Monday, December 15, 2008

More weddings

As it always is, Christmas season also doubles as wedding season, with most people deciding to get married anywhere from November to January. It's kinda crazy when you think about it - traffic is at its worst during this time of the year. But a lot of people decide to get married around Christmas because most of their relatives and friends who live outside the country travel back to Manila for the holidays.

I attended the wedding of Eloi and Edward a couple of weeks ago. They got married in Paco Park and since I'm not very familiar with that area, I ended up in Paco Church which apparently is a completely different place. The traffic in Manila that day was intense, which really sucked because I was supposed to sing "Ikaw" as Eloi walked down the aisle. So someone from the choir was supposed to back me up in case I didn't make it in time. I stepped into Paco Park 20 minutes late and completely deflated, but as I entered, I saw Eloi getting ready for the bridal march. So I ran around the side of the park and into the chapel. A minute or so later, and still slightly out of breath, Eloi entered the chapel and I started singing. Talk about your photo finishes!

I was definitely calmer the day after during Jayson and Lorraine's wedding. I had to pick Joyce up coz she had no ride, and since she was part of the entourage, we got there at 2:15pm, 45 minutes before the wedding was supposed to start (well, 15 minutes before it was supposed to start *according* to the invitation but apparently they put in a half hour buffer because they figured people would be late). The reception, at the Sofitel, wouldn't start until a couple of hours later so Joyce and I took some photos and had coffee and dessert at the lobby (the coffee was so frickin' expensive, more than P200 a cup!). It was great though because we were assigned in table 1 and as such were the first table to hit the buffet. And the food was incredible!! Made me wish I had a bigger stomach so I could eat more. Joyce and I stayed and danced like crazy until the band finished their set.


There are a few more weddings coming up - Stelz and Norman, Mai and Nick, and Kuki and MJ. Tricia and CJ got married recently but their wedding reception won't be until January. Which reminds me, I need a new barong.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A signed Liverpool shirt and a strong season so far

After Liverpool beat PSV Eindhoven 3-1 in last week's champions league, I visited the Liverpool website and saw that a Limited edition Liverpool shirt signed by the team was available for purchase. Wow! A signed Liverpool shirt!! I decided to check it out immediately, find out how much it cost, and get it for myself. Unfortunately, when I checked it out, it said that the product was not available.

How quickly excitement can turn into disappointment LOL. I should've known that a limited edition Liverpool signed by the players would sell like hotcakes. Makes me wish I checked the website sooner. Then again, considering that I'm strapped for cash right now, it's probably better that stocks ran out. Otherwise, I'd get in even deeper debt than I already am right now.

It's great though that Liverpool are doing incredibly well this season. They've beaten both Chelsea and Man United - away, at that! - and are currently top of the league. They have a game in hand though and are just one point clear of Chelsea so chelsea can go top of the league again. Kinda sucks that Liverpool just drew last night against Hull City, but I'll take it considering that Pool were done 0-2. If it weren't for Steven Gerrard and his two goals, we could have been in slightly worse shape.

Makes me think, I actually prefer to get the current Liverpool kit with Gerrard's name and number (8) at the back. Costs quite a few quid though, so I'll have to save up for it first.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"Oh, had I a golden thread" by Eva Cassidy

This is Eva Cassidy singing "Oh, had I a golden thread." Hearing her version made me an instant fan. Her vocal ability is brilliantly showcased in this song and everyone who has listened to it has more or less agreed that it is traffic-stopping in its brilliance.


video uploaded in youtube by user superstarsingerfreak

I first learned about Eva Cassidy when Michelle Kwan skated to her version of Sting's "Fields of Gold." My friend Diane let me listen to a couple of her cover of "Autumn Leaves". From her renditions of these two songs, I felt that she had an incredibly soulful voice and an amazing ability to cover other people's music.

Then I was on a plane once, several years ago, where one of the music channels featured her music. The description in the in-flight magazine of her voice was that she had the amazing ability of going from soft to loud very effortlessly. Since I knew her as someone with a soulful and soothing voice, that comment made me wonder. So I decided to listen.

And for the first half of this song, I was still thinking, okay, great soft voice. Then mid-way she goes all gospel-y and unleashes one of the best high notes I have ever heard. Ever. (It comes at around 2:52 in the song.) I was lucky enough to find her "Live at Blues Alley CD" in the hard-to-find section in a music store in Podium a few years ago. I've scratched that CD listening to it over and over again. Definitely worth a buy if you can find it. Even for just this song. :)

Monday, December 08, 2008

My new phone

I just got myself a new mobile handset.

Since the Rihanna concert, I have been having problems with the LCD of my old phone, which was a Sony Ericsson K750i. About 70% of the time, the screen would be washed out and I'd have to turn it off then on again, or I'd open the camera lens and shut it, for the screen to reappear. So for a couple of weeks I have been thinking of getting a new phone. But since I could still get by with my old phone, which was a phone that I actually really liked it, I kept putting off my new phone purchase.

That is, until Friday, when I accidentally dropped my phone into a urinal. I know, disgusting (and probably too much information). So it was definitely time for me to get a new phone.

I had been thinking of getting the Sony Ericsson K770i. Mainly coz I was happy with my previous Sony Ericsson phone. And also because the K770i had a torchlight or flashlight, similar to the K750i. Weird really that the presence of a powerful light would be a deciding factor in which phone I'd get. But I did use the light of my K750i a lot - it was probably one of the most used features of that phone - so as silly as it sounds, it kinda made sense for me LOL. I was looking for a slightly cheaper phone (which was in the P10,000 price range and not one of those fancy phones that cost P20,000 and up).


So I ended up getting the Sony Ericsson K770i. The extra bonus I get with this phone is that since I didn't get it from my mobile provider, it isn't network-locked. Which means I can use it with any SIM card, making it so much better for me when I travel to another country - say Singapore - where I can just get a pre-paid SIM and save a lot of money on texts and calls.

And in the two days I've been using it, I am quite happy with my choice. The only thing is that it is quite a thin and sleek phone, and it doesn't look as sturdy as the K750. I'm worried that one day, my phone will slip from my hands and break when it hits the floor. I guess I wouldn't mind if that happens, as long as I get a couple of years worth of mileage from it first.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Go Manny!

Manny Pacquiao wins his historic boxing match against Golden Boy Oscar Dela Hoya! Woo-hoo!!

photo courtesy of sportsillustrated.cnn.com

I had my doubts leading to that match. Dela Hoya towered four inches over Pacquiao and his reach exceeded Manny's by about 6 inches. Odds-makers were putting Pacquiao as the underdog so he had a lot of work to do if he wanted to win.

I would've watched the match had I gotten up early enough to catch it but I didn't. I had an incredibly long week leading up to an exhausting day yesterday (one that ended at 4am after a massive amount of drinks) so I woke up mid-afternoon. I only remembered the match coz I was in an elevator with some people who were talking about how Manny beat Oscar into submission. I did get to see a bit of the fight again at night and it was great to see just how well Pacquiao fought. It was also great to hear the crowd chanting "Manny! Manny!"

So Pacquiao solidifies his unofficial title as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. It was a great win for Manny and a great win for the Philippines! :)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Meeting up with Suzanne and Nenen

My friends Suzanne and Nenen recently flew back to the Philippines for a couple of weeks so naturally we met up with them while they were here.

We decided to have dinner in Je Suis Gourmand in Fort Bonifacio with the gang, or at least those of us still in town - Nenen, Suzanne, Joh, Raffa, Pia, Peegee, Randee, Me-ann and myself. It was also Me-ann's birthday so it was a double celebration. Obviously there was a lot of catching up, with Nenen and Suzanne talking about their new house and the trips they've taken. I got French Apple Pie from Sugarhouse for Me-ann's birthday so we decided to have dessert in Peegee and Randee's place. For most of us, it was our first time there and they had a really cool place. After dessert, Suzanne and Nenen handed us all our Christmas presents which was really cool. Since I have low EQ, I took a look at my present. They got me a Humdinger. I seriously can't wait to play it. I'll certainly be bringing it during our Christmas party and I trust we will be having loads of fun playing it. :)

Nenen then headed to Bacolod to spend time with her family. Since Suzanne was staying in Manila, we decided to meet up with her again. Last Thursday, we - Suzanne, Me-ann, Joh, Pia, and I - had dinner in Red Crab in Greenbelt 3. We decided to have dessert some place else afterwards. Suzanne was looking for a new place and since she had never been to Greenbelt 5, we head over there. Most places were closed by that time but Chateau 1771 was still open so we had coffee and dessert there. Can't remember what I had but it was this dark chocolate tart that was awesome! Actually, all the desserts were pretty good.

Then on Tuesday, we met up with Suzanne once again, this time in Edsa Shang Mall. Me-ann had gone to the US on a business trip so it was just me, Suzanne, Pia, Joh, and Raffa. Apparently, Suzanne had never been to that mall ever so it was apparently the right move for us to have dinner there. As always, the food in Cyma was great. I tried the Wagyu beef burger for the first time (really good!). We capped off the night with coffee in Starbucks.

It was great hanging out with the gang (or a subset of it LOL) again. Our Christmas get-together will be in a couple of weeks, when a lot of other folks who are out of town head back home. Nenen and Suzanne won't be here by then but it was great that we got to hang out with them while they were here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bali!

Bali is one of the most popular island destinations in South East Asia. It attracts millions of tourists each year and has gained so much fame that a song was written about it for the musical South Pacific. I had never been there before so when me and my buddy Tim were thinking of a good place to take a trip to, we picked Bali.

So last October 18, I flew to Bali and spent ten (yes, ten) days there! And what an amazing ten days it was! The one downside to this holiday was the fact that I left my camera charger at home and my battery died almost as soon I got there, so I had to rely on Tim for all the photos. But my sheer stupidity aside, there were definitely many factors that made this a great vacation:

THE BEACH


There are lots of beaches in Bali. We spent most of our time in the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak beach which had decent sized waves that made it ideal for boogie boarding and even beginner surfing. I tried to boogie board a few times but I apparently lack the required amount of coordination in the water to pull it off. It was still fun though. We also spent one afternoon in Dreamland to check out the waves there. Important to note: Dreamland is definitely NOT for beginners LOL.

THE PLACES OF INTEREST
We hired a driver for a day who took us to Ubud and a few other places in the island. Our first stop was the Monkey Forest, where we spent a lot of time walking through the and taking photos of monkeys that were so used to being amidst people.

We then headed further north to get a glimpse of Gunung Batur.

We then passed by Gunung Kawi on our way back:


THE FOOD AND THE RESTAURANTS
Ten days in Bali meant a whole lot of meals, and I got to enjoy a whole variety of cuisines - from incredible flavorful local meals to exquisite Western fare. Three restaurants that stood out for me: Gado Gado (I still remember the prawn and octopus appetizer and the snapper main course I had here!), Rosso Vivo (great food, great location), and of course Ku De Ta. Ku De Ta is THE ultimate chill-out spot in Bali and it's laid out in such a way that you could actually hang out there for hours on end (and then spend a fortune on the drinks they serve there LOL).


THE RESORTS

I spent my first seven nights in Putu Bali Villa. The cool thing about this resort is the pool. It's 6-feet deep all throughout but it was a small pool so I had no problem moving about in it. But what made this pool really cool was the pool bar next to it. You could sit in the water while having food or drinks. I always had lunch (or, well breakfast coz I always woke up quite late LOL) here. And it was a cool place to have a couple of beers in the early evening before we head out to party at night.

My last three nights were spent at The Conrad Bali. A 5-star Hilton hotel, this resort was absolute quality like you wouldn't believe. Tim was a Hilton rewards member which meant we actually had a few perks during our stay. We had full access to the spa facilities - sauna, steam room, hot and cold plunge pools, and the private pool. It also meant free breakfast and free cocktails at 230pm. And with a swimming pool that covered practically the entire grounds, my last 3 days were spent in total relaxation and luxury!


THE PARTYING
Of course, it isn't a holiday if there isn't any partying involved. I definitely had more than my fair share of booze and bar-hopping LOL, visiting places like Ocean Beach Bar, Sky Garden, M Bar Go, and Bounty. We did visit Double Six as well but we went there mid-week and there were like five people in the bar so we stayed for just one drink before heading out.

With a great mix of culture, nature trips, food, water sports, and nightlife, Bali is definitely a destination you should visit at least once in your life. Just make sure that if you decide to spend ten days in cool resorts, you save up for it. It’ll take some time before I clear out my credit card debt from this trip LOL. But hey, it was definitely worth it!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tennis in 2008

Rafael Nadal finishes the year #1. Yahoo!

He actually clinched the year-end #1 ranking a couple of months back but I wasn't able to blog about it at the time. He didn't do as well towards the end of the year as he did in the middle months of 2008, but he definitely finishes more strongly this year than he has in previous years. getting pretty deep (quarterfinals or beyond) in all tournaments he played after the Olympics. He's never really had those kinds of results in the past, and that assured him of finally finishing the year ahead of everyone else, including Roger Federer.

*****

On the women's side, one of my two current favorite player, Jelena Jankovic, finished the year strongly to end 2008 as the top female tennis player. There are some question marks that come with her top ranking, the main one being that she still hasn't won any Grand Slam title yet, so a lot people thinking she isn't deserving of the top spot.

The thing though is that this year, with the sudden retirement of Justine Henin, the doors were wide open for any of the top players to make a stand and take the top ranking. And when that happened, none of the top women seemed all that interested, all of them succumbing to the pressure and losing to players they should've beaten. Somehow, towards the end of the year, Jelena decided she wanted the top spot more than anyone else and fought hard for it. And prior to the season-ending championships, she clinched the year-end top ranking as well.

Here's hoping Jelena can nab a Grand Slam title next year.

*****

My other favorite female player, Venus Williams, had a pretty damn good year too. Not only did she win her fifth Wimbledon title, she also won the year-end championships without dropping a match (and earning a pretty hefty bonus for doing so). It's the first time Venus won the season-ending championships, which is quite surprising because she did dominate women's tennis for a couple of years early this millennium. So now she has it. Would be great too if she can win another Slam next year, one that isn't Wimbledon or the US Open.

300


So, apparently this is my 300th blog post. Wow.

Definitely not the most prolific blogger by any stretch of the imagination but I am pleased that my blog is still alive and fairly up-to-date. I know a lot of my other friends who have created blogs but haven't really kept them going. I did some math (I'm such a nerd...) and apparently, I've written on blog post every four and a half days on average. That's actually not bad.

So here's hoping I can keep this blog going for another 300 posts...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Getting back on the exercise trail

So, I finally hit the gym again. Didn't lift weights as I initially planned. Didn't run on the treadmill either. Just spent 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer.

I could've stayed on it for more than 30 minutes but I haven't been exercising regularly in a while so by keeping my gym stints fairly short, I reckon it should help me get back in the exercising groove again.

Hopefully I can bring up my endurance to a pretty good level soon. I really want to be in better shape for my marathon next year and I'm dead-set on doing better than 5 hours and 36 minutes. I've also been meaning to resume my tennis lessons again and I probably would have already if it wasn't raining every so often so I'm targeting to start playing tennis again in January. I wanna take boxing classes as well, and the spotty weather isn't an excuse for not doing it, but my current cash flow is LOL.

So let's see how things go. I really wish I could be as close to my fitness 3-4 years ago, and I'm sure if I stay disciplined, I can. Would be great to lose some weight as well. :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Capella version of "Fix you" by Exit 245

I heard this version of Coldplay's "Fix you" while listening to the 88.3 radio show "The Blend" about two years ago. Most of the a capella performances that are played during the show are great, but this one stood out for me so I noted down the name of the group - which was Exit 245, an all male a capella group from James Madison University - and tucked it away for future reference.

I remembering searching for this song on youtube before but couldn't find it. For some reason, I decided to search for it again recently and luckily enough, it was already on youtube. So check out this amazing, amazing version of "Fix you" by Exit 245:


video uploaded in youtube by user SnafuOverYou

I'm seriously considering getting the online CD "Limelight" so I can get a copy of this song. I also just noticed that one of the songs on this CD is Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter" - one of my favorite songs of all time - so it should definitely be worth it. 'Cept that I also realized that this song is also in the album "Best of College A Capella '07". So I have to think which album I wanna get. Or, of course, I could just get both...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rihanna and Chris Brown Live in Manila!

What a great concert!

And to think I almost missed it. I knew some time ago that Chris Brown was coming to Manila, but I didn't really know a lot of his songs and so if it was just him, I would've skipped it. But then I saw the posters that indicated that he was having a concert with Rihanna. Rihann! So naturally I had to see it. :)

I've been to a couple of concerts in the past but nothing as major as this one. And this lack of inexperience on my part led me to believe that arriving at the Fort at 6pm (concert starts at 8pm) was a good idea. As I later learned, this idea wasn't the smartest. The traffic heading into the Fort was horrible! It was like rush hour on a Monday morning. Vehicles were moving quite slowly and all the roads were full. I ended up parking quite far away from the concert venue because with the traffic, I figured all the good parking spots were taken.

I lost about 30 minutes going through traffic and looking for parking and by that time my friends were about to head into the concert venue. So I decided I would go meet up with them. This meant I wasn't able to have any dinner or even drinks. So at 7pm we were standing at the spot where we would be for the rest of the concert.

The show started promptly at 8pm (thank God!) and Chris Brown was the first to perform. He did a lot of dancing, even doing a Michael Jackson medley where he danced to Jacko hits like "Rock with you", "Billie Jean" and "Thriller". Of course, he performed several of his own major hits like "Kiss Kiss" and "With you", and also sang "No air", asking the audience to sing along with him since Jordin Sparks wasn't there. He closed his part of the concert, appropriately, with his most recent hit "Forever".

The next 45 minutes were probably the most tiring because the stage hands and production management worked on rearranging the stage to get ready for Rihanna's performance. At that point, we had been standing for 2 hours already, and with no fluid or food intake, I had been running on adrenaline. With no music to dance to for 45 minutes, I started running out of battery.

Of course, the moment Rihanna came out, I had another surge of adrenaline that kept me dancing for the next hour. She opened her set with "Disturbia" that got everyone singing "Bum bum be-dum bum bum be-dum bum" along with her. The fact that she was wearing a very, er, interesting outfit made her even more engaging to watch on stage. ;)

She went through a slew of her hits such as "Please don't stop the music" and "Shut up and drive". When she sang "Unfaithful", practically the entire audience was singing every word along with her, which must've been great for Rihanna but kinda sucked for me coz I really wanted to hear her voice - which I think is great - and not the voices of the dozens of people around me whose concert I did not pay to watch LOL. It worked for "Hate that I love you" though, because Ne-yo wasn't there so the audience sang his part.

She left the stage and the crowd started shouting "More" and "We want more". Not with a lot of energy though and who can blame them - it was hot and everyone was hungry and thirsty. But Rihanna came out again and sang "Take a Bow" before closing the show with her biggest hit to date, "Umbrella". And midway through the song she calls Chris Brown to join her and they do the "Cinderella" version of that song. It was great! The crowd definitely went wild.

I won't go into the horrid details of leaving the concert venue anymore, but in a nutshell, I ended up walking for about 45 minutes trying to find a place to eat, which ended up being mini-stop because every restaurant was so full! I manage to leave the Fort at 1am and even at this time, 2 hours after the concert ended, the traffic was still bad.

But at the end of the day, to me, it was still all worth it. A great show with two very popular and current artists sharing the stage. Awesome!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A couple of new CDs

I'm probably the only person left on the face of the planet who actually still buys CDs LOL. Actually, no, my friends buy CDs as well. But mainly to be given as gifts to me during my birthday or Christmas since I normally send them a wishlist that contains CDs and DVDs hehe.

But I digress. Just yesterday, I bought a couple of CDs that have been on my wishlist for such a long time. I could have chosen to wait a month and a half and asked my friends to get me these two CDs for Christmas. But these are so hard to find in this country. I was actually planning to order them in Amazon - they've been sitting in my cart for a few months now - so when I saw them available here, I decided to get them.

The first one is "9" by Damien Rice. I discovered Damien Rice a while back (check out this blog post on how I learned about him) and I've been addicted to his music ever since. I also want to get his other album, "O", but unfortunately it wasn't available.

The second CD I got is "So Real: Songs from Jeff Buckley", a compilation of Jeff Buckley's music. Of all his songs, I only knew about "Last Goodbye" prior to this year. Then I heard Jason Castro sing "Hallelujah" on American Idol and dug up Buckley's version of it. Needless to say, I was completely blown away by Jeff's incredibly intensity and vocal control. My friend Marco told me to search his other song "I know it's over". At this point, I decided I needed to have a Jeff Buckley album in my collection. So after looking through his albums on amazon, I decided to get this one. Now when I saw this CD in the store, it was the only one left. So I made sure to get it.

So now I have a lot more great music to listen to. And it's even better that I didn't have to order the CDs from Amazon anymore. :)

Friday, November 07, 2008

"Heartbeats" by Jose Gonzalez

I first heard this song in Season 5 of "One Tree Hill" during the Lucas-Peyton scene right after the Ravens win the State Championship. I recall instantly loving the song being played during this scene and thinking that I should find out what it was but apparently I never got around to it.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I heard the song again, this time being played in "Scrubs". I was online at the time so I decided to find out what this song was. It's called "Heartbeats" by Jose Gonzalez and here's the video:


video uploaded in youtube by user erg0n

This is actually a cover. the song is originally by "The Knife". You can check out the original version of "Heartbeats" here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Halloween weekend party

My friend Ben spent last weekend in Manila. He arrived on Friday and we decided to go to Embassy. Elaine had sent me an event invitation for the Embassy party on Halloween night, "Into the twilight" and I knew that costumes were required. I didn't really get to prepare anything but then I remembered that I decided to dress up as Justin Timberlake in a Christmas party we had the year before and I still had all the stuff - fedora hat, waistcoat, tie. I figured that would be good enough. Ben had this funny pink hat and bought pink sunglasses to go along with it. So costumes with our costumes sorted, we headed to Embassy.

And man, it was packed! The queue outside was longer than I had ever seen it (although it did move quite quickly, we probably just stood outside for 10 minutes). And once inside, you could barely move. Despite the crowd, the party and music was great. Would've been a lot greater though if Embassy didn't have to close at 230am. Damn the curfew!

We still had some energy to burn so moved to Fiama afterwards. It seemed however that half the Embassy crowd moved there as well. It was just as crowded as Embassy, but the significant difference was that Fiama didn't have the powerful airconditioning that Embassy did so I was sweating like a pig in there! I was struggling quite a bit due to the heat and couldn't really enjoy myself for the several minutes of being there. We looked for a better spot and we luckily found an area right next to an aircon (i.e. it was a whole lot cooler there!) and that didn't have as many people. We found a second wind and partied for about an hour more before deciding we were too tired.

The next day, November 1, we met up with Ben's friend Hanna and her cousin Trish. What I didn't realize until now was that a lot of places are closed on November 1. And apparently it's because most people are either at the cemetery or in the province on this day. We went to Ascend first and the place was almost empty. They were still charging P500 entrance for only one drink so we decided not to go in. Instead we went to Piedra. Trish said that Piedra normally has a cover charge as well but once again, it was practically empty so we ended up getting in for free. We stayed til closing and were hoping we could get to some other club that was open but it seems every other place was closed so we ended up just having some food in Jay-J's in Ortigas.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sports, sports, and more sports

Our inter-department volleyball tournament just concluded last weekend. Our team did make it all the way to the finals but we lost an incredibly tight match 13-15 in the fifth and final set. You'd think we would have been heartbroken to lose a match like that, but strangely enough we weren't. I guess part of it was that our opponents were really good - they played extremely well on that day, and on paper they were the favorites, especially since they didn't lose any of their matches leading up to the finals. Part of it must also have been the fact that we were mentally ready. We were psychologically ready for any result, whether it be a victory or a defeat.

But most of all, we fought really hard and laid everything on the table. We kept errors to a minimum and really dug dip on every single point. We were missing one of our key players on that day due to very unfortunate circumstances but the team really did step up and make it difficult for our opponents. In the end, it wasn't quite enough, but we all really felt very proud of the effort we put in. There was no shame and no regret in the loss. And when we all had lunch together, everyone was recounting all the memorable spikes, digs, blocks, and serves that we played during the game, as well as the great plays of our opponents. This really was one of those moments were the loss actually felt like a win.

*****

I ran for charity again last Sunday. Some folks at work organized a fun run for the benefit of the Road to 2020 program of Haribon. There were about 15 volunteers, and the plan was that we would run around the UP academic oval and get people to pledge either a fixed amount or a variable amount that depended on the number of laps we covered. I committed to run 5 laps (11 kilometers). I hadn't run since my marathon last August, so I decided to do one training run on Wednesday. I guess maybe all the volleyball games and practices in August and September kept me fairly fit since I manage to run 5k in 30 minutes during my training run. The fun run was supposed to start at 6am and since I had a vicious bite of insomnia the night before, I managed only 30 minutes of sleep. Despite that, I managed to run my goal of 11k in just under 70 minutes, which means I met my target.

Now that volleyball and running season is over, I plan to hit the gym and do weights. Gotta let my knees rest for a bit since I'm afraid I've put them through so much abuse over the last few months.

*****

It's been a month since the conclusion of the US Open but I haven't really been able to blog about it yet. Unfortunately Nadal wasn't able to win his first US Open, losing to Andy Murray in the semifinals. But it did mean that he got two rounds further this year than he did last year. And since Federer had the same result this year as last year, it meant Nadal managed to increase his lead over Federer as the #1 player in the world.

Hopefully it will be enough for Rafa to keep the #1 ranking until the end of the year. It was quite unusual though to see Federer as the #2 seed and #2 player in the world. He did win his 13th Grand Slam title, and is now just one short of tying Pete Sampras' record. Although in my opinion, he doesn't really need to tie or break Sampras' record of Slam wins. He's done enough in his career to give him legend status. Definitely one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all time.

*****

The 2008-2009 football season started a couple of months ago, and so far it's been a really good couple of months for Liverpool. They haven't lost this season yet, whether in England or in Europe. And while they only drew against Stoke City and Aston Villa, they did beat Manchester United. They also up-ended Everton in the Merseyside derby last Saturday. Here's hoping Liverpool continue to win. I have seen them win practically everything except for the English Premier League, so hopefully they can do it this year.

Monday, September 22, 2008

September Round-up

Wow, more than three weeks since my last blog update. Been a really busy last few weeks actually. So let me try to think back to some of the things that kept me really busy the last few weeks.

I organized a socio-civic activity for some folks at work. Can't recall if I've mentioned it in a previous blog post but I'm currently leading some of the corporate social responsibility initiatives at work. So I talked to Hands On Manila to see if we could participate in one of their activities and after attending their orientation and getting enough volunteers from work, we decide to join their activity called "The Breakfast Club". This was an activity were volunteers would join about 20 under-privileged kids early on a Saturday morning and organize a few games for them. After the games, we provide breakfast for everyone. It was a really good activity and everyone had lots of fun!

The night before, I actually hosted (again!) a big event at work. Wasn't really a lot of work to be quite frank because my co-host Elaine and I only had to get up on stage and speak about 3 or 4 times. But it was a bit of a busy night because right after that event, I actually had to go buy some prizes for the games we would give away for our activity with Hands On Manila the next day. After that, I headed to Bonifacio High Street for Pia and Joh's belated birthday celebration in Italianni's. It was cool too because Chris was apparently in Manila for a few weeks and was able to join us. The last time I saw him was way back in 2006, before I left for Sweden, so it has been a really long while! Peegee was also there, which is quite rare because it's not very often that he is able to join our get-togethers anymore. Of course, Raffa and Me-Ann were both there as well to complete the Manila-based gang.

Then I had a business trip to Jakarta a couple of weeks ago. It was my first trip to Indonesia and I may actually have a couple more business trips there. I didn't really get to go around as it was a very hectic trip - only four days. I did manage to meet up with Yulia, one of the honorary Yaminoys who actually flew from Jakarta to Manila last year to watch Elliott's Glorietta and Market! Market! concerts. I got to hang out with her and her friends on the Friday night that I was there. Her friends Bebta, Merry, Iting, and Tikie were all really cool and friendly. If I have another biz trip to Jakarta, I am certainly hanging out with them again.

Finally, last week, I ended going on an off-site team-building and planning activity at work. It was a really hectic two days. Thursday was spent on coming up with an action plan to address some key issues that our team has at work. Then Thursday night - 9pm to 1230am actually - was spent learning the choreography for a dance number that we would be doing on Friday. On Friday morning, my colleague Mark and I hosted (yes, another hosting gig) the morning event that included a couple of business updates as well as a rewards and recognition program. In the afternoon, we played a series of very competitive games that left everyone exhausted. In the evening, aside from our special dance number LOL, our office band played a few songs. There were four of us vocalists and I got to sing Jason Mraz's "I'm yours" and Ne-yo's "Closer". It was really cool! I actually wish I could perform both those songs again but I guess that won't happen coz we're not really into recycling performances. (Although I think it would really be cool to perform "Closer" again, it's such a great and fun song to perform, definitely gets the crowd going). After the band performed, we ended up dancing the night away and filling our guts with beer and other alcoholic beverages. Definitely didn't help me one bit in our volleyball game the next day (thank God I'm only a sub LOL and the rest of my teammates were in good form).

Then yesterday, my friend Ben who lives and works in Singapore but has been assigned on a 2-month project in Baguio and decided to come down to Manila for a day during the weekend. I've seen him a few times in Singapore the last year or so, but the last time I saw him in Manila was way back in 2005. He wasn't feeling well though so we just spent the day chilling out. He will most likely be swinging by Manila again some time in October so hopefully he isn't under the weather anymore when that happens.

So yeah, lots of stuff going on with me right now. Hopefully I can blog a bit more in the next few days since there really is so much for me to be writing about right now.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ciera's birthday celebration

My nephew Ciera celebrated his birthday today and we – which means my mom, my brother, my two nephews, and my grandparents – celebrated his birthday with him by eating out.

My nephews wanted to have lunch in Conti’s, their favorite resto, and probably one of mine too. We in fact had dinner in Conti’s in Trinoma on Sunday night last week, but it took us a very long time to find parking in Trinoma that night. And with the Conti's in Annapolis almost always full, we decided to just head to Conti’s in Serendra, even if it was further away.

When we got there, the place was full and there were seven other groups ahead of us in the waiting list. So instead we had lunch in Polu Kai, the Hawaiian restaurant. The restaurant was quite kid-friendly, what with all the Polynesian-style statues and the aquarium with really colorful fish.

The food was really good too. I had eaten there once before but I couldn’t really remember how the food was. Everything we ordered was really good but unfortunately I’m not one of those bloggers who actually takes photos of the food they eat when they go to restos and notes down the names of the dishes. I do remember that I ordered the dish with Shrimp and Sausage. We also got the Nachos (the dip was really good), the appetizer with raw tuna, and the other appetizer that was kinda like a little puff pastry with shrimp inside.

We swung by the Pier One area coz there were a lot of these giant dinosaur statues on display. We took photos of my nephews with the dinosaurs while my mom and my grandparents had coffee and drinks in Gonuts Donuts. And after a few minutes there, we headed home.

For dinner, we had more shrimp LOL but I also got a cake from Red Ribbon. We put a candle on it and sang “Happy birthday” to Ciera before he blew out the candle. All in all, a simple birthday celebration but a really good one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Abbaoke Night in Mag:Net

My friend Marie had her birthday a little more than a week ago and she decided that we would celebrate her birthday during "Abbaoke" night in Mag:Net in Bonifacio High Street. Abbaoke, or Abba Karaoke, involved the house band "Oven Toaster" playing Abba music and anyone brave enough to sing Abba songs in front of the Mag:Net crowd was welcome to join them on stage.

For this particular theme night, people were encouraged to come in groups of four and in all white. Of course when we were talking about it, it seemed like a very good and fun idea. So fun in fact that I decided to follow the theme and come in a predominantly white outfit (I didn't have white pants so khakis would have to do).

When I got there, I was slightly horrified by the fact that I was the only one who followed the instructions! LOL And when Gabe Mercado was going around the different tables getting volunteers to sing Abba songs, I started to realize that I was the only guy there who was going to sing! Well duh, the lead vocals of Abba are both female LOL. I actually started feeling really stupid and out of place LOL.

In any case, I decided to just go for it anyways and sing "The Winner Takes it All". Got it on video too. :)



Luckily, the crowd were actually pretty supportive LOL. And I'm singing at a low register because the song is being played in the female key but I am singing it in the male range of course i.e. an octave lower.

The second set thankfully turned into "Rockeoke" night, where volunteers could now sing all types of songs, from ballads to rock, still accompanied by the band. No one was signing up at the start so I volunteered to sing two songs, Creep by Radiohead and #41 by Dave Matthews Band. After all, I needed to gain some cool points back. LOL Here's me singing Creep, and looking pretty damn intense! :) I guess I was trying to get back some cool points after singing an Abba song LOL



All in all a really fun night. I guess it is always more fun when you do put yourself out there, do something silly, and really get into it.

I guess now I need to pay Mag:Net another visit during Rockeoke night. Or Broadwayoke night. Should be loads of fun. :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Four movies in eleven days

In the last week and a half, I got to watch 4 movies in the cinema. I don't recall a time when I got to see as many films in the theater in the same span of time as this. And I'm not even counting the dark knight which I got to see about two and a half weeks ago.

So which movies did I see? In order, The Mummy 3, The X-files: I want to believe, Wall-E, and Clone Wars.

Spoiler alert: I'll be sharing thoughts about these movies so please don't read any further if you don't want any spoilers.

The Mummy 3
Didn't really like this latest installment in the Mummy series.

Maybe it was the fact that Rachel Weisz was no longer there. As good as Maria Bello is, I felt she lacked Rachel's innocence and feistiness that was key in the dynamics of the entire cast. Then there was the fact that Brendan Fraser's son didn't look that much younger than he did. I found it difficult to believe they were father and son. The romantic angle was also both extremely cheesy, unnatural, and forced. Even Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li, both of whom I really like and still liked in the movie, couldn't save "The Mummy 3" for me.

The X-files: I Want to Believe
I was, and still am, a big fan of the X-files so I made sure not to pass on the chance to watch the film. I wasn't disappointed.

There was no alien angle in it, and some X-files fans may not be pleased with that. But not me. I really loved it. In usual X-files style, they created a story in which there were many possibilities. Virtually everything could be explained by science. Or by coincidence. I also liked how the movie answered a few things but still left enough things open. Which possibility you choose to believe by the end of the film will depend on your own personal belief system. So the movie is aptly named.

I was also really impressed with Gillian Anderson's acting. I have always thought she is an incredibly talented actor, and she proved it once again here. It's too bad she doesn't come out in more movies or TV shows, definitely a waste of her amazing acting ability.

Wall-E
Ah, another really good movie. Amazing how there is virtually no dialogue for the entire first half of the movie and yet the film still manages to remain engaging. In fact, the lack of dialogue actually makes you feel Wall-E's loneliness to a greater degree, and as such, you root for Wall-E a whole lot more.

The animation was exceptional. And I liked the message that the film was trying to get across. About caring for the earth and the environment. And about not being so wrapped up in technology that we no longer interact with the people around us. And about not being too dependent on technology that we lose our ability to function without it. And of course, in usual Disney-Pixar style, you will end up really connecting and empathizing with the characters. Definitely a movie worth seeing. That is, if you think you won't get bored with the lack of dialogue in the first half of the movie. I certainly wasn't.

Clone Wars
Had to see this, me being the big Star Wars fan that I am. Having said that, I think it was just okay. The animation was great of course but I guess on some level there was so much going on story-wise that they couldn't really develop any of the characters well enough.

The new character, Ahsoka, seemed way too powerful for a padawan. When Anakin, who was supposedly one of the most powerful jedis ever, was Obiwan's padawan in Attack of the Clones, he was definitely not as adept at using his powers as Ahsoka was in Clone Wars. I mean, she actually got Anakin out of trouble and even guided him and sure he did the right thing. A bit too mature for someone supposedly too young to be a padawan.

Oh and that Ziro the Hutt character was way too weird for me. The Star Wars saga managed to create the image of the Hutts as scary and fearsome and powerful. The type of creature you wouldn't want to piss off. And by creating Ziro, they practically made a mockery of the Hutts reputation that was established in the other Star Wars films. Still, it was entertaining enough for me as a whole.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lightning Bolt

Wow, Usain Bolt won 3 gold medals in the Beijing Olympics. And along with those golds came three new world records. Amazing!

There has been a lot of talk about how Usain is very disrespectful to other runners by his showboating. And generally, I don't really root for athletes who are arrogant and full of themselves. Which makes me wonder why I became a big fan of his.

For some reason, there was something strangely engaging about his flamboyance and brash demeanor. His in-your-face chest-thumping as he crossed the finish line in the 100m (he even slowed down in like the last 15 meters and was still so far ahead of everyone else!) threw off so many other people, but then again it also seemed to earn him a lot of fans.

Of course, he might have learned something from that, as he made sure that he remained completely focused in the 200m from start to finish. He beat the field by two-thirds of a second. In a sport where many medals have been won by hundredths of a second, his 200m run simply left his competition eating his dust.

And to top it all off, he and the rest of the Jamaican 4x100m relay team won gold too. And not only did they break the record, but they also beat their nearest rivals, Trinidad and Tobago, by almost a full second!!

Still makes me wonder how someone who has seems to rub a lot of people the wrong way due to his supposed arrogance actually makes me want to root for him. Maybe it's the way he celebrates his victories. He always seems jubilant and overjoyed whenever he wins. It's almost like, no one who truly believes he is completely and totally dominant over all his competition can celebrate his triumphs as joyfully as Usain. Add to this the fact that even his competitors, such as American Shawn Crawford, have said that they don't believe that he showboats.

It's amazing to think what else Usain can do in the future. He is still in his early twenties and may have at least a couple more Olympics in him. Who knows, maybe he wins a few more golds and breaks a few more records...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Volleyball season

Our sportsfest at work started a few weeks ago and I joined my team's volleyball squad, the Grey Huskies. Our team is actually pretty good and we have a fairly deep bench. The "problem" with that of course is that playtime becomes a bit limited. The games are mixed and the rules indicate that each team can have a maximum of 3 male players at a time on court. So with 10 men and 10 women playing in a best-of-3-sets format, most of us get to play only half a set on average to make sure that everyone gets to play.

This is what happened in our second game last week, which was also the first match I got to play (I missed our opening match). I came in as a sub in the middle of the first set and I played decently well. We won that set but then lost the 2nd set before our team captain fielded our first six again, and we won the 3rd set easily.

In our game earlier today, however, we didn't have our three main spikers and our primary setter as they were all unavailable due to travel. This made me and the rest of the team a bit apprehensive.

But as it turned out, we all played really well and won quite convincingly 25-16, 25-9! Yahoo! :)

We all played really well and very cohesively as a team - we had very good reception and passing, we attacked at every possible opportunity, we served well, and we played great defense. I was also really pleased with my own game. Virtually all of my spikes went in, which doesn't happen to me very often, and more often than not my spikes won the point for us. I also made quite a few really good saves too. Plus my serving wasn't too bad.

The best thing about today's match for me, though, was that we all really enjoyed it. Not just after we won, but even while we were playing. We were generally quite relaxed and we managed to shake off errors quite quickly and did not get frazzled. I also think that since we knew we didn't have all our main players today, we really appreciated and even celebrated each point that we won a lot more.

We will have most of our main players again next week so my playing time will be limited again, but I'm just really glad that I got the opportunity to play a full match (I was only one of two people who didn't get subbed today). We now have 3 wins and 0 losses and are in equal first place. Hopefully our good play continues throughout the tournament. We placed second last year so I'm hoping that we can maybe take it one step further and take home the title.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Gold Medal and the #1 ranking

Congratulations to Rafael Nadal for winning the Olympic Gold Medal in the Men's Tennis Singles Event!

The week before the Olympics started, Rafa ensured that he would take over the world #1 ranking on August 18 with his semifinal showing in the Cincinnati Master tournament and Roger Federer's early exit in that same tournament.

People were hoping for a Rafa-Roger final in the Olympics. But Roger's bad year continued as he lost for the very first time in 9 matches to James Blake.

This opened up Rafa's chances to take the goldbut he had a major roadblock on his way to the final in the form of world #3 Novak Djokovic. Novak won their most recent match, pasting Rafa in straight sets during their semifinal encounter in the Cincinnati Masters. With hard courts being Djokovic's best surface, I was worried.

But Rafa got through in another very tough match, 6-4 in the third set. In the final, Rafa faced Fernando Gonzalez, who won the bronze medal in the Athens Olympics four years ago. Nadal proved his superiority by winning in straight sets.

So Rafa celebrates his ascent to the world #1 ranking by winning Olympic Gold. Hopefully he continues to do well the rest of the year, maybe even winning the US Open as well as the year-end championships. But regardless of what happens the rest of the year, with two Grand Slam singles titles and an Olympic gold, Rafael Nadal is definitely the best tennis player in the world right now.

Way to go, Rafa!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another great day

Been having quite a few of them lately, and for that I am really grateful. This great day I'm talking about here actually happened almost a month ago.

I volunteered once again for Habitat for Humanity last July 19. We organized another group of people at work. This time, a lot more people attended - about 47, more than double the first group. It was actually a bit tiring because I organized the transportation for everyone - taking note of each volunteer's pick-up point, departure time, and drop-off point. I was actually quite pleased at how the transportation got sorted out - we didn't have any glitches at all!

Of course the event itself was another success. The folks in Kamarin, our build site, were thankful for our second visit. It was also amazing to see that walls we worked a few months ago were now houses!

Anyways, that night, I actually had dinner plans as well with Karen, Tanya, and Bryan, my friends from my previous job. I found out from Karen that she was leaving for the US to study in UC Berkeley so I tried to gather folks from our team to have a despedida dinner for her. Unfortunately, most of our ex-teammates were out of the country. So it was just the four of us.

The initial plan was for us to have dinner in Cyma in Greenbelt, but apparently it was under renovation when we got there. So we moved to People's Palace, which is one of Karen's favorite restos in the Greenbelt area. We then moved to Coffee Bean, which is also one of Karen's favorite cafes. We kidded Bryan about treating us to some coffee and he actually very nicely obliged. Thanks Bryan!

I hadn't seen all of them in months so it was really great catching up with them and also walking down memory lane and remembering a lot of the great times we had when we all still worked in the same place and got to spend more time together.

By 1030pm I was yawning like crazy. After all, I did spend a day of back-breaking work for Habitat, and I did get up at 545am so by then I had been awake for almost 17 hours. So I left before everyone else did, although they were all about to leave as well - I think Karen was just waiting for her sister I think.

Was definitely a great day. It'll be a while before all four of us get to meet up again, especially with Karen in another country now, but I'm sure that when we do see each other next, it will be loads of fun once again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Charlie Green in Concert

A couple of weeks ago, my mom saw Charlie Green on TV once during one of his many TV appearances and was impressed with his performance. She then read an article in Inquirer which mentioned that Charlie was going to have a show in Conway's in the Makati Shangri-La Hotel. She showed me the article and said that she wanted to watch.

I never got around to asking about the details on how to get tickets and stuff. But while having lunch at Chili's after my marathon, I got a text from my friend Yam asking me if I wanted to watch Charlie Green. I gave her a call and apparently, the tickets were almost gone. He initially had just one show at 2pm but that sold out quickly. They opened another show, over dinner at 7pm, but the waitlist for the 2pm show was already 100+ and they were all moved to the dinner show.

I finish up my lunch and head to Makati Shang. When I get there, I am told that the show is practically fully booked. I got three seats - me, my mom, and Yam who asked me to get her a ticket too since she was too far from the Shang hotel. I asked the lady if there were still slots and she said they won't be selling anymore tickets unless some of the people who reserved back out. So it seems that I got the last available seats. :)

On to the show. Charlie's dad, Roger, provided the opening act, singing two songs and showing everyone that singing is definitely in the Green gene pool. He was really very good!

Charlie then took the stage. He actually sang nine songs, including some timeless classics such as "Fly me to the moon", "Smile", and "What a wonderful world". He also sang a couple of original songs written by Cedric Whitehouse. And naturally he had to sing "Summer Wind", the song he performed in "Britain's Got Talent". That has to be his best technical performance. Not only does he scat very confidently in it, but he displays an amazing ability to shift from a chest tone to a head tone and back to a chest tone effortlessly and with no loss in vocal volume. A lot of adult singers have difficulty doing that!

But my favorite performance of his has to be his rendition of "Stars" from the musical "Les Miserables." That is one of my favorite songs in the musical and he does great justice performing this song. I actually gave him a standing ovation!

Here's Charlie singing "Stars". Thanks Yam for letting me put up this video in my blog. :)



You can catch all of his performances at Conway's in Yam's Charlie Green playlist: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=EF2B94ECA71CAA11

There was also a meet and greet after the show. While we were in line, I told Yam that it was funny that we were all together again for a meet and greet as fans - almost a year ago it was Elliott Yamin and this time it's Charlie Green LOL. My mom actually remembered Yam from last year.

Anyways, we got to have our photo taken with him (my mom also got her picture taken with his dad, but the photos are in my mom's cam...) He also had a pile of his pictures on which he signed his autograph for everyone who wanted one. My mom actually got a special message because it was her birthday so Charlie signed it "Happy birthday".

All in all, a very good show from an incredibly talented 11-year-old. I was pleased to get to see him. Maybe the next time he visits, he won't be as accessible as he was this time because he might be more popular then. So I was really glad I was there to see his show. :)

The Dark Knight rocks!

I finally got to watch "The Dark Knight" tonight! And wow, it was so frickin' awesome!!

It is currently on its way to becoming the highest grossing film in the US at least and has gotten so much buzz, largely due to Heath Ledger's chilling performance (although I really do think his make-up artist deserves a ton of credit for how scary he is) that might earn him a posthumous Oscar.

The great thing though is that 'The Dark Knight', at least to me, lived up to the immense hype. The film had a fantastic cast and they all put in an incredible performance - Ledger, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman. It focused more on great storytelling and well-crafted character development than on dazzling production value and special effects. And the amazing twists and turns all throughout the movie definitely kept me eagerly awaiting what was going to happen next.

I'm not absolutely sure this is a film I would want to see again in the near future just because it is quite dark and intense. But it is definitely a must-see and I'm glad I caught it while it is still showing in the theaters here in Manila.

And if this movie does become the highest-grossing film of all time, hey, I can say that I contributed to that! LOL

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Just like old times

Duncan, one of my best friends ever, was here in Manila for a business trip recently (week of July 21). I hadn't seen him in almost two years so it was great getting to hang out with him again. It was unfortunate that the rest of his family - Amy, Lucas, and Ila - couldn't come with him in this trip. But apparently Amy told him that the next time he has a trip to the Philippines, he isn't allowed to go unless they can all go with him.

I also knew that Paul was going to be here as well the week after (week of July 28), so I sent him an SMS reminding him that Duncan was going to be in Manila coz he did mention to me that he might end up coming to the Philippines earlier. Luckily, he had diving plans that weekend (July 26-27) and was arriving in Manila on July 25. His diving plans didn't push through but he decided to arrive on July 25 anyway so that he could meet up with me and Duncan.

The last time all three of us were in the same place was probably Paul's wedding way back in January 2004 so needless to say it was a great night filled with lots of catching up and lots of beer. Duncan gave Amy a call while we were together and both Paul and I got to talk to her. She warned both of us that if Duncan missed his flight, we were accountable and would be in trouble. Lucky for us he made his flight. :)

My 5th Marathon for a Cause a success! :)

After 2 1/2 months of getting ready, running 237 kilometers during training, and dealing with 2 1/2 hours of rain during the actual run, I completed my fifth Marathon for a Cause last Sunday, August 3, in 5 hours and 36 minutes.


And in the process, I raised more than P75,000 for PGH patients!

I haven't been updating this blog for a while because I decided to put up another blog for my marathon, and I spent most of my blogging time there in the last couple of weeks. Check out my Marathon-for-a-cause blog: http://marathonforacause.wordpress.com/

Click here to read more about how my run went on August 3.

Click here to see photos that my friend Marco took of me while I was running (Marco provided bike support to me during my run): http://picasaweb.google.com/cqpobre/MarathonForACause2008

And here's a video of me running during the marathon (also taken by Marco):



It's amazing to think that I have actually run five marathons already in my life. When I started running in early 2003, my life goal was to run 25 kilometers at some point in my life. And five years later, I've gone the whole 42 kilometer distance on five separate occasions.

But the important thing about all this is that I am able to raise money to help patients in the Philippine General Hospital who can't afford to pay for their medicine and diagnostic tests.

Thanks to all my family and friends for your generosity, encouragement, and support. Until next year! :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Toni's 20th wedding anniversary

My friend Toni, who lives in Texas, is coming to the Philippines next week to celebrate her 20th wedding anniversary with a renewal of vows. It will be held in Dumaguete and since I had never been there, I thought it would be a good excuse for me to go. A few other friends of ours who are based in Manila will be going so it should be fun.

What makes it even more interesting, at least for me, is that I have once again been asked to sing. Big surprise LOL. I will actually be singing with three other people - Marie, Eliza, and Fred. The initial plan was for us to sing one group song and then each of us does a solo. We decided that for our group song, we would do an a capella arrangement of "When I fall in love" (Marie's chorale group have done this). But another friend of ours, Emmy, suggested to Toni that we sing "With you I'm born again" as a group. Not really my preferred song choice.

I was initially thinking of singing either "Come fly with me" or "Fly me to the moon" coz most of the songs we were doing were slow and I felt that it would be nice to sing something a bit more upbeat. But Marie gave me a minus one audio file of "Angels brought me here" - I mentioned to her before that I wanted to sing it but I lost my minus one of the song - and while practicing it, I changed my mind and decided to do this song instead. Should be fun.

Anyways, we wanted to start with the a capella song just because it is a lot more difficult to sing and we want to get the difficult song out of the way. But then during our practice last Saturday, we realized that if we end with "With you I'm born again" it would kinda be anti-climactic. Especially since some of our solos are better than the group song. And since we didn't want to end with a solo, we decided to toss in another group song. We decided to sing "Seasons of Love" from Rent.

I'm really excited about the songs we are doing actually. The last time I sang harmony was way back in college so it has been a while and I'm looking forward to doing it again. And I've always wanted to sing "Seasons of Love" so that should be loads of fun too. :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Marathon training tracker - July 13

Target: 24 kilometers in 2 hours 40 minutes
Actual: 18 kilometers in 2 hours

So far my worst result, and I guess I had to expect it. I was planning a 16k run on Thursday which I missed because it rained heavily on Thursday night. Which normally isn't a problem except that my car was color-coded that day and I didn't have an umbrella. I also couldn't get a cab. So I ended up missing another training run.

I then decided to run 24k since I felt I was running out of time and that I needed to cover longer distances. And during the run, I was conserving energy really well and was pretty well-hydrated. The problem was that at around the 16k mark, I felt really hungry. And I mean really hungry. It kinda sucked coz I actually thought I had a good meal prior to that, but I guess it wasn't enough.

So I decided at the 17k mark that I would just cut my run short and maybe run 21k on Thursday then 24k on Monday next week. I can't run during the weekend because I have another Habitat for Humanity activity on Saturday and I know my body won't be in good shape on Sunday. I have about 3 weeks left 'til my marathon and I don't really have a lot of time to train so I hope I can meet all my remaining training targets.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mamma Mia!

I watched Mamma Mia! on Friday night with Pia and Jill. And man, it was such a fun and feel-good movie! Which I guess you can expect when you put together Abba music, a Broadway musical, and a great cast top-billed by Meryl Streep.

The movie is based on the musical of the same title. When I was in New York for a weekend back in 2004, I had the option of watching the musical - the receptionist of my hotel was highly recommending it to me - but I ended up watching "The Phantom of the Opera" and "The Producers" because Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane reprised their roles during the time I was there.

So I never really got to see the musical and I don't know how the movie stacks up against it. But I do know Abba and their music, and the musical was based on the music of Abba (hence the title). I have to say that for the most part I was impressed. The cast - which included Colin Firth, Stellen Skarsgard (it's great that there was a Swede in the cast), Julie Walters, and Christine Baranski - was really good. Amanda Seyfried, who co-starred with Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls, played Sophie in the film and was surprisingly good. I initially didn't recognize her and I thought that she was a newbie who came out of nowhere to take the role.

Of course, the show, as expected, belonged to the marvelous Meryl Streep who played Donna, the lead character. From her acting to her singing to her larger-than-life screen presence, she was such a joy to watch. Especially remarkable was her delivery of the Abba classic "The Winner Takes It All" which was delivered with excellent vocal strength and texture and with immense passion that we have grown to expect from this legendary thespian.

The only downside for me was Pierce Brosnan's singing, which to me didn't sound very good at all. But I guess I have to give him an 'A' for effort.

All in all a great, fun-filled movie. Definitely worth watching. In fact, I think I will be watching it again since my mom wants to see it too, and I will use that as an excuse to see it again. :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quick Hits

Che was here last week. We - me, Che, Pia, Me-ann, Alvin, Joh and Raffa - decided to meet up for dinner on Wednesday night. Me-ann (or was it Pia?) read about this resto in GB5 called Zuni and they thought it would be good to try. The verdict? Some of the dishes were pretty good, but I felt it was a bit too overpriced for my taste. The risotto dish I got (can't remember exactly what it was, I think spinach and mushroom) was just okay. I think prefer the risotto in UCC Cafe. Raffa's pasta dish though was apparently really good. Nice to try once I guess but make sure you're stacked when you go there.

*****

Most of that same group of folks ended up watching Hancock on Friday. Pia begged off - she didn't really want to watch Hancock - and Alvin had other plans. Anna Mae joined us for the movie. When we got out of the cinema, it seemed I was the only one who entertained by it. Raffa and Joh didn't really like it, Che thought it was okay, Me-ann and Anna Mae were unsure whether they liked the movie or not haha. Anyways, I ended up having dessert with Me-Ann, Che, and Anna Mae and they showed me photos they took during a road trip they took (with Pia) to Laguna the Saturday before.

*****

Bought a few CDs over the weekend:

  • U2's "Best of 1980-1990" - I actually had this on cassette tape before but I don't have a cassette player anymore except in the car so I figured it was worth getting the CD.
  • Matchbox 20's "Exile on Mainstream"
  • Toto's "The Essential Toto"
Speaking of U2, I heard from a friend of mine that the planned U2 concert in Manila seems to have been canceled due to a lack of an appropriate venue. It's all hearsay of course, and heck even the supposed U2 concert here was hearsay too (or well, it was never confirmed). But I was really hoping they would come here.

*****

I was watching "Iron Chef America" last Saturday. The challenger, Chef Yeo, selected Chef Morimoto to compete against, so it was an all-Asian battle. Made sense since the secret ingredient was tofu.

Morimoto is my favorite Iron Chef because I love the fact that he always comes up with six dishes and a dessert, no matter what the secret ingredient is. Apparently though, he has the worst record in Iron Chef America. Of course, his challenger Chef Yeo seemed like a very likeable woman too.

At the end of the judging, Morimoto won. And with a near perfect score of 59 (max points is 60). Chef Yeo actually scored 55. Now, I have seen episodes where the winner doesn't even get 55 (sometimes a 51 or 52) so I guess Chef Yeo had nothing to be disappointed about as her dishes were practically perfect too.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Marathon training tracker - July 5 to 7

July 5

I was planning to run 24k last Saturday. But as of Friday, I was still tired and my muscles were still sore. I decided that I needed a break from training so I took the weekend off.

July 7

Since I missed my 24k training run, I decided that I would do it again this Saturday. I then decided that for this week, I would run 8k on Monday, 16k on Thursday, and 24k on Saturday.

Target distance: 8 kilometers
Target time: 46 minutes
Actual time: 45 minutes 25 seconds

I figured that since I covered 8k in 47 minutes the week before, I should try to increase my speed a bit and shave off 1 minute from my time. And for the first time in my last five runs, I actually met my target time!

The only worry I have now is that there's a slight pain on my right knee and both my hamstrings are still sore. Considering that I had a weekend off from running, this is not a very good sign.

I am still going to target a 16k road run on Thursday, but i'll probably run it at a slower pace than I had initially planned. I also have a full day to rest my body before my next training run. Hopefully it will be enough.

Next target: 16 km in 1 hours 46 minutes.

Vamos, Rafa!

Rafael Nadal is the 2008 Wimbledon Men's Singles Champion! Woo-hoo!!!

In what has to be arguably the best Wimbledon final - heck, best Grand Slam final - ever, Rafael Nadal squeaked past Roger Federer in five intense and absolutely gruelling sets of out-of-this-world tennis. It was so tense that I actually stayed up until 430am to finish the match. It lasted 4 hours 48 minutes, the longest men's final ever. And that's not counting the two rain delays - one that came towards the end of the third set and another that came in the start of the 5th - or the fact that it started about half an hour late also because of rain. And me being the Nadal fan that I am, I actually stayed up to watch the whole trophy ceremony.

The final had it all - swings in momentum, fantastic rallies, unbelievable mental toughness from both players, breakpoints, set points, and even match points saved.

Rafa won the first set after breaking Roger early. Then he was down a break in the second set when he managed to break Roger back twice to take a commanding 2-0 lead. One more set and the title would be his.

But Federer is the best grass court player this decade - the defending champion has won a record equalling five Wimbledon titles in a row, a record 10 consecutive grass court tournaments, and a record 65 consecutive matches on grass. He was not about to roll over and die. He took the 3rd set to a tie-break where he scored a mini-break of serve and held on to it to take the third set.

The fourth set was decided once more in a tie-break. Nadal initially had the upper-hand, he was 5-2 up, with two mini-breaks of serve and was two points away from the title. But nerves got to him and he double faulted. Nadal actually had two matchpoints in the tie-break, but on each occasion Roger raised the level of his game to even things out. And when Rafa hit a backhand long on Roger's 2nd set point, the match was dead even at two sets apiece. Oh the stress!

I was seriously worried in the fifth set. Roger seemed to have the momentum on his side, and for a few games he seemed to have figured out Rafa's forehand. Moreover, most players who led 2-0 and had match points who then found themselves in a fifth set would have withered and died. But not Rafa. He showed that his mental frailty in the 4th set tie-break was temporary and proved his mettle by staying toe-to-toe with Roger until 7-all.

It was at this point that Nadal then scored the all important break of serve to leave him serving for the match at 8-7. By now the it was almost half past nine and the lighting was very poor. But matchplay continued. Rafa had another match point which Roger saved with a sublime cross-court backhand. Finally, on his fourth matchpoint, and after nearly five hours of nerve-wracking, breathtaking tennis, Roger hit his forehand to the net to hand Rafa the title.

It has to be the absolute best match I have ever seen in my entire life. Any other male tennis player who saw that match probably realized just how much ground they have to cover before they can really challenge the world's top 2 tennis players, at least on grass.

Nadal has now won a tour-leading 6 titles this year, including two Grand Slam titles. He is still behind Roger but so far this year he's had the best results by a mile. If he can continue to do well, he has a strong chance to finish this year as the #1. Which I think he truly deserves.

Go Rafa!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Marathon training tracker - July 3

Target distance: 16 km
Target time: 1 hr 41 mins
Actual time: 1 hr 42 mins

Short of my target time again but not by much. Seems like I'm over-estimating my abilities LOL.

I had dinner at around 615pm - 2-piece fully loaded meal in KFC - and since I was planning to run at a bit past 8pm, I felt that 1 1/2 hours would be enough time for the food to settle in my stomach and not be a distraction during my run. It didn't seem like it though when I started running at around 820pm - I could somehow feel some extra weight and I actually felt like throwing up a few times during my training. Clearly this is not the way you are supposed to do it LOL but then again, I've never really been very scientific with my running.

Next target: 24 km in 2 hours 40 minutes.

I will also attempt to run on the road for the first time in my training this year. I'm a bit worried since the circuit I plan on running is 3k long, and so far I've been rehydrating every 2k. I guess this just means I need to stay well-hydrated tomorrow and on Saturday before I run. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

One round to go before Roger-Rafa III

The men will be playing in the Wimbledon semifinals tomorrow. Roger Federer will be facing Marat Safin, the man who beat Roger in the semifinals of the Australian Open way back in 2005. Safin, an ex-#1 player, has regained some of the form that has seen him win two Grand Slam singles titles in his career, but he is up against a very in-form and hungry Federer.

I was initially worried for Nadal - the little slip-up he had in the previous round against Kiefer made me wonder whether his knee wouldn't be in perfect condition. And his opponent in the quarters was Andy Murray who had been playing very well over the last week and a half, and was riding on the momentum of his come-from-behind win against Richard Gasquet. The fact that Murray had the entire crowd rooting for him was more cause for concern, but Rafa seemed oblivious to it all and swept Murray aside in straight sets.

He will now face the winner of Arnaud Clement and Rainer Schuettler, whose match has spanned 2 days due to rain delays and is currently at 6-all in the fifth set. The winner of this match will clearly be tired for the semifinal against Nadal, so I'm hoping Nadal can once again meet Roger in the finals of Wimbledon.

If Roger and Rafa do meet up, it will be the third straight year where they will meet in the final of The Championships. Should be a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Marathon training tracker - June 25 to July 1

I think that tracking my training runs in my blog has actually been helped me have a lot more discipline in my training. In the four previous times that I have trained for a marathon, I occasionally missed training runs because I wasn't feeling up to it, or I normally shaved off a few kilometers off my target distance. This year though, I've been pretty solid in terms of meeting my distance targets. Which is good.

June 25

Target distance: 14 kilometers
Target time: 1 hour 24 minutes
Actual time: 1 hour 27 minutes

I didn't meet my target time but I did cover the full distance and I managed to keep a very steady pace without slowing down (except to drink Gatorade) throughout the run. And heck, 3 minutes off target is not bad at all.

June 28

Target distance: 21 kilometers
Target time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Actual time: 2 hours 16 minutes

Again, just a fraction off my target time. I was running at a pretty good pace actually until I got past 19 kilometers during which time I felt incredibly tired and had to slow my pace down. Once again, I need to figure out better energy management for the longer distances i.e. 15k and up.

July 1

Target distance: 8 kilometers
Target time: 47 minutes
Actual time: 47 minutes 4 seconds

LOL okay I just had to put the 4 seconds in there. I was kinda kicking myself in the butt for not forcing the issue and increasing my final 200m sprint speed to make sure I was under the 47 minute mark. But I guess I didn't really care. At around 6 kilometers I was actually feeling quite tired and was almost about to decide to slow down or even shorten my target distance to 7km but I found a second wind and actually ended very strongly.

Next target: 16 kilometers in 1 hour 41 minutes on Thursday, July 3. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tournament of upsets

# 1 Ana Ivanovic lost in the 3rd round. So did #2 Maria Sharapova. #3 Jelena Jankovic and #4 Svetlana Kuznetsova both managed to make it into the second week but then both lost in the 4th round. So the top 4 women seeds are out. This is the first Wimbledon event where all top 4 women's seeds were eliminated by the 4th round. Amazing.

The top men aren't faring that much better. #3 Novak Djokovic, #4 Nikolai Davydenko, #5 David Ferrer, and #6 Andy Roddick are all gone.

Of course you still have #1 Roger Federer and #2 Rafael Nadal are still on course to meet in the final. On the women's side, the Williams sisters Venus and Serena seem on course for a final. They traditionally have not played well when they played against each other but something tells me that if they meet here, it may be a bit better than any of their previous matches against each other.

I'm still hoping Rafa can cause the upset and win his first Wimbledon (and his first non-French Open Grand Slam event). The minor accident he had in his match against Mikhail Youzhny in the fourth round worries me a bit though. Anyways, just a few more days til the weekend. Can't wait to see how things turn out! :)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday night at the movies

I just got out of the cinema after watching the Incredible Hulk, and man, it was incredible!

The Incredible Hulk had been showing here for a couple of weeks already, which essentially means it would be taken out of movie-house circulation in Manila soon. So I made time to see it in the theater while I still could. And I certainly wasn't disappointed. I loved practically everything about it - the action, the conflict, the drama, and the set-up for a sequel. Definitely a film I'll be getting on DVD when it comes out. I really am such a sucker for superhero movies...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Marathon training tracker - June 12 to June 23

I've been incredibly busy the last week or so and haven't really been able to blog. So here's how my training has gone so far:

June 12
I managed to run 12 kilometers in 1 hour 14 minutes. The good news - I met both distance and time targets. The bad news is that this is the first time in a couple of weeks that I slowed down during training. In all my previous training runs, I managed to keep increasing my speed slowly from start to end. In this run, however, I was doing pretty well until at around 10 kilometers when I started feeling winded. I managed to cover several hundred meters more before needing to slow down.

My main goal during the marathon is to run 30 kilometers at an average speed of 9.5kph (or higher). If I can do that, then I can surely finish the marathon in under 5 hours (and possibly even beat my best time of 4 hours and 52 minutes). I now need to learn how to pace myself over longer distances much better and how to manage my energy more efficiently.

June 14
My target was to run 18 kilometers on June 14 (saturday) in 1 hour and 54 minutes. I barely missed my time targets - I covered my target distance in 1:56. The good thing though is that I managed my energy levels and pace much better, which was really my goal. I think that I could have kept running at least a few more kilometers without dropping speed which certainly gives me a lot more confidence with respect to achieving my speed goals for the marathon.

One week off
Last week, I had so much work that I didn't have time to train. I was a bit upset about it, buy my friend Allan told me that there in certain running circles, there is a school of thought that it is sometimes good to take a week off from training. I thus decided to just run again on Saturday.

June 21
Goal: 10 kilometers in 1 hour.
Result: 10 kilometers in 59 minutes 45 seconds

Yahoo!

June 23
Goal: 7 kilometers in 42 minutes
Result: 7 kilometers in 41 minutes

So far, so good. My speed is increasing, and my discipline to run has been pretty decent. My next goal is to run 14 kilometers in 1 hour 24 minutes.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wimbledon!

Wimbledon, the lone tennis Grand Slam on grass just started today. Roger Federer swept aside his first round opponent, Dominik Hrbaty in three very easy sets. He's won this title five years in a row and hasn't lost on grass in - get this - his last 60 matches on this surface. Despite the fact that he hasn't been in his best form this year, he just won a grass tournament in Halle a couple of weeks ago and he is still a strong favorite to win the title. I wouldn't be surprised if he breaks Bjorn Borg's record of consecutive Championships won (they are currently tied, both with 5 titles in a row).

I would love it, though, if Rafael Nadal can actually breakthrough and win his first Wimbledon title. He just won his first grass court title a couple of weeks ago, and it was a pretty strong win because he had to navigate through two strong-servers and grass-court specialists in Ivo Karlovic and Andy Roddick as well as world #3 Novak Djokovic en route to the title. He is definitely on a hot-streak right now (he's won his last 17 matches) which will certainly help his confidence, but he does have a tough draw. He gets a bit of a break though, with Djokovic being Roger's half of the draw.

Two more weeks of very interesting tennis. Let's hope this tournament lives up to the hype...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Independence Day


Before the day ends, let me greet all Filipinos all over the world a very happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Marathon training tracker - June 10

Breakthrough! I just ran 6 kilometers in 35 minutes and 26 seconds. That is an average of 5 minutes and 54 seconds per kilometer. Or an average speed of 10.14 kph. This matches the my speed about 2 years ago. Yahoo!!

Of course, I covered "only" 6 kilometers. But even in previous shorter runs I've had this year (i.e. 5 kilometers) I had to start running at 8.5 kph and just gradually build to 10kph towards the end of my run, ending up with an average speed of about 9 kph. Even in all my long runs recently, I had to start running at 8.5kph.

When I got to the treadmill for this training run and started at that speed, I somehow felt I could actually run a faster. I moved up to 9kph but I felt I could still take it up a notch. So I took a gamble and moved the speed up to 10 kph. I completed my first kilometer in a smidge over 6 minutes and I decided I was feeling strong enough to try and complete my 6k run with an average speed of 6 minutes per kilometer. I slowly increased my speed over the next half hour to 10.5kph. And with 200m left in my run, I still managed to sprint (or well, I ran at 12.5kph).

As I posted the other day, my initial goal was to cover 6k in 39 minutes (I was supposed to do it on Monday, but I had to work and ended up meeting up with my friend David for drinks - I hadn't seem him in years so it was great catching up - so I moved my training run to Tuesday). Needless to say I am really happy that I managed to shave off more than 3 1/2 minutes from my target. This gives me lots of confidence now leading to the marathon.

Next target: 12 kilometers on Thursday in 1 hour 16 minutes.