Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Camera replacement?

I think I know what I'll be getting my mom as a gift this Christmas: a new camera.

During my cousin's debut last weekend, my mom was trying to take a photo of me and some other relatives during the 18 roses presentation when she accidentally dropped her camera. It must have been a bad drop because afterwards, the lens wouldn't retract and the camera wouldn't turn on properly anymore. Thankfully there was no damage to the SD card so all the photos she had on there were safe. While I do intend to have the broken camera looked at first, I believe that the cost of repairing the lens will be close to the price of a brand new camera since the lens system is usually the most expensive part (naturally).

If it does turn out that getting a replacement is the most sensible thing to do, I will need to find someone who has a trip to the US or Singapore since electronics are much cheaper there. I may end up getting the exact same model - the Canon PowerShot SX260 - since it still rates very highly even compared to newer models. Or maybe I can get a waterproof camera instead; that way, my family will have something to use at the beach or pool or any environment where we expect to get wet. Hmm, the more I think about it, the better this option sounds. Ah well, we'll see.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dancing Traffic Light

Check out this dancing traffic light. I'm not exactly sure where in the world this is it but it's pretty cool.

video uploaded in youtube by smart

Filipinos have had dancing traffic enforcers for maybe a couple of decades already so the concept of providing some form of entertainment on the roads has been known to work. Apparently, this dancing traffic light has resulted in 81% more people stopping at the red light, significantly increasing pedestrian safety. I wonder if we'll ever see these in the country, would be awesome if we did. :)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Decade and Eight

That's what was written on the invitation to my second cousin Joleena's debut which I attended last night. It's been a really long time since I last attended a debut which is not all that surprising given that I am nowhere near being 18 years old. :) The last one of these events I went to was for the daughter of my friend and I had special participation because my friend asked me to sing "Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder as an intermission. This time around, I had a special role again. A couple of them actually.

Weeks back, I was asked if I could be part of the 18 roses ceremony. Naturally, I said yes. Then about a week before, her mom Ate Aileen (I call her Ate because she's closer to my age than my mom's, even if she and my mom are cousins) texted me asking if I could lead the opening prayer. You don't say no to requests like these so I didn't, but I wasn't sure what to say. Another friend gave me some ideas and I looked up some sample prayers online LOL but it wasn't really until about three hours before the party that I finished composing my own prayer. Talk about cramming. :)

My mom also had a special role that night as she was asked to part of the 18 treasures, as was my grand aunt Manang Neneng who was also there. Her daughter Cha (who is actually a lot younger than me so I don't call her tita LOL) was also part of the 18 candles. I guess you could say that the evening was sort of a family reunion too since I got to see several relatives on my mom's side whom I hadn't seen in a while.

Speaking of reunions, just the weekend before, I attended the birthday of Tito Erwin, my uncle on my dad's side of the family. It was great seeing most of my family under good circumstances, especially after Tito Roy and my cousin Doyle both passed away recently. Tito Erwin is a bit of a musician and he plays with a band so he asked his band to join the party and play live music all afternoon. I guess I should have expected this but I got asked to sing a song. My uncle asked me to sing either Spandau Ballet's Gold or U2's With or Without You. Obviously, the choice was easy given that I had performed With or Without You on countless gigs back in the day.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Movie Watching Part 3

After a slow start to the year, I've somehow managed to find enough time in the last few months to catch the latest movies.

Guardians of the Galaxy

photo from the Guardians of the Galaxy wikipedia page

This movie was really good fun. It's rare for superhero movies to not take themselves so seriously and this is exactly what makes Guardians of the Galaxy stand out. I mean, just having a raccoon and a tree (or, well, tree-like creature) in the cast of accidental and misfit heroes is bound to make things uniquely entertaining. That said, I'm not exactly with most people who are raving that this is the best superhero movie ever and that it is one of their favorite films (it has an 92% approval rating in Rotten Tomatoes). Personally, I think Captain America: The Winter Soldier is better. That said, while Guardians of the Galaxy is not my favorite, it is still really good and an absolute fun movie to watch.

The Giver

photo from The Giver wikipedia page

I didn't know what to expect when I watched this film since I didn't know anyone else who had seen it. It is about a utopian society that looks great and perfect on the outside but as we know, there is always more to it than meets the eye. I like how the deep, dark secrets of this world are slowly revealed as the movie progresses. It's not all that critically acclaimed but it did get me thinking about the validity of concept and ideas of creating such a utopian society. It got me to thinking about where we need to draw the line in terms of what we should and shouldn't do but it also made me realize that this line will be different depending on who you ask. Overall, despite the low critic ratings, I thought it was decent. Of course, for me, it helps that Meryl Streep is in the cast. :)

Into the Storm

photo from the Into the Storm wikipedia page

One of the most unique movie-watching experiences of my life; there were only three of us watching during the last full show! I didn't realized until I saw it that it was about storm chasers who are trying to study tornadoes. Pretty much like an updated version of Twister. As such, it was almost automatic for me to compare the two movies and I will say that I liked Twister a whole lot better. The effects were incredible but I never really warmed to, or connected with, the characters. I guess it was good for me to see it since it was a check-your-brain-at-the-door kind of film and you would just watch it for the "action" and the effects and I needed to see one of the films the night I saw it. However, would I recommend it? Probably not, unless it was on cable TV and you had nothing better to watch at that time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wonderful night

Ah, the comfort of true, beautiful friendship. My friend Amy has been living abroad for more than a decade already and I hadn't seen her in years. That is, until last weekend. She came home to Manila for a few days and we made sure to catch up while she was here. The evening didn't start out that great though because on my drive to Eastwood along C5 late at night, I ran into horrendous traffic because there was a major accident on the bridge. This caused me to be an hour late. However, I did eventually make it and the rest of the way was great.

What's amazing about these kinds of friendships are that even if you don't see each other for years, when you finally do, you very easily pick up from where you left off. It's safe and happy and you just feel blessed. Hopefully the next time I see Amy again won't take as long.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Gearing up for Miss Saigon's 25th anniversary

How time flies. It has now been 25 years since Miss Saigon premiered in London. For Filipinos like me who grew up in the 80s, this musical was a huge deal. It paved the way for Lea Salonga to become a global artist, and her portrayal of Kim earned her a Laurence Olivier award and a Tony. Cameron Mackintosh, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil, and Nicholas Hytner all came to Manila to do auditions here and as a result, several other Filipinos were also cast.

The exciting thing about this 25th anniversary staging is that the three main cast members from the original London West End production will reprise their roles: Lea Salonga as Kim, Simon Bowman as Chris, and Jonathan Pryce as the engineer. You can read more about it in this link. I will definitely look out for the DVD recording of this event and get a copy when it gets released.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

FIBA Most Valuable Fans Country Award: Philippines!

The Gilas Pilipinas frenzy definitely made a significant mark in the recently concluded FIBA World Cup. The Philippines was just awarded the Most Valuable Fans (MVF) Country Award!

Read more about it here.

video uploaded in youtube by FIBA

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Karaoke 4x

I hadn't been to videoke places a lot in the last couple of years so I guess it was a bit of a change for me to find myself singing the night away four times in a span of two weeks with four different sets of friends.

I purchased a couple of Centerstage vouchers on Deal Grocer that were expiring in August. I had intended to use them in July but somehow, my schedule got really crazy and I couldn't use them then. As such, I had to schedule their use within the last week of August to make sure they didn't expire. The first one, I used with my friends from our music band club at work. We planned to enjoy a karaoke night after we went to Relik for their acoustic singalong night and decided we needed to sing again.

The second voucher, I used a week after that, this time with my friends from our corporate social responsibility organization at work. It was kind of a reunion for the ten of us since six of the people in that group had already left the company and the last time we were all together was in our last reunion about a year ago.

However, my voice was really hoarse that night because I was also in Centerstage the night before. It wasn't planned though. One of my teammates at work resigned and we threw an impromptu despedida for him. Normally we would just go out to the neighborhood pub and drink until the sun came up but one of the guys recommended we go out and have a karaoke night and everyone else agreed.

Finally, a week later, I joined an ex-officemate and some of our other friends for a night in Chicago KTV. I got there quite late because I was double-booked so I thought that people would be leaving shortly after I got there. Somehow we ended up having lots of videoke fun for a few more hours before calling it a night.

Not sure now when the next karaoke night will but I probably have had more than my fair share this year already. Or then again, maybe not. :)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

UP Pep Squad 2nd for the 2nd straight year

The UP Pep Squad fell short of taking back the UAAP Cheerdance crown, with NU putting in a superb and impressive display to defend their title.

However, the UP Pep Squad have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. While they may not have won the title, they made a massive statement. Their theme: "pantay-pantay" (equal, everyone is the same). How they showed it: women lifting men! Wow!!! Check out this tweet by FullCourtFresh (aside from the women at the 2nd level of the pyramid, check out the base of the central guy!)

Unfortunately for the UP Pep Squad, no extra points are given for female lifters and male flyers. As such, they had to settle for first runner up again. Nevertheless, second place in this highly competitive event is nothing to sneeze at. More than that, this UAAP cheerdancing moment will be remembered in Philippine sporting history, when UP put on an amazing display of women empowerment and gender equality.

Heads up, UP Pep Squad!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Goodbye, Mandarin Oriental Manila

The Mandarin Oriental Manila, which opened in Makati back in 1976, finally closed its doors last Tuesday, September 9 after 38 years of operation. I learned about this a couple of months ago and I mentioned it in a previous blog post so it's not a shock but it is still quite sad. I've stayed here before and I also dined in a couple of their restaurants several times, including Paseo Uno which had a pretty awesome buffet.

There's a really good article written by the last guest to check out of the hotel that's worth reading. He took a video of his final check out that you can see here:

video uploaded in youtube by amadeusiom

As is true with most goodbyes, this one was quite emotional. The article I shared does say that the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group did a lot of work to try and help their staff find new jobs. There are also plans to open a new Mandarin hotel in 2020. Until then, I will say farewell to this Makati landmark and wish its ex-staff and management all the best.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What a US Open that was

Contrasting but compelling results in both the men's and women's singles events at the recently concluded US Open. Serena Williams eased through her draw as she won the US Open title. This is now her 6th trophy at Flushing Meadows and her 18th Grand Slam title overall and it puts her alongside Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert who both have that same number of majors. Only three other women have won more in history (Margaret Court with 24, Steffi Graf with 22, and Helen Wills Moody with 19).

Interestingly enough, Roger Federer was gunning for the same thing. A win her would be his 6th US Open title and his 18th overall. When Novak Djokovic was stunned in the first men's semifinal by Kei Nishikori, lots of people started thinking Federer would walk away with the title and the US Open results would be symmetrical on the men's and women's sides. However, Saturday proved to be the day of shockers. Marin Cilic played utterly sublime tennis and channeled the amazing serving ability of his coach Goran Ivanisevic as he swept past Federer en route to his first Grand Slam tournament final.

I don't think anyone in the world expected that. People were predicting a Djokovic-Federer final, a battle between the top 2 seeds of the tournament (current world #2 Rafa Nadal didn't play), and when both of them were in the semis, it seemed all but certain. Clearly, Nishikori and Cilic didn't get the memo. As such, we witnessed the first time since the Australian Open 2005 (more than 9 years ago) that not one among Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic made it to the final. It was also the first time since 1997 where both US Open men's finalists were appearing in their first ever Grand Slam event final.

In the end, Cilic maintained his superb level of play all the way to the end as he took home the title. Nishikori just didn't have the answers he had against Raonic, Wawrinka, and Djokovic. For the first time since 2003, two of the year's four majors didn't go to the tennis big three. End of an era? Maybe not, or at least not yet. But it is clear that Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic are no longer as absolutely dominant as they used to be. Should be interesting to see how things pan out in 2015.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Congratulations Philippine Dragon Boat team!

This is about a week late but it still deserves a blog post. Gilas Pilipinas isn't the only Philippine sports team that brought glory to the country last week. The PKCF National Team participated in the ICF Dragon Boat World Championships held in Poland last August 28-31, winning several events and doing the country proud.

photo source: http://dragonboat.ph, courtesy of Balint Vekassy (ICF) from canoephotography.com

The Philippine team competed in 11 events (I think there were a total of 42) and amazingly, they won a medal in every single event they contested. They finished with a total of five golds, three silvers, and three bronzes. That's absolutely incredible! Read more about their success and check out their medal tally in this link.

Way to go, Philippine Dragon Boat team!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Laban Pilipinas! Go Gilas! #Puso

Way to go, Gilas Pilipinas! Our national basketball made it back to the FIBA World Cup for the first time in decades and put on a display that had the entire world taking notice. They were one win short of a possible spot in the quarterfinal knockout round but they made it close in practically every game. After heartbreaking losses to Croatia, Puerto Rico, and world #3 Argentina, Gilas Pilipinas finally got a win against Senegal in their last game. What a brilliant way to end their FIBA World Cup campaign! :)

The Gilas Pilipinas players must have been about a foot shorter on average than their competition and during the games, you could see our guys standing up to only about chest height of their opponents. We also lacked the experience that other teams had in playing at this level of international basketball. Nevertheless, what they lacked in experience and height, they more than made up for in heart. They were underdogs who proved to everyone that they deserved their spot here in the world stage. They even got many non-Filipinos around the world rooting for them! That's pretty awesome. :)

This return to the FIBA World Cup, where they made it really tough for their world-class opponents and took home a win for the first time in 40 years, should give Gilas Pilipinas a lot of confidence moving forward. In the meantime, the team along with an entire nation can celebrate a solid overall performance. Congratulations Gilas Pilipinas! What an effort!