Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ciera's birthday celebration

My nephew Ciera celebrated his birthday today and we – which means my mom, my brother, my two nephews, and my grandparents – celebrated his birthday with him by eating out.

My nephews wanted to have lunch in Conti’s, their favorite resto, and probably one of mine too. We in fact had dinner in Conti’s in Trinoma on Sunday night last week, but it took us a very long time to find parking in Trinoma that night. And with the Conti's in Annapolis almost always full, we decided to just head to Conti’s in Serendra, even if it was further away.

When we got there, the place was full and there were seven other groups ahead of us in the waiting list. So instead we had lunch in Polu Kai, the Hawaiian restaurant. The restaurant was quite kid-friendly, what with all the Polynesian-style statues and the aquarium with really colorful fish.

The food was really good too. I had eaten there once before but I couldn’t really remember how the food was. Everything we ordered was really good but unfortunately I’m not one of those bloggers who actually takes photos of the food they eat when they go to restos and notes down the names of the dishes. I do remember that I ordered the dish with Shrimp and Sausage. We also got the Nachos (the dip was really good), the appetizer with raw tuna, and the other appetizer that was kinda like a little puff pastry with shrimp inside.

We swung by the Pier One area coz there were a lot of these giant dinosaur statues on display. We took photos of my nephews with the dinosaurs while my mom and my grandparents had coffee and drinks in Gonuts Donuts. And after a few minutes there, we headed home.

For dinner, we had more shrimp LOL but I also got a cake from Red Ribbon. We put a candle on it and sang “Happy birthday” to Ciera before he blew out the candle. All in all, a simple birthday celebration but a really good one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Abbaoke Night in Mag:Net

My friend Marie had her birthday a little more than a week ago and she decided that we would celebrate her birthday during "Abbaoke" night in Mag:Net in Bonifacio High Street. Abbaoke, or Abba Karaoke, involved the house band "Oven Toaster" playing Abba music and anyone brave enough to sing Abba songs in front of the Mag:Net crowd was welcome to join them on stage.

For this particular theme night, people were encouraged to come in groups of four and in all white. Of course when we were talking about it, it seemed like a very good and fun idea. So fun in fact that I decided to follow the theme and come in a predominantly white outfit (I didn't have white pants so khakis would have to do).

When I got there, I was slightly horrified by the fact that I was the only one who followed the instructions! LOL And when Gabe Mercado was going around the different tables getting volunteers to sing Abba songs, I started to realize that I was the only guy there who was going to sing! Well duh, the lead vocals of Abba are both female LOL. I actually started feeling really stupid and out of place LOL.

In any case, I decided to just go for it anyways and sing "The Winner Takes it All". Got it on video too. :)

Luckily, the crowd were actually pretty supportive LOL. And I'm singing at a low register because the song is being played in the female key but I am singing it in the male range of course i.e. an octave lower.

The second set thankfully turned into "Rockeoke" night, where volunteers could now sing all types of songs, from ballads to rock, still accompanied by the band. No one was signing up at the start so I volunteered to sing two songs, Creep by Radiohead and #41 by Dave Matthews Band. After all, I needed to gain some cool points back. LOL Here's me singing Creep, and looking pretty damn intense! :) I guess I was trying to get back some cool points after singing an Abba song LOL

All in all a really fun night. I guess it is always more fun when you do put yourself out there, do something silly, and really get into it.

I guess now I need to pay Mag:Net another visit during Rockeoke night. Or Broadwayoke night. Should be loads of fun. :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Four movies in eleven days

In the last week and a half, I got to watch 4 movies in the cinema. I don't recall a time when I got to see as many films in the theater in the same span of time as this. And I'm not even counting the dark knight which I got to see about two and a half weeks ago.

So which movies did I see? In order, The Mummy 3, The X-files: I want to believe, Wall-E, and Clone Wars.

Spoiler alert: I'll be sharing thoughts about these movies so please don't read any further if you don't want any spoilers.

The Mummy 3
Didn't really like this latest installment in the Mummy series.

Maybe it was the fact that Rachel Weisz was no longer there. As good as Maria Bello is, I felt she lacked Rachel's innocence and feistiness that was key in the dynamics of the entire cast. Then there was the fact that Brendan Fraser's son didn't look that much younger than he did. I found it difficult to believe they were father and son. The romantic angle was also both extremely cheesy, unnatural, and forced. Even Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li, both of whom I really like and still liked in the movie, couldn't save "The Mummy 3" for me.

The X-files: I Want to Believe
I was, and still am, a big fan of the X-files so I made sure not to pass on the chance to watch the film. I wasn't disappointed.

There was no alien angle in it, and some X-files fans may not be pleased with that. But not me. I really loved it. In usual X-files style, they created a story in which there were many possibilities. Virtually everything could be explained by science. Or by coincidence. I also liked how the movie answered a few things but still left enough things open. Which possibility you choose to believe by the end of the film will depend on your own personal belief system. So the movie is aptly named.

I was also really impressed with Gillian Anderson's acting. I have always thought she is an incredibly talented actor, and she proved it once again here. It's too bad she doesn't come out in more movies or TV shows, definitely a waste of her amazing acting ability.

Ah, another really good movie. Amazing how there is virtually no dialogue for the entire first half of the movie and yet the film still manages to remain engaging. In fact, the lack of dialogue actually makes you feel Wall-E's loneliness to a greater degree, and as such, you root for Wall-E a whole lot more.

The animation was exceptional. And I liked the message that the film was trying to get across. About caring for the earth and the environment. And about not being so wrapped up in technology that we no longer interact with the people around us. And about not being too dependent on technology that we lose our ability to function without it. And of course, in usual Disney-Pixar style, you will end up really connecting and empathizing with the characters. Definitely a movie worth seeing. That is, if you think you won't get bored with the lack of dialogue in the first half of the movie. I certainly wasn't.

Clone Wars
Had to see this, me being the big Star Wars fan that I am. Having said that, I think it was just okay. The animation was great of course but I guess on some level there was so much going on story-wise that they couldn't really develop any of the characters well enough.

The new character, Ahsoka, seemed way too powerful for a padawan. When Anakin, who was supposedly one of the most powerful jedis ever, was Obiwan's padawan in Attack of the Clones, he was definitely not as adept at using his powers as Ahsoka was in Clone Wars. I mean, she actually got Anakin out of trouble and even guided him and sure he did the right thing. A bit too mature for someone supposedly too young to be a padawan.

Oh and that Ziro the Hutt character was way too weird for me. The Star Wars saga managed to create the image of the Hutts as scary and fearsome and powerful. The type of creature you wouldn't want to piss off. And by creating Ziro, they practically made a mockery of the Hutts reputation that was established in the other Star Wars films. Still, it was entertaining enough for me as a whole.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lightning Bolt

Wow, Usain Bolt won 3 gold medals in the Beijing Olympics. And along with those golds came three new world records. Amazing!

There has been a lot of talk about how Usain is very disrespectful to other runners by his showboating. And generally, I don't really root for athletes who are arrogant and full of themselves. Which makes me wonder why I became a big fan of his.

For some reason, there was something strangely engaging about his flamboyance and brash demeanor. His in-your-face chest-thumping as he crossed the finish line in the 100m (he even slowed down in like the last 15 meters and was still so far ahead of everyone else!) threw off so many other people, but then again it also seemed to earn him a lot of fans.

Of course, he might have learned something from that, as he made sure that he remained completely focused in the 200m from start to finish. He beat the field by two-thirds of a second. In a sport where many medals have been won by hundredths of a second, his 200m run simply left his competition eating his dust.

And to top it all off, he and the rest of the Jamaican 4x100m relay team won gold too. And not only did they break the record, but they also beat their nearest rivals, Trinidad and Tobago, by almost a full second!!

Still makes me wonder how someone who has seems to rub a lot of people the wrong way due to his supposed arrogance actually makes me want to root for him. Maybe it's the way he celebrates his victories. He always seems jubilant and overjoyed whenever he wins. It's almost like, no one who truly believes he is completely and totally dominant over all his competition can celebrate his triumphs as joyfully as Usain. Add to this the fact that even his competitors, such as American Shawn Crawford, have said that they don't believe that he showboats.

It's amazing to think what else Usain can do in the future. He is still in his early twenties and may have at least a couple more Olympics in him. Who knows, maybe he wins a few more golds and breaks a few more records...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Volleyball season

Our sportsfest at work started a few weeks ago and I joined my team's volleyball squad, the Grey Huskies. Our team is actually pretty good and we have a fairly deep bench. The "problem" with that of course is that playtime becomes a bit limited. The games are mixed and the rules indicate that each team can have a maximum of 3 male players at a time on court. So with 10 men and 10 women playing in a best-of-3-sets format, most of us get to play only half a set on average to make sure that everyone gets to play.

This is what happened in our second game last week, which was also the first match I got to play (I missed our opening match). I came in as a sub in the middle of the first set and I played decently well. We won that set but then lost the 2nd set before our team captain fielded our first six again, and we won the 3rd set easily.

In our game earlier today, however, we didn't have our three main spikers and our primary setter as they were all unavailable due to travel. This made me and the rest of the team a bit apprehensive.

But as it turned out, we all played really well and won quite convincingly 25-16, 25-9! Yahoo! :)

We all played really well and very cohesively as a team - we had very good reception and passing, we attacked at every possible opportunity, we served well, and we played great defense. I was also really pleased with my own game. Virtually all of my spikes went in, which doesn't happen to me very often, and more often than not my spikes won the point for us. I also made quite a few really good saves too. Plus my serving wasn't too bad.

The best thing about today's match for me, though, was that we all really enjoyed it. Not just after we won, but even while we were playing. We were generally quite relaxed and we managed to shake off errors quite quickly and did not get frazzled. I also think that since we knew we didn't have all our main players today, we really appreciated and even celebrated each point that we won a lot more.

We will have most of our main players again next week so my playing time will be limited again, but I'm just really glad that I got the opportunity to play a full match (I was only one of two people who didn't get subbed today). We now have 3 wins and 0 losses and are in equal first place. Hopefully our good play continues throughout the tournament. We placed second last year so I'm hoping that we can maybe take it one step further and take home the title.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Gold Medal and the #1 ranking

Congratulations to Rafael Nadal for winning the Olympic Gold Medal in the Men's Tennis Singles Event!

The week before the Olympics started, Rafa ensured that he would take over the world #1 ranking on August 18 with his semifinal showing in the Cincinnati Master tournament and Roger Federer's early exit in that same tournament.

People were hoping for a Rafa-Roger final in the Olympics. But Roger's bad year continued as he lost for the very first time in 9 matches to James Blake.

This opened up Rafa's chances to take the goldbut he had a major roadblock on his way to the final in the form of world #3 Novak Djokovic. Novak won their most recent match, pasting Rafa in straight sets during their semifinal encounter in the Cincinnati Masters. With hard courts being Djokovic's best surface, I was worried.

But Rafa got through in another very tough match, 6-4 in the third set. In the final, Rafa faced Fernando Gonzalez, who won the bronze medal in the Athens Olympics four years ago. Nadal proved his superiority by winning in straight sets.

So Rafa celebrates his ascent to the world #1 ranking by winning Olympic Gold. Hopefully he continues to do well the rest of the year, maybe even winning the US Open as well as the year-end championships. But regardless of what happens the rest of the year, with two Grand Slam singles titles and an Olympic gold, Rafael Nadal is definitely the best tennis player in the world right now.

Way to go, Rafa!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another great day

Been having quite a few of them lately, and for that I am really grateful. This great day I'm talking about here actually happened almost a month ago.

I volunteered once again for Habitat for Humanity last July 19. We organized another group of people at work. This time, a lot more people attended - about 47, more than double the first group. It was actually a bit tiring because I organized the transportation for everyone - taking note of each volunteer's pick-up point, departure time, and drop-off point. I was actually quite pleased at how the transportation got sorted out - we didn't have any glitches at all!

Of course the event itself was another success. The folks in Kamarin, our build site, were thankful for our second visit. It was also amazing to see that walls we worked a few months ago were now houses!

Anyways, that night, I actually had dinner plans as well with Karen, Tanya, and Bryan, my friends from my previous job. I found out from Karen that she was leaving for the US to study in UC Berkeley so I tried to gather folks from our team to have a despedida dinner for her. Unfortunately, most of our ex-teammates were out of the country. So it was just the four of us.

The initial plan was for us to have dinner in Cyma in Greenbelt, but apparently it was under renovation when we got there. So we moved to People's Palace, which is one of Karen's favorite restos in the Greenbelt area. We then moved to Coffee Bean, which is also one of Karen's favorite cafes. We kidded Bryan about treating us to some coffee and he actually very nicely obliged. Thanks Bryan!

I hadn't seen all of them in months so it was really great catching up with them and also walking down memory lane and remembering a lot of the great times we had when we all still worked in the same place and got to spend more time together.

By 1030pm I was yawning like crazy. After all, I did spend a day of back-breaking work for Habitat, and I did get up at 545am so by then I had been awake for almost 17 hours. So I left before everyone else did, although they were all about to leave as well - I think Karen was just waiting for her sister I think.

Was definitely a great day. It'll be a while before all four of us get to meet up again, especially with Karen in another country now, but I'm sure that when we do see each other next, it will be loads of fun once again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Charlie Green in Concert

A couple of weeks ago, my mom saw Charlie Green on TV once during one of his many TV appearances and was impressed with his performance. She then read an article in Inquirer which mentioned that Charlie was going to have a show in Conway's in the Makati Shangri-La Hotel. She showed me the article and said that she wanted to watch.

I never got around to asking about the details on how to get tickets and stuff. But while having lunch at Chili's after my marathon, I got a text from my friend Yam asking me if I wanted to watch Charlie Green. I gave her a call and apparently, the tickets were almost gone. He initially had just one show at 2pm but that sold out quickly. They opened another show, over dinner at 7pm, but the waitlist for the 2pm show was already 100+ and they were all moved to the dinner show.

I finish up my lunch and head to Makati Shang. When I get there, I am told that the show is practically fully booked. I got three seats - me, my mom, and Yam who asked me to get her a ticket too since she was too far from the Shang hotel. I asked the lady if there were still slots and she said they won't be selling anymore tickets unless some of the people who reserved back out. So it seems that I got the last available seats. :)

On to the show. Charlie's dad, Roger, provided the opening act, singing two songs and showing everyone that singing is definitely in the Green gene pool. He was really very good!

Charlie then took the stage. He actually sang nine songs, including some timeless classics such as "Fly me to the moon", "Smile", and "What a wonderful world". He also sang a couple of original songs written by Cedric Whitehouse. And naturally he had to sing "Summer Wind", the song he performed in "Britain's Got Talent". That has to be his best technical performance. Not only does he scat very confidently in it, but he displays an amazing ability to shift from a chest tone to a head tone and back to a chest tone effortlessly and with no loss in vocal volume. A lot of adult singers have difficulty doing that!

But my favorite performance of his has to be his rendition of "Stars" from the musical "Les Miserables." That is one of my favorite songs in the musical and he does great justice performing this song. I actually gave him a standing ovation!

Here's Charlie singing "Stars". Thanks Yam for letting me put up this video in my blog. :)

You can catch all of his performances at Conway's in Yam's Charlie Green playlist:

There was also a meet and greet after the show. While we were in line, I told Yam that it was funny that we were all together again for a meet and greet as fans - almost a year ago it was Elliott Yamin and this time it's Charlie Green LOL. My mom actually remembered Yam from last year.

Anyways, we got to have our photo taken with him (my mom also got her picture taken with his dad, but the photos are in my mom's cam...) He also had a pile of his pictures on which he signed his autograph for everyone who wanted one. My mom actually got a special message because it was her birthday so Charlie signed it "Happy birthday".

All in all, a very good show from an incredibly talented 11-year-old. I was pleased to get to see him. Maybe the next time he visits, he won't be as accessible as he was this time because he might be more popular then. So I was really glad I was there to see his show. :)

The Dark Knight rocks!

I finally got to watch "The Dark Knight" tonight! And wow, it was so frickin' awesome!!

It is currently on its way to becoming the highest grossing film in the US at least and has gotten so much buzz, largely due to Heath Ledger's chilling performance (although I really do think his make-up artist deserves a ton of credit for how scary he is) that might earn him a posthumous Oscar.

The great thing though is that 'The Dark Knight', at least to me, lived up to the immense hype. The film had a fantastic cast and they all put in an incredible performance - Ledger, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman. It focused more on great storytelling and well-crafted character development than on dazzling production value and special effects. And the amazing twists and turns all throughout the movie definitely kept me eagerly awaiting what was going to happen next.

I'm not absolutely sure this is a film I would want to see again in the near future just because it is quite dark and intense. But it is definitely a must-see and I'm glad I caught it while it is still showing in the theaters here in Manila.

And if this movie does become the highest-grossing film of all time, hey, I can say that I contributed to that! LOL

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Just like old times

Duncan, one of my best friends ever, was here in Manila for a business trip recently (week of July 21). I hadn't seen him in almost two years so it was great getting to hang out with him again. It was unfortunate that the rest of his family - Amy, Lucas, and Ila - couldn't come with him in this trip. But apparently Amy told him that the next time he has a trip to the Philippines, he isn't allowed to go unless they can all go with him.

I also knew that Paul was going to be here as well the week after (week of July 28), so I sent him an SMS reminding him that Duncan was going to be in Manila coz he did mention to me that he might end up coming to the Philippines earlier. Luckily, he had diving plans that weekend (July 26-27) and was arriving in Manila on July 25. His diving plans didn't push through but he decided to arrive on July 25 anyway so that he could meet up with me and Duncan.

The last time all three of us were in the same place was probably Paul's wedding way back in January 2004 so needless to say it was a great night filled with lots of catching up and lots of beer. Duncan gave Amy a call while we were together and both Paul and I got to talk to her. She warned both of us that if Duncan missed his flight, we were accountable and would be in trouble. Lucky for us he made his flight. :)

My 5th Marathon for a Cause a success! :)

After 2 1/2 months of getting ready, running 237 kilometers during training, and dealing with 2 1/2 hours of rain during the actual run, I completed my fifth Marathon for a Cause last Sunday, August 3, in 5 hours and 36 minutes.

And in the process, I raised more than P75,000 for PGH patients!

I haven't been updating this blog for a while because I decided to put up another blog for my marathon, and I spent most of my blogging time there in the last couple of weeks. Check out my Marathon-for-a-cause blog:

Click here to read more about how my run went on August 3.

Click here to see photos that my friend Marco took of me while I was running (Marco provided bike support to me during my run):

And here's a video of me running during the marathon (also taken by Marco):

It's amazing to think that I have actually run five marathons already in my life. When I started running in early 2003, my life goal was to run 25 kilometers at some point in my life. And five years later, I've gone the whole 42 kilometer distance on five separate occasions.

But the important thing about all this is that I am able to raise money to help patients in the Philippine General Hospital who can't afford to pay for their medicine and diagnostic tests.

Thanks to all my family and friends for your generosity, encouragement, and support. Until next year! :)