The World According to Joey: Random

I realize I haven’t posted anything related to the little boy in quite a while. Well, so what has he been up to? 😛

Remember what I said before about Joey finishing his exams ahead of his class? He answers tests in the shortest time possible, I keep getting nervous – and he’s done it again! So I waited with bated breath for what his grades would be: 100! Yey! Looks like he took after me. 😀

Just being his cute self. Here, wearing my Michael Kors sunnies on our way to MOA
At Fully Booked MOA, refusing to let me go out of his sight.

He watched his first muscial, The Sound of Music, front and center at the Newport Performing Arts Theater. He loved it so much he’s been asking me to watch it again. Not to mention that he keeps thinking it’s the Sound of Music on TV whenever he sees old musicals. Read all about it here.

Bit blurry as the kiddo was dancing in his seat
And he has moved on from his Transformers and Angry Birds obsession (fine, he still likes playing the game but no longer demands new Angry Bird shirts and toys) – to Puss in Boots! Good thing McDonald’s Happy Meal has these toys for free. 
Love the cute eyes Puss – his eyes get all big and googly when you press a button at the back.
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My Love Affair With Accessories


People who know me now usually associate me with my chunky and attention-grabbing accessories. But they would be probably surprised to learn that I am actually a late bloomer and that my love affair with accessories only began two or three years ago.
Mind you, I have always loved chandelier earrings. That part has always been with me but other than  my ears, I have never thought of prettifying any other part of me, mostly because I hate clutter on me and because I’m allergic to most of the accessories being sold on the market. I would buy the occasional necklaces or bracelets, but I would never really wear them.
My oldest chandelier earrings – the leftmost pairs on the 2nd tier; given by my friends Leah and Noreen on my birthday eight years ago. The most overused pair nowadays – the snowflakes and owl earrings on the bottom row, both from Accessorize.

I don’t know what specific event triggered or convinced me to start piling on my bangles, or invest heavily on big cocktail rings, but I can trace most of my purchases around the time UK brand Accessorized set up shop on our shores. I mean, everything there is so pretty! Hint: get me anything there and I will be very grateful this Christmas; but then, I think I’ve already bought most of their new items so you run the risk of buying something I already have. I have never been able to exit that store without a trinket tucked safely under my arm.

My current favorite rings – mostly from Accessorize and Aldo; connector rings from Mia Casa and Market Market. In case you haven’t noticed, I love flowers, especially roses. There are three in the picture – in diff. colors.
 

Since then, a lot of shops dedicated solely to accessories have been sprouting up in malls – there’s French brand Parfois, but I don’t really find anything special there, and you have The Ramp and SM Accessories, which recently revamped their line up and have been churning out some pretty decent designs lately –  and online (Mia Casa and Yhansy are my top picks). And of course, you have the bazaars.
I’m no guru but let me share with you my tips in buying accessories:
  • First, decide on what you want to do with it AFTER. Do you want it to be a sort of investment, something you see yourself using one, two or five years later? Or are you just buying to follow a trend? This will determine where you should look for. I have noticed that I have LOTS of rings from bazaars and tiangges which only cost me Php150-Php200 each, but they all only survive up to five outings before they get broken. On the other hand, my rings which cost upward of Php500 are still very much alive even after overusing them. Quality doesn’t have to mean expensive but there are instances when the pricier ones are indeed better.
  • For rings, look for sizes that match your ring finger (or whichever finger you’re looking to wear it on; I usually wear mine on my point finger). There are many adjustable rings in the market but they often break easily, not to mention they look cheap and bite on your fingers.
  • Look for accessories which have soldered parts. Again, be on the lookout for items that look like they were just glued together or are not soldered thickly together. I have the unfortunate luck of buying rings which are not very sturdy, and they end up getting torn off my fingers and I am just left with the circlet.
  • If you are allergic, look for hypoallergenic certifications (usually found on the tags). However, this would also limit you to the higher end shops since most bazaars and online stores offer accessories made from cheaper material. But this is not something you would want to risk – I have very sensitive skin (emphasis on VERY) and i once bought earrings which made my ears itch and I ended up with lots of “sugat.” And then some bracelets can also give you swollen, itchy skin, if it stays in contact with your skin for a prolonged time.
  • Invest in an accessories cabinet or case and if possible, in individual plastic cases or pouches. This will prevent them from rubbing and scratching each other and from accumulating dirt.
Box from Regalong Pambahay; the two slots on the upper left have watch pillows but I use it to store my faux pearl necklaces. This box contains my recent purchase and those that I tend to overuse. My other accessories (mostly those that are too chunky too fit) are kept in another box I got from Kamiseta (back when they would give out cute boxes when you buy something)
Bangles from various shops and tiangges here and abroad

Jewelry and watches are kept in a watch box. My precious and semi-precious stones and gold jewelry are ironically, kept in a pink box from Silverworks.

As for rules in what to wear, I don’t think there are any – just make sure they do not overpower you or fight for attention with your entire appearance. Accessories should complement your clothes, make you look more polished and enhance your overall aura, not distract from it. Also, consider where you are going; it would look quite out of place to wear a gold snake coil around your arms if you’re headed for the office, wouldn’t it?
Main thing is, have fun with your accessorizing and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Theater: The Sound of Music

Who has not fallen in love with The Sound of Music when they were kids? Practically all of us have grown up listening to the songs from this musical and have watched the movie (or even the animated version shown over ABS CBN many years ago). Well, Ipe and I are huge fans; in fact, the hubby has even kept tabs on the stars well into adulthood. Needless to say, when we heard about the production being shown at the Newport Performing Arts Theater, we knew we had to watch.
Hubby was lucky enough to get three front row seats, right smack in the middle where you can see even the tiniest beads of sweat or the quiver of a lip of the performer.
The Story
For those unfamiliar with the Story of Music (I must ask you though, under what rock are you living under?), it’s actually the tale of how Maria Rainer, a postulant at the Nonnberg Abbey, was sent by the Mother Abbess to be a governess to the seven children of widowed baron, Captain Georg Von Trapp, during the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany.
A decorated naval officer, the Captain’s household is run with military precision, with all members of the household, his children include, responding to a whistle and their daily exercise consisting of coordinated marches. After the death of his wife, the Captain spent less and less time at their estate in Austria, and forbid music in their home. As a result, the children grew up not knowing him, and would always get rid of their governess since they knew that without one, their father would be forced to come home to hire a new one.
Maria, being the rule breaker that she is and with the best of intentions, brings out the children’s inborn love for music and teaches them how to sing in the Captain’s absence, and in the process forges a genuine caring relationship with the children.
By the time Captain Von Trapp returns home with his soon-to-be-fiancee, the Baroness Elsa Shraeder, the children have all undergone a great change in their demeanor, even learning to wear play clothes as opposed to the uniforms the Captain makes them wear. Needless to say, Maria and the Captain soon discover they are falling for the other, or rather, the people around them discover it.
Maria runs back to the convent, afraid that falling in love with the Captain is against her chosen vocation until the Mother Abbess convinces her that “just because you love the Captain, doesn’t mean you love God any less.” The two eventually get married and with the threat of the Captain being forced to lead a naval fleet as part of the German contingent (forcing him to choose whether to side with Germany for his family’s safety or keep true to his patriotic nature and refuse), must figure out how to survive while keeping their family intact.
There are subtle differences between the musical and the movie versions such as how the Captain and the Baroness broke up because of political differences (in the movie, the Baroness broke up with him because she realized he was in love with Maria), and how the Postman let them escape (again, in the movie, he wasn’t as nice; he actually alerted the Nazi of the Von Trapp’s plan and whereabouts); am not sure why, but either version works well with me.

Of course, there are also differences between the theatrical version and the real-life story of the von Trapp family but on the whole, remains true to the main story. 

The Production
Honestly, I have not watched many stage productions, and so my cannot compare it with much. Given this, I must say the production exceeded my expectations – from the set, to the costume, to the orchestra, to the actors.
Every scene is rendered vividly with the aid of a LED screen occupying the entire wall of the stage, reportedly one of the biggest in a theatre in Asia, further enhanced by backdrops that are so far one of the most elaborately prepared sets I have seen in the country. In fact, the props alone made me think that I was getting way more out of the deal than what I have paid for – it was quite obvious that no expense was spared for the production to be as faithful to the story’s setting as possible.
The transition from each act/scene was also seamless – each change of backdrop perfectly timed and coordinated and I didn’t feel or hear any scrambling going on onstage, even though I was seated just a few feet from the edge.
And for the ticket price (VIP tickets cost Php 2,000), I wasn’t really expecting a live orchestra to play but there they were! Being an accountant, I got quite preoccupied estimating the musical’s expenses, which I am expecting, is stratospheric compared to its revenues, even though they were performing for a full house (and I heard tickets are almost all sold out). Geeky ole me.
The Actors
Of course, the gems of any stage production are the actors. Really, you can get over an ugly set but will never get satisfied by a mediocre performance. I was looking forward to seeing Joanna Ampil who I have yet to see onstage but Cris Villonco was playing Maria last Saturday. I remember her from her days as an aspiring recording singer and while her voice was clear and  had depth, she never really reached full stardom, perhaps because of her too wholesome image, and the fact that her the songs she recorded were not really that memorable. So, I was initially less than thrilled that I would be watching her.
But to my pleasant surprise, she gave a powerful performance and really impressed me that night. I love, love, love her voice, how she effortlessly switched between notes and jumped octaves and conveyed her emotions through her voice. She brought me to tears several times (also, I was seated right in front of her that I could see her tears glistening onstage), especially when she realized she had fallen in love with the captain and that he was going to marry the Baroness, and in that scene when the Nazi’s were after them and she was telling the captain that his decision (whether to side with the Germans or escape) will also be her decision. I know some feminists will not like this part, arguing that she should have her own opinions, and while I agree with this view, there are some things wherein you will really have to respect your man’s decision.
The Captain was portrayed perfectly by Audie Gemora, no doubt my favourite Filipino stage actor. I was a fan of his even when I was younger and I must say the quality of his voice has not changed. He makes singing look so easy and I could feel the tension he was feeling as the Von Trapp family was performing at the Festival, with the Nazi waiting to take him away right after their performance. Really, I cannot say anything more other than he was damn good.
I must say though, I didn’t initially feel the attraction between the Captain and Maria, until well into the second act. And I found it quite amusing that Cris probably used to play his daughter in one musical or another but now plays his wife, though of course, we know that the love story of the captain and the novice was really a May-December affair.
And I must not forget to mention Pinky Amador’s performance as the Baroness and Sheila Francisco as the Mother Abbess, which were stellar. Marvin Ong as Rolf Gruber was also brilliant – I think he was my second favourite singer in the production, next of course to Audie.
Perhaps one of the best surprises of the night was seeing Debraliz as Frau Schmidt. It was a non-singing part but Debraliz was so hilarious and you could tell the audience was looking forward to her scenes as some of them give tiny whoops of delight whenever she was onstage. Indeed, she got one of the loudest claps at the curtain call.
There are some weak links in the line-up though, mostly on the actors playing the seven Von Trapp kids. Tanya Manalang as eldest daughter Liesl was okay but she should practice her breathing technique as I could hear every catch in her breath when she sings and there were instances when I was almost fearful that her voice would break. Paolo Ocampo, as eldest son Friedrich, was probably the wost singer in the bunch, and possibly the worst actor as well, given that, well, he couldn’t do either. But since the character doesn’t really have a solo number and just limited one-liners, this was not a big problem.
Oh, and a little bit of trivia: Aga Muhlach and Charlene Gonzales’ baby girl Atasha plays Brigitta, the third youngest kid. I must say this kid has a bright future – she’s pretty and from the looks of it, inherited Aga’s acting chops as well.
The Final Say
I couldn’t sum up how good the production was but to repeat what I said above, I felt like Newport charged too less, considering the caliber and quality of the musical. And what better affirmation can I give you that it was good, other than that and to mention that all throughout the three-hour long musical, Joey sat still on his seat, occassionally even swinging his legs to the beat?
Souvenir program “Sazburg Gazette” showing current events in 1938; inside are primers about the production
Production runs until December 11 so hurry and get your tickets at Resorts World or at TicketWorld.

Nanny Woes

Our regular yaya had to go home to her province since her mom passed away last weekend.  Luckily, a new yaya immediately took over, albeit temporarily. 
Or so I thought.
Day 1
On Monday, Ipe stayed at home to guide the new yaya. Since it was her first day, I myself gave Joey a bath, dressed him up and gave him breakfast.
That same night, the new yaya was tasked to cook tinola, which as you all know, is a pretty straightforward dish. But horror of horrors! Ipe was shocked to discover the yaya just put the chicken in a pot of boiling water, add string beans and sayote and that was tinola for her. A good thing he caught it before the food was served, so he was still able to remedy it by adding ginger and chilli. When I got home, I added some seasoning so it turned out into a decent tinola after all. 
Day 2
The next day, Ipe and I woke up to something weird and gooey on our dining table: a plateful of corned beef swimming in cooking oil. I don’t know if it’s a practice in their province to just put oil as “soup” on corned beef but thankfully, we were able to salvage the corned beef and have a decent meal. 
Oh and the yaya has this weird habit of putting “rugs” all over the floor. So our house is now one “rugged” place. It’s driving me nuts picking them off.
Day 3
Ipe had to leave early so I had to commute last Wednesday. Anyway, Joey and I woke up at 8am to a plateful of dried, curled, and blackened hotdogs. Not a very appetizing sight. Since I wasn’t feeling comfortable yet letting the yaya give Joey a bath on her own, I did it myself, and just asked her to dress Joey while I eat breakfast.
But to my surprise (and the dismay of my rumbling stomach), the yaya was just about to eat her own breakfast and had not yet taken a bath. So, I ended up preparing Joey for school while SHE eats and takes a bath, and missed my own breakfast altogether. 
Needless to say, I wasn’t a very agreeable person that day.
Or that night. When Ipe and I got home at 9pm, there was no food and the yaya was fast asleep. At all. I was too tired to cook that I just crept onto the bed. Good thing Ipe can’t deny his hunger and resorted to cooking our own dinner. 
Day 4
I was pretty much in a hurry last Thursday so I decided to have yaya full rein with Joey’s bath while I eat and prepare for work.
But, I knew something was not right. Joey smelled stinky and I could see dirt around his neck and his arms when I got home, which was weird since he took a bath that morning. He couldn’t have possibly accumulated that much dirt during the day…
Day 5
…which is what led me to observe how the new yaya gives Joey a bath. I left them for less than three minutes, just to get a towel and wrap a towel around my own head, and to my surprise, she told me Joey was done!
What??? She finished giving Joey a bath in less than three freaking minutes??? I was too shocked I had to ask both her and Joey how they went about the bathing business.
And that was when I found out she just showered Joey with water, mixed soap with water and poured it over Joey, and that was it.
I asked Joey if yaya cleaned his butt and Joey shook his head. Poor Joey.
I couldn’t very well send Joey to school smelling like a drenched rat so I gave him another bath. While doing so, I noticed that the “libag” in his body from the night before were all there, therefore confirming my observation/suspicion that yaya didn’t really bathe him.
Oh, and the day ended with no dinner for us again. A good thing that Ipe and I bought some McDonald’s Happy Meal for Joey.
Day 6
If you think the yaya has improved over the course of one week, well, I’m about to prove you wrong.
For breakfast, she cooked hotdog again. It wasn’t burnt this time, but it wasn’t cooked either. Joey didn’t eat it at all.
I had to attend a parents-teachers conference at Joey’s school so I asked the yaya to fry all the flavoured chicken I had prepared and brought out to thaw.
When I got home at 1pm, horrors. She cooked only one piece of chicken and was giving Joey a ten-peso sized portion of it for lunch! OMG! Joey will surely be ten pounds lighter if this keeps up.
I had no choice but to reprimand her. After all, I had given explicit instructions to cook all the chicken. And what was I to eat if she cooked just one piece?
Anyway, so she cooked a second batch and when she told me she was done, I prepared Joey’s plate and mine to eat (I asked Joey to eat again with me).
Surprise#1: Chicken was still raw. . As in raw – bloody and raw (not in the way the meat is cooked but kinda still bloody; this was just plain raw). So raw, it looked like it was freshly thawed. Honestly, it was the first time I was served chicken that raw I almost threw up.
Surprise#2: There was just a little bit of rice. Like less than five spoonfuls of rice. And this, after she confirmed there was rice. By this time I was too hungry to delegate the task to her – I cooked the rice myself.
I finally got to eat lunch with Joey at 4PM.  
And the week ain’t over yet. I cannot wait for our old yaya to get back. I have a loooong weekend next week and looks like it will be hell with me having to work double time on the homefront as well.

Food Trip: Abe

Had dinner with the in laws at Abe last night for MIL’s birthday. Would you believe me if I tell you it was my first time there? Funny, considering that we live just five minutes away. 
Well, I came in with really high expectations – after all, Abe is part of a group of restaurants which includes Lorenzo’s Way (which has the best bulalo), Cafe Adriatico (best tsokolate), and Cafe Havana, among others. 
Hubby took charge of ordering the food and it was a veritable feast:
Mustasa vegetables with shrimp
Crispy Tadyang D’ Original Mickey Fenix

Binukadkad na Pla-Pla
Kare-Kare a La Bistro Burgos
Knockout Knuckle
Dalandan Shake

Well, to put it simply, I didn’t enjoy the food. The crispy pata wasn’t so crispy and not so tasty and the kare-kare was too bland. 
As for the dalandan shake, you can’t really go too far off as the fruit is quite delicious on its own, but it also didn’t come close the fresh dalandan juice at Sonya’s Garden
But the worst part, to be honest, I was very disappointed with the sinigang – I’ve tasted better home-cooked sinigang and Abe’s didn’t even come close. For me, the best sinigang is still Fely J’s (for the sinigang sa bayabas) and Mesa (for sinigang sa pinya). 
No wonder Joey didn’t look too interested. 
The verdict? Big disappointment. Food is quite cheap though; our tab was less than Php4,000 for a group of eight adults and one kid. Not bad, if only I came here only to save on money. But I will still give it another try; maybe they have specialties I have yet to discover.
* Abe is located at Serenda, Bonifacio Global City.

Boracay

While I have been pretty vocal about my love for Bohol, I cannot deny the captivating beauty of Boracay’s mile-long white beach. I do not make a yearly pilgrimage to this island (I blame it on our often conflicting schedules – it’s just so freaking hard to find a good window to travel between a journalist and an accountant), but this place holds a special place in my heart, being one of the first destinations Ipe and I visited shortly after we got married.
Anyway, I didn’t really plan much for this trip – it was short: 3D/2N and since we arrived late on the 1st day (blame it on the air traffic – we got on the plane at 2:15pm but left the tarmac at 430pm) and left early the 3rd day, you could say we actually just stayed for a little over a day. Besides, as hubby told me while I was busy googling: we only wanted to lounge on the beach, eat and catch up on sleep.
But of course, I had to take care of some logistics: airport transfers, accommodation, what to do. We already had plane tickets and since I didn’t want to be inconvenienced by lugging around our bags and riding the tricycle (tamad ako eh), I booked round-trip airport transfers at Php900 each via this really cool website where you can plan everything – from plane rides, transfers, accommodation, food, and activities. Even chopper or motorboat rides!
The best thing is, they have a map of the entire island, showing you the different beaches (white beach, Diniwid Beach, etc) as well as the hotels/apartments. Note though that this is not an exhaustive list; there are others not reflected on their map but I would assume it covers about 98%-99% of the establishments in Boracay. Plus, they have operators available via online chat. How convenient is that? Oh, and to make things even lovelier, they accept credit card payments – and they only charge 15% of your hotel bill while the balance can be paid onsite.
My main concern was, where do we stay? Hubby had given me somewhat explicit but vague instructions: cheap but comfortable (I was looking to splurge at the Shang but he squashed the idea). I spent many hours poring over their hotel listing and comparing it across various travel websites and forums (Tripadvisor, Asiatravel, AsiaRooms) to make sure I was getting the best deal. I initially looked at the Php2,000 range because of hubby’s instruction but I couldn’t find anything decent, until I reached the Php4,000-Php5,000 range. It was a tossup between Boracay Garden Resort and Mango Ray – both had big rooms, breakfast and the only other consideration was the former had a large pool while the latter had a jacuzzi in their suite. Now, having a pretty decent pool at home, it didn’t impress us much; but after going through the photos online and seeing green monoblock chairs all over the Boracay Garden Resort, we immediately nixed it. Nothing screams cheap more than monoblocks. So Mango Ray won.
So with all our transportation and accommodation worries laid to rest, all we needed to do was hop on the plane.
At NAIA: kind of improved since my last visit to the domestic airport in May. Shabby but we’ve seen worse. And look! Tissue! 

Since when did the Caticlan Airport become Boracay Airport? I have to admit, it’s much better than NAIA.
Mango Ray

Our choice was immediately proven perfect upon arrival – it was right on Station 2, with its own beachfront dotted with red beach umbrellas shading native lounge chairs. Our suite had its own set of stairs, its own balcony (which was big enough to be an actual room) and was huge! While the complex was a bit old and definitely not five star, it was quite charming. And how can I argue when it only set me back Php4,500/night to get a suite with its own balcony and jacuzzi?
We didn’t try their food though, other than the free breakfast, so I cannot judge. But if I were to base on their breakfast – it was just average. Not bad, but nothing to rave about.
The only other downside was the internet connection. Wifi was supposedly available for free and while they did give us the password, I was never able to connect, either using my laptop or my phone. But then, I didn’t really need Wifi right? When the beach is right in front of you, would you really choose to just stay indoors?
Beachbums

Like I said, we didn’t plan much – we just wanted to swim and hang out on the beach. And eat. The only activity we had was helmet diving, which set us back by Php500 each – and it comes with a free CD containing your underground photos and a short video of you feeding the fish.
This was hard. Ipe and kuya had to drag me several times because I kept floating.
While it was fun being able to stand on the seabed and breathe normally, I didn’t find anything spectacular under the water – there were lots of fish and corals but none as colorful as in Balicasag Island, where we were also literally covered by schools of colorful fish and everywhere you look you can see bright corals. But I still give Boracay a two-thumbs up.

Look at the water! Oh, and that blue boat was our ride to the dive site.


Can anyone tell me what those blue boats are for?

Cover your eyes! Yes, that’s fat me, twenty pounds heavier than when  was last in Boracay. Seriously.
Our beach front
Boracay at night

After that, we just spent the entire day sitting on the beach, swimming, drinking frappuccinos and reading. I tried to get a decent shot of the sunset but there was guy blocking my view and I was too lazy to get up. Oh well. 

Food

You can’t go hungry in Boracay – there’s food for everyone – seafood, meats, veggies and for whatever budget. Our first night, we opted to get a buffet for Php299 – this includes a glass of soft drink or a bottle of water (if you can convince them) plus unlimited grilled seafood (including shells, etc). I was like — seriously? I could have stayed forever, risking high blood and all.
On our next night, we tried the set meal at the Boracay Regency, which was a steal at Php230. You get five kebab sticks of your choice – shrimps, fish, pork, chicken, whatever you want! Plus four pieces of grilled clams, a glass of iced tea and yummy dessert. It wasn’t buffet but really, how many kebabs can you eat in one night? And they were generous sticks at that. 

Cocktails while listening to the live band.

Plus, they have a live band every night and their own elegant tent set-up on the beach.

They were quite good; except that they mangled some of the lyrics.
If you aren’t keen on having the buffet, there are plenty of other options – either on the beach or at D Mall. There are Spanish/Greek/Mexican/Korean/Japanese restos practically side by side. 

Took a little stroll after dinner to burn the calories:

Hmm, I have never tried a henna tattoo. Not too fond of it, I guess. Plus my allergies might kick in.

Recipe for high blood.
Shopping

Wait. Shopping??? On an island as small as this one? Yes, Boracay has its very own mall – D’Mall. Well, you all know about it. D Mall has steadily improved over the years, adding new shops, restos, service centers (airline offices, banks, spas, photo/video). Would you believe there is now even an antique shop (was it there before?)??? If only carrying antique furniture with us wouldn’t be such a hassle (not to mention expensive), I’m sure the hubby would have walked away with an antique religious statue or two. I did also hold off on buying pearl jewelry – I have this habit of buying them whenever I go to the beach, but I’m not really a pearl person (I like having just one or two on me, but not really an entire set; i like my bling sparkly and pearls don’t fit this requirements, unless they’re set in gold with diamonds, hehe) so I just end up hoarding them.
The Damage to my Pocket
Well, let’s see.
Hotel – Php9,000 for a suite
Airfare – this would vary, depending on your airline and when you booked (sale or regular priced? Peak or off peak) so I can’t estimate
Transfers – Php1,800
Food – Dinner – Php299 x 2 persons x 2 nights = Php1,196
Lunch – we didn’t really eat lunch – haha, we just had Starbucks = Php330
Helmet Diving – Php1,000
That would be a grand total of around Php13,500 for the two of us.
Not bad, eh? Considering we didn’t scrimp. You can even cut on the transfers — just take the tricycle from the airport to the jetty port, take the boat (I think it’s only Php20?) and you can easily save Php1,500 per head. Oh, and there are lots of cheaper food options. And cheaper accommodations too. Just saying.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that I got these reusable underwater film cameras at Market Market for Php695 and it was a buy one take one deal! But since its a film camera, I have yet to have the photos saved in a CD. So, my underwater shots for this post are limited.
I can’t wait to go back, hopefully next month. And I plan on parasailing this time. 🙂

The World According to Joey: This Will Make You Go "Awww"

While giving Joey a bath this morning:
Joey: Mom, I have many hearts: a happy heart, a sad heart, a jumping heart.  And I also have a mommy heart.
Me: Really? What is the mommy heart for? 
Joey: Because I love you very much. And the mommy heart is the biggest one because I love you very much!
I was speechless. I could not help getting teary-eyed.
*****
At the mall earlier tonight, I noticed Joey was already tired after spending three hours running around Tom’s World. I volunteered to carry him so he can rest.
Joey: No mom. I’m okay. I still have energy to walk. 
Me: But you’re tired. Let me carry you.
Joey: Mom, I’m too heavy. And I might break your back if you carry me. I don’t want you to be broken because of me.
Teary-eyed moment # 2 for the day.
*****
While waiting for a cab to take us home:
Me: Joey, why don’t you sit on the steps so you can rest a bit?
Joey: No, mom.  I just want to stand beside the best mommy in the world.  
Me: Really? Am I the best mommy?
Joey: Yes. And you’re my mommy!

I think everyone in the taxi bay gave a collective sigh when they heard Joey. A lot of them gave us smiles. 

Joey with his Happy Meal toys and prizes from Tom’s World

Global English

I have been blogging for two years now and while I rarely read my own blog, I usually cringe when I do – not because I think I have been over sharing (I am very vocal about my life but I always think about what I want to share before I even start writing), but because of the grammatical lapses I keep seeing.
Mistakes which I would never have made when I was younger.
Let me repeat that last bit. Or rather, let me rephrase it for you – my English now is far worse than when I was still a student. It has been deteriorating steadily over the years and hubby could not resist pointing it out to me.
Take note: my English is far from perfect. But it was quite good – not to brag, but I actually got a 99% ranking in my college entrance exam for English. My NEAT and NSAT for English were both 98% and in college, I consistently got the highest grade in our class (even the highest grade given by one professor for the entire batch), so it’s safe to say that I know a thing or two about good grammar.
What I find quite ironic is that the decline didn’t start while I was working for local companies, but rather, when I started working for a multinational company six years ago.
There is a recent study by researchers from the Aarhus University about English in a multinational company and they concluded that while employees from the same country feel they speak/write good English, there are often misunderstandings when it comes to communicating with their counterparts in other countries.
These misunderstandings would often result to what is called the ping-pong effect, in some cases, requiring translators to intervene. There may even be times when employees are sent overseas just to discuss face to face. Over time, unresolved issues can become so aggravated that it can and will affect productivity because of the tensions arising from these little misunderstandings.
No wonder – according to an article in the Financial Times year ago, 80% of all interactions in English are actually between non-native speakers. Given that people tend to think first in their native language and translate it to English as they speak/write, you will most certainly get varied interpretations and translations.
Tell me something I don’t already know. In the six years I’ve been employed in a multinational company (more accurately, three multinationals), I have yet to handle a country which has English for its native language. I know firsthand how frustrating it is to send what you feel is a very clear email, only to have replies sent back and forth because your counterpart can’t understand you. There were even times when I had to resort to drawing diagrams and sending this via email just to stress my point; other times, I am left with no choice but to give rhetorical/leading questions so I would just get an unequivocal yes or no.
But what’s worse is when I have to mimic the other parties’ word usage and grammar just to get the job done. I had this contact who kept calling “figures” as “fingers” and I simply gave up correcting her. Situations like this are what contribute to the slow demise of my near-perfect English.
Plus, I seriously the laptop is partly to blame as well. When I was younger, I would prefer using the typewriter or a notebook and pen to write my thoughts and I would be forced to think things through before I write them down because I can’t erase what I have already typewritten.
But with the advent of very affordable laptops (also, you can’t really expect me to carry a typewriter or a bulky notebook), copy/paste has become as easy as breathing. One other thing I am guilty of is changing my mind halfway through a sentence, resulting in sometimes very vague and unrelated statements. Not to mention mismatched tenses and verbs.
I am not expecting the situation to get any better – I still prefer working in a multinational/multicultural environment and I simply cannot give up my laptop. But the least I can do is to practice, practice, practice. From now on, I will simply refuse to revert to simplistic English (or what we Filipinos call “barok English”) just to please or make life easier.
And I will go back to the basics – PEN & PAPER.
Yes, you read that right. And to motivate myself, I got this very cute notebook. Quite perfect for me – gorgeous cover and unlined yellowish paper, which is exactly the way I like it (I hate ruled paper). I’m a sucker for vintage and this one fits the bill. 
Te Nues notebook, Glamour edition with Audrey Hepburn on the cover and side flap:
It’s almost too beautiful to write on – available at Fully Booked
I couldn’t resist putting flower petals. Haha!
 Wish me luck. And do pardon the slips from time to time. I will get my groove back.

Cooking 101: Chocolate Chip Cookies

First, a warning: I am no cook. I am no expert. The only food I can claim to cook well is rice. And hotdogs. It’s not that I don’t like cooking; I do, but most of the time, cooking does not agree with me. But given that I am now happily married with a kid, cooking kind of comes with the territory.
Anyway, enough about me.
One of the first things Ipe and I bought when we got married was a gas range with oven – with me explaining that we should have an oven because I am gonna bake. Fast forward to five years after and said oven has never been used. So I set about looking for the perfect cookie recipe (we are all addicted to Keebler’s Soft Batch cookies).
My first attempt was kinda ok – I didn’t burn the cookies, we didn’t die of food poisoning, and we were able to eat all the cookies. But it wasn’t exactly great, either. And to think I had used Ghirardelli chocolate chips.
I googled around for another cookie recipe and got one from the Food Network. I used Hershey’s chocolate chips this time. It was better, but still lacking. The recipe seemed pretty much standard so what I did was to tweak it around a bit:
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter – I used Anchor unsalted
  • 12 ounces bread flour – I used Gold Medal
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 ounces granulated sugar I skipped this one
  • 8 ounces light brown sugar I added the measure of granulated sugar to this, so I used 10 ounces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 ounce whole milk I doubled this one
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips – I used Western Family the 3rd time (it tasted much better than Hershey’s and probably as good as Ghirardelli)
Directions
Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat. Set aside to cool slightly. 
Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda onto a paper plate. Pour the butter into your stand mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the whole egg, the egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract in a measuring cup. Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add the egg mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. 
Using the paper plate as a slide, gradually integrate the dry ingredients, stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once the flour is worked in, drop the speed to “stir” and add the chocolate chips. Chill the dough for 1 hour. 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven.
Scoop the dough into 1 1/2-ounce portions onto parchment-lined half sheet pans, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake 2 sheets at a time for 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Remove from the oven, slide the parchment with the cookies onto a cooling rack and wait at least 5 minutes before devouring. 
Each cookie is about the size of a Php10 coin, except thicker – it will be as big as your palm when it cooks
And voila:
Hubby and kid loved them so much. Hubby even said my homemade cookies were good enough to sell. Except they cost more than your usual cookie – I spent around Php400 (mostly on the butter and chocolate chips), excluding the vanilla, salt, baking soda and eggs, which we already have at home. But still, I am quite proud to say I am getting better at this. 

Ayala Triangle

It’s funny how I never really appreciated the Ayala Triangle before. My office is practically right across the park but I rarely get to visit it, and when I do, I’m usually in a hurry and there are too many people for me to just enjoy the view. 
Bright afternoon, right before it started to drizzle. Confusing weather we have!
So, as one of the silver linings to an otherwise sad working holiday, I asked hubby and the kid to have lunch with me at the Triangle last All Saints’ Day. Most of the restaurants were closed – understandably, since their clientele consists mostly of office workers, but a couple were open: Omakase, Momo, and Banapple.
Since we just ate at Banapple a couple of weeks back and it was so crowded and Joey doesn’t like Japanese food, we settled for Momo. I love this place – food is good (not spectacular, but still good) and the place is bright and homey.
Slow Roasted Herb U.S. Roast Beef Finger
I shared the beef fingers with hubby – I always order something new when I’m here but this one dish is constant. I could never finish it off myself though. It’s good enough to feed 2-3. 
Boneless Cornflakes Crusted “Country Fried Chicken”

I’m quite disappointed with the chicken, though. It was too bland for my taste. Cornflakes sounded like an intriguing substitute to your usual breading but I wish they just added more salt and pepper to liven up the dish a bit. 

Melted Crab and Spinach Blue Cheese Dip
I do love their cheese dips. Simply heavenly. Oh, and just thinking about their cheese pimiento (which you get free, along with two pieces of bread) is enough to make me salivate. I’m a sucker for cheese – I can eat an entire bar in one sitting so please forgive me for drooling now. Haha. 

*Momo has another branch at Eastwood Mall.