Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Record month

What an interesting month. I achieved a few personal blogging records and milestones this March. I celebrated my blog's 10th anniversary. I scored another perfect month after managing to put up one blog post for each day of the month, a feat I accomplished only twice before. I also became a bit of a blogging machine as I published 67 posts in the first three months of 2015. This is by far the most I have written over a three-month period.

Due to a combination of these things and a few other factors, my blog also recorded the most number of views in a single month, with 3608. Wow! This is the first time my blog exceeded 3000 views in a month; prior to this, the most hits my blog got in a month was 2720. Checking my blog stats, it seems that about half of the traffic I got in the entire month came after I published these four posts:

Michelle Obama dances on Ellen on March 18.
Total hits that day - 835
Not sure what was going on here but immediately after I posted this, my blog ended up with 763 views. Which is strange because this post itself only has 12 views. :) My guess is that maybe there is a horde of bots that detected what I wrote.

Happy 10th anniversary! on March 10
Total hits that day - 557
I shared this blog post with all my friends so my blog was bound to have a lot of views after that.

Happy 10th anniversary! (Part 2) on March 11
Total hits that day - 239
I also shared this post with my friends, especially since it had a very good summary of the many local and international trips I've taken.

10 books that have stayed with me (part 2) on March 18
Total hits that day - 182
Once again, I don't know what was going on. Maybe a lot of bots picked up something I wrote here (or in the previous post on 10 books that have stated with me (part 1)

Regardless of how these blog stats work (they all still don't really make sense to me LOL), March 2015 is definitely one of the most memorable months in my blogging history.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Fox on Just Dance 2015

I stumbled upon this video on youtube. I think it's really silly but in a cool, funny and entertaining way, living up to the playful humor and spirit of the song itself.

video uploaded in youtube by AverageAsianDude

Where can I get a fox costume like this (including the swag gangsta coat and jewelry)? I'd love to perform dance this somewhere hahaha.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Juan Flavier's Legacy

This piece of news has been making its rounds recently. And why not? It's a wonderfully heartwarming true-to-life story about how good government can greatly improve the lives of people.

Juan Flavier was the Health Secretary back in the 1990s and under his leadership, the DOH launched Oplan Sagip Mata. Apparently, many Filipino children suffer from loss of vision but in a lot of cases, blindness can be prevented by proper medical care. One of the beneficiaries of this program was Sandra Magalang, a cross-eyed child from a poor family.

While we don't know whether or not she would have lost her sight given her situation, her eye problem was corrected and the assistance she got from DOH definitely made a significant impact in her life. So much so that during Flavier's wake late last year (sadly, he passed away on October 30, 2014), Sandra paid her last respects and left this note for Flavier's family:

To the family and loved ones of Dr. Flavier.

I apologize for writing at the back of this guest list, but this is the only way I can think of to convey my gratitude to your family and to Dr. Flavier.

My life was changed by his Oplan Sagip Mata almost 20 years ago, and thanks to this great man I was able to live differently despite being born cross-eyed and poor. Without him, I could not have achieved the honors I have achieved, and his health programs have helped me reach places I never thought I would. I even graduated summa cum laude from this university, and this is all thanks to your great father/grandfather/loved one.

Thank you, and my deepest condolences.

Sandra Magalang, UP Diliman 2010, 2014

As it turned out, Sandra graduated salutatorian of UP Law last year 2014 and she placed third in the recently concluded Bar exams. Amazing! While Juan Flavier is no longer with us, his legacy lives on. He has definitely left an indelible mark in the lives of the many Filipinos.

photo from www.rappler.com

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Village

No, not the movie by M Night Shyamalan. I'm talking about the board game. I played The Village for the first time recently. My friend Mike is a major board game fan who had been living abroad for many years already before returning to the Philippines late last year. He asked me to join him recently with a few of his other friends to play this game, which is apparently one of his curent favorites.

photo from boardgamegeek.com

As is true with most other games, the objective of The Village is to end up with the most points. There is a whole variety of ways to score points, making for very interesting game play. It normally takes an hour to finish the game but the first time we played, it took us a bit (a lot?) longer as a few of us were still figuring out what the best strategy was to score as many points as possible. The key to a great game is that the actions of your opponents can trigger a change in your strategy and this is true for the Village as my approach was different each time I played it. Hopefully I get to play this game again in the near future and see if my learning curve will help me win the next time. :)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Movie Watching

I got to see three movies in the last week. (Before I talk about them, though, I am a bit surprised at how expensive cinema tickets are now: Greenbelt 3 - P240, Glorietta 4 - P220, Megamall - P232. Up until 1-2 years ago, you could still find theaters that sold tickets at under P200; that no longer seems to be the case.)

Kingsman: The Secret Service

photo from www.comingsoon.net

Based on the comic book series The Secret Service, Kingsman provides its viewers with an awesome combination of hip superhero-movie flair and old-school spy-film style. It's edgy and cheeky, paying homage to classic spy thrillers while throwing in enough modern-day twists and turns to make it entertainingly unpredictable. Colin Firth has the refined-gentleman role down pat but he is equally superb as a very physical, well-trained fighting machine. His co-star Taron Egerton has the right amount of diamond-in-the-ruff edginess and charm. The movie also gives us an uber-cool villain sidekick Gazelle (seriously, she is one of the absolute coolest movie villains I have seen in a long time!) and it also features Mark Hamill in the cast (he portrayed Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy although I really didn't recognize him). Kingsman: The Secret Service has a lot of great action and is loads of fun.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is actually a follow-up to the first film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. That film was released in the US on the same day as the mega-blockbuster The Avengers so it flew under the radar. Its premise intrigued me so I got the DVD of that first film last year and I enjoyed it. The question is, how does this second one compare to the first? I actually thought The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was better, making it a perfect sequel. Because the first film had already established the context, the characters and their dynamic, this second one was able to move forward at a faster pace without losing its heart. The acting remains superb, but that is to be expected from a cast that includes two-time Oscar awardee Maggie Smith and Oscar awardee Judi Dench. I do think that watching the first film will make you appreciate this second one a lot more, but that said, my friend Joyce and her friends watched only this sequel and they all still really enjoyed it. The ending is a bit too neatly tied together but hey, with all the bad news happening in the world, I can definitely do with more of these really nice happy endings. :)


photo from en.wikipedia.org

This is the second Disney movie I've seen this year that  is based on fairy tales (the first was of course the Into the Woods). I was sort of expecting a major twist in the plot of this Cinderella but there wasn't. That said, there were a whole lot of smaller differences and updates to the original storyline that strengthened the character development and made for a very interesting watch. The cinematography is beautiful and the costume design is topnotch. This is another feel-good movie that makes you smile, even if you do know things are going to turn out in the end.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Finale B from Rent

One of my favorite songs from any musical, and my favorite song from Rent. Finale B talks about how fleeting life is and reminds us that we need to live in the moment and appreciate what we have while we have it.

There's only us, there's only this
Forget regret or life is yours to miss

No other road, no other way
No day but today

video uploaded in youtube by LivetoRENT

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Plane crashes in the French Alps

Tragic news. Germanwings flight 4U 9525 from Barcelona to Dusseldorf crashed in the French Alps yesterday. Sadly, it has been confirmed that there were no survivors. (A total of 150 people on board - 144 passengers and 6 crew members.) 

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims of the crash as well as their families and loved ones.

Read more about this tragedy here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Va Bene Pasta Deli

I had been hearing about Va Bene, a little Italian place at the Petron station on Edsa corner Pasay Road, for a while now. When I saw Deal Grocer vouchers for this restaurant, I decided to buy a few. As such, I ended up visiting this restaurant three times in the last couple of months. (The good thing about the Petron station is that you can get your parking ticket validated by the establishment you visit, meaning you get free parking for the first two hours. The downside is that parking space is limited; it may take you a while to find an available slot.)

As a result of my three trips here, I got to try a few different items on the menu. The first one I had was the Pappardelle, which is a pasta dish with 12-hour braised lamb shank, Italian sausage, semi-dried tomatoes, and black olives (P460). I always enjoy braised or stewed meat and I love pasta so this was a good combination for me. The lamb was tender and the flavor of the sauce was good.

Pappardelle (P460)

On my next visit, I tried the Organic Eggs Tagliatelle with portobello mushrooms, white wine cream sauce, and truffle oil (P440). I'm a huge fan of truffle oil so I was expecting to be blown away by this but it didn't quite live up to the hype. I thought it lacked salt. (Now that I think about it, I should have just asked for salt; maybe I would have enjoyed it a lot more). In my opinion, Cantinetta still has the best truffle pasta that I have tried.

Organic Eggs Tagliatelle (P440)

Finally, I had the Nonna Gnocchi, which is potato pasta with Italian sausage, portobello mushrooms, prawns, and taleggio cheese (P480). This dish I loved for the most part. Ever since I search gnocchi in the internet because I kept on hearing it in Top Chef and other cooking shows, I've become a fan. This dish was rich and full of flavor and the prawns were perfectly cooked. I didn't really like the crumbled bits of sausage though. I though they were out of place and didn't really add anything to the dish.

Nonna Gnocchi (P480)

Overall, I found Va Bene to be a good restaurant. The pasta noodles are fresh and very well-made (although for me, something about the noodles doesn't allow them to fully absorb the flavor of the sauces they are served with). The service is also excellent. While Va Bene is multi-awarded, I prefer a few other Italian places to it. That said, this is still a quality restaurant and I wouldn't mind eating here again.

Va Bene has been recognized multiple times as one of the best restaurants in Manila.

Va Bene has two locations: Makati and BGC. (Note: there seem to be slight differences in the menu of these two restaurants. I think Nonna Gnocchi is not available in BGC. Check out the menus here.)

Va Bene Pasta Deli

Makati Branch
2nd Floor Petron Gas Station
EDSA Cor. Pasay Road
Dasmarinas, Makati City

BGC Branch
Cinema Level, 3rd Floor Bonifacio High Street Central Cinemas
Fort Bonifacio Global City (BGC)
Taguig City

Telephone: 02-5569442 / 2169879
Mobile: 09177225780

Monday, March 23, 2015

Indian Wells

Congratulations to Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep who took the men's and women's titles at Indian Wells, one of tennis' biggest events outside the majors and the year-end championships.

Both finals were three-set affairs. The men's championship match featured another battle between the world #1 Djokovic and #2 Roger Federer. Federer had been getting the better of Djokovic recently, winning 3 of their last 4 matches. Despite this, Novak repeated his achievement last year as he emerged victorious against Roger. On the women's side, Simona Halep overcame injury, personal tragedy, and a resurgent Jelena Jankovic to win. Halep's cousin committed suicide last week and she struggled through the grief while also battling a blister on her foot. Former #1 Jankovic was in fact up a set and a break and she served for the match at 5-4 in the 2nd set before Halep mounted her comeback. This is Simona's third title in 2015, the most of any player so far (granted of course we are only 3 months into the year and there's a whole lot more tennis to play).

The story of the tournament, however, is Serena Williams' first appearance in the draw since 2001, ending her 14-year boycott of the tournament. That year, Venus withdrew from her semifinal match against Serena at the last minute, and both Williams sisters were booed in the final with Serena playing and Venus watching in the stands. (Read more about this controversy here.) This year, it was Serena's turn to withdraw from her semifinal match against Simona Halep, but her departure from the tournament was met with supportive cheers from the crowd.

Rafa Nadal is still slowly working his way back into top form, making it to the quarterfinals before losing a very tough and close three-set match against world #6 Milos Raonic. The clay court season starts next month and hopefully Rafa can return to his winning ways by then.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bizu Macaron Day: Macarons for Charity

I finally recovered from sore eyes and to celebrate, I spent most of Saturday out of the house. I watched a movie (I'll write about this later), met up with friends, and went to the mall. In the course of the day, I happened to pass by Bizu and I decided to buy coffee and one of their bread products since they apply a 30% discount to some of their baked goods towards the end of the day. As I made my purchase, the lady at the cashier handed me a free macaron, saying that it was Bizu Macaron Day. Cool!

my free macaron

She further explains that the proceeds of all macaron sales on that day will be donated to Virlanie Foundation. As such, despite having a free macaron already, I decided to get two more: Tainori, a macaron made of 64% Valrhona chocolate, with flavors of yellow fruit with earth tones of roasted almonds (P65) and the Lychee Rose (P55).

Lychee Rose (left) and Tainori (right)

I think Bizu Macaron Day is a great idea and I love that it has a charity aspect to it. As I do enjoy macarons, maybe I will keep an eye out for this next year.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rest in peace, Tita Nelia

I received very sad news this week. My Tita Nelia passed away.

I found out that there was major trouble when I attended a family gathering a couple of weeks ago. As we were saying our goodbyes to each other, my mom and I got pulled into a brief discussion where we learned that Tita Nelia was already on life support in the US. (She was staying with her daughter who lives there now.) Then earlier this week, I got a text from my eldest cousin saying that Tita Nelia had unfortunately passed away.

The last time I saw her was during a family reunion in late August. I guess it's good that my last memory of her is a happy one. While it must be devastating for my cousin to have had to say goodbye to her mother much sooner than she would have wanted, I guess the positive side to this is that they were together until Tita Nelia's final moments on earth. My thoughts and prayers go out to her, and to my cousin Via.

Eternal rest, grant unto Nelia Pobre, O Lord
and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, March 20, 2015


How many people do you know buy a shredder for personal use? Well, I did. I guess you could say that I'm being overly paranoid since I don't want to simply crumple old confidential documents and bills and toss them in the trash. I don't want to burn them either. So you can just imagine how much storage space is being used at home by all these pieces of paper that I don't need anymore.

I actually purchased a cheap shredder in Amazon.com early last year but it broke immediately upon my first use (what a lemon). As such, I decided to get another one at an office supply store. I purchased the Fellowes Powershred P-33 which was the smallest and cheapest one available. I don't really need anything more powerful than this.

photo from www.fellowes.com

While my new shredder can handle up to 8 sheets of paper at a time, the manual recommends shredding a maximum of 40 pages a day, probably so that the motor doesn't overheat or the cutter doesn't wear out too quickly. I've slowly been reducing my stash of bills and documents over the last few weeks. Here is the first batch that I've gone through:

It feels good finally getting rid of all those old papers. I still have a lot more old stuff to go through but I'm not in a rush. Needless to say, I am quite happy with my purchase. :)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Backwards Piano Playing: Frozen medley

I came across this Frozen medley video on youtube. What caught my attention and truly impressed me was the fact that in the middle of this video, both Jason and Sara play the piano while facing backwards. That is so impressive!

video uploaded by Jason Lyle Black

The video author Jason has done this backwards piano playing thing before but now we also get to see his sister do it. Amazing! They are trying to get on Ellen so hopefully they make it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

10 books that have stayed with me (part 2)

This is Part 2 of my list of ten books that have stayed with me over the years. You can check out Part 1 here.

6. Animal Farm by George Orwell

It is said that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely and this saying is clearly depicted in George Orwell's Animal Farm. The lead characters Snowball and Napoleon start out with a solid sense of what is right and are guided by a strong moral compass, but this virtue is compromised as they remain in positions of authority. This novel how easy it is to slip into darkness when people keep crossing that imaginary line that they said they would never cross.

Of all the books in my list, this is the one that disturbed me the most. It doesn't have a happy ending and seeing evil forces slowly start to prevail bothered me as I continued to read. Not only does Animal Farm show the negative overwhelming impact of political abuse but it also tackles how difficult it is for people to act against it. It is a brilliant reflection of political society and while the book is said to be based on the events leading up to the 1917 Russian Revolution, these concepts still hold true today.

7. Myth Adventures by Robert Linn Aspren

Technically, this shouldn't be counted because Myth Adventures is actually a fantasy fiction series. However, without realizing it at the time, I apparently read a compilation of the first few books of this series that were bound together and thought they were all just one book. The compilation actually belonged to my brother who suggested I read it. I did and I really enjoyed it. It's another one of those books (or, well, series in this case) that I reread quite soon after I finished. The characters are entertaining, the action is brisk, and the imagery is vivid. The writing is also very clever and funny as evidenced by its constant use of puns (the title is meant to sound like misadventures while the names of the dimensions and its inhabitants often make you chuckle.)

8. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

photo from en.wikipedia.org

Once again, this was high school required reading that left an impression on me. It starts off with the key character, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, not being content with his life of competing for food and it uses flight as a symbol of achievement or the attainment of a higher purpose (now that I think about it, it is quite similar to Hope for the Flowers). This short novel highlights the importance of trying to push beyond our perceived limitations and how, through inspiration, learning from others with greater experience, and continued training, we can accomplish feats that we may have initially thought were impossible. As such, it's a pretty good book for young people to read.

9. Armadillo by William Boyd

Of all the books in my list of ten, this is the only one that I didn't really like. It's part of my list because of the circumstances surrounding my purchase of this book. Back in 2001, I took a 2-week leisure trip to the UK. I met up with a couple of friends in Edinburgh and while there, we went to a bookstore. I had no plans to buy anything but since I was waiting for my friends, I randomly picked up a book and read the blurb at the back cover: a man was going through his normal daily routine but as he arrived at his first business appointment, he is shocked to see a hanged man. Upon reading that, I was like, whoa, what an interesting premise! I thought about getting that book but as I was at the tail-end of my trip, I had very little money left and my credit cards had already been maxed out. I decided to just get it when I was back in Manila instead. However, it somehow slipped my mind to take note of the name of that novel. Damn! I was kicking myself for that major mistake.

Some time later, I was out with my friends and we were hanging out in the mall waiting for our movie to start and I decided to quickly swing by the bookstore there. I once again randomly picked up a book and started reading the blurb. It went: "One winter's morning, Lorimer Black - young, good-looking, but with a somewhat troubled expression - goes to keep a perfectly routine business appointment and finds a hanged man." Holy crap! What are the odds that I would find that same book? Maybe it's name - Armadillo - sounded really interesting to me. Or maybe it's bright green color made it stand out from the rest of the books on the shelf. Whatever the case, I bought that book immediately. I read it soon after that and I thought it was just okay; in fact, I don't really remember what happens in it anymore. It is actually a number one bestseller which implies that a whole lot of other people think it's a good book so maybe I should read it again.

10. How to kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

photo from en.wikipedia.org

Another literary classic rounds out my list of ten books that have stayed with me. My English teacher in fourth year high school wanted someone to do an oral book review and I volunteered for it. Apparently, she was expecting that the volunteer to have already read the book and I hadn't. In fact, I didn't even have this book at home so I had to buy one at National Bookstore. I was happy that I volunteered for this task though since I would not have read it otherwise. To Kill a Mockingbird deals with racial inequality and injustice and it portrays the loss of innocence through exposure to these kinds of evil. This Pulitzer Prize-winning book was published in 1960, a time when segregation was still institutionalized in the US (it ended in 1964 through the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964).


So that's my list. I will be the first to admit that it's not the coolest nor edgiest list, given that I read a lot of these back in high school and some of them were even required reading. :) Nevertheless I would still recommend these books (or, well, most of them) to anyone.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

10 books that have stayed with me (part 1)

Because of my recent desire to read more, I started thinking back to the books I've read throughout my life (I haven't really read a lot since high school). I remembered something that was making its rounds on social media last year: people were asked to list ten books that have stayed with them in some way. I thought to myself, have I read enough books in my life to compile a list of ten? So I started this exercise and I realized that I can actually put together my own list. I thought I'd share it here. (This is part 1 of 2.)

1. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

photo from www.novelr.com

The Joy Luck Club was required reading for my high school batch and I'm glad it was because it is one of my favorite books. It shares the stories of eight Chinese women - four mother-daughter pairs - who live in the US. The novel is divided into 16 vignettes that tell the tale of each women as a child and as an adult. I love how these stories develop each character and provide incredible insight into their motivations, how they showcase Chinese and Chinese-American culture in a way that makes you understand, and how they interconnect with each other, making the whole greater than the sum of its individual parts.

You'd think that I wasn't the target audience of this novel, or any of the other guys in school for that matter, but it's such a beautifully written book that pretty much everyone in my batch loved it, gender notwithstanding. It's one of the few books that I wanted to read again immediately after I finished reading it (and I did). I recommended The Joy Luck Club to the rest of my family and they loved it as well. When the movie came out a few years later, a lot of folks from our batch went to see it.

2. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

photo from en.wikipedia.org

This is a literary classic that would probably be in many people's list of 10 books that have stayed with them and it is one of the few books I have read more than once. What I love about The Little Prince is that it shares powerful and universal life lessons which are presented through very meaningful allegories. Its key messages about human relationships are so eloquently yet succinctly written that you will find lot of very quotable lines in the book, such as ""You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed" and the ever-popular "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

The Little Prince is the first book I read that wasn't The Hardy Boys or The Bobbsey Twins; I must have been fifth grade then. I read it a second time a few years later and I appreciated it even more. I now have an urge to reread this beautiful book; I reckon it will have an even greater impact to me now.

3. Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus

photo from www.amazon.com

This is possibly the shortest book I've read, but its brevity doesn't take away any of its value. This allegorical novel tackles our desire to find the meaning of life and achieve self-actualization. It depicts how it can be so easy to blindly follow other people's paths without even knowing where they are going and how easy it can be to step on others to get to the top. In the end, Hope for the Flowers shows how fulfillment can come from finding your own way to reach the sky and how greatness can be accomplished at no one else's expense.

4. Windmills of the Gods by Sidney Sheldon

photo from www.goodreads.com

Reading all those amateur detective books as a kid probably piqued my interest in the suspense-thriller genre so when I got older, I moved on to books by Sidney Sheldon, Robert Ludlum, and Frederick Forsyth. The first of these that I read was Windmills of the Gods by Sidney Sheldon. What I remember most from this book was how blown away I was by the conclusion (I won't spoil it for you). I don't know if the ending will still be as shocking to people who read it now since we have become so used to complicated plot twists and turns over the years but at that time, everyone talked about that stunning ending.

5. Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

I became a football fan and a massive Liverpool FC supporter in 2001 after visiting the UK in the midst of World Cup qualifying fever. A friend suggested that I read Fever Pitch as he thought I might like it and I did. While Fever Pitch talks about Nick Hornby's adoration of Arsenal (and not Liverpool), I could definitely relate to it as I have proven to be a crazy sports fan at times. This book is thoroughly entertaining as the author cleverly talks about different Arsenal matches he'd seen over the years in context of what was going on in his personal life at that time.

I will write about the remaining five books shortly in part 2.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Juliet, Naked

I spent a bit of time at the hospital earlier this year due to my stomach problems. I had to go there twice in two days, first so that I could get a medical prescription and undergo lab tests and and second so that my doctor could review the lab results. I knew from previous experience that the waiting time would be tremendously long. Normally, I would just go there with my ipod and listen to music while I waited. This time, however, I decided to read a book instead. As I went through my admittedly limited book collection at home, I realized that I had a book that my friend Michele and her husband Ferg gave me a while back that I hadn't read yet - Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. Seeing this book in my shelf was kinda like finding buried treasure because I completely forgot that I had it. Excited, I took it with me to the hospital and read it while waiting. It actually made the waiting time pass by quickly because it's the kind of novel that holds your interest and makes you want to keep reading. I'm a pretty slow reader though so it took me a while to finish reading (I read a couple of hours a day for about 4-5 days spread over a few weeks).

Juliet, Naked is a really good book and it reminded me why Nick Hornby is one of my favorite authors. It's a light read, making it quite easy for me to pick up from where I left off even after a few days of not reading. I definitely related to its themes of music and fanaticism and it was also interesting to find out what the meaning of the title is (I won't spoil it for you). It is open-ended as I was left wondering what happened to the key characters once I had finished reading but the story does revolve around the intricacies of complicated relationship so having a neat and clean resolution wouldn't have been right. This was the first book I read after Selected stories of O Henry (not counting travel books) and it actually makes me want to read more

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Michelle Obama dances on Ellen

This is cool. American First Lady Michelle Obama guested on Ellen to talk about her Let's Move campaign and she and Ellen perform the Gimme Five dance with some So you think you can dance All-stars. Check it out here (jump to 3:51 for the start of the dance):

video uploaded in youtube by TheEllenShow

Saturday, March 14, 2015

DLSU Lady Spikers settle for 2nd again

The DLSU Lady Spikers settle for second place for the second year in a row. losing once again to the Ateneo Lady Eagles.

Ateneo have been the clear frontrunners this season, being the defending champions, keeping last year's team intact (none of them graduated) and adding even more key players to their roster. However, La Salle did show signs that they may possibly challenge Ateneo for the trophy. While they didn't win against Ateneo during the eliminations, both games were very close and could have gone either way. In DLSU's do-or-die game against NU before the finals, Kim Fajardo seemed to be distributing the ball well and Cyd Demecillo seemed to be hitting the ball a lot more aggressively. I felt throughout this season that those two things need to happen for La Salle to score the upset and seeing them perform that way going into the finals was giving me hope.

Unfortunately, a terrible blow hit DLSU towards the end of that do-or-die game against NU. Team captain Ara Galang landed badly on her knee, resulting in serious injury. The diagnosis: torn ACL, MCL and medial meniscus and a big bone bruise. The seriousness of this injury meant that she would not be able to play against ADMU in the finals. In fact, it may take her up to 8 months to recover. (Such sad news, the Asian Games is in June and that would have been a great opportunity for her to play for the Philippines.)

Ara's absence meant that La Salle's firepower was now seriously compromised, what with her being the team's top scorer (and one of the top scorers of the entire league). The Lady Spikers fought valiantly and tried their best but it wasn't enough against a well-rounded and confident team led by 2-time MVP and 3-time top scorer Alyssa Valdez. (Check out Ai Ai de las Alas cheering the team up in an impromptu post-game meet-and-greet!)

It also didn't help DLSU that they were plagued with other injuries this year: Desiree Cheng suffered an MCL tear during the season, alternate setter Mika Esperenza had an ACL tear that kept her off the court even before the season started, and on game 1 of the finals, Camille Cruz suffered an ACL and LCL injury as well. This year has really not been good for DLSU. Not to say that La Salle would have won without these injuries - Ateneo would still have been the top seed and favorite to win - but it would have been nice to see both teams slug it out in the final with a full and healthy roster. (Side note: my favorite photos this season are that of Mika Reyes giving Camille Cruz a piggyback ride to the dugout after she injured her knee.)

Despite the second-place finish, it was still a very good season for La Salle who have now reached the finals for the sixth straight year. A couple of the younger players like Eli Soyud and Mary Joy Baron are showing a lot of promise. Hopefully they can do well again next year (and who knows, maybe they can even take it a step further in season 78). Thank you Lady Spikers!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sick at home

What a bummer. It's the second time in the last three years that I am sick with conjunctivitis i.e. sore eyes. Similar to the last time I contracted this unfortunate disease, I have no idea where I picked it up. No one I know has it and I haven't really interacted with anyone with red eyes recently. I didn't even know that sore eyes was going around!

In any case, I have now been quarantined at home for the most part in the last few days. The last couple of times I had sore eyes, I was sick for two weeks but I am hoping that this time, I get well sooner than that. My eyes don't seem exceptionally to be red now (not like before) and they don't hurt as much so hopefully I will be okay by the weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Beautiful Samsung Ad

I saw this Samsung ad the other day and I think it's amazing. Samsung Turkey just launched their video call center so they can be of service to those who cannot hear. Check it out.

video uploaded in youtube by DigitalSynopsis.com

I know this is an ad and it was put together to boost sales of Samsung. Skeptics may even say that the people in the video are all actors. Who knows? But beyond the ad, the fact is that Samsung put together a service that helps deaf people. (I use the word deaf because apparently, according to wikipedia, the word "hearing-impaired" is viewed by the Deaf community as derogator). It's a great step forward and hopefully more companies can start thinking of similar ways ways to have an even greater positive impact to the communities to which they belong.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Happy 10th anniversary! (Part 2)

Here are several more highlights plus a summary of virtually every travel post I've written over the last ten years. (Read more about my blog's 10th anniversary here.)

Some personally interesting posts I've written in the last few years:
  • Photo finishes at the train station - part 2 - I re-read this post every so often and each time I do, I am transported back to that intense time when I almost lost my camera. Reading this post again allows me to relive the whole gamut of emotion that engulfed me in what apparently was just an hour. Crazy!
  • The ultimate 21-day challenger - It's amazing how fit and disciplined I used to be. I need to be inspired by my previous self and what I used to be capable of doing.
  • [SWEDEN] Where the hell is Frosty? - I love how I wrote about this embarrassing yet hilarious experience of me slipping badly on the snow. I can still feel the humiliation years later. :)
  • A 'Master Class' performance by Cherie Gil - Not a lot of people were in the audience when I watched it so I put in an effort to write this review of Master Class so I could share it with my friends and encourage them to see it. A couple of them did and they said the theater had a good-sized crowd when they watched.
  • My marathons-for-a-cause - I ran my first marathon before running became a craze in the Philippines and I raised a lot of money for charity by doing this. I started in 2003 but because I launched this blog in 2005, I was only able to write about my third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh marathons-for-a-cause.

Family moments:
Nanay and Tatay's 50th wedding anniversary, Family trip to Singapore, Tita Florence and Tito Mario's Golden wedding anniversary, Mama's 90th birthday, Nanay's birthday in Tagaytay, Wedding at Paco Park Church, Awesome day at Enchanted Kingdom
(Honestly, there are way too many to mention but I thought I should share at least a few.)

Some of my favorite restaurant posts
La Cocina de Tita Moning, Chateau Hestia, Romulo's, Barbara's, Bohol Bee Farm, Java Jazz Coffee, Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen, Prince Albert, Lola Cafe + Bar
Special mention: Adarna Food and Culture (too bad this place is now closed)

International travel

Overview, Kremlin and Red Square, more Moscow sights, Moscow Metro, Sergiev Posad, Vladimir and Suzdal, Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg walking tour, the Hermitage, palaces around St. Petersburg, more St. Petersburg sights, Russian ballet, final thoughts, navigating the Moscow Metro, Travel tips
Summer holiday in Iceland and Austria, Blue Lagoon and Hallgrímskirkja, Glacier Lagoon, whale-watching in Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, Dettifoss and the Jewels of the North tour, last day in Iceland + suggested itinerary
Overview, Oslo, Norway in a Nutshell, Bergen, Stockholm
Overview, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin and ame'asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosques, Empire Hotel and Country Club, Kampong Ayer and Royal Regalia Museum, Travel tips and suggested itinerary, final thoughts
Lucerne landmarks, walking around Lucerne, Locarno and the canton of Ticino
Overview, Seoul, Incheon, travel tips and final thoughts
Summer holiday in Iceland and Austria, Overview, Vienna, Salzburg, Sound of Music tour, Final thoughts and travel tips
Overview, Legoland Malaysia, Universal Studios Singapore (part 2), Final thoughts
Overview, Universal Studios Singapore, Singapore Zoo, Suntec City, and the Merlion, Marina Bay Sands
Overview, Amsterdam sights, other Amsterdam experiences, final thought
Copenhagen, more on Copenhagen, sights surrounding Copenhagen
Lund, Malmo sights, more Malmo sights
Hong Kong Disneyland, Macau, Brazil, Bali, Bangkok
Belgium, living in Brussels 1, living in Brussels 2, Ghent, Bruges

I also have almost 30 posts about my life in Lund, Sweden from January to June 2007. There are too many posts to share them all here so you can look through my 2007 posts to find them. 

Local travel

Overview, Sumaguing Cave, Hanging coffins and other Sagada sights, Sagada terraces and falls, Banaue Rice Terraces, final thoughts and tips
Overview, White water rafting, Shooting and rappelling, more Kalinga experiences, Travel tips and final thoughts
Trip 1: Overview, Basco, Sabtang Island, more of Basco, Travel tips and final thoughts
Trip 2: Revisiting, Basco highlights, new sights and experiences, changes since 2012, final thoughts and more travel tips
Cebu, Bohol, Bohol Bee Farm 
Tito Tito's Wedding, Visiting Taal, Nanay's birthday
Food Trip 1: Restaurant Verbena, Sonya's Garden, Bag of Beans, Buon Giorno, Chateau Hestia
Food Trip 2: Breakfast at Antonio's, Chine, Mano's Greek Taverna, Java Jazz Coffee
Food trip 3: Amoroma Ristorante Italiano, Morielli's
Puerto Del Sol, Hundred Islands
Intramuros, Corregidor, Cagayan De Oro (this proves I didn't use to include photos), Coron

It's amazing how much I've written over the years. If you think about it, I have actually written enough to fill a book! Many of my travel posts have proven quite useful to family and friends who were planning to visit a place I had already been to and were asking for tips and recommendations. There have even been a couple of occasions when my friends shared what I had written to their friends. Cool!

The last ten years of blogging have been an absolute blast. Looking forward to the next ten years. :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Happy 10th anniversary!

Today is the 10th anniversary of my blog. Wow!

I started this personal project as an afterthought. Ten years, 1194 posts, and 200 visitor comments later and my blog is more alive and active today than I ever thought it would be. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, here's a look at some the highlights of the last ten years.

My first post: New blog!
Most prolific months: January 2013 and January 2014. In both months, I managed to post once a day. 
Most prolific year: 2014, with 161 posts.
Post with the most comments: [SWEDEN] My apartment (with 10 comments)

My most viewed blog posts:
  1. Tagaytay Food Trip: Chateau Hestia (517 views)
  2. Brunei: Travel tips and Suggested Itinerary (468 views)
  3. Kimstore! (421 views)
  4. Pistachio Sans Rival from Delize (408 views)
  5. Conti's Strawberry Shortcake (362 views)
It's a shame that my posts about the pistachio sans rival of Delize and Conti's strawberry shortcake have been viewed a lot since they have terrible pictures LOL.

The post that triggered my blog's resurgence: Valentine's Day
After writing a lot when I lived in Sweden in 2007, I started to post a lot less in the late 2007 to 2009 period. In fact, the only months for which I don't have a single blog post are November 2007 and February 2008. I then randomly read this old post which I wrote in early 2007. I had completely forgotten about that brief but wonderful moment. It was then that I decided to blog as frequently as I could to capture more amazing memories, from the subtle to the grand.

Blog tradition: looking back at the previous year to start off the new year
I did this for the first time in 2007 when I wrote The Best of 2006 (part 1) and The Best of 2006 (part 2). I did it again when I started posting more regularly in 2010 and since then, I have made it a point to do it each year:

How my blog has evolved over the years:
As I read through the my many blog posts over the years, it's quite interesting to see how my themes, tone, and even writing style have changed.
  • I used to write about many unrelated things that I did and experienced over a period of time in one really long post. That is, until a friend pointed that out to me and I now try to make each blog post more thematic.
  • I started out writing about travel and dining experiences without posting any photos. A few friends recommended me to share photos whenever I can so I do that quite a lot now. I also provide hyperlinks to sources and useful references, something I didn't do at the start.
  • I used to rant quite a bit (in a whiny, not-so-good way that is probably best done in person to a significant other or a friend) when things weren't going so well in my life and in my work. Now I try to remain a lot more positive. I still write about crazy things that happen to me or stupid things that annoy me, but I generally try to do it in a way that injects a bit of wry humor that will probably make me shake my head and chuckle when I read about them in the future.
  • When I started out, I would write in Taglish but since I have friends who can't speak Filipino, I switched to just writing in English.
  • I used to write a whole lot about American Idol but I haven't really watched AI in the last few (several?) years. I barely post about AI anymore.
  • I also changed the look of my blog twice. I used to not have a previous button until last year.
Interesting choice I've made so far: Not monetizing my blog
I still haven't monetized my blog despite many friends saying I should because I write quite regularly. However, I read my own blog or I provide links to previous blog posts quite frequently (especially in my look-back posts) and I understand that increasing your own blog's hits by clicking on your own posts is not allowed. Also, on a more aesthetic level, I like how clean my blog looks without any ads. So at least for the time being, I will keep my blog ad-free. :)

There are a lot more highlights I want to share especially related to travel so I will be posting part 2 of my 10th anniversary celebration shortly. :)

Monday, March 09, 2015

Throwback: Bruges

(While going through my old blog posts, I realized that some of the most interesting things I've written about are my travel experiences. There are a few places I got to visit before I launched this blog back in 2005 and I thought it would be good if I write about those trips as well.)

Bruges is an enchanting city with a quaint, small-town vibe. It boasts of beautiful architecture set amidst lovely canals, giving it a medieval charm that attracts multitudes of tourists each year. It is not surprising then that the Historic Centre of Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the many canals around Bruges

One of the best places to see in this city's historic centre is the Markt or Market Square. It's pretty big as central squares go and it is surrounded by buildings whose medieval architecture has been preserved over the centuries.

Colorful houses along the Markt that feature medieval architecture

One of the most important buildings around this square is the Provinciaal Hof, or Province Court. Rebuilt in the 19th century with a neo-gothic architectural style. this building is where the provincial government of West Flanders used to meet.

Provinciaal Hof or Province Court

A statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck stands at the center of the Markt. In 1302, Breydel and de Coninck led the Bruges Matins or massacre of the French garrison. This led to the Battle of the Golden Spurs, a revolution of the Flemish against the occupation of King Philip IV of France.

Statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck in the middle of the Markt

The main monument in the Markt is the Belfry of Bruges. This structure stands 83 metres tall and the bell tower houses 47 bells that are still in use.

Visitors can pay an entrance fee (€8 for adults, according to their website) to enjoy the museum and climb the 366 steps to the top where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the city. (I certainly did.)

Beautiful view of Bruges from atop the Belfry of Bruges

A liesurely walk from the Markt is the Begijnhof or Béguinage of Bruges. It's a very tranquil spot in the city and walking through the tall trees and beautiful houses was an almost meditative experience.

Begijnhof or Beguinage of Bruges

Next to the Begijnhof is the picturesque Minnewater Lake.

Minnewater Lake

Another place to see in Bruges is the Church of Our Lady of Bruges. At 122.3 metres, it is the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world.

View of the Church of Our Lady of Bruges from the Belfry

One of Michelangelo's artworks has found a permanent home in this church. His Madonna and Child sculpture stands right in the middle of the transept. It is said that this piece is the only sculpture created by Michelangelo to have left Italy while he was still alive.

Michelangelo's Madonna and Child

Transept where the Madonna and Child can be seen

I visited Bruges twice. The first time I was with Daday and Brian (Interesting experience: I parked my car along the street, paid the parking meter, then rushed frantically back to my car make sure I didn't exceed the time I paid for) and the second time was with Duncan and Amy. Both times I visited Bruges, I just spent the day walking around the city with my friends.

A large part of the wonderful experience I had here came from just meandering through the cobblestone streets and waiting to see what's around the corner. However, there are some sights in Bruges that I would have loved to see, such as Burg Square and its Town Hall, the Basilica of Holy Blood, Loppem Castle, and the Bruges Windmills.

Writing these throwback posts about Belgium and remembering my wonderful experiences in this beautiful country makes me want visit it again. I already have a thought in my head for that. Hopefully, I can make it a reality.