Tuesday, June 12, 2018

French Open #11!

Congratulations Rafa Nadal for winning the French Open for a mind-blowing 11th time! He just keeps on adding on to the records he holds and it is just incredible to witness. Rafa just refuses to relinquish his throne as the King of Clay.

Let's break down just how phenomenal Nadal's win is:

  • Rafa is now in a tie with Margaret Court for the most titles won in a single Grand Slam tournament (Court won the Australian Open 11 times).
  • Rafa now has 17 major titles. A decade or so ago, it seemed unlikely if not impossible for a male player to get close to the singles Grand Slam count of tennis legends Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Now, Federer has passed them and Rafa is just one shy of tying them. Amazing.
  • His record at the French Open is 86 wins and 2 losses. That is just unreal.
  • By defending his title, he retains the ATP #1 ranking.
  • He has now won three tournaments eleven times. No other male player has won an event 11 times and now Rafa has achieved this three times.

Given the way that he is playing now, barring any injury, I think he still has a good chance to add more Roland Garros singles titles in the future. Many people thought would not be able to stay at the top of the game for too long given how physically exhausting his playing style is but he has continued to defy the odds and show the world the importance of passion and hard work.


I am also happy that Simona Halep finally shakes off the "best player never to have won" a Grand Slam title by coming from behind to beat Sloane Stephens in three sets in the final. She lost three Grand Slam finals - 2 of them at the French Open in 2014 and in 2017  and one at the Australian Open earlier this year - so I was rooting for her to win. By beating Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals, she also ensured that she would remain #1.

That said, my second favorite moment in Roland Garros (Rafa's win was obviously my favorite) was seeing Nicolas Mahut's son run on court and jump into Nicolas' arms to celebrate the doubles title that Mahut won with his partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert. It is just such a beautiful moment:

Congratulations to all the French Open winners!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Airbnb find in Tagaytay: Casa dlF

My friends and I initially planned to have an out-of-town overnight trip last December but it didn't push through because people's schedules were tight. I suggested we instead head out of town during the summer so last March, I revived that plan and I started looking for venues in Airbnb that could comfortably house our entire group. I then saw Casa dlF, a 3-storey Rest House in Tagaytay. The pictures in their Airbnb listing looked very interesting and it looked like the place had more than enough room to house a group our size so I shared it with my friends and everyone thought it was a good idea. I decided to book it immediately.

When we got there, I have to say that our already high expectations were exceeded. The place is beautiful! My friend's daughter actually told my friend that she was very happy that we chose this place. Cool! For the firt half hour or so of me being there, I think I just kept going around all three floors plus the rooftop taking photos (I ended up taking more than a hundred over that weekend LOL).

The place is also huge! The second floor was already very spacious and there are three floors. There are also many windows and the doors allow lots of light to come in. The first and second floors had two doors each, and we kept them open to allow the fresh Tagaytay air to come in.

As if the space of the common areas wasn't enough, even the bedrooms were big. Each room has multiple beds. The 2nd floor alone can probably house up to 20 people. (There are two more bedrooms on the 1st floor and another one on the 3rd floor. Up to 30 or so people can actually stay overnight here). All rooms are air-conditioned and each one has its own bathroom.

While the second floor common area has a bit of a more "normal" design, the ground floor common area showcases more of the Moorish inspiration. There are more seating options here, both inside and outside. I also think it's pretty cool that there is a fountain at the center of the room.

The first floor seating areas are very plush and are decorated with colorful and intricate tapestries and fabrics.

Adding more personality and uniqueness to the ground floor is the bathroom, which has walls that are covered in irregular glass pieces. We didn't get to use it but it was really very interesting. :)

To go up and down the three floors, you can choose to use the indoor stairs or the outdoor steps. All of them are decorated with beautiful tiles.

The primary attraction of the third floor is the very big veranda. We spent a lot of time lounging about here in the afternoon. My friend also played board games with the kids using the huge table at the center of the space. The 3rd floor is also the only place in the house where you can get a good mobile signal.

You can head up to a section of the rooftop via a metal staircase. There are some pretty awesome views of the gardens and greenery from there.

You can also see the Moorish-inspired dome that is directly on top of the indoor staircase.

The muti-colored windows allow light to come in to illuminate the stairs. Inside the dome is this very interesting decorative art piece.

Casa dlF doesn't have WiFi and the mobile signal is weak except on the 3rd floor. There is a TV somewhere according to the info on their Airbnb listing but we didn't use it. As such, this is a perfect place for groups to hang out to enjoy each other's company. Given its size, I would say it is also ideal for large families or groups of friends that are traveling to Tagaytay together (e.g. for an outing or to attend a wedding). There is also a lot of parking.

When I shared a picture on social media, I got a few questions from people asking for the details of this place. It really is very photogenic, both during the day and at night.

I have to say, apart from being big and beautiful, this place has so much personality and charm. After taking a ton of photos, I realized I didn't get to take one with me in it so before we left, I had to address that situation. :)

While renting this place is not cheap for small groups, it does become quite affordable for bigger groups (15 and up). I definitely recommend staying here, and maybe my friends and I (or even a different set of friends) will get to book this amazing house again in the future.

Casa dlF - a 3-storey Rest House in Tagaytay

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story

My streak of watching Star Wars films on opening night or during advanced screening continues as I got to see Solo: A Star Wars Story on opening night. This streak goes all the way back to 2002 when Attack of the Clones came out. In fact, from Attack of the Clones all the way to Rogue One, I always got to see the midnight advanced screening. Too bad they stopped this practice starting with The Last Jedi. Of all the Star Wars films that have come out, Solo was probably the one I was least excited to see. With all the main films, I wanted to see how the story would develop. And with Rogue One, I was curious to see how the rebellion would manage to get the blueprints of the first Death Star. However, this latest movie was a backstory of Han Solo. That said, it is a Star Wars film and any Star Wars film will always excite me enough to want to watch it as soon as I possibly can. :)

Spoiler alert: please stop reading if you don't want to know anything about the movie.

So what did I think of the film? I am quite happy that this was a relatively light and mainly feel-good film. The last two - Rogue One and The Last Jedi - were both quite heavy, with some deaths and near-deaths of some critical characters in the Star Wars saga. While Solo starts off with a bit of a tragedy, the general tone of the film was quite upbeat.

Friends of mine who watch the Clone Wars animated series said that fans of that show will appreciate Solo a lot more due to the many Clone Wars references. I personally don't watch the Clone Wars (maybe I should) but I still found the film to be quite enjoyable. I liked seeing how Han and Chewbacca became friends. I also loved that train action sequence, although the early departure of Thandy Newton's character Val was a bit unfortunate. It was exciting to see Darth Maul again but  I had to think about the implication of his appearance. When exactly was he supposed to have died? It was when Anakin was a kid so Han wouldn't have been born yet so if this was decades after he was cut in half, how did he survive? I also like how they showed Han winning the Millennium Falcon in a game of cards and how his relationship with Lando was established. I also love how the lead pirate was a child. Seeing her face when she took off her headgear was quite surprising. I loved that Warwick Davis was there! Warwick played the ewok Wicket in Return of the Jedi. Another cool thing about the movie is how it shows Han not being officially aligned with the rebellion yet somehow still helping them, which is the same thing that happened in A New Hope. I also though that Alden Ehrenreich did quite well, considering that he had to play an iconic character who was brought to life by the one-of-a-kind Harrison Ford. The one down side for me is how C-3PO and R2-D2 didn't seem to be in this film. (Either that or I just missed them.) If they weren't, then this is the first Star Wars feature film that didn't have the 2 droids in it.

All in all, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a lot of fun to watch and cool addition to the Star Wars franchise.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Lost Bread

I've been going to Megamall a bit more frequently recently. On another trip there, I yet again wanted to try a restaurant that I hadn't tried before. So when I passed by The Lost Bread and saw that it had both savory meals and a lot of desserts, I knew I had to try this place.

I believe this restaurant is primarily a dessert place but it does feature four "Affordabowls": Sriracha Chicken, which is apparently their bestseller, Truffled Sisig, Sinigang Sukiyaki, and Beef Tapa. I initially wanted to try the Sriracha Chicken but I was told it was really spicy. I could ask them to make it only mildly spicy but I was worried the spiciness would ruin my taste for dessert after so I decided to go with the Sinigang Sukiyaki (P168) instead. This fusion dish is like a deconstructed sinigang with the beef having a bit of a creamy texture and served with the usual sinigang vegetables on top or rice that is prepared risotto-style, steeped in sinigang soup. I do think the rice was steeped in too much sinigang soup though, I would have liked it to be less soggy. But flavor and concept-wise,  it was a good dish (and affordable too).

Sinigang Sukiyaki Affordabowl (P168)

They don't serve normal soda drinks but they do have their own special sodas. I decided to try That Peachy Bum (P140). It was light and refreshing.

That Peachy Bum soda (P140)

I was initially planning to try their Sub-Zero ice cream, with its interesting blue color, but when I saw a variety of shakes, I decided to go with that instead. I went with their Bonfire Baby Overshake (P140), which seems to be a S'mores-inspired shake with its torched marshmallows, and graham cracker dust. Conceptually it seemed really good but I actually found it a tad sweet. (It's called a baby overshake because it is smaller than their regular-sized premium overshakes.)

Bonfire Baby Overshake (P140)

While I did think that two of the items I ordered that might had room for improvement, I am actually still interested to revisit this place and try the other items on their menu. Maybe next time I will be a bit more adventurous and try their Sriracha Chicken (mildly spicy version) and partner it with a Sub-Zero ice cream. If (when?) I do, I will write about it again.

The Lost Bread is located on the 4th floor of the SM Megamall Fashion Hall. They have another branch in StrEat Maginhawa Food Park.

Monday, May 28, 2018

My first Ippudo experience

I finally got to try Ippudo, which is reputed to be one of the best ramen places in the Philippines. I was able to try it because I was in Megamall one evening and while thinking of where to have dinner, I decided to eat at a place I hadn't tried before. Thankfully, when I got to Ippudo, there were still available seats.

I decided to go basic with my first even ramen order by selecting the Shiromaru Tamago which is Ippudo's original tonkotsu broth with ultra-thin noodles and topped with pork belly and pork loin and salted soft boiled egg.

I actually also ordered the Pork Bun which is pork belly with Ippudo's special sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. I forgot to take a photo of it though because I was so hungry that I ate it as soon as it was served. I kinda think that it was easy enough for me to get a seat because I got there in the late evening so most people might have already finished eating by that time. (Despite this, the place was still pretty packed when I ate there.)

While I did enjoy my food, I do think that from a ramen standpoint, I actually like Ramen Nagi better. I also like Ikkoryu better, at least when it was new (I kinda think the quality of the broth in Ikkoryu sort of deteriorated since it first opened in Manila). The pork bun was also good but I actually like the Kakuni Buns of Ramen Bar. I don't think there is still a Ramen Bar in the Philippines since I haven't seen a Ramen Bar in ages but I actually loved their Kakuni Buns and I always ordered it with my ramen when I ate there before.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

New TV

When I visited my family last Sunday, my mom asked if I was going to the mall because she wanted to get a new TV. Apparently, one of our two TVs at home - and the last remaining working picture tube TV we had - finally conked out. Now normally, when an appliance breaks down, you have it repaired. However, this was a picture tube television, which is pretty much obsolete. To have it fixed would probably cost as much as, if not more than, an inexpensive new TV. So it just made better sense to get a new one. Thankfully, there are a few inexpensive but decent brands now.

I ended up getting a Skyworth LED, which is the same brand that I got for my grandmother a couple of years ago. While the plan was to replace the broken TV on the 2nd floor, we realized that the new one I got is a bit bigger than the one we had in the living room. I left it to my family to decide whether they would set up this new TV in the living room or on the 2nd floor. I guess I'll find out what they decided to do when I visit again this weekend.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Reunions galore

2018 seems to be a year of reconnection for me because I continue to have so many opportunities to spend time with friends, including those who now live abroad. The last weekend was clear proof of this. It started out with lunch on Saturday. My college buddy Nemboy and his family were in Manila - I can't recall now but I believe it was because they were on vacation - and we met up with him in Elias in Bonifacio High Street. Despite the relatively short notice, a handful of us were able to join the mini-reunion. We spent a couple of hours in Elias before moving over to Single Origin next door for coffee and dessert. I would have wanted to have a waffle but I overate in Elias despite the fact that our sinigang was too salty LOL so I ended up just splitting the smaller Cappuccino Lava Cake with Letlet. But not after taking Nemboy's wife Kamela and their daughter to Piandre because their daughter needed to have a haircut. I decided to take them to Piandre since I needed to walk off a bit of what I just ate LOL.

It was late afternoon when we parted ways. I didn't go too far after that though because I had game night in the Taguig area that evening. We played several games, including a couple that I got to try for the first time. Burgle Bros. is a really cool cooperative game while Queendomino is kinda like Carcassonne in terms of how scoring works but not really in terms of game play. We very narrowly lost in Burgle Bros. but I'm happy that I won Queen Domino. We also had a belated birthday celebration for Tobie. Because he liked dark chocolate and peanut butter desserts, I decided to get a Garth Vader cake from Salt Bakery/The Noodle Bakes since that dessert is a peanut butter sponge with a cream and chocolate ganache frosting. Thankfully Tobie liked it. Game night for me ended in the wee hours of the morning and given that I was up quite early on Saturday, it meant that I had a very long but very fun and fulfilling day.

The next day, I had drinks with my English friend David. I used to see David quite a bit when he was based in Australia because he would have occasional trips to Manila but he moved to Costa Rica a few years ago. I think the last time I saw him may have been in 2014 so when he said he would be coming to Manila for a business trip, I made sure I would be able to meet him. We ended up having drinks in Samba, which is the restobar at the pool area of Shangri-La in BGC, which is where he was staying. Both of us had early days on Monday so we called it a night at around 11pm, but not after a really good discussion about our future plans, both short term and long term. I realized I actually miss having those kinds of conversations.

Thankfully, I still had some energy the next day because after work, I had to drive all the way to Tomas Morato to join my ex-colleagues from my first job for our reunion with Raych, who was visiting Manila from Australia. I'm happy that we now get to see Raych about once a year; in the past, I think we would only see her about once every 2-4 years. Bett suggested we have dinner in Fleur De Lys. I was very familiar with this place because I am a big fan of their Florentines (which I forgot to order as take home when I left, probably because I was yet again very full from our meal).

After three consecutive days of reunions and get-togethers, I had a short break before the last reunion that week, which was dinner with some of my ex-colleagues in Skinny Mike's on Thursday. When we selected the date for our reunion, Jody suggested that we just have dinner in Skinny Mike's because he had a gig there on the date that we set. Initially, it seemed like a good idea so that we would get to see Jody perform live but once the first band started playing, we immediately realized that it wasn't exactly the ideal venue to catch up because we couldn't really hear ourselves over the live music. We actually ended up like millennials since we decided to chat on messenger while the bands were playing so we could communicate without straining our voices. It was a really funny and unique experience and we were all laughing about it as we were doing it. :) Apart from getting see people I hadn't hung out with in a while, it was also the first time I went to a gig in ages. Thankfully, the bands that performed were good. My old boss was also there so I got to catch up with him too. All in all, it was a great night and a great way to end a series of pretty awesome reunions with great friends.