Friday, May 31, 2013

A Golden Celebration

Just six days after my grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday comes another incredible family milestone. My aunt and my uncle, Tita Florence and Tito Mario, celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last Saturday.

For the second time in a week, I not only attended a family event/reunion, I also acted as emcee. With my slight misstep during Mama's 90th birthday the week before (i.e. forgetting grace before meals), I was a bit more conscious about studying the program and not taking anything for granted. I realized that I couldn't just wing this hosting gig but I was so busy the week before so I didn't really have time to prepare. As such, I started thinking of and practicing my spiels while I driving to the National Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes, which was a perfect venue since this is where Tita Florence and Tito Mario got married fifty years ago.

The reception was held a short drive away at the Light of Love events place in Sta. Mesa. I had two spiels: first was the opening address and then the welcome toast. I think it all turned out quite well and my cousins told me I was getting pretty good feedback as a wholesome, decent, and intelligent host haha. I also made sure I didn't forget any part of the program. :)

There was a major speedbump along the way though. The projector that was supposed to show a few videos over dinner wasn't compatible with the laptops that my cousins brought with them. My cousins were naturally getting really frustrated and upset - so much work went into putting those videos together! - but thankfully someone managed to bring a laptop later that evening that worked with the projector. As such, they were able to show the slideshow of pictures of Tito Mario and Tita Florence through the years, followed by video greetings from Tito Mario's relatives in the US. The big surprise was the video from ABS-CBN stars like Anne Curtis, Robi Domingo, and Luis Manzano sharing their greetings and congratulations. This was immediately followed by a clip of Dr. Love from DZMM narrating the love story of Tita Florence and Tito Mario that got everyone laughing and reminiscing.

While the videos were a hit, the speeches from Tita Florence and Tito Mario's children, my cousins, were the true highlights of the evening. Everyone had something interesting and unique to say, and everything that was shared had heart and came from a place of truth. A few people were wiping tears from their eyes. It wasn't all tears of course. Before the program ended, all the children and their families went on stage to sing "Kahit maputi na ang buhok ko".

Of course, similar to Mama's 90th birthday, you can't have the family together like this and not have dancing. Once the program offiically ended, the music played and people hit the dance floor. My cousins also hired a few dance instructors to make it easier for some of the other guests to be fully immersed in the festivities.

It was another wonderful evening as the family came together to witness and celebrate a fantastic moment in the lives of my uncle and aunt. Congratulations to Tita Florence and Tito Mario, and (to paraphrase my own line during my welcome toast) we're now all looking forward to their diamond wedding anniversary. :)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dinner buffet

I had dinner earlier tonight in Cafe Jeepney at InterContinental Manila using a Deal Grocer voucher I purchased several months ago. It was the first time I had a buffet in a really long time and my first majorly massive meal since I got sick back in March. And I can clearly feel it. My stomach problems have led me to eat significantly less than I used to and I'm clearly not used to binging anymore. Now, a few hours after my buffet dinner and I still feel like throwing up LOL. At least it's good to know that I have now trained myself to eat less. I just need to maintain this so I don't balloon up to my all-time heaviest weight again.

Speaking of vouchers, my recent illness resulted in me being unable to use several vouchers that I purchased. Because I've been sick, in and out of the hospital and extremely distracted over several weeks from March to April, I didn't have the energy to look after and claim some of the vouchers I bought several months ago. Before I knew it, seven of them expired. Among those were a few photobook vouchers that cost a lot. Too bad. So now, my batting average in terms of voucher usage has gone down. At least I can console myself by the fact that I have still saved a whole lot more than I spent, even taking into account the vouchers I was unable to use. Maybe it's time to start buying more... LOL

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Judith Hill performs "You've got a friend" on The Voice

Check out Judith Hill performing "You've got a friend" on The Voice. It's absolutely brilliant!

video uploaded on youtube by Makario Jaramillo
Judith made waves during her audition and hasn't let up since, making her one of the frontrunners in the show. Of her performances on The Voice that I have heard so far, this one is my favorite.


ETA: just as a write about Judith Hill being a frontrunner on the voice, she gets eliminated. What a shame. I hope that someone signs her and she builds a career. You watch her perform and you can clearly see she is a pro more than ready for the big leagues.

Monday, May 27, 2013

900 posts

Amazing how I have now written 900 posts on this blog since I started it in 2004. Lots of my posts have been useless hehe but my travel posts have proven to be quite useful. In the last few years, I've had friends ask me about places I've been to like Iceland, Norway, Brunei, and South Korea. I shared the links to my blog about those trips and my friends found my posts quite helpful. As it turns out, my blog actually helped them figure out what they want to do in the time they had in those places. Cool!

I should start gearing up for my 1000th blog post which by my estimate I may hit early next year. Maybe I'll give myself a prize when I finally reach that milestone.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mama's 90th birthday

My grandmother on my father's side whom we fondly call "Mama" celebrated a major milestone as she turned 90 last Sunday. Tito Erwin, Tita Maritie, and their family led the preparations for a surprise party for Mama, which was held in Betty's near Sto. Domingo. I think Mama was expecting to see a few people but not everyone so when she stepped into venue and everyone started singing "Happy birthday" as all the lights were turned on, she was overcome with emotion. It was such a wonderful moment.

It was a very memorable evening for me on so many levels. First, Mama turned 90. Very few people reach that age so it's great to see Mama still in good health even with 90 years behind her. Also, most of the family was there. This included Tita Susan who hasn't been home in three years and my cousin Father John who flew in from Italy. He even brought with him a very special blessing for Mama from Pope Francis! Tita Maritie had also asked me to invite my grandmother on my mother's side, Nanay, who was a bit hesitant to go because she thought that she might end up being out of place. However, once she was there, she fit right in and everyone there, including Mama, was really happy to see her.

I also enjoyed the videos that were projected on screen right before dinner. The slideshow of photos celebrating Mama's 90 years was nostalgic, especially when we saw pictures of Papa who passed away a while back and of our old house where we got to spend a lot of time during our youth and bond with the extended family. Afterwards we got to see and hear birthday greetings from Mama's brother and relatives in the US. There was even a video of Mama's brother playing the piano and then later on singing Nat King Cole's "For all we know".

Of course you can't have a 90th birthday celebration without speeches from the family. All of Mama's children shared some wonderful, heartfelt words followed by Fr. John and Mama's first grandchild, my cousin Carina. Naturally, we invited Mama to speak in front of everyone and share her own thoughts to us. To officially end the program, we lit the candle on the cake as everyone sang another "Happy birthday" before Mama made her wish and blew out the candle. As people started having their photos taken with Mama, the party music started and as is always the tradition in our family, the dancing started.

Tita Maritie asked me a couple of weeks before Mama's birthday whether I could act as emcee and of course I agreed. I think I did okay for the most part although my main miss was I forgot that Fr. John was supposed to lead everyone in grace before meals and I instructed everyone to head over to the buffet spread. Yikes! I guess I must have been really hungry at that point that I forgot hehe. Thankfully, no one held it against me and Fr. John just led us all in a grace AFTER meals. :)

It was an evening full of fun, surprises, nostalgia, and love. Hopefully Mama still have several years here with us. Maybe we'll even get to the centennial celebration! But the important thing for the family to remember  is that we all need to spend as much time as we can with Mama while she is still here.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

For the first time in a long time, I got to watch a movie within the first few days it was shown here. Last week, my friend David was in town and he really wanted to see the new Star Trek movie which started showing in the cinemas in the Philippines two Wednesdays ago. The timing was perfect because David was flying back to Australia on the 18th. It's interesting too because when I watched the first Star Trek film, it was also with David who was in town when the first film in this latest JJ Abrams-directed series was shown.

We decided to watch on the Friday night and I decided to pass by the cinema early during the day to get tickets. This turned out to be a good idea because there were only a few seats taken at the time I purchased the tickets but the theater was close to full when we got there in the evening.

Spoiler alert: please stop reading if you don't want to know more about the movie.

Just like the first movie, Star Trek Into Darkness was a pretty awesome blockbuster and it's definitely worth watching. Even if you didn't watch the first one and even if you aren't a trekkie. The script was very witty and funny - Spock of course had more than his fair share of great lines - and the pace of the action was pulsating. Despite the amazing rapport of Chris Pine as James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, I think the biggest scene stealer of them all was Benedict Cumberbatch who played Khan. (When he introduced himself as Khan, I could hear the audience go "oooh".) His presence was strong and frightening, his voice was sinister, and you just didn't know what to expect of him. Which made the movie really riveting.

Star Trek is still showing now so if you haven't seen it, I suggest you do. I'm not sure how many more films from this series will come out under the direction of JJ Abrams but I am definitely looking forward to more.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kellie Pickler wins Dancing with the Stars

Wow, who would have thought that country singer and ex-American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler would actually do much better in a dancing competition than in a singing competition? When she joined idol back in Season 5, she placed seventh. And now, paired with Derek Hough, Kellie takes home the mirror ball trophy as the winner of the sixteenth season of Dancing with the Stars.

Here's the super-size freestyle number that Kellie and Derek performed in the finale. A bit reminiscent of something we would see in "So you think you can dance".

video uploaded by TheTribalGuyCouncil

Apart from Kellie's success, this win also means that Derek Hough has now won the most mirror ball trophies among all the professional dancers in DWTS. Congratulations, Kellie and Derek!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

AI season all wrapped up

After following American Idol quite closely last year, I've gone back to not paying as much attention to it this season. I did get to watch some episodes but there were things that kept me disinterested. First, I think there was so much focus on the friction between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. In a lot of cases, it seemed there was a lot more focus on these two judges (or Nicki in particular) than on the contestants. Also, the contestants didn't seem to wow me enough overall. It seemed to me that there was such emphasis on finding a female winner that the top 10 (or even top 20) was stacked with talented women and men who weren't up to to par. As such, I felt that the talent in the top 10 was a bit watered down.

That said, there were some highlights. While I didn't see all the episodes, I do think that Fantasia's return to the Idol stage and Angie Miller's audition singing her original song are two of my favorite performances of the season. Candice's "Somewhere" during the top 3 week was madly raved about but I thought it wasn't as great as it was made out to be. I actually prefer Latoya London's "Somewhere" back in Season 3 (and she didn't even get a standing ovation from the judges then; I really think that in recent years, the judges have been needlessly and inaccurately frivolous with their standing Os). In my opinion, Candice's real moment came when she performed The Cure's "Love Song" with a jazzy arrangement. Now this was truly amazing! Check it out here:

video uploaded in youtube by americanidol

With the Idol ratings this season dropping to all time lows, you wonder what kind of changes they will put in to stay relevant next season. We know that Randy Jackson won't be there and it seems neither will Nicki. I do hope Keith Urban stays because he always seemed to have the most useful advice to give the contestants. I do have to say though that I'm more interested and impressed overall with the performances on "The Voice". Maybe I should start writing about this show instead.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Nadal wins in Rome!

Congratulations to Rafael Nadal for winning yet another title this year. He just won the Rome Masters, sweeping past Roger Federer in straight sets and amazingly dropping only 4 games en route to the title.

While taking home his 24th Masters 1000 is an important achievement (it improves the record he currently holds for most ATP Masters 1000 titles), what was very key is that this win allows Rafa to move ahead of David Ferrer in the rankings. This means he goes into the French Open ranked 4 which also means he will be seeded #4. Implication: he won't meet Novak Djokovic until the semis (if Rafa stayed at the #5 ranking, there was a 1 in 4 chance of him running into Novak in the quarterfinals). Of all the players in the tour right now, it's Novak who really worries me as Nadal still seems to have some difficulty beating his recent nemesis. Nevertheless, no one has had better results this year than Rafa so he has to be going into the French Open very confident, no matter who he plays.

Here's Rafa by the numbers:

  • 1 - Current ranking based on the 2013 ATP Race to London, which means that Rafa has won more points this year so far than anyone else
  • 2 - the number of times Rafa has lost this year. Of the 40 matches Rafa has played since he came back from his knee injury from last year, he has so far lost only twice. This is also the number of sets he lost in the entire Rome Masters tournament.
  • 3 - the number of ATP Masters 1000 titles Rafa has won this year
  • 4 - what Rafa will be ranked tomorrow. This also means that he will be seeded #4 at the French Open.
  • 5 - the number of wins Rafa has had over top 4 players this year. He has now beaten David Ferrer (#4 as of today) three times and Roger Federer (ranked #2 as of their match in Indian Wells and #3 in Rome).
  • 6 - the number of titles Rafa has won in 2013, the most of any player so far.
  • 7 - the number of Italian Open titles Nadal now has. This is amazing because Rafa is the only male player to have won 7 or more titles in four different events: Roland Garros, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and now Rome.
  • 8 - tournaments that Rafa has played this year. Also the number of finals he reached. This means that Rafa has gotten to the finals in all tournaments he played. Incredible.
A couple of other interesting numbers:

  • 20 - wins over Roger Federer, more than anyone in history. Their current head-to-head record is now 20-10 in favor of Nadal.
  • 24 - number of Masters 1000 titles that Rafa has won in his career so far.
Roland Garros starts next week so I'm really hoping that Nadal can keep winning and snag his 8th French Open title. Good luck Rafa!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Funny Borg and McEnroe Tesco ad

This commercial is 6 years old but it is only in the last few days that I discovered it. People who are not familiar with tennis in the late 70s to early 80s might not appreciate this, but Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe were tennis rivals back then. If you understand the context, you could find this funny. Check it out.

video uploaded by lordshepherd81

I especially love the part the ending where Bjorn smiles and lifts those paper plates as if it were a tennis trophy. :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Weight loss

I recently experienced pretty bad stomach problems. I had to see the doctor multiple times and have so many tests and procedures done for a period of about 5-6 weeks. By my last count, I had to go to the hospital 14 times. Crazy! While there seemed to be something terribly wrong with me at the start, all the tests and consultations resulted in a more or less clean bill of health.

However, things were pretty miserable for about 1 1/2 months. My stomach problems kept me pretty sick for the first two weeks and my doctor couldn't really figure out what was wrong with me so he told me to stay on a pretty strict diet for those 4-6 weeks. My diet: no fatty, oily, or fried food, no dairy (so no milk, cheese, cream, butter), no foods high in sugar (so no dessert or even fruits and juice), no caffeine or alcohol, and when eating out, no raw vegetables (since there is no way to ensure that the vegetables were washed well or properly). Gah! What options did this diet leave me? Not a lot. Needless to say, in about 4 weeks, I lost something like 20 pounds. I shocked myself and most other people when I didn't drink coffee or Coke Zero for about 3-4 weeks. Wow! This proved I'm not addicted to either drink. :) By the end of that period, I was pretty tired of eating bananas and Skyflakes and drinking Gatorade.

Anyway, so far, I've kept the excess weight off. A lot of my clothes that I haven't been able to wear in the last 3-4 years can fit again so my wardrobe expanded without me buying anything new. :) Of course, since my stomach isn't acting up anymore, I'm starting to eat a lot more. I need to start exercising again if I want to keep the weight off. And I do. :)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Philippine Elections 2013

The Philippine Elections concluded at 7pm yesterday and with the new electronic voting system (it's only the second time in Philippine history that this set-up has been used), the unofficial results should all be in soon. I recall the days when the counting took about a month or more. I think it will still take a month for the results to become official (what with all the confirming and cross-checking that will be done) but at least our teachers and other volunteers have to put in so much effort tallying the votes. Also, we quickly get to see the unofficial count. And the way things are going right now, I think we know more or less who are next set  of senators will be.

I can't say at this point how well these people will do in the senate so I will just hope and pray for the best (or well, that things at least do not get worse). One interesting thing I did notice yesterday was the google page. It highlighted the Philippine elections. Here's a screenshot I took. Cool!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Nadal makes it five!

Rankings be damned. Rafael Nadal has clearly shown he is one of the two best players in tennis this year by reaching his 7th consecutive final and winning his fifth title. In the Madrid Masters, he eased his way past Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets to claim his 23rd Masters 1000 title. So far this year, only Novak Djokovic with his Australian Open title, has won more points than Rafa. Nadal, however, has a tour-leading 5 titles (4 of them being on clay). For someone who was out for 7 months due to a knee injury, his successful return to tennis has been truly incredible.

It's quite unfortunate that Rafa will most likely go into the French Open seeded number 5, behind Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, and Roger Federer. I was hoping that the French Open would consider seeding him higher (at least 4th) despite his #5 ranking because (1) he has won more claycourt titles and matches this year than anyone else, and (2) he has won six more French Open finals than all other active male players combined! Still, it is the prerogative of Roland Garros to follow the official rankings when seeding people. In all honesty, the only person I'm worried about is Novak. Everyone else, I feel Nadal can take down. So hopefully the draws are kind to Rafa and he avoid meeeting Novak earlier than the finals.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

College mini-reunion

My college friend Weng was in town so we decided to have a get-together in Lorenzo's Way in Bonifacio High Street. Not a lot of people were available that night so it was just me, Letlet, Gosh, Lala, and of course Weng and her family. Towards the end of dinner, we were also joined by our friend Kristine. It was great that she joined us because I actually hadn't seen her since we graduated from college, which was ages ago!!

We switched over to Cav for wine, coffee, and dessert. This is turning out to be a popular combo for our set of friends whenever someone who lives abroad is in Manila. When Maileen was here a few months ago, we did this same set-up. :)

One of the strange highlights of the evening was how our conversation turned into a discussion about discrimination, racism, and sexism in the world. At some point we laughed about it since we all realized that we never have intellectual discussions so we had kind of progressed that night LOL.

Weng is still going to be in the country for two more weeks so she said we should all still try to meet up one more time, hopefully with a few more people from our college friends.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

"Tonight" by Jessica Sanchez featuring Ne-Yo

Things are looking up for Jessica Sanchez. Not only does she land a spot on "Glee", she also released her album "Me, You & The Music" this week. The carrier single is "Tonight", a catchy dance song that features Ne-Yo.

video uploaded in youtube by JessicaSanchezVEVO

I need to check out her new album and get a copy when I can.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Nora Aunor and Eddie Garcia win Asia Film Awards

This is a couple of months late but congratulations to Nora Aunor and Eddie Garcia for winning the top acting awards in the 7th Asian Film Awards held last March 18.

Nora Aunor has been reaping awards locally and globally for her astounding performance in The Womb. Such a shame that she lost to Angel Locsin in the recently concluded Star Awards. In any case, I'm also really pleased that Eddie Garcia, who has won the most FAMAS awards of any person (5 Best Actor, 6 Best Supporting Actor, and 5 Director!) has gotten international acclaim as well. He took the best actor trophy for his performance in Bwakaw. I didn't get to see that film so maybe I'll try to find a DVD of it.

Amazing to think that Nora and Eddie were the only two Filipinos nominated across all categories and they both snag their respective awards. I think it's great that Filipino artists continue to make waves globally. Hopefully this encourages more local filmmakers to try and produce great movies.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Jollibee dancing

A friend of mine shared this video (it was shot in a Jollibee in the US) and I think it's absolutely hilarious. The way Jollibee closes his eyes during certain moves is kinda creepy. :)

video uploaded in youtube by jjasper83

You have to be absolutely impressed with the dancer because it cannot be easy or comfortable doing those moves inside a big heavy mascot costume!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Nadal back to his winning ways

After his streak-breaking loss to Djokovic the previous week, Rafa Nadal reestablishes himself as a leading contender for the 2013 French Open title by taking the Barcelona title last Sunday against fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro.

Rafa has now gotten to the final of every tournament he played this year. This win, his 8th, means that he has won two different events at least eight times (Barcelona and Monte Carlo), a feat that I think no other male player has achieved. If he wins the French Open which starts in a couple of weeks, that'll be win #8 as well. They do say good things come in threes so here's hoping. :)