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

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Aircon Woes

Oh man. Another major unexpected expense. It started when I had my air conditioner cleaned. A few hours after the cleaning, my aircon started to make this very loud whirring noise, almost like the fan was hitting something. Shortly after that, my aircon suddenly stopped working. I asked the aircon service company to take a look again the next morning and when they did, they said there was a problem with the compressor. I was in disbelief. My compressor was just replaced about 6 months ago and compressors are supposed to have a lifespan of at least 5 years. The problem for me now was that I had a different aircon service provider install the new compressor. So now, the service provider that cleaned the aircon was saying that fault was with the one that installed the compressor since they must have installed a faulty one but that service provider was saying that the one who cleaned my aircon was at fault. If I had more time and energy (and even money to hire a lawyer), I would probably take one (or both) of these service providers to court but I don't. I decided that replacing the compressor again would be too expensive and risky since the aircon might stop working again after a few months so I instead decided to buy a new aircon.

The challenge now was that the area outside my pad where the condenser (or the half of the split-type aircon that sits outside your house) was a bit too low and not many condensers could fit. I was talking to two aircon contractors and the first one said they could provide a customized aircon that would fit but it would cost about three times a normal split-type aircon. Thankfully, the other contractor was able to find one unit whose condenser would fit. I decided to go with that. The problem then became the indoor unit. The new one was only about 2/3 the length of the original one. This meant that once it was installed, holes in the wall that were needed by the older and longer aircon were now visible. Ugh.

When the contractor said that the new aircon would fit, I thought they meant it would fit both outside and inside. Apparently, they just meant outside. The holes on the wall were pretty big and glaring. Clearly, I needed to have this fixed ASAP.

I called the the engineering department of my building and they said that they could fix the problem and they could even match the paint as closely as possible the paint I currently have. The repair was done in phases. Phase 1 was the application of putty to cover the holes. Thankfully, the handyman actually made my wall look pretty good (even without the paint).

Phase 2 - repainting - came a few days later and thankfully the new paint closely matched the color of the rest of my wall (it's a bit different but  because light strikes the different parts of my pad differently, all walls and sections of the room tend to appear having slightly different shades of yellow anyway).

I am happy that my pad now has a new (albeit expensive) aircon. I hope this one lasts just as long as, if not longer than, my previous aircon. One thing's for sure though: I will be hiring a new aircon service provider to do regular aircon maintenance.

Monday, May 29, 2017

May Hodgepodge

I'm quite happy that I got to spend time in this last month catching up with many friends I don't get to see often. My friend Pia moved back to the Philippines and we met up for coffee and wine in Single Origin. I joined her and a couple of our other friends Joh and Alvin about a week or so later for lunch at Cibo in SM Aura. I also got to visit Ayala Malls The 30th in Ortigas for the first time to meet up with my friends Tim, Aldwin, and Mark. (Interestingly enough, I got to visit this mall a second time several days later, but I will write about that later). I had dinner at Gringo with my ex-colleagues Auds and Marco. Also, for the first time since maybe 2003, I got to meet up with my friend Daday more than once in the same year. We met back in January and we met again this May for dinner at Spatzle in Shangri-La Mall. We ordered bacon-wrapped mozzarella sticks for our appetizer and I ordered Rosti Complet, a potato pancake topped with bacon, mushrooms, and egg and served with truffle sauce. Talk about your bacon overload (although, as many of my friends said, there is no such thing as bacon overload LOL).

Rosti Complet at Spatzle in Shangri-La Mall

For me, no month would be complete without tabletop games and interestingly enough, all the games I played in May were those I had never played before. On my first game night, I played Dungeon Petz which I think is my new favorite game. I also got to play Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, a cooperative game (thankfully, we won both rounds we played). The last game I played that night was The Lord of the Ice Garden. This one has very interesting game mechanics but it was pretty tough to come up with a winning strategy. On my second game night of the month, I got to play a few rounds of Santorini before capping off the relatively short evening with Ticket to Ride: Asia. For the first time in a long time, I actually won a game! What was sweeter about that Ticket to Ride: Asia win was that I won by one point. I have lost by one or two points so many times in the past so I was really happy to finally be on the winning side of a game that was that close.

Ticket to Ride: Asia (my red token beat the blue token by only one point!)

I also started to slowly get my place in order. The pop-up drain in my sink was damaged a while back and it was only a few days ago that I got a plumber to finally fix it. I also purchased my very own personal printer so I can print stuff at home. In my many attempts to look for the old-school peanut bulb to replace the busted one in my current light fixture at home, I realized that they aren't that easily available anymore. In fact, they have been out of stock for maybe a year now. I am starting to get the feeling that this old-school peanut bulb I need might be in the process of being phased out. As such, I started window-shopping for a new light fixture since the bulbs my current one uses might never be available again. Finally, my aircon broke down less than a year after the compressor broke so I decided to just have it replaced (more on this in my next post.) It was sauna-like in my pad so instead of spending time at home, I would normally hang out in cafes and restaurants all over the metro until I absolutely had to go home. One of these places I hung out in was Maitre Chocolatier along Jupiter which I had visited before and was interested to try again. I ordered their Frey Milk Chocobloc Marbled Crepe which I thought was really good.

Frey Milk Chocobloc Marbled Crepe at Maitre Chocolatier along Jupiter Street in Makati

I also got to watch a few more DVDs, the first of which was Mad Max: Fury Road. This movie was nominated for Best Picture at The Oscars and it won a lot of technical awards so my expectations were quite high. I have to say though that I was a bit let-down, mainly because I felt it didn't live up to the hype. It wasn't bad, but once it ended, I was thinking "that was it?" There didn't seem to be much of a story although I will say that they created a very interesting post-apocalyptic world and the action in the movie was intense and pulsating. The performances were all pretty solid too. I also watched Porco Rosso, a highly rated animated film by legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. I purchased this DVD a really long time ago on Amazon but I had somehow been unable to watch it until very recently. Strangely enough, despite the critical acclaim this film has received, I found it a bit boring. The only other film of Miyazaki's I had seen is Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind which I really love (and which like a lot more than Porco Rosso). Another DVD I saw was Sing, the animated film that had animals going up against each other in a singing competition. I actually really liked this movie even if it wasn't nominated for best animated film. (Personally, I like it more than Moana.) I have to say that the voice cast could all sing very, very well even if singing is not their stock-in-trade.

Oh, and I also purchased a new book: Slade House by David Mitchell. It was a blurb at the back of the book that got me hooked: "A Dracula for the new millennium, a 'Hansel and Gretel' for grownups, a reminder of how much fun fiction can be." Cool and interesting, right? Hopefully, I can find enough time to read this book in the near future.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

My second trip to the cinema this year was to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with my nephew and my mom. I enjoyed the first movie and there was a lot of positive hype about this second one. So what did I think about it?

For sure, it was good fun, but I don't think it was as good as the first. I think this sequel understood what elements of the first had the biggest impact with audiences and it focused on those elements a lot. To me, though, I felt that it went a bit overboard. Yes, Baby Groot was cute. But there was too much attention on the cuteness of Baby Groot that I found a bit distracting (I guess it wasn't my thing). :) There was also quite a bit of emphasis on family here, including the father-son relationship between Star-Lord and his real dad (and with Yondu) and the sisterhood of Gamora and Nebula. Personally, I felt it was a bit too touchy-feely for a fantasy-action superhero flick. I also noticed some some inconsistencies. First, Ego easily wiped out an entire fleet of space ships with his power but towards the end of the film, this power seems to have dissipated as he was unable to destroy his opponents with the same ease. Second, Drax the Destroyer is supposed to be very literal, meaning he is unable to speak figuratively or metaphorically. However, this seems to have disappeared in Volume 2. It could be that he has adapted due to his constant interactions with the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy but it wasn't really explained in the movie.

That said, I liked how we got to see a different side of both Yondu and Nebula in this film. There was still a lot of humor-injected conversation, a trademark in almost every recent Marvel superhero movie. I also liked the new character, Mantis. The multiple end-credits scenes were also quite entertaining (I think there were maybe 5 of them? Make sure you stay until the very end). Then of course there is the set-up for future films in the Marvel Universe. All in all, while it is not my favorite Marvel superhero film, it is still entertaining and it helps move the entire Marvel movie saga forward in an interesting direction.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Nadal wins again!

Rafa Nadal continues to build onto an already massive career as he wins the Madrid Masters. In a rematch of the Barcelona final, Rafa Nadal overcame a fierce challenge from Dominic Thiem in two tight sets, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4. This title gives Rafa hit 30th ATP Masters title, putting him in a tie with Novak Djokovic for most Masters 1000 titles to date. It also allows Rafa to move up the rankings to #4, supplanting Roger Federer. He is now also the current leader in the ATP Singles Race as he has amassed more points in 2017 so far than anyone else.

I have to say thought that I am a little bit worried that Nadal may have peaked a bit too early. There is still the Rome Masters before Roland Garros and he might run out of steam by the time we get to the second Grand Slam event of the year. However, there are many positive things going for him. First, he survived a set point against Thiem in the first set tie-break, showing that he still has the will and the mental fortitude to fight for each point. Second, he finally snapped a 3-year, 7-match losing streak to Djokovic, whom he beat in straight sets in the semifinals. Third, he has won all his claycourt matches this year so far. These should all help give Rafa much-needed confidence and the battle-readiness to help him win the French Open. I'm still trying not to hope too much since I don't want to be disappointed, but with how things have been going in the last few months, there are decent odds for Rafa to win another major title. Good luck, Rafa!

Sunday, May 07, 2017

DLSU Lady Spikers are Back-to-Back UAAP Volleyball Champs

Congratulations to the De La Salle University Lady Spikers for winning the UAAP Season 79 Women's Volleyball Tournament. The DSLU Lady Spikers are now back-to-back champions, adding to the championship they won last year. This marked the 6th consecutive year that DLSU faced off against the Ateneo Lady Eagles in the finals. It also marked the 10th championship that DLSU has won with Ramil De Jesus as coach.

This year's road to the finals and to the championship was not easy. DLSU lost to Ateneo twice during the elimination rounds. With these two university rivals battling it out in the finals, it seemed Ateneo had the mental edge because La Salle wasn't able to figure out how to beat them during the early part of the season. And after the first set and a half of their opening finals match last May 2, it seemed like Ateneo were on their way to reclaiming the title they won in Seasons 76 and 77. However, DLSU captain Kim Fajardo took matters into her own hands and helped her team gain the confidence they were missing to overcome the Lady Eagles in a very, very fiercely contested second set. It didn't help Ateneo that the officials made two bad calls towards the end of that competitive second set. Once the third set started, the Lady Spikers had gained the rhythm and confidence they needed and they found their range, allowing them to take the next two sets and the win.

The second finals game was even tighter, Ateneo and La Salle split the first two sets and it all boiled down to a fifth set. La Salle took a commanding early lead and were up 10-4 before Ateneo fought back hard to get back to 10-8. In the end, La Salle managed to steady and compose themselves. They won 5 of the next 7 points to win the trophy and give captain Kim Fajardo the best possible send-off, since she was playing in her final playing year.

To add to this incredible result, three DLSU players received four individual awards for the season and if you include the finals MVP award, that makes four. Majoy Baron was awarded season MVP, Kim Fajardo got two awards - Best Setter and Best Server - and Dawn Macandili won Best Receiver. The finals MVP was awarded to Desiree Cheng. NU's Jaja Santiago, took home 3 awards: Best Scorer, Best Spiker, and Best Blocker (if NU just did a bit better, like maybe make it to the semis, Jaja could have taken home the MVP Award as well). Kat Arado from UE won Best Digger and Ateneo's Jules Samonte bagged Rookie of the Year.

The sad news is that a few hours after the finals, Jia Morado announced that she will no longer be playing next year. As per UAAP rules, she could still play for one more year even if she graduated already but she opted to forego her fifth playing year. She was a very close second best setter of the season and a very close second best server of the season and she also ends up with the runner-up trophy. With Kim Fajardo not playing anymore next season, I was almost certain that Jia would be a lock for best setter in UAAP Season 80 but alas, it will not happen anymore. Good luck, Jia!

With both Kim Fajardo and Jia Morado, two of the best setters we've ever seen in UAAP, not returning next year, it will be very interesting to see what will happen. The other teams might just nudge one or both of this year's finalists out of the top 2 next year. But that's also what people said would happen this year since both La Salle and Ateneo lost a lot of volleyball stars at the end of last season - Ara Galang, Mika Reyes, Cyd Demecillo, Carol Cerveza, Mika Esperanza, Alyssa Valdez, Amy Ahomiro, and Mae Tajima - and yet they proved their naysayers wrong. Both universities have very strong recruitment and training programs so I am looking forward to seeing what will happen next year.

Congratulations, DLSU Lady Spikers and congratulations, Coach Ramil!

Monday, May 01, 2017

Nadal wins Barcelona #10

Just a week after establishing another set of records with his 10th title in Monte Carlo, Rafa Nadal continues to pile on the results to strengthen the claim that he is the King of Clay. He beat Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-1 to win his 10th Barcelona title. Wow!

Apparently, winning one event ten times wasn't enough so he had to achieve the same record in another event. This is his 71st title and his 51st on clay. To put that in perspective, Nadal has won more titles on clay than tennis great Boris Becker has won on all surfaces in his career. Amazing! Even if you take out all of Nadal's 51 clay titles, Nadal has 20 titles on other surfaces - including 5 Grand Slam wins at the US and Australian Opens and in Wimbledon - and such a career would still have been enough for him to be a tennis legend.

These wins in Barcelona and Monte Carlo are especially significant because many people have written Nadal off. To be fair to them, Nadal's style of play is so gritty and physically demanding that it was easy to believe that his body wouldn't be able to keep up his high level of play much longer, and his results over the last couple of years seemed to prove this. Thankfully for Rafa fans (and tennis fans in general, I believe), he apparently still has a lot of miles left in him as he continues to achieve incredible records and results.

I don't want to hope too much at this point but it's hard not to think that Nadal could make it a third title #10 at the French Open, where he has already won 9 championships. I will be hoping that Rafa achieves grand success in Paris in about a month's time.


Don't look now but Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal are currently #1 and #2 at the ATP Singles Race this year, meaning they have won played better and won more points than anyone else in 2017. Clearly, two of the best players of all time are still