Saturday, April 30, 2016

100 Voices of Gospel on BGT

This is one of the most uplifting, spiritual performances I've ever seen on TV talent show. Check out the full video here (click here if you want to skip the interview and go straight to the performance). As soon as I saw it, I was immediately thinking Golden Buzzer and true enough, they got it.

video uploaded by Anthony Ying

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Nadal wins Barcelona title #9

Wow what a result! Rafa Nadal won his 9th Barcelona Open title, beating Kei Nishikori in straight sets. This marks his 49th clay court title, tying the record of Guillermo Vilas for most clay court titles. If he wins just one more, he will have the record all to himself.

Barcelona is also the third event that Rafa has won 9 times (the other two being the French Open and Monte Carlo). No other male player in the Open era has won an event 9 times and Nadal has now done it in three different events. That is just a staggering achievement!

Nadal is inching his way back to his King of Clay form. He is just about 500 points behind #4 Stan Wawrinka. Hopefully, he continues along his current path and breaks the top 4 again soon.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Farewell, Prince

This is very sad news. Musical icon Prince passed away last Thursday. He was found unconscious in an elevator in his studios in Minnesota but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. He was 57 at the time of his death, just way too young.

photo courtesy of

Prince is one of my all-time idols for so many reasons. His songs such as When Doves Cry, Kiss, Cream, and 1999 showcased his tremendous versatility and the variety of influences he had in his writing. His music has a unique, irresistible funk, sexiness and passion. In 1984, Prince simultaneously had the #1 album (Purple Rain), #1 movie (Purple Rain), and #1 song (When Doves Cry, also from Purple Rain). I think this album might actually be my all-time favorite. Check out this stunningly electrifying live performance of Purple Rain during the 1985 American Music Awards (oh, to have been part of the crowd! They were on their feet!)

video uploaded in youtube by Moodownn

It was this kind of stage presence that also made me an absolute fan. Prince just had so much energy when he was performing and his unparalleled passion and love for music seemed to ooze out of every pore of his body. He can captivate an audience and get them going with a guitar in hand like he did during the Superbowl half-time show in 2007 and he can also accomplish that with just a mic stand and some awesome moves like he did when he promoted his new album on American Idol in 2006. When he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he didn't sing but he performed an incredible guitar solo in "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", sharing the stage with Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, and Jeff Lynne.

Just how legendary is/was Prince's musical talent? In his debut album "For you", not only did he sing and write all the songs (he did had a co-writer in one of them), he also did all the backing vocals and played all TWENTY-SEVEN (27) musical instruments. Wow!

screenshot of the For You wikipedia page

Many people don't know that he wrote a lot of songs for other artists, including Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U", Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You", The Bangles' "Manic Monday", Martika's "Love... Thy Will Be Done", and Alicia Keys' "How come you don't you call me". He also wrote songs for Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Stevie Nicks, Tom Jones, and many others. Talk about being prolific. And generous.

Given his enormous contributions to the music industry, it isn't any surprise that his demise has been mourned by countless celebrities. Stevie Wonder was clearly heartbroken in an interview conducted by Anderson Cooper shortly after Prince passed away. Justin Timberlake shared how huge of an influence Prince had on him and his music. Judith Hill, ex-contestant of The Voice, was mentored by Prince and he even worked with her on her album. She has openly spoken about her heartbreak and twitter and she shared this incredible picture of many different landmarks around the world "turning purple" in memory of Prince.

R.I.P. Prince. Thank you very much for sharing your immeasurable talent and amazing music to the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

#PrayForEcuador #PrayForJapan

Very tragic news from opposite sides of the world. :(

A massive, magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Ecuador on Saturday evening. As of this writing, CNBC reports that the death toll has risen to 350 and CNN reports that more than 2,500 people have been injured. Damage has been extensive throughout the country, and it is estimated that billions of dollars will be needed to rebuild the nation. Ecuador is now in a state of emergency as a lot of rescue workers are still trying to find survivors.

CNN provides a few ways that we can help Ecuador earthquake relief efforts:

  • The Ecuador Red Cross has teams on the ground providing first aid and searching for survivors.
  • UNICEF has delivered 20,000 water purification tables to the area worst affected by the quake. UNICEF is also assessing the needs of children in the earthquake zone.
  • World Vision has deployed an emergency response staff to assist with aid distributions and is setting up shelters.
  • Samaritan's Purse personnel are on the ground to help coordinate with churches and community officials. The groups says field hospital and medical staff will be arriving later this week.

On the other side of the world, Japan was hit by two earthquakes in less than 48 hours. The first one, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake, struck the region of Kumamoto on Thursday. As if that was not enough, a stronger magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck again at around 1:30 AM on Saturday. BBC reports that 250,000 people have been told to leave their homes due to fears of further aftershocks and possibly even more damage. As of this writing, Bloomberg reports that the death toll has risen to 42, with more than a thousand others injured.

You can donate to Japan relief through GlobalGiving. provides a few ways to help Japan earthquake relief efforts.

  • The Association for Aid and Relief, Japan, which was founded in 1979 in Japan, works with countries around the globe in disaster relief. Now, it's all coming back home. When you donate, you can enter "Kumamoto earthquake" in the text field if you'd like your funds to go directly to those victims and relief efforts.
  • Peace Winds America is a disaster preparedness and response organization that focuses on the Asia Pacific. Although they don't have a specific field set up for the Kumamoto earthquake, you have the option to give "where it is needed most."
  • Save The Children, which focuses on the needs of kids in disaster relief, posted this emergency alert: "Save the Children stands ready to help survivors of the 2016 Japan Earthquake. In the early chaotic times after immediately after disaster strikes, we don’t know always know what help will be needed, but we do stand ready to respond to the unmet needs of children. You can help. Your donation today to the Children’s Emergency Fund will be dedicated for the earthquake should a response needed. Otherwise, your gift will help us prepare and respond to other urgent crises."

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the Ecuador and Japan Earthquakes. If you can, please help out. #PrayForEcuador #PrayForJapan

Monday, April 18, 2016

Nadal wins Monte Carlo #9

Congratulations to Rafael Nadal for winning the Monte Carlo Masters yesterday, beating Gael Monfils in three sets. Nadal has now won two different tournaments 9 times (he also has 9 French Open titles) and this win allows him to tie Djokovic with the most Masters 1000 titles at 28.

photo courtesy of

This is Nadal's first trophy since winning the German Open last August. This was also his first final appearance since January when he lost to Djokovic at the Qatar Open. Novak's shocking loss early in the tournament opened the doors for Rafa because mentally and physically, he still has major trouble against the current world #1. While Nadal is nowhere near his peak for, I hope this tournament win gives him the confidence he needs to start even winning titles again and put up stronger fights when he faces Novak. I am still hoping that Rafa has enough left in him to win at least one more French Open title. Winning the first big clay title of the year is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Jessica Sanchez shines in AI season/series finale

The American Idol Season 15 finale was a solid series farewell as it brought back all the past idols and many very memorable contestants who made their mark even if they didn't win. One of my favorite performances during the finale was that of Jessica Sanchez, who was the last person to sing during the acoustic medley. She more than held her own in her rendition of "The Prayer" and in fact she had significantly more airtime in this segment than the other performers. Check it out here:

video uploaded by American Idol

Sunday, April 10, 2016

UAAP Streetdance Competition 2016: UP Threepeat!

Congratulations to the UP Streetdance Club for winning the UAAP Streetdance Competition for the third year in a row! Check out their championship-winning performance here:

video uploaded in youtube by ABS-CBN Sports And Action

Rounding out the top 3 are DLSU in 2nd place and UST in 3rd place.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Lucky Noodles and family time at Solaire

Apart from the incredible experience of seeing Les Miserables, I also loved the fact that my family and I got to enjoy a meal in Lucky Noodles prior to the show. My mom and I had been to Solaire twice - to watch Chicago and Singin' in the Rain - but both times, we didn't really get to see much of the Solaire complex. (We were actually late for Chicago and for Singin' in the Rain, we just decided to have a meal at the Theatre Cafe since we arrived around 45 minutes before the start of the show.) This time around, we arrived with almost two hours to spare, and that gave us enough time to walk to the far end of the casino to have lunch before watching Les Mis.

Of all the restaurants we passed by in Solaire, Lucky Noodles seemed to be the most casual and inviting. (the other places felt a bit too formal and felt more appropriate for a more proper dinner rather than an eat-and-run scenario). It is also probably the least expensive, although we probably averaged around P500 per person (we were in a casino so I guess on some level it is expected that the restaurants would all be on the pricey side). Nevertheless, I really like the ambience and the vibe of this place. The wait staff was also very friendly and accommodating. The service is also pretty fast as we get our food quite quickly. The next time I visit Solaire, I wouldn't mind eating here again.

We finished our meal about 45 minutes before the show and this gave us time to take photos with the huge ceiling to floor murals of Les Mis. (Actually, we just took photos of our mom.) Thankfully, we did this before the show because after the show, a whole lot more people wanted photo ops. We then had coffee at the Theatre Cafe before stepping into the Theatre. Gotta say, I'm quite happy that we decided to go to Solaire early as it allowed us to enjoy some food and coffee together and see more of the resort and casino complex. (It really does look posh;

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Les Miserables in Manila!

The long wait is over! I have now seen Les Miserables!  I had seen my fair share of popular musicals before, but prior to this last weekend, Les Mis wasn't one of them. To say I was excited was a huge understatement, and the raves that many of my friends have been lavishing upon the show on social media further heightened my eager anticipation. Despite all that hype, the show actually significantly exceeded the very lofty expectations I already had. I don't think I have enough superlatives to heap upon this spectacular musical.

So why did I find Les Mis scintillating? First, I didn't realize that watching this live would move me as much as it did. I actually had goosebumps practically the entire time I was watching. The thing is, I am very familiar with this musical. I have the original London cast recording, a DVD of the 25th anniversary performance, and my high school groupmates and I even made a feeble and pathetic attempt to perform some of the songs from Les Mis for our English class project. (Don't ask. :)) Because of my extreme familiarity with Les Mis and its music, I thought that my experience would primarily be about listening to amazing voices and watching unparalleled talent perform on stage. Boy was I wrong. Hearing the songs performed live by people who were fully committed to their roles just gave life to the powerful emotions that each character was feeling. Even if I knew who would die and when, I still found all of the death scenes heart-rending. From Gavroche's demise to the fall of the people at the barricade (this scene was so well staged), watching each person passing away just left me with a lump in my throat. I previously didn't really feel a connection to "A little fall of rain" but seeing this performed by Eponine and Marius as she was dying in his arms completely changed my mind about this song and this scene.

Another thing I didn't expect as well was how elaborate the sets were. I probably got used to the set-up where the performers stand up for the most part and perform songs in place, which is how both the 10th anniversary and the 25th anniversary shows were staged. Seeing how many set changes there were, including a massive and intricately designed barricade, was just jaw-dropping. They also matched it with modern visual effects. One of the most notable scenes for its effects was Javert's suicide. I think everyone thought he would just act like he was jumping off a bridge into his death, but they had some pretty cool effects for this, making it look like he was really falling.

Also, I love that practically every song is a highlight. (I do think that Les Mis has the best collection of songs and the best music overall.) Do you hear the people sing, I dreamed a dream, On my own, Who am I, Empty chairs and empty tables, and One day more all got great applause from the crowd.

Then of course there are the conflicts. Amidst all the many characters going through misery, anguish, and pain, the storytelling primarily revolves around the two leads, Jean Valjean and Javert, and their conflict not only with each other but also internally within themselves. I also love how duality plays a part: Valjean's Soliloquy at the start and Javert's soliloquy towards the end have the same music and they both articulate some pretty life-changing internal conflicts that both characters have.

And finally, the talent. I love watching these musicals because they are a showcase of some of the best and most hardworking talents in the world. The entire cast was great, but my favorites were Simon Gleeson who played Valjean and Earl Carpenter who played Javert. Their solos were all superb and always got tremendous applause. And while both characters are locked in an eternal conflict (to quote Javert, "it is either Valjean or Javert"), you can't help but feel for both of them. Bring him home is an incredibly difficult song to sing (or rather, sing well), and Simon Gleeson sang it so effortlessly. It was a spiritual experience sitting there listening to him perform. (Oh and I was also very impressed that he actually lifted Paul Wilkins, who plays Marius, twice using a one-person lift then with a fireman's lift in the Dog eat dog scene at the sewers.) Check out Simon's performance of this song in Sydney (and honestly, as good as he sounds in this video, he was even better live):

video uploaded in youtube by StageWhispersTV

Needless to say, at the end of the performance, the cast and the production got a massive standing ovation from the crowd. Even just recalling my experience watching is giving me goosebumps. I was so blown away by the show that I immediately convinced many of my friends to watch. Because of my encouragement, five of them have now purchased tickets and a sixth is trying to get it sorted out. Les Miserables has been extended until May 1 (it won't be extended beyond then) and tickets are still available, especially in the last week. If you haven't seen it yet, I strongly suggest you do so. It is so worth it.