Varsi Amihan Christmas 2011

This year perhaps marks the first time that our annual Varsi Amihan Christmas party did not involve overnight. And it probably takes 2nd place as the most spur of the moment parties we’ve had in the ten years we’ve been doing this (guilty on both counts). Planning this annual event somehow landed on my lap but I was just not feeling Christmassy this year and throwing a party was not one of my priorities (not that I don’t want to meet up with my Varsi friends – I do, and if I could, I would hang out with them everyday).
Anyway, good thing Feli came to the rescue and organized it with less than a week to go. Since we sent out the invites rather late, it also meant we had to think of a venue that was more or less never occupied. And so we ended up at Gloria Maris, Araneta. Seriously, the place serves decent enough food but any given time that we’re in Cubao, it’s almost always empty. 
First half of the night – dinner at Gloria Maris. Party hats courtesy of Feli.
Second party this week that I’m late. They were all done with dinner and about to transfer to the next venue when I arrived. But thanks to Leah and Marisse for arriving even later, we ended up staying at Gloria Maris til they closed. Though of course, Leah just arrived from Singapore so she was excused for being late. Haha.
Followed by coffee at Starbucks
Amelia Earhart, is that you?
We usually have coffee and dessert at Gloria Jeans (ok, too many Glorias there and I find it too funny) but it closes early; hence, the Starbucks.

Of course, what party would be complete without…drumroll please! Raffle prizes! Yey! Ok, to give you a background, we don’t really spend for these raffle prizes. We just pool all the gifts we don’t want to keep or have no use for and raffle them off. Kind of like a swap thingie, except it’s more fun. Our grand prize this year is a two burner stove and a foot spa machine (which hubby won at his office party, haha). And left-over GCs. 😛

In keeping with the somber atmosphere this season, what with the terrible Sendong hitting CDO and Iligan, we unanimously agreed to forego exchanging gifts and just donate money to charity. What do you know? We raised almost Php10K (courtesy of a very generous S$100 from Leah, clap clap)! Yehey! I think we’ll be donating it to Iligan, which was hit quite as hard as CDO but is not getting nearly as much help. 
Merry Christmas my dear Varsi friends! Entering our second decade of friendship!

La Naval: 2011

Went on the La Naval procession for the fourth straight year (I think) with our Varsi friends yesterday.
But first, let me tell you:  a miracle happened yesterday. It was raining cats and dogs a couple of hours before the procession and didn’t let up. The skies were so dark and we were worried the procession will not push through (honestly, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to join – you know me, I ALWAYS end up with a fever when I get soaked in the rain and I couldn’t afford to be sick this week). Thing is, the rain stopped a bit to let San Lorenzo Ruiz out and then it poured again – until the carosa carrying Mama Mary went out of the Church gates. It literally parted the clouds. The rains stopped and the sun shone so brightly, at past 5 in the afternoon and it didn’t rain until the mass finished at around 8PM. 
Miracles have always been attributed to The Virgin of La Naval and I have personally experienced this last year. I asked for Mary to guide me on my next career move and what do you know? My current employer called up the very next day. I had to heed it as I had made the mistake of ignoring the signs before (I remember I had one wish when I went to Vigan early last year – God granted an answer immediately but I chose to turn the other way; lesson learned the hard way).
The crowd was a lot bigger this year compared with last, considering the rains that immediately preceded it. And I think the celebrant was also better at engaging the churchgoers as I didn’t feel sleepy at all.
Taken after the mass
We did break a few of our traditions though – specifically, the hubby led us astray. But I can’t divulge the details here or he will not talk to me (right Feli, Carli and Lynda?). 
hubby not in photo but decided to use this since it has better angle
By the way, the Sto. Domingo church needs your help to fix the broken stained glass windows due to the recent typhoon. 

See you next year. 
*pardon the crappy shots – I couldn’t quite figure out how to use my Olympus point and shoot. Too many settings for a simpleton like me. Haha. 

Food Trip: Burgoo

What was supposed to be a dinner/movie/coffee date with our friend Leah (who’s on vacation from SG for a couple of days with hubby, Erwin) yesterday turned into a food trip at Burgoo and ghost story sharing/gabfest at Starbucks Araneta. 
Was fighting off flue brought on by the ever-changing weather and a myriad of other factors; had to back out on a birthday party with the kiddo (though I managed to take him to the mall for a KFC date and to buy the latest Bumblebee toy before my sneezes and runny nose got out of hand) and a planned weekend work (which meant I had to make up for it the next day). I was a bit groggy though – I initially took antihistamines, thinking my sneezes were just due to my persistent allergies but decided to take flu medications when it started getting worse. So I was a bit light-headed with lots of drowse-inducing meds in my system. 
The rain was a bit of a damper though, and it’s a good thing Carli lives just a couple of block; otherwise, I wouldn’t have had the push to haul myself off the bed. 🙂 Traffic was light though, even with the rain. 
Was so so hungry when we got to Gateway but the food more than made up for the wait. I hardly ever eat at Burgoo because there isn’t a branch within my radar (or maybe because I just don’t have it on my radar?) but I think it’s going to be one of my favourites.

Seafood Caesar Supreme salad – my favourite of the night. I’m a sucker for shrimps (though I’m unfortunately allergic to them) and squids. And crabs. And cheese. Which is basically what this salad is made of. J And I loved that the greens don’t taste bitter.

I could have eaten this plate by myself

Supreme Sampler – buffalo wings (they’re good), spring rolls (less than average – didn’t taste all spring’y to me), chimichangas, and onion rings. Served with three dips. 😛
Pizza Sampler – four flavours in one! 
Now, I normally would have just gotten mango shake or bottomless iced tea but I just couldn’t say no to a shake called marshmallow float. Loved it’s pink base and mini mallows in yellow, peach, pink and white! It looks too fluffy and pretty to drink. And they didn’t scrimp on the mallows. Up to the last sip, there were still mallows and I even had to scoop them up. 
Too pretty!

And of course, what event would it be without a group shot? We were so hungry at Burgoo that we forgot to take pictures and Jere had left already before we realized we hadn’t documented our latest get-together.
My friends for over a decade now

Our topics last night evolved on only a couple of things: updates on our lives, especially those who weren’t there (sheepish grin and chuckle), the Philippine Volcanoes, and ghost stories (triggered by a discussion on the distasteful prenup photos, taken at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, circling on the web) which left us with goosebumps. One day, I just might write down those stories for your guys to read here.
But as a fitting dessert to cap off our night, our conversation went back again to the Philippine Volcanoes, with the hubby even mimicking their poses while slurping on a venti frappe. Trust, the mental image is quite hard to erase. 
Well, I guess, the collective opinion went something like – why take down the billboards when it inspired and made so many people happy? 😀

Food Coma Weekend

I know I’m supposed to be on a diet in preparation for summer and of course, it’s the Lenten season and I should fast. But, I will have to restart my diet another day. 
Friday night, had dinner with my teammates from my former employer at Cyma. I had suggested we eat here since we’ve always taken Jerry to Filipino restos in the past so I figured it would be a nice change to have something different (although I couldn’t really vouch for the authenticity of the food since I’ve never been to Greece). And since it was the first time for all of them, we got a little carried away with the orders -we realized it was too much even before the appetizers were laid out: tons of pita bread with tzatsiki! For those who don’t know, tzatsiki is a yoghurt and cucumber dip so it’s a bit sour and cool to the tongue at the same time. 
We also had moussaka, a no-brainer, after all, if you’re gonna try a cuisine might as well start with the national dish right? Then chicken adobo, spinach pasta and zucchini and gyros. I especially liked the zucchini – I never tasted this veggie before but it tasted lovely. 
I wanted to have dessert after but we were too full I decided to just skip it. Though I did manage to hit Fully Booked – and got the latest book in the Vampire Diaries series (well, the 2nd to the latest). 😛
Saturday night, Ipe and I had the usual “mamam”  with UST friends, as titow Jere would say it – at Banana Leaf at Powerplant. Loved the fried tilapya with sauce and the shrimp/mango with chili sauce. And I got the chrysanthemum tea shake to boot! A lot of people don’t really like this tea, but I find its taste perfect, even when I was a kid. It taste like brewed flowers, kinda like drinking a floral perfume. Ok, I’ll stop there as I realize that sounds sort of weird.

Watched a movie after, World Invasion: Battle LA starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Neyo and Ramon Rodriguez (I kept thinking where I saw him then it hit me – he was Shia Labouf’s sidekick in Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen). I am not really a fan of disaster movies; I only watch them when I have nothing to watch ON cable. But Aaron Eckhart was superb as the Staff Sergeant who was forced to lead a team of marines after their lieutenant died, not to mention easy on the eyes too. But the plot is tired, and the entire movie reminded me of Independence Day. So, I’d say, the movie would have bored me to death if I didn’t find Aaron kinda handsome. 😛

Busy Weekend

Attended two birthday parties over the weekend – one grown up and one for kids. 🙂
Saturday night was spent with old college friends for Meg’s birthday:
With Varsi friends for Meg’s birthday treat
 On Sunday afternoon, the kiddo and I trooped to McDonald’s at the Fort for a teammate’s kid’s birthday:
Too bad though that Joey was in no mood to join the games. He was probably tired and hungry coz he was in a much better mood after eating two chicken wings (his and mine!). 
How was your weekend? 🙂

I Love Weddings

Who doesn’t? You get to witness two people bind themselves together in love being the most important reason, weddings are also the perfect place to meet old friends and play dress up. 🙂
For our friend Leah’s wedding, Joey was picked to be the coin bearer, but unfortunately, he ripped the barong while we were fitting it so we had to make an emergency purchase the day before the wedding.
Nice discovery is Market Market’s fitting room. The kids’ one is painted to look like trains, houses, parks, and Joey like the fire station one so we settled for that one. Plus the rooms are so big – the three of us fit inside without bumping. And that’s a feat. Haha.
Spent half a day watching our own wedding video, trying to coach Joey on how to walk down the aisle – it’s his first time to attend a wedding and he’s part of the entourage so I was doubly worried he’d mess up. And he almost did; good thing he changed his mind at the last minute and gamely walked.
The newlyweds with the kids (see Joey, being carried by no less than the bride, hehe, that little brat):
After the ceremony, we all headed to the Glass Garden. Nice place and fully air-conditioned. 😛 A very good thing it was a covered place since it rained very hard during the reception. Imagine if we were out in the open – that would have been a bride’s nightmare. As it is, we enjoyed catching up with old Varsi friends which we continued with coffee after at High Street. 😛
top: Varsitarian friends; Ipe and me; V-friends Paul and Lyn; with my bff, Noreen

Varsi Amihan Christmas Party

It has been an annual tradition to have a Christmas party for Varsi amihans and ever since Ipe and I got married, we’ve been hosting it at our house or we take charge of the venue. This year, we had it at our unit.
It was kinda last minute what with everyone just plain busy nowadays, and some are abroad (hint: Leah) and some are out of town, so only a handful made it.
standing from left: Ipe, Dex, Jere, Lynda, Feli, Yekyek, Ian; seated: me, Lyn, Gerald and Joey (not in photo – Carli)
Lynda and ninong Jere with Joey out in the hallway
TL and Ria with Joey trying on shades (Ria’s?)
goofing around with Joey in our bedroom

For food, I cooked my Varsi-famous pesto, steamed tilapya, ham slices, and ice cream. It was just mainly an eat and run event. Hahaha. Though we did watch Villa Estrella and Mirrors after stuffing ourselves full.
Next year, I promise we’ll bring back the Charades and Wish List. Hopefully, we can have the party in HK or Macau since it’s our 10th year anniversary. 😛

Time to lend a helping hand

My eyes were hurting a lot and I was developing a migraine last night from almost twelve hours of nonstop computation – income tax, withholding tax, VAT… so I decided to do some mindless facebooking and go through some online reads. The other option was to rant out loud and I didn’t want to disturb my seatmates.
Most of the blogs or articles were about Ondoy; harrowing experiences when voiced out by the very persons who went through them are so much more emotional and I can’t help but get teary-eyed.
I realized, I’m still so damn lucky. I never lived through anything like that happening to me. The nearest was on three instances in my childhood when our house nearly got caught in a fire. Our old neighborhood had houses build close to each other — only firewalls separate them. And some houses are made entirely of wood so the spread of fire was almost inevitable. So it had become an ordinary event every summer that a fire would start in one house and would spread quickly before you can even shout: Fire!
I was too young then to really feel the horror of losing almost everything you’ve put up. I only have vague memories of seeing bright reddish-orange flames and black smoke billowing out and of people running around carrying their appliances.
The one time my mom thought we should evacuate as well was when a fire broke out just three houses away from us. She didn’t find it necessary to bring anything – she said our house and car are insured anyway and just brought a large duffel bag containing all our important documents (and the insurance policies you bet). As for me, I took my school bag and my giant stuffed dog and let my real dog out of her leash (she knows the way home so I didn’t have to worry about her getting lost). And that was it. We returned a few hours later with everything intact.
But reading the Ondoy stories – these people lost homes, and sometimes loved ones. last night, Ipe even told me of a mom and daughter walking bravely home all the way from Makati to Sta. Mesa amidst thigh-high flood, only to reach the gate of their subdisivion where a sudden rush of floodwater tore the daughter and sent her down to the nearby creek all the way to Hagonoy, Bulacan. Imagine the horror!!! Her poor body traveled down that creek from Sta. Mesa to Bulacan.
Ipe and I have many friends living in Cainta and Marikina and they lost practically everything they’ve worked hard for. One of them even said, “it’s back to zero for us.”
I don’t really have the right to complain right now. So, Ipe and I just channelled our energies to helping the victims. I gathered all our canned goods and clothes that we hadn’t used and gave them to our church. A couple of friends from the school paper were also affected so we started a fund drive. I think we’ve already raised around P30k (Ipe has the list) — all these were distributed to the Amihans via bank deposit. We’ll be releasing a statement later this week to account for the funds.
Anyway, Ipe and I didn’t accept donations in kind. I personally think giving used clothing to friends is rather unkind — our friends lost furniture and appliances but they can definitely afford new clothes (and I would personally be insulted if someone gave me baul-smelling clothes). And most of our affected friends informed the money will be used to repair what has been damaged and to buy cleaning materials. Giving canned goods to them is out of the question too — these would be better given to the victims in evacuation centers, where food, water and medicine is scarce.
On the other hand, I’m thinking of meeting with my mom later this week. We used to do a Christmas Eve food-giving ride around the Metro and it might be a good idea to do it this weekend — a lot of people in the centers and on the street would surely appreciate home-cooked meals served hot to them after all the ordeal they’ve been through.
Anyway, I’ll let you guys know how it all turns out. My fifteen minutes are up and gotta get back to work. 🙂