Monday, August 28, 2017

New job part 2: Pag-ibig, Philhealth, and NBI Clearance

Here's the continuation of my previous post, this time about Pag-IBIG, Philhealth, and NBI Clearance.


My first problem was that I didn't know what my Pag-IBIG number was. I actually had all my other government account and ID numbers except Pag-IBIG. My HR friend suggested that I call their hotline 724-4244 (more contact info about Pag-IBIG: which I did.

During the call, I was asked a few questions and they were able to pull up my Pag-IBIG ID and share it with me. Cool! However, a second problem: I was told that apparently, my Pag-IBIG account was also temporary and not permanent. It was the same issue I had with my SSS ID. Ugh. To fix it, I apparently had to go to a Pag-IBIG office and submit a Member's Change of Information Form (MCIF, which can be found under the Provident-related forms of their website

I went to the Pag-IBIG office along Jupiter and I did this on the same day that I went to SSS because they were pretty close to each other (about a 10-15 minute walk). When I arrived, it wasn't very clear where I had to go so so I asked help from someone who then instructed me to fall in line to get a number. It was a really long line - more than 50 people - and when I made my way to the front, I was told that I had to go the 2nd floor instead. Ugh again. Thankfully, there was no line to get a number on the 2nd floor.

When my number was called and I was being served, I was told that I actually had to fill out another form (I think it was the Member's Data Form or MDF). Once I filled out that form, I submitted it to the guy at the counter again and my Pag-IBIG account was set to permanent status then and there. Perfect.

NBI Clearance

To secure your NBI Clearance, you need to go to the NBI Clearance website to complete your online registration. There is an option to enter your old NBI Clearance data to speed up your online application, but since my old clearance was secured more than a decade ago, it didn't work when I tried it. :) As such, I had to follow the normal process.

I found the process to be a bit counterintuitive and lengthy. I first had to create an online account and during the account creation, I already needed to indicate if I was applying for new clearance or just renewal. Since my old clearance wasn't working, I had to select "New". (Personally, this isn't  the most sensible approach for me because account creation should be independent of the clearance request process.) After I created my account, I filled out the online NBI Clearance Application form. I then selected the location for my appointment. The earliest schedule I could find that was close enough to me was at the Mandaluyong branch located on the 3rd floor of Shaw Center Mall so I booked an appointment there. I then selected the appointment schedule. This completed the first part of my online appointment. I then got a screen that shared some pretty important details on how to proceed with payment, including your reference number. If you are applying for NBI Clearance, I suggest you save this screen since you will be needing the information on it later on.

There are a few options for payment and I decided to just pay via bank deposit. I selected Metrobank because the other banks include a minimal additional processing fee in Metro Manila while Metrobank did not. The NBI Clearance fee is P140. Here are the steps for payment:

  1. Fill out a regular deposit slip (use the details provided in that screen I mentioned; it will differ per bank) and pay the exact amount in CASH or ON-US Check (check issued by this same bank). Note that some banks may charge a handling fee for deposits in their provincial branches.
  2. When deposit is completed, click the link provided in the screen I was talking about (in my case, I got this link because I chose Metrobank - and fill out the details within the same day of your deposit to validate your payment. You have to enter the branch code, date, time, and amount deposited, all of which are provided in the deposit slip (there is a sample deposit slip in the link provided which should help you know how to fill out the required fields).

Payments are processed at end of the day. NBI will send a confirmation email to you once your payment is validated. If you do not receive an email by noon the next day, you may call NBI at (02) 655-6820, email, or chat with their Customer Support. (Thankfully, I received an email later that day confirming my payment.)

On the day of my appointment, I brought a print-out of the payment confirmation e-mail and my deposit slip to the NBI office in Shaw Center Mall, which opens daily at 9am. (You can park in the basement.) There was a long queue when I got there but it moves pretty quickly. When I got to the front of the line, my photo and my fingerprints were taken but unfortunately, there was a hit. What?? And here I thought my name was relatively unique. I was told to return two weeks later to get my clearance. Thankfully, when I returned, it was pretty straightforward. I just handed my deposit slip which had a stamp that indicated the date I was supposed to return. Within minutes, I had my clearance. Would have been nicer if I got all this sorted out on my first visit but at least the second visit went pretty quickly.


Finally, Philhealth. I got a Member Data Record (MDR) from my previous company which I then submitted to my new company but a few days after I started work, I was told by HR that I needed to fill out two forms - I can't remember what they were - and then go to the nearest Philhealth office to submit them myself. I decided that I would just do this on the same day that I would get my clearance and thankfully, there was a Philhealth office along Shaw Boulevard (I think it might actually be the head office), making it easy for me to do both on the same morning.

When I arrived at Philhealth, I can't recall on which floor I was told to go - I think it may have been the 10th - but when I got there, there was no line. I was served immediately so I submitted the two forms I got from our HR. I was then given a new MDR along with the other form that I submitted (I think they just stamped certification on it or something). I was also given a Philhealth ID.

And there you go. It was a whole lot of effort trying to understand the processes, filling out forms, traveling to and from the different government offices, and falling in line. Thankfully, all of my government accounts are pretty much in order now.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

New job and sorting out my SSS records

One of the biggest changes in my life over the last decade just happened this August: I moved to a new company. It was such a huge change for me because I had been working in my previous company for more than a decade. Now, I continue working in the same field but in a different industry and my current role is pretty different from what I used to do. I am quite excited about this change and I am looking forward to growing a lot more as a professional.

That said, it also involved a lot - and I do mean a LOT - of paperwork. I realized that there was a ton of stuff I needed to do to sort out my SSS, Pag-IBIG, and Philhealth accounts. I also needed to get NBI Clearance. It was a whole lot of work but I am happy that I got everything sorted out.


First, I didn't have my SSS Unified Multi-Purpose ID (UMID). I supposedly had an SSS ID given to me a very long time ago, but either I lost it or it was marked as having been given to me even if it wasn't. Still, that SSS ID wouldn't be valid anymore since it should already have been replaced by the UMID. I did a bit of research and saw that I needed to have the following:

  1. SSS Form E-6, or a UMID Card Application Form
  2. Three copies of SSS Form R-6, or Miscellaneous Payment Form. UMID Card replacement costs P300.
  3. Affidavit of Loss

I downloaded Forms E-6 and R-6 online and filled them out. I also prepared an affidavit of loss for my UMID card. I then went to the corner of Makati Avenue and Jupiter to have my UMID cards notarized. I think it costs P100 to notarize a document in the small stall there. (You can easily spot it because there are signs that say "NOTARY" and "XEROX".

At the SSS Office along Buendia (Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue), I was instructed go to Counter 9 to process my UMID Card replacement request. Upon arriving at counter 9, I was told that my SSS ID was only temporary and not permanent and that this was most likely because my records were not fully updated when SSS upgraded their systems and processes. As such, I first had to go to Counter 12 to request my SSS account to be updated. For that, I needed to give give them the following:

  1. Two copies of SSS Form E-4, or Member Data Change Request, to update member record status from temporary to permanent.
  2. A copy of my Birth Certificate (thankfully I had it with me)

The problem was that the system was down when I was there. Also, the payment counter was already closed (it was past 4pm when I arrived). As such, I had to go back the next working day. Thankfully, the system was up when I returned. I first went to Counter 12 to have my member record status updated. Then I fell in line at the cashier to pay the UMID replacement cost. I then fell in line again at Counter 9 to submit my requirements. It was around 12:15pm when I was served and by then I was told I had to go to the third floor for UMID photo taking. Unfortunately, the talking of ID photos was closed between 12pm and 1pm so I had to return after lunch break. After getting my photo taken, I was told that my UMID would be delivered to my place of residence within 3 to 6 months. So I'm not quite done but at least I am done with all the requirements and now it's just a matter of waiting for my ID to arrive.

I will write about how how I sorted out my Pag-IBIG, Philhealth, and NBI Clearance in my next post.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Skeletor's Best Insults

People who are familiar with the 1980s animated series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe will get a kick out of this. I never realized it at as a kid but apparently, Skeletor is the master of insults. Major props have to be given to voice actor Alan Oppenheimer.

video uploaded in youtube by DreamWorksTV

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

West Side Story in Manila

I finally got to see another one of the most well-known and significant musicals in history - West Side Story. The show made its way to Manila for a few weeks this month and I made sure I got to see it. I knew it was like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet so I sort of knew how the story would go but I had never actually seen it in its entirety. As such, seeing the whole story unfold was a really good experience.

What I never realized was how magnificent and beautiful the soundtrack of West Side Story is. Almost every song has made its way into pop culture, whether or not people know that these songs are from the musical. Somewhere, America, I feel pretty, Tonight, and Maria are all iconic in their own right. Two of my favorite songs from the musical aren't quite as popular - I have a love and One hand, one heart. (I think it is because of the beautiful medley of these two songs that was recorded by Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis.) It was such a treat to see and hear all these incredible songs performed live. I've always known they were all from West Side Story but it wasn't until now that I got to hear them all sung as part of a story.

The cast was also remarkable. The best of them in my opinion was definitely Kevin Hack, who portrayed the lead character Tony. I thought his voice is absolutely incredible. His tone, clarity, range, projection, and control were all topnotch. Another standout was Keely Beirne, who portrayed Anita. I also really liked the guy who played Doc, even if it was only a speaking role (or well I am guessing he also sang, but just as part of the ensemble, with no solo parts).

All in all, it was a wonderful show with glorious music, brilliant singing, great choreography. and a timeless story about love against all odds. I am happy that West Side Story made its way to Manila and I am pleased that I got to see it during its limited run here at the Theatre at Solaire.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Macandili is 2nd best libero at the Asian Women's Volleyball Championship!

She spent the last couple of years impressing Filipinos with her incredible and buwis-buhay saves. Now she is also impressing the rest of Asia. Dawn Macandili, the multi-awarded libero from De La Salle University, competed as part of the Philippine team in the 2017 Asian Women's Volleyball Championships held in the Philippines. On the final day of the event last August 17, she was awarded 2nd best libero. What an amazing achievement!

This was the first time that Dawn was part of the national team and her nerves were evident in the first two matches, against Hong Kong and Kazakhstan. She finally found her rhythm against Vietnam, where she had 19 excellent digs and 12 excellent receptions. She continued to showcase her skills against Thailand, amazing everyone with her speed and her commitment and willingness to throw her body however which way she could just to save the ball. Her efforts not only helped the Philippines achieve a top 8 finish, an improvement from our 12th place finish two years ago, they also got her her first international award. It is unprecedented as well since normally, events do not award a 2nd best libero (there is only a best libero) and all the individual awardees are usually from the top 4 teams. I am very happy for Dawn and proud of the honor she has brought to herself and to the country.

Interestingly enough, August 17 has now become a significant date for Macandili in the last two years. In 2016, she made history by becoming the first libero to be awarded MVP in the Philippines (this was at the PSL All Filipino Conference). Exactly a year later, she gets an individual award in her first international competition. While she isn't the first Filipino to win in an international event, I think most of our past awards have been at the SEA Games and I don't recall the last time we had a Filipino awardee beyond the Philippines and the SEA Games.

Speaking of which, Dawn will be competing with the rest of the National Team in the women's volleyball event at the 2017 SEA Games. The Philippines will play starting on the 24th. Good luck to the Philippine National Team and congratulations again to Dawn Macandili!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Nadal is back at #1

Congratulations to Rafa Nadal for becoming the ATP World #1 player. He takes over the top ranking from Andy Murray who was #1 for 41 weeks. While his ascent to the pinnacle of men's tennis was assured earlier in the week when Roger Federer pulled out of Cincinnati - either Roger or Rafa were sure to supplant Andy - it ended up being a bit anticlimactic as Rafa was ousted in the quarterfinals by Nick Kyrgios (who eventually lost in the finals to Grigor Dimitrov). Nevertheless, the number 1 ranking reminds us how incredible Rafa's year has been, including a 10th title at the French Open and in Barcelona and Monte Carlo.

This stint atop the world rankings could be quite short-lived since Roger Federer is expected to overtake him after the US Open, where Roger is the favorite to win (or at the very least, to get further in the tournament than Rafa since it's a court that favors the Swiss over the Spaniard). Nevertheless, this is still a major accomplishment for Nadal. After being plagued by several injuries over the last three years, many had wondered if his best days were past him. Thankfully, they aren't. While we might not see peak Nadal as often as we did several years ago, it is still amazing how he continues to show us why he is one of the greatest tennis players in history.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Movie-watching in August

For the first time this year, I watched two movies on two consecutive days. That they both involved cars and fast driving is an interesting coincidence.

Baby Driver

I saw the trailer of Baby Driver while watching another movie recently and it piqued my interest so I decided to watch it. Thankfully I did because I enjoyed it tremendously. The movie revolves around Baby (portrayed by Ansel Elgort) who drives getaway cars for criminals. There's a lot more to the story than that of course but I will just leave it at that. Baby Driver is edgy and thrilling, moving along at a solid pace but still allowing the audience to understand who the characters are and what motivates them. As noted critic Roger Ebert said, "the survival of the heroes here becomes something we actively root for instead of just know is likely to happen." I actually gasped at least a few times while watching and I even muttered a somewhat audible "oh no" at one point. Everyone in the cast put in great performances, including Ansel, Lily James (who also starred as Cinderella in the 2015 live action Disney film), Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, and John Hamm. I later realized that this film was directed by Edgar Wright, who also directed two of my favorite comedies Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. No wonder I enjoyed this movie. I've seen only 7 movies this year but this is my favorite so far. I will certainly get the DVD when it comes out.

Cars 3

I wasn't sure what to expect in this Pixar film, considering that I was a bit underwhelmed by Finding Dory and I absolutely didn't like The Good Dinosaur (these were Pixar's last two full-length feature films). As it turned out, I actually really enjoyed Cars 3. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. Please stop reading if you don't want to find out anything about the movie. What I absolutely loved about this movie was how it didn't force upon the audience the highly inaccurate notion that old-school "heart-and-soul" training beats out more modern and scientifically-designed training techniques and methods. It also showed us that great champions of the past, no matter how legendary they are, will at some point be overtaken by younger, stronger athletes. For a moment, I actually thought that Lightning McQueen would somehow miraculously beat the record-breaking up-and-coming rookie Jackson Storm. Thankfully, the story didn't go down that path. Cars 3 is not quite at the level of Up, Wall-E, or Toy Story 3 but it's a very good Pixar movie  that is definitely worth watching. It has heart, realism, and a feel-good ending.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Giordano celebrates the 40th anniversary of Voltes V

I grew up watching and being very into Voltes V when I was young and my predilection of this animated series has stayed with me until now. So when I saw that Giordano was releasing limited edition shirts on August 3 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Voltes V, I just had to get some for myself. Actually, around the same time last year, Giordano came out with Voltes V shirts but I was unable to buy then; I was in a rush when I passed by a Giordano shop that had many Voltes V shirts on display and when I returned a couple of days later, all Voltes V merchandise had sold out. As such, I was more intent on getting shirts this time around.

My schedule got tremendously packed in early August so I was unable to go to Giordano until a few days later. When I finally made my way to a Giordano store, some designs had already been sold out and a few more had almost fully run out, with only XL or XS remaining. Still, there were a few designs that had many sizes available. After selecting a couple for myself, I thought it would be nice to get shirts for my brothers as well (they are also Voltes V fans). Once I had selected 4 shirts, the saleslady suggested that I get 2 more because I would get a free Voltes V umbrella if I bought 6 shirts. As such, I ended up leaving Giordano with 6 shirts and an umbrella. LOL.

I am now looking forward to wearing my new Voltes V shirts. :) Thanks to Giordano for releasing these limited edition shirts. Happy 40th anniversary, Voltes V!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Weekend in Baguio

My friends and I decided to go to Baguio for a weekend. Normally, I wouldn't be all that interested to travel such a long distance for just a weekend but I know that Baguio is now "only" about 4-5 hours away from Manila due to TPLEX. I also hadn't been to Baguio in such a long time that I felt I wanted to make this two-day trip despite the distance.

The last time I was in Baguio was in 2004, when my friends and I went up Mt. Pulag. However, that doesn't really qualifies as a proper visit to Baguio because we just really passed through. We stopped briefly at our meet-up point in Baguio so that we could convoy all the way to Pulag and on the way home, we just had dinner in Baguio before heading back to Manila. Prior to 2004, I went to Baguio in 1996 for an inter-university contest held in St. Louis University so I didn't get to go around Baguio that time either. The last time I actually really got to go around Baguio was in 1995, but I barely remember what places we visited when we were there.

Awesome view of the sunrise at our Airbnb place

This trip didn't really have a fixed itinerary but I told my friends that I wanted to go to Mines View Park (for the photo op LOL) and so that I could buy strawberry jam and ube jam in Good Shepherd which is just right next to the park. There were a lot of people when we went there but thankfully, we all still managed to have photos taken with the view.

Mines View Park

I am also pretty happy that I was able to get three bottles of strawberry jam and four bottles of ube jam from Good Shepherd. My friends who had been to Baguio recently said that there was supposed to be a maximum number of bottles that people were allowed to buy. Thankfully, when we were there, we were told that we could buy as many bottles as we wanted. Also, in almost all my trips to Good Shepherd in Tagaytay, I had almost never been able to get strawberry jam there because it was always out of stock so I was pleased to finally get my hands on a few bottles of strawberry jam here. It also rained quite heavily when we were there. Thankfully, the rain didn't last very long.

The original plan was for us to go to Camp John Hay that afternoon but because it rained, the ground was quite muddy. As such, we decided to go to Bencab Museum instead (we initially agreed to go to the museum on Sunday morning). That worked for me since Bencab Museum was the other place that I absolutely wanted to visit.

I really enjoyed my visit here. The museum featured a lot of different artistic styles and media. I could easily have spent a whole day here just appreciating everything on display. Naturally, a lot of pieces featured in the museum are creations of National Artist Benedicto Cabrera but pieces from many other artists are also on display.

Tribal Masks by Bencab (mixed media)

Chinamoy (season) by Cawaon Cablog (Oil on canvas)

The museum also has a cafe at the lowest level. There is also a garden open to visitors. It was very foggy when we were there but that actually made for some interesting photos.

Garden at the Bencab Museum

Of all the restaurants that my friends and I visited while in Baguio, my favorite by far was the first place we went to: Arca's Yard. The food was pretty good and their coffee has a free refill. There are some incredible views of the mountains and there's an awesome library at the basement of the cafe. I can imagine spending an entire day at this cafe, eating, having coffee, and maybe even reading a book from the library. It's a bit far from the city center but I did feel it was worth a trip.

Library in Arca's Yard

I decided to leave earlier than everyone else on Sunday because I wasn't feeling all that well. I think the difficulty of driving - there was a lot of roadwork being done while we were there - and parking stressed me out a lot. (Travel tip: if you decide to drive to Baguio, you might want to just leave your car at the place you are staying and take taxis while you are there. Parking is extremely difficult.) Add to this the fact that it was cold and rainy and you have the perfect recipe for getting sick. After checking out of our Airbnb place (which I recommend), my friends and I had lunch in Good Taste before I bade them farewell and headed home. As such, I actually really only spent one day in Baguio. Despite this, and despite the fact that I actually got a bit sick, it was still a pretty awesome trip to a place I hadn't been to in years.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fan performs Everglow with Coldplay

This is amazing. During the Coldplay concert in Munich, Chris Martin of Coldplay spotted someone in the audience with a sign that said "Can I play Everglow with you?" The amazing thing was that Chris invited that guy to go on stage with him. I can't imagine what it must have felt like for that fan to not only perform with Coldplay but to do so in front of a massive crowd.

video uploaded in youtube by News Coldplay

The fan's name is Ferdinand Schwartz, a German jazz/pop pianist, arranger and composer. You can check out some of his work on his Instagram page:

Saturday, July 29, 2017

July hodgepodge

I finally got my first ever Star Wars LEGO sets! I knew I wanted the Millennium Falcon but I also initially wanted an Imperial Shuttle, an X-Wing Fighter, or a Tie Fighter (okay, technically I also wanted the Death Star and a Star Destroyer but those were way beyond my budget). Since I knew I didn't have a lot of space at home to display completed LEGO sets, I decided to stick with the Millennium Falcon only. That is, until I saw a video of the LEGO AT-ST. Since this item isn't as big as the other Star Wars ships, I can surely slot it in somewhere at home. As such, I ended up getting it along with the Millennium Falcon. I haven't had time to build either yet since I am sure that will take time. I can't wait to put them together though. I will post about it once I do.

My new Star Wars LEGO sets

July marks the first time in 2017 that I got to watch two movies in the same month. The first one was Despicable Me 3. I actually enjoyed it more than the 2nd one but the first is still the best one for me. I like the new characters - Balthazar Bratt and Dru - in this third Despicable Me movie and I love how Gru's recently acquired hero/anti-villain mindset is challenged. It's not your most sophisticated animated film but the story moves along quite nicely and it's a lot of fun to watch.

I also got to see Spider-Man: Homecoming. While this is the third incarnation of Spider-Man in the last 15 years (the first version that featured Tobey Maguire came out in 2002), I was still thoroughly entertained. Peter Parker as a character was written quite well in my opinion because the conflicts and challenges he was facing were very high school in nature (e.g. fitting in, making a difference), which make sense given that Peter is supposed to be in his teens. I liked the twists and turns in the film but I have to say that I am not such a big fan of the fact that his suit and his web-shooters were created by Tony Stark. (That is more logical though since a high school kid, even a super genius, would most likely not have the resources nor the equipment to build a Spider-man suit or high-tech web-shooters. Still, I like the idea of Peter Parker having made those himself.)

No month would be complete for me without gaming. In fact, I played games with my friends on two consecutive nights and then again the weekend after. I played some games I had played before, such as Viticulture, Scythe, and Karuba, but I also played several new games. These include: 6 nimmt!, Dice Crawl, Jamaica, and Secret Hitler. Secret Hitler is kind of like Resistance, Avalon, and Ultimate Werewolf in that the liberals have to figure out who the Secret Hitler is while the fascists need to get Hitler elected as Chancellor. I somehow ended up as the Secret Hitler but a key mistake of the liberals early in the game allowed me to get elected Chancellor in the end so the fascists and I won. Aside from Secret Hitler, I also won a few other games: Karuba (twice) and my first ever Jamaica game. I had been losing a lot over the last several months so it was nice to be on the winning end again.

My friends and I also got to play two role-playing games, or RPGs. Both of them were pretty interesting and not too long to play. Odin's Eye is set in space and the players get to build the story based on a premise that is selected at the start of the game. It was a bit hard to play at first since you weren't sure how to make the story progress but once we got the hang of it, it became fast-paced and intense. The other game, Murder Hobos, is a lot lighter despite its name and it focuses on the interactions of the players with each other, depending on which character they play. The key difference of this game from the other RPGs I've played is that you get to play a different character in each round. While the story we built in Murder Hobos wasn't as well-constructed as the one we built for Odin's Eye, it was a lot of fun with many moments of utter hilarity.

A couple of other things. I bought slim jeans for the first time in my life. I was surprised that Old Navy had slim jeans that fit me but their Slim Built-in-Flex Jeans apparently have spandex and this allows the fabric to stretch. I ended up buying 2 pairs of jeans partly because I needed new ones but also because they were on sale. I also went on another trip in the Philippines, this time to Baguio with my friends. I will write about that trip separately.

Monday, July 24, 2017


This post is more than a week late because I got pretty sick last week and wasn't able to write. Nevertheless, I figured it was such an eventful Wimbledon - as usual - that I decided to still write about it.

Roger Federer continues to add to his already legendary status with an 8th Wimbledon title, which also marks his 19th Grand Slam singles title. That is just absolutely staggering in its magnitude. I actually didn't get to see the final because my illness resulted in me being asleep most of Sunday night so I just saw the result the next morning. I feel bad for Marin Cilic though, who lost to Federer in the final, because he couldn't fight as much as he wanted due to an injury. Roger would still most likely have won but it would have been nice to have too have Cilic battle it out in top shape. 2017 now seems like 2007 all over again, with Roger winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon and Rafa Nadal winning the French Open. While Andy Murray is still the world #1, both Rafa and Roger have won more points this year than anyone else. How many more major titles can Roger win? With how things are going this year, I wouldn't be surprised if he wins his 20th Grand Slam singles title in September at the US Open.

On the women's side, Garbine Muguruza won her 2nd Grand Slam title by beating Venus Williams in the final. Interestingly enough, it was almost 2007 all over again on the women's side as well because Venus Williams won Wimbledon a decade ago. She made her scintillating run to the finals and was 1 point away from taking a one-set lead over Garbine, with two breakpoints - set points - at 5-4 in the 1st set. What happened after that was quite unexpected, and a good omen for fans of the Spaniard. Muguruza not only saved those two set points to even things up at 5-all in the first set, she didn't lose another game for the rest of the match. She won the last 3 games of that first set and bageled Venus in the 2nd set - a string of 9 straight games - to claim her first Wimbledon title. Amazing! I was sad at how Garbine was treated by the crowd at the French Open, where she failed to defend her title, so this definitely makes up for that loss. Hopefully she can maintain this level of play or stay close to it. I would love to see her win more Grand Slam singles titles.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Petron Blaze Spikers win PSL All-Filipino Conference

Congratulations to the Petron Blaze Spikers for winning the 2017 Philippine Superliga All Filipino title! They very narrowly defeated F2 Logistics Cargo Movers in what may possibly the tighest volleyball match I've ever witnessed, live or televised: 26-24, 24-26, 24-26, 25-23, 15-11 in almost 3 hours of play. Since Petron also beat F2 in Game 1, they sweep the best-of-three finals and take home the championship.

It is quite amazing that this Game 2 of the finals turned out the way it did because I watched it live at the Filoil Flying V Centre. This was the first time I have ever watched a pro volleyball game live. The awarding ceremony was also held after the match, making my experience even more complete. I think play started at around 6:45pm and finished at almost 9:30pm. The first three sets went beyond the 25-point mark and in fact all those sets featured come-from-behind wins since the team that got to 24 first actually lost the set: F2 was up 24-22 in the first set before Petron won 4 points in a row, Petron was up 24-20 in the second set before F2 won 6 points in a row, and Petron was also up 24-23 in the third set before F2 rallied to win it. The fourth set was very tight yet again and while it didn't go beyond 25 points, it ended up with a scoreline of 25-23. So all four sets were won by the smallest of margins (2 points). It was only the fifth set that was every so slightly less competitive, with Petron winning it with a margin of 4 points. Incredible! My friend and I were saying that this game was definitely worthy of a final, with neither team wanting to give up and both teams very evenly matched. I am so glad that this was my first live game experience. :)

The awarding ceremony wasn't shown on TV but since I was there, I got to see it. I was incredibly happy that finally, Mika Reyes gets an individual award. She was honored as the 2nd best middle blocker. She joined to other DLSU (current or former) players with awards: Majoy Baron as 1st best middle blocker and Ara Galang and 2nd best outside spiker. I am also happy that Aiza Maizo-Pontillas seems to have turned back the clock and found her lethal collegiate form as she was awarded league MVP. Here is the full list of individual awardees:

  • MVP - Aiza Maizo-Pontillas (Petron)
  • 1st best outside spiker - EJ Laure (Foton)
  • 2nd best outside spiker - Ara Galang (F2 Logistics)
  • 1st best middle blocker - Majoy Baron (F2 Logistics)
  • 2nd best middle blocker - Mika Reyes (Petron)
  • Best opposite spiker - Jaja Santiago (Foton)
  • Best setter - Rhea Dimaculangan (Petron)
  • Best libero - Jheck Dionela (Cignal)

I am also happy to see the success that Mika Reyes continues to have: from the DLSU championship last year to the PSL All-Filipino Championship last year to being appointed PSL Ambassador to being part of the Magnificent 7 that played against the world's best in the FIVB World Club Championships to being awarded Miss Volleyball 2016 to making the 14-woman roster of the national team that will compete in the SEA Games and even being named team captain. And now this PSL All Filipino championship and her first ever individual award. That's pretty amazing. In fact, it's quite interesting to note that with this championship, Mika actually wins back-to-back All Filipino crowns at the PSL. Awesome!

I actually came to the game as a fence-sitter since F2 and Petron were my two favorite teams in the PSL and I would have been happy with either team being champion. My friend did tell me though that it would probably be better for me if Petron won that night so that I could witness the awarding ceremony (which is exactly what happened). Needless to say, my first live game experience couldn't have gone much better than that. Congratulations again to Petron and hats off to F2 Logistics!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Congratulations, Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra!

This amazing news made me incredibly happy. The Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra won 2nd place at the the Summa Cum Laude International Music Festival, String Orchestra Competition Category in Vienna, Austria. Congratulations!

I had written before about unexpectedly catching the free Glorietta concert of the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra (MSJO). It was there that I learned that they would be competing in Austria in July and that they had a proper (paid) concert in Ayala Museum on June 29. I was so amazed at the talent of these young artists that I decided to get a ticket to that concert so that I could watch them perform again.

Their Ayala Museum concert, aptly named The Road to Vienna, featured the actual repertoire that the MSJO would play at the Summa Cum Laude Festival (along with several other pieces to fill the two hour show):
  • Divertimento in D major, KV 136, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Romanian Folk Dances by Bela Bartok
  • Ondoy-ondoy by Ryan Cayabyab
  • Serenade for Strings (Finale: Tema Russo) by Pyotr Ilytch Tchaikovsky

Ondoy-ondoy was composed by Ryan Cayabyab and if I understood correctly, he made a special arrangement for the MSJO since one of the requirements in the competition was one piece of a composer from the ensemble's home country. Jeffrey Solares, the conductor, told us that it would be the first time the orchestra would be performing Ondoy-ondoy in front of an audience so it was such a privilege to have been there.

Seeing the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra twice in a month made me very emotionally invested in their participation in the Summa Cum Laude Festival. Of course, even if they didn't win, it would still have been an incredible, possibly once-in-a-lifetime, experience and the fact that they were selected to perform in this festival was a world-class honor in itself. As such, their second place finish is a truly magnificent and special result. I now really want to see the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra in their next concert in Manila. I am sure that show will be magical.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Lakawon and the Tawhai Floating Bar

The main reason I chose Bacolod as my vacation site was because of my interest to visit Lakawon. Or specifically, the Tawhai Floating Bar in Lakawon Island Resorts and Spa. When my friend mentioned it to me and said he could take me there, I searched for images online and it looked like the perfect place to relax and chill. Now that I have been there, I can definitely say it was!

We left Bacolod in the late morning and we arrived in Lakawon at around noon. At the port, you need to pay the P250 entrance fee to the floating bar and another P260 for the two-way boat ride. The boat will then take you to Lakawon island.

It was actually raining when we arrived. I had seen the one-week weather report so I knew that it was likely to rain on the day we visited, but rain was expected the entire week so that day was just as good as any. While bright sunshine was much preferred, I figured it would still be a great experience to just lie about at the floating bar, whether or not it was raining. Thankfully, the rain lasted less than an hour. That gave us enough time to have lunch at the resort (the food was pretty good and quite affordable). By the time we were done eating, the skies were clear again.

We spent a couple of hours on Tawhai floating bar. There are cushions laid out on the front outer edge where guests can just lie down and look out into the sea. If you don't want to lie down while here, there are other seating options, such as bar stools and bean bags. You can also swim around the floating bar (life vests are provided). It wasn't until late afternoon that I had this desire to go swimming but by then we needed to make our way back to Bacolod so I missed that opportunity.

It was a very pleasant and blissful afternoon in a beautiful setting. Given the fact that I enjoyed my day trip to Lakawon immensely and that I missed out on going swimming while I was there, I have a feeling that I will be visiting Lakawon again at some point in the future.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Revisiting Bacolod

I wanted to take a vacation somewhere in the Philippines where I could relax and unwind for a few days but I wanted a place that had a lot of good dining options. I was initially thinking of Tagaytay so that I could just drive there. However, a friend of mine who lives in Bacolod said that I should go there instead and that when I do, he could take me to the Tawhai Floating Bar in Lakawon. I took a quick look at the images of the Tawhai Floating Bar online and that made my decision for me. I was going to Bacolod! (I will be writing about my trip to Lakawon in a separate blog post.)

The Ruins

I stayed at the Circle Inn which was a short taxi ride (or a long walk) away from Lacson Street. I used the Grab app a lot here since it made it very easy to get taxis. (It was my first time to use Grab and I used it quite extensively while in Bacolod.) I went to a lot of the same restaurants I visited in my first trip to Bacolod a couple of years ago. I had batchoy again in 21 (I realized I prefer batchoy without liver), ribs in Byron's, chicken inasal in Aida's Chicken, a few different desserts in Calea, and a few different desserts in Felicia's. I also went to a few new places. I had pasta and cake in Cafe Bob's, which is also where I spent a cozy rainy afternoon reading a book while enjoying coffee. I also wanted to try cansi or kansi, which is like bulalo but with a sour soup, adding a different dimension to the flavor. Sharyn's Cansi House is pretty popular online but it closes relatively early so I had dinner at Eron's Cansi House instead. I also got to have drinks with my friend Bacchus in Brewery in Paseo Verde before we headed to Cocina in The District North Point to meet up with our other friend Dex. My friend Ryan also took me to Portico for drinks on my last night there.

An interesting painting on the wall of Portico

I also decided that I wanted to see the Ruins again. Some call this place the Taj Mahal of Negros because the mansion was built by Don Mariano Lacson as a tribute to his wife Maria Braga. The ideal time to visit this place is in the late afternoon right before sunset and it is recommended to stay there until the sun goes down to see the Ruins lit up but I already did this the last time. As such, I decided I wanted to see it under bright sunlight this time around. It's interesting to note that on my first trip here, the Ruins had no roof but this time around, it does. Looks like they are doing some kind of restoration

Revisiting the Ruins

No trip to Bacolod is complete without bringing pasalubong back to Manila. On my last day, I passed by Bongbong's to get some napoleones and piaya. I also got a box of ensaymada from Felicia's. And when my friend Myna found out that I was in Bacolod, she suggested that I get pili squares from Emma Lacson. Apparently, you have to visit their ancestral house in Silay to buy these goodies so after my trip to the Ruins, I passed by Silay to get a couple of boxes of these pili squares. When I finally got to taste them once I arrived in Manila, I could understand why my friend was recommending them to me. They are pretty good.

Emma Lacson's Pili Squares
120 Rizal Street, Silay City, Negros Occidental (right across BPI Silay)
(034) 495 5047

A couple more things:
  • A taxi ride from the airport to the city center (and vice versa) is about P400. When you book a taxi via Grab, it will indicate that the fare is only about P150 to 250 I think but taxi drivers will ask for P400. I think this is pretty standard since the drivers of both taxis I booked via Grab (to and from the airport) asked for a P400 fare.
  • A taxi ride to the Ruins is about P250. The meter will read about P120-150 but the drivers normally ask for P250 because they generally can't get passengers on their way back to the city from the Ruins.
Room rates at the Circle Inn are about 1300 per night. I also got a relatively inexpensive flight from PAL. I think it cost me around P5000+. All in all, I spent less than P11,000 for 4 nights in Bacolod for airfare and accommodations. Not bad. This trip was both relaxing and invigorating. I am pretty sure I will be going to Bacolod again at some point in the future.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June Hodgepodge

June proved to be another full and productive month for me. First, I got to meet up with several sets of friends. I had dinner and drinks with my college friends at Wine Story in Serendra. For food, they only serve cheese and cold cuts there but they are partnered with other restaurants in the area like Chelsea, Mamou, and Abe so we all actually ordered dinner from those places. We ended up going through a few bottles of wine, all of which were very good. It was an expensive evening but it's not that often that we get together for wine. As if that wasn't enough, I also had another expensive evening with some ex-colleagues at Tomatito. None of us had eaten there before so we didn't realize until we got there that the menu items were pretty pricey. Thankfully, the food was good. The favorite that night was the Salmon TNT, bite-sized smoked salmon with honey and truffle. Our waiter highly recommended this and it really was delicious. For my main meal, I ordered Churrasco de Buey, slow-cooked boneless short ribs with truffle mashed potatoes, potato chips and demi-glace sauce. The serving size was on the small side considering the price (P925) but it was also very good.

Churrasco de Buey from Tomatito

For the first time in I don't know how long, I entertained a few friends in my pad. One of my friends installed The Jackbox Party Pack 3 from Steam on my laptop. This is an interesting compilation of games that require participants to use their mobile devices as their controls. Despite the use of phones, the game is highly interactive and, depending on the group you are in, wildly entertaining. I personally enjoyed Trivia Murder Party the most even if I didn't win any of the rounds we played. Tee K.O. was interesting because you come up with drawings and slogans and you have to mix-and-match the random drawings and slogans you get from the others. The cool thing was that all the t-shirt designs that were in contention for the win had either my drawing or my slogan on it (or both). Of course, the winner is the one who put the drawing and the slogan together so I actually didn't win but the winner had one of my slogans. :) Fakin' It was probably the toughest and most stressful game to play because it was very hard to fake an answer not knowing what the question was LOL. As challenging as I found this game, I somehow ended winning one round and I accumulated the most points in all rounds so I won it overall. Cool.

My winning moment in Fakin' It from The Jackbox Party Pack 3

I also had a few tabletop and board game nights in June. My friend Mich celebrated her birthday in Linden Suites. I got to try Eldritch Horror for the first time and this cooperative game can take several hours to complete. Unfortunately for me, our game master (who also owned the game) had to leave at a certain time so we weren't able to finish. A couple of weeks later, I played tabletop games again with Mich, Myna and Archie at Ludo Cafe. I finally got to try Scythe which I had been very interested in because of all the good reviews it had been getting. I have to say, it lived up to the hype and I really enjoyed it! I ordered it online and it is on its way to Manila from the US so I am looking forward to getting my very own Scythe game and playing it with my friends.

Playing Scythe in Ludo Cafe

I also organized my own game night, also in Linden Suites. I invited a few different sets of friends who are all into gaming so I could play with all of them in the same night. I tried Histrio for the first time (it took a while for me to figure out how the strategy works in this game but once I did, I actually quite enjoyed it). I also finally got to play my own Dungeon Petz game (the first time I played it, we used the game of my friends). I've played this twice now and I haven't won yet but I still really love it and want to keep on playing it.

Dungeon Petz

I also got a few things sorted out this month. I bought my very own HP DeskJet Ink Advantage 3775 All-in-one Printer a couple of months ago but it was only this month that I finally set it up. It took a few hours for me to get it working though; the installation and set-up instructions weren't that straightforward and since it is a wireless printer, I had to connect it to my home wifi for it to work and that wasn't as simple as I expected. Nevertheless, I managed to get it to work and I've been able to print a few things using it already. I also finally upgraded our internet at home. We had one of the slowest internet speeds so I decided to bump it up a few notches. We are now on 16 mbps and my nephews have told me that the improvement has been quite significant. Cool! And finally, I got to have my shoes professionally cleaned. I had a couple of pairs that somehow ended being muddied and I couldn't really clean them that well. I stumbled upon ColorWash one day and I decided to try this place. The cleaning service is quite expensive actually - P700 per pair - but at least my shoes look a lot better now.

Not sure if you can see how much cleaner my shoes are now but they really are

One more highlight in June: I went Bacolod for a few days for vacation. I will, however, be posting about that very fun and relaxing trip separately.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Inspiring Mandy Harvey on America's Got Talent

This video was making its rounds on social media recently and for good reason. Mandy Harvey performed in America's Got Talent and blew the audience away not only for her talent but also for her spirit. Even if you didn't know she was deaf, you would already take notice of that voice. The fact that she has been creating and playing music for more than 10 years after losing her hearing at the age of 18 is inspirational. I was also moved by her reaction to the crowd's reaction (including that initial realization that the audience were loving her at about 3:19). Check it out.

video uploaded by America's Got Talent

She ended up getting being Simon's Golden Buzzer. Well deserved. And truly inspiring.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman has been getting a lot of very positive reviews and I was fully aware of this before I saw it in the movie theater. It's not always good to have high expectations of a film before you watch it since you may end up being disappointed when the it ends up not living up to the hype, but thankfully Wonder Woman actually delivered.

Spoiler Alert: stop reading now if you don't want to read any spoilers about the film.

Audiences first got a glimpse of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman when she appeared in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. In it, there is an intriguing scene that involves a century-old photo taken during World War I with Diana in it.  This Wonder Woman film helps answer the question of who she is and why she was in that picture. A large chunk of the movie is devoted to the backstory of Diana who leaves Themyscira, the island of amazons where she lives, once she about the ongoing World War I. She believes that Ares caused this war and she seeks him out to put an end to the global conflict.

To be honest, it actually sort of feels a bit like Captain America, which is set in World War II and in which Captain America helps save lives. That said, Iron Man also has a bit of a war setting, albeit a much more current one. I guess that historical and actual war settings sort of make sense for superhero movies because sometimes the brutality gets so intense that sometimes those of us who feel helpless wish we had superhero powers so that we could do something about them. Wonder Woman tries to emphasize the importance of, and urgent need for, peace. This is just as relevant today as there continues to be divisiveness, terrorism, and violence all over the world. That No Man's Land scene where Wonder Woman reveals herself as a superhero for the first time is emotional, inspiring, and triumphant. What I also love about the movie is how she slowly realizes her power as the story moves forward. This film made me understand why she had no qualms doing battle with the terrifying and tremendously intimidating Doomsday in Batman V Superman and why she said she had killed creatures from other worlds before.

Wonder Woman has gained tremendous respect from critics and audiences alike for its social significance. It's the first successful and well-received superhero film that features a female as the lead. Yes, we've had Catwoman, Elektra and even the 1984 Supergirl headlined by Helen Slater but those films came at a time when we weren't inundated with superhero movies (I figure we have had at least one a year over the last decade or so). Also, all of them have terribly low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes (and Metacritic for the first two). Wonder Woman has very good storytelling and character development. I've only seen three movies at the cinema this year but this is my favorite of the ones I've seen and I have to say it is up there when it comes to superhero movies. I highly recommend this film and I will surely get the DVD when it comes out.

Monday, June 12, 2017

La Decima! Nadal wins French Open title #10!

La Decima. Champ10n. Perfect 10. As many have said, it's near-impossible to describe with words just how significant this achievement is but Rafael Nadal just did the unimaginable by winning the French Open for the 10th time. Vamos Rafa!

This achievement is staggering on so many levels. No other player in the Open Era has won a major tournament 10 times. The only other player - male or female - to win a major tournament more times in history is Margaret Court who won the Australian Open 11 times, but 7 of those were won when tennis was open only to amateur players and not to professionals. As if that wasn't enough,  if we go beyond the majors, no other male player has won the same event 10 times. Nadal has now achieved this feat in three different tournaments: Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and now the French Open.

A few more amazing figures:
  • This is Nadal's 15th Grand Slam singles title, moving him past Pete Sampras who has 14. The only male player with more majors is Roger Federer who has 18.
  • Nadal has an incredible 79-2 win-loss record in Roland Garros.
  • He lost a measly 35 games in all 7 matches he played, the second least number of games lost in a major event. (Bjorn Borg holds that record when he dropped only 32 games when he won in 1978.) He didn't lost more than four games in any set he played. That is just utter dominance.
  • This is the third time that Rafa Nadal won a Grand Slam tournament without dropping a set. He also achieved this feat in 2008 and 2010.
  • Rafa has now won a Grand Slam title in his teens, his 20s, and his 30s (he turned 31 during the first week of Roland Garros.). Talk about longevity.
  • He now moves up to #2 in the ATP Rankings.
  • He also  adds on to the lead he has in the ATP Singles Race, amassing more points in 2017 than any other player so far. If he maintains his level of play, he may just return to the top of the Tennis world before the year ends.

Click here for more impressive French Open stats.

Nadal's fantastic results over the previous months made me very hopeful that he would take home another French Open title and the way he played the first six rounds made me even more optimistic. However, Stan Wawrinka has become a giant-killer in majors in recent years and his 3-0 record in Grand Slam finals had me very worried. Thankfully, it was Nadal's own undefeated streak in French Open finals that proved to be stronger as he finally dealt Wawrinka his first loss in a Grand Slam championship match. Nadal has now won all French Open finals he's contested.


The awarding ceremony was made more special by the fact that his coach, Uncle Toni Nadal, joined the trophy presentation and brought Rafa a replica of the Roland Garros trophy that the Nadals will get to bring home with them. Uncle Toni will be stepping down as Rafa's coach at the end of the year to focus on his family and on coaching at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca so it was heartwarming to see the French Open honor the most successful coach in this event too before he moves on to other things.

Rafa has long established himself as the king of clay and it is just such a privilege to witness him add to his legacy by continuing to achieve unparalleled records in his already legendary career. Congratulations, Rafa!

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra in Glorietta

I was doing some errands in Glorietta when I heard live orchestra music being played in the Palm Drive activity center. There were rows of chairs set up in front of a small stage and I realized that the music was being played by children who seemed to be rehearsing. It was then that I noticed a sign that said that they were the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra and that they would be playing a live concert later that evening. Since I had some time to spare, I decided to watch the show.

Aptly subtitled The Road to Vienna: A Musical Journey with Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra, the show was most likely meant to serve as a venue for them to practice performing live in front of an audience and to help generate awareness of, and even funds for, their participation in the upcoming Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival in Vienna, Austria.

Their conductor Jeffrey Solares told us that whenever they perform in malls, they are often asked to have a more popular and current set so this show was an exception since their repertoire that evening consisted mostly of classical music, including pieces from Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Bartok, and Vivaldi. They also played some Filipino folk songs and they closed the show with a beautiful string orchestra arrangement of Sweet Child of Mine by Guns N' Roses. Mr. Solares seemed genuinely pleased that the audience was still full at the end of their show. When he asked us if we wanted more, we naturally said yes, so the kids played Beauty and the Beast as their encore. It was a beautiful and uplifting show and I'm really happy I got to watch it.

I learned that the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra was formed about three years ago. Most of the members are 14 to 17 years old, but the youngest member is only 9. Wow! The conductor Mr. Solares encouraged the audience to support the orchestra through prayers and donations and he also invited us to watch their concert at the Ayala Museum on June 29. Tickets are available at Ticketworld (look for The Rush Hour Concerts). I wish the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra the best of luck as they head to Europe in July. Whatever happens, it will be a tremendous experience that will only help all these kids get better at their craft and move them closer to their dreams.

Read more about the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra
Summa Cum Laude Festival entry:

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mystery Manila: Rebel Resistance

Escape room experiences have been around the Metro for a while but it is only this last month that I got to experience it for the first time. My friends and I went to Mystery Manila at Ayala Malls The 30th in Ortigas to see if we can could succeed in finding our way out of the room. We initially booked the Mr. Moriarty room but on the day of our reservation, there was a problem with that room and we were instead offered the Star Wars-themed Rebel Resistance room. Given that I am a huge Star Wars fan, this change actually went in my favor.

To be honest, I was not expecting to get out LOL. (Talk about not having any self-belief hehe.) The thing is, only about half of the social media photos of my friends who have tried escape rooms show them getting out. I also know that sometimes, strong-willed people can end up clashing with each other. Thankfully, that didn't happen to me and my friends. It was a very collaborative effort, with all of us contributing positively to helping us move forward and find our way out. Despite almost everyone in our group doing this for the first time, we managed to successfully get out in about 40 minutes. Awesome!

This was a very good first escape room experience for me and I am a fan. There are three other rooms in Mystery Manila at The 30th: Mr. Moriarty, the Harry Potter-themed Sorcerer's Stone, and Morbid Morgue. There are also three other branches of Mystery Manila: at Century City Mall, along Jupiter, and along E. Rodriguez Ave. in Quezon City. I am definitely going to Mystery Manila again.

Mystery Manila