Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Discount voucher king :)

With my birthday coming up soon, I realized that I should start investing in online discount vouchers so that I end up with significant savings. After checking out many of the deal sites online, I decided to get 20 vouchers from Little Asia, 7 vouchers from John and Yoko, 3 vouchers from Marciano's, and 6 vouchers from Barbara's in Intramuros. While this may seem like a lot (36 vouchers in all!), I did a quick check of all the sets of family and friends I celebrate with during my birthday and this is actually just the right amount.

I decided to count the vouchers I have purchased online and right now, it stands at 108. Wow! I'm not sure anyone else I know has purchased this many. I do however get to use practically everything that I purchase. Of the 37 vouchers I bought that have already expired, I used all but one of them. (And the one I missed was P175 so it was one of the cheapest deals I bought.) That is a pretty solid batting average. :) I guess it helps me that I purchase vouchers from restaurants that are really close to where I live or work, or from my favorite places to eat. Makes me now wonder how quickly I can get through the rest of the vouchers I have. :)

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Missed movies

Clearly, the recurring theme here is my crazy workload. It keeps me from doing a lot of things I enjoy doing. Like exercising. Or sleeping. Or watching movies. I think the last movie I caught in the cinema was Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon. Prior to that, I had a good run at the cinema, being able to watch X-Men: First Class, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Super 8.

Unfortunately, things got a bit crazier from July onwards and I haven't been able to go to the movie theater anymore. There are a lot of films I wanted to see like Hangover 2, Green Lantern (yes, this flick was panned by critics and viewers but I still wanted to see it), Captain America, and the last Harry Potter movie. Guess I just have to wait 'til the DVDs come out. Or for those films to be shown on HBO or Star Movies or something.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jam-packed weekend

It was a really busy Thursday to Sunday, but despite it being totally exhausting, it was certainly a lot of fun. I had maybe 2 hours of sleep on Wednesday night (or well, Thursday early morning) before heading to Batangas for our leadership development seminar. It was a really good session that provided some key insights on how to use different influencing styles in different circumstances. Unfortunately, while the rest of the folks there just chilled out the rest of the evening, I had three meetings to attend. That, combined with the difficulty - nay, impossibility! - of getting connected, left me on my phone and my laptop from about 6:30 until 11:30pm. Almost everyone was asleep by the time my last meeting ended, so I capped off the evening with a glass of wine before going to sleep.

Thankfully I had a good rest that night since the next day was the teambuilding event of our department - all 800 of us! Or well, maybe just 600-700 since not everyone attended. It was a full day but thankfully I was assigned as a game marshal which meant I didn't need to around the resort all afternoon trying to compete in the different games. The downside was that, unlike almost everyone else, I didn't know what the different activities were and I couldn't relate to the stories most people were sharing about how much fun or tough certain games were. I begged off of the band performance because I was incredibly busy - first time ever I didn't perform in a teambuilding event - but I did participate in my team's dance number during the evening program LOL. The after-party was probably the highlight of the event, with everybody just letting loose and having fun.

Too much alcohol combined with dehydration and a few hours sleep usually equates to a hangover, which is what I had when I got up at 8am the next day. This did not bode well for me since it was the championship of our volleyball tournament at work. Thankfully, I was on the bench for the entire game but it was good for me to be there to provide moral support for the team. It was a very, very tight contest, with both teams splitting the first two sets. It was then down to the fifth and last set and unfortunately, we weren't able to clinch it, narrowly losing the set 12-15.

I got cleaned up after our game then I headed to Hotel H20. I got a discount voucher for an aquarium room in Hotel H2O from and since it was my nephew's birthday, I thought it would be good for us to stay there overnight then visit to Manila Ocean Park early the next day. The see-through restroom was not very family-friendly - we had to tape my nephews' raincoats to the glass doors to give everyone a bit more privacy - but the aquarium was a big hit with my nephews as I expected.

my nephews named this puffer fish 'Fatty' and it was their favorite in the aquarium

We got up early on Sunday morning to have breakfast before cleaning up and checking out of our room. By the time we headed to Manila Ocean Park, the queue was quite long but it was still manageable. It was my first time in Manila Ocean Park, and despite it being smaller than some of the other similar parks in HK and SG, it is still worth a visit. The entrance fee is also pretty affordable.

When we were there, I actually got so pissed off with everyone using flash photography so I actually told a lot of violators to turn off their the flash. I am sure everyone I scolded was muttering under their breath or thinking to themselves, 'who the hell does he think he is?' but since the flashes were stressing out the fish, I didn't care what they thought. And at the end of the day, no one really spoke back to me when I told them to follow the rules. LOL I'm crazy!

look ma, no flash!

By the time we left Ocean Park, the queue was incredibly long. Our plan of staying overnight in Hotel H20 to ensure we got to the Park early really worked out for us! On our way home, my mom bought a few souvenirs from the shop as well as an Angry Birds' board game as a gift for my nephew. Thankfully, it was a long weekend, with both August 29 and 30 (Mon and Tue) being declared non-working holidays. So even if I was really tired, I knew I had a couple of days to regain my equilibrium.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Amazon purchases

I've had quite a few items in my Amazon shopping cart for the longest time - possibly more than a year, 2 even - so when I had a friend agree to bring a whole lot of those items to Manila for me, I purchased a lot of the items immediately.

I just got my package of stuff and it includes the following:

1. Miss Saigon (Original London West-end Cast recording) CD
2. The Phantom of the Opera (Original London West-end Cast recording) CD
3. Les Miserables (Original London West-end Cast recording) CD
4. Wicked (Original Broadway Cast recording) CD
5. Masters of the Universe DVD (this is an old 1987 live-action movie starring Dolph Lundgren which is based on the cartoon series 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe')
6. Panda and the Magic Serpent DVD (an old Japanese cartoon, I watched this as a kid and I somehow felt sentimental recently so I thought of buying it, am guessing I will most likely not enjoy it LOL but it was worth then nostalgia :))
7. 100mL Bulgari Blu cologne (it cost about half the price in Amazon when compared to how much it costs here so I just had to buy it online)
8. 100mL Aqua Quorum cologne (this cologne is no longer available in Manila - or if it is, I don't know where to get it. It's the first cologne I ever bought and started using and I like its scent so I thought I'd buy it online)
9. The Back Room CD by The Editors. I have their other CD (An End has a start) and I really like their music so I thought I'd get their other album.
10. 21 CD by Adele.

I have been having a blast listening to all my new CDs and I am mostly satisfied with my purchases. My only regret is getting Adele's 21 CD. And no, it is not because I don't like her music. In fact, I totally love this album! The regret here is that when I purchased '21', Adele's CDs were not available in Manila yet. And after making the purchase, it became available here. While the price in Amazon and in Manila is the same, the album here has 3 bonus tracks, including a live performance of 'Someone like you'. Argh! I guess I will have to get another copy of Adele's CD. I reckon the bonus tracks will be worth the price of the CD anyways LOL.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Christine Bianco channels the Divas in "Tomorrow"

Check out Broadway artist Christine Bianco singing 'Tomorrow' from the musical Annie.

Not only does she have an incredible voice but she also does an amazing job mimicking Broadway and music legends: Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Bernadette Peters, Celine Dion, Kristen Chenoweth, Julie Andrews, and Eydie Gorme. This performance is truly brilliant. :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Medical exam results are in. Uh oh.

I just had my annual physical exam recently and unfortunately, the results are not good. It seems that I am anemic and my cholesterol level is high, among other things. This is the first time that I have negative results in my annual physical exam. Crap.

It seems that my issues here are more diet-related than exercise (although of course exercise is always necessary to remain in good shape). Apparently I need to eat food that is rich in iron and low in sodium and fat. I also need to drink a bit more milk as my calcium level is low. Yikes. If I didn't have enough motivation to get healthier before, these not-so-good medical exam results have just raised an alarm flag. Time to start living more healthy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rest in Peace, Mama Guading

My family is in mourning as our long-time helper, Mama Guading, passed away last August 5. She was with us even before I was born so she is truly part of our family.

Life will forever be different without Mama but I take solace from the fact that she did have what I think was a good life with us. She reached the good age of 72 years, although it does hurt a bit more that she passed away a week before her 73rd birthday. We used to celebrate her birthday with my mom' and my grandfather's - and in the last few years, with my cousin's as well - and I will miss her lumpia with its special sauce and her molo soup, which were staples in any family feast. I will also miss the giniling she used to cook for dinner, the fried banana with sugar she would prepare for merienda, and the ice candy she would make and sell to students of the school in my grandparents' house. She had her own room with its queen-sized bed - my brother and I used to share that bed with Mama whenever we'd stay in my grandparents' house as kids - and more than a decade ago, we got a TV for her room.

Most importantly, she was deeply loved by our family. And she loved us back. I think back to the numerous times when I was sick as a kid and she would take such great care of me. I will miss seeing her walk through our gate whenever she would visit us because we needed an extra hand at home. Or seeing her tend to her plants and trees in my grandparents' backyard. I will miss her strong, vibrant and distinct voice, and the way she would say my name: Chris-YAN. I will miss her kind face and her honest eyes. She may not be a candidate for Miss Universe, but to me she will forever remain one of the most beautiful women in my life.

Her loyalty to our family makes her truly a part of it, and I still find myself reeling from sorrow in the many quiet moments that I think about her. A friend of mine told me that I should try not to think about her but it is a great disservice to Mama if I try not to remember just because it makes me feel sad. She devoted her entire life to the well-being of my family and made sure we were comfortable and taken care of. The least I can do now is to always keep her in my mind and in my heart.

I am dedicating this song, "In loving memory" by Alter Bridge, to our beloved Mama Guading. The first line of this song is very appropriate to what I would like to tell Mama: "Thanks for all you've done".

uploaded in youtube by user LuisCArenas

Eternal rest, grant unto Guadalupe Nabayra, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.

We love you and miss you, Mama Guading. You will always be in our hearts. :(

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Family birthday

It's that time of the year again when my family celebrates the joint birthday of my mom and my grandfather. We were supposed to celebrate my cousin's birthday as well but unfortunately he had exams the coming week so he was unable to join us. The initial plan was to have lunch at my grandparents' home but we ended up just going out. I was thinking of bringing my family to Cafe Juanita in Burgos Circle but we left home quite late so it was around 1:30pm when we got to Edsa. Since we weren't sure if Cafe Juanita was open for lunch even in the mid-afternoon, and since everyone was quite hungry already, I decided to take my family to Lugang Cafe in Connecticut (Greenhills) instead.

I had eaten in Lugang Cafe once before with my high school friends and I thought the food, especially the xiao long bao, was pretty good. The ambience makes dining here even a more pleasant experience. As we were eating, we saw this humongous dessert called the Bellagio Breeze, which is kinda like a towering Taiwanese version of our local halo-halo. My nephew was interested to try it so we ordered it despite all of us being quite full from our meal. We actually had a couple of celebrity sightings while we were there - in the middle of our meal, we saw Ruffa Gutierrez head into some kind of function room with a lot of other people, and as we were going through dessert, we saw Miguel Zubiri and his family head out of the restaurant (apparently they were dining on the second floor).

We headed to Powerplant mall after our hefty lunch and after going around the mall a bit, we caught the 4:45 mass. Everyone was still pretty full from our late lunch so we decided to skip dinner and just head home. Since my cousin couldn't join us, we stopped by Red Ribbon and my grandmother got an ube cake which we brought to my cousins house.

Throughout the day, I ended up playing some of the CDs that I had just purchased, including Nina Simone, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and my 'Unforgettable' compilation CD (which featured classics and standards from legends like Nat "King" Cole and Ella Fitzgerald). As I expected, my grandfather was extremely pleased with the music I played, saying stuff like "this is the kind of music I like" or "this was the music in my younger days".

I ended up forgetting to give my mom the two GCs I got her from The Spa; the fact that my nephews just got one puppy each recently had left my mom stressed out all the time cleaning up after them so I felt that a few trips to the spa would help. I also had just a light meal in the evening since I was still quite full from the heavy late lunch earlier in the day. All in all, another great day spent with the people I love.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

No Marathon-for-a-Cause this year

This is the first time since 2003 that I was Manila-based yet unable to run my annual marathon-for-a-cause. (The only time I didn't run was when I was working in Sweden back in 2007.)

Knowing that the annual Milo Marathon is usually held in July, I attempted to train back in May. I did manage to run a few times a week for a couple of weeks but then work got in the way. When I learned in early June that this year's Milo Marathon was scheduled on July 31, I realized that, given my inability to train and the fact that I am in poor physical shape, I would be risking my health (and even possibly my life!) if I forced myself to run 42km. It can be argued that I successfully ran marathons in the past with little training, but the difference is that I wasn't as busy or stressed out before as I am now. I am at my all-time heaviest and, apart from my weekly volleyball games, I have not had any real regular exercise.

Hopefully I can get things in order at work so that I can start running again. Not just for charity but for my own well-being.