing James Blake in the finals.
Federer is slowly racking up records left and right. He was the first player to break $7 million in career earnings in a single year, and then as if he wasn’t content with that, he goes on to win the Shanghai Masters and thus break the $8 million mark in single-year career earnings. He's won double-digit titles each year for three consecutive years. He is also the only male player to win 8 Grand Slam events in a three year span. And he’s also the only player to have won both Wimbledon and the US open three years in a row. I'm not gonna list down the rest of the horde of records he has now. You can look it up yourself in Federer's wikipedia entry.
This guy is only 25 years and has already won 9 Grand Slams, placing him in 6th place overall behind Pete Sampras (14), Roy Emerson (12), Rod Laver (11), Bjorn Borg (11), and Bill Tilden (10). If he remains fit and healthy I see him breaking Sampras’ record within 3 years.
What’s more, even if Roger doesn’t play between now and February, he is en route to take Jimmy Connors’ 25 year old record of male player with most number of consecutive weeks at #1 at 160 weeks (that’s a smidge more than 3 full years in a row). What’s more, if he continues to play as well as he has been playing, he will take the record for number of consecutive weeks at #1 male or female, a record currently held by Steffi Graf. I would personally not want him to take Graf’s record but I really wouldn’t mind. Steffi would still have the female record if ever. =)
Let me start off with a long-winded background for the gig we had five weeks ago. I had just come back from a work teambuilding event in Eagle’s Point which was held on Friday ‘til Saturday. We actually left Manila at 530am on Friday, which meant I was already awake at 430am. I had only two and a half hours of sleep before getting up, and I got to steal maybe another half an hour of shut-eye on the bus ride to Batangas. Thing was, it ended up being an incredibly jam-packed day filled with games and activities. And with a lot of partying at night, I ended up probably sleeping at past 3 (or maybe even past 4?) on Saturday early early morning. Unfortunately, I had way too much to drink while I was dehydrated so when I got up at 830am on Saturday I had the worst hangover in recent memory. The worst of it was, I was so tired and spent from the previous day’s activities that I lost my voice! The problematic trip we had back to Manila – people were late getting on the bus, bus 1 had some problems before running out of gas, we passed through Tagaytay instead of the Star Toll, thus lengthening travel time back to Manila from 3-3.5 hours to 6 hours!!! – made me even more tired. So when I was back in Manila, my voice was all but gone.
Now we’ve had gigs before where I had a sore throat. But I just knew that this wasn’t the average sore throat that can be cured last minute by some hot tea and Strepsils. It would be incredibly bad form for my band to back out at the very last minute though. So I said I’d just push through with it and see what happens. I warned my bandmates about my condition, and they kinda brushed it off, saying that I’ve had a sore throat during gig night in the past but always gotten through. It was a bit unfortunate as well that my mom had a free night and decided to watch. I told her that I had a horrible sore throat and that I wouldn’t be in my best form but she wanted to watch anyway (3rd time for to watch my gig). I was right of course – the moment we played our first song (Matchbox 20’s ‘3am’) it was clear my voice was nowhere near where it should’ve been. It was very hoarse! We performed ‘Lightning Crashes’ after that, and I guess 3am helped my open up my throat a bit because I managed to hit all the notes, albeit with a whole lotta effort. The rest of the set went pretty okay, but I did lose any and all ability to sing falsetto – during ‘#41’ I ended up mouthing all the falsetto parts and I could see that some people in the audience noticed. I was really tempted to sandbag and tell everyone in the audience that I have a bad case of laryngitis, but that would’ve been a bit too unprofessional, so I managed to be controlled enough not to mention it.
I actually kept quiet for virtually the entire break we had between sets to take care of whatever was left of my voice. Also, during this time, lots of people in the audience actually told me what a good job I was doing, which made me think that they seemed to pick up on my condition and were trying to express their appreciation for my efforts. But from a vocal standpoint, neither of those seemed to help because my voice was even hoarser in the 2nd set. Looking at the bright side, I was quite surprised that I was able to ‘force’ the high notes of ‘All I want is you’ (I really thought I would be horribly off-key but luckily I wasn’t), ‘Where the streets have no name’ (by the end of the song my voice actually cracked on one of the high notes), and ‘All along the watchtower’. I was also still able to hold high notes in ‘Grey Street’ and our version of ‘Selling the drama’. The coolest thing though happened during ‘Ants marching’ – at the point where the rest of the band drop and I sing ‘People in every direction’ a cappella, most of the folks in the audience sang along with me. That gave me an idea: I wouldn’t sing the next line and see if the audience would sing instead. That turned out to be a great idea because the audience did sing ‘No words exchanged, no time to exchange’! Amazing! I looked over at Bunky after that and he gave me a nod of approval (he doesn’t mind the audience singing for as long as I don’t actually prod them to sing).
By the time I headed home, my voice was, for all intents and purposes, gone. I would speak one sentence with maybe 6 words like ‘Sorry we couldn’t sing your request’ and my voice would crack five times! I don’t really understand how I managed to sing the rest of the second set like that then completely lose my voice the moment we were done. Adrenaline maybe? Mind over matter? Whatever it was, I am very thankful I got through it!
Anyway, for a couple of days, I could barely speak. I ended up trying Pei Pa Koa, this Chinese herbal extract which is supposed to be good in restoring one’s voice. I am not sure whether it was working because by the end of the week my voice was still a bit hoarse but at least I could sing better. I had another event on Friday night and it was so loud that you would end up shouting instead of talking to make sure other people could hear you. As such, I had another sore throat. But at least it was not as bad as my sore throat the week before.
I was still struggling quite a bit, and my falsetto not very good, but at least my voice was clearer. The main problem we had during the gig was that we were very unprofessional. We are supposed to start anywhere from 930-10 assuming there is a large enough crowd already, but this week we started at 1015. Which was the wrong week to start at that time because there already was a pretty sizable audience by then. During our sound check, I step off the stage to listen to our sound, and the manager actually tells me that we are killing him by not having started yet. The rest of the first set goes okay but after we had played 7 songs, Bunky’s string snaps. We play ‘Lightning crashes’, probably the 8th song of the set, when Bunky breaks another guitar string! We had to end that set prematurely after that song. The only good thing about that is that sets are normally about 7-9 songs long only, so at least we could act like we completed a set and not seem like we missed playing 4 more songs. Luckily, Ipe had spare strings. The bad thing was that at the start of the second set, we realized that Bunky’s guitar wasn’t tuned properly so after one song, we ended up with a lengthy lull while Bunky re-tuned his guitar. I caught a glimpse of the manager during this lull, and he really didn’t look pleased.
Anyway, we played a couple of songs – 'Big-eyed fish' and 'Bartender', both by Dave Matthews band – which we haven’t played in a while, and it was clear we were a bit off in them. We played one more song before the manager told us to take a short break to give way to the San Miguel Bar Tour. During this break, we had a quick band meeting. Oz was concerned about the sound, but Ipe said we couldn’t do anything about that so we needed to play our best despite that. He also asked the band to play with more conviction, whatever the song was. I was really pleased he said that, because now the words were coming from him and not me! =) Being the band “father-figure” kinda gets tired sometimes, and what you say loses impact at some point as well. Anyway, when we started the second set with out ‘All I want is you-Where the streets have no name’ pseudo-medley, it was clear that we were hell-bent on putting together a fantastic show. And the continuation of the 2nd set was amazing. With one small low point – right as I was about to sing Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’, someone in the audience approached us and asked if he could sing that song. I thought he was a friend of one of the folks in the band, but I found out later that everyone else thought he was MY friend. Anyway, he sang, er, well, hmm, not all that well to put it lightly. But it was at least an interesting experience. =) The rest of the set went very well. The highlight for me was our cover of Candlebox’s ‘Far behind’. That’s another song we haven’t played in a long time. But Ipe, who still wasn’t in the band when we played it the last time, knew all the lead guitar parts very well. Throughout the song, you could feel a vibe from the audience that told you they really loved it and the fact that we were playing it, and I also felt that they thought we did it justice. Even the waiters behind the bar were cheering! =)
In the show we put on three weeks ago, one of my dearest friends Raych (who now lives in Australia and was here for a few weeks) came to watch us. She got there in the second set which was good because if she arrived during the 1st set she wouldn’t have gotten a seat. This week, my voice was also crystal clear. I was on top of every single high note in Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” and I held the “Grey Street” long note pretty well. I also have to say, Candlebox’s “Far behind” has now officially become one of our “ace” songs. We played it again and with my voice in tip-top shape, I sang it better than I ever had before. I really wish we had taped it or caught it on video, coz I am not sure we (or I) can pull that song off that well again.
The gig we had two weeks ago was probably the most, er, “dramatic” I’ve ever been on stage. I always used to sing Third eye blinds “Jumper” a bit ‘bouncily’ shall we say until it hit me – this song is trying to tell someone not to jump off the ledge of a building so why am I being bouncy or angry when I sing it? (Maybe coz there’s a line that goes ‘The angry boy…’) So last week, I changed my delivery of that song, and acted more like I was trying to convince someone that it wasn’t worth it ending your life. With “Better man” I started singing some lines my own way and not singing the normal melody. And with “One” I was pouring my heart out. I guess the frequency of our gigs is making me very comfortable singing our songs again, and I’m starting to perform them with more heart as compared to the 5 gigs we had before that.
Now they say that there’s a first time for everything, and last Friday we had our second set cut prematurely for the first time ever, but this time it wasn’t our fault. We had played a solid first set. I was also feeling a lot more comfortable than I have been in the past interacting with the audience. So I was kinda ready to kick ass in the second set. We were in fact planning to play 17 songs that set, and since my voice felt clear and strong I was confident that my vocals would last the entire set. But midway through our third song, the sound system went haywire – it was like we had a horrible feedback sound coming out of the speakers and it lasted for the entire song. The sound technician was frantically trying to sort the issue out to no avail. We kept trying to isolate the problem i.e. which instrument was having the problem – first it seemed it was the violin, then it seemed to be my mic, then the lead guitar, then the rhythm guitar – but well it seemed that when we figured out the problem, the deafening feedback sound would come up again. Eventually the manager told us that the sound guys couldn’t fix the problem and we’d have to pack up. Awful! I was so ‘bitin’ especially since I felt so ready to play more than a dozen songs more that night.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we can throw in another good (great?) gig this week. And if we decide to do ‘Far behind’ again, I hope we do it really well once more. Just funny, I’m willing to bet all my friends who had never heard me sing alternative rock or seen me perform with my band would probably never think that I could pull this song off. Then again, prior to joining my band, neither did I. =)
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
There's a slight bit of a snag in his last note, but his gutsiness at attempting to sing a capella in the penultimate round of Idol (something no one had ever done before or since, at least for an entire song), combined with the raw emotion and power in his voice made this performance one to remember.
We ended up not being very smart with our orders. Practically everyone ordered the best Fish and Chips in town or the New York Fish and chips. I ordered the Baked Salmon which I recall was very, very good the first time I had it, but that day the skin was a wee bit too ‘malansa’ for my taste and so I wasn’t as impressed with I as I was the first time. Iona thought that the New York Fish and Chips she had was ‘nakakaumay’. So I guess we ended up not all that pleased on average with our lunch choice. (I was thinking afterwards that maybe we could have simply opted for Gloria Maris which I haven’t been able to eat at since the first time I was there a few months ago). But well it was still their first time to eat there so it's not all that bad.
The highlight of the day which turned out to be a bit of a let-down in the end was that Vhong Navarro had lunch there at the same time. Joyce is a HUGE fan of Vhong and she became speechless and her jaw dropped the moment she caught a glimpse of him. Joyce was constantly in two minds as to whether she should approach Vhong. On the way out, I was telling her I’d help her ask for his autograph but she said no, and then when we were about 50 meters away she all of a sudden wanted to go back. It felt too weird for me to go back though so Joyce asked Iona to accompany her. Iona felt however that it was not very appropriate coz Vhong was having lunch (or enjoying post-lunch conversation with his companions) and she felt it be intrusive to butt in.
After that, Mitch ended up buying us all coffee and dessert in Goodies N Sweets (did I spell it right?) because she had just gotten promoted. We hung out until around 330 I think because Joyce needed to go to Katipunan coz she was going to tutor someone at 4pm.
Two more birthday celebrations to go (one of which has already been celebrated and one more is still waiting). Although now that I think about it, I probably owe one more set of my friends a birthday blow out as well. But I'm not saying who lest they hold me to it. :)
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Saturday was ‘Camelot’ day. This event was actually an event of Rockwell club, but it was opened even to non-members. It was held in the Multi-purpose court. It was a good idea to bring my nephews there because both of them are into dragons, so a Camelot setting would be perfect. CJ in fact came in a dragon costume, while Ciera was wearing a king’s crown and robes. We were actually quite late getting to the event mainly because traffic in Edsa was horrendous. So I’m not really sure what we missed when we got there at around 230pm. But there were quite a few activities there that kept both of my nephews interested the entire time. There was a large, er, "inflated dragon" where kids could actually go in and keep jumping and tumbling without getting hurt (argh! I can't remember what you call those things, ah well). CJ and Ciera actually got into it a couple of time. There was also a fishing area – the 'fish' were goody bags and each ‘fisherman’ had about a minute I think to try and snag as many goody bags as they can with a makeshift fishing rod. Again, CJ and Ciera tried this out twice. The first time, CJ actually managed to catch a goody bag by himself which was so cool. I helped Ciera get a goody bag for himself too. The second time they tried it, there were only two goody bags left so the facilitators actually just handed them to us, but my nephews wanted to “catch” them so they did. There was also face painting (CJ had a dinosaur painted on his face), a magic show, photo opportunities (there was a 'Sword in the stone' area), and prizes given out to the best costumes. The program in the multi-purpose court was capped off by a performance by the musical group 'Trumpets'. After which everyone headed out to the different Rockwell buildings for trick-or-treat. Unfortunately, there were waaay too many people and the trick-or-treat event was more difficult than enjoyable – there weren’t too many stops and it took forever just to get a couple of candies. So I told my mom that we should just leave – I still had some chocolates left over from the ones I bought for the trick-or-treat activity we had at work and we would still get to go trick or treating on Sunday. So we just ended up having dinner before heading home.
I told my mom that we needed to be early on Sunday because the ‘Superheroes Convention’ which would be held in the Rockwell tent (next to Powerplant mall) was just from 1 to 5. Ciera came as The Flash while CJ came in as Superman. Since this was a Powerplant event, it had more advertising and as such a whole lot more kids were there. When we arrived at 130pm, there was a large projector showing an episode of Justice League. Face-painting and glitter tattoo were available to all participants but the lines were too long so we decided to just line up for the Velcro Wall. The line was quite long, and each kid would get only 5 minutes in the Velcro Wall but there aren’t lots of opportunities to experience it, so we figured the wait would be worth it. As it turns out, one of the kids threw up in the entrance area right after Ciera and CJ got in. The facilitators took a while to figure out how to clean it up (eventually they just moved the Velcro Wall to cover the area where the kid threw up – the wall was inflatable so it could easily be pushed) so I reckon my nephews were probably there for twice as long as the other kids were.
Anyway, the tent was too crowded and to join the games you had to register (and it was too much of a hassle to try and register) so we opted to just head out to Powerplant and have something to eat while waiting for the trick or treat activity to begin (it was supposed to start at 5pm). On the way out, we had one stop to have a photo op with two men on stilts. Anyway, we headed to Dulcinea (Ciera had a lot of churros, while CJ read the menu and decided he wanted to have a tuna sandwich), and as it turns out, Dulcinea was one of the many trick-or-treat stops on the mall and they ended up giving us some stuff already even if it wasn’t 5pm yet. As luck would have it, lots of the places in the mall were already giving out goodies even if it wasn’t 5pm yet. There were ‘Heroes welome here’ signs in most of the trick-or-treat stops, but some other places didn’t have that sign, so we would just ask the people whether they were giving out treats or not. There were a lot of other families going around as well – I guess they all headed out of the tent earlier as well to escape the maddening crowd in the Convention. But it was good that we ended up getting an unintended head start. We actually just made the rounds of the 2nd and 3rd floor shops before CJ and Ciera’s baskets were filled to the brim with goodies. In fact, my mom and I ended up having to carry some of the other goodies they collected coz their 'pumpkins' had no more room. By the time we had gone through the 3rd floor shops, both my nephews were really tired. And since we already had a truckload of stuff, we decided to head home and skip the basement and 1st floor shops. I ended up seeing some of the shops on our way out of the mall, and the trick-or-treat lines were already really really long. So it was good we got there before most of the other kids.
All in all, a very fun Halloween. Very tiring but my nephews did a lot of stuff and got to enjoy quite a bit so it was all good. And their supply of goodies has still not run out. =)
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
It was maybe a few years ago when she was taken to the hospital because she had a tumor in her brain. I’m not really sure whether I have my facts straight anymore but I believe she had brain cancer. The entire family was very concerned during that time because we weren’t sure what was going to happen to her – the doctors said the tumor was quite big and it was in a bad location. She made it out of the hospital and I still got to see her for a couple of family reunions after that. In fact, one of the parties that my family had was set up as kind of a thanksgiving party that Ana had made it out of the hospital.
Anyway, last my week my brother texted me saying that Ana had passed away. I think I couldn’t really, hmm, connect to the fact that she was gone. That is, up until I went to her wake with my mom, my brother Clemence, and my nephews (who are Clemence’s sons) last Saturday after the Superheroes Convention (I’ll post about this later on). Tita Nelia and Tito Chito, her parents, seemed to be very tired (obviously). I looked into Ana’s casket – she looked very peaceful and beautiful – and at this point I think the whole reality struck me. She's a year younger than I am and now she's no longer with us! I felt a wave of sadness wash over me. But I kept things under control because I didn’t want to be the impetus for both Tita Nelia and Tito Chito to become more emotional. They needed strength from the people around them, after all.
She was cremated yesterday, on Halloween, at noon. There was a mass for her in the morning and the cremation would happen at 12nn. I had work to do in the morning so I decided to just take an extended lunch break. When I got there, I ran into my dad who, along with a few other people, was helping Tita Nelia get to the hospital. Apparently, she had collapsed and was now on a wheelchair. I saw her being helped out of Loyola Memorial and words can’t begin to describe the agony and exhaustion that were painted on her face.
There was one upside to this. I saw so many people in my extended family there. I had just missed my mom and Clemence who were there earlier in the morning but so many of my titos, titas, and cousins were there even if it was a workday. It felt great to see the support that my family gives to each other in times of need and difficulty. In fact, my other cousin Charisse was actually celebrating her birthday that day, and despite she was there, crying along with everyone else. By the time the pastor started talking about what was going to happen, I lost it. I think for the entire ceremony I had my handkerchief over my face. They opened the casket for one last viewing and then they proceeded to roll her down to where she would be cremated.
The pastor told us that only immediate family was allowed in the actual cremation area to see Ana before she was actually cremated. But Tita Nelia was in the hospital and that left only Tito Chito there (Ana’s siblings were in the US and both of them were unfortunately unable to come home). So as it turns out, the whole family joined Tito Chito. It must have been the saddest I have felt in a very long time.
This has been the hardest blog post for me to write. And I hope that I don’t have to write anything similar to this anytime soon.
We love you, Ana! And may the Lord bless your beautiful soul.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
A couple of Saturdays ago, I celebrated my birthday with my college friends and group-mates – Mitch, Anna, Mike, and Gary and Winnie. Mitch was sick the week leading up to it, and with her 2nd son Rory being just a few months old she isn’t very mobile just yet. So we decided to just have the party at her place and I would just bring all the food.
Because she was sick, we decided to meet up earlier in the day, which is kinda unique coz when we meet up, it usually is for dinner. We got there at around 4-ish, and so I just brought palabok, chicken empanada, and the new Marjolaine cake from Red Ribbon (is it obvious where I stopped over on my way to Mitch’s place? =)), as well as the partially eaten 96% fat-free ice cream from my celebration with office friends a week before. It was still merienda time, so I thought that I could just bring merienda food first, and if we stayed around til dinner then I could just have food delivered.
We also got there right in time for Game 2 of the UAAP finals. Gary was the only one who was really and truly into it, having gone to Ateneo for grade school and high school. Unfortunately for him, right before the game could actually start (we caught the junior game before that I think as well as the awarding ceremonies where the Adamson guy – apparently I am not all that into the UAAP – won MVP), Aidan came in with Fergus and wanted to watch Ice Age 2. Obviously a 5 year old will trump a thirtysomething when it comes to TV-watching, so we all ended up congregated over the dining table while Aidan took over the entertainment system. Of course, once Ice Age was over, Game 2 was deep in the third quarter with UST having a sizable lead. Ateneo managed to get to within 5 points and the momentum seemed to be theirs but I guess UST managed to take control back. Needless to say Gary was not happy with the result.
It isn’t really often that the 6 of us get to spend time with each other (at least not as a group, and obviously I do get to see Mitch and Anna quite a bit more than the rest of them) so obviously it was great fun. Winnie is expected to give birth a few months from now and so she was getting lots of pointers from Mitch. And that isn’t the only change going on in their lives as she and Gary are in the process of renovating the townhouse that they are going to be moving to. We were also quite surprised to find out how nationalistic Mike felt after some discussion involving someone we know who seems to really feel that returning to the Philippines would make him more miserable, even after going through a lot of truckload of horrific experiences that would make Lemony Snickets’ unfortunate series of events look like a lovely stroll in the park. Of course, the discussion invariably led to reminiscing about college days, where we recounted the good, the bad, and the ugly. Well okay, actually it was mainly the good and the funny.
We were having so much fun that we ended up extending ‘til dinner. We were trying to order from Shakey’s because Mitch had a free pizza for every pizza purchase, but it seems that the Shakey’s 77777 number was congested or was still down due to the typhoon. So we ended up ordering from Domino’s (which is probably my favorite delivery pizza). Mike had to leave by 7 though, but the rest of us ended up leaving around 930 I think.
So we’re halfway there. A few more installments and my birthday this year will officially be over. =)
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I also went to the gym yesterday, and I have to say that I’m pleased that I’ve been disciplined enough to keep going to the gym three times a week for the last 2 1/2 months already. I was actually really pleased that yesterday I got to increase the weight I am lifting. The downside is that I did super-sets and my body is still really sore today (it’s been more than 24 hours and arms are still hurting). The upsetting thing too (well okay not that upsetting…) is that I haven’t lost any weight. Then again, if I think about the food I’ve been eating recently I guess it kinda makes sense that I am not losing weight. I really need to cut down on desserts. But well I don’t want to hahaha so I guess staying at my current weight is acceptable. =)
I’ve cut down as well on my tennis. But not because I don’t want to play anymore. The problem is that rainy season seems to have moved down a few months and now I am unable to play in the uncovered tennis courts that I normally play in. What I have realized though is that reducing the number of times I work hard physically each week seems to be allowing my muscles to recover better. Maybe by the time the rainy season’s over, I’m more used to exercising a lot and I’d be better equipped to handle both the tennis and the gym workouts.
I was also watching the Amazing Race 10 yesterday. Someone noted that this season seems particularly inclined towards diversity – Korean duo, Muslim pair, Indian couple, African-American women, and gay guys, along with your requisite model guys and beauty queens. Interestingly enough, half the ‘diverse’ groups are now gone, and in fact the Muslims and Indians were both gone in the first episode after an interesting mid-show elimination left the Muslims as well as all the other contestants shocked. What I realized too is that there have been lots of male gay couples in the past (most notable are previous winners Reichen and Chip) but I don’t seem to recall any female gay couple. Not sure why that is. Is the public still not ready for a female gay couple on TV? Or maybe it’s just that the Amazing Race don’t get enough lesbian pairs applying for a shot at a million dollars?
Anyway, to close this message I have decided to put a joke I got from a friend of mine a while back that really cracked me up. It’s in Filipino and I’m not sure it’ll be as funny when translated so to all my readers (yeah like I have that many haha) who can’t speak in Filipino, better find someone who can translate this for you:
Nakatakas si Erap, FVR, at GMA sa mga terorista at nagtago sa mga sako sa isang farm.
Terrorist 1: Anong nakikita mo diyan?
Terrorist 2: Mga sako lang.
Terrorist 1: Tingnan mo ang laman!
Sinipa ng terorista ang sako. “Meow!” sabi ni GMA.
Terrorist 2: Pusa!
Sinipa ang isa pang sako. “Aw aw!” sabi ni FVR!
Terrorist 2: Aso!
Sinipa ang isa pang sako ngunit walang tunog kaya sinipa niya ito ng sinipa. Nasasaktan na si Erap kaya sabi niya…
PATATAS AKO KAY WALA AKONG SOUND!
Haha have a good day folks!
Monday, October 16, 2006
Years ago, local diva Regine Velasquez had a concert series in OnStage (the concert was entitled “Regine at the Movies” where she sings movie theme songs or music from original soundtracks) and my friends (Mitch and Anna) and I thought it would be great to watch this concert. We all really enjoyed it and all of a sudden it became a more-or-less annual thing for the three of us to catch Regine’s shows. Since that first time several years ago, we’ve caught three more of her concerts – one where she sings songs that she has sung and released, another where she covers Barbra Streisand classics, and a duet-concert with Ogie Alcasid.
However, some time ago Regine lashed out at interviewers on a local showbiz talkshow when they asked her about supposedly being upstaged by an up-and-coming divette. Mitch and I didn’t see the show, but Anna did, and ever since then Anna didn’t really feel like watching Regine’s concerts anymore.
Which meant that last Friday night, it was only Mitch and I who went to Araneta Coliseum to watch Regine’s ‘Twenty’ concert, appropriately entitled because it was her twentieth anniversary in showbiz.
And as usual, Regine came up with the goods.
There were actually quite a bit of miscues throughout the concert (like when she forgot that the dancers were supposed to take her gown off to reveal another one underneath and when the mic of one of the Promil kids - the one on cello I think – didn’t work). And well her outfits were a bit outrageous (her opening outfit – this pink/red/fuchsia ensemble made her look like a gigantic pink Pekingese to quote Mitch). So the concert could certainly have been cleaner from a production point of view.
But when you watch Regine perform, you aren’t really after production value or stage performance. You are after her powerful voice and incredible vocal capability. I guess she knows that her fans love her for her incredible power and her unparalleled ability to hit those unbelievable high notes. So during her concert she put everything out on stage with her amazing renditions of “I don’t wanna miss a thing” and “Sana maulit muli”. She also sang the songs that she popularized and that people love her for, like “Shine” and “Dadalhin”. And with her movie career proving to be quite successful, Regine certainly had to perform songs from the movies she has starred in, like “You are my song”, “Pangako”, and “Kailangan ko’y ikaw”.
My favorite performance of hers that night, which actually got her a standing ovation (and has gotten her a standing ovation each time I’ve seen her perform it), was her version of “What kind of fool am I”. Most people presume that Regine is simply a ‘biritera’ who keeps shrieking out high notes and has nothing else going for her. So what’s great about her version of this song (which she said was arranged by Louie Ocampo) is that she delivers the first two-thirds of the song with incredible control and intense passion. That is, until she gets into climax of the song where she does what she does better than anyone else – hit those incredibly high notes and hold them for a lot longer than most people can. The best showcase of her control is when she sing an emotionally soft note, holds it, and throughout the course of this note she gradually increases volume. Not a lot of people can do that, or at least not nearly as well as she does.
Of course, this being a celebration of her twentieth year in showbiz, she naturally had to pay tribute to the songs that paved the way for her immense success. She sang a special arrangement (done by Gerard Salonga) of “Love me again”, which I think was the first single she ever released. After her opening medley, she dazzled the audience with “Narito ako” which is arguably the record that catapulted her to stardom. She was also quite emotional right before she sang “Bakit ako mahihiya”, which she used to perform during singing contests in towns and barrios before making it onto the big stage, and she dedicated this song to both of her parents. And of course she did a medley of songs that she won awards for, both locally and internationally, starting off with “In your eyes” for which she won Bagong Kampeon and then singing “And I’m telling you” and “You’ll never walk alone” both of which she sang at the 1989 Asia Pacific Song Festival where she emerged grand champion.
All in all, a great concert which was tailored to display Regine’s strengths as well as cater to her throngs of fans.
I’m attaching a couple of videos I found in youtube. One of them is for her version of “Kailangan kita”. The end of the video gets screwed up a bit (at around the around 3:30 onwards), but for the most part, the video quality is decent enough. I personally think her take on this song makes both Gary V and Piolo sound like amateurs (no offense to either of them of course). And check out the note she holds for 14 seconds at around the 2:32 mark. The other video I am attaching is her version of “What kind of fool am I?” which she sang way back in a concert of hers in 1993. It's kinda cuts into the last third of the song though so you'll just be hearing all the 'screechy' parts but hey, you won't really find a lot of people who can hit those notes (oh and that really hight note at the end? She actually holds it for a little more than 12 seconds).
What kind of fool am I?
Recently, I attended the wedding of Che’s sister, Jen. Che asked me if I could sing during the reception, and naturally I said yes. As per request, I was supposed to perform Michael Buble’s “Come fly with me” (well I don’t think that is originally by Buble but I don’t know who sang it originally and I’m too lazy right now to go search it up).
The reception was actually supposed to start at 7 or 8pm in the ballroom of the Manila Hotel, but I got there at 530 because I was supposed to sing with the strings (and not with a minus one tape or CD as I usually do). I didn’t really know what the program was and I found out that I would actually be singing during the cake cutting ceremony (which meant that I wouldn’t need to sing the whole song, I’d only have to sing a couple of minutes of it a la American Idol).
The program was really good and well put-together. The flow was very smooth, clean, and coordinated, and the host did a great job of keeping the audience entertained and ensuring that things were moving forward. There were actually a couple of other song numbers – one from Che’s niece, a harmonica number from Che and Jen's dad, and a couple from Olive, who is Jen’s close friend and bridesmaid. The food was pretty good too – you gotta love these Chinese lauriats! =) And I learned a new word – lumiachi! None of us on the table knew what it was, but when the waiters brought it out, it seemed to be like buchi but without the sesame seeds.
Anyway, this got me thinking – whose weddings have I sang for as well? I decided to list down the ones I can actually recall:
- Raych and Nick – “You” (Martin Nievera version of the Carpenters original) and “What matters most”
- Gosh and Letlet – “You” (again, but this was a group song with the rest of the clan)
- Mitch and Fergus – “On the wings of love” and “When you say nothing at all”
- Duncan and Amy – “I’ll be”
- Paul and Les – “The Promise” (Martin’s version again)
- Nats and Dennis – “The way you look tonight” and “There for me”
- Mark and Sharon – “You are so beautiful”
- Erika – “On the wings of Love”
- Alelie – “Forever” (duet with Karen)
- Lanie and Carlo - "The Promise" (again) and "The Promise of love" (also by Martin Nievera)
- Ray and Joy – I actually sang quite a few songs here. I sang in church (I actually sang U2’s “All I want is you’ while Joy walked down the aisle!) and my band performed at the end of the reception.
- Dino and Dennese - "The way you look tonight" impromptu!
- Jed and Ods – “Angels brought me here” and “Cruisin’” (duet with Vanessa)
- Joh and Raffa – “Angels brought me here” and “Bless the broken road”
- Gi and Pau – “All the way” and “Unforgettable”
- Aries and Audrey - "Flying without wings"
- Nanay and Tatay – “The way you look tonight”
I may be singing in a couple of upcoming weddings, which leads me to think that maybe I can try doing this on the side. I wonder how much a wedding singer earns per wedding (and I wonder where I can apply for this sideline hehehe).
Saturday, October 14, 2006
(I promised a year ago in this blog post that I would write about this so despite the delay, I'm still a man of my word...)
What is it with me and trips to Latin America during Thanksgiving weekend?
In 2004, I went to Mexico for a week and a half to attend the wedding of my friends Amy and John (personal trip; thank God for frequent flyer miles!) which was on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The trip there was pretty decent, but the trip back to Manila was the worst. Well, my Brazil trip in 2005 also brought me to Latin America for the week of Thanksgiving. And fancy that, another bad flying experience. Ugh!
Trip to Mexico
My flight back to Manila was on a Monday, and I was supposed to arrive in Manila on a Wednesday evening. Itinerary: Cancun-Mexico City-Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur-Manila. The Mexico City-Manila portion was on KLM, but I was taking Mexicana for the the Cancun-Mexico City leg.
I had it all mapped out – I would get a massage on Monday morning to get me relaxed (Amy and John gave all their wedding guests a free massage voucher), take it a step further with a couple of Amaretto Sours, then have a huge lunch before leaving the hotel in time to get to the airport more than 2 hours before my flight. Cool right?
Unfortunately, this is how it went:
- I got to the Cancun airport and the line was unbelievably long
- I got to the ticket counter only to be told I was bumped off my flight because it was overbooked. So instead of leaving Mexico City around 4pm I would now be leaving at 530pm. I told them my connecting flight to Amsterdam was at 9pm and that if I arrived at the Mexico City airport at 730 I would be hard-pressed to make my connection. Didn’t get me squat.
- My 530pm flight was delayed 45 minutes. That meant I arrived at the Mexico City airport at 815.
- About 50% of the people on my flight had a connecting flight to Los Angeles so they got off-boarded onto some airport transport before everyone else.
- I get out of the plane at 840pm and without picking up my check-in luggage, I rush madly to the terminal where my connection was.
- I get there at 845pm and, despite all the pleading and begging, I’m told I cannot board the plane anymore.
- I go to the Mexicana counter and tell them my predicament. I am told to head to some other place four – I repeat, FOUR, times. Without any escort.
- I finally get to the right counter and am told that the earliest flight I can get is the same time the next day, which meant that I would lose one whole day.
- I ask them to help me get my luggage since I didn’t claim it. It took them more than an hour to help me out, and it required me to head back and forth from one place to another multiple times to get my bag.
- They tell me they would get me a hotel for the night that came with a dinner and a breakfast voucher. Of course, my flight the next day was at 9pm so I demanded a lunch voucher as well. At least they gave it to me.
- Then I ask them if I can use a phone to call home. They ask me to give me one number I should call. I have to keep from screaming, and in the calmest voice I can muster I tell them that they screw me over by over-booking and won’t even give me a call to the office and a call to my home. They still refuse to give me two calls.
- They tell me to go back the next day at 2pm. I tell them my flight is at 9pm so why should I be at the airport at 2pm? They say I have to be there at that time to sort out my flight to Manila.
- I finally get to the hotel, have some dinner, and then head to my crappy room (must’ve been a two-star hotel – lovely)
- The next day I head to the airport at 2pm only to find out that the KLM ticket counter only opens at 4pm.
- I then ask them if I can stay in the Mexicana business lounge. I’m told I can’t. So I am brought to this restaurant. I am told that I can order up to 100 Mexican Pesos worth of food on Mexicana but I can’t order any drinks. Which is great coz I just had a heavy lunch at the hotel and didn’t need more food, but I did need to drink at some point during that afternoon.
- I am then picked up at 4pm at the restaurant by someone from Mexicana and I’m told that now they CAN pay for the drinks I ordered. Wow, isn’t that great, they tell me that when I am about to leave? Too late the hero, ey?
- Then I have to wait 5 hours in the airport for my flight. Thank God I had a Worldperks Gold card that allowed me to get into the KLM business lounge.
Well, that's the last time I'm flying Mexicana. Boo them!
Trip to Brazil
Nothing’ll ever compare to that horror story. However, my trip to Brazil wasn’t the most pleasant either.
- Company trips, if longer than 4 hours, are supposed to be on business class. However, because I was booking flights a bit late, I couldn’t get a business class flight from Paris to Brazil. So that 12-hour leg of my flight to Brazil was on economy.
- Which isn’t all that bad really if it was a personal trip where I was gonna chill the moment I got to Brazil. But no, I was arriving in Sao Paulo at 730pm and I had to be in important meetings beginning 9am on Monday.
- The reason I couldn’t get a business class flight was because I was booking late. Which was because I was supposed to take two days off and fly to Brazil a couple of days earlier and swing by Rio. Unfortunately, work happened (again, ugh). And so my leaves disappeared. Which also meant bye-bye Rio.
- And because I wasn’t on business class from Paris to Sao Paulo, I couldn’t get into the business lounge. I tried my Worldperks gold card which does say on it that it gets me a free pass to any partner airline lounge, but it seems I didn’t read the fine print somewhere and it turns out that for Air France, you need to have a Worldperks Platinum card to get in. Tough.
- I also didn’t realize I would end up being exposed to the zero-degree November chills in France so I didn’t bring any jacket or sweater even. I figured I would just be inside the airport, but it turns out that I had to move from one terminal to another via a bus that wasn’t really heated. And we had to wait for the bus while standing outside. I’m pretty good dealing with cold actually, and at that time, I didn’t feel like I was freezing. But then the moment I got to Sao Paulo I realized that I was feeling sick already. So much for thinking I was Superman…
- When I got to Sao Paulo on Sunday night at 730pm, the line at immigration is incredibly long. So long in fact that it took an hour an a half for me to get my passport stamped.
- And then I find out that my luggage is missing. It turns out that it wasn’t picked up in Singapore because I flew Manila-Singapore on PAL and Singapore-Paris-Sao Paulo on Air France. This despite the fact that I was told specifically by PAL that my luggage would be checked all the way through to Sao Paulo.
- I didn’t get any updates as well from Air France on the location of my luggage so I was piss-in-my-pants worried my first two days there that my luggage would never get to me. Good thing that it finally arrived on Wednesday. Better thing as well is the fact that I am such a boy scout that I actually had my first day’s worth of clothes and enough underwear and socks to tide me over ‘til I finally got my suitcase.
So what’s worse than flying from Manila to Sao Paulo for 36 hours? Well, it is flying back in 41 hours. I had a 12 hour layover in Paris this time, but at least now I was fully on business class, so I spent the entire time in the lounge and even took a hot shower. However, I did spend about 6 of those 12 hours working on the presentation I had to give at 9am the day after I arrive. And what’s even nicer is that I actually arrived in Manila at 11pm and I get home past midnight. Factor in the unpacking and the settling I have to do and it’s not surprising that I fell asleep at around 3am. So after a 41 hour trip, I get to sleep 3 hours, drive through 2 hours of traffic, and give training to a big group of people.
On the bright side, this trip brought a lot of firsts with it – first time to go to Brazil, first time to travel to the Southern Hemisphere, first time for me to fly coach on a 12-hour long flight for a business trip, first time take a shower in the lounge, first time standing outside in zero-degree temperature without winter clothing.
So, two years in a row that I am in Latin America for Thanksgiving weekend. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s gonna happen this year but well at least I can say I won’t have another horrific plane ride.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
As I have mentioned many times in the past, my band Still Oz hasn’t really gotten to play a lot in the last year because our guitarist Bunky was on night shift, and for his first six months at work, his weekend was Wednesday and Thursday. With our drummer Cholo working in Sta. Rosa, having gigs on weekdays didn’t seem feasible.
So a few months ago, Bunky’s weekend got moved to the ‘normal’ weekend of Saturday and Sunday. So now we could officially work on getting gigs again as long as they were scheduled on Saturday.
After a few months of virtually no movement (we did have that one gig in Bulacan a couple of months ago), we all of a sudden have a jam-packed schedule for the next 2 months! In fact, our first of 8-or-9 gigs in a row was last Saturday, where we played 2 extended sets in Bistro 110. Oz was out of town that weekend and the news of that gig came in short notice, so we didn’t have a violin in our first gig. We also didn’t get any practice. And despite having technical difficulties with the sound system for the entire 1st set, I actually thought we pulled off a pretty decent job.
What I was really pleased about as well was the fact that we got to play two new covers for the first time. We played the Goo Goo Dolls’ ‘Black Balloon’ which we loved playing and which the crowd sang along to. Then we always played the Smashing Pumpkins’ version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’ which is truly a beautiful song so I was so glad we played it.
We clearly need some more practice to get to the level we were before, but the important thing is that we are playing again and that the audience continues to respond to our song selection and the way that we play.
Anyway, here's one of our performances from last year that we caught on video and which John V. felt like putting up online.
This isn't the best performance of #41 that we've done and I don't really like my stage presence and performance here, but all in all it's pretty decent.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Also, I just read (in Rickey.org and in the Yaminions site that Elliott just yesterday had a concert at the Virginia State Fair. Lots of media (hi-res videos and audio) can be downloaded in the Yaminions site. But here's an excerpt from TimesDispatch.com about it:
Elliott Yamin tightly hugged his willowy girlfriend, Jamie, clapped brother Scott on the back and took a swig from a bottle of diet Mountain Dew. His band - actually Taylor Hicks’ Little Memphis Blues Orchestra - had just cruised onstage to ear-splitting screams, easing into the seductive strains of Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” Yamin peeked at the crowd of about 4,200, already on its feet awaiting his grand entrance, flashed his trademark grin and casually ambled out to his homecoming.
Here's hoping Elliott comes out with a CD sooner rather than later!
On Saturday, I was with my mom and nephew CJ (my other nephew Ciera was with my sister-in-law that day) and we were headed home from Makati at around dinner time so we decided to have some dinner. CJ says that he wants to have crab, and I knew that neither Superbowl nor Northpark had crab in the menu. I then figured that there must be some resto in Edsa Shangri-La Mall that had crab in the menu. True enough, there was Red Crab and Gloria Maris. I guessed that Gloria Maris had a wider selection of food so I decided that we would eat there. We ordered steamed garlic crab (CJ ate practically the entire crab because both my mom and I are allergic), siomai, shrimp hakaw, yang chow, and beef with broccoli. I have to say that their yang chow rice has to be one of the best I’ve ever had (the waitress did say it was their best seller), as was their beef with broccoli I had never eaten in Gloria Maris before so I was glad did. It is now in my list of restaurants to visit once again.
On Sunday, my family and I went out again so that I could take them to my place where my nephews could go swimming. I figured that Tomas Morato would be a good place for us to have lunch, and as we were driving along thinking of where to eat, I see 'Little Asia'. I had eaten there once and no one else in my family had, so we decided to have my birthday lunch there.
I can’t recall the exact names of the food we ordered, but we once again had Yang Chow rice, salt and pepper squid (I think), Korean beef stew, one of the Chow Meins they had in the menu, the lemon almond chicken, and something else that I can’t recall. Once again, the food was fantastic. My personal favorites were the Salt and Pepper squid and the Korean Beef Stew. And yes, I certainly wouldn't mind eating there again.
After lunch, we head over to my place where we eat this Apple Rhum cake which my mom ordered (it was really good and addictive in a subtle way – I say this because I would take a decent-sized slice and gobble it up fairly quickly, then each time I did that I would take another smaller slice because well for me the first decent-sized slice was just not enough). I then take my nephews swimming while my mom went shopping and my grandparents and my brother decide to just watch DVDs. They first watched ‘The Mummy’ which my grandpa thought was okay, then they watched “Spider-man 2” (which my grandpa really liked).
We all head back home at around 830pm. We were all still full from the heavy lunch, cake and 96% fat-free ice cream we had during the day that we no longer stopped for dinner. Both my nephews were wiped out from the couple of hours or so we spent I the pool. All in all another fantastic weekend. And of course the great thing about this whole thing is that my birthday celebration is still not over…
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
- Driving through snow and very slippery roads for the first time in my life in Belgium
- Driving through extremely thick fog and heavy rains in Tagaytay on my way to Calaruega for Omar’s wedding
- Driving to PGH and back during Typhoon Milenyo last Thursday
I’m sure you can ask anyone in Luzon about their experiences when Typhoon Milenyo hit the Philippines. I’ve seen a lot of bad typhoons in my life wherein cars and houses in Manila end up submerged under floodwater. But as far as I can recall, this has to have been the worst storm I have ever witnessed in terms of the destruction of trees, walls, houses, vehicles, billboards, and lamp posts.
Watching the news later that day (I was lucky to have had power and cable when most of the city was blacked out), I felt incredibly fortunate. Accounts of billboards, trees, and lamp posts falling on cars made the news. Lots of people were taken to hospitals, but not everyone was lucky enough to make it as Milenyo resulted in scores of fatalities.
So how did I end up driving on a day like this?
I actually had a meeting scheduled in the PGH with the chief resident of the pediatric wards. We were supposed to discuss setting up an art therapy program (one of Bukas Sarili’s members, Elsa Ortega, is taking up an art therapy course in France and, after finishing her first of two terms, was very excited in setting it up here as well). That morning, Elsa asked me if the meeting was going to push through. Her text woke me up, and, not realizing that signal # 3 had been hoisted over Metro Manila, I text her back saying that it was pushing through. When I finally got up, I found out what was going on and I ask Elsa if she wanted to reschedule because I know how difficult it is to drive to Manila (with its propensity to be submerged under floods during heavy rains) but it seems Elsa had already decided to head to PGH and she asked me to reassure her that I would be heading there myself. I guess I felt I couldn’t leave her there alone and I guessed (incorrectly, as it turns out) that the doctors in PGH would probably have to be there because they can’t really close PGH down even during bad weather. As such, I ended up in my car braving through the insane weather.
So how did my day turn out?
- I decide to take the Buendia -> South Super Highway -> Quirino -> Taft route. Along the way, I see a piece of those yero-type sheets of metal get blown by the wind and almost hit the car right in front of me.
- When I get to Buendia-South Super Highway intersection, I see that there is car-hood-deep water. So I turn back, deciding instead to take the Edsa -> Roxas Boulevard route. (This was around 1030 so the winds had already started to pick up). Along the way, I have a branch fall on my hood.
- Upon getting to Roxas Blvd, I see a whole lot of toppled lamp posts and a lot of other debris. I pray that nothing falls on my car.
- I get to PGH at 1130 upon which I find out that the doctor we were supposed to meet was not there. And Elsa's umbrella was stolen when she got to PGH.
- We then decide to head to Robinson's Ermita so she could get an umbrella and so that we both could have lunch. That way, we would at least have a bit more energy when we braved the rains and floods again.
- Upon getting to the parking lot of Robinson's, I realize I have a flat tire. So with the help of a security guard, we replace my flat tire (thank God my spare was ok)
- While eating in Mexicali, we realize that droves of people were gathered around the exit of the mall, with gravely concerned looks on their faces. We look out and we notice that the winds were blowing like I had never seen them do so before, and we had horizontal rain!
- The mall starts closing and we decide to try and head home for fear that it would get worse. But when we got to the parking lot, the guard there says that we should stay put because a lot of other cars that left the parking lot ended up coming back in because there was too much debris flying around.
- We walk from one end of the mall to the other, and then start walking back. By that time, the worst of the winds was over. So we decide to head home.
- I drop Elsa off at the LRT station because she thought she saw that it was open. As it turns out, it wasn't but she told me later on that a taxi had been kind (and courageous) enough to drive her home.
- I take the Quirino Ave -> South Super Highway -> Edsa route. My plan was to go around the Magallanes interchange to get to Edsa. But the problem was that a huge billboard frame had dropped onto the particular flyover that would have taken me across Edsa from one side of South Super Highway to the other. Thus, the only way I could go was underneath the interchange and back onto South Super Highway, this time heading to Buendia.
- I try taking the Don Bosco route but that area is flooded (and cars that attempted to go through the flood decided to turn back upon hitting Pasay Road, leading me to think that cars had gotten stuck in the water in that area)
- I try taking the Buendia route but it was the same. So I figure, take a U-turn, head to Bicutan, take another "U-turn" there, and take the C-5 route and hope that it is not flooded there.
- Upon crossing the Magallanes interchange the second time though, I take a look at the damage to the flyovers, and notice that the flyover from northbound SLEX leading into Edsa is okay. So I then decide to take a U-turn at the Villamor area and then head back to Edsa.
So I finally make it to Edsa and get home. It took me about 2 hours though, but nothing really bad happened to me. A flat tire and a branch falling on my hood, but that's it. So I do feel very fortunate. What have I learned from this? Try to avoid driving under similar circumstances in the future. :)
Sunday, October 01, 2006
(Spoiler alert! Stop reading now if you don’t want to get any spoilers from either of these two movies…)
I watched “John Tucker must die” a few days ago. I wouldn’t really have been interested in watching it if it weren’t for the fact that Sophia Bush was in it, and as a big One Tree Hill fan, I felt that it would be nice for me to give her some support by watching a movie she was in. Especially after her divorce with Chad Michael Murray, who ended up getting engaged a few months after the two of them broke up. Of course, she probably won’t get to feel this support I am giving her, but then again, maybe that was just my excuse to watch another check-your-brain-in-the-door movie, which seems to be my favorite type of film to watch nowadays.
I was told that “John Tucker…” was supposed to be this year’s “Mean girls” and although the stories don’t really match completely, I could see quite a few similarities – three girls who get a fourth innocent/naïve girl to join their forces, a lot of plotting and deception, the nice girl turning into a bad girl and then finally becoming good again, a final speech/confession in front of the entire student body, and reconciliations flying all around in the end. So another happy ending which makes for fun viewing, at least to me.
The highlight? I guess it has to be the kissing scene between Sophia and Brittany Snow. It’s not exactly Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair in “Cruel Intentions” but, well, let’s just say I would mind getting my hands on the DVD when it comes out hehehe. (And for you ladies out there, as I mentioned, John Tucker played by Jesse Metcalfe from Desperate Housewives fame does actually appear on screen wearing just a red thong. So I guess this movie has something for everyone.)
Would I recommend this movie to other people? Probably not unless you really enjoy these kinds of formulaic chick flicks. And for most people, I think this is a film you can choose to catch on HBO. On the other hand, a movie that I would recommend people see (although well it’s a bit too late coz it’s no longer showing) is “The Devil wears Prada”. I saw this movie about a month and a half ago with Kathy and her friend Krisette. I actually think I caught it during an advanced screening because we watched it on a Tuesday (normally movies start showing on Wednesday, right?) and I was pretty sure that it wasn’t showing yet the week before that. Anyway, I was just supposed to have dinner with Kathy but she said that she and Krisette were watching “The Devil Wears Prada” after dinner and so she asked me whether I was interested in joining them. I have always been a huge Meryl Streep fan, and I think Anne Hathaway is pretty hot, so I decided to join them.
Suffice it to say that this movie has to be one of my favorites movie this year (I don’t know when “Proof”, the one starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jake Gyllenhaal, came out, but I did see it on VCD a couple of months back and that is probably my favorite movie that I watched this year. Back let’s get back to “The Devil…”). The humor in this movie was sharp, quick, and very witty. And I love how it evolves slowly from a comedy at the start, focusing on the laughable side of fashion and the shallow entertaining aspect of people’s personalities, into a drama, delving into deeper issues related to the politics of getting ahead in one’s career and methodically unveiling the different layers of its initially-depicted-as-one-dimensional characters. This change in tone happens so seamlessly that you don’t actually realize that the tempo of the film has changed. You just notice towards the end of the movie that the emotions being stirred in you aren’t the ones that make you chuckle and laugh anymore. In any case, I liked this movie so much that I recommended this movie to so many other people who ended up watching and enjoying it just as much as I did. I actually watched it again with Anne, Tricia and Jan, and once the show was over, Tricia remarked to me that she now understood why I said I wouldn’t mind watching it again.
The movie does a great job of making you appreciate the fashion industry and the volumes of work that go on behind the scenes to bring new styles and trends to the world without necessarily being brainwashed into thinking that you have to follow fashion more closely and adhere to its "rules". It’s funny too that similar to her character in “The Princess Diaries”, Anne Hathaway once again goes through a makeover. Of course, this time around she starts off looking pretty decent (not like in “The Princess Diaries” where she really looked quite bad before her metamorphosis), but just with no fashion sense, or at least none when you have her stand against all those model-esque women. But then she starts putting on Chanel and Jimmy Choo, and in no time she's sizzlin'. In fact, one of the more memorable scenes in the movie is a kind of montage where Anne is making her way to work and she is shown in several different awesome outfits.
The cast in this film really did a great job, with special mention going out to Stanley Tucci who I have never seen play a gay role before. But few could argue that this movie doesn’t belong to Meryl Streep. From the moment she makes her first appearance to the very last word she utters (“Go!”), she takes command of the screen, amazing the audience with her uncanny performance and having them eagerly anticipating her next scathing remark. You see her playing this character and you really do think that she IS an ice-queen bitch editor of the biggest fashion magazine. What I really found interesting is how she created and defined her character. Most of the traditional bitch women we see in TV and movies are tough, strong-willed women with a propensity to raise their voices along with their eyebrows. Not Meryl. Throughout the movie, she keeps her voice soft and calm, leading to a chilling effect (amazing to think that not once in this movie did she actually scream or shout). You do see her raise her eyebrow every now and then but more often than not, it’s a dismissive look she gives (sometimes she doesn’t even make eye contact with the people she talks to) that makes the people around her feel worthless and inadequate. Those combined simply make her bitchiness even more effective. In another memorable scene, Meryl systematically rips Anne apart with her tirade on Anne’s cerulean blue sweater. You watch that scene and you can practically feel demeaned and degraded right alongside Anne. Simply put, Meryl puts in another fantastic performance, and I would be surprised if she doesn’t get another Oscar nomination.
I was surprised that the movie was still showing in the cinemas a week and a half ago (it must’ve been its fifth week), but then again maybe not. It does have great appeal to a lot of different people on a lot of different levels. You can watch it to see all the great fashion, or to see beautiful women in beautiful outfits, or to see Meryl at her finest, or to simply watch what I think is a well-written and well-made film.
(Oh and since I’m kinda recommending movies to watch here, if you can get a hold of a ‘Proof’ DVD or VCD, I suggest that you do.)
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
The celebration has once again been one that is spread out over several days, and in fact it isn’t over yet. It began last Saturday when my “office” barkada (of course we are all now spread out over different companies, hence the quotes around office) treated me to dinner in Zigurrat. I was actually late for dinner because I was cleaning my place (we were going to head there after dinner to play poker) and when I got to the resto, most of the folks were comfortably seated on the floor with their shoes off to the side and the food had already been served – Pia (who organized the event), Joh, Raffa, Chris, Che, Hannah, and Tim (who was actually on a call when I arrived and he hadn’t eaten so I guess for all intents and purposes I got there before he did. Not that it matters). A few minutes later, Meann arrived so the only person (among those of us still here in Manila) who was missing was Peegee, who had a prior engagement. I’m not really a fan of eating while sitting on the floor, mainly because I can’t sit still for very long and sitting on the floor makes me fidget a lot. The good thing though was that I found a cylindrical pillow that doubled as a stool, so I ended up eating fairly comfortably without having to stretch and re-stretch my legs every so often. The food was good, but it was quite expensive (not that it was a surprise since (1) most Indian and Persian-type restaurants are quite expensive and (2) Pia did download the . And since our tradition is that the birthday celebrator gets treated for dinner and everyone else pays, I actually felt awkward when I found out that everyone had to shell out almost P800 each!!!
So I easily agreed when the gang asked me to buy them dessert, which ended up being 94% fat-free Selecta ice cream which we just took to my pad. I had to ask both Hannah and Joh the ice cream would have that fat-free taste (i.e. not very good), and they both said that it wouldn’t so I agreed with our choice. But after trying it, I have decided that unless I go on a diet, I am steering clear of fat-free foods (except Coke light and Diet Pepsi).
When we got to my place, we ended up playing several rounds of no-limit Texas hold 'em (for those of you who don't get sportsplus, that's poker). Hannah was tired and just snuggled up in bed and had one half-asleep eye on the poker game and the other half-asleep eye on the TV. Everyone else was in the game. We decided before starting that we wouldn’t put any money in the game. Which essentially meant that people ended up being thoroughly aggressive with their betting. We had people throwing inordinate amounts of money, if not going all in even when they had awful cards, but that made for a more interesting game coz you couldn’t really tell what was gonna happen. First one out was Chris, followed by Pia. Che got pulled into an issue in the middle of the game so Chris subbed for her after he was eliminated, and after a few more rounds he got eliminated once again. By then it was quite late by our standards, and so the remaining people – me, Meann, Joh, Raffa, and Tim – decided to play one last round. I was the short stack, and when I went all in, everyone else decided to call to make it a fun final round. I was lucky to get two pairs (aces and deuces) and so I ended up one of the big winners along with Joh (we never really counted the chips we had so we don’t know who had the most “money” at the end of the game).
So that was part 1 of my celebration. The rest will follow in separate blog posts…
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The upset did come of course (at least to me it was an upset) but not in the form I was expecting. I knew Magni wouldn’t make the top 3 (in fact, I felt that the only reason he made it this far was so that the show would rake in massive voting revenues in Europe, particularly in Iceland). But if I had to put money into it, I would have bet that Supernova would end up choosing between Dilana and Toby. Good thing I didn’t.
Interestingly enough, the winners of the two seasons of the Rockstar, er, “franchise” came from Canada - JD Fortune who now fronts INXS and now Lukas. With JD, I feel the selection was made mainly because his style of music matched that of INXS more than anyone else in that season. With Lukas, however, I feel the decision was made for two reasons - because he was consistent throughout the season (Supernova could count on him putting in one solid show after another), he wouldn’t breakdown emotionally like Dilana (or at least he hasn’t shown any signs of it), and he was never in the bottom three at the end of voting (which meant he had a very strong following which could translate to more sales for the band later on). Of course, I still agree with Jason – Lukas’ singing sounds too constricted, and in fact in a lot of cases I don’t actually understand the words coming out of Lukas’ mouth which means I personally don’t think his performances were all that solid. But well I guess it’s all a matter of preference. To each his or her own, as they say.
All in all, a pretty great season with a lot of great talent. My favorite of the season has to be Ryan Star, who I believe was eliminated prematurely (my favorite performance of the season has to be his ‘Losing my religion’ coz prior to that I actually thought he wasn’t good at all and then all of a sudden, just like that, I turned into a fan. I put the video below...). So it was cool that he ended up being a fan favorite and won for himself a car. Dilana is naturally up there, probably my second fave. And for someone who hates singers with pitch problems, I am quite surprised that I actually really enjoyed watching Zayra (or well okay maybe I enjoyed watching her and not listening to her).
I wonder whether there will be another season of Rockstar. And if there will be one, will it be for another band that, together, has never come up with an album prior to the show. I guess the band is a bit lucky that they have the popularity of reality TV to ride on because I really think that their originals are not too good. Ryan, Storm, and Toby all had originals that are so much cooler and edgier. Good luck to everyone on the show. I hope they all got the jumpstart to their careers that they all would have wanted.
Oh, and for those of you who don’t know who I am talking about, here are some videos for your enjoyment:
Ryan Star performing REM’s ‘Losing my religion’
Dilana performing Nirvana’s ‘Lithium’
Zayra performing Tommy Tutone's '8675309 Jenny'
Sunday, September 17, 2006
With my schedule getting freed up quite a bit recently, I decided to replicate that exercise schedule. So I started hitting the gym again, with three workouts every week. I alternated that with tennis lessons twice a week. Then I would play badminton during the weekend. So not as intense as last year’s regimen, but it definitely isn’t a sedentary lifestyle.
Unfortunately, I cannot say that my fitness level is anywhere near where it was last year. It seems that the frequency of my physical activity now leaves my muscles feeling sore most of the time. If I had to guess, I would say that this can mainly be attributed to the fact that my body is not repairing itself as quickly as it used to and I end up exercising even if my muscles still haven’t recovered 100% . I’ve started to feel better much more quickly now than about a month ago, but I do wish I didn’t feel sore as often as I do.
Of course, it could also be due to the fact that my tennis lessons are tougher now. Which is good because it would seem to indicate that I have marginally improved. Something must have clicked in my brain too (or with my coordination), because my backhand is now stronger, more accurate, and more consistent. I can’t say the same about my forehand though. Hopefully I can get that to change soon enough.
Then again, my gym workouts aren’t as hard as they were last year. Or at least I don’t think they are. I am probably bench-pressing about 70% of what I bench-pressed last year. Maybe I had bad form last year (although I did have a trainer so I am guessing that wasn’t the case). Or maybe the stress I experienced at work led me to lose muscle mass and strength.
I could spend a lot more time trying to come up with a lot of theories as to what’s going on. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t arrive at any useful conclusion. In truth, I shouldn’t dwell too much on the difference between where I am now and where I was before. I should just focus on trying to be as fit as I can.
I have decided though that I should already start training for next year’s marathon. The plan: run 5km on a treadmill (which I did last week) and increase that each week by one kilometer. If I can keep this up, then by the time we get to next year’s Milo marathon, I should be in fairly decent shape. Or at least hopefully in better shape than I was last July.
Friday, August 11, 2006
I’m talking about going to the gym of course. The last time I worked out (and when I say work out, I mean not just running on the treadmill) was almost a year ago. I decided to start doing weights again, mainly coz I still have that goal of building up my upper body. And of course hitting the gym makes for a much healthier lifestyle.
I switched gyms though, mainly due to location. So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a personal trainer in my new gym is about 25% cheaper than in Gold’s. Helps me save up a bit. =) Since my tennis lessons had to stop due to some construction going in the courts where I play, I figured that now was as good a time as any to start training again.
So I had my first session last Monday. It felt really good at the time; the burn in my muscles, as anyone else who has done weights will know, felt great. But see that was while I was working out. I knew from previous experience that the “real” pain would come the next day. My trainer also made sure I was aware of this, warning me that I shouldn’t be surprised if my body hurt like hell when I got up the next morning.
And so I wake up on Tuesday and true enough, I was horribly sore. The main source of pain were my left triceps (I guess being right handed and playing all that tennis, badminton, and bowling made sure that my right arm was a LOT more developed than my left). And the unfortunate thing here is that when I had my second work-out session on Wednesday, the pain wasn’t completely gone, making it a whole lot more difficult. My upper body hurts a helluva lot more today than it did the other day. I just hope it gets better soon.
Hopefully I can keep this going regularly. I’m targeting to lose about 5-10 lbs and maintain that weight for myself. Of course, getting a six-pack would be awesome, too. =)