Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Birthday celebration part 3

And the celebration goes on!

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

Ramblings

Have you ever played the computer version of ‘Hearts’? I only recently actually started playing it when I bought my very own personal laptop. The way the computer game goes is that once one of the players reaches 100, the game is over and the person with the least points wins. My initial best score was 4. Shortly after that, I managed to shave off a couple of points and get a personal best score of 2. I then recently managed to get it down to 1. And well, yesterday, I finally got a perfect 0! I was so happy hahaha of course it’s such a lame thing to be happy about but well I’m very easily pleased so it’s all good. =)

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…

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PATATAS AKO KAY WALA AKONG SOUND!


Haha have a good day folks!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Twenty

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).

Kailangan kita



What kind of fool am I?

The Wedding Singer

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

It's not easy travelling to and from Latin America

(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

Back in business

And here I thought my band was dead. =)

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

Elliott Yamin and Chris Daughtry sing 'Savin me'

I know that prior to the tour there was talk about some interesting duets. Apparently, this is one of them. Elliott and Chris actually pull it off quite well.



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!

Birthday celebration part 2

So for part two of my birthday celebration, I spent my entire birthday weekend with my family.

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

Milenyo

If you ask me the scariest driving experience I have ever had, I have my very own top three list:

- 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

John Tucker wears Prada

Actually, John Tucker didn’t wear Prada. Instead, he wore a red g-string. But I am getting ahead of myself.

(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/na├»ve 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.)