Friday, December 31, 2010

Kog and Ina's wedding

One of my friends from high school and college, Kog, married his now-wife Ina in Singapore earlier in the year and they decided to have a church wedding in the Philippines on December 30 so they could celebrate with their family and friends who are here. A few of us from high school - Anna, Topher, Lilia, Rodrigo, and myself - headed to Lipa where the ceremony would take place. Anna was asked to give the first reading while Topher was one of the secondary sponsors so it was important for us to be on time. The invitations said 3:30pm but it actually started at 4pm, which was good for us because we would've been late if it started on time. In fact, we just barely made it!

The wedding ceremony was held in The Church of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. It is located next to the Malarayat Golf and Country Club which is where the reception was held, and at some point during the ceremony, the priest encouraged us to recommend this church to other people planning to get married, a plug which I thought was a bit weird and out of place for a wedding hehe. Another funny tidbit during the sermon was when the priest asked Kog what the heart is for and he answered "to pump blood" hahaha. I am trying to think now, and I guess I am a scientist like Kog and would have most likely given the same answer (yes, I say scientist and not nerd ;)). There was no photo op at the altar with friends (it was all family and relatives), but an opportunity presented itself for the five of us invitees to head over to Kog and Ina and have our picture taken with them while we were still in church.

The reception included a lot of good food and a lot of really good wine. It was too bad that I was driving all the way back to Manila that same evening since there was a lot of wine and I could have had maybe a few bottles if I didn't have to drive. The program included variations to the traditional bouquet and garter toss. I can't really recall how the bouquet toss was executed, but for the garter toss, all the bachelors were split into pairs. Each person was then pitted against their partner in a game of hula hooping - the person who could hula hoop longer would be excused. I lost the first round to Rodrigo but I managed to win the next round, which meant I didn't get the garter.

The program ended at around 9pm and we ended up hanging out with Kog and Ina and Kog's siblings. I was happy my barong lasted the entire night (I wore my only decent barong a couple of weeks ago during Reg's wedding and it hadn't been washed yet by the time Kog's wedding arrived, and my other barong had a ripped sleeve so I kept it together with scotch tape and it somehow did the trick haha). Discussions invariably went to tennis talk, which is of course always interesting because Kog, Ina, and his entire family are extremely pro-Federer and of course I am pro-Nadal haha. We did manage to keep discussions quite civil haha so no fireworks. :) Anna and I had to leave at around 10pm unfortunately so we had to say goodbye but it was amazing that we got to celebrate with Kog on one of the most important days of his life.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another dessert find: Mango Torte from Dulcelin

During my get-together with Bett, Chari, Jette, and Anna in Omakase and Jack's Loft, discussions invariably turned towards food. Bett said that one of the best desserts she's had is the Mango Torte from Dulcelin. I decided to get one and bring it home to my family for Christmas, and I do have to say, it definitely lived up to the hype!

photo from the official Dulcelin website.

This delectable dessert has mango balls and cream on a crust of (what I think is) cashew brittle. The quality of the ingredients and the contrast in textures makes the Dulcelin mango torte absolutely perfect! Needless to say, it didn't last very long when I brought it home.

Address: 36 Times Street, West Triangle, Q.C.
Tel: 374-2165 or 67
Mobile: 0917-535-2592

There are a few other branches that you can find in their official website. They don't have a restaurant and they don't deliver, so you have to pick up your order. They do have a lot of mango tortes ready as they know this is their best seller so you can just drop by and make your purchase without pre-ordering.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Parties galore

The Yuletide season always brings with it a whole lot of reunions, parties, and get-togethers. The scheduling is always difficult but since I don't want to miss anything, I try to influence the dates by sharing my calendar upfront and getting my friends to agree on a date ASAP (I then start blocking off dates one by one, making sure there are no conflicts). I guess I've been in the corporate world too long and it has influenced even how I plan Christmas parties with my friends LOL but hey, it's effective in that I get to attend virtually every gathering.

The first was karaoke night in Chicago KTV in the Metrowalk area on the 17th. A couple of my batchmates from high school - Ezra, Jay, and Marlon - were in town so Joyce organized a party with them. More than a dozen folks showed up and it was fun catching up with everyone, especially Ezra who was a good friend of mine back in HS (I remember our McDonald's birthday treats with Eugene and Ed).

The next evening, I joined my friends Walter, Tim, and Basil for dinner in Galileo Enoteca. I had been there once, years ago with my friends from work, and frankly I was expecting to return there a lot sooner than I did. I remembered this restaurant when we were thinking of venues and when I suggested that we have dinner there, everyone agreed. We ordered three set menus - with each of us picking a different pasta - and one pizza so that we could have a bit of everything and enjoy a bit more variety. The meal was good and so was the red wine that came with it.

A couple of days after, I headed to Raffa and Joh's house for the reunion of my circle of friends from work. We had a few folks from Singapore in town - Che, Hannah, Alvin, Pau, and Gi - and of course the Manila contingent was there - Me-Ann, Mike, Chris, Shar, and of course, Joh, Raffa, and myself. Once again, it was a festival of food, with the pritchon taking centerstage. Pritchon has now become a staple of our Christmas reunions and interestingly enough we noticed that the quantity served to us is not as large as it used to be (chalk it up to inflation). I was in charge once again of dessert and this time I brought another one of my favorites - the Torta De Los Reyes from Aristocrat. Everyone thought it was really good and Me-Ann said she always looks forward to the desserts I bring. Oh the pressure LOL! Now I need to make sure I bring really good cakes and sweets whenever we have parties in the future. After dinner, we had our white elephant exchange gift where I got a really cool tumbler set from Starbucks.

The next evening was karaoke night (again) in Chicago KTV (again LOL) with almost 30 other members of our band club at work. This was our Christmas celebration and it was a perfect way to cap the year, especially after the time and effort we put in to prepare for our gigs earlier in the month. It was a good mix of old members and new, and the great thing about the evening was that everyone got along really well.

On Thursday, I met up with my friends Bett, Chari, Jette, and Anna (unfortunately, Ric and Lany couldn't join us) for dinner in Omakase in Il Terrazzo in Tomas Morato. This Japanese resto seems to be a favorite among a lot of my friends since it offers a lot of good food and the prices are quite reasonable. After dinner, we walk over to Jack's Loft for coffee and dessert.

And finally, I met up with Anna, Mitch and Ferg, and Gary and Winnie in Mitch's house for dinner. I was assigned to bring dessert yet again - I decided to bring a whole Chocolate Obsession cake from Kitchen's Best - and it was very well received. I stuffed myself yet again on lasagna, chicken, and barbecue. Ferg then served us all some wine and coffee. Christmas really is the time to stuff yourself silly LOL.

I still have two more Christmas party to attend. First, I'm meeting up with my college friends in a couple of days. The other get-together with my HS and college friends Mitch, Anna, Iona, and Joyce has to wait a bit because Joyce just gave birth and won't be able to meet up until after the New Year. Once again, a really hectic but fun-filled Christmas season, with a couple more get-togethers to look forward to (specially seeing Joyce's new baby :)).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas with the family

Christmas is a time for family. This year was not an exception. We celebrated Christmas by having a wonderful dinner in my Tita Ace's house. We planned to go to Enchanted Kingdom on Monday which is a bit of a long drive from home so I suggested that we just stay in a hotel in Makati. So on Sunday, my family, including my grandparents, checked into the New World Hotel, which pretty good room packages during Christmas and was thus significantly cheaper than a lot of the other top hotels in the area.

Before checking in, we went to the Piazza in Upper McKinley Road to have lunch in Little Asia. We headed there because my mom saw in the newspaper that there was a Venetian exhibit of and other Italian cultural items in the Piazza that was on every Sunday so we were hoping to catch it. Unfortunately, the exhibit was no longer on display that Sunday. It was still good, though, since my family got to visit a new place and we had a really good meal.

We got to the hotel late in the afternoon and I promptly took my nephews to the swimming pool. We spent about an hour in the pool before cleaning up in time to hear the 730pm mass in Greenbelt. We then rushed to the Rustan's toy section since I hadn't gotten my nephews Christmas gifts yet and this way, they could choose their gifts. CJ's birthday was coming up so I got him a NERF gun as a combined Christmas and birthday gift. I got Ciera a Kung Zhu hamster and a Beyblade launcher. We had dinner in Heaven and Eggs before walking back to our hotel for a good night's rest.

We got up early the next day in time for breakfast before going to Enchanted Kingdom. What greeted us was a huge mass of people waiting to get in. Which automatically meant that the entire amusement park would be teeming with people trying to get on the rides. The waiting lines for the popular rides were immensely long, probably averaging 1 1/2 to 2 hours, if not more. Ciera managed to get on one of the kiddie rides before we moved to the Ferris wheel where we waited for more than an hour for our turn. After that, we queued up for the Go Karts but apparently kids needed to be accompanied by adults which my nephews were not too thrilled with so we skipped it. In the end, we were all too tired to get on any of the rides after that so we just went shopping for EK stuff.

We left at around 7pm had some comfort food in Razon's in the Technohub to cap the night. A tiring long weekend but it certainly was time well spent with the family.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"A Dustland Fairytale" by The Killers

Pretty cool song from 'Day and Age', the fourth album of The Killers.

video uploaded in youtube by user FuRryyX

Monday, December 20, 2010

The KFC Double Down

My new addiction - the KFC Double Down:

photo from the KFC double down wikipedia entry

Apparently, KFC marketed the Double Down heavily during the Pacquiao-Margarito fight back in November, but since I didn't get to watch it (I don't really like watching boxing 'coz I always feel bad for the loser so I just caught the tail-end of the fight and didn't see a lot of the advertisements). Which explains why the lines in KFC were so long shortly after the fight, although my friends told me that the double down was always unavailable at the time.

I had my first Double Down a week or so after that because I was in line in KFC and noticed that there were a lot of them available. And I loved it! Two chicken fillets sandwiching bacon, cheese, and mayonnaise. Not the healthiest option but, as I tell my friends, it can't be that much worse than a 2-piece chicken meal with rice. (Or well that is what I tell them LOL I am sure the cheese-mayo-bacon combo is unhealthier than rice. :)) Anyways, since that first Double Down, I've probably had maybe a dozen more. Yikes! I guess when I start putting on the pounds, I know what the culprit is.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The wedding singer is back :)

Not exactly sure how long it's been since I last sang in a wedding, but my friend Reg just got married and she asked me to sing during the reception. She didn't know exactly which song she wanted me to sing so she asked me to suggest songs. She also asked me to provide a few duet recommendations since the band they hired to play during the reception had a female lead vocalist and Reg was thinking it might be a good idea for us to sing a duet.

I go through the songs I had performed before plus a few others that I knew I could do and felt were appropriate for a wedding. I toss in a couple of duets, shorten the list, and send it to Reg so she could go through it and make her selection. She told me she wanted me to sing 'Bless the broken road' by the Rascal Flatts. I ask her if she wanted me to sing anything else, and she said that her fiance-then-husband-now thought 'Angels brought me here' was a good song. Interesting song choices as there were the exact songs that Raffa and Joh asked me to sing in their wedding a few years back. Reg said she would ask the band to learn the songs but she asked that I prepare a CD with karaoke versions of these two songs just in case the band couldn't play them.

I made a silly mistake though in that I forgot to print out lyrics of my songs. I was pretty confident about singing "Angels brought me here" but I had only sung "Bless the broken road" once ever in my life and I messed up the lyrics of the second verse then. I got all the words right when I was practicing at home but when I ran through the song during my practice with the band, I forgot the words to the entire second verse. That psyched me out quite a bit and true enough, when I performed the song during the actual program, I blanked out! I start just mumbling random words and humming and it was horrible LOL. I managed to get through the rest of the song without any further incident, and my "Angels brought me here" took off quite well (especially the big high note in the final chorus). Of course my friends there were saying it was all right but that's how friends are hehe. Oh well, just need to be sure I do much better next time.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Big project done!

Wow. It took several months of hard work, including a few months of really long, stressful days and massive issues. But in the end of it, everything turned out great.

The entire project team was called together to be in the same meeting room to discuss the findings. It is rare that you get everyone involved in a project all in the same room, but since everyone had put in so much blood, sweat, and tears into it and this was 'D-day', attendance was at the top of everyone's priority list. The room was packed! Even our big bosses were there.

Each component of the project was discussed during this findings presentation, but everyone in the room was really just waiting for the overall findings. When we were finally told that the project was a success, the whole room erupted in unbridled joy! More than a few people shed some tears. And while it can be argued that it's a bit extreme for anyone to cry about work, if you put in so many hours and go through unparalleled stress to get something done, you can't help but be emotionally invested in it. The icing on the cake is that the completion of our project right before Christmas means I don't have to worry about anything work-related while I'm on my holiday break. That's just absolutely brilliant. :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kitchen's Best: New dessert find!

Powerplant has a thing called the "Baker's Dozen" where a lot of of stalls that sell bakery items like cakes, pastries, and other sweets are set-up temporarily in the Concourse during the months leading up to Christmas and also at other times of the year. I'm a big fan of desserts but rarely purchased anything from there. But one day, I was there and wanted to have a simple chocolate dessert so I looked around. It was a bit hard to decide but in one stall, I saw a news article that said that this particular chocolate cake made the Best Desserts list of Manila Bulletin in 2008. A slice was P95 - which I felt was reasonable - so I decided to get one. As soon as I tried it, I understood completely why it made the list. It was absolutely delicious!!

The store is Kitchen's Best Home Patisserie and the cake is Chocolate Obession. I initially planned on eating only half the slice and saving the other half for later in the day (you know, trying to reduce my sugar intake hehe) but I ended up gobbling the whole thing in one sitting. It was that good!

photo from the official Kitchen's Best facebook page

This cake is very moist and rich, and it fully deserves its name 'coz I wanted to eat another slice immediately after polishing off the one I got. I made sure to get another slice the next time I was in the mall. I lucked out too - I purchased a slice about 15 minutes before the mall closed and the salesperson (I guess she was the owner or someone related to the owner) offered me a second slice for an additional P5 only. That was P100 for two slices! I had to ask the salesperson twice to make sure and when she confirmed it, I didn't even think twice. :)

You can order Kitchen's Best for delivery via 2121212 ( Here's a link to their menu. You can of course dine in the restaurant, too.

Address: Unit 5B Bldg B, Karrivin Plaza 2316 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati
Telephone: 843.3847, 381.8518
Mobile: 0917.896.6248

I'm putting this place on my list of must-visit restos. Looks really promising.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn": Mime version

This is a really funny video from years back.

video uploaded in youtube by Legendkiller05

The guy's name is David Armand and he does such a great job with his miming, from the hilarity of his actions to the precision and timing of his execution to his incredible facial expressions. Apparently this performance of 'Torn' got so much buzz that he ended up performing it live with Natalie Imbruglia. Check this out and pay special attention to Natalie from the 2:35 to 3:18. She is so cool! :)

video uploaded in youtube by GHENCEA14

Monday, December 13, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

I guess you could say I'm sort of a fan of the Harry Potter series. Definitely not as big a fan as a lot of other people who have not only watched all the films but have read all the books too. In fact, I have not read any of the books. I think that's the reason I didn't really like this latest film in the series.

Based on all conversations I've had with people, I noticed a trend. People who read the book felt that the movie stayed true to it quite well, and as such they enjoyed the film. However, those who didn't read the novel such as myself were left with no clear basis to understand the story and felt that it moved along too slowly, at least for the first half. I guess it was my fault as I actually missed watching the Half-Blood Prince, which meant I was didn't know a few key elements of the storyline. Like the fact that Harry, Hermione, and Ron were looking for the locket because it was a horcrux that they had to destroy in order to beat Voldemort. In fact, it took about half the film before I realized that was what they were doing.

I have to say that the plus-side to all those walking-around scenes was the great cinematography. Seeing those amazing scenery shots took away some of my boredom LOL. The story did pick up towards the end though, which built up my interest to see the final installment of this film franchise. (To make sure I can keep up with the story, I guess I should try to see the Half-Blood Prince first. I have a few months though 'til Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows comes out so it should be very doable. :))

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Duncan and David in town

Two of my closest friends, Duncan and Amy, recently moved from the US to Singapore because Amy got an assignment there. While their stint in SG won't be for more than a year or two, it makes it easier for us to meet up. This definitely was the case when Duncan had a business trip to Manila for a few days.

The cool thing was that our other friend, David, who had been to Manila quite a few times since he moved from the UK to Brisbane, was also going to be in Manila for the same event. Naturally, we made sure to all meet up while we were in the same city. The last time I recall all of us being in the same place at the same time was in Seoul back in 2001!!

We ended up hanging out in Handlebar, which wasn't surprising since we were with David, who always has dinner and/or drinks there every time he is in town. We were joined there by Ozaki-san and Seki-san, both of whom I had also not seen in years! Both Duncan and David were flying out early morning the next day and I still had a truckload of work, but that didn't stop us from having more than our fair share of drinks LOL. We did a lot of catching up, and both Duncan and David proudly showed us pictures of their really cute kids on their phones. Speaking of phones, Duncan showed David 'Plants vs. Zombies" on his iPhone and got David playing the game for a few minutes. Later in the night, an all-girl band started playing some old-school rock songs. There were three of them - one on the drums, one on the bass, and one on lead guitar - but the coolest thing was that the vocalist was the one on the drums!

It was a fun night and but before the second set of the band started, David said we better get a move on (I think they both had to be up at like 430am the next day). Hopefully there will be another opportunity for all of us to hang out again while Duncan is still here in Asia.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas performances

Christmas means office parties. Which also means programs with musical performances. So yeah, you guessed it. I got to sing again. A couple of times.

The Christmas party of our department was on December 2, Thursday. I initially signed up to sing 'Magasin'. It's my favorite Eraserheads songs by a mile and I was so psyched to perform it (would've been the first time I got to perform an OPM song in an office event too). However, we were asked to perform Taio Cruz's 'Dynamite' to officially open the evening proceedings. The band assigned that song to me since they felt that it was a song I could pull that off well and since both songs would be performed one after the other (Magasin was the last song of the lead-up to the event proper), it made sense to have someone else sing the Eraserheads song. Too bad! Thankfully, I love Dynamite too so I was at least trading one song I love for another. The fact that it was current and very lively helped set the mood for the party, too.

'Dynamite' by Taio Cruz:

video uploaded in youtube by user stirYzer

I sang one more party song that night - 'Club can't handle me' by Flo Rida - at the end of our final set which came after the program was officially closed, but by that time, most of the folks were outside getting drinks so we were left with a fairly small crowd partying with us inside. Didn't matter, this was practice since we needed a dry run for 'Club can't handle me'. Why? Coz we were performing it the next night live while the dance group performed along with us. We needed to get it down pat to make sure our timing and all our cues were perfect to make sure the dancers wouldn't miss a beat.

The Christmas party for the entire office was held the next night, on December 3, Friday. I was initially supposed to sing a lot of songs, including a Beatles medley a Jay Sean medley. But the lack of preparation time led us to drop several of these medleys. I also begged off a couple of other songs, like singing back-up in 21 Guns and joining the A Cappella performance of Teenage Dream, since my workload was the most intense is has ever been in years.

Nevertheless, I still got to perform two songs apart from our reprise of "Club can't handle me" (which turned out to be a great performance, what with our collaboration with the dancers). The first was the original version of "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. It was someone else's idea to put this song in our play list but I was asked if I could sing the male part in what was supposed to be the Glee version of the song. However, as the band spent time learning the song, they felt it was better to do it in the original Journey key, which for most males is very hard to sing with all its high Bs and even the C#s. I was doing well with it during practice but my unbelievable work load left me with an average of 4-5 hours of sleep leading up to the event so I had tonsillitis that night. Some extra rest the night before and a lot of Kamillosan (and most likely adrenaline as well) helped me get by. It wasn't the cleanest performance but I think it was generally acceptable.

Don't Stop Believing by Journey:

video uploaded in youtube by blobb54

My last performance that night was the Queen medley with the rest of the vocalists. I sang back-up in 'We are the champions' and 'We will rock you' and had solo parts in 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. But what made my day was performing 'Somebody to Love'. Finally! I told my bandmates that I had been wanting to sing that song for years but never had the opportunity 'til now. My voice was a bit hoarse and it wasn't my best performance, but the important thing was that I got to finally do it. Who knows, maybe there will be another opportunity for me to sing that song with a clear voice in the future. :)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Ciera's First Communion

My nephew Ciera had his First Communion last Saturday. Unlike my other nephew CJ's ceremony which started in the early afternoon, this one started early morning. Unfortunately, it always takes a while to get people ready in the morning, and as such we ended up around 10 minutes late. This meant that Ciera missed the entrance into the church but in the overall scheme of things, it was okay.

The ceremony was held in the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao. It wasn't in the main cathedral, actually, but in one of the more intimate chapels. I took on the official photographer role and managed to take a few good shots, including one of Ciera accepting the Host for the first time.

CJ has an excellent memory and still remembered we had a celebratory meal in Red Crab along Tomas Morato after his Communion, and he suggested to Ciera that he select Red Crab again as our celebration venue for his own Communion. Apparently CJ's influencing skills are pretty good as Ciera asked us to have an early lunch there. We actually arrived about 10 minutes before they were supposed to open but they decided to turn on the stoves for us a bit early. My nephews wanted chocolate drinks which were not available in Red Crab, but there was a Starbucks a block away and our waiter allowed us to bring in stuff from Starbucks which I thought was pretty cool.

So now both my nephews are able to receive Communion which should make it easier whenever we go to church on Sundays since I will now bring both of them with me during that part of the mass.