Friday, December 30, 2016

Not For a Moment performed by Aldrich Talonding

2016 has truly been a tough year. We've lost so many very influential celebrities such as Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, to name a few. Beyond that, one of the biggest tragedies this year is the continuing Battle of Aleppo, leaving this Syrian city in ruins and many people dead, injured, or living in fear. The intense divisiveness and negativity brought about by politics in the Philippines and in the US along with the Brexit vote in the UK have all caused chaos and unbridled viciousness online, resulting in so many people unfollowing and unfriending each other on social media (and even in real life). 2016 has been a very trying and emotionally exhausting year and many people around the world can't wait for it to end.

To hopefully close out the year on a more positive note, I would like to share this video of Pinoy youtube sensation Aldrich Talonding singing Not For a Moment with HBC Worship. I first discovered Aldrich and his beautiful voice when he sang a very emotional cover of Dance With My Father that eventually landed him a guest appearance on Ellen. I have been a fan of his voice ever since and when I saw this video a while back, I felt inspired and uplifted. I hope you feel inspired and uplifted too when you watch and listen to this.

video uploaded in youtube by Aldrich and James

"And every step every breath you are there
Every tear every cry every prayer
In my hurt at my worst
When my world falls down
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Even in the dark
Even when it's hard
You will never leave me

Thursday, December 29, 2016

RIP, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

It seems 2016 was not done bringing heartache to the world. Carrie Fisher, who portrayed Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy (and General Leia in The Force Awakens), passed away on December 27. As someone who grew up watching Star Wars dozens upon dozens of times on Betamax and VHS and being heavily influenced by it, I have become quite attached to many of the characters in the trilogy as well as to the actors who portrayed them. As such, I am saddened by Carrie's passing.

I have always admired Princess Leia, who was strong, independent, courageous, and tough. The first Star Wars movie I saw was Return of the Jedi, and while many people have complained about Leia in her slave bikini as being misogynistic, I was personally impressed by how she managed to kill the huge and very scary Jabba the Hutt. I loved how she was able to establish positive relations with the same ewoks who tried to roast the male (and robotic) members of the Strike Force on Endor. When I eventually got to see A New Hope, I was amazed at Leia's strength and spirit. Not only was she held hostage by the Empire and had come face-to-face with the ominous Darth Vader, she had to watch her planet be destroyed by the Death Star. Despite this, she still managed to take matters into her own hands during the attempted rescue by Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca. Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, summed it up very eloquently in this tweet:

As if that wasn't enough, just a little more than 30 hours after Carrie's death, her mother Debbie Reynolds passed away from a stroke. Debbie is probably best known for playing the lead female role, Kathy Selden, in Singin' in the Rain in 1952. Debbie and Carrie were very close, both figuratively and literally since they lived next to each other. According to Debbie's son and Carrie's brother Todd, Debbie told him "I miss her so much, I want to be with Carrie" before suffering a stroke 15 minutes later. I can't imagine how devastating it must be for the family they leave behind. A joint service is now being planned for both Carrie and Debbie.

Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Annual Check-up

I finally managed to complete my annual physical exam. The original plan was for me to have it in early December - I had in fact taken a day off for it - but the day before my scheduled physical, I got really sick so I had to reschedule. Thankfully, the hospital was still able to slot me in before the end of the year. It was my first time to have a full abdomen ultrasound and a treadmill stress test. While on the treadmill, I felt some degree of disappointment that I am no longer anywhere close to my peak physical condition that allowed me to run full marathons back in the day. I did manage to get up to stage 4 of the test before having to stop. The nurse told me not many people get to stage 4 but I of course knew that she was just saying that to make me feel a bit better. :)

I got my results this week and they aren't too bad. In fact, there are some results that have improved since 2015 (my cholesterol is within the normal range this year while it was high last year). However, there are some results that indicate that I really need to start living a healthier lifestyle. My treadmill stress test and ECG results say that my heart is working fine so I asked the doctor if that meant I didn't need to worry about heart attacks for now but he said that you these physical exam results aren't really predictive; they just give you an idea of how healthy you are at the point they were taken.

The interesting thing about that trip to the hospital was that I tried looking for the doctor whom I had visited regularly a few years ago to schedule a follow-up consultation. His name was no longer at the door of what used to be his clinic. I asked the receptionist there - it was the same person - where the doctor had gone and she told me that he passed away last year. It was quite sobering to realize that even a doctor in a very good hospital passed away due to a health issue. Given that I haven't been exercising (I do walk a lot but I know I should do more) and that work and life can sometimes become really stressful, I understand that I have to start making better choices with regards to my health and overall well-being. The most important realization from this physical exam is that I really need to start exercising more regularly and eating better (and no, this isn't a New Year's resolution :)) so that I can have a better and longer life.

Monday, December 26, 2016

George Michael passes away

Wow, this is sad news. Singer-songwriter George Michael passed away on Christmas day. He started out in the music industry as part of the duo Wham! which became popular for songs such as Careless Whisper, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, and Last Christmas. While I enjoyed Wham's music in the 80s, it wasn't until George went solo that I became a fan. In my opinion, he has one of the best and most expressive voices in the music industry and the ease and intensity with which he sings many of his songs such as Kissing a Fool, Jesus to a Child, and Freedom 90 show just how solid his vocal ability is. He also covers other people's song very well, such as Elton John's Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me and Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me.

In a year when we already lost music legends such as Prince and David Bowie, it is such a shame that 2016 didn't want to end without taking one more incredible artist. I will leave you with this video of Praying For Time which is one of my favorite George Michael's songs. I find it quite interesting that this song which was released in 1990 seems even more relevant now, what with all the negativity, hatred and violence going on all over the world.

"It's hard to love
There's so much to hate
Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of"

video uploaded by Guillermo Soto

Rest in peace, George Michael.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I had been pretty good not eating too much in the early part of the Yuletide season but that all changed over the Christmas weekend. Since my family would be home for a few days due to the holidays, I thought of doing some last minute shopping at S&R. Clearly, many other people had the same idea. S&R was incredibly crowded when I was there - shopping cart traffic jams in many of the aisles! - but thankfully, payment didn't take as long as I expected (there were only 5 people in front of me). I purchased a few things my family had enjoyed in the past but I also tried a few new things like Chef Tony's Gourmet Popcorn (the Jalapeno Cheddar flavor is really good). I also bought fruitcake LOL. I know many people dislike fruitcake but my family and I love it and it had been a while since I last ate fruitcake so I thought that now was as good a time as any to buy it.

As if that wasn't enough, I also decided to buy the Choc-nut Valrhona Cake at Chelsea in Serendra. I'm not sure if it was just because of high demand for cakes this Christmas season or if the prices really went up, but I asked a waiter a few months ago how much this cake costs and its price when I bought it on the 24th was P200 more than I expected. Despite the higher cost, I still got it.

A few friends of mine gave me chips for Christmas. One of them was the Vegan Cheese Kale Chips of Take Root. The other was Irvins Salted Egg Potato Chips. This was really good. I got it from my friends who came home from Singapore (I don't think Irvins is available in the Philippines yet).

For the first time in a few years, I didn't take days off shortly before the holidays so I didn't have a lot of time to plan what food to get Noche Buena and for Christmas day itself. As such, I decided to just get a whole tray of Beef Lasagna at House of Lasagna and two orders of the Buffalo Chicken Wings at Don Henrico's. It's a good thing a lot of us were at home during the weekend because I made the stupid mistake of not putting the lasagna in the refrigerator before going to sleep so the next morning, it was on its way to getting spoiled. We all ate as much of it as we could and by Sunday evening, only a little was left. :) Which is a good thing because we all went to my grandmother's house for Christmas dinner. Needless to say, I was so stuffed when we headed home.

Since I don't have to work for a week, I have a bit more time to plan what food to buy for the long New Year weekend. I am also really happy that January 2 has been declared a holiday so I will actually get to rest after this very hectic Christmas season.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Rogue One!

Wow, what an incredible addition to the Star Wars saga. Rogue One, which is a film about how the rebellion managed to steal the plans of the first Death Star allowing them to destroy it in Episode IV A New Hope, was quite different from the other movies in the series but still continued the series tradition of amazing storytelling.

I watched this movie in the advanced midnight showing before the official start of the theatrical run on December 15. This is now the fourth time in a row that I watched a Star Wars movie on the advanced midnight showing. Of course I couldn't do this for the original trilogy since I was just a kid then and I watched Episode I with my family during the normal screening times but I watched Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Force Awakens, and now Rogue One during the advanced screening. I am clearly a Star Wars fan. :) I also had a funny conversation with the movie ticket vendor while buying my ticket. She said that there are so many people buying tickets and I told her that most of the people my age are big fans. She said that she noticed that and she found it strange that the audience would actually clap even before the movie would start. This was indeed true when I watched it. (I guess this also means that there were more advanced screenings before that midnight showing.) As I left the cinema at a little past 2AM, I was on a such a high. This is definitely one of my favorite movies this year.

SPOILER ALERT: stop reading now if you don't want to read any spoilers.

The first unique thing about Rogue One which many people were already talking about was how it didn't start with the traditional Star Wars opening crawl text that would slowly scroll up and out into space. I also found that among many of the interesting things about Rogue One is its use of CGI to recreate actual people that Star Wars fans are familiar with. This movie happens right before Episode IV which came out in 1977 so the film creators had to use CGI to recreate some important characters on screen. An example of which is Grand Moff Tarkin, who was portrayed by Peter Cushing who passed away in 1994. Also, towards the end of the movie, a CGI version of the younger 1977 Princess Leia appeared on screen (resulting in many cheers from the audience).

Also, in the original trilogy, the Stormtroopers gained some degree of notoriety for their apparent inability to hit important targets with their lasers, so apart from Darth Vader, the Emperor, and the Death Star, we never really felt the overwhelming strength of the Empire. That is, however, not the case in this movie. Here the Empire is strong, terrifying, and deadly. You could see that the rebellion had every right to be afraid. One of the most showstopping scenes comes at the end, when Darth Vader boards one of the rebellion ships to take back the information they gathered. Rogue One made audiences see just how ominous Darth Vader was and why he made people shake in their boots. It was also great to see him use his choking power again.

However, what I personally found to be the most compelling thing about Rogue One is the fact that many rebels - including practically every lead character - died. There had never been a Star Wars film before where more than a few lead characters were killed (usually you would only have one: Qui-Gon Jinn in Episode I, Obiwan Kenobi - sort of - in Episode IV, and Han Solo in Episode VII) but in Rogue One, all the lead characters died one by one. The final act was emotional and its portrayal of Rebel Alliance struggling the Empire was quite realistic. I mean, of course it is to be expected that stealing the plans of the Death Star in an Empire stronghold would be near-impossible and would result in many deaths.

Rogue One is an incredible film, with its fast-paced and intense action, its unique storyline, and its very interesting characters. A few other things I loved: C3PO and R2D2 had a very short scene and C3PO had one line - I guess this means that Anthony Daniels continues to be the only actor who has appeared in all Star Wars films and said at least one line. (Darth Vader is in all of them too but he is portrayed by different actors). I loved seeing the AT-ATs and the AT-STs again. It was also cool that the film continues the legacy of throwing in the popular line somewhere in the script: I have a bad feeling about this. As I have already said, this is definitely one of my favorite movies this year and I may just watch it again when its theatrical run resumes after the Metro Manila Film Festival. I also can't wait to get the DVD.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

PSL Grand Prix

The 2016 PSL Grand Prix, which is the second indoor conference of the fourth season of the Philippine Superliga, concluded on December 10 and after an explosive and exciting season, the Foton Tornadoes defended their 2015 Grand Prix title by sweeping Petron Tri-Activ Spikers in the finals of the 2016 conference. While it was a sweep, it was not a walk in the park for Foton. In fact, they were close to losing in their first best-of-three finals match-up as Petron won the first 2 sets before Foton leveled to take it to a fifth set. Even then, Petron took a big lead in the fifth set (8-3) but they somehow lost steam and Foton gained confidence and momentum to turn the tables on Petron and win that important first game. The second game went four sets but Foton once again proved near-impossible to beat as they took the trophy.

I say near-impossible to beat because Foton did suffer one loss this season, to F2 Logistics during the second round of the eliminations. F2 Logistics did pretty well and their local players and their imports showed great class but I do feel that in the end, they were outgunned by the more internationally experienced and generally more consistent imports of Foton and Petron. They still however managed to secure the bronze medal, but not without a tough fight from RC Cola who also took the match to a 5th set. It was a very tight fifth set and while F2 Logistics had the upper had for most of the set and only won on their fourth match point, RC Cola actually had a match point of their own.

While the imports made an unmistakable and tremendous impact in the league, it was very interesting that a lot of the individual awards were given to local players. The award for 1st and 2nd best open spiker were given to Stephanie Niemer and Ariel Usher respectively. But every other award went to local players. Aby Marano was best middle blocker, Maika Ortiz was 2nd best middle blocker, Jovelyn Gonzaga was best opposite spiker, Kim Fajardo was best setter, Dawn Macandili was best libero, and Jaja Santiago was MVP. Amazing that Aby, Kim, Dawn and Jovelyn all took home the same awards that they won in the previous All-Filipino league. While Jaja Santiago continues to get so much bettter that it must be scary for her opponents to face her - she is now starting to score points even as an outside hitter and as an opposite hitter - I actually thought that the MVP award would go to Stephanie Niemer, who had more aces than anyone else, a lot of excellent receptions and digs, and a good number of blocks. Still, Jaja is now truly becoming one of the best and most unstoppable players in the country.

Beyond her though, it is amazing to see that the level of Philippine volleyball has risen up quite markedly over the last couple of years. It has been very beneficial to our players to have gotten to regularly play with, and against, very seasoned international players and even get trained and mentored by experienced international coaches. While on average we still lack the height to do well at the global level and we still don't have the same speed and efficiency as other Asian teams, we are on the right path and it will be interesting to see how we will compete internationally in the future.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Movie-watching 2016 part 5


It's pretty interesting that for the first time in as far as I can remember, Disney came out with two non-Pixar animated films in the same year. Moana is their 2nd offering in 2016 after the hugely successful Zootopia. While Moana continues the Disney tradition of having a princess as the main protagonist, it changes things up by not giving her a love interest. The animation is fantastic, with jaw-dropping landscapes and seascapes, and the main theme song How Far I'll Go, when matched with the incredible visuals, is quite inspiring. I do think the story is a bit simple and it still plays with the same themes of doing things people don't think you can do (or even forbid you to do), following your heart, and finding your own way. Still, it's a great movie that kids and adults will enjoy.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

This movie is a prequel to the Harry Potter series and I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable. Unlike the Harry Potter films which are set in another realm, this film is set in the human world (New York, to be specific). I thought the characters were very well-written and I especially liked Jacob Kowalski, who you could not help but root for (I guess the same goes true for Queenie). The movie has a lot of subplots but the main one, which brings the film to its scintillating climax, involves the search for the Obscurus, that was wreaking havoc in New York City. The effects are great and the acting is solid, but what makes this movie really good for me is that it does what good movies are supposed to do: it takes you to another world, makes you feel like you are part of it, and fills you with wonder and amazement.

Doctor Strange

To quote a friend of mine (who I think was also quoting someone else), Doctor Strange is like Inception on steroids. The effects of this film are so good, I wouldn't be surprised if it wins an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. If you don't get dizzy watching movies in IMAX 3D, I would recommend you see this movie in that format. Benedict Cumberbatch does a great job as Doctor Strange, as does Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. Be sure to stay in the theater to see the post-credits scene because it sets the stage for the rise of a future Doctor Strange enemy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Congratulations, UP Pep Squad!

This is a bit late but congratulations to the UP Pep Squad and members of the UP Filipiniana Dance Group from winning 6 medals in the 2nd Asian Cheerleading Dancesport Championships (ACDC) which was held in Indonesia last November 26 and 27. This great news helps compensate for their absence from the UAAP Cheerdance competition.

The team took home the following awards:
  • Gold, Mixed Group Stunts
  • Silver, All-Female Team Cheer
  • Silver, Cheerdance Duo
  • Silver, Cheerdance Group
  • Bronze, All-Female Group Stunts
  • Bronze, Mixed Team Cheer

Check out this video of the UP Pep Squad and UP Filipiniana Dance Troupe showcase their medals via an awesome and inventive mannequin challenge:

video by The University of the Philippines Varsity Pep Squad Facebook page

Sunday, November 27, 2016

November hodgepodge

Another month, another set of really great and fun experiences. The highlights are probably reconnecting with a few people I haven't seen in ages. At the start of the month, my friend Eugene was in town due to unfortunate circumstances (a relative passed away). While paying his last respects was the main reason for his visit, he took some time to meet up. I was unable to join him and Mitch for dinner but thankfully, Eugene was free on another night. He was staying near Makati Avenue so I decided to take him to Commune Cafe + Bar at the corner of Polaris and Durban Streets. The last time we met, he was still living in the East Coast but since then, he has moved to the West Coast so we spent a few hours having coffee and just catching up on a whole lot of stuff. A few days later, I met up with my friends Amy and John for brunch at SM Jazz. It had also been a few years since I saw them last, and back then, they only had two kids and now they have a third. I ended up being late and they had to had another appointment shortly after lunch but despite the limited time we got to spend together, it was still a very good couple of hours of hanging out. The other set of friends I hadn't seen in ages were my long time friend Ching and my ex-bandmate John. It was actually the reunion of John's high school batch (Ching and I were a few batches below them from the same HS) and since John and Ching had limited time in Manila, they invited me and our other friend Diane (whom I also hadn't seen in a long time) to join John's reunion. As luck would have it, my ex-colleague Cel was also there. I had initially planned on spending just a few hours there to catch up with Ching and John but as it turned out, I hung out with them until 4 am and I got to interact with good friends I hadn't seen in a while as well as with new people. That was definitely a very memorable night.

Of course, I also got to spend time with friends whom I get to see on a semi-regular basis. Earlier in the month, I joined Jim, Lester, Charles, Lawrence, and MJ in Frankie's (they have a new dish, the salted egg wings, and I thought these were really good). I revisited Pansol for an office team-building event and I am really happy that my team got to win the Amazing Race event thanks to our speed in solving the first puzzle. That really set the pace and we earned a lead that we never relinquished. I couldn't stay overnight thought because Karen celebrated her birthday that same day so after the main program, I drove back to Manila. To celebrate her birthday, Karen organized game night at her place and I got to try two new games - A la carte (this requires some dexterity but it has an interesting set-up that really looks like you are cooking - I didn't do well in this game) and Red Flags, which is like Cards Against Humanity. Strangely enough, while I don't like Cards Against Humanity, I actually really enjoyed Red Flags (not sure if the fact that I won this game made me like it LOL).

A la carte set-up (photo from BoardGameGeek)

I also ended up making my second set of purchases from Lazada during their Online Revolution. I figured it would be a good time to order stuff that I could give as exchange gifts during the Christmas season. (Of course, I also got a few things for myself, too.) I also finally got to use that coffee dripper I bought from Daiso a month ago, but not before buying an electric kettle from S&R. In just a few days, I got to use it multiple times and I'm quite happy with the coffee I've made using this set-up.

Oh and I guess November was the month for trying out new and really good ice cream brands and flavors. I tried the Bunny Tracks flavor of Blue Bunny ice cream in S&R and wow, I really, really liked it! I think I may just order a half-gallon of this the next time I visit S&R. I also got a half-gallon of Ben and Jerry's Love Potion #31 using my Metrodeal voucher and this was very good too! I may just try this flavor again when Ben and Jerry's has their next 31% off promo. Finally, I bought my first Tillamook ice cream. I had seen this ice cream brand at Rustan's Supermarket many time before but it was only just recently that I decided to try it out. On the label, it says really cream ice cream. I have to completely agree with that. It is really creamy. And very delicious. I saw a few other flavors at the supermarket and I am planning to try those out as well.

I guess I've eaten a lot of ice cream this month to make up for a very, very bad case of food poisoning I experienced a few weeks ago. It was so bad that when I went to the ER, the nurses approached me, asked me what the problem was, and based on their triage, I was deemed as priority and I was moved up ahead of so many other people at the ER that afternoon. I was given an IV for a couple of hours and when my tests came out, the doctor released me and gave me a few meds. Thankfully, after a few days, I was okay. Despite this health challenge, I have to say that November was still a pretty incredible month for me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Legendary Z Shot of The Magician Efren "Bata" Reyes

In my opinion, one of the greatest Philippine sportsmen ever is Efren "Bata" Reyes, who was given the nickname "The Magician" for his otherworldly ability to pocket balls that no mere mortal could do.

This Z-shot as it has been coined is one for the books. Not only did Efren hit a seemingly impossible shot, he did so under immense pressure, as it was 12-all in a race to 13 in the final of the 1995 Sands Regency Open 9-ball tournament. A Reyes miss would essentially give his opponent, Earl Strickland, a clear table and would essentially cost him the title. Instead, he came up with some of his greatest pool-table magic. Check it out.

uploaded in youtube by ray carlton

Monday, November 21, 2016

Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber at the top of the tennis world

We have a new king and a new queen in tennis!

Andy Murray finished the year at #1 with a straight sets victory over Novak Djokovic in the final of ATP Tour World Finals in London. This was the first time in a very long time that the year-end #1 ranking would be determined by the final match of the year. For Andy Murray to maintain the #1 ranking which he earned a couple of weeks ago, he would have to match or exceed Novak's results. Since both of them won all their round-robin matches and got to the finals, the winner of the title would also take the year-end #1 ranking.

I personally thought that Novak was a lock to win. First, he has a very solid head-to-head win percentage against Andy and he has in fact won 14 of their last 15 matches. Also, Novak seemed to be fresher. Andy played the longest-ever ATP tour finals match against Milos Raonic in the semis and the second longest-ever ATP tour finals match against Kei Nishikori earlier in the week. On the other hand, Novak barely broke a sweat in his semifinal match against Nishikori, losing only two games in a match that lasted just a little over an hour. He was the fresher of the two going into the finals. As it turned out, Murray ended up remaining steadier and he capitalized on Novak's untimely errors to win his first ever ATP Tour finals trophy and become only the 17th man to be ranked #1 since the rankings were started in 1973. Note also that the Olympics do not grant any ranking points. If they did, Murray would have an even greater lead at the top of the ATP than he does now.

I am really impressed with Andy Murray this year, especially in the second half. Apart from the fact that the is now on a 24-match winning streak, he had to really fight hard. While you could tell he really wanted to become #1, he didn't succumb to the pressure as many other players do when faced with an opportunity to take the top ranking. There were many, many wobbly moments over the last few months where Murray was very close to losing - the semis against Milos Raonic is an example - but somehow he was always able to just take that one extra step and get that one extra ball back to keep on winning. When he finally won the ATP tour finals, he actually looked more relieved than happy. His brother, Jamie Murray, also ended the year as part of the #1 ranked doubles team, so you can expect a lot of celebrating in the Murray clan over the Christmas holidays.

On the women's side, Angelique Kerber was assured of retaining her #1 ranking through to the end of the year when Serena Williams called it a season after the US Open. She, however, didn't have quite as much success as Murray, losing to Dominika Cibulkovรก in the finals of the WTA Tour Finals. In fact, after the US Open, Kerber didn't win any other tournaments. Still, her consistency throughout the year and Serena's decision to end her year prematurely ensured that Kerber would remain #1 until the end of the year.

This is the first time since 2008 that the year-end #1 number players on both the ATP and the WTA are both first-timers. (In 2008, Rafael Nadal and Jelena Jankovic both ended the year ranked #1.)
Given how things turned ou in the tennis world this year, I am quite intrigued to see how things will turn out in 2017. For now, all the players deserve a pretty good rest.

Congratulations, Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

UP skips the UAAP Cheeerdance

The announcement was made about a month ago but not seeing UP in the line-up for the UAAP Cheerdance this year was still a bit sad even if you already knew it. The UP Pep Squad shared the reason for this boycott on their official Facebook page. Despite this, they still prepared a routine to prepare for their other commitments, including the Asian Cheerleading and Dancesport Competition. You can see their routine also on their Facebook page.

Of course, even without one of the most popular squads, the event proceeded and NU continued their dominance of this event, winning their fourth CDC championship in a row. I saw their routine and I have to say, they totally made up for last year's major mistakes. Their routine this year was fast, tight, incredibly technical with a very high degree of difficulty. It was also pretty clean. Needless to say, I was very impressed. Even with UP in the lineup, that routine would have been tough if not impossible to beat. Check out NU's routine here. 2nd place went to FEU while Adamson took 3rd. UST was a close 4th, while UE, DLSU, and ADMU rounded ou the 5th, 6th, and 7th places.

Congratulations, NU! I hope that the UP Pep Squad returns to the event next year.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Minami Saki by Astoria

I learned about Minami Saki from my friend Mitch who said that she really loves this restaurant. When we celebrated our birthdays together this year, I came up with a few suggestions in the Ortigas area and of the ones I suggested, she picked this. We ordered a lot of food but my favorite that night was the Aburisushi 5 kinds (P895). This dish contains slightly burned sushi - tuna, salmon, eel, hamachi, and lapu-lapu - and is served with aburi sauce.

Aburisushi 5 kinds

This is on the expensive side but it is really, really good. Not only is it a visual feast, but each bite is an extravagant burst of flavor. My friend told me that the chef here used to be the chef at Inagiku. While I wouldn't eat here all the time, I will definitely revisit this place if only to enjoy this Aburisushi dish again.

Minami Saki by Astoria
G/F Astoria Plaza 15 J. Escriva Drive Ortigas Business District, Pasig, Philippines
Phone: 6871111 loc 8164/ 8165

Operating hours: 11:30AM - 2:30PM, 6:00PM - 10:30PM

Friday, November 11, 2016

LABArya Do It Yourself Laundry

When my washing machine broke down last week, I knew it would take time for me to get it repaired (or even replaced) so I decided to look for alternative ways to wash my clothes. I did a quick search online for laundromats in Metro Manila and I found LABArya Do It Yourself Laundry. This place had some positive reviews so I decided to try it out. LABArya has three branches - in Makati, in Mandaluyong, and a new one in Pasay. The branch I visited was the one near JP Rizal and Kalayaan in Makati. This laundromat has a good number of washers and dryers. The washers come in two sizes (large and small) while the dryers come in only one (big) size. The employees working there can help you use the machines.

The washers have three settings: light, moderate, and heavy. The light setting for the small washing machine costs P60 and the wash cycle is about 21 minutes long. The moderate and heavy settings both cost P90 and the wash cycle runs for around 26 minutes. You can bring your own detergent and fabric conditioner, but if you forget these at home, you can buy them from LABArya at per-use portions (and not necessarily a whole pack of detergent or fabric conditioner).

the small dryers

The dryer is pretty big and two loads in the small washer can fit into just one dryer. A 20-minute cycle costs P60 and the 30-minute cycle costs P90. The dryers are pretty efficient because after a 30-minute cycle, my clothes were all dry.

the dryers

The great thing about this place is that you can complete your washing and drying in under an hour. LABArya also has a lot of plastic hampers in case you didn't bring one yourself. You can use these to load the washer, transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer, and unload the dryer. They also sell large plastic bags at P10 each and you can use these to put your clothes in once you are done with your laundry. Some people have commented that there isn't a lot of space to fold your clothes after you are done and while this is sort of true, it's not really a big deal

Because I haven't had enough time to get my broken washer-dryer at home repaired (a technician already looked at it but it still needs to be pulled out), I have now been to LABArya twice. The Makati branch is open from 9AM to 9PM on weekdays and from 7am to 10PM on weekends. Only street parking is available but thankfully, in the two times I went there, I was always able to park on the street in right in front of LABArya. There were a handful of people there on both of my visits, but there were always available machines for me to use. I am not sure when I will finally get my washer-dryer at home fixed (hopefully soon because it is just so much more convenient), but because of LABArya, I'm not in as much of a hurry as I would've been.

LABArya Do It Yourself Laundry
2686 South Avenue, Brgy Olympia, Makati
0925 788 5222

Monday, November 07, 2016

Andy Murray is World #1!

Congratulations to Andy Murray for achieving the world #1 ranking today!

This really has been Andy's year. After losing to Novak Djokovic in the finals of both the Australian Open and the French Open, he went on the win Wimbledon (his second), the Olympic gold medal (also his second) and he just won the last four tournaments he has played including two ATP Masters 1000 events (Shanghai and Paris). This 19-match winning streak in the second half of the year helped him move past Novak Djokovic at the top of the ATP rankings.

While I am still a Nadal fan, I am happy that Andy Murray has achieved the number 1 ranking and has had the success he's had this year. At 29 years old, he is the oldest first-time number one player since John Newcombe who became #1 for the first time in 1974 at the age of 30. He is also the first British player to be ranked #1 since the start of the computerized rankings in 1973. Andy first got to the #2 ranking in 2009 and he had been ranked #2 for a total of 76 weeks over the last seven years. Given that he is playing in the era of three of the greatest players of all time - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic - Andy has had to deal with a lot of heartbreak, often at the hands of one of the Big Three. It's been a very long road and difficult for him so seeing arrive at the pinnacle of his sport is gratifying and sends the message that you really need to put in a lot of hard work to achieve grand success.

It is important to note though that the year-end number 1 ranking is not secured. Novak Djokovic can still return to the top of the tennis world depending on the results of the ATP World Finals which will be held in London from November 13 to 20. It doesn't help too that Andy Murray will lose 275 points in November due to his Davis Cups points from last year coming off on November 28. Still, the year-end number #1 ranking is really up for grabs. Whatever happens though, Andy Murray can always say that he was ranked #1 in the world, even if it was for just a moment. I do hope he ends the year #1 though; it would be nice to have a first-time #1 player in both men's and women's tennis (Angelique Kerber ended the year ranked #1).

Congratulations, Andy!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Halloween Horror

Wow, talk about horrific luck. The long Halloween weekend for me was like something straight out of a horror film. Okay, that's a stretch. :) But seriously, talk about bad things happening in threes. It started out on Thursday night. My aircon suddenly stopped working. I first thought that maybe it needed more Freon and I started to get upset because I know that I just had the Freon replaced earlier this year. I tried to get an aircon repair company to look at it on Friday so that it could hopefully get repaired before the long weekend but they didn't have any technicians available. I was only able to get them to check my aircon on Saturday afternoon. When they told me that the compressor was busted and had to be replaced, I was tremendously bummed. First, because I knew I wouldn't have a working aircon over the long weekend and for many more days after that. Second, because a compressor is very expensive. And third, because I knew that I just had my compressor replaced 1-2 years ago.

As if that wasn't enough, on Sunday, I was on my way to do an errand before taking my grandmother to the cemetery later that day instead of on All Saints' Day so I was in a bit of a rush. Since the errand I needed to do was in a part of the city I wasn't too familiar with (and I don't have Waze or GPS), I ended up making a wrong turn. In my efforts to turn back and head towards the right direction, I didn't - I couldn't - see that there was a very high curb right underneath my car. By the time I saw a security guard waving at me to stop, it was too late. The right front tire of my car went up the high curb, dropped straight back to the street, and it burst. Damn! (It had racked in about 40,000 kilometers already so I it was due to be replaced in the next year.) While I know how to replace a flat - I had gotten the jack up underneath properly and I managed to get 5 of the 6 bolts off - clearly, any assistance would have been very welcome, especially since the last bolt was extremely hard to remove. A tour bus driver started helping me and a passing driver quickly lent us his pipe to give us leverage to remove that last bolt. At this point, a gardener also started helping out. By the time we finished replacing the tire, I was dirty and drenched in sweat but thankful that I got the help that I did.

Still on my driving challenges that Sunday, my grandmother and I found out the hard way that a large portion of the population had the same idea as we did and the traffic heading to the cemetery was intense. Even inside the cemetery, it was moving at a snail's pace. To add the stress level, I noticed that my gas was practically empty. I know that fuel consumption is a lot higher when you are driving in first or second gear, so I started worrying that the car would run out of gas. I had to remind myself to remain calm and not panic my grandmother and I started mentally preparing myself for having to go to the nearest gas station to bring fuel back to my car if it ends up stalling. Thankfully, by some sheer miracle, my gas didn't run out. Whew!

To complete the horror trilogy, on Monday, in the middle of my laundry cycle, my washing machine suddenly stopped. I check it out and the letters UE appear on the console (I later found out that they mean unbalanced error). Seeing that the washing and rinsing of my clothes were complete, I decided to try to just dry them. I check my clothes after and they were still as wet as they were before I started the drying cycle. I do it again, but the result was the same. Crap! Now my washing machine was also broken.

After my unexpected car trouble last August, having these unexpected expenses - new compressor for the aircon, new tire, and repairs for my washing machine - just really throws off my savings. I also ended up having a very stressful long weekend instead of being able to get some decent rest. I now have a lot of work to do to get everything sorted out. Hopefully, that's the last of the misfortunes I encounter in the near future.