Thursday, January 31, 2013

Perfect Month!

I finally achieved a personal goal which is to put up one blog post everyday for an entire month! This January, I was successfully able to blog once a day every day for all 31 days of January. What a good way to start the new year. :)

The closest I got to a perfect month before was back in August 2010. It took me a while to make another attempt at a perfect month but I am now happy that I finally achieved it. I know, I know, it doesn't really mean anything at the end of the day. But hey, it was a personal goal and I finally got it done.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dutch Bread Hauz

My friend Tricia told me over Christmas that she got to try this place called Dutch Bread Hauz and that I should try to visit if I love bread. Since I do, I decided to drop by to check what they have.

They have a lot of different breads on display but when I was there, I was leaning more towards pastry or dessert-type breads. They had a few of them in display in their see-through refrigerator and I unwisely got one of each. :) The Berliner Bol was kind of like a donut with a generous amount of pastry cream and topped with sugar. I felt the sugar made it a bit difficult to eat but otherwise it was not bad.

Berliner Bol

The Custard was kind of like a bread eclair. Or maybe even a pastry cream sandwich when you think about it. The soft bread bun is topped with powdered sugar then sliced in the middle and filled with a generous helping of pastry cream in the middle. I liked this one better than the Berliner Bol.


My favorite would be what they call the Fruit Pie. This is like the traditional Danish Pastry topped with an assortment of fruits. This was my favorite of the three I tried.

Fruit Pie

Note of course that I did not eat all three breads in one sitting. :) I think I prefer Bread Talk and Baker's Fresh to Dutch Bread Hauz from a selection and price standpoint, although when I do get that craving for European-style buns and I'm in the area, I wouldn't mind going back here. Tricia told me that the sandwich she tried was pretty good so maybe the next time I'm in the area, I'll try that.

Dutch Bread Hauz
5417 Matilde Street Cor. General Luna
Poblacion Makati City
(02) 553 9598

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Full auto detailing at Big Bert's

While the passenger seat of my car was being shampooed at Big Bert's Professional Detailers about a month ago after I spilled  a cup of coffee into it, I started asking about some of the services they provide. It was then that I decided I wanted to check my car into Big Bert's at some point soon after that for full auto detailing. It would take a few days to complete which meant I would be without a car so I had to figure out the best time to do it.

I remembered that my mom and grandmother would be going to Roxas and Kalibo for a few days, which meant I wouldn't have any driver duties then so I thought it would be the perfect time to bring my car to Big Bert's. The full auto detail includes exterior detail, interior detail, engine detail, and full glass polish. It was quite expensive - my vehicle is large so it cost P7,500 - but we've had this car for almost five years now and I felt that having it meticulously cleaned would be worth it.

Somehow I missed writing my contact number on the form I signed so they couldn't call me to tell me that my car was ready. They had to wait for me to call them. When I finally got my car, I was happy with the results. It was really clean through and through. My car did belch a bit after I started driving it but that's because it hadn't really been driven for a few days. I should make it a habit to have my car undergo full auto detailing once a year or so.

Big Bert's has a couple of branches that you can check out here.

Big Bert's Professional Detailers
Pasig City Branch
Units 152-155, Ortigas Auto Depot
Julia Vargas Avenue, Pasig City, Philippines
Tel: +632-914-1075

Monday, January 28, 2013

Awesome cover of Rihanna's "Diamonds"

"Diamonds" by Rihanna is one of my favorite songs at the moment. I saw this cover version by Joel Brandenstein (on piano and vocals) and Jona Selle (on cello and vocals) and was intrigued by the fact that it was being performed by two guys backed up by just a cello, a piano, and a guitar. Who would have thought?

video uploaded in youtube by joelbrandenstein

I particularly love how the cello is being played from 3:03 to 3:34. I also think it's great how the Jona can actually sing while playing the cello. (Not that it's easy to sing while playing the piano but it's just less common to see cellists who sing while they play. :)) Great version and ingenious and compelling instrumentation.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What an Australian Open!

Upsets. Injury. Drama. Records. These are what the last two weeks of the Australian Open brought to its followers all over the globe. This weekend, Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka outlasted everyone else in their respective fields. Which is too bad for me because they both won at the expense of the person I was rooting for. :) Azarenka took home her 2nd Australian Open trophy in a row; Novak his 3rd. This win means Novak has now won six Grand Slam singles titles, putting him alongside tennis legends Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, and I'm willing to bet he will win more.

The men's final was had a lot of signficance (which is pretty much the case now whenever any of the Big Four meet). Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were both gunning for their own respective records. Novak's "threepeat" win means he has become the only male player so far in the Open Era of tennis to win the Australian Open three times in a row. If Murray won, it would have meant that he would be the first player in the open era to win a Grand Slam title immediately after winning his first (in his case, it was the 2012 US Open).

The women's final was filled with a lot more drama. It was contested by defending champion Victoria Azarenka and 2011 finalist Li Na. Both of them were gunning for their second Grand Slam victory. It was Li who drew first blood, winning the opening set. Vika, as she is popularly called, surged ahead in the second set before Li went over her left ankle. This required an immediate medical timeout. While she still had some fight after that, I felt the tide had already turned. Li fell over that same ankle again in the 3rd set, causing her to fall over and hit her head hard on the court, and by then, it was just a matter of time before Victoria successfully defended her title.

Too bad Li lost. Not only was I rooting for her, I was also rooting against Victoria Azarenka. Her shriek has always annoyed me and when Azarenka"cheated within the rules" during the semis against Sloane Stephens, I became firmly planted me in Li's corner. The result may have been different if Li didn't fall over her left ankle twice but then that is all part of the game. I do hope Li can still win at least one more Grand Slam title.

Some memorable moments:
  • Andy Murray defeated Roger Federer for the first time in a Grand Slam tournament. Also for first time, Federer was caught dropping an F-bomb towards his opponent. (Apparently, he also said it a couple of other times during the match. Check this out.)
  • Kimiko Date-Krumm stuns two higher-ranked opponents en-route to the third round. At 42 years old, she now holds the record for the oldest player to have gotten to the third round in the Australian Open.
  • Sloane Stephens scoring a massive upset over pre-tournament favorite Serena Williams. Would she have won if Serena was fully fit? Maybe not. But you can only play who's in front of you and Sloane was facing a Serena hobbled by a sprained ankle and a bad back. Nevertheless, Sloane still managed to play with composure and played smart and positive tennis to score the biggest win of her career so far. This win also snaps Serena's 20-match winning streak.
  • Li Na stuns Maria Sharapova in the semis. There was so much talk about Maria's sheer dominance over everyone she played so far, and the nine games she dropped in her first five matches is a record low games lost leading up to the semis in the Australian Open. Unfortunately, Li dominated this match-up.
A strong start to the tennis season and I am now wanting more. Nadal is set to make his tennis return soon so that should be something to look forward to. Hope we have more fantastic tennis the rest of the year. And I also hope that my favorite players get to win big at some point in 2013.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Relish at Ponte

After my first trip to Relish at Ponte for my birthday last year, I have been there two more times. Once with my family after our stay at Picasso Boutique and then again earlier today when I met up with a couple of friends whom I haven't seen in months. I told them that my belated Christmas gift for them would be lunch at Relish and since neither of them had eaten here yet, they thought it would be a good idea.

My friends got a bit detained and as such, they were late by almost an hour. While waiting, I decided to get the Roasted Tomato Basil Soup (P175).

I decided to order for everyone so that our food would be ready by the time my friends arrived. I got the Slow Roasted Grilled Beef Belly with au just gravy (P550 for three slices, P440 for two). This apparently means that the gravy is made from the beef's own juices. The beef was very good and tender. I haven't eaten anything in Relish that wasn't delicious and this roast beef belly was no exception.

The one thing on their menu that I have eaten on all three occasions I was there was the Chorizo Pasta with Tomato Cream sauce (P380). Relish has Wild Mushroom with Truffle Oil pasta in their menu which I have tried (it was good!) but while I'm a huge fan of pasta in truffle oil, I find that this chorizo pasta is the perfect comfort food that goes well with whatever else you order.

I was planning to get the Relish Roasted Chicken with Garlic, Lemon and Oregano again but they didn't have it that day so I got the Samba Chicken (P395) instead. This roasted chicken is marinated in garlic, cane vinegar, and spices and roasted and is served with a trio of dipping sauces. The meat comes off the bone with no effort and the very subtle spiciness gives an extra kick.

Relish at Ponte is fast becoming one of my favorite restaurants in Metro Manila so I'm pretty sure I will end up having more meals here. You can check out their menu here.

Relish at Ponte
Relish at Ponte facebook page

G/F Ponte Salcedo Bldg. Valero St.
Salcedo Village, Makati
(02) 519-3543

Friday, January 25, 2013

Overnight stay at the Picasso Boutique

A friend of mine told me a couple of years ago about the Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences in Salcedo Village. I searched it online and I became really interested in it. So when I saw (yet again) an online deal for an overnight stay for four at the Picasso loft, I purchased a voucher. Since my family celebrated the birthday of one of my nephews in the Holiday Inn Ortigas last year, we decided to use my Picasso Boutique voucher for the birthday of my other nephew.

It's not possible to book a loft in Picasso online. (Only two rooms are available when booking it via their website, the Malaga studio and the Barcelona suite.) So if you want the loft, you have to call. However, you have to be ready to pay a lot. I asked the receptionist how much the room was with no discount and apparently, it costs a whopping P15,000! Thank God for my voucher. Otherwise, it would have been too expensive for us to stay here.

The room is really big, as it should be given that it's a loft. But even then, the way the room is laid out gives you the sense of even more space. There are also a lot of seating options, some of which you can actually sleep in quite comfortably. I can easily understand why the voucher I purchased was marketing this room as a party venue for 15 people (although of course only four adults were allowed to sleep in the room overnight).

My nephews brought with them their Wii, which was a good idea because we had a pretty big TV which meant they could enjoy the games a bit more. The only downside of staying in a loft is that there are no walls to isolate sound, so when someone was watching TV upstairs and my nephews were playing their Wii, the sounds tended to clash. But that really wasn't such a big deal. :)

Picasso Boutique Hotel is a good place to stay because the rooms are spacious yet very cozy and comfortable. Being located in Salcedo Village means that it is right in the heart of Makati, with a lot of restaurants and even Mercury Drugstore being just a stone's throw away. An added bonus if you stay there during the weekend like we did is that you end up being away from the bustling crowds.

My mom and grandma were able to go to the Salcedo Market for the first time after breakfast the next day where they made a couple of purchases. The breakfast here was a mix of ala carte and buffet - there are a few buffet items like breads and cheeses, but all guests also get to order one more item from the ala carte menu. I ended up getting Eggs Benedict. After we checked out, we all went to Relish at Ponte for lunch, which was just a couple of blocks away. My family really enjoyed the food here, and I will write in more detail about this restaurant in my next post.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Titanium by David Guetta featuring Sia

Probably my favorite song of 2012 so I thought it appropriate that I blog about it.

video uploaded in youtube by davidguettavevo

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tubbataha Reef damaged by USS Guardian

I was in a taxi the other day and the driver was listening to an AM radio station. It was on this ride home that I heard the appalling news. The USS Guardian, a US warship, had entered Tubbataha Reef and crashed into the corals, doing irreparable damage to this protected marine sanctuary that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This crash happened last January 17 and to date, the ship has still not been pulled out. It is currently estimates that 1,000 square meters of reef has already been damaged. This is truly sad. Tubbataha Reef is one of the most important natural wonders in the Philippines and is in fact noninated as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

I really hope the USS Guardian can be pulled out ASAP and that US Navy and the US government help address the damage caused. It can take 20 to over 100 years for a coral reef to grow and there are more than 1,000 species inhabiting Tubbataha Reef, many of which are considered endangered.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

71-shot rally

Probably the longest rally in the entire Australian Open thus far was between two Frenchmen, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils. It lasted 71 shots! Simon won this rally and the match in five sets.

video uploaded in youtube by ESPN

Both of them had injury issues in this match and by the end of it, they were just willing themselves on. While this rally itself wasn't totally exciting for the most part, the match, or at least the fifth set, was. It's too bad Simon had to run into an in-form Andy Murray in the fourth round as he has now been booted out of the competition.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bohol Bee Farm

Back in the mid-2000s, I went to Bohol with my friends and someone in the group planned a lunch in Bohol Bee Farm. I don't remember what we ate but I do remember we all enjoyed the food. So when my family went to Bohol, I recommended we eat there.

We arrived at the Bohol pier at 10:30 AM but we felt an early lunch might be in order so that we could do all our sightseeing afterwards without interruption. Also, Bohol Bee Farm was apparently in the opposite direction of all the other places we were planning to visit so it made sense to go here first. This turned out to have an additional benefit in that there was barely anyone there when we arrived so we got our food pretty quickly. It also felt like we had the place (almost) all to ourselves.

Bohol Bee Farm was definitely an excellent choice. The food is fresh and organic and everyone in my family really enjoyed our meal. While waiting for our order, we were served squash bread with a couple of spreads (honey and malunggay, I believe).

We ordered the Seafood and Vegetable Platter (P900), which included a plateful of grilled fish, shrimp, and squid...

...and vegetable rolls with a honey-mustard sauce (I think).

We also ordered the Sinigang Shrimps (P240).

One of my nephews loves crab so we had to get the Crabs with Cocomilk (P380) as well.

We ordered a few other items and to round out our meal, we tried a few different flavors of their home-made ice cream. I can't remember which flavors we got, but the one I distinctly remember was their ginger ice cream. It was sweet and spicy and very unique!

By the time we were done eating, the place was packed! So it truly was a good move to have an early lunch. Before we left, we asked the wait staff if we could head down to "the Cliff", a lounging area on a wooden platform right by the sea. You have to walk down a short stone staircase to get there. I think only guests are allowed there but since it was vacant during lunch, we were allowed to head down to take a few photos before we left.

We didn't call ahead when we visited so reservations aren't necessary, although given that the restaurant ended up being full that Saturday, it's probably advisable to arrive early or to reserve a table. Check out this link for directions on how to get there.

Bohol Bee Farm
Ms. Vicky Wallace
Dao, Dauis, Panglao Island, Bohol

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Blissful Day in Bohol

We got up early on Saturday to have an early breakfast in the Starbucks at the ground floor of the hotel before taking a taxi to the pier. Our 8:30 AM ferry ride from Cebu to Bohol took 2 hours. My mom was able to rent a van and driver in advance to take us around the island. He met us at the pier at 10:30 AM and we decided to have an early lunch first before we went touring. I suggested we go to Bohol Bee Farm because I remember having a great meal here the one other time I visited Bohol. I will write about our lunch in more detail.

The Chocolate Hills

It rained throughout the day sometimes quite heavily. Fortunately for us, the rains came down only when we were in the van and traveling from one place to the next. Each time we got out, the sun was up. Talk about good luck! Our first stop was The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Dauis, simply known as Dauis Church. Located on the shore of Panglao, it is one of the most beautiful churches in Bohol.

Dauis Church

Similar to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu, this church was rebuilt a few times, with the present church being started in 1863 by Fr. Julio Saldana. There are a lot of beautiful ceiling paintings inside the church.

Ceiling painting inside Dauis Church

Another point of interest inside the church is Mama Mary's Well. It is believed that this well was formed when the townspeople were forced to seek refuge and lock themselves inside the church when pirates invaded Dauis. They eventually ran out of food and water, and at this point, the well miraculously appeared. Despite the church being located right next to the sea, the water is fresh and potable. Locals believe the water from this well has healing power.

Mama Mary's Well inside Dauis Church

After this, we paid a visit to the Blood Compact Shrine in Tagbilaran. This monument was built by the Philippine Historical Committee and the National Historical Institute to commemorate the blood compact between Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna the chieftain of Bohol on March 16, 1565. This is considered as the first treaty of friendship between the Spaniards and Filipinos.

The Blood Compact Shrine in Tagbilaran

Our next stop was the Tarsier Sanctuary. When I visited Bohol years ago, there was a spot by the Loboc river where people could go right up to the tarsiers to take photos right next to them. However, this proximity to humans apparently causes the tarsiers a lot of stress, especially since these animals are nocturnal and sleep mostly during the day. As such, the Tarsier Sanctuary was established, providing visitors a better understanding of this endangered species endemic to the Philippines.

Philippine Tarsier

The Chocolate Hills is one of the most famous natural landmarks in the country. These limestone hills are covered by green grass that turns brown during the dry season, giving the hills a chocolate brown color. There's a viewing area at the top of what I think is the highest hill but it's a bit of a climb so my grandmother 'Nanay' waited for us at the base while everyone else went up to take photos. There were some sections at the base with good views of the hills though so we still managed to take photos with Nanay once we got back down.

Me at the Chocolate Hills

It was late afternoon when we left the Chocolate Hills and by now it was time to head back to the pier. However, we passed a few beautiful churches on the way to the hills so we took quick stops at each to take some photos. The first we passed by on the way back was the San Pedro y San Pablo Parish Church in Loboc.

San Pedro y San Pablo Parish Church in Loboc

Next was the Santa Monica Parish Church in Alburquerque, Bohol. I love the facade and the architecture of this church, and its grounds are filled with palm trees. However, upon entering the building, it seemed like it was being used for something else as so many people were sitting on the pews while filling out forms or answering an exam.

Santa Monica Parish Church in Alburquerque

Finally, we visited Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish Church. Known simply as Baclayon Church, it was built in 1595 by the Jesuits and is considered to be one of the oldest in the Philippines. The doors were closed by the time we got there which is too bad because it has an opulent interior and an impressive altar. Nevertheless, we still took a few photos of the church while we were there.

Baclayon Church

It was a full day in Bohol that perfectly complemented our great experience in Cebu. This is the second time I visited Bohol, and both times, the group I was with rented a van to take us around the island. I think this is the best approach when traveling here since the places of interest are all quite far from each other. This trip didn't include a visit to the beach so I have a reason to take my family here again in the future.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cebu: History, Thrills, and Good Food

My family went to Cebu and Bohol almost a year ago but I didn't get a chance to write about it when I got back. So this blog post is very late but hopefully it's better late than never. :)

I decided to take my family to Cebu for my grandmother Nanay's birthday because it was her first birthday after Tatay passed away. I have been to Cebu once before, about 10 years ago, but my time was spent in Mactan. This time around, we spent a long weekend in Cebu City. We arrived on Friday around lunchtime and checked into the Crown Regency, where we had a filling lunch buffet in Wang Shan Lo (if I recall correctly, the lunch buffet is a bit more than P400). We then walked over to the nearby Robinsons Cebu to do some shopping before taking a taxi to go to Magellan's Cross.

The cross that we can see is made of tindalo wood and is supposed to encase the original cross planted by Magellan in Cebu when he first arrived here back in April 21, 1521.It's awe-inspiring to think that this cross has been here for almost 500 years now!

Right next to it is the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. This beautiful church is believed to have been built using wood and nipa back in 1566 but was destroyed by fire. After being rebuilt in 1605 using the same materials, it once again burned down. After a failed attempt to rebuild it in 1628, Father Provincial Bergaño, Governor-General Fernando Valdes, Bishop Manuel Antonio Decio y Ocampo of Cebu and Juan de Albarran Prior of the Santo Niño, started the foundations of the present church in 1735. The facade itself is simple yet elegant, and the interior of the church, especially the alter, is quite ornate. There is a museum, a pilgrim center, and a religious store in the church grounds. We decided to purchase a few items like Sto. Nino souvenirs and rosaries from the store while we were there.

We headed over to Casa Verde, an American-style casual dining restaurant which was just around the corner from our hotel. I think this restaurant was a house that was transformed into a restaurant, much like Romulo's, Adarna, and La Cocina De Tita Moning here in Manila. The awesome thing about Cebu is that the food here is very cheap. I ordered steak which cost only P218. Wow!

After getting back to the hotel, I went with my brother and his sons to the Sky Experience Adventure at the Crown Regency Hotel. We all got on the Edge Coaster, a rail seat that goes around the edge of the top floor of the hotel. You can tilt the seat up to 55 degrees forward which gives you full view of the sheer drop from the top of the hotel to the ground, and it does make you a bit acrophobic. As if that wasn't enough, we also tried the Sky Walk Extreme, where you step outside the building (with harnesses of course!) and walk all the way around on a platform that has some transparent sections that allow you to look all the way down yet again. My nephews got a bit rattled from the edge coaster so we just told them to keep looking straight ahead and not down. I think the fact that one of my nephews joined my brother on the Tower Zip right before the walk added to the fear. The Tower Zip is a zip-line that takes you from the top of one tower (which is 437 feet high) to the top of the other tower 250 feet away. I didn't have the nerve to try this myself so I'm pretty impressed that my nephew actually braved this.

While I enjoyed these Sky Experience Adventure thrills, I feel almost like it was a bit of highway robbery. Guests aren't allowed to bring cameras while on the Edge Coaster and the Sky Walk, so you have to buy the photos that they take of you. And the photos are pretty expensive (I think they were about P300-400 each). The Tower Zip was the only thrill ride that allowed us to purchase a CD of the digital copies of the pictures while the rest required us to get the actual printed-out photos. (The guy at the Tower Zip photo section very nicely gave us an extra picture.)

Most of our Saturday was spent in Bohol (which I will write about in my next post), and when we returned to the hotel late at night, we decided to have another meal at Casa Verde. This time, I ordered Brian's Ribs (baked pork ribs with a sweet, tangy sauce served with rice and corn and carrots), which cost only P208! (Note of course that this was a year ago so the prices may have changed since then.) The quality of the food is pretty good and the portion sizes are pretty hefty. That, along with the cozy and homey ambience, wide selection of menu items, and good service, make this place highly recommended.

The one thing still missing from our Cebu Experience at that point was Cebu lechon, so while my brother and I took my nephews swimming in the hotel before we checked out on Sunday, my mom headed out to get some lechon that we brought back with us to Manila.

It was a pretty short stint in Cebu and there a few things in the Sky Adventure Experience that we didn't get to try, like the 4D theater and Melvins Reef Black Light Mini Golf. There are some restaurants that my friends suggested I try that I didn't get to visit. Maybe in the next couple of years, I can take my family here again. Either that or I save enough money to bring my family to Shangri-La Mactan.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Date-Krumm wins at 42!

In her heyday, Kimiko Date was regularly in the top 10, reaching a career high ranking of #4 during the era of Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario before she retired in 1996. In 2008, she picked up a racquet again and made a relatively successful comeback, challenging a lot of top players, notching some good wins over them, and even winning a title in Seoul in 2009 as a 39-year-old.

Yesterday, Date-Krumm made history at the Australian Open. In the first round, she trounced the 12th seed Nadia Petrova by a very lopsided scoreline of 6-2 6-0! This win made her the oldest person to reach the second round of the Australian Open. She followed this up with another straight set win, this time over Shahar Pe'er, who reached her highest career ranking of #11 just two years ago. This win makes 42-year-old Date-Krumm the oldest person to reach the third round of any of the Grand Slam events since 1979. That she is winning over players who are ranked much higher than her and who are practically half her age is a testament to her resilience and durability. It also make me firmly believe that while players nowadays hit the ball harder than the athletes who played 10-20 years ago, good court smarts and precision still have a place in today's game.

Kimiko will be playing Bojana Jovanovski, whos is currently ranked 56. I'm hoping Date-Krumm can secure another win and get to the fourth round. Good luck, Kimiko!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Trying out Nomama Artisanal Ramen

Apart from the large discounts you get, one of the things I love about deal sites is that sometimes you see some new restaurants that you may never have heard of otherwise. This was the case when I saw a deal for Nomama Artisanal Ramen. I love Japanese food and I enjoy eating ramen so I thought it would be a good experience for me to try this place.

I felt I had to order the Nomama Ramen (P295) since it carries the name of the restaurant. It has chashu (pork), tamago (egg), and seaweed in the house pork stock and a special miso-sesame blend. The verdict? I thought it was just okay. I thought the soup lacked a bit of flavor although the pork and egg were cooked well. I don't know if Nomama has a more authentic Japanese noodle flavor, but I personally prefer the ramen dishes from Ramen Bar and Sumo Sam.

I did enjoy the Mushroom Gyoza (P125). It did have a bit of sweetness to it but overall, I thought it was seasoned well with just the right amount of sear at the base of the dumpling.

Looking at their menu, they carry quite a few free range meat dishes, which is not very common in the Philippines. I have heard that free range meats are supposed to taste a bit better and I have one more voucher so maybe in my next visit, I will try a non-ramen dish. The Roasted Chicken with Ponzu Ramen does sound quite interesting.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

United States of Pop 2012

Somehow I have gotten into the habit of checking out DJ Earworm's compilation of tops hits from the previous year. Here is the video for 2012 chart-toppers:

video uploaded in youtube by djearworm

I do have to say that my favorite DJ Earworm compilation, probably because the songs meshed the best with each other, is the 2009 mash-up.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Aussie Open minus Nadal

The tennis season started a few weeks ago but to me, it never truly starts until the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament to be played each year. The women's side seems almost like a given. If Serena Williams plays well, she will take her 16th Grand Slam title. The same can't be said on the men's side. With the top three men - Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray - all having won Grand Slam titles last year, you wouldn't be surprised if any of them take the title. Of course, the chances that any other male player will win are minuscule.

One person who will certainly not win is last year's finalist, Rafael Nadal. He pulled out of the tournament due to a stomach virus. Because he got to the final last year, he will be dropping a huge number of points, which means he will certainly be dropping out of the top 4 for the first time since 2005. I hope he can start playing again soon. He needs to get back to fighting form within the next couple of months to help him gear up for the clay season. Get well soon, Rafa!

Monday, January 14, 2013

DLSU tops round one

Season 75 of the UAAP Women's Volleyball tournament started late last year and it's amazing how many followers this competition has. I don't know if the growth in number of fans led to increased television coverage or if it was the other way around but thankfully, all the matches are now being televised. This means that you get some bad matches and very one-sided beatdowns, but you also get to see some spectacular battles.

Such as the gem of a five-setter between La Salle and Ateneo last Saturday to practically close out the first round. The atmosphere was very electric and there was a lot riding on this match. Last year's finalists. The defending champion versus the (previously) only undefeated team this season. The team with the best attacker versus the team with the best blockers. All of this set against the long-standing rivalry between the two schools.

It initially looked like Ateneo, which was on top of the standings leading up to this match, would remain undefeated after the first round after they took the first two sets. However, La Salle drew on their championship experience and turned things around and they took the next two sets to tie things up.

This took the match to a fifth and deciding set. Ateneo lost their team captain late in the fourth set due to a rolled ankle but La Salle kept their momentum and maintained a lead all throughout. The closed out the set with a score of 15-13, handing Ateneo their first defeat of the season. This means that after the first round, DLSU goes to the top of the table. While both schools have one loss, DLSU have lost fewer sets, giving them more points.

The finalist spots are definitely still up for grabs, with Adamson, NU, UST, and even FEU challenging the current top two. However, I think the finalists this year will be the same as last year's. I am definitely looking forward to more UAAP women's volleyball.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Post-Christmas celebration

When I saw a Deal Grocer voucher that provided a big discount for dinner at La Cocina De Tita Moning, I thought it would be a perfect Christmas gift for my high school circle of friends. After all, among all of us, it was just myself and Anna who had been there before. I won't write about this restaurant in detail anymore; instead, you can read more about my first dining experience here.

The meal that came with the voucher seemed to include all the house favorites: Whole Baked Lapu Lapu with Olive Oil and Garlic served with Grilled Eggplant Salad, Lengua cooked in White Wine, Slowly Roasted Pork with Candied Sweet Camote, Paella Valenciana, and Tita Moning’s Bread Pudding. We also had a choice of either soup or salad. I opted for the Vichysoisse, which is a cream of potato and leek soup. Needless to say, I loved the food. And so did everyone else. Joyce even told one of the wait staff "Isn't there anything here that doesn't taste good?" to which I immediately replied, "Don't say that, you might jinx our food!" To make the dining experience even better, Anna decided to treat us all to a bottle of wine.

We were the last group of people to leave that night, and before we left, Joyce purchased the vinaigrette that was used on the eggplant salad which she really liked. Everyone seemed really happy with the meal as well as with the overall experience of dining here. My gift seemed to pan out very nicely. Thanks to Deal Grocer and thanks to La Cocina De Tita Moning!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Friends and food

The weekend started early on Friday night when I joined Anne and Georg in Eat Well at the Fort. They organized with their friends in Manila before they fly out, and it was great that a lot of folks came most of whom I haven't seen in an a long time. Since people were hanging out after months or more of not seeing each other, we ended up chatting the night away until we realized it was already quite late and we were practically the only people left in the restaurant.

After dinner, I headed over to Wursty Wursty in McKinley Hill to join Marco for his birthday celebration. Marco and our other friends had already been there for a while so I had some catching up to do. However, because I was so full from my very heavy dinner, I opted to have wine while everyone else was drinking beer. We called it a night at around half past three. Which was probably the best time to go home because I was meeting up with Walter and Robert for lunch in Tong Yang. I hadn't seen these guys in months, and it's been even longer since I last ate at Tong Yang.

We split up at close to 3pm because I also had to drive to QC for Jelo's first birthday party. I was expecting the traffic to be quite bad getting there but somehow, it was smooth sailing up until around 3-4 kilometers from the party venue. I was initially planning to bring a pie with me since Iona told me that the party would be semi-potluck but my back, which gave me problems late last week, started acting up again. I guess I was really tired after my long first week at work after the holidays. Anyways, I was already running late so I opted to go straight to the party; after all, Iona told me not to worry too much about bringing something. Thankfully, I didn't because there was a ton of food at the party. I had two platefuls upon arriving and then another half-plate plus a slice of chocolate cake before I left.

So the first part of my weekend has been positively busy but I am looking forward to Sunday while will mostly be me-time. Hopefully I can get a bit of rest tomorrow and my back starts feeling better again.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thy Womb

"Thy Womb", directed by Brillante Mendoza and starring the legendary Nora Aunor, already gained international acclaim before being showcased during the Metro Manila Filmfest. I had planned on watching it earlier but apparently, lack of moviegoers drove cinemas to pull it out of the theaters. Thankfully, a few cinemas in Metro Manila were still showing it so before its theatrical release officially ended, I headed over to Megamall to catch the last full show. To be honest, while I was fully expecting to see a well-made movie and appreciate its value, I wasn't really expecting to like it. I was wrong. I was truly blown away.

photo courtesy of wikipedia

Spoiler alert: please stop reading if you don't want to know how this movie turns out, especially since there's a pretty big moment towards the end that you may not want to know about.

Set in the beautiful islands of Tawi-Tawi, the film tells the story of a woman, Shaleha (played by Nora) who is unable to conceive a child. That she is a midwife who regularly helps other women give birth, and knowing that her husband, Bangas-an (played by Bembol Roco), has been wanting to have a child in the house, makes this situation even more difficult and painful for her. Because of her intense desire to make Bangas-an happy, Shaleha suggests that he find a second wife. It is in this journey to find a second partner that we get to see life through the eyes of Shaleha and understand and feel her struggle and how strong the bond is between her and her husband. They eventually find Mersila (played by Lovi Poe) who agrees to marry Bangas-an. However, on top of the very expensive dowry that Shaleha and Bangas-an had to raise, Mersila has one more condition for the marriage to happen: that Bangas-an leave Shaleha once Mersila bears him a child.

This "revelation", which happens in the last 10 minutes of the film, was so jarring that I was shaken up in the remainder of the movie. Especially because most of the film puts on display the difficulties and challenges that Shaleha and Bangas-an go through on a daily basis as well as in the journey they took to find a second wife. You could clearly see, understand and feel Shaleha's devotion and sacrifice to make her husband happy. So when you realize that all her efforts will result in her losing the one person in the world to whom she has given her whole life, it shocks, moves and even disturbs you.

That scene when Bangas-an tears up while assisting Shaleha in weaving a banig, and that other scene with Shaleha looking up at the moon at night with eyes that conveyed an understanding that she was soon to be alone, gave me goosebumps. Bembol Roco gives a stirring performance as Bangas-an (I feel cheated that he lost to Dingdong Dantes as best actor in the MMFF!) but there is no doubt this movie belongs to Nora.

The original superstar of Philippine cinema is an acting genius who has won dozens of acting awards both locally and internationally. Her uncanny ability to convey emotion and thoughts through her eyes are unparalleled. Those eyes were front and center in the last few scenes of the movie as they had very little dialogue, allowing audiences to see Nora at her glorious best. While the story and scenes are powerful already, it is Nora's brilliant performance that takes the film to another level, making it haunting and staying with you even after you leave the cinema.

I can understand though why this movie did not draw any crowds during its theatrical release here. It's not a feel-good film or one that carries with it good-looking or currently popular celebrities. And it is open-ended, leaving viewers with a lot of questions or making them wish that things happened differently. Also, it was shown during the Christmas season, a time when most people are more interested in watching things that liven them up and make them happy. With movie tickets being quite expensive now (I can't believe it costs P210 to watch a movie in Megamall now!), people are more reluctant to spend, especially after watching 2-3 other entries in the film fest.

I can also understand how some - most? - can find the film dragging or too long. However, it was this detailed and "immersive" depiction of the lives of Shaleha and Bangas-an that allow audiences to connect deeply and emotionally with the lead characters, making that final "revelation" significantly more impactful and effective. The cinematography was spectacular and I know want to go to Tawi-Tawi and visit this village on stilts. The camera work, with a kind of shaky, rocking motion, made you feel like you were actually on the water or in a boat with the characters, making the viewing experience even more authentic. While I thought the film could have done without the specter of daily NPA threat (it's hard to tell whether this is accurate and realistic or if it is an exaggeration), it was in its documentary-like presentation that one gets a beautiful glimpse of Philippine Muslim culture in Tawi-Tawi and thus gains a better understanding and appreciation of a part of our country's heritage that we don't normally get to see and experience.

I hope this movie gets released on DVD soon so I can watch it again. It is now one of my favorite Filipino films of all time.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New washer-dryer

In theory, I could have just had my old washer-dryer repaired. It would've cost me a lot less for sure. However, my old one already broke down a couple of years ago. I also had this feeling that my clothes weren't being washed all that well anymore. So I decided to set aside some money to get a new one.

There were only a few washer-dryers in the Metro Manila market that dry clothes 100%. These were produced by Samsung, LG, and Electrolux. I ended up getting the Samsung WD0804 with it's Eco Bubble technology. Psychologically, seeing my clothes immersed in foamier water makes me more confident that they are being cleaned better. :) Here's a video on how Eco Bubble works:

video uploaded in youtube by samsungifa2010

Second, the price, along with the discounts and the freebie, made it the most economical choice for me. Anson's was selling it with a P15,000 discount and they were throwing a free 16 megapixel Samsung camera (which retails for about P6,000). Since I already have a camera, I ended up giving this one as a Christmas gift to my brother.

Thankfully, they were able to deliver my new washer-dryer the day after I bought it, and the installation was done the day after delivery. One additional benefit that I didn't realize with this new machine is that it is a whole lot more quiet than my old washer-dryer. It also has a Super Eco Wash option that allows me to wash clothes using less energy. Pretty cool! Hopefully this one lasts me as long, if not longer, than my previous one.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

"When the war is over" by Cosima

I heard this song on a plane years ago and discovered that the singer, Cosima De Vito, was a contestant in the first-ever Australian Idol. Cosima was forced to withdraw during the top three week (so close to the finale!) because she developed a throat condition that prevented her from continuing. If she remained healthy, who knows if she, and not Guy Sebastian, would have been the first-ever Australian Idol and gained a lot more international fame. In any case, I am pleased to have stumbled upon this brilliant singer. Check out her amazing performance of "When the war is over":

video uploaded in youtube by stageaddiction 

With this song, Cosima became the first independent artist to debut in Australia at #1.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Brunch Club

I don't know if it's an age thing when instead of meeting up with friends over dinner or drinks, you have brunch together. But over the holidays, I ended up meeting with the same set of friends twice for brunch in Serendra. Since I'm not a morning person, I actually ended up late on both occasions. But at least my friends knew in advance that I would just be catching up so no issue. I think. :)

The first time was in mid-December, right before some people would leave for the province. I met up with Che, Me-Ann, Joh, Raffa, and Chris for breakfast in Chelsea. I honestly can't recall what I ordered haha but it had to have been at least decent because if I wasn't happy with it, I would remember. :) I guess I was more focused on chatting with my friends. Peegee passed by before we left to drop off his gifts for us.

The second time was two weeks later. Mike, Alvin and Doray were in town but they all missed our major Christmas celebration so this was our chance to at least see each other before everyone started flying back to the US or Singapore. Somehow, a whole lot of people were available to meet up mid-morning at Sentro. Also there were Joh, Raffa, Suzanne, Gi, Pau, Tim, Steph and Chris. I do remember ordering the corned beef breakfast here and I thought that it was so-so haha.

I told the folks that next time, we should meet at 9:30 PM instead. :) That's most likely not going to happen but I'm glad I was able to wake up early enough to make it (albeit late) to both get-togethers.

Monday, January 07, 2013


Big dessert fan that I am, I made sure that I got to try a lot of new desserts during the last Christmas season.

One place I visit regularly is Dulcelin. I've tried their Mango Torte multiple times before and I love it. Their Caramel Pecan Walnut Pie is also pretty good. So I decided to try a couple of their other desserts. First was the Strawberry Cake. This was one incredibly good dessert. The chiffon was light and the cream was the right amount of sweet which matched perfectly with the strawberries. There were crunchy bits in the cream in the middle of the cake; I'm not sure what they were but they added an additional textural element to this wonderful dessert. I got the large size (10 inch, P1,100) but they also have a smaller size (6 inch, P600). I will definitely be buying this cake again.

Dulcelin Strawberry Cake

I also tried the Dulcelin Callebaut Chocolate Ganache Cake (P1,300 for the 9-inch cake, P650 for the 6-inch one). This cake, made with Belgian chocolate icing on a chocolate mousse center and sprinkled with chopped almonds, is extremely rich. It tastes really good but you can only eat a few forkfuls at a time. I think the 6-inch one would actually be sufficient, although I think my family got through the 9-inch cake in a couple of days. :) (There are quite a few of us so it shouldn't be all that shocking.)

Dulcelin Callebaut Chocolate Ganache Cake

Address: 36 Times Street, West Triangle, Q.C.
Tel: 374-2165 or 67
Mobile: 0917-535-2592

I had major cupcake cravings for a large part of December, so while I was in the Midnight Bazaar in Rockwell, I got to try Kim's Cupcakes. While a lot of other cupcakes are priced in the P70-80 price range, these ones cost P50 (some variants were priced at P40). And they tasted pretty good. My favorite one is the Cookie Dough cupcake with its good-sized dollop of cookie dough inside. I decided to get a few boxes and give them as gifts to my relatives. Naturally some for myself too. :)

Kim's Cupcakes from left to right, top to bottom without repeating: Red Velvet, Chocolate Ganache, Tiramisu, Cookies and Cream, Cookie Dough, and Strawberry Cupcake.

Kim's Cupcakes
Mobile: 0917-835-8886

My friend Bett, who recommended Dulcelin to me a while back, also told me about Delize at that same time. These two are known for their amazing desserts but the main difference is that Dulcelin has a lot of desserts that you can just buy on the spot whereas Delize requires you to order 2-3 days in advance. For this reason, it took me a while to finally place an order there. Now I realize I should have put a bit more effort into ordering dessert from Delize before as I have been missing out big-time! The Concorde (P920) is one of their most popular desserts so I tried that and it was absolutely superb! I'm not a baker or chef so I'm not sure exactly what it's made of, but the cake seems to be made of alternating layers of meringue and dark chocolate mousse. Decorated with chocolate meringue sticks thrown generously all over the cake and dusted with icing sugar, I can understand how the Concorde is one of their two bestsellers (the other being the Pistachio Sans Rival that I now have to try in the soonest possible time.)

The Concorde from Delize by Jill Sandique

Delize by Jill Sandique
Address: 33 Sunrise Drive, Cubao, Quezon City
Tel: 721-7022
Mobile: 0922-826-2673

One place I also need to try is Parvati in Trinoma. My friend Joyce told me about this restaurant which is supposed to carry a wide variety of some of the best desserts from different home-based bakers. I do think I need to start losing some of my Christmas weight first before I go there. :)

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Starbucks planner

I just got my Starbucks planner. I decided to go green. I'm not sure how many Starbucks planners I have gotten already - I think I have gotten one every year since 2004. In the past though I would get a planner really quickly and in fact I'd get at least 2 since I was a daily Starbucks drinker. I've cut down on my Starbucks intake (mainly because a lot of other coffee places - including McDonald's! - have become just as accessible) so it takes me longer to get the required number of stickers now. I don't know how much of this new planner I will use. There are a couple of new free coupons though so I'll try to make sure I use as many of these coupons as possible. :)

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Pangasinan Trip: Hundred Islands

I've been to the Hundred Islands only once before and that was when I was still a kid. So I was definitely looking forward to this return trip with Anne, Georg, and a few of Anne's other friends.

A few of the islands have been developed for tourists but Anne (and well practically everyone in our group) wanted to be away from the bustling crowds. As such we requested the boatmen to take us to a less popular and more secluded beach. I don't know the name of the island we went to but we initially were the only visitors there. (A few more visitors joined us shortly after but they didn't stay too long. Some time after they left, another group of people found their way on the same beach we were on and left again before we did. So there were moments during the day when we had the beach all to ourselves.)

Anne, being an environmental technologist, brought proper glasses and real dinnerware with us so that we wouldn't have any plastic or even paper trash with us. She also brought a grill as we would be cooking the food at the beach. Or well we wouldn't actually be cooking. :) Anne brought with her a couple of people who would prepare the food for us.

As our food was being grilled, we hit the beach. The sun was out and the water was really nice and warm and inviting. So much so that I got into the water immediately without putting any sunblock on my back. (I am now sporting a sunburn on my back. Ouch.) I sort of lost track of time, or rather didn't pay much attention to it, as it was truly the first time in weeks that I was able to be fairly relaxed. At some point I noticed everyone else converging around the grill, so I headed out of the water as I figured people were hungry and we were about to eat. We had some (lots of?) green mango and alamang while chatting, then lunch was served. And boy what a lunch it was!

Liempo, grilled bangus and kinilaw na bangus, shrimp, itlog na maalat with tomatoes and onions, more green mangoes and alamang, and a lot of rice. All laid out on banana leaves that served both as picnic blanket and serving tray. Needless to say that we all had our fill of the great food.

The downside of the swim was that there was at least one jellyfish in the water and I got stung three times. It wasn't too bad - it was more like an itch really - but I don't really recall the last time I was stung by a jellyfish so in some sick, masochistic way I actually welcomed this experience LOL. Towards the mid-afternoon, I decided to take a few more pictures. So I went over the island - granted, it was a pretty small one - and the views that greeted me on the other side were pretty awesome.

At around 4pm, we decided to call it day. We boarded the boats and headed back to the pier. There are toilets at the pier where you can take a shower for P10 although in my case I just got into clean clothes. We chatted a bit more before saying our goodbyes. After all, I still had a 5 hour drive ahead of me that night (Alaminos where you can find Hundred Islands National Park is 5 hours away from Manila; it takes another hour to get from Alaminos to Bolinao/Puerto Del Sol). It was definitely a long drive from Manila but the company, the food, and the Hundred Islands experience were all worth it. Anne and Georg said they would be in Manila for one night before they fly back to Austria so I may just get to meet up with them one more time before they go.


I am also really pleased with the camera I got last year. The 16x zoom is working extremely well! I was able to get a lot of really good photos even from afar.