Saturday, August 31, 2013

June archive

While looking through my June 2013 blog archives, I realized I couldn't see most of my June posts. Only four entries were visible, and I realized I have no "previous" button in my blog to allow me to see previous posts. Since I don't know how to set up a "previous" button yet, I will use this to list down the links to all my June posts to help me find them if/when I want to.

June 1 - Trying out a couple of new places
June 2 - Shakey's V-League
June 3 - Allison Holker and Derek Hough back on DWTS
June 5 - Kimstore!
June 6 - Photobook party
June 7 - Tree Nursery Activities at Haribon's Buhay Punlaan
June 8 - Jhen and Jay's Wedding
June 9 - Madness by Muse
June 10 - Nadal wins a record-setting 8th French Open title
June 11 - Early Father's Day Celebration
June 12 - Happy Philippine Independence Day
June 13 - Catching up
June 14 - From Russia with Love
June 16 - Moscow: Kremlin and Red Square
June 18 - More Moscow Sights
June 21 - The Moscow Metro
June 23 - The Golden Ring: Sergiev Posad
June 25 - The Golden Ring: Vladimir and Suzdal
June 28 - St. Petersburg: Peter and Paul Fortress

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Spectacular Cecile Licad

So this post is almost two months late but last June 29, I took my mom to watch Cecile Licad perform in CCP in her concert aptly called "The Pianist's Pianist". The first time I saw her perform live was when she shared the stage with Lea Salonga and Lisa Macuja in last year's The Legends and the Classics. This time, the spotlight was just on her.

It was a brilliant show that demonstrated Cecile's genius with a piano. She was backed up by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra with Gerard Salonga as conductor. Her repertoire included two pieces from Hungarian composer Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1 and the Totentanz. She also performed three encores. One of her encores was Manchega, a lively piece by American composer Gottschalk. This video is of a performance in 2003 of the same song:

video uploaded in youtube by tiklado07

As we stepped out of the theater, we noticed what seemed like a meet-and-greet area by the staircase. We confirmed that it was, so I told my mom to fall in line to get an autograph. Thankfully we were quick about it because as soon as my mom got in line (she was around the 4th or 5th person from the front), a whole horde of people queued up right behind her.

The biggest shame about my experience was that I organized and attended a tree planting event earlier that day in Real, Quezon and I had only one hour of sleep. As such, I ended up dozing off for a short period of time in the first half of the show. Damn! Thankfully, the food and coffee I had during intermission gave me enough energy to stay fully awake in the second half. I do recall that as soon as I got home, I fell asleep almost immediately and slept for 14 straight hours! Talk about being massively tired. Hopefully, I get to watch another of Ms. Licad's brilliant performances in the future.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


While I haven't seen a movie in a few weeks, I did get to see a lot of films in the middle months of the year.

Pacific Rim
There are some holes in the story, the script could be better, and it comes with a fair share of cliches. However, the effects were superb and it was a thoroughly entertaining summer blockbuster. After all, you can't go wrong when you have giant robots battling giant alien monsters to save the world. :)

Monsters University
I thoroughly enjoyed this prequel of Monsters, Inc. I loved seeing how the friendship between Mike and Sully developed and it was great to see how they learned and combined to be the top-rated scaring team later in their careers. In true Pixar-Disney style, the story is brilliantly done and the character development is well-executed.

Now You See Me
I probably liked the first half of this movie more than the second half. This premise of this film is that four magicians combine to pull off massive crimes. I found myself at the edge of my seat early on, wondering what was going on and what was going to happen next. But at some point I started to feel that the magicians all just seemed too great and the FBI too inept. Then again, in the grand scheme of things, I guess it all made sense in the end. To quote my friend Ced, this movie seems like a cross between Ocean's Eleven and The Prestige.

Despicable Me 2
Strangely enough, while I did still enjoy this animated sequel, it somehow didn't live up to the hype as much. The minions were of course great fun to watch but there were a couple of scenes where I felt the production was just trying to milk the entertainment value of these cute and loveable creatures a tad too much. I think the first one was much better.

Man of Steel
From a conceptual standpoint, I didn't find much difference between this reboot and Superman Returns. Both movies try to show Superman in a different light to make audiences understand him better and relate to him more. However, there is one thing about Man of Steel that really rubbed me the wrong way: Superman didn't seem to care about who gets hurt or how much damage results from his monumental battle with General Zod and other members of his army. Superman should have attempted to bring Zod up in the air miles away from everyone else instead of going at him toe-to-toe inside the city, thus causing a lot more damage to a city already in ruins.

There were some movies I wanted to see but missed, like World War Z, White House Down, Fast & Furious 6, and The Wolverine. I guess I will just have to wait for the DVDs to come out or for these films to be featured on HBO or Star Movies.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nadal wins again!

What a year this has been for Rafael Nadal. On Sunday, he defeated John Isner 7-6 7-6 to win the Cincinnati Masters. Congrats, Rafa!

This is the first time Rafa won this title, and it also means that he has now gotten to the finals of all nine Masters 1000 events at least once. Just how great has this year been for Nadal? Here are the numbers:

  • 1st time to win the Cincinnati Masters
  • #2 ranking on Monday as Rafa moves past Andy Murray who will drop to #3
  • 3 hard court Masters 1000 titles this year.
  • 4th player in history to win the Canada-Cincinnati Double (Andy Roddick last did this feat in 2003)
  • 4 consecutive Masters 1000 tournaments this year
  • 5 Masters 1000 titles in 2013, tying the record set by Novak Djokovic in 2011
  • 26 Master 1000 titles in his career, the most of any player in history.
While no one else has more success on hard courts this year than Nadal, he isn't a lock to win the US Open which starts next week. Djokovic is still the #1 players in the world and is always a threat while Andy Murray is the defending champion. Roger Federer, who drops to #7 his week (his lowest ranking in more than a decade), gave Rafa a tough match in Cincinnati, as did Berdych and Isner. Del Potro is also doing well. Hopefully, Nadal's solid wins on hard court this season give him enough confidence to do well in, or even win, the last major event of the year.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Traffic ticket

Such a hassle that I'm out P2000. My fault really. I was driving in Bonifacio Global City rushing for a 10AM appointment and for some strange reason, the traffic was horrible. I was at an intersection needing to turn left but stuck behind a lot of other vehicles. When the traffic light was green for cars going straight ahead and turning left, the cars in front of me were still not moving. I thought that maybe there was something preventing them from going straight, so since I needed to turn left, I moved out of my lane to get past them.

As it turned out, there was an officer at the intersection controlling the traffic and he asked me to stop. Damn. I ended up getting a ticket for a counterflow violation. To make matters even just that more difficult, I had to get my license in Bicutan. Ugh. The "icing on the cake" was the fact that my violation actually required me to pay P2000. That certainly hurt. Oh well. Just need to make sure it doesn't happen to me again.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dinner at Opus

A couple of months ago, I purchased a Deal Grocer voucher for food at Opus Restaurant and Lounge. I had been there a few times before but only for drinks. However, a friend of mine told me that the food there was superb and that I should try it. It is quite expensive there so when I saw a discount voucher at Deal Grocer, I decided to give it a go.

I ordered the U.S. Angus Beef Wellington (P980) which pretty much used up the full value of my voucher. However, it was money well spent as I was absolutely blown away by it. The beef was perfectly cooked and the pastry was just that right mix of soft and crunchy that matched perfectly well with the meat. There was some kind of filling or marinade between the beef and pastry that elevated the flavor profile of what already was a fantastic dish. I took a photo before diving in but the picture doesn't do it any justice.

U.S. Angus Beef Wellington

I was initially thinking of ordering dessert but by the time I got through my meal, I was stuffed. Note that I was served some bread while waiting for my meal (even the bread was incredibly good!). I'm now hoping that another discount voucher for Opus becomes available because I really want to go back there again and try more items in the menu. That U.S. Angus Beef Wellington is one of the best meals I've ever had.

Friday, August 16, 2013

U.P. Streetdance Club win Bronze at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship

Congratulations to the U.P. Streedance Club who took home third place in the recently concluded World Hip Hop Dance Championship in Las Vegas. They competed in the Megacrew division and apparently they also won bronze last year in this competition organized by Hip Hop International. Check out their 2013 award-winning performance here:

video uploaded in youtube by OfficialHHI

Way to go, U.P. Streetdance Club!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Busy Saturday

Weekends are supposed to be a time to relax and re-energize. Somehow that didn't happen last Saturday. I started out being late for a lunch party for Majel's children in Windmills & Rainforest. Majel and her family are based in Singapore and since it was a long weekend over there, they decided to come home to throw a party for the baptismal of her youngest and to celebrated two belated birthdays of her other two kids. It has been a while since I've seen Majel so it was good to catch up with her.

The party ended shortly before four so I had some time before my early dinner to get a haircut. The last time I got one was in April, a whopping four months ago! I keep telling myself I should have haircuts more frequently but somehow I never manage to get it done. :)

I ended up arriving at Stockton Place in Legazpi Village a few minutes before 6pm, making me early for dinner. As it turns out, I still wasn't the earliest there. Aries and his family overestimated the traffic last Saturday and somehow ended up in Makati at around half past five. Everyone else got there a bit late so it allowed me to catch up with Aries, who has been living in the UK for a while now.

I have to say that the food in Stockton Place is good but overpriced and the portion size is really small. I was initially planning to order the Crispy Pork Belly (P650) but when Aries and Audrey decided they were going to order it, I changed my order to the Poached Chicken (P550). Good move on my part because, while the portion size of my chicken wasn't huge, the pork belly was tiny! P650 for one strip of pork belly was a bit shocking, and while Aries shared his dismay, I was just thinking "thank God I changed my order". :) The steak that Lala, Kermin, Jed, and Ods shared was pretty good although you are required to order at least 800 grams of the steak so their steak cost about P3600. I'm not sure I'm all that interested to try Stockton Place again.

I had to leave just shortly after Letlet and Gosh arrived. Their plan was to head over to Jed and Ods place to watch the Gilas Pilipinas game versus South Korea after dinner. Unfortunately, I was double booked that night since I was also organizing a despedida at 8pm so I had to say goodbye at 7:30 before making my way to Centerstage in Makati.

My friend Basil was about to be assigned abroad so I gathered the troops to give him a proper send-off. And what better way to do that than through karaoke? I had a Deal Grocer voucher for a room in Centerstage that was perfect for us to use, especially since it's been ages since we all spent the night singing our lungs out in a videoke bar. I booked the room at 8pm and told Mari, who was one of the first people there, that my voucher was valid for five hours. She said that she thought five hours was too long and I disagreed. As it turned out, I was right. :) The fact that there were a few people there that night whom we haven't seen in a while meant that there was a whole lot of catching up to do amidst the singing. Before we knew it, it was already 1am and we were paying the bill.

As we were heading out, we all realized we were hungry and I told people jokingly we should go to IHOP which is open for 24 hours during the weekend. People then started saying "I haven't been there yet." Apparently, out of the dozen of us there, only three of us had been to IHOP before so we decided to go there for a post-karaoke meal.

Despite the very long and tiring day, I got home feeling quite energetic. Maybe it was because I got to spend some really good time with a lot of good friends and even seeing some people whom I haven't seen in a while. Or maybe it was the sugar rush from my IHOP meal. :) Whatever the reason, it was definitely a memorable day.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pistachio Sans Rival from Delize

I promised myself last Christmas that I would try the Pistachio Sans Rival from Delize at some point soon. It took several months but I finally got to place an order for this highly rated dessert for my mom's birthday celebration.

The verdict: it definitely lived up to the hype. It has just the right ratio of butter icing and chewy meringue layers, and generous sprinkling of chopped pistachios gives this delicious dessert a unique twist. As is the case with any sans rival, though, the main difficulty in eating it is getting a slice without ruining the rest of the cake. :) (Make sure you use a serrated knife; a bread knife will definitely not work!)

The Pistachio Sans Rival from Delize costs P950 and you have to order it at least two days in advance.

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

Monday, August 12, 2013

Rafa Nadal wins in Montreal

Rafael Nadal reasserted himself as the best player of 2013 by winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Congratulations Rafa!

Nadal won his 8th title of the year, more than any other male player, and he has now reached the final of 10 of the 11 tournaments he has played. (The only tournament he competed in where he failed to get to the final was Wimbledon where he had a shocking loss in the first round.) This is also Rafa's 25th ATP Masters 1000 title, improving the record he already holds.

This win moves Rafa up to #3 in the rankings and increases his lead atop the Race to London (which counts only the points earned so far in the year). The most significant match he played during the tournament was a hard-fought semifinal match against World #1 Novak Djokovic that had to be decided in a third set tie-break. After losing to Djokovic in Monte Carlo, Rafa has now beaten Novak twice in a row. This also means that after seven straight losses against Novak in 2011, Rafa has now won 5 of their last 6 matches.

Nadal has now won the two hard court tournaments he played this year (both of which are Masters 1000 events) and he hasn't lost on the surface yet. Hopefully this is a good sign for him going into the US Open which starts in couple of weeks.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Family celebrations

A couple of days over the last week were spent celebrating some important family dates. Last weekend, my family and I went out to celebrate my brother's birthday. I had a couple of options for our dinner venue but people kind of got stuck in bad traffic. Since my nephews wanted to watch Pacific Rim, we headed to Superbowl in Glorietta 4 about an hour before the last full show would start. As it turned out, my brother and my nephews agreed to just watch the next day. In any case, we all hadn't eaten in Superbowl in a really really long time so it was good for us to enjoy a meal here again.

We passed by Krispy Kreme after dinner so I could get some coffee and because one of my nephews really wanted a Krispy Kreme donut. I ended up getting a half dozen because my grandmother saw the wide selection of donuts and she ended up wanting to try three of the flavors. As if that wasn't enough, I also used one of my Ensogo vouchers to get a New York Cheesecake from Sugarhouse. And since good things come in threes, to round out our dessert take-home loot, my brother also got a box of Gigi cupcakes. I don't know exactly which flavors I got to try but they were good; I definitely wouldn't mind having more of those.

This weekend, since Friday was declared a public holiday, my family got together again, this time to celebrate the birthdays of my mom, my grandfather "Tatay" who passed away more than a year and a half ago, and Mama Guading, who also passed away in 2011 just a few days before her birthday. I was unable to join the rest of my family when they went to the cemetery to visit Tatay since my mom just called me on Friday morning to let me know what the plans were.

Instead, I met up with them in Alba Restaurante Español in Polaris Street in Makati for a really late lunch. We missed the lunch buffet since we got there at close to 2pm. But that turned out to be a good thing because my mom had only ever tried the buffet in Alba so our birthday lunch for her was the first time she got to order a few à la carte items.

We passed by Papa John's along Jupiter Street to get some pizza before paying a visit to Mama Guading's family. My grandmother "Nanay" also brought cassava cake from Don Benito's. We spent some time catching up with Yaya Isot, Mama's sister. She told us that part of the cemetery where Mama's remains are kept was about to be demolished but thankfully it isn't Mama's section so there is no need to move her ashes. We shared some stories and memories about both Mama and Tatay before leaving.

The rest of the evening was spent in Shangri-La Mall which recently underwent some pretty major renovations. A couple of new wings were opened recently: North and East so we spent some time just walking around, checking out the new shops and restaurants. By the late evening, we had dinner in Balboa, an Italian restaurant at the East Wing. I thought the food here was pretty good.

It was a great long week of celebrations and remembering. That we got to experience a few familiar things and a few new things together as a family made our collective experience even better.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Madz ’89 - The Reunion Concert

Last Sunday, I watched the reunion concert of the legendary Batch 89 of the Philippine Madrigals (back then, they were still called the University of the Philippines Madrigal Singers). The Madrigals are generally hailed as one of the best, if not the best, choral groups in the country. I've seen them perform live before and they definitely lived up to that reputation. Thankfully, my friend Pia asked me if I wanted to watch with her because I wouldn't have known about the show otherwise.

The 1989 batch is one of the choir's most decorated, winning every competition in which they participated. Their list of awards is impressive:

  • First prize - International Kammerchor Wettbewerb (Marktoberdorf, Germany)
  • Two First Prizes - VIII Festival International De Musica De Cantonigros (Spain)
  • First prize - Festival Choral Internacional de Neuchatel (Switzerland)
  • Two First Prizes - XXVI Internationaler Chor Bewerb Spittal An Der Drau (Austria)
  • Three First Prizes - XXVIII Concorso Internazionale Di Canto Corale (Gorizia, Italy)
The reunion concert started a bit past 7pm and Madz Batch 89, despite not having performed together as a choral group in what must be decades, demonstrated exactly why and how they earned legend status. In true Philippine Madrigals tradition, they all performed while sitting down in a semi-circle and had no conductor. And as if the degree of difficulty wasn't high enough, none of the same voices sat next to each other. Incredible! In the first half of the show, they performed classical and competition pieces that showcased their technical mastery and brilliant artistry. They wowed the audience with an impressive selection of madrigals. They performed songs that received critical acclaim during their competition days, including Trauergesang by Mendelsohn and Gloria by Ryan Cayabyab (who was actually in the audience with us).

The second half of the show featured more mainstream music. They delivered very memorable renditions of OPM classics such as Ikaw ang lahat sa akin, Sana'y wala ng wakas, and a surprising and exceedingly entertaining Beeh... Buti Nga. Their repertoire also included a couple of Beatles classics - Let it be and Yesterday and their final encore of the night, Italian Salad, had everyone laughing (check out the first soloist in this link, amazing range and control!!). While I still think back to so many of their incredible performances, my favorite of the night is probably their heart-stirring rendition of L'important c'est la rose by Gilbert Becaud. Here is a video of their August 3 performance of this song:

video uploaded in youtube by kesowantstolearn

Now that I think about it, it's still probably a toss up between L'important c'est la rose and Let it be. And maybe Italian Salad for entertainment value. Then again, why do I need to decide which one I enjoyed the most? The important thing is that I enjoyed all their songs! :) So in the interest of being equal opportunity, here's a video of their Let it be performance the night that I watched (Aug 4):

video uploaded in youtube by kuangchien

While Madz Batch 89 is one of the most awarded in the choir's history, the biggest shame is that due to budget issues, they couldn't return to Europe the next year to compete in the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing in Tours, France. This competition, which is widely considered to be the most important in the choral circuit (i.e. the Olympics of choirs), is open only to the grand prize winners of the six member European choral competitions in the previous year.

The Madrigals did eventually win the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing. Twice. In 1997 and then again in 2007. They are the first choir in the world to win the European Grand Prix twice. The Madz have also been recognized globally outside the choral competition environment. In 2009, the Madrigals were designated as a UNESCO Artist for Peace. A year later, they received the prestigious Guidoneum Award 2010 by the Fondazione Guido d’Arezzo in Italy. According to Foundation President Francesco Lusi, the Madz were honored  “for the artistic and choral promotion activity that they carried out after they won the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing in 2007.”

The show, fittingly and nostalgically set in the UP Abelardo Hall, was part of their 50th anniversary celebration which kicked off last June. It also served as a tribute to National Artist Andrea O. Veneracion, the founder of the Madz who passed away last July 9. I couldn't get enough of the show that once it was over, I got their CD that was on sale at the auditorium entrance. It was an absolutely incredible, almost spiritual experience and I'm really glad I got to be part of it.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

A night in Burgos Circle

My friend Suzanne came to Manila almost a couple of weeks ago for her mother's 80th birthday celebration. She invited us to join her mom's party a few folks were unable to go. While there, we decided that we should meet up one more time while she was still in town and since Suzanne hadn't been to a videoke bar in ages, we said it would be good for us to re-live our karaoke days when we all still worked together.

So we met up last Friday night. Suzanne, Joh, Raffa, Me-Ann and I had dinner in Jozu Kin. It was the first time I ate there and I actually thought the food was really good and not overly priced. Peegee and Randee passed by to say hi. After dinner, we walked over to Beat Karaoke (located just above Serenitea). We got the medium room which I guess is good for up to about 8 people and costs P720 per hour. The rates here are per room per hour and not per person, making it relatively cheap. However, it's a basic set-up. You can search for songs by title or artist but this facility is a bit tedious as you can only type in the first letter then you have to keep scrolling down. There is a big book where you can look for songs by title and then just key in the corresponding number to cue your song choice. It's not as sophisticated or user friendly as other videoke bars like Music Match and Centerstage but we survived. :)

We ended up singing a good selection of oldies and new songs. Probably the evening's most memorable number was my duet with Suzanne of "Just give me a reason". Definitely not easy to sing LOL but it was a whole lot of fun. :) We capped off the night with some drinks at Serenitea (Suzanne said she hadn't tried Serenitea yet) before parting ways. It was definitely a fun night with great friends.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Remembering Mama Guading

It's hard to believe that it's been two years since Mama Guading passed away. I remember exactly where I was when I found out. I was with my friends Doms and Zaza outside a boardroom in our office waiting to called so we could provide top management with status updates on our Corporate Social Responsibility program. I then got a text from my mom. "Patay na si mama" she said. I could barely focus. No, actually, it seemed surreal. I think it took some time for the reality to sink in. The days, nay, weeks, after that were some of the saddest of my life.

Here's the post I wrote almost 2 years ago on the 9th day of Mama Guading's passing. She would have turned 75 birthday this coming Sunday if she were still with us. We miss you, Mama.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Little Singers of Monaco visit Manila

Okay so this post is a few weeks late but I still wanted to write about this experience. I can't remember how I learned that the Little Singers of Monaco would be performing in the Philippines. I think my mom mentioned it to me and maybe I also saw it in Martin Recommends. Either way, I decided to take my mom to watch it on July 13 in Greenbelt 5 (they had three other performances in Metro Manila). The fact that the show was free encouraged us even more to watch.

The Little Singers of Monaco including the Philippines in their 2013 Asian tour and this was actually the first time they visited the country. The group is composed of 28 singers ranging in age from 10 to 18. The show last for about 75 minutes, during which time they performed several classical pieces from legends like Bach and Mozart, as well as folk songs from Monaco.

Their most recognizable number was perhaps "Un homme et une femme" (a man and a woman). Once the audience realized that they knew this song, they almost in unison gave a very encouraging albeit not-perfectly-timed applause (of course they were so excited to hear something they knew that they couldn't wait until after the performance to clap hahaha). See if you can recognize this song yourself:

video uploaded in youtube by PHILAT7

It was a great show and it's impressive to think how well these kids perform and harmonize despite their age. The fact that they have to act as ambassadors of Monaco to world as they go from country to country makes what they do even more impressive. I don't recall any song of their being sung in English but the audiences gave them a well-deserved standing ovation after their show which clearly indicates that music is a universal language and that talent and hard work will always be appreciated and applauded. Hopefully they come to the Philippines in the future.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Random act of kindness

So I was at McDonald's and I ordered a large coffee to go. The lady at counter told me that they had to brew a new pot and it would be about a five minute wait. At the same time, two large coffees were served to the guy standing next to me. Apparently he got the last two cups of coffee before a new pot had to be brewed. And apparently he also heard my conversation with the lady at the counter. Because out of the blue, he and I have a discussion that sort of goes like this:

Him: Why don't you just take this one cup and I'll wait for the other one? (referring to one of the two cups he just got served)
Me: (quite surprised) Are you sure?
Him: Yeah. I'm staying here with my friends anyway so I don't mind waiting for the next cup. I also know it won't take 5 minutes.
Me: Wow, okay, thanks a lot!

It's not often that a stranger performs an unexpected act of kindness so it definitely made my day.