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.