Saturday, July 31, 2010

Save P5 and save the trees

Here's a good way to save money while making a small contribution towards environmental sustainability. If you go to Starbucks every now and then and if you have a Starbucks tumbler (I reckon most people do since it's one of the most popular and easiest gifts to give during Christmas), simply bring your tumbler the next time you visit Starbucks to buy a drink and you will get a P5 discount.

Not only will you be saving money, you will also help reduce the usage of paper cups. With one tree equal to about 2000 paper cups, using your tumbler will help reduce the number of paper cups used and thus, in a small way, reduce the number of trees that are cut down to create these cups.

I now need to check if other coffee shops like Figaro have a similar set-up. But even if they don't, I guess it's good practice to bring your own tumbler and have the coffee shop server your coffee using your tumbler.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cover version: Beautiful Monster

Check this out. It's a really cool cover version of Ne-Yo's latest hit, Beautiful Monster performed.

video created in youtube by Anth703

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A dream within a dream within a dream

That's the concept of Christopher Nolan's latest blockbuster "Inception". The film is headlined by Leonardo DiCaprio who plays Dom Cobb, an "extractor" or thought-stealer. He and his team have developed a way to create shared dreams as a means to steal secrets and information from other people by penetrating their subconscious. The conflict: if it is possible to steal thoughts from other people by entering their dreams, then it would also be possible to plant an idea - an "inception", as it is called in the film - that will lead the person to make a decision that they truly believe is their own. Cobb's team are approached (maybe coerced is the more appropriate term?) by a client who wants them to perform an inception on the son of the client's main business rival.

It's a smart and edgy concept, sort of akin to 'The Matrix. There obviously is suspension of disbelief in how they actually manage to create shared dreams and enter the dream state while maintaining conscious control, but the details really sell the idea. You have a team composed of an architect, an extractor, and, well, someone to wake everyone up (I don't what that person is called LOL). There's the induction of a dream within a dream to bring the targets deeper into their subconscious and thus make it more possible to steal their secrets. Then you have the sub-conscious of the target creating "projections" that attack the thought-stealers as a means of self-preservation, and the process by which the extractors can manipulate the thoughts of the target so they actually go against their own subconscious. Other details, like totems, kicks, and time expansion in dreams add more layers to the film that make it a lot more interesting and even believable to watch.

I also appreicated how the story unfolded. I usually lose interest when too many questions are raised for a large part of a film or show without any answers being provided, but that was not the case here. The timing and delivery of both questions and answers, as well as how some answers actually led to more questions, were done in a way that ensured audiences would remain interested and eager to see more. The final series of revelations made by Cobb were both brilliant and chilling, and the suspense and integration of multiple dream levels bring the film to an explosive climax. Of course, with a lot of the story taking place in the dream state, you can be sure that the special effects would be off the hook.

I guess my only criticism of this film is the ending. I found the final scene a bit too predictable, but whenever you have revolutionary concepts in film, there is just no easy way to end it. That said, "Inception" is a must-watch. Just make sure you bring your brain with you when you go into the movie theater as this film will definitely make you think.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


P500 for making a U-turn in a supposedly no U-turn area. Sucks.

I actually didn't know you couldn't make a U-turn where I did. I was along the Ortigas side of Shaw trying to go to Makati and my initial plan was to turn left once I got to Edsa. Unfortunately, I ended up on the wrong side of the road and couldn't go under the Shaw flyover anymore, so I had to go over it. I decided I could just make a U-turn once I crossed the flyover. I didn't see any No U-turn signs so I U-turned. And a few meters after I did, traffic enforcers blocked my path and told me to move to the side of the road.

Apparently, Shaw is a National road and you are not allowed to make a U-turn when you are on it, at least on the Mandaluyong side. The traffic enforcer pointed to the solid line in the middle of the road that indicated you couldn't turn there. He actually also said you couldn't make a left turn, but I was thinking, there are buildings on the left side of the road, so how are you supposed to get there if you couldn't cross the solid line?

Anyways, since I'm probably one of the scant few people in Manila who don't really want to give traffic enforcers any money to look the other way, I just had him write me a ticket. I had to surrender my license which meant I also had to pick it up at the Mandaluyong City Hall. The ticket cost me P500 and the trip to City Hall used up about an hour and a half of my time so it was definitely more economical for me to have just passed the enforcer a P100 bill, but I don't really like encouraging that kind of behavior. So I guess I just need to make sure not to break any traffic rules in the future. (Or well, at least not when traffic enforcers are around LOL.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cats in Manila! :)

The fountains of CCP were on full show last weekend. Cats, the musical, made its way to Manila. It was headlined by none other than the magnificent Lea Salonga and my family got to see the matinee show on Saturday.

The show was incredible! Singing incredibly well is difficult enough as it is, and so is dancing with brilliant technique. It's often quite impressive when people can sing and dance well, but when people can dance and sing at an impossibly high level at the same time, it just blows my mind. Everyone in the cast was really amazing. I especially like how the cast sang "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" in a very muted way. According to the program, since the cats are just meeting the audience for the first time, they are still quite suspicious so singing very quietly, almost as if they were purring, is meant to convey this doubt.

And of course, the production value! The set, the lighting the make-up, and the costumes were all fantastic. It doesn't surprise me that Cats won Tony Awards for costume design and lighting design.

One really cool moment in the show was in the beginning of the second act, during the song "The Moments of Happiness" which has a portion of the song Memory in it. One of the cats actually sings this song with the lyrics translated to Filipino! Normally audiences do not applaud in the middle of song numbers but after this translated verse, we just immediately had to show our appreciation.

Another really cool thing about the show is that about halfway through the intermission, a few cats, in full character and costume, started interacting with the audience. As they were in character even while amidst the crowd, they did not pose for photos, but audience members could walk up to them and take photos. We were able to take a photo of my mom with one of the cats! :)

Of course, for all the Filipinos in the crowd, the highlight was Lea Salonga's rendition of Memory. Or rather, of Memory (Reprise). The tonal quality of Lea's voice along with her amazing technique, phenomenal power, and impeccable control ensured that her rendition of this Andrew Lloyd Webber classic brought the house down. The thunderous applause she got after her performance lasted a while and echoed through the walls of CCP.

I'm really pleased that I have now been able to watch two big musicals in CCP - Miss Saigon (years ago, also with Lea in the cast) and now Cats. My mom bought the tickets several months ago - back in December, I think? - and she managed to get them on a promotional discount so our orchestra tickets were purchased at 30% off. We got really good seats too, right smack in the middle. And it's good she bought them then because I've heard that tickets are sold out and they have in fact extended the run. I hope the success of Cats brings more world-class musicals to the Philippines.


After the show, we had dinner in Sizzling Pepper Steak right next to CCP. If you ever get to visit this restaurant and you still have room for dessert, I suggest that you try the Turtle Cheesecake. It's cheescake which caramel, almonds, and cocoa powder, and it was really good!! Sizzling Pepper Steak doesn't have coffee in its menu, but we were allowed to purchase coffee from Starbucks and bring it inside.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Team building in Island Cove

What a Friday it was! Our department had a team building event in Island Cove and was a blast! I was worried it wouldn't turn out well coz I was running on very low battery to begin with - I had been sorta sick for the past few days and I ended up having only 1.5 hours of sleep! I wasn't in very good condition, and the sore throat and hoarse voice gave me little confidence that I could pull of the 5 songs I had to sing that night (6 if you count the song I would be singing back-up for). But a lot of water and fluids as well as several doses of Kamillosan during the day helped keep me positive.

The games were a lot of fun too. Some of my favorite moments:
  • I successfully guessed Mt. Apo in "Pinoy Henyo"
  • I got wrapped up as a mummy while others formed pyramids in our photo-shoot for the Best Egyptian pose (we won that!)
  • A few teammates and I figured out - in only a couple of minutes - the sequence of "countries" that we visited as well as the corresponding flags
But my absolute favorite moment came during the logic question. We were given 5 first names, 5 last names, and 5 countries that each person likes to visit and you had to match each first name with a last name and a country based on the 5 clues given. Our big boss plus two other managers were in our team, and a lot of folks were trying to solve it. I initially left several people to solve it - this is one of those cases where too many cooks spoil the broth - but after a while I wanted to apply a different methodology to solve it so I got the question and tried solving it again. A couple of my teammates assisted me and in only a few minutes, I figured it out! I was so proud. :)

The night event while lasting more than four hours was also fun. The organizers gave the band 30 minutes to play at the start of the event and another 30 minutes at the end to kick off the party. And it turned out fantastic! This despite my bad voice LOL. Our setlist:

Set 1:
  • "Wavin' flag" by K'naan (theme from the World Cup - I sang the bass back-up vocals)
  • "King of Pain" by the Police (I was so pleased I pulled it off given that it's a tough song to sing and I wasn't in the best condition)
  • "Hungry like the wolf" by Duran Duran
  • "I want you to want me" by Letters to Cleo
  • "Basket Case" by Greenday
  • "Sexy Back" by Justin Timberlake (I performed this, although we kinda adopted the Poison version and rocked it out a bit)
  • "Paradise City" by Guns N' Roses
Set 2:
  • "Ignition Remix" by R Kelly (I sang this, can you believe it? :))
  • "Tik Tok" by Ke$ha
  • "Take you there" by Sean Kingston (I performed this as well, the band practiced this for our team building last year but it didn't push through, and we couldn't play it in our Christmas party last year as well, so this performance was a year in the making :))
  • "Empire State of mind" by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z
  • "California Girls" by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg
  • "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers (everyone in the crowd was singing along with me for this song)
In our final set, everyone in the audience got really into it. They were singing and dancing along with us and the energy from the crowd made us feel like rock stars. :)

I ended up going home that night actually. Due to a strange series of events, I got dumped in a room with 6 other people who I didn't know at all (and apparently our room had been turned into party central, with more people I didn't know being invited to the room), and there was just no easy way for me to find another room I could crash coz everyone was already partying. So I asked Island Cove reception for instructions on how to get back to Manila using public transportation at 1am. Net - I took a tricycle and two jeepneys to get to Baclaran where I had a midnight snack in McDonald's before taking a taxi home. The hot shower I took once I got home felt amazing! :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks

Incredible song from 1981 by the amazing Stevie Nicks (and yes, Stevie is female :)).

video uploaded in youtube by VirtualMusicGoddess

This song was re-popularized in the last decade by School of Rock (it was featured in the film when Jack Black's character plays it in a juke box while he's trying to get Joan Cusack's character drunk in a bar). Lindsay Lohan has a cover version of this song, but it doesn't hold a candle to the original.

Oh and if the guitar riff sounds familiar, it was sampled in "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Joe Cole joins Liverpool

Last season's English Premier League left me bitterly disappointed with Liverpool's poor showing, and up until a couple of months ago, it wasn't certain that Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres would stay on with the club.

As it turns out, both ace stars are going to remain with Liverpool, and to fan the flames of my hopes that 2010-2011 will be a better season, the club also signs Joe Cole. Gerrard, Torres, and Cole all in the same team. I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Karaoke party

Last Saturday, I organized a big karaoke party for our band org at work. I was expecting about 20 or more people to attend, so when an hour had passed and I will still the only person in a room that could fit 40 people, I was starting to get really disappointed. A few people arrived and for about a couple of hours there were 6 of us - mostly new members.

It was only until around two and a half to three hours in that more people came in - most of them being the original few members of the org and it felt a lot like a old school reunion of sorts. I was expecting to wrap up after 4 hours - we only had enough budget to pay for that much time - but with most people coming in really late, we ended up extending until around 2:30am, with everyone starting to get pretty loud and crazy after midnight.

It was a lot of fun, and I must say I was really happy that it allowed some of the new members to get to meet and bond with the older people. Thanks to everyone who attended: Jody, Ainah, Mon L., Omar, Kiko, Thea, Jef, Ja, RJ, Jong, Philip, and Gie. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Gravity" by Sara Bareilles

An amazing song that is so beautifully sung.

Uploaded in youtube by user plum2poulet

Monday, July 12, 2010

Family lunch at Romulo's

Romulo's is a fairly new restaurant in the Tomas Morato area, located at the corner of Scout Tuason and Scout Dr. Lazcano. It is owned by the family of Carlos P. Romulo offers really good yet affordable Pinoy cuisine.

My family had lunch here a few Sundays ago as a belated Father's Day celebration. My grandfather was unavailable during Father's Day itself so we scheduled a trip to in Romulo's a week after.

I really like the ambience. It's really cozy and comfortable and the decor and color scheme make you feel quite at home. The service is also quite commendable, with waiters very quick to customer needs.

(Side note: My friend Anj recently told me to include food photos when I write about restaurants I visit so here's my lame attempt at a food blog LOL. Notice how most of the shots are out of focus - everyone was so hungry that I just took quick pics of the food as they arrived without constructing the shots properly. :))

Some of our favorite items were the Flying Tilapia with three sauces (sweet chili garlic, honey bagoong, and pickled ampalaya in soy vinegar),

the Ginataang Hipon sa Kamias,

and the Bagnet Pakbet.
Other menu items we ordered: Lengua, Pork Belly Humba, Bangus Belly, and Sisig Rice. We also had some dessert to cap off our wonderful meal. We ordered two items (actually we ended up ordering two of each since my nephews enjoyed them): for local Pinoy flavor, we ordered the Suman (check out the cool presentation)

And for some international flavor, we also ordered the Lava Rock (really good chocolate cake ala mode).

Most of the items we ordered were in the P200-300 range, so for the ambience, great food, and excellent service, that's really good value for money. Hopefully, I can enjoy another meal in Romulo's soon.


Spain finally live up to expectations and won the World Cup! It was a difficult and very physical match that required extra time, but in the end, it was a solitary goal that got Spain their first ever World Cup trophy. It was also nice to see Rafa Nadal joined the Spanish squad in their celebration.

In other World Cup-trending topics, Paul the Octopus has a perfect 8-for-8 prediction record. He correctly selected the winner in all 7 matches played by Germany (including the battle for 3rd) as well as the final World Cup match between Spain and England.


Up North, Mark Webber wins another Grand Prix - this time in Silverstone - with Lewis Hamilton placing second. Jenson Button had a horrible qualifying round, landing him in 14th place, but he moved up really nicely and managed to place a very decent 4th. Hamilton and Button remain at #1 and #2 in the Drivers Championships respectively, but Webber overtakes Sebastian Vettel to go up to #3. It should be interesting to see how Red Bull Racing plan out the next race in Germany, which is Vettel's hometown.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Picnicking in La Mesa Eco-Park

Aya, the daugher of my friends Iona and JP, turned 2 early last week. The celebration was held earlier this afternoon in La Mesa Eco-Park. Iona and JP invited a few of their friends to join them for a picnic in the park. I know I went to La Mesa Dam as a kid but I don't have any clear memory of that, and I haven't been there since.

I made a mistake getting the picnic venue though. I went into the La Mesa Dam entrance which is about 15 to 20 minutes away from the Eco-Park entrance so I was pretty late getting to the party. I also didn't pay attention to the invitation details that indicated the picnic was supposed to be potluck but luckily the other folks brought a lot of food. The trending topic of the afternoon was the chicken-pork adobo terrine that Rambie brought. Apart from being really good, it also got people into a discussion of what exactly a terrine was - some of us like myself had heard of the term but didn't know exactly what it was until this afternoon, others had never heard the word before lol (a terrine is a French forcemeat loaf that is served at room temperature; similar to a pâté, a terrine uses more coarsely chopped ingredients).

To complete the birthday party, Iona and JP also brought a big chocolate birthday cake complete with a #2-shaped candle that Aya blew out after we sang 'Happy birthday'. We still stayed for about an hour after to share more stories and catch up. Joyce was also there, and while she had already shared a lot of stories with me the night before (I had dinner with her, Janice, and Sep in Sango!), we hung out for only about an hour so there were a lot more stories to share. Iona also mentioned this really nice cafe in Masinag that she suggested we try some time soon.

The downside to what was a really fun afternoon was the fact that JP had to fix a flat tire in the rain. The jack in their car didn't work very well but thankfully I had a really good one in my car. It took a while to replace the flat with the spare - during which time JP and I talked about how much we hated flat tires LOL - but at least everything got sorted out.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Marathon pictures

Thanks to Photovendo, I have pictures from my last marathon! Here's one of my favorite ones:

You can check out my marathon for a cause blog to see more photos taken of me during the run.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Rafa wins again!

Rafael Nadal didn't play at his best, but he didn't need to. He swept Tomas Berdych in straight sets to win the Wimbledon trophy last Sunday. His win by the numbers:

  • 2nd Wimbledon title
  • 2nd Grand Slam title this year
  • 2nd time he has completed the elusive French Open-Wimbledon double
  • 8th Grand Slam title in his career. He now has the same number of slam titles as Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, and Ivan Lendl.

Nadal now has an almost 4000 point lead over current #2 Novak Djokovic, which gives him a very good chance of ending the year #1. He now has his sights set on winning the US Open, the only Grand Slam event where he hasn't made an appearance in the finals yet. If he can maintain his form and remain healthy, he might have a chance of completing the career Grand Slam. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, July 05, 2010

My seventh marathon for a cause. Can you believe it?

It wasn't the easiest 42 kilometers by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it took me a lot longer to complete this year's marathon compared to my previous six runs. But I finished it. And with that, I managed to raise what is now more than P50,000 for PGH. Woohoo!

You can read more about my 7th marathon for a cause here. Thanks again to all my family and friends for all the support, encouragement, and generosity! :)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Wimbledon stunner

Who would've guessed it? After reaching the semifinals or better in 23 consecutive Grand Slam events, Roger Federer has now lost in the quarterfinals in both the French Open and Wimbledon this year. Both times, he lost to a big guy with a big game - Robin Soderling hit him off the court in Roland Garros and Thomas Berdych took a page off Robin's book and did the same to Federer on Centre Court in Wimbledon.

This loss, as well as Novak Djokovic's advancement to the semifinals, means that for the first time since 2003, Roger Federer will be ranked outside the top two. When the rankings officially come out on Monday, Rafa Nadal will remain at #1 while Novak Djokovic goes up to #2, bumping Federer off to #3. Given that Roger started the year off with his 16th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and was one win away from eclipsing Pete Sampras' men's record of 286 weeks at #1 (his loss to Soderling meant he is a week shy of equaling Pete), this turn of events is stunning.

I guess even Fed himself was stunned and was not that ready to deal with a loss, as evidenced by his not-so-gracious post-match interview. I guess you could argue that most great champions need to have that arrogance to stay at the top of the game, but what he said and how he said it was just a bit too distasteful for my liking.

Should be interesting to see how the rest of the season goes. I would be thrilled if Nadal can defend enough points until the end of the year to remain #1 at the end of the year. Would be even better if he manages to win Wimbledon (or the US Open!) along the way.