Tuesday, December 30, 2014

An Extraordinary Visit to Corregidor

Corregidor is one of the most historic sites in the Philippines due to the very important role it played during World War II. It is part of the province of Cavite and because of its location, right at the mouth of Manila Bay, it served as a fortress to protect Manila from the invading Japanese forces.

12-inch mortars in Battery Way

My family and I joined the day tour organized by Sun Cruises. The ferry terminal is located right behind Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas (previously Folk Arts Theater) at the CCP complex. We checked in at around 6:30 AM and boarded the ferry shortly after 7 AM. The ferry departed the port at around 8 AM and it took about an hour and a half to reach Corregidor. The tour itself took about 5 hours, including a 45-minute lunch break at the Corregidor Inn (buffet lunch is included in the package). We left the island at around 3PM and got back to Manila at around 4:15 to 4:30 PM

Statue of Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the Lorcha Dock

The tour is pretty well-organized. Upon check-in, we were given stickers that indicated our ferry seat number as well as which tranvia we were assigned to. The tour guides are all extremely knowledgeable. Our guide, Mar, not only had an incredible amount of historical knowledge about Corregidor that he shared with us but he was also very engaging, making it a lot easier to absorb the information he shared with us.

Touring the island on a tramvia

Some of the places we got to see when we were there include the ruins of the Mile-Long Barracks or Topside Barracks (they are only about a third of a mile long but there are three floors, hence the nickname mile-long),

Mile-Long Barracks or Topside Barracks

the Eternal Flame monument, which was designed by Aristides Demetrios to commemorate the courage and heroism of the Filipino and American soldiers and serve as a symbol of never-ending freedom,

Eternal Flame Monument

the Japanese Garden of Peace,

Japanese Garden of Peace

and the Corregidor Lighthouse.

Corregidor Lighthouse

We also visited the Malinta Tunnel. Entry to the tunnel is not included in the package rate (it costs an additional P200 per person) but the Sun Cruise tour provides enough time for guests to take a trip inside. The 30-minute light and sound show in the tunnel is called "The Malinta Experience" and it reenacts key moments during World War II. It features dioramas and sculptures created by National Artist Napoleon Abueva and a script written by National Artist Lamberto Avellana.

Inside the Malinta Tunnel

Because of all the information shared to us by our very knowledgeable tour guide Mar, I now know a whole lot more than I did before this trip. For instance, the name Corregidor comes from the Spanish word corregir which means 'to correct'. Supposedly, during the Spanish colonial times, the island served as a checkpoint for all ships entering Manila who had to submit their documents for checking and correction.

Pacific War Memorial Museum

Corregidor served as the headquarters of Major General George Moore and as such, it was named Fort Mills. There used to be a swimming pool, a baseball field, and even a cinema here. Apparently, the last film shown before the cinema was destroyed was Gone with the Wind.

Ruins of Cine Corregidor

Corregidor eventually succumbed to the Japanese on May 6, 1942, twenty-seven days after the fall of Bataan. The invasion started on December 29, 1941 and apparently, the Japanese were expecting to take control of Manila and the Philippines in just 50 days. As it turned out, the Filipino soldiers were a lot more courageous, valiant, and tough, and while they eventually lost, it took more four months for the Japanese to win the Battle of Corregidor. This delay of more than two months threw off the plans of Japan and as a result, they were no longer able to attack Australia.

The Pacific War Memorial honors the Filipino and the American soldiers who fought in WWII. Underneath the dome is a circular altar located directly under the dome's oculus. Our guide told us that the oculus and the alter are placed in such a way that every year, on May 6 (the anniversary of the Corregidor surrender), the sun shines directly onto the circular alter through the oculus.

Pacific War Memorial

It's amazing to think that Corregidor held firm for so long considering that the guns and mortars here were all really old. The Japanese attacked the Philippines in 1941-1942 and most of the artillery on the island were built in the late 1800s to very early 1900s. That means they were all 40-50 years old when they were used to protect the Philippines. Our guide also explained the difference between a gun and a mortar: a gun is used for long range attack while a mortar has a higher trajectory and shorter range. As such, mortars are used to fend off invaders who manage to get past the long-range gun defense.

12-inch gun in Battery Hearn

The tours organized by Sun Cruises are definitely worth taking. The day trip costs P2,250 per person (although we got ours at a massive discount thanks to Ensogo) which is actually pretty cheap when you take into account the fact that it includes a roundtrip ferry ride, very knowledgeable guides, and a buffet lunch (the food was also pretty good). The day tour is really crammed and we would normally have only about 10 to 15 minutes at each stop. If you want to spend more time at each point of interest on the island, it might be worth staying in the island overnight. (I think I may do this at some point in the future.)

The Corregidor Inn

I visited Corregidor once before with my extended family (there must have been about 30 of us!) when I was still in high school. I guess that maybe due to my greater appreciation of history and understanding of the significance of Corregidor now, this 2014 trip proved to be a lot more memorable and meaningful. There is a whole lot more information I could share but I think it would be much better for you to experience it directly. I really do think that a visit to Corregidor should be on the bucket list of every Filipino.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Post-Christmas celebration

What an amazing last few days for me and my family. The key activity around which the rest of our weekend was planned was a trip to Corregidor. My mom had been wanting to take my family there for a while since my nephews had been learning about it in school. My mom thought that taking them to visit would hopefully make it real for them and help them understand Philippine history a lot more. (I will write more about our Corregidor trip in a separate post.)

Since a trip to this historic island would require us to be at the ferry terminal behind the Folk Arts Theatre before 7AM, I thought it would be better if we all stayed in a hotel room to make it easier for all of us to get to the pier on time. I decided to book two nights in Ascott Makati since staying there for only one night would mean that we would have to check out at 6AM and we wouldn't really be able to rest and fully enjoy our serviced apartment and its great location.

On our first night there, we had dinner in Saboten in Glorietta 5. It was my family's first time there (not mine) although the food here is similar to Yabu so the cuisine wasn't foreign to them anymore. Breakfast wasn't included in my room reservation and since we needed to be at the pier before 7AM the next day, I had to find a convenient place for us to have an early morning meal. I asked Bo's Coffee (right next to Saboten) what time they open and apparently they are open 24 hours a day. Cool! So at 5:45 AM the next day, we make our way to Bo's to get some food and coffee.

A couple of other firsts for me this weekend. After our Corregidor trip, I drove my family to BGC where we had an early dinner in P.F. Chang's. I had never eaten there before but when I saw a deal for this restaurant in Ensogo, I decided it might be a good time to try this place out. Our timing wasn't very good though since a lot of items were not available since they had a lot of guests the night before and they didn't have any deliveries to replenish their stock due to the holidays. Nevertheless, we had a pretty satisfying meal after a long and tiring day of touring. My other first was getting to have some pizza from S&R. I had been hearing about the S&R pizza for a long time from my friends who have tried it and my mom happened to shop there right before we checked in and she thought of getting some pizza for us. I will say that the pizza is pretty good and it is also really big! I had 2 1/2 slices for lunch and I felt stuffed after that.

Before checking out of Ascott, I thought it would be a good chance for me to bring my family to Tim Ho Wan for an early lunch since they do have a branch in Glorietta. Once the mall opened, my family and I made a beeline for this dim sum resto and when we arrived, a line was already forming outside. We were second in the queue and thankfully, there were still two tables available so we got seated almost as soon as we got there. Cool! A few seconds later and other people would have gotten that table (there must have been three or four groups of people behind us in line and that line formed almost instantly after we arrived). Imagine that, Tim Ho Wan had just opened and already they were full! I'm happy that my family have now gotten to try this new restaurant without having to wait in line for a really long time as most other people have to do. Oh and I also got a box of their Baked Buns with BBQ Pork for take-out but I realized as soon as I got home that I should have gotten more than just one box. :)

After checking out of Ascott, I drove my family home before taking my grandmother and my mom to the cemetery to visit my grandfather. Later that evening, I passed by a couple of my friends on my way home so I could drop off my Christmas presents. It was definitely a long and tiring few days but it definitely makes for a very memorable Post-Christmas weekend.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Goldfish Salvation by Riusuke Fukahori

I saw a clip about Riusuke Fukahori on a random TV show recently and I was so impressed by his work. He creates incredibly realistic 3D paintings of goldfish by painting on multiple layers of resin. Not only is the artwork stunning by itself but the amount of ingenuity and painstaking effort and time is just awe-inspiring. I mean, he has to wait for each layer of resin to dry before painting on that layer and he has to do so many of those. (If I recall correctly, I think each piece of art takes months to create).

Check it out here (the goldfish resin painting is showcased in the first half of the video):

video uploaded in youtube by yfu1999

In the show I saw, Fukahori-san said that he has made mistakes where the layer of resin wasn't laid out correctly, resulting in air bubbles and ruining his work. I can't imagine how frustrating that must be, knowing that you spent so much time on something and having to start again. This artist and his devotion to his craft is absolutely outstanding. I would certainly love to have one of his pieces.

Official facebook page of Riusuke Fukahori: https://www.facebook.com/RiusukeFukahori

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas everyone!

This holiday season was a bit up-and-down for me. It started out pretty well. I prepared my Christmas list quite early and I already had about 80% of all my gifts ready by the first week of December. I also managed to distribute a lot of those gifts efficiently. I then spent a significant amount of time during the last weekend before Christmas trying to complete my gift list. By late Sunday evening, I pretty much had all my presents ready.

Things started to go awry earlier this week. I realized I forgot to place a food order for our noche buena and when I checked a couple of Conti's locations, most of them said that the latest pick-up time they could give me on the 24th was at 3pm which was too early given that I had plans until the late afternoon that day. On top of that, the holiday stress and the overeating must have gotten  to me because I ended up with a bit of a bad stomach on Tuesday night, making me miss one of my annual Christmas reunion dinners with my college groupmates and friends. On Wednesday, I overslept from fatigue and I was a few hours late for my Christmas lunch (brunch actually) with my high school friends. To make matters worse, I forgot my gifts for a couple of the kids at the party. Argh!

The rest of Wednesday was a major rush. I went to Conti's along Shaw Boulevard to pick up my order (they were the only branch I called on Monday night that still allowed a 5pm pick-up). I then swung by SM Aura to purchase cupcakes from Royal Touch before passing by the house of a couple of my friends to drop off my gifts to them. By the time I got home, I was tired. But at least I had gotten most of my stuff done.

Things started getting much better again after that. My mom was quite happy with my gifts to her: I got her waterproof Canon camera to replace the one she broke a few months back and I also got her a boxful of Bath and Body Works products that included hand soaps, body lotions, hand creams, sanitizers (both regular and pocket), a body mist, a travel fragrance, and a room spray. (This one I had planned months in advance since I had to place the order from the US and have them shipped here; knowing how bad port congestion is right now, I made sure to order my stuff really early and it was a success.) I also finally set up the LED TV I got for my grandmother. I got that TV probably 5-6 months ago but it was only about a month ago that I was able to bring it to my grandmother's house. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to set it up then so I thought today would be a great time to do it. When I finally got it to work, my grandmother seemed really happy. After all, her previous TV was maybe 20 to 30 years old already and the color in the screen was all out of whack. Now she gets to see clearer pictures on a bigger screen. Cool!

My grandmother's new TV

Oh and here's a Christmas first. After I got home from my grandmother's house earlier today, I was supposed to drive to the mall to buy something. Unfortunately, my car wouldn't start. I figured I was having battery problems so I called Motolite Express Delivery. Thankfully for me, they still had operations even during Christmas. About an hour and a half after I placed my call, one of their guys arrived to check my car. He confirmed that my battery needed to be replaced. A big thanks to Motolite for being available even on Christmas day and for having a portable credit card terminal. Because of them, my Christmas didn't end up being a major bust. :)

24-hour hotline: 370-6686

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Chicago the Musical: Live in Manila!

Last week, I got to watch Chicago during its Manila run at The Theatre in Solaire Resort. I watched this musical during a trip I took to London more than a decade ago and I thought it would be good for me to take my mom to see it. Needless to say, it was an amazing show!

The Manila cast featured Bianca Marroquin as Roxie Hart, Terra MacLeod as Velma Kelley, Jeff McCarthy as Billy Flynn, and Roz Ryan as Mama Morton. Because of that London trip I took back in 2000, I was probably the only one among my friends and relatives who knew about this musical even before the Oscar-winning movie came out in 2002. I didn't initially intend to see it since I didn't know anything about it. However, it was quite heavily advertised when I was there and it was when I was reading a Time Out magazine that I decided I wanted to see it since it boasted of sensational choreography (I'm sure all the advertisements also had an impact). I later found out that Chicago received a Tony nomination for Best Choreography in a Musical in 1976 (losing to A Chorus Line) and it was choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse. Adjustments to the choreography were made by Ann Reinking. Check out the very popular jazz hands and styling of Fosse in the opening number All That Jazz (performed by Terra MacLeod):

video uploaded in youtube by TheTombRaider94

While I already enjoyed seeing it for the first time, I actually enjoyed it quite more this time around. My mom was also impressed and she said she found it a whole lot more entertaining than the movie. Part of it was probably because the performers sang live incredibly well and their words were so clearly enunciated that you could easily understand what they were singing about. It also helped that the theater had incredible acoustics. We also had a fuller view of the overall stage choreography versus the edited bits and pieces of choreography in the film that were interspersed with close-ups of the cast. It also never fails to blow my mind when I see performers singing and dancing spectacularly well at the same time. During curtain call, we gave the cast a standing ovation, as did many other people in the audience.

The final show in Manila was staged last Sunday, December 21 after a two-week run. I'm happy I was able to see it with my mom. It was also the first time I watched a show in the Solaire Theatre. Cool! I'm guessing it won't be the last.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Mr. Jones in Greenbelt closed (for now)

I was in Greenbelt earlier today to do some last minute shopping and I thought of having dinner in Mr. Jones. However, as I made my way to where I was expecting it to be, I saw that it wasn't there anymore. Instead, massive boards had been put up and there was a sign indicating that they were now building Torch there instead.

I just checked their facebook page and apparently, they closed a few months ago. Such a shame because I really love the food in Mr. Jones. However, there is a glimmer of hope. It seems they will be opening what they call a "Jr." version of this resto in BGC. I am hoping they keep at least some of my favorite dishes including their Wicked Truffled Mac n' Cheese, Big Mama's Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, and Honey Drizzled Fried Chicken and Homemade Biscuits.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


It's been three years since my grandfather 'Tatay' passed away. To commemorate this anniversary, my family offered a mass for him and we visited his grave in the cemetery. In the past couple of years, we would normally organize a picnic-style merienda with a few relatives and friends. This year, we kept things a bit more simple and intimate. We didn't prepare anything and after saying our prayers, we had dinner in Alex III. It was definitely a lot easier not having to prepare food and go to the cemetery early to set up a tent, tables and chairs. Nevertheless, the important thing is that we continue to remember and honor Tatay.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Another milestone

Another milestone in my life as an online deal site addict LOL. I have now used my 400th voucher. Wow! It was a photobook discount voucher that allowed me to hit the 400 mark.

For the most part, I've been happy with my voucher purchases. However, it is inevitable that a few of the items I bought, I wasn't too happy with. One of the most disappointing things I purchased was an Anna doll (from Frozen). I just purchased it recently from Cashcashpinoy and the intent was for me to give it as a gift to my inaanak this Christmas. It looked good in the pictures and the discounted price was around P400 (original price was P600+ I think) but when I got it, I really didn't like it. The quality wasn't that good, the velcro that was meant to keep the skirt in place wasn't attached to the skirt well, and the fabric of the cloth looked quite cheap and flimsy. My immediate thought when I saw it: "there is no way that this item costs P400!" Ugh. Oh well. I told my friend about this and she said there is someone she knows who would be happy with it even if the quality isn't that great so I agreed to just give it to her.

Other notable purchase failures: Slim N Fit shirts (I was hoping that they could act like a girdle and make my belly look thinner LOL but no, they didn't work the way I needed them to) and a Swivel Sweeper which I purchased years ago but never opened and never used. That Swivel Sweeper wasn't a complete failure though since I just gave it recently as an exchange gift hahaha. I told my friend that she can just regift it. Makes me wonder many times it will be regifted or if it will ever be used at all. :)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Bring me a higher love" cover by James Vincent McMorrow

I heard this cover on the radio recently (the original song is by Steve Winwood). I didn't know who the singer was so I had to search online. I discovered that this version was by Irish singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow. What a hauntingly beautiful voice!

video uploaded in youtube by Mike Davis

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A reunion and a wedding

Last Saturday, I met up with my friends in the Makati area. One of our friends, Cesar, who is now based in the US visited Manila for a few days so we made sure we got to hang out while he was here. We had dinner in Romulo Cafe along Jupiter Street so that Cesar could enjoy some Pinoy food while he was in town. We then headed to A'Toda Madre which is a tequila bar. Strangely enough, no one in our group was a tequila fan. In fact, most of us didn't really like tequila. However, I thought I'd give it a try since I did had some really good tequila when I traveled to Mexico about a decade ago so I was hoping I would find similar tequila here. Unfortunately, I didn't really like the shot I got (Blue Iguana) but I did enjoy the two margaritas I ordered. I guess if I visit this place again, I will stick to the margaritas. We then headed to Moonshine Bar along Jupiter where we stayed for a few more hours before calling it a night.

Thankfully, I woke up hangover-free the next day because I was attending the wedding of my colleague in the mid-afternoon. The ceremony was held in the Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus near Resorts World (this is one of the churches I visited that had free basement parking). The reception followed in the early evening in One Esplanade in the MOA complex. I got there quite early and none of the other folks in my table were there. I was probably alone for close to an hour and during that time, the waiters ended up passing by quite a few times, offering me canap├ęs which were all tremendously good! They served portobello mushroom cooked in batter and served with a wasabi cream dip, chorizo and cheese-flavored potato croquettes, and salmon served on a light pancake. (Clearly they were so delicious as I remember every single one of them. :)). Eventually, my other colleagues arrived. It was a good reception and you could see that the couple and their parents were all incredibly thankful given that there was threat of terrible weather on Sunday due to typhoon Ruby (luckily, it didn't rain that day).

The rains did come the next day, Monday. Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) still caused a lot of damage but thankfully, it didn't turn out to have the same strength as Yolanda. Hopefully we don't have any more storms in the country in the remainder of the year.