Monday, November 30, 2015

My Coin Collection

I finally got my currency collection sorted out thanks to the coin collection starter kit that I got from

My coin collection album

Every time I would travel to another country, I would keep some of my small change (or low value bills) as part of my currency collection. I also realized my mom had a collection of coins, not only from her international trips but also a lot of local currency over the decades, a lot of which are no longer in circulation. However, up until recently, I didn't have a good way to present what I had (everything I had was kept in small containers or unused wallets). That is, until I checked Amazon to see if they had anything that I could use and I saw the coin collection starter kit. You can use it to store and display coins and bills and the great thing about it is that you can see both front and back of all the currency in the album. Cool!

A spread that shows some Philippine pesos (on the left) and Scandinavian currency (on the right)

One cool thing about my collection is that it also includes European currency that have not been in circulation since the Euro was established. My first trip to Europe - specifically, to Belgium - came before the Euro went into circulation. As such, I still have some Belgian francs.

Belgian franc

My mom also went around Europe in the 90s and she was able to keep some French francs, Italian Lira, Austrian schillings, and Deutsche Marks. I decided to display these coins that have already been discontinued on the same page. I also threw in the Luxembourgish francs that I had.

French francs, Luxembourgish franc, and Italian lira

While my collection includes a lot of cool coins and even a couple of MRT tokens from St. Petersburg, the most interesting item I have is a 25-cent coin from the State of Eritrea. I have never been to Africa and I'm sure no one I know gave me this coin so I am guessing it was given to my mom by someone. The great thing about this is that up until I saw this coin, I wasn't even familiar with the State of Eritrea.

25 cents from the State of Eritrea

I also have a lot of bank notes and my albums has pages that allows me to display bills. My album now includes a few international notes like Chinese RMB, some local currency, some limited edition local bills such as the commemorative UP College of Law P100, La Salle P100 and UST P200 bills, and also local bills that are not in circulation anymore such as the P5 bill. (It's too bad we don't have a P2 bill.)

5 pesos when it was still a bill

It took a while for me to put my coin collection together and it's not completely done yet because I want to put tags on each one to present the currency and value. Nevertheless, I'm really happy that I have a good way to keep my currency collection and share it with others.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Commemorative P5 and P10 coins

Very late last year, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas released new commemorative five and ten-peso coins. Early this year, on social media, I started to see a few of my friends collecting these new coins and even working with their banks to get the coin or coins that they still didn't have. I was thinking of doing the same but I lucked out because I actually got my hands on at least one of each of these new coins with no effort. On a couple of trips for lunch, I got these coins as change. I didn't realize until later when I was looking up these new coins that I already had a complete set.

My new commemorative P10 and P5 coins

What exactly are these coins commemorating?

  • The P10 coin celebrates the 150th birthday of Apolinario Mabini. (It's similar to the other commemorative P10 coin I got last year that commemorated Bonifacio's 150th year. Makes sense since the standard P10 coin has both Mabini and Bonifacio on it.)
  • One of the P5 coins celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Leyte Gulf Landing. (General Douglas MacArthur, along with Philippine President Sergio Osmena, landed at Palo Beach in Leyte on October 20, 1944.) 
  • The other P5 coin is the Bagong Bayani Commemorative Coin  that honors Overseas Filipino Workers.

I would have loved to get one more of the Bagong Bayani P5 coins so that I have two sets (and it makes my coin collection album a bit more symmetrical; I'll write about this currency collection next) but I am just really happy that I have at least one of each (plus the commemorative P10 Bonifacio coin). You can click here to see what the other side of the Bagong Bayani P5 coin looks like.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Super Awesome Pikachu Overload!

This is so cute! A thousand Pikachus invaded Yokohama and entertained people with their cuteness and their dancing last August. Check out this compilation of some of their dances.

video uploaded in youtube by RocketNews24

Check out a few more of these Pikachu invasion videos here, here and here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

UP Pep Squad achieve success in Berlin

Congratulations to the UP Pep Squad for winning three medals at the 8th Cheerleading World Championships held in Berlin, Germany. Their awards (click on the links to see the videos):

Two other teams from the Philippine also had podium finishes:

Great job, UP Pep Squad., QC PADFI and Ballet Philippines! :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Djokovic on top

Novak Djokovic has been the clear #1 on the men's tennis tour in 2015 and to cap off an incredible year, he went on to win the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals by beating Roger Federer in the finals.

It was a bit of a comeback because Novak lost to Roger when they met in the round-robin elimination round. He won his other two matches, moving him into the semis were he brushed aside an overmatched Rafa Nadal (much to my chagrin) before taking down Federer in the finals. This was an important tournament for Novak because his wins over Rafa and Roger now mean that he is dead even in his head-to-head with both (23-all with Nadal and 22-all with Federer). Considering where they all are in their respective careers, Novak is highly likely to notch more wins over the two which means he may end his career with winning head-to-head match-ups against the rest of the big four (including Murray).

How awesome have Novak's results been this year? He won three of the four majors, reaching the finals of the fourth. He won the year-end championships. He also won 6 ATP 1000 masters titles, a feat no other player has achieved. He now has 26 ATP 1000 Masters title, only 1 behind the current record-holder Nadal. He won 6 of the 8 he played (he skipped Madrid) and in the 2 ones he didn't win, he got to the finals. He now has almost twice as many points as Andy Murray who is currently ranked #2. Novak has also now been at #1 for 174 weeks, and only four male players have been #1 longer than him. (He just surprassed John McEnroe who was #1 for 170 weeks).

Given how he is playing and how no one else seems close to his level at the moment, I wouldn't be surprised if he racks up more Grand Slams and eventually ties or even surpasses Rafa and Peter Sampras who both have 14 (Novak has 10). Roger, Rafa, and Novak have utterly dominated men's tennis over the last 13 years and it's amazing to have seen three of the best male tennis players even play against each other in the same era.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Playing new board games

I got to try playing a few new table top games with my friend Mike and some of his other friends. I initially wanted to play some games that I was already familiar with like The Village, 7 Wonders or even the very complex Agricola (which I haven't played in many years) but Mike learned a few new games recently and he said we should try those. As such, I got to try three new games: Istanbul, Fresco, and The Gallerist.

The Gallerist, Istanbul, and Fresco

We started with Istanbul. The objective of this game is to be the first person to collect five rubies. There are a variety of ways to collect rubies and I actually ended up winning the first game, although I think I may have forgotten to reduce my resources in one round and that may have resulted in me winning by mistake. Nevertheless, it was my first time playing and my mistake was unintentional so the other kinda forgave me for it. :) We played another round before switching to our second game, Fresco. The objective of this game is to earn the most points, which you can get by either painting part of a fresco, painting the altar, or by earning money. I made a couple of big mistakes early in the game and I couldn't really rebound from those so while I make big leaps towards the end up the game, I was already so far behind that I finished in last place. We played only one round of this because Mike wanted us to play what seems to be his current favorite game, The Gallerist. The objective of this game is to end up with the most money, mainly through selling art of displaying them in your gallery, Obviously, the more valuable the art, the better. I did quite well for a first-timer but I realized that unlike other games, there is a clear strategy to win in this game: you need to have more workers. I also didn't realize until we were adding points at the end that paintings displayed in the gallery actually allowed you to earn money as well.

The Gallerist during game play

Obviously, as I had just tried Fresco and The Gallerist one time that evening, I wanted another go at them to test my new understanding of the strategies needed to do well. However, as this was a learning day for most of us, we took really long to complete our games. We started at around 3pm and we finished at around 1am. Talk about being addicted LOL.I asked Mike when we would play next and we immediately organized another game day. Hopefully, I do much better then. :)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

An afternoon in Eastwood

Thanks to the public holidays that were announced in Metro Manila due to the APEC Summit, my friends and I were able to hang out. We definitely wanted to avoid EDSA in case the traffic there would be bad and while we first wanted to try some of the new places in Marikina and Antipolo, we eventually decided to meet up at Eastwood Mall instead. Michele and Fergus had to leave in the early afternoon so we decided to have brunch at Early Bird Breakfast Club. (I tried their Vigan Longganis and it was sweet, not what I was expecting since I prefer my Vigan longganisa to be quite savory and having strong flavors.)

We had a few kids with us so we decided to swing by Toys R Us. The kids ended up wanting to get some toys so Michele very generously got them what they were asking for. As soon as we stepped out of Toys R Us, we had the kids board the kiddie train. It actually just went around the floor (which was a very short ride) but it cost P50 per person to get on board. I felt it was kinda expensive but the kids enjoyed it and it was good for photo ops too. As if that wasn't enough kids' fun that afternoon, we took them to the carousel.

By mid-afternoon, it was time for some coffee. I had seen Recession Coffee on TV recently and when I saw that it was on the same floor we were on, I decided to try it. The interesting thing about this cafe is that you actually decide the price of the coffee. Pretty interesting and unique concept.

While you'd think it would lose money by having this kind of set-up, 'kahihiyan' (or embarrassment) is ingrained in Filipino culture and we don't normally want to do something that makes us feel ashamed afterwards so I guess people who try this cafe will end up not wanting to pay too little for the coffee. Especially since there a sign right next to the cashier that gives you the current average price (it was P131 at the time we were there.) There's also an interesting sign hanging above the cashier that indicates what they would like to tell you based on how much you pay.

We got two cups of coffee and paid P260 for both (so we were at around the average price). In the end, I felt that while the coffee is good, it comes in a small glass and I felt that P130 for a cup of their coffee was a bit too expensive. I also think it would be better if they serve the coffee then the person decides how much to pay after trying it. That way, it becomes a payment based on quality and enjoyment of the product and service. I also think they should increase the amount of coffee per serving. I think people would be willing to pay more if were more fully satisfied with the taste as well as the serving size. Still, it was an interesting thing to try.

We swung by the Office Warehouse and the hardware shop on that floor since Iona, JP, and Joyce all had to get a few things and once all the errands were sorted out, we said our goodbyes. It was the first time we had this kind of an afternoon and as I was telling Joyce later, maybe we should do this more often.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Aisa Mijeno wows the world

While the APEC summit wreaked havoc in Metro Manila as traffic ground to a halt, leaving many commuters stranded and forcing myriads to walk long distances, it also allowed many Filipinos to step into the global limelight. Filipino Engineer Aisa Mijeno joined a panel discussion about small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), sharing the stage with US President Barack Obama and Alibaba founder Jack Ma. Aisa's claim to fame? She created a lamp that runs on saltwater. Amazing!

photo from, photo by Saul Loeb, AFP

Her invention is called the Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt) lamp, which is a pretty smart name because it also refers to how the lamp is powered. To get it to work, you can either add one glass of ocean water (or if you are not near the coast, you can add 1 glass of water and 2 tablespoons of salt) and the lamp will run for 8 hours. You can use it as a source of light and also to charge your smart phones. It is very eco-friendly, which makes sense because Aisa Mijeno is not only a faculty member of De La Salle University Lipa, but she's also a member of Greenpeace Philippines.

photo courtesy of

The SALt lamp has actually received various awards from different organizations not only in the Philippines but also in other countries, not only in Asia but also in Europe.

photo courtesy of

Read more about the SALt lamp in these links:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

trAPEC report: Jollibee serves the people

The term trAPEC was coined in reference to traffic being in some parts of Metro Manila being brought to a standstill during the Economic Leaders' Meeting of the APEC Summit. I was initially planning an out of town road trip to the South until I learned that the traffic along SLEX at some point was backed up all the way from Metro Manila to Binan, Laguna. Yikes! Naturally, I scrapped my plans. I can't even imagine how horrid it must be for people to be stuck for hours on the road.

So it's truly amazing and heartwarming to see fastfood giant Jollibee Phoenix MOA go above and beyond and go to people in their cars while stuck in traffic to take orders if they wanted and deliver it to them. Wow! Check out this post from Maiki Bongco who was sharing the experience of her friends Zach and Mia Beniza.

Posting for a friend. Worth sharing! #positiveAPEC #beHAPPY #Jollibee (Jollibee - Phoenix - MOA branch)
Posted by Maiki Bongco on Monday, November 16, 2015

According to, the original caption read:

Talk about going the extra mile. Stuck in traffic and saw the jollibee crew taking orders from hungry motorists on the road! They took my order and delievered it kagad. Iba! ang galing! Being in the hospitality industry for a long time, alam ko ang service na “ginagawa lang ang trabaho”. But this one is really above standard. Kudos to the manager and this lady who was still smiling while taking orders. Nahihiya lng sa picture 

It's nice to see that the Bayanihan spirit is still alive. :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


November 18 and 19 were declared holidays in Manila due to the APEC summit. I decided to take a few more days off of work to catch up on rest and to do some personal errands. I'm thankful that I did because I was able to get a lot of things done during the break.

First and most importantly, I finally got to clean my place up. It's been a veritable mess for the last few (or maybe even many?) months. I got a maid service to help me with the general cleaning and in the process, I got rid of a lot of stuff that was taking up space in my relatively small living space, including  some pseudo-sentimental stuff and other items that I kept because I felt I might need them at some point later on. I also had my aircon maintained. And as if that wasn't enough, I called pest control to help get rid of any unwanted critters at home.

I also asked my internet provider to send technicians to help me get my office laptop to work with my broadband connection at home. When my work laptop was replaced with a new one a while back, I couldn't get it to go online with my home internet which was weird because I had no issues connecting my personal laptop and my previous work laptop. Anyway, when the technicians came, they ended up "upgrading" my modem and sorting out a few settings and voila! My work laptop now connects to my home internet. While on the one hand that's not exactly a good thing because it means I can end up working at home instead of resting, it does mean that I can easily go online if and when there are emergencies. My new modem is actually a wireless one and it worked on the first day but somehow it isn't working anymore. When I have a bit more time again, I will get that fixed. Maybe I need another day off for that. :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ronda Rousey stunned by Holly Holm

This was a major shocker. Previously undefeated Ronda Rousey was stunned in a massive upset by Holly Holm in UFC 193. This was Rousey's first loss in MMA.

What makes this result so unexpected is that Ronda Rousey had been so dominant in MMA that she was starting to be touted as the greatest fighter of all time and that popular belief was that no one would be able to beat her. After all, she won all her first 12 professional fights so convincingly. All but one of her fights ended in the first round, with 8 of those wins being completed in less than a minute! Here's a quick look at the people she fought against and how much time it took for her to win:

1. Ediane Gomes in 25 seconds
2. Charmaine Tweet in 49 seconds
3. Sarah D'Alelio in 25 seconds
4. Julia Budd in 39 seconds
5. Miseha Tate in 4:29 minutes
6. Sarah Kaufman in 54 seconds
7. Liz Carmouche in 4:49 minutes
8. Miesha Tate at 0:58 in the third round (the first time she went beyond the first round)
9. Sarah McMann in 1:06 minutes
10. Alexis Davis in 16 seconds
11. Cat Zingano in 14 seconds (the shortest fight ever in MMA history)
12. Bethe Correia in 34 seconds

I guess it was unlucky #13 for Rousey as Holly Holm was more than up for the challenge of taking down the champion. Looking at Holly's record, it is pretty impressive as well. She was a boxer (with a 33-2-3 record) and a kickboxer (2-1 record). She had her first MMA fight in 2011 and her record now stands at 10-0. Wow! I am guessing Ronda Rousey will come back from that loss even stronger and she will want to take her title back but if Holly Holm can maintain and even improve the fighting skills she showed, she will remain to be a worth adversary.

Monday, November 16, 2015

UP Naming Mahal: Guitar version

I discovered this guitar version of UP Naming Mahal through the Utak at Puso routine of the UP Pep Squad during the UAAP Cheerdance Competition. I didn't realize how beautiful and evocative this school hymn actually is. Check it out here.

video uploaded in youtube by UP Art Avenue

This incredible electric guitar version is performed by Wardy Puyod. Video credits can be seen here.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

15 Movies that will always stay with me (part 3 of 3)

(Read part 1 here and part 2 here.)

11. Sophie's Choice

In this movie, the lead character Sophie, a Polish woman who was imprisoned in a concentration camp in Auschwitz, somehow survives the Holocaust and eventually finds herself in the US. She becomes involved with Nathan, a smart, vibrant man with an infectious zest for life. Later, they become best friends with Stingo, a young man from the South who is trying to write a book. While Sophie's Choice starts out quite cheerful, it gets heavy pretty quickly. You can feel the presence of the holocaust throughout the entire film even if only a few scenes are actually set during the war. As Sophie starts opening up to Stingo, we slowly learn the details of her tragic life and of the horrors she experienced that she has tried to forget. It is traumatic, gruesome, and heart rending, as many films about The Holocaust are. I actually knew what choice it was that Sophie had to make (and from which the film gets its title) long before I saw the movie, but I can only imagine how much of a shock it would be to people who saw it without having that knowledge. (If you are curious what it is, read this Urban Dictionary entry.)

Sophie's Choice is memorable to me for two reasons. First, because it is a gut-wrenching tale of how something as horrific as the holocaust ruins lives and even those who survive it can still find themselves crumbling long after. Second, it is elevated by the sheer brilliance of Meryl Streep. My list of 15 movies isn't well-balanced because it has two films that are here because of how much of an impact Streep's performance had on me. However, both had a profound effect for different reasons: she was (is) greatly underrated in The Bridges of Madison County while Sophie's Choice is famous for being Meryl's best performance and for being a must-see for all Streep fans. She won her first Oscar for Best Actress for playing Sophie and she absolutely deserves all the accolades and praise she has received for it. From running the whole gamut of human emotion to showing subtle glimpses of the depth of the pain she has tried to forget to learning how to speak in German and Polish and adopting a Polish-American accent, Meryl Streep totally immerses herself in this role and truly becomes Sophie. This has to be the single best performance I have ever seen.

12. The Last Unicorn

photo courtesy of

This animated film was released in 1982 by Rankin Bass and when I saw it the first time as a kid, I didn't like it and found it quite boring. However, when I watched The Last Unicorn again as a young adult, my appreciation for it expanded significantly, making it one of my favorite animated films (animation quality notwithstanding). One of the most important twists in the film happens midway when Amalthea, the last unicorn who is attempting to find the rest of the unicorns, is attacked by the Red Bull. In an attempt to save her life, Schemndrick the magician transforms her by accident into a woman. While she is initially shocked to be and feel mortal, Amalthea soon learns to love and this love eventually becomes so strong that she wishes to abandon her quest to find all the other unicorns. This poignant and haunting movie talks about love, loneliness, and the human desire to achieve greatness and leave a legacy. However, the theme that resonated with me the most was regret. When the unicorn says that she is actually thankful for being able to feel regret and that she will forever be different from all the other unicorns, I was deeply affected. This film, based on the novel of the same title, is not really ideal for children. For adults who may want to watch The Last Unicorn now, once you get past the poor animation (by 2015 standards), you will be rewarded by a sad but beautifully moving story.

13. Frost/Nixon

photo courtesy of

This movie, which stars Frank Langella and Martin Sheen, was highly acclaimed by critics and audiences and it in fact scored a few Oscar nominations. Knowing what it was about (Nixon admitting on TV that his administration tried to cover up its involvement in what was later to be called the Watergate scandal), I thought it was going to be slow, serious, deliberate, methodical and very intelligent. It was most of those things, all right, but it was certainly not slow. Frost/Nixon is fast-paced and suspenseful (who would have thought that, right?), with a lot of intense and stress-filled moments as David Frost and his team try to figure how to get Richard Nixon to admit his mistakes. (I didn't realize until I saw this how much work went into landing that interview, preparing for it, and setting the stage for Frost to elicit an admission from Nixon.) I watched it on DVD and I remember being so involved that even if I could easily put my player on pause to take a quick restroom break, I didn't want to. You know a movie is very well-made when a story to which everyone knows the ending and that is primarily about an interview (and not some life-or-death situation) still has an edge-of-the-seat feel to it. As I had written before, Frost/Nixon greatly exceeded my expectations, which were already pretty high to begin with.

14. Never Let me Go

photo courtesy of

I wasn't familiar with Never Let Me Go until a couple of friends talked about it in passing once. When I saw it on Star Movies one night, I decided to watch and I ended up being deeply affected. The film's concept is already pretty disturbing - humans are cloned to become organ donors when they reach adulthood. It's like a drama version of The Island except that there is no triumphant revolution in the end that releases all the clones from their deathly fate. What makes Never Let Me go even more heartbreaking is that all the clones know what they were created for, and as they reach adulthood, they all understand that they don't have much time left. They attempt to prolong their lives, either by being a carer or through the rumored possibility of a deferral which can supposedly be granted to donors who have found true love. This film is based on the book of the same name written by Kazuo Ishiguro. While critics of the film (and the book) say that the grisly fate of the donors should spur them to either run away or to revolt, Ishiguro said that often, in life, humans don't run away from these situations. We often accept what we believe to be normal and we accept what we believe our fate to be without challenging it and this can happen for a variety of reasons, such as passivity, fear, or even respect. Think about it: slavery was acceptable for a large part of history and more often than not, the slaves didn't rebel nor did they run away. (Watch the author discuss this in this video.) Never Let Me Go moved me, disturbed me and made me think a lot about it afterward. It's not easy to watch by any stretch of the imagination, but that's what makes it tremendously memorable.

15. Up

Most films about grief revolve around the death of someone who is killed or maybe a young character battling a terminal illness. But in Up, we get to see someone who lives a full life, grows old, and passes away in her twilight years. That this happens very early on is pretty heavy stuff. I had just written about how much of an impact Up made on me and why it is my favorite animated film. Yet despite it being one of the best films created about grief, it also celebrates life and shares with us the importance of valuing even the simple moments. It tells us that our dreams may change as we get older but that a dream that doesn't come true doesn't shouldn't mean that our life has less value. There is a lot of focus sometimes on the bucket list, or things we want to - have to - do before we die, that there is almost a feeling of dissatisfaction when we are unable to achieve a dream. In truth, it is not this bucket list that makes life beautiful and amazing because our lives aren't just made up of the highlights; rather, they are made up of all moments, big and small. Up is heartwarming and heartbreaking and triumphant and bittersweet at the same time, making it a truly beautiful film.


I always knew that sad movies tend to have a greater prolonged impact on me (I enjoy the happy, feel-good movies a lot but the sad ones on average stay with me longer). I'm also not surprised that a lot of the films that were memorable for me are those that feature sensational acting performances. What is interesting though is about half the movies in my list are based on books (I guess I should read more). While all the decades of my life are all represented, a third of the films on my list are from the 1990s. Of the four films from the 1980s, three are actually from the same year - 1982. However, I got to watch those three in different decades though (The Last Unicorn in the 1980s, Himala in the 1990s, and Sophie's Choice in the 2010s).

Friday, November 13, 2015

15 Movies that will always stay with me (part 2 of 3)

(Read part 1 here and part 3 here.)

6. The Sixth Sense

photo courtesy of

This movie is best seen when you haven't been spoiled which wasn't the case with me because I somehow found out the secret. Because of that, I thought I wouldn't enjoy The Sixth Sense anymore, or at least not as much. Yet somehow, I did. Many people who saw the movie were scared enough by it not to want to go to the toilet alone at night for a while LOL but I'm not normally spooked by ghost movies (it jolts me while I am watching it obviously but I don't go to bed wanting to keep the lights on). Instead, I found this movie emotionally stirring and moving. My absolute favorite scene in this movie is the penultimate one, when Haley Joel Osment's character finally shares his secret with his mother played by Toni Collette. The acting in that scene is superb. In fact, both were nominated for supporting actor Oscars. This film was also nominated for four other Oscars, including Best Picture.

7. The Bridges of Madison County

photo courtesy of

This isn't the best movie I've seen but it left a mark because of Meryl Streep's scintillating performance. She puts in a powerfully effective and emotionally charged portrayal of Francesca, an Italian woman who marries an American, moves with him to the US, and realizes too late that the life she had taken on was not the one she wanted for herself. Meryl is subtle and nuanced and she expresses a full range of emotion not only on her face but with her entire body. Possibly the most powerful scene in the film is when she is faced with the decision of whether to run away with Robert, the man she ends up having an affair with, or to stay with her husband. That scene closes with a shot of only Meryl's hand letting go of the car door handle, and even without seeing her face, you could feel her total anguish. She makes Francesca understandable, believable, relatable, and human. While the book has been criticized by some for almost glamorizing a woman's short-term unfaithfulness, there was very little of that negative criticism for the movie, and that is largely due to how intelligently Meryl attacks the role. I am often the first to dislike a movie that depicts a great love found through infidelity but I somehow didn't feel that watching this film, and that's why it has become quite memorable. The Bridges of Madison County for me features one of Meryl Streep's best and most underrated performances and I truly believe she should have won the Best Actress Oscar for this.

8. Heneral Luna

photo courtesy of

I usually prefer my historical dramas to be a bit more serious, but with Heneral Luna catering to the millennial crowd, they had to make it a lot more interesting, with a lot of comic relief thrown in every so often, even in scenes that should be heavy. Maybe that's why it has become one of the most important Filipino films in recent times (or maybe even in history): because it managed to reach out to an audience that has traditionally shied away from these types of movies. While my preference for a more consistently serious tone in a historical biopic means that Heneral Luna isn't necessarily my favorite Filipino movie, it makes my list because it further strengthened my desire to know and understand Philippine history and culture a lot more. As soon as I watched the film, I read online articles about Luna, Aguinaldo, Mabini, and Bonifacio and I am now planning trips to visit the Emilio Jacinto Shrine in Magdalena and the Apolinario Mabini museum in Tanauan. It is definitely worth watching as I have written in the past and while it is no longer in theaters here in Manila, I am happy to see that it is now being shown in select cinemas in the US.

9. A Few Good Men

photo courtesy of

What I love about A Few Good Men is that it puts forward many different perspectives and sides of an argument amidst themes of integrity and honor. Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), Lt. Cdr Joanne Galloway (Demi Moore), and Lt. Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollack) defend Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and Private Louden Downey whose actions led to the death of Private William Santiago in Gauntanamo Bay. Even if both Galloway and Weinberg are defending Dawson and Downey, they are actually on opposite sides of the fence, with Weinberg believing they "beat up on a weaker kid" and Galloway believing that are being scapegoated and that they deserve the best defense because "they stand on a wall and they say nothing's going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch." The scintillating courtroom scene where Col. Nathan Jessup goes on an intensely fiery monologue ("You can't handle the truth!") shows us just how easy it is for outsiders to condemn hazing in the military when they don't understand the importance of a different level of discipline and order in the military to help them save lives. The performances are all solid but Jack Nicholson steals every scene he's in and I thought he should have won Best Supporting Actor that year (he was nominated but didn't win).

10. The Joy Luck Club

photo courtesy of

While many great movies are based on books, The Joy Luck Club is only one to make both my list of 15 movies and 10 books. I've written before about how I absolutely love the novel written by Amy Tan. When I learned they were turning it into a movie, my initial thought was, how the heck is that going to work? There was so much internal dialogue going on in the book and so many intertwining and interlocking stories from the many characters in it that I didn't know how they could tell the same story properly in movie form. When I finally saw it, it was impressed. The film changed up a few things (including the sequencing of how the vignettes were laid out in the novel) but having author Amy Tan co-write the screenplay ensured that it stayed true to the essence and substance of the book.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

15 Movies that will always stay with me (part 1 of 3)

Writing a throwback post about Up made me remember this thing that made its rounds on social media last year: people were asked to list fifteen films we've seen that will always stick with us (It's pretty similar to the list of 10 books that I put up months ago.) I decided to share my list of films here:

1. The Original Star Wars Trilogy

photo courtesy of

I consider the original Star Wars Trilogy - IV A New Hope, V Empire Strikes Back, and VI Return of the Jedi - to be one movie split into three parts. I have watched all three many, many times over the decades. I bought the VHS tapes more than a decade ago and I now have the DVDs. If I had to pick one of these three as my favorite, it will have to be Return of the Jedi. Maybe because it was the first one of the three that I saw and it influenced me greatly as a kid. While I will agree with most critics that Empire Strikes Back is technically the best film in the series (this is also where Yoda is introduced), I just love how the underdogs overcame the odds to triumph in Return of the Jedi: Luke over the Emperor and Darth Vader, the Endor Strike Team and the Ewoks over the Storm and Scout Troopers and their AT-ST walkers, the Admiral Ackbar-led rebellion ("It's a trap!") over the Galactic Empire and the ominous Death Star, and heck even Princess Leia over Jabba the Hutt. To this day, I can still recite more lines from Return of the Jedi than I can from any other movie.

2. Himala

photo courtesy of

I have written about my utter admiration of Himala before and I'm happy that decades after it was released in 1982, people are still talking about it and it continues to be featured in international film festivals today. Three legends of the Philippine film industry combined to make this movie: Nora Aunor, director Ishmael Bernal, and writer Ricky Lee. Himala is truly one of my all-time favorites. It tackles of lot of social issues that were relevant then and are still relevant now, and it depicts these in a way that reflects life as it is without being preachy or condescending. Nora also cemented herself as arguably the best actor the Philippines has ever seen with her incredible portrayal of Elsa. The line from her speech at the end of the film - "Walang himala" - is still one of the most iconic movie quotes in local cinema.

3. The Silence of the Lambs

photo courtesy of

This was the first psychological thriller of its kind that I watched, one that made use of behavioral analysis and psychological profiling to dissect the mind of a criminal and aid law enforcement to take down that criminal. It's quite normal to see these kinds of films and TV shows now but back then, it was mystifying to get a glimpse of how a serial killer's mind works (I love that clue from Lecter: "You covet what you see"). Unlike many horror and slasher movies that highlight gore, The Silence of the Lambs doesn't put the brutal deaths of its victims on display, allowing the viewers to focus more on the story and the psychology. The dark cinematography also gives the film an even eerier and more ominous feel to it. This movie was nominated for the 5 biggest Oscar trophies - Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor and Actress - and it won them all. The interesting thing was that Anthony Hopkins put in such a thrilling performance of Hannibal Lecter that despite having only 16 minutes of screen time, his presence is felt for much more than that. It may be one of the shortest air times that a Best Actor awardee has ever had.

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

photo courtesy of

It's not very often that a coming-of-age film strikes such a powerful chord with me. Then again, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not your typical coming-of-age film. It veers away from the stereotypical storyline of young adults starting to come out of their (often oppressive) parents' shadows and do crazy things to make them feel alive. However, as I have written before, it does share many of the same themes presented by other movies in that genre: friendship, family, acceptance, and love. It shows us how desperately we all need to feel that we belong and to be accepted for who we truly are. It shows us how this kind of acceptance is extremely rare but when we find it, it is life-changing and beautiful. I have written in the past how The acting from the entire cast, especially Logan Lerman, is tremendous and that final revelation shook me to my core. I remember watching this movie multiple times on DVD shortly after seeing it the first time, and even watching it with the director's and the actor's commentaries.

5. Hot Fuzz

photo courtesy of

I had to think about whether Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, both of which starred Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and comprise the first two installments of the Cornetto trilogy, was more memorable to me. I ended up selecting the latter because I found it just a tad more enjoyable to watch. Maybe because I'm a bit more familiar with action films than with the zombie genre so I could relate more to the movies that Hot Fuzz was paying homage to. I think it also helped that I watched Hot Fuzz while I was in Sweden, making it just a bit more memorable. I've written about why I love Hot Fuzz in the past but to summarize, it's smart, funny, well-written, silly, and entertaining all at the same time. I also love the fact that  it actually respects the films it parodies. It is my favorite comedy film to date.

(Read part 2 here and part 3 here.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pixar's Up: Married Life

Despite so many incredible animated films that have come out, especially over the last decade or so, Pixar's Up remains to be my favorite. I think this is because it paints such a vivid picture of life and how it is not always easy and happy. It has themes of loss and grief and of dreams that are not quite achieved the way we had planned. Probably the most memorable part of this film, and also one of my all-time favorite movie scenes, is shown within the first few minutes. Check it out here (set against the musical piece entitled "Married Life"):

video uploaded in youtube by MrGuessCool

This 4 1/2 minute montage is written and developed so well that even without any dialogue, it allows the viewer to connect deeply with the characters in a short period of time and as such. What makes this montage so successful is that you think it will be all about fun and romance and happiness so when that first bomb is thrown - Ellie and Carl are unable to have children - it almost shocks us to our very core. When Carl finally loses Ellie in the end, just as they were about to go on their dream adventure, the film throws another sucker punch to the gut that you feel a cloud of grief hanging over you that somehow stays with you for the entire duration of the film (and even after).

This isn't the first time an emotional death is showcased in an animated film (think Bambi, Lion King) but it is one of only a few that highlight loss and grief so early in the story. The only other ones I can think of are Finding Nemo (Nemo's mom and siblings are killed by a Barracuda), Tarzan (Sabor kills Tarzan's parents and Kala's baby), and the Hunchback of Notre Dame (Quasimodo's mother is killed by Frollo). While those other films featured a violent death in the opening sequence, the difference with Up is that when Ellie passes away, we already have an emotional connection to her so her death is felt more strikingly felt. (There has since been one other film that has a painful, early death: Big Hero 6. I guess that's why I also love that movie a whole lot.)

Up does feel heavy right after that opening montage and right after Carl is forced out of his house. It starts to get lighter when we finally go on that adventure to Paradise Falls and when we start to worry more about the lives and safety of Carl, Russell, and Kevin. However, when Carl finally brings the house to the the right spot, just as he promised Ellie, he has a quiet moment to remember and reflect and suddenly, we are back where we started and the sadness feels just as real as when Ellie had just passed away. This is such an powerful and true reflection of real life. We know from people who have lost someone they love dearly that while we eventually learn to deal with a painful loss, there will still be those moments when we are overcome with grief and we are never truly the same after. Oh and here's an amazing thing I didn't notice until I read the comments section of the video: when Carl finally reads that message from Ellie about how their marriage together was her great adventure, the world suddenly became brighter. If you go to this video, at 0:36, the colors are dull and bleak but at 3:06 they are vibrant and hopeful.

Finally, in the film's closing scene, as Carl pins the Ellie Badge on Russell, we are reminded that we need to treasure the memories of our loved ones to help us move on and live our lives more fully even after they are gone. That final image before the credits roll of Carl and Ellie's house being on top of Paradise Falls - a promise that is sort of finally fulfilled - is very bittersweet and leaves a lump in the throat.

Up has definitely left an indelible mark on me and while I loved it a lot already when I first watched it, it has become even more meaningful to me as I have gotten older and as I start to lose more and people that I love. Not only is Up my favorite animated film, it is also one of my favorite films of all time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Catching up on DVDs

It's clear that I'm old since I am one of only a few people left who still stubbornly sticks to getting DVDs. I started out getting DVDs of movies I wanted to see again and again. More recently however, with the drop in prices of DVDs, I would sometimes get movies that I really wanted to watch but was unable to catch during their theatrical run if the DVD is at around the P300 range since movie tickets now cost about P250 anyways. I have recently been able to catch up on a lot of the DVDs that I have. I also got a lot of older films from Amazon. There was a bit of a theme going on with films I watched: they were either "new" (I use this definition relatively loosely) or nostalgic.

Nostalgic: I got a few movies from the 80s and early 90s - all from Amazon - that I wanted to see again.
  • Defending Your Life (1991) stars Meryl Streep which is the main reason why I watched it in the first place. However, it does have a very interesting premise: when a person dies, they have to "defend their life" to prove that they can move forward to heaven; otherwise, they get reincarnated until they get things right. 
  • Working Girl (1988) is quite enjoyable to watch for the most part but I do still find the methods of Melanie Griffith's character to claim what is rightfully hers a bit (a lot?) unethical. Maybe it was called for given the circumstances and she does sort of explain in the end why she did what she did. Despite this, I obviously got the DVD so I feel that its entertainment value outweighs my disagreement with some of the operating principles of the lead character.
  • As a kid, I got to see parts of Brewster's Millions (1985) many times but I never got to see it fully so I decided to get the DVD. The plot involves Montgomery Brewster inheriting $300 million from a great-uncle he didn't know. However, to claim his inheritance, he had to spend $30 million dollars in 30 days without gaining any assets; otherwise, he won't get a cent. The reason for this crazy clause is explained in the film and it sets up a lot of interesting twists and turns.

New:  these are films that I missed watching in the cinema. All were released in the last decade and most came out in the last four years.

  • The World's End (2013) stars my favorite comedic duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and it completes the Cornetto Trilogy and while I found the first three-quarters of the film to be exciting, I found the end didn't quite live up to the build-up. Still, pretty fun for the most part.
  • Quartet (2012) came up as a suggested movie in my Amazon account and I thought that the concept of a retirement home for retired opera singers would be fun to watch. Not as good as Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which has a similar theme (sans the opera), but still entertaining to watch.
  • Hugo (2011) was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. I initially thought it was a heavy film - probably because of the darker, more somber tones at the beginning - but as the story started to progress, the movie turned out to be a lot more light and wonderful. Hugo definitely deserved its nomination. This also has to be the only film of Martin Scorsese that isn't intensely violent. :)
  • Looper (2012) was recommended by my friends who said that it was really cool and edgy. Its plot is quite unique: assassins kill people from the future who are transported back to the past. The whole conflict arises when the lead ends up having to kill his future self.
  • Sherlock Holmes (2009) - the one starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law - got pretty good reviews when it came out. I found  it enjoyable and I like how it ended with an allusion to a part 2 with introduction of Moriarty's name.
  • Warm Bodies (2013) is a zombie rom-com. I thought the plot of having a zombie fall in love with a human and start becoming less of a zombie and more of a human was quite intriguing and I wanted to see how that story would unfold.
  • 300 (2006) is such a part of modern-day pop culture that I had to see it after missing it in the movie theaters almost a decade ago. 300 almost makes you want to get into a gladiatorial battle after watching it LOL but kidding aside, I'm pretty glad I finally watched it. "This is Sparta!
  • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) starts out a bit slowly but this spy thriller picks up quickly after Jack Ryan goes to Russia and the pulse-pounding intensity doesn't stop from there. I initially thought this was going to be a prequel to the Hunt for Red October/Patriot Games/Clear and Present Danger series, showing how Jack Ryan would end up in the CIA but as it turns out, this was like a reboot.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) featured both the adult X-Men who appeared in the first three films as well as their younger versions from First Class. It calls for a whole lot of suspension of disbelief - I still can't quite understand what happens to Wolverine's consciousness between the past and the future - but this, after all is a superhero movie so it isn't supposed to be all that realistic. :)
  • The Boxtrolls (2014) came out last year and I was interested to see it when I read the synopsis on "An orphan is raised by cave dwelling trolls, who secretly collect the trash in the city. The orphan must save his family from the machinations of an evil exterminator." It turned out to be quite a good animated film.
  • Non-Stop (2014) is a suspense and tension-filled action film where the identity of the antagonist remains unknown until the very end. What made this more enjoyable for me that that I didn't figure out who the true villain is, giving the revelation even more impact.
I still have a lot of DVDs that I haven't been able to watch just yet so hopefully I can write a part 2 of this pretty soon.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

McKinley Food Truck Festival

I got to visit the Food Truck Festival at McKinley West in Taguig with my teammates recently. I initially missed it since it was supposed to run on all Thursdays to Sundays of October but it got extended. As such, I decided I wanted to try it out.

There is no way I would visit a place like this and have only one item. As such, I bought a couple of different items from two different trucks. First, I got a Cuban sandwich with a side of fries from P.J. Woodys (P215)

I also got Carbonara linguini topped with Salpicao (P150) from Planet Pasta.

I would say both dishes I got were just okay. Neither were great but they are both relatively affordable so I would say it's a decent experience. I actually wasn't able to finish everything so I just took home my leftovers (which I enjoyed later that night).

My friends tried the burger from one of the other food trucks there and they said it was really good so maybe I will pay the Food Truck Festival at McKinley West another visit while I still can.

Saturday, November 07, 2015


For a while now, I had been wanting to buy three specific items: black jeans, black sneakers, and board shorts. As I found a bit of time recently, I ended up going two out of three.

It isn't exactly swimming season right now at the moment but whenever it is, I often find myself not having enough time to look for new swimwear. As such, it has been several years since I last bought new board shorts and the ones I still use are quite old now. So one day, while I was planning to get some food at SM, I saw a Quiksilver shop and decided to take a quick look. I immediately spotted shorts that I really liked but they were quite expensive. I had to think about it for a while but I realized that I had been looking for board shorts for a while now and I don't often find a pair that I like that still has a size that fits me. So after going back and forth in my head for a bit, I decided to get it. I guess I will be sporting new shorts the next time I go swimming. The most interesting thing about my new shorts? It is made of REPREVE fibers which are made from plastic bottles. Cool!

I realized recently that I wanted to get a nice pair of black sneakers that I can wear with shorts. All sneakers I have are either white or brightly colored and I decided I wanted something more subdued. I then saw a pair of black Nike Roshe shoes that I liked. I was almost certain I wanted to get them until one day when I saw two of my teammates at work wearing those exact same shoes. Apparently, this design is pretty popular because I started seeing it a bit more often after that. Did I really want new shoes that so many other people had? In the end, I decided that I did. I thought the shoes looked really good, they fit well, and they were very comfortable (which is probably why it is such a popular choice).

I almost went three for three in terms of purchases when I swung by Uniqlo and spotted what seemed to be the black jeans (or well I guess they were dark gray) that I wanted. I liked the color, the fit on the leg, the stitching and the fabric. I was almost certain I would get that pair until I noticed that when I moved, the fabric around the crotch area would bunch up. It just looked really weird and unappealing. Such a shame because if not for that, the jeans would have been perfect me. I hope I can find similar jeans somewhere else. Guess I still have to keep looking.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Food trip in Century City Mall

Ever since my first trip to Century City Mall, I had been meaning to go back to try some other restaurants there. When I found myself with a lot of free time during the weekend, I decided to make a return trip. Amidst the window shopping and the shopping I ended up doing that day at the mall, I also managed to try three new places to eat.

For lunch, I tried Bad Bird in Hole in the Wall. All orders in Bad Bird come with 2 pieces of Umami Fried Chicken. You can order your chicken in three spice levels: Safe, Spicy, and Chemical. I wasn't in the mood for a very mouth-burning meal so I ordered a mix of one safe piece and one spicy piece. I ordered the Waffle Plate (P290), which comes with two sweet potato waffles served with miso butter syrup. If you're not a fan of the sweet-and-savory lunch combo, then this isn't for you. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed it.

Waffle Plate (P290) at Bad Bird

I saw Le Petit Soufflé while walking around the third floor of the mall. I took a quick look at the menu and saw that they had some dessert soufflés so I decided to try it out. Thankfully, I did.

Le Petit Soufflé on the third floor of Century City Mall

This French-Japanese fusion restaurant has a quaint interior, with its sparkling bright colors and country charm making guests feel very comfortable.

I decided to order the Valrhona Guajana Soufflé (P350), which is made with 70% dark chocolate and served with vanilla crème anglaise. This sensational dessert is a bit on the expensive side but it is worth every centavo. It is very light, puffy, and fluffy. The chocolate is dark and rich and delicious. It takes 25 minutes to prepare but it is certainly worth the wait. I saw a lot of soufflés being served out of the kitchen and I can understand why. If you are in a bit of a splurging mood and are looking to enjoy a good dessert, I recommend Le Petit Soufflé.

Valrhona Guajana Soufflé (P350) at Le Petit Soufflé

For dinner, I went back ton Hole in the Wall to try Mister Delicious. I ordered the Classic Corned Beef Reuben (P450), which is a sandwich with housemade corned beef and sauerkraut, emmental cheese Russian dressing on rye bread. It comes with camote chips on the side. This photo is unfortunately pretty bad (the lighting wasn't very good and my phone camera isn't the best). Mister Delicious is also on the pricey side but their Reuben is pretty good - the beef was tender and sauerkraut wasn't overpowering. It's also a good-sized sandwich. I would have preferred a side of fries instead of camote chips, though.

Classic Corned Beef Reuben (P450) at Mister Delicious

Century City Mall isn't that big but there are quite a few interesting dining options here that I still want to try.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Federer beats Nadal in Basel

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Rafael Nadal  and Roger Federer met for the 34th time in their storied rivalry but this time, Federer came out on top with a 6–3, 5–7, 6–3 win. Before the match started, I thought Roger would dominate it given how well he has been playing in 2015 and considering that Nadal hasn't come close to his top form this year. As it turned out, the match ended up being quite close. Even in that final set, things were quite close before Roger took advantage of an opportunity in Rafa's final service game before serving it out.

As a Rafa fan, it would have been great if Nadal managed to eke out a win because it would have extended his lead over Roger in their head-to-head (it now stands at 23-11, still pretty one-sided). A win would also have meant that Nadal would have beaten Federer 6 straight times, the first time either of them strung that many wins against the other. (Rafa has beaten Roger 5 times in a row on three separate occasions; the most consecutive wins Roger has scored over Rafa is only two.) However, I guess it was only appropriate given that Roger was playing in Switzerland and he has practically owned this event, reaching the finals of this event every year since 2006 and winning it 7 times during that period. The very pro-Federer crowd would also have been absolutely gutted if their hometown hero suffered a loss.

Hopefully, Nadal can gain some momentum from this finals appearance and win a few more important matches in the remainder of the year to give him more confidence going into 2016.