Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Philippine Madrigals win the 64th International Choral Competition!

Congratulations to the Philippine Madrigal Singers for winning the Grand Prize at the 64th International Choral Competition held in Arezzo, Italy last August 27. Along with the Grand Prize, the Madz as they are popularly called also took home several awards:

  • 1st prize: Compulsory Program
  • 1st prize: Monographic Music
  • 1st prize: Musica Sacra
  • 2nd prize: Secular Music
  • Best Performance of a Renaissance Piece
  • Listening Committee's Choice: Folk Song
  • Listening Committee's Choice: Pop/Colours
  • Public's Choice: Pop/Colours

Check out this unbelievably amazing performance of Ama Niamo (which is Bicolano for Our Father). I get goosebumps each time I listen to this (and I have been listening to this quite a lot). The low humming throughout a large part of the song is just done so effortlessly, ethereally and impeccably and that build-up that starts at around the 5:30 mark is stunning and magnificent and never fails to take my breath away. Being awestruck while listening to a recording on youtube makes me wonder how amazing they would have sounded live. After hearing this, it is easy to understand why they won.


video uploaded in youtube by UP Madrigal Singers

This win qualifies them for the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing to be held in Tolosa, Spain next year. Only the winners of the six European choral competitions get to participate in this very prestigious event and the Madz are only one of four choirs that have won the Grand Prix twice.  Imagine that! A win next year would make them the most successful choir in this event. I will pray for their continued success but whatever happens next year, this win in Italy proves that the Madz are truly one of the best choral groups in the world.

Congratulations, Philippine Madrigals!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Celebrations and Catching Up

This last month has definitely been a full and rich one, with many celebrations and get-togethers. For my mom's birthday, we had dinner in Relish in Tomas Morato. My family and I have always enjoyed the food but we hadn't been to Relish in a while so I thought it would be a good place to have my mom's celebration dinner. I also brought home a Strawberry Pavlova from The Bandana Baker because I wanted to try something different and not easy to purchase to make the celebration just a bit more special. It was my first time to try this dessert and it was very good. My mom really loved it. I may just get order this again for another occasion.

Strawberry Pavlova from The Bandana Baker

The Bandana Baker
https://www.facebook.com/The-Bandana-Baker-60508551947/

For orders, call or text 0916-780-6521
Email: thebandanabaker@yahoo.com.ph
Located in Makati
Check out how to place orders here: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150203405320346


It took a while for me to figure out what I could get my mom as a birthday present. The idea came when I saw an advertisement online indicating a weekend sale of NESCAFE Dolce Gusto Oblo machines in Robinson's Magnolia. I didn't have time to go there but when I went to S&R shortly after that, I saw that the Oblo machines were still on sale. As I learned more about it, I found out that this machine requires the user to decide how much water to add which I felt to be too much of a hassle. I decided to get the Mini Me which is a lot more expensive but which allows you to set the recommended amount of water for maximum coffee enjoyment. (I figured that if people had to figure out how much water was necessary, they might not like the coffee as much and they might not use it.) So far, this gift has proven to be a fantastic idea because within 24 hours of me setting it up at home, my mom and my nephews had all enjoyed a cup and a whole box of capsules was consumed within a week. Cool!

NESCAFE Dolce Gusto Mini-Me

For my nephew's birthday, we went to SM MOA to get him new sneakers. It was the first time we went there on a Sunday and wow, it was overflowing with people! We took a snack and coffee break in UCC Vienna Cafe before my nephew finally decided on the pair he wanted. Given how crowded SM MOA was, I suggested to my family that we just have dinner in BGC. We dined in Frank and Dean and we all enjoyed the food we ordered. I especially loved their Sour Cream pancakes (they were like a light and fluffy mix between pancakes and bibingka and I wouldn't mind having them again).

We weren't able to properly celebrate my brother's birthday last year because his work schedule makes it challenging for all of us to find a common time. Thankfully, this year, we were able to have dinner at Conti's. I also ended up getting Nike Flex shoes for myself that night. I had checked them out on a previous trip to Planet Sports but I decided to think about it carefully first before getting them. Luckily, the pair that I actually wanted were on sale on that return trip. The guy at the shop told me that those shoes were on sale for only 5 days. It was already the 4th day of the sale when I got them - at 20% off! - so I was really pleased with my luck and my timing.

I also joined many of my friends over the last few weeks for a variety of occasions. My friend G went to the US for further studies so he treated us all to dinner and drinks at The Stockpile in Sapphire Bloc in Ortigas. Joh celebrated her birthday at The Grind in BGC. Jim celebrated his birthday at Reserve in Burgos Circle. I was unable to join Mark's birthday celebration dinner but I caught up with him and the rest of the gang at Coffee Bean in Rockwell Business Center in Ortigas. I also got to catch up over coffee with my friend and long-time colleague Auds who had just resigned from work. Now that I am writing about this, I realize that this last month has really been a full one, and I'm just thankful that I got to spend a lot of quality time with the people in my life.

Monday, August 29, 2016

August hodgepodge

The Rio Olympics ended a few weeks ago and it was significant for many reasons. For Filipinos, Hidilyn Diaz took home a silver medal in weightlifting. Usain Bolt also added to his legendary status by once again taking home another three golds. This is the third Olympics in a row where Usain won all three events he participated in. Nine golds for a sprinter is unheard of. In fact, before Bolt, it was rare for anyone to win both the 100m and the 200m in the same Olympics and yet Usain did this feat three times. That is just staggering. Then, as if one all-time great wasn't enough, Michael Phelps came out of retirement to win five more gold medals and a silver. He now has 23 golds, 3 silvers and 2 bronzes for a total of 28 medals. Both Phelps and Bolt are considered by many to be the greatest Olympians of all time and it's great to have witnessed their success.

However, it wasn't just the medalists that imprssed me. A non-medalist from Ukraine shocked me to my core (in a good way). 41-year-old Oksana Chusovitina made it to the finals of the Vault in Gymnastics. I actually had the TV on when she was competing and it took a while for me to realize that the 41-year-old that the commentators were talking about was her. They said she learned a new vault at the age of 40 and then I suddenly recognized her and remembered who she was. This was the 7th consecutive Olympics she competed in, her first being in 1992 (24 years ago). Wow. To be the 7th best female vaulter in the world at that age is just jaw-dropping. Oh and she is only the fourth woman to return to Olympic gymnastics after becoming a mother. She is just truly inspirational.

*****

Wicked, the world-renowned Broadway musical, is making a return to the Philippines on February 2, 2017. This time, it will be staged at the Theatre at Solaire. I watched it the last time it was here but only with my mom and my brothers since my nephews weren't interested to see it back then. But now, one of my nephews said he wanted to see it so I got tickets and I will be watching it again. Thankfully, Visa credit cards holders could purchase tickets a bit earlier and at a discount. The Visa-only sale is over though so everyone can buy tickets now.

*****

I upgraded to Windows 10 on the last day of the free upgrade. I did some research and everyone seemed to have positive things to say about Windows 10 so I decided to make the leap. However, I am now regretting it. My laptop now takes a whole lot longer to boot. I don't really like the new explorer layout and how the shortcut to select the views is no longer readily available. I don't like how I lost the recent documents option. I don't like the pinned stuff (I had to manually remove them all). Oh and my Plants vs. Zombies, which I still play every now and then, no longer works. Ugh. Maybe I should do some research on whether its possible to downgrade my Windows.

*****

Of course, no month would be complete for me these days without more board and tabletop gaming. :) In this last month, apart from games that I am familiar with, I also got to play a few new ones: Celestia, Grimoire, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Machi Koro, and Carcassonne. Shockingly, my winning average is still pretty solid as I won 4 of the last 8 games I played, including Grimoire and Carcassonne which I won on my first try. I played Above and Below again and while the first time was very confusing for me, the instructions were a lot clearer this time around and I did a whole lot better. I actually lost by only one point and I attribute that loss to bad die roll as I was close to the end of the game. :) The game that I seem to do really well in is Bruges. I have played this game four times now, and I have won three times and been a close second in the only time I didn't place first. I hope that streak continues. :)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

UPeepz win Gold in Hip Hop International 2106

This post is a couple of weeks late but it is still definitely worth writing about. UPeepz continue their international success. After winning the World Supremacy Battlegrounds Street Dance last year, they take home the Gold in the Hip Hop International 2016 MegaCrew Division. Congratulations, UPeepz!


video uploaded in youtube by OfficialHHI

This wasn't the only Filipino success in this event. The Alliance also took home Bronze in the Varsity Division. As it turns out, one of the dancers here is the son of one of my friends. Cool! Way to go, UPeepz and The Alliance!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Firebird and other ballets at the CCP

Earlier today, I went to CCP with my mom to watch the Firebird and other ballets which kicks off the 47th season of Ballet Philippines. The program was broken down into two acts. The first act consisted of three parts. The first, Weighted Whispers, had the dancers wearing corset/harness costumes. The choreography smartly involved lifts using these harnesses and provided movements that would otherwise not be possible, making it incredible and breathtaking to watch. The second part, Moving Two, was a light and fun pas de deux performed to Pachelbel's Canon. The third part, Ne Neh Ledej, is performed to the captivating and enthralling music of the same name by Iva Bittova. It was a lively and powerful number.

The second act consisted of The Firebird, which is a ballet by Igor Stravinsky. The original ballet is 50 minutes long but it does have three shorter suites (I'm not sure which suite was used during out show.) This second act was mesmerizing to watch, not only for the amazing technique, skills, and stage performance of the company but also for the vibrant and dazzling costumes and set. Needless to say, the company and the crew got a massive ovation at the end of the show.

The cast featured some amazing artists, such as Rita Angela Winder, Garry Corpuz, Denise Parungao, Katrene San Miguel, Lester John Reguindin, and Cyril Aran Fallar, whose performance that night as Korschel the Immortal would be his last with Ballet Philippines (at least for now). He had his own curtain call moment and you could see how much Ballet Philippines means to him as he bade a fond farewell to everyone. (I wonder where he is going or what his plans are.)

Here's a video from Ballet Philippines with some pretty amazing snippets of the rehearsals:


video uploaded in youtube by balletph

Interesting moment: it turns out that Cherie Gil and Margie Moran were in the audience that night and my mom was able to have a photo taken with both of them separately. My mom even had a short conversation with Cherie during the intermission. I myself wanted to tell Cherie that I was utterly impressed with her performance in Master Class many years ago but there were so many people in line to have their photo taken with her that I wasn't able to say what I wanted to say.

This is the first time I had been to CCP since watching Beauty and the Beast there early last year because all the shows I watched after that were staged in the Theatre at Solaire. I'm really happy that I got to see Firebird and other ballets with my mom.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

F2 Logistics: 2016 PSL All-Filipino conference champions!

Congratulations to F2 Logistics Cargo Movers for winning their first ever Philippine Superliga trophy! The La Salle-stacked team bested the previous champions Foton Tornadoes 2-1 in their best of three finals, winning their last match in four sets with a score of 18-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-19.



The F2 Logistics Cargo Movers started the tournament as front-runners, winning all their preliminary matches. However, they lost in the second round to a rampaging Foton team that seemed to be peaking at the right time. However, with a team that features league and finals MVPs as well as players that had won multiple championships, F2 proved that they have the fighting spirit and winning mentality needed to claim the PSL trophy. In fact, similar to DLSU in the recently concluded UAAP Season 78, F2 were beatable but they didn't lose to the same team twice in a row. It didn't look like that though in the early goings of their do-or-die 3rd finals game, with Foton winning the first set and taking an early lead in the 2nd set. Nevertheless, F2 found their form and their confidence and with that, the next three sets were in the bag. (I'm also quite happy that Mika Reyes won the final point of the tournament with an ace. :) She and Ara Galang were also game MVPs.)



As if that wasn't enough, the Cargo Movers won most of the individual awards. Aby Marano was 1st best blocker, Ara Galang was 1st best outside spiker, Kim Fajardo was best setter, and Dawn Macandili was best libero. My favorite moment though was when Dawn Macandili was also awarded League MVP. Wow! This is a first time a libero was awarded league MVP in the Philippines. (It reminded me of Yuko Sano being awarded MVP at the 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix.) Way to go, Dawn! Very well deserved!




The Foton Tornadoes took second place but it's a strong finish for them because they started the tournament with a handful of losses. The fact that they jumped from 4th to 2nd and were in strong contention for first should give them confidence going into the 2016 Asian Women's Club Volleyball Championship where they will be representing the Philippines as champions of the 2015 PSL Grand Prix. Rounding out the podium finishers is RC Cola-Army who placed third. It's amazing to see how much volleyball talent there is in this photo that combines this season's top three teams:



This really has been a great year for La Salle's star players. Kim Fajardo is best setter in both the UAAP and the PSL, Dawn Macandili has been awarded best receiver, best digger, best libero and tournament MVP, Kim Dy has a finals MVP award in the UAAP, Ara Galang is best outside spiker in the PSL, Majoy Baron is best blocker in the UAAP, Aby Marano is best blocker in the PSL, and Mika Reyes was named PSL Ambassador and she joins Kim Fajardo as part of the Magnificent 7 that will be competing against some of the world's best in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship that will be held in Manila in October. Fantastic job, ladies! Congratulations F2 Logistics!

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Filipino weightlifer Hidilyn Diaz wins Olympic silver at Rio!

Wow, this is great news! Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics in the 53-kg category of Women's Weightlifting. This is so significant for many reasons. First, Hidilyn is the first female Filipino Olympian to win a medal in a non-demonstration sport. She also wins the first weightlifting medal for the Philippines and the first non-boxing medal since 1936 (80 years!). Finally, her silver ends the country's 20-year wait for Olympic glory, with Onyok Velasco being the last Filipino medalist after his silver in boxing in 1996. Amazing!



Watch her win the silver in this video from Sports5:


video uploaded in youtube by Sports5

Congratulations, Hidilyn! The Philippines is very proud of your incredible achievement!

Monday, August 08, 2016

31% discount in Baskin Robbins

I had visited Baskin Robbins several times in the last year thanks to Metrodeal, which had vouchers that provided 50% discounts on a few select flavors. In one of those trips, I was told that every 31st of the month, all fresh packs (12oz, 24oz and 48oz) are sold at 31% off (Baskin Robbins is known for its "31 flavors" slogan even if it actually has significantly more flavors than that.) The person behind the counter explained that while the Metrodeal voucher does provide a higher discount, the 31% off discount can be better because it applies to all flavors and not just a select three to four that the voucher includes. I took a mental note of this and looked up which months had a 31st day that fell on a weekend. The first one I saw was July (31st was a Sunday) so I decided then that I would head to Baskin Robbins on the 31st to get some ice cream. And I did!


I didn't want to choose any of the flavors I had already tried before (although I really do love Baseball Nut, I wanted to try something else). I decided to get Jamoca Almond Fudge - Jamoca coffee ice cream with roasted almonds and a rich chocolate fudge ribbon. When I told the sales staff my choice, she told me that since I wanted to get the 48oz, I could actually get two flavors. Cool! I wanted to get something fruity so I ordered the Cherries Jubilee - cherry-flavored ice cream with pieces of dark sweet cherries and a hint of rum flavor.

I checked the 2016 calendar and the next 31st that falls on a weekend is in December. I guess it's sort of good timing because it is right before New Year. I have to check if Baskin Robbins is open on that day and if their 31% off will still apply then. If it does, I think I will be paying them another visit at the end of the year to get another fresh pack (or two). :)

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Rak of Aegis

I finally got to watch Rak of Aegis. This PETA show is now on its fifth run, and many of my friends who have seen it have had very good things to say about it. It's a fun and interesting concept: it's title is a play on Rock of Ages, a musical based on rock songs from a variety of bands. Similarly, Rak of Aegis is based on music of Filipino band Aegis.


Aegis songs, such as Halik, Luha, and Basang Basa sa Ulan, are not easy to sing, so you have to give props to cast. There are three to four people who alternate performing the lead roles. In the show I saw, the lead character Aileen was portrayed by Alisah Bonaobra who gained fame as a viral star with her performance of Let it go in a mall before finishing as a runner-up in The Voice Philippines. The role of Kiel was performed by OJ Mariano, a multi-awarded singer and stage performer who is also currently part of  The CompanY. Tolits was portrayed by Benj Manalo, who has been a member of the Bayanihan Dance Troupe and has competed in the Hip Hop International in Vegas with the group Unschooled. Vince Lim, a member of Kundirana and the Ryan Cayabyab Singers, performed the role of Kenny. Phi Palmos does an incredible job at scene-stealing in his portrayal of Jewel.

While the roles of Tolits and Jewel are surefire crowd-pleasers - you could tell by the number of people who were taking pictures with Benj Manalo and Phi Palmos after the show - I thought the best performers were the two mothers. Sweet Plantado-Tiongson as Mary Jane and Kakai Baustista as Mercy. Both of them had incredible voices and strong stage presence, and they both acted tremendously well.

Apart from the solid performances of the cast, I really loved the set. It's a multi-level stage with a "flood" running right smack in the middle. It even includes actual rainfall and a boat running up down the canal. Awesome!


(I will say though that parking is a challenge at the PETA theater. You can have your vehicle valet parked, but I think there is no building parking so vehicles are just parked on the street. I actually arrived just in time for the show and I missed the queue for the valet so the only place I could park was a fair distance from the theater.)

I also found the story to be very good and its themes to be very timely and relevant. It highlights the desire of many for instant wealth and fame, and how sometimes, people focus too much on instant gratification when they should instead be building towards a more sustainable future. Given this, I appreciate how story is resolved in the end.

With solid performances from a strong cast, an awesome set, great entertainment value, and smart writing, Rak of Aegis is truly worth watching. It is currently staged at the PETA Theater and shows will run until August 28. Tickets are available at Ticketworld. Catch it while you still can!