Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pinoy Food and "International' Visitors

My friends John and Amy Donaldson decided to visit Manila post-Christmas. Me-Ann organized dinner and, as is often the case when you have Pinoy folks (in this case, Amy) returning to the Philippines, we chose to eat in a place that serves Filipino cuisine. We ended up having dinner in Sentro where we ordered their Corned Beef Sinigang and Pinoy Osso Bucco, among other things.

The next night, I met up with Svein, my Norwegian friend who lives in Singapore, in Bonifacio High Street. One of his friends was getting married and they decided to have their stag weekend in Manila, but he got in earlier than everyone else. He said he wanted to have Pinoy food so I thought of taking him to Abe but it was full when we got there. So for the second night in a row, I had dinner in Sentro. And for the second night in a row, I ate Pinoy Osso Bucco. But that is my favorite in that resto and I wanted Svein to try it. We also ordered a prawn dish which was good but it was the Osso Bucco that Svein really enjoyed. After our dinner, we headed to Burgos Circle to have a few beers. I took him to Distillery (it wasn't a Friday night so it wasn't crowded) since I knew he'd enjoy the beer selection there then we moved to Rue Bourbon to have a few more drinks before calling it a night.

A few days later, my mom, nephews and I had lunch with Tita Gail in Romulo's. Tita Gail has been living in Canada for as long as I can remember and returns to Manila every couple of years or so. She was staying with a friend in the Tomas Morato area so it made sense for us to eat in Romulo's so Tita Gail could eat some good Pinoy food without having to travel too far away. We ordered the Flying Tilapia with three sauces and the Bagnet Pakbet, among others. And for dessert, we ordered the suman and both my mom and Tita Gail got something from the cake display.

There is always something very comforting about eating Filipino food, and enjoying a meal with family and friends - especially those who have not had Pinoy food in a while - makes the whole dining experience even better.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Playing for Change: "Imagine"

A John Lennon masterpiece performed around the world by 'Playing for Change'.

video uploaded in youtube by user fooj

Click here to read more about Playing for Change.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Shopping spree

I recently realized that a lot of my clothes are already showing the wear and tear of being tossed into the washer-dryer dozens of times. It's not very often that I head out and buy more than a couple of shirts at a time but my wardrobe needed an upgrade so I decided to go on a shopping spree. The result? 8 new shirts and new pair of jeans. Plus a pretty big credit card bill. :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Finally! Toy Story 3!

I somehow missed watching Toy Story 3 while it was on its movie run. Which was unfortunate because a lot of my friends who saw it say that it’s their favorite animated film of all time. A lot of people I know who saw it actually bawled their eyes out. I told myself I’d just go out and get the DVD once it is released.

While looking around for gifts during the Christmas holidays, I saw that the Toy Story 3 DVD had in fact already been released. There were two versions – one with full features and the other aptly marked as “Just movie”. “Just movie” means you just stick it in your player and once it loads, it plays the movie automatically (no menu, no special features). I figured I didn’t need any special features so I decided to get the “Just movie” version of it at half the price. The only downside was that it wasn’t the widescreen version (which means that the sides of the film are chopped off to make it fit in a traditional TV). It kinda annoyed me that there would be parts of the movie that I wouldn’t see, but it was a minor thing that didn’t truly take away from my overall enjoyment of the film.

And enjoy it, I did. Toy Story 3 is indeed a brilliant movie. It has the right combination of comedy, drama, and suspense to keep audiences, both young and old, entertained from start to finish. The trademark of any Pixar film is its ability to get viewers emotionally involved in the stories of the lead characters, and Toy Story 3 is no exception. It warms and wrenches the hearts of the audience by dealing with powerful themes such as letting go and moving on, abandonment and friendship. One of my friends even told me that months after watching Toy Story 3, she finds herself thinking about it and being so totally moved by it.

While I absolutely loved the movie, I am probably one of the few people who didn’t shed a tear watching it (I do know another friend of mine who said she absolutely loved it but didn’t cry either). Maybe it’s because I see no logical option other than Andy leaving his toys behind as he goes on to college. And maybe it’s because I know his most beloved toys including Woody, Buzz, and Jessie will always be with each other and there is no real abandonment in having them all together. Of course, only the unfeeling would not feel a tug in their hearts when Andy experiences difficulty as he lets go of Woody and when he unknowingly grants all his toys their wish as he plays with them one last time before driving off to his new life. Most people have this scene as their favorite. I on the other hand am more deeply moved by the part where the toys are about to be dropped to their deaths in an incinerator. To see the frightening desperation and futility of their attempts to survive turn into a fearful yet courageous acceptance of their demise was utterly gut-wrenching. The emotion is so raw, powerful, almost disturbing, and it makes their ultimate triumph pure and incredibly uplifting.

To lighten the intensity of the last few scenes and make sure audiences can still leave the theater with a smile on their faces, Toy Story 3 changes its tempo in the closing sequence and end-credits as it shows how the lead characters have successfully adjusted to life post-Andy, and how life has been made better for the other toys in Sunnyside Day Care.

It took more than a decade for Pixar to put in a follow-up to the first two installments, but the long wait was worth it. It may not have brought tears to my eyes, but Toy Story 3 definitely ranks up there as one of the best animated films I've ever seen.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pia in Manila

Pia, who is now based in the US, came home to the Philippines in late December. She was in Davao with her family during most of the Christmas break, though, so she was unable to join us during our get together in Joh and Raffa’s house. She told me that she would be in Manila for a few days in the 3rd week of January, so I tried to gather those of us who were still in town for dinner with Pia (a lot of the folks based abroad like Hannah, Che, Pau, and Gi had already left). We decided to meet up in the Glorietta area and Pia wanted to have dinner in a new place. I couldn’t think of a new place in that area but I did realize that we had never eaten as a group in East on the 2nd floor of Rustan’s Makati so I suggested it as a dinner venue and everyone agreed.

I've been to East a couple of times before but those visits were circa 2005-2006 so I couldn’t remember what I ate there or what was good. I agreed to split a maki dish with Me-Ann but that would obviously not be enough for me so I decided to get a bowl of noodles as well. Later on I wished I ordered something else since I realized I wasn’t in the mood for noodles haha. In any case, it was once again great enjoying a meal with my friends Pia, Me-Ann, Raffa and Joh. Coffee in UCC CafĂ© followed after. Mike called us at around 8:30 PM and asked if he should still join us but he heard everyone else’s laughter and noise in the background and decided he wanted a piece of that LOL. So we all agreed to wait for him and he arrived about half an hour later.

We stayed out for about an hour more but it was early in the week so we couldn’t really afford to stay out to late yet again. (Maybe in our younger years we could all have partied ‘til late night and then still got up early the next day LOL). Too bad some of our other friends in town couldn’t join us but it was a great fun night nonetheless.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"She has no time" by Keane

This is my favorite Keane song from their 'Hopes and Fears' album.

video uploaded in youtube by user FRLKEANE

Not only is it a well-written song with a hauntingly beautiful melody but it also features some amazing vocals.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rafa vs Roger version 2011

Rafa Nadal's 5-match winning streak over his main rival Roger Federer was snapped when Federer found the form he had been missing for most of 2010 and beat Nadal in 3 sets to claim the year-end ATP Tour world Finals. This meant he prevented Nadal from claiming the "Career Super Slam" (a career Grand Slam + an Olympic Gold + Year-end finals - it's just this last one that Rafa is missing). These two tennis legends then faced off in a two-leg exhibition series in December to raise money for charity. The first match was held in Switzerland while the 2nd match was held in Spain and they both won the match played on their home soil.

The tennis calendar was kicked off this year with another exhibition in Abu Dhabi, where Rafa and Roger squared off yet again in the final. While this was a non-bearing match, unlike their charity series, I would bet that both players wanted to win this match so it was great to see Nadal win on a surface that favored Federer. To do it in straight sets without being broken made the victory even sweeter. I hope this is a sign of great things to come in 2011.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Visiting Joyce and her new baby

Joyce, who has been one of my closest friends since high school, gave birth to a healthy baby boy the day before Christmas. The gang was planning to visit her sometime between Christmas and New Year but as it turned out, she stayed in Bulacan for about a week after she left the hospital. When I called her up, she told me that we can all just meet up when she is back in Manila in the first week of January. Anna was still in town so we decided to visit Joyce and her baby in the middle of the week after work to make sure we were all there (or at least, those of us in Asia – Lia is in the US). Iona, JP, and Aya headed straight to Joyce’s place while Anna and Mitch hitched a ride with me. Anna wanted to hit two birds with one stone so she also invited our other high school batchmate, Norman, so she could catch up with him before she left for SG.

I gave Joyce my combined gift (birthday, Christmas, and baby shower): a whole stack of baby diapers which she told me she needed most. Joyce already had a whole cabinet full of infant diapers so a couple of our other friends who have a lot of experience with kids suggested that I get the next smallest size since the baby would grow to the next size by the time Joyce’s went through her entire stock of infant diapers. It was our delayed Christmas party as well so I gave JP and Aya their gifts. I didn’t get one for Iona yet since she asked for a belt and I couldn’t really find a good one.

We had pizza and pasta delivered from Brooklyn Pizza. A couple of other folks from high school, Gerald and Jon, also joined us. Joyce still had chocolate cake from Conti’s so we had that for dessert. We stayed for a couple of hours, catching up and hearing Joyce’s stories about how life is with a new baby. Unfortunately, it was a weeknight and people had to get up early the next day so we had to call it a night by around 10pm. Nevertheless, it was still good to see everyone, especially now that there was a new addition to the gang.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy 2011!

Happy 2011 to everyone! I am sure this new year will bring with it a lot of great new experiences, but before I fully get immersed into it, here's a quick look back at some key moments in 2010.

Family time is important so I am happy to have spent a lot of time with my family. From our trip to Intramuros, to my birthday lunch in Adarna, to our wonderful Christmas celebration together, I can't help but be extremely pleased that four generations of my family have so many great experiences together.

From all the parties and reunions with friends, to trips to bars and clubs like Distillery, Republiq, Encore, and Hai Bar, to the game nights with different sets of friends, the year definitely brought a lot of quality time with friends too.

New places
I visited two new places this year. I wrote extensively about my trip to Brunei in November, but I also had a local trip earlier in the year, to beautiful Bolinao in Pangasinan. I'm happy that despite my incredibly busy schedule this year, I was still able to take a couple of holidays and visit new places.

New experiences
2010 marked the first time in my life that I was given a surprise birthday party, and it was great! I also started consciously bringing my own mug or tumbler to coffee shops so they could serve me coffee in reusable containers and reduce my usage of paper cups. I had a picnic in La Mesa Eco-park for the first time for Aya's birthday. I also discovered, played, and completed Plants vs. Zombies (albeit after the initial craze). My blog has also never been busier, with a total of 156 posts in 2010. For me, that's a lot! :)

It's quite surprising but last year was the first time that I went on a food trip all over Metro Manila. I also got to try a lot of new restos, like La Cocina de Tita Moning, Ye Dang, Blacksoup Cafe and Artspace, Romulo's, Cav, Hangover, Charlie's Grind and Grill, Earle's Deli, Mr. Jones, Restaurante Pia y Damaso, and Panciteria Lido. Toss in a couple of new dessert finds in Dulcelin and Kitchen's Best and mix in trips to some of my favorite restos and you could say that 2010 definitely brought a lot of joy through food.

Arts and Music
A lot of my more cultured experiences came in the middle of the year within a span of one month: Cats in July, and Panasadiyaw and Master Class in early August. I didn't get to watch any concerts this year (I would've if The Killers' concert was not canceled). Some of my favorite personal performances include getting to perform "Dynamite", "Club can't handle me", "Don't Stop Believing", and "Somebody to love". A first for me was getting to rap in front of a crowd - I bungled up both "Billionaire" (slightly) and "Empire State of Mind" (lost the timing and missed one entire line LOL) but at least I can now say that I have rapped in front of a big crowd. :)

Manny Pacquiao cemented his place in history by beating Antonio Margarito, making him the first boxer in history to win ten world titles in eight different weight divisions (he earned the record with a title in his 7th division, so this just puts more space between him and everyone else). Nadal also made the record books by being the youngest person to achieve a career grand slam, and his wins in the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open put him head and shoulders above everyone else. Kim Clijsters stakes a claim to one of the best career comebacks ever as she wins her 3rd US Open and 2nd after coming back from retirement.

Helping out
I ran my 7th marathon for charity, while at the same time building our corporate social responsibility at work even more. We strengthened our partnerships with ACED, Haribon, GILAS, Habitat for Humanity, and Virlanie Foundation and organized activities like tree planting, Habitat builds, orphanage visits, and a Coastal Cleanup.

Here's hoping that 2011 brings more fun, experiences, and quality time with family and friends.