Friday, May 30, 2008

Touched me in the morning

What was supposed to be a routine farewell turned out to be one of the most touching conversations I've had in my HKG stay. If I weren't such a callous, old fart, tears would've probably rolled down my cheeks.

Fortunately, I am, so the morning didn't start out too weepy or tear-y. Harhar.

Often, it's when you pull back to see the bigger picture that things make so much sense.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sketchy Memory

Saturday afternoon, I went to buy fruits at the market and passed by one of my favorite shoe haunts. There, I saw this really nice pair of black shoes that had a Bottega Veneta vibe to it. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and didn't have time to stop by and examine whether it was worth buying or not.

I went back to the store this afternoon, the shoes were gone. Since only 2 days had passed, my guess was that they rearranged the racks and the pair must've moved to another section of the store. After scouring each rack, the shoes really weren't there. Gone in 2 days!

One of the salesclerks recognized me and asked what I was looking for. Like a contestant in a charades contest, I started describing the pair of shoes - complete with hand gestures - in the hopes that she'd understand me. Judging by the blank look on her face, it was obvious that she didn't. Suddenly, she went away and came back a few seconds after carrying a piece of paper and a pen.

From "charades", the game suddenly became "pictionary."

I sat down and started sketching the shoe from memory. After a minute, I held up the sketch to 3 of the girls. In unison, they all exclaimed:


Upon hearing the ruckus, another group of girls approached us. The girl who was helping me initially snatched the sketch from my hand, showed it to the other group who then shouted:


Not long after, the girls were already in a circle, passing around the sketch while saying:


A few minutes after, one of them approached me and had this huge smile on her face. She gave me a thumbs-up sign, patted my shoulders and said:

"You very goooooooodddddddddd..."

From her reaction, it felt like I discovered the elixir of youth, or the cure for cancer. I wanted to tell her: "People! It's just a sketch!"

She hurriedly went inside the stockroom, and emerged with a box. First, she handed me back my sketch, then she opened the box to reveal the pair of shoes I was looking for. Yes, it wasn't on display, but apparently, they still had it in stock. If not for my 1-minute artwork, I would never had known.

As I was walking out of the store, the girls started chatting animatedly in Cantonese. They were probably still talking about the drawing I made. Then again, maybe I'm just vain and I bet you think that talk is about you. Don't you. Don't you.

Looking at the sketch a few minutes after, I must say that my memory served me well at this instance. Here's what I drew:

And here's the actual shoe:

Hmmm... maybe I should intern at Jimmy Choo.


* WAAAHHHH is the default Chinese expression for amazement, delight, surprise, and all other emotions in between.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wang, nab it!

Alexander Wang designs a capsule collection for Uniqlo!

Enough said.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Baby Steps

Most Filipinos who have traveled abroad have a lot of negative adjectives to describe the NAIA 1 airport. They range from the basic (ugly) to the more specific (mukhang bus terminal). That's not hard to imagine considering the number of gleaming metal and glass airports around the region. Surprisingly though, I have met a number of foreigners who have opinions that differ from the locals.

My American colleague thinks our airport is convenient because of its compact size. This is partly true because of the "bigger is better" trend in new airports. In fact, passengers going through Beijing terminal 3 are asked to be there at least 3 and a half hours before the flight because it's a long, long, long walk to the gates. But that's another story.

Another European traveler who I shared a flight with described it as "simple and no-frills, just the way I like things." Again, this is true because I can get out of the plane and get to the parking lot in 15 minutes, barring the long immigration queue. In HK, it takes at least an hour for you to get from the tube to the arrival area. This illustrates the "bigger might not necessarily be better" principle.

While waiting for the new NAIA 3 airport to open (which I hope happens soon because it's such a waste of good architecture) it's good that MIAA is sprucing up the old NAIA, albeit bit by bit. Since January, I've noticed the little renovations they're doing and these "cosmetic procedures" are long overdue.

This is the old entrance to the terminal building:

Now, they've added an air conditioned anteroom where passengers can queue more comfortably while the guards check their travel documents. In the arrival area, I've also noticed that they've spruced up the tubes and some of the gates, as well as replaced the old glass that divides the departing passengers from the arriving ones. Some of the waiting areas have also been fitted with new carpets and seats, although they're still not cushioned.

Looking at it from a structural perspective, the airport isn't as bad as a lot of people say it is. I think Leandro Locsin did a great job designing its shape and flow. Having gone in and out of that airport SO many times, I noticed that the materials make it look old and dated. I mean, dark wood, textured concrete, brown aluminum frames and tinted glass? Hello! Can you say 80s? (Then again, it was built in 1981, so it's really designed to look 80s.)

Since MIAA is on a renovating mood anyway, I think a little more updating in terms of materials will give NAIA 1 a more contemporary feel. And I've thought of these materials while waiting for my delayed flight last Monday.

- Remove the brown aluminum frames and replace them with clear, frame less glass.
- Cover the concrete areas the Alcobond material that they've used on the new ante area.
- Change the wooden railings to metal ones.
- Gradually replace the antique-looking check in counters with sleek, modern ones.
- Tidy up the immigration counters because the present ones have a lot of chipped paint.
- Get new tenants for the shops inside. (Those shops DO remind me of a bus terminal. Grade school handicraft projects, anyone?)
- Cushioned seats.

Materials. I think that will make a lot of difference. Structurally, the old airport has more character and soul. The new ones, albeit sleek and modern, look like every other new airport around the world. If they can just modernize NAIA 1, I think it'll look much better than new NAIAs. If they continue to take baby steps, just like they're doing now, walking in and out of the airport would be a better and more positive experience.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Far away from home

Today's quick swing-by to the neighborhood overrun store has proven two things: 1. You can find just about anything in HK, and 2. Most of the world's clothes are made in China. In my experience as a shopper, (I'm sure Mark is thinking, "He's definitely got a lot of experience there.") I've seen brands ranging from the must-haves to the is-there-really-such-a-brand-items. I've seen global names to obviously local ones. There have also been stray designer outfits; some off season and others are here even if they haven't hit the stores in the US.

After having seen so much, I must admit that it didn't prepare me for what I found a few hours ago.

A Philippine brand in a HK overrun store? Strange, but true. Actually, this isn't the first time it happened. Once, I saw a Penshoppe shirt at Maple, and there was an Oxygen polo at the Uno Uno branch in Granville. What makes this find unique is the fact that the item is fully intact. The label hasn't been cut-out, which is a usual practice in these kinds of stores:

And it even comes with the full tags! If it had the price in pesos, I would've been totally flabbergasted.

Obviously, I bought the shirt. It's such a novelty to buy your country's own brand in some narrow, crowded bargain basement abroad. This must be how an American feels whenever he goes to Surplus Shop and finds a stock pile of Abercrombie and Fitch shirts and Ann Taylor blouses. Speaking of Surplus Shop, they even sell a line of clothes designed by Daisy Fuentes. Hamakdat!

Finally, true to its being a surplus item, this Kamiseta blouse is cheaper compared to the ones they sell back home. It's just 1/4 of the SRP. Not bad for an item that's 711 miles away from home.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A new seating arrangement

During my recent HKG-MNL flight, I finally saw the new, reconfigured 747 business class seats. The first time I heard about it was during a get together at Tanya's place. The flight attendants in attendance were all talking about how confusing the seats were and that the seats were a bit claustrophobic. And after "test flying" these babies, I have to agree with both observations.

Unlike the conventional seats that face forward, the new ones are diagonal in orientation. So instead of seeing a seat in front of you, the view you'll get is that of your neighbor's knees. Another oddity that these slanted seats create is this: it's easy to get disoriented when you take off. Because your body is in a 45 degree angle as the plane moves, it can be a bit dizzying. Plus, there's a tendency for you to slip off the seat, ergo the new seatbelt with a harness function.

The reason why the seats can cause claustrophobia is because the screens on both ends are too high. It felt like I had blinders during the entire trip. Having gotten used to seeing my seatmate - and sometimes talking to them - I felt isolated and alone. Heck, I couldn't even see the windows because the other seats were blocking it.

But these new seats also have a couple of plus points. First up, it fully reclines up to 90 degrees and that makes sleeping much more comfortable. This is great for long haul trips, but since my flight was less than 2 hours, I wasn't able to experience this level of comfort.

If you like in-flight movies - and I love them - you'll have a field day watching them because the TV screen is huge! Like a mini-plasma screen, it pulls out in front of you. Once again, it blocked my view of my fellow travelers and all I could see was Kim and Kloe Kardashian as they partied in Las Vegas.

Before I could play around with the seat some more, the plane was already descending into NAIA. On my way out, my FA friend who was on the same flight told me that CX was planning to remove these seats because they were getting too many complaints from frequent fliers. Complaints that, I must say, are valid.

I hope they're not rushing the phase-out operation, though. I'd like to get these seats when I fly to ATL next month.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Life's a Beach

Beaches have a significant part in our lives. Growing up, we'd go to Bicol during the summer to stay at Lolo's beach house. It was this long stretch of beach with a quaint, cozy, 2 room (which eventually became 4) rest house, plus 2 bahay kubos at the back. It was a place that would be filled with kids during summer but empty the rest of the year.

Those times usually meant reunions for the Morales cousins. Since we were in different parts of the globe - some cousins are in Manila while others were in Barcelona - summer was the only time for all of us to reconnect. We'd do this in ways both conventional and unconventional. Among the unconventional ones were having these huge military style dinners, complete with army-style plates. Sometimes, Lolo and Lola would set a table on the shallow part of the river and we'd all have breakfast with our feet submerged in water.

It was in Bicol where I learned to play "shato" and how to make toy guns from banana stalks. It was where I found out what a "santilmo" was, and freaked out at the sight of a ball of fire after that. There, I also learned how to "rough it up" and camp out the entire night.

Early morning, the fishermen's boats would arrive and the wives would pass by the house to give us fresh fish. That time, I though it was a bit weird to see a palanggana full of live fish in the morning, then see them fried or grilled a few hours after. The first thing that would come to my mind come lunchtime was: "Didn't I just see you alive a while ago?"

Afternoons were spent setting up hammocks in between coconut trees and waiting for merienda to arrive. Sometimes, Lolo would ask the "marines" to go up the coconut tree and pick fresh Buco to be made into juice. Until now, I can still remember that nothing compares to fresh, just-cut-from-the-tree, Buco juice. Then in the evening, we'd make a big bonfire and trade stories, or we'd walk to Tita Dolly's house and watch TV there.

I miss going to our beach in Bicol. What made me miss it more was seeing these pictures of my nephews and nieces having fun in a beach in Florida. (Oh, I swiped the pictures from my niece, Princess. Acknowledgements go to her for these.)

Looking at these pictures and seeing happy kids running around the sand took me back a decade ago when my brothers and sisters, as well as our cousins, would do the same thing in our beach in Bacacay. It's been a while since we were all there together -- our last visit there was probably 4 to 5 years ago.

A trip back to the beach is long overdue. And thanks to Princess, Kai-kai, Toni and Noah, I'm inspired to go back to Bacacay and do some running on the beach myself.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

ANTM is full

The results were new, and another "first" for the competition. Expected, but new nonetheless.

Cycle 8 brought us the first Latina winner of America's Next Top Model - Jaslene. Now, cycle 10 has named the first "full sized" winner in the history of the CWTV's pose-fest.

When they first introduced the 14 finalists for this cycle, Whitney was one of the 4 girls who I saw a lot of potential in. She, along with Anya, Lauren and Dominique, had something that the past cycles didn't have. While there were other girls who were noteworthy - the likes of Marvita, Claire and episode 1 quitter Kimberly - it felt like these girls have been there and done that.

From the moment she was chosen, Whitney was known as the "plus sized girl." Although she really isn't as "plus" as most "plus size" models are, she also wasn't a size 0 or 2 like Anya or Fatima. In one of the challenges, a designer told her outright that she doesn't have clothes that would fit her since she only makes clothes for girls who are a size 2. Now that she's the winner, maybe she could go back there and do a Julia Roberts and say: "Big mistake. Huge!"

By sheer number of times she appeared on the bottom 2, I wasn't expecting her to be the winner. But when they named her and Anya as the final 2, it was clear that she was going to take it all. Even though she didn't win, Anya will probably make waves in the modelling biz as well. She's ridiculously pretty.

The funny thing is, Whitney isn't the first "plus sized Whitney" in ANTM's history. Cycle 8 had another Whitney who was also plus sized. And if I remember correctly, cycle 8 was the batch where they had 2 plus sized models.

Latina - check. Full figured - check. Next on their check list should be letting a deserving Asian model win the competition. Who knows? That one might just be Pinay.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tales of Sales

Serendipitously, I came home this week to two big sales. Not only that, these two sales are labeled "most awaited" and "must not miss" on my sale calendar - even as far back as 5 years. If Japan has their "January 1 Sale" and the US has their "Thanksgiving Sale," I have my "Robinson's Mall Sale" and the "Rustan's Annual Summer Sale."

Sale 1: Rustan's Annual Summer Sale

There was a time when those 4 words would get me and Kin scampering to Shangri-la and heading straight to Rustan's. Why wouldn't we? They had fashionable in-house brands like Due (then designed by Rhett Eala), Luna (that time by Pia Regala-Hebron) and U. Apart from that, they had uber hip imported brands like Free People, Bulldog, Industrie, Lucky Brand Jeans and FCUK. And for 2 weeks in a year, they'd mark these babies down by as much as 70%. We'd often go inside empty handed, and leave with at least 3 bags full of fabulous finds.

Unfortunately, those days are gone.

My friend warned me that the Rustan's Sale this year - as well as the past years - was crap. Major league crap. Of course, I wasn't convinced because of my previous euphoric experiences. How bad could it be? Yes, Due is dead and Luna is now unimaginative and over priced, but there must be some saving grace.

There wasn't any. And my friend was correct: The Rustan's Sale is crap.

Stocks were lousy. Everything was overpriced. And nothing was worth the price you'll pay for. I've been to 3 branches of Rustan's, and it's the same story all throughout. Such a waste of time, and such a disappointment. Thank goodness there's another sale to look forward to.

Sale 2: Robinson's Midnight + 2 day sale.

To say that I'm obsessed with the mall sales at Robinson's is an understatement. When our office was still in Emerald Avenue, I'd know all the sale dates by heart (thanks, Bonique) and would be there the night before to do "recon work." Then, at 10am, I'd be by the entrance and once the doors are open, I'd make a mad dash to the different stores to go on a grabbing spree.

As I told Bonique a while ago, it's been more than 2 years since I last went to a Robinson's Mall Sale. And unlike Rustan's, Robinson's definitely did not disappoint.

The "old reliables" are still reliable as ever. Shops like Topman, Topshop, People are People, Bayo and Kamiseta are still delivering the goods. I accompanied Lezyl as she went shop crazy today. Through her, I felt like I shopped vicariously; not that I didn't do any shopping myself. Fortunately, my sense of self control is at a high, and I only bought a small - teeny tiny, really - amount of stuff.

Then again, there are 2 more days left. So this isn't the end of the story just yet.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hip.. Hip.. Hooray!

I'm not sure if I should have taken it as a compliment, but when I presented this idea to our clients, one of them told me: "You can really think like a little girl. A hip, little girl."

When the brief for this shampoo landed on my desk, my creative partner and I immediately got excited. For me, it was an opportunity do something fun and childish for a change. For her, it was a trip to her childhood when she loved playing dress up and pretended to be a model. Our two mindsets combined produced a chock full of initial ideas that we happily laid on the table and threw around.

The following weeks, we found ourselves looking at anything and everything that would qualify as "hip" in that age group. Like websites for my scene Barbie and watching "Totally Spies." Then came DVDs of "High School Musical," "Bratz," and more Barbie in her different incarnations. (Nutcraker, Fairy, Cinderella...) Of course, there was an immersion into all these Japanese fashion magazines for kids. Yes, Japan has magazines made especially for toddlers and preschoolers, and the fashions they sell would make them fit in Shinjuku effortlessly. (These Japanese kids are more than just hip. They're Ferosh!)

When the shampoo foam cleared, there were 3 ideas that we had a lot of heart for. In our minds, whichever they choose would be an idea we'd be proud to air. But of course, we each had our favorites, and thankfully, my clients and I had the same one. It was a product called Fashion Girl, so it called for a fashion show.

The commercial is as fun as the thinking process and the actual production. During this shoot, we found out that the catty-ness behind the catwalk isn't exclusive to supermodels. There was a lot going on behind those twinkling eyes, sweet smiles and perfect hair. If only that ramp could talk, it would say a mouthful.

While having lunch, we were laughing at the goings on during the shoot. This led one of the production people said: "I was never like that when I was a little girl." To this I replied: "But these aren't just little girls. They're hip little girls." And that makes all the difference.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pinays in Project Runway

Just as our Kababayans have appeared on American Idol, Britain's Got Talent and Top Chef 4, 2 Pinays have found themselves in season 4 of Project Runway. Yes, Manila will have its own Project Runway show in a few months time, but this isn't connected to that.

The first Pinoy is a designer, but wasn't competing for the title. She's Monique Lhuillier, and she appeared on episode 1 as the runway judge. Gosh! This girl is just like Bea Valdes, gorgeous and blessed with talent. Aside from the very pretty face, she's got loads of talent to back it up. Just a few years after her foray into the US fashion world, she's a staple in every fashion magazine, bridal aisle and red carpet.

The second Pinay was also part of the contest, but like Monique, wasn't a designer. In the "Prom Challenge Episode", Kevin's model was Filipina. The first time she appeared on screen, I immediately knew she it. Although she spoke with a very thick American accent, her features gave her away. Then when her Mom came in and talked, the observation became a fact.

Finally, during his meeting with the judges as part of the bottom two, Kevin said that his model was Filipino and he chose red because it matched her skin tone. Although he had a point, he was still Auf'd because of his ill-fitting and drab disaster of a dress. The judges were right when they said: "It looks like a $29.95 dress of the rack."

Looks like the Philippine invasion is extending to reality shows. Hopefully, the next stop of the Pinay would be "America's Next Top Model." It would be nice to see the first Asian ANTM winner to be one of our own.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Projects for the weekend

I've had a very productive day since I arrived in Manila yesterday morning. First on the agenda was going to Goldilocks to finally get that Marble Slice that I've been craving for. Second was to call up and meet friends who I haven't been seeing the past few visits here.

Then, I've started buying hangers and other home implements because I'm thinking of doing a bit of home projects this weekend. Another thing I've ticked off my to-do list is eating halo-halo. Went to Icebergs with Sam this afternoon and got my fill of one of the best halo-halos in the country.

And on a routine visit to Ortigas today, I found another project that will surely take up the next few days in my calendar.

Yes! I got the DVD of Project Runway Season 4. Now I can catch Christian and all his fierce and ferosh moments. (I also got a DVD of Hotaru no Hikari that I'm giving Alfie. I've been telling her about this series, so it's about time she watches it.)

One good weekend - and a busy one - coming up.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The fun in being Christian

Christian Siriano is Ferosh.

I'm not really into Project Runway. That's more up Arnie's alley. My attitude towards the show is: if I catch it on TV, then great; if not, no biggie. I never watched seasons 1 and 2, and only a few episodes of season 3. (Laura rocks!) Now, season 4 is showing here in HK, albeit late. Everyone knows that Christian won, and he deserved it. Aside from having a very cohesive and creative collection, he has a lot of character. A whole lot of character.

As Rami accurately said: "Christian is like a cartoon character." What makes him so memorable is that he's just like a caricature. He has a distinct look, a unique way of speaking, and of course, his oft-repeated line: "Fierce." Too bad he can't claim that as a signature line because Tyra beat her to it. Tyra is definitely the queen of Fierce. Among his winning lines, my favorite has to be: "Ferocia Coutura."

After watching 2 episodes of season 4, I felt bad not seeing his ferociousness from day 1. Thank goodness there's a compilation of his Christian's most fierce moments on youtube. Watching it definitely made the day - hmmm... what's the word - Fierce.

Mamu told me that Project Runway Philippines is already shooting. I wonder if they'll have a character like him there. If they do, hopefully that person is genuinely funny like Christian. I'm just afraid that someone will put up an act and fake his way to Christian-ity just to get attention, and I hope that doesn't happen. After all, that would be so not fierce.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Spatial Child

Even if I'm not good at calculating numbers, I somehow have a knack when it comes to calculating space and size. As a boy, I'd fix the living room by looking at the new furniture, looking at the space, and I'd do some spatial planning in my mind. Surprisingly, everything fits based on my mental planning. The same principle goes into buying things for my friends and family members. I'd approximate their size - be it clothes or shoes - and, more often than not, the sizes are correct.

Prichy calls it "Spatial Intelligence." She said I'm supposed to be good at making things fit. Every Christmas, her mom would be shocked at how the clothes I give her fit like a glove. It's as if I took a medida and measured her before getting her that pair of jeans and blouse. Once, I got Arnie a pair of wedge shoes in tartan here in Hong Kong. Again, I just approximated her shoe size. Good golly, miss molly -- they fit!

When I ran into my former colleague, she told me how flabbergasted our secretary was. Before I left the office, I gave the creative guys a souvenir from Manila; mostly Team Manila shirts. Our secretary deserved something different, though. Whenever I'd go back home, she'd inquire about jeans. Apparently, she has a friend who visited the Philippines and went shop crazy over Levi's and other denim brands. Her friend told her how cheap denim jeans were, and it was always part of her plan to ask me to buy her a pair. Something she never did.

So I decided to give her a pair of jeans as a present. I found a nice pair that Kate Moss designed for Topshop. Again, I didn't know her size, but got the size that I "felt" would suit her. Verdict? They fit perfectly! She couldn't figure out how I knew her size; if I saw it on one of the jeans she was wearing, or if I googled it. G's explanation was simpler: I was probably checking her out everyday for the past few years. Harhar.

During one of my shoe shopping sprees, a friend was impressed by the fact that I could buy shoes for my sisters. When asked how I knew their sizes, my reply was: "It's the responsibility of siblings to know each other's shoe sizes. We just have to."

Personally, I know the shoe sizes of my Dad, Mom, brothers and sisters. (Whilst I know my Dad's size, I'm not in tune with his taste. He's very finicky when it comes to that.) Heck, I can even buy shoes for my nephews, nieces and in-laws! Hmmm... maybe I can put that in my resume as "special skills."

Once I see a pair up close, it's clear to me whether it'll fit them or not. Just like this pair that I found recently.

These shoes are tres funky! It's not everyday that I see ombre, metallic snakeskin, cone-heeled shoes. That's why the moment I saw it, I knew it would be a perfect fit. And knowing my Ate, it'll fit not just size-wise, but more importantly, style-wise.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Mexican Mafia

As Mexico celebrates "Cinco de Mayo" today, I am reminded of a brilliant guy who once asked me: "Kailan cine-celebrate ang Cinco de Mayo?" That question made my eyes roll three times. (Yes, Mark. I can roll my eyes.)

It also reminds me of a wonderful group of girls who I had the distinct honor of traveling with in Mexico. In 2003, they were looking for young, vibrant and smart individuals who could go to Mexico and act as de facto ambassadors for the city and the country. And after a rigorous screening process, they chose the perfect people for the job. Four people, at least.

Together with Beng, Mommy Beth and Ginger, I became the 4th member of "The Mexican Mafia." In the course of more than a month, the mafia hopped from one Mexican state to the next; meeting people, trying different cuisine, integrating with the locals, and making fun of "PC." Every day - from landing in Monterrey to the day we went our separate ways in LAX - was very eventful and loads of fun because of the 3 girls I was traveling with. Since we were assigned different "anfitriones" per state, we had to spend time apart. But whenever the opportunity of getting together arose, we'd always have a blast.

Opportunities like the mini-field trip on the Tampico aduana with Guada, or having lunch at McDonald's and watching little Rosie down a huge burger. There's that time we went to Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende where we tried Helados with flavors ranging from classic (Fresa) to crazy (chicharon). The time we rejoiced when we were living with "the Hiltons" in Nuevo Laredo, and Best Western in Matamoros. (This was a landmark moment for me because I made a joke in Spanish, and they laughed!) And who can forget, the evening we went clubbing at the coolest club in Nuevo Leon.

Even if it's been 5 years since our sojourn, I can still rattle off highlights from that trip. Among my favorites are:

- Mommy Beth not fitting into her dress and Ginger having to remedy it by turning her blouse into a corset.
- Watching the circus and walking to Soriana's after.
- Trekking around the hot environs of El Tajin.
- "Ang lahat ng bagay ay magkaugnay... magkaugnay ang lahat ng bagay..."
- Beng, Ginger and I staying together at Guadalupe's place and doing the laundry at midnight.
- Taking a taxi from the mall to the house and not getting lost.
- All the tortillas and frijoles that we ate during our entire stay.

Despite the difficult circumstances surrounding our trip (more a person and not a circumstance) we had loads of fun and memorable experiences in Mexico. The more I think about it, the more thankful I am to have these 3 extraordinary girls as travel companions. If not for them, the only memory from that trip would probably be how difficult it is to travel with a PC on your back.

It's been a while since the 4 of us got together as a group. Now that Mommy Beth is in the US, getting together won't be as easy as when we were all in QC and just a phone call away. But who knows, one of these days, the Mexican Mafia might get together again. And when we do, we'll be sharing stories while feasting on Dona Tota Gorditas, Cabritos and drinking Tequila. Oh, I'll also throw in my favorite Pinguinos and Choco Lala, of course.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Losing my marbles

It all started with a craving. Aside from the butter cake from Dexter's - an obvious favorite - the only other sliced cake I really like is the Marble Slice from Goldilocks. Every month, during my scheduled visit to Manila, I make sure to buy a slice or two. Biting into one is sheer bliss! Usually, I save the top for last because it's the best part. When I flew back to HK two weeks ago, I even bought 6 slices at the airport - and finished them in 2 days.

Today, I had an intense craving for a Marble Slice. Went to the Asian store below my flat, and they didn't have any. So the only option was to go to Worldwide House. On a Sunday.

Going to Worldwide House on a Sunday is like going to Divisoria in December. There's a dizzying number of people and the crowd is so thick, everyone's standing almost shoulder to shoulder. For that reason alone, I never, ever, ever, EVER go there on Sundays. But today was different. I had a craving. I had to brave the crazy crowd. I had to get a Marble Slice.

Checked out the first floor; only Taisan Cake and Egg pie. Went to the second floor; there was only polvoron. Third floor, nothing from Goldilocks. Even if the crowd was so thick and my patience was wearing really, really thin, I decided to go check all three floors again. Asked the shopkeepers. But they all had the same reply -- no Marble Slice.

At this point, I was hungry and frustrated at the fact that I couldn't get what I was craving for. Honestly, if I had my passport with me, I would've booked a flight to Manila today and would probably be at Goldilocks in Cubao eating a slice. But without my passport, I was stuck in HK. With no Marble Slice in sight, my frustration later turned to irritation, and the Sunday crowd was quickly getting on my nerves. I was snapping at the people who were nudging me or stepping on me - things that I usually don't mind. Also ran into a friend of mine, and didn't even bother to talk to him. I just nodded my head and proceeded to the exit.

To cool my head, I bought a strawberry shake and proceeded to Lane Crawford for a bit of window shopping. Walking and browsing does wonders for me, and "wonder" is definitely in order today. As expected, they brought out the best and newest for spring, and the racks were full of new stuff from Brioni, Reem Accra, Peachoo+Krejberg, and of course, Proenza Schouler! And among the new stocks in the Proenza Schouler rack was this dress that I've been looking at in

I must say, the photo doesn't give justice to the dress. The real thing looks 200% better. The fabric was beautiful and the color had quiet elegance. And the details and finishing were superb - right down to the bustier that's the signature of the designing duo. Seeing it definitely made my day, and made up for the whole marble slice fiasco.

Needless to say, I just checked the dress out and DIDN'T buy it. If the frustation brought about by a HK$10 slice of cake makes me run off to buy a HK$31,000 dress, that would mean I'd really lost my marbles.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Fire and Rain

One thing good about living near Nathan Road is that you get alerted whenever big events happen. As early as 8:30 am, I could hear a flurry of activity downstairs, and as I looked out the window, there was a large crowd on all four corners of Nathan and Austin Roads. "Of course," I thought, "the Olympic Torch Relay is today, and it's first route was in Tsim Sha Tsui, through Nathan."

Since my flat is just 2 minutes away from the path, I thought: "What the heck." Braving the light rain and the danger of being impaled by umbrellas, I planted myself in front of Bossini in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the torch that everyone wants to see or grab or extinguish. (Depending on how you view China.)

By 9:15 am, the crowds have swelled and the police had to put up additional metal railings because the spectators were becoming a bit too eager. I was pushed around twice or thrice, and even stepped on by a person who perched himself on top of the metal railing. There were also small groups carrying placards, and I reckon these were the protesters that the government was so wary of. At 10:10, the first caravan of sponsors passed through, and the crowd became more rowdy. They were pushing their way to get in front of the line, much to the chagrin of the crowd controllers.

Wild cheers and applause signalled the arrival of the torch. I caught a glimpse of the flame as it was burning brightly and carried by a lady with short hair. As expected, she was surrounded by the "men in light blue" and a small armada of escorts. Once again, people pushed and pushed and pushed, until no one could see anything. And in less than a minute, the torch was gone.

Yes Virginia, the torch was somewhere inside that crowd.

As the crowd was dispersing, the guy beside me - an Aussie, judging by his accent - was wondering what the fuss was all about. After all, it was just a flame on a rod being carried by a runner down the road. I told him that people must've turned out because it's a matter of national pride. People want to welcome someone - or something - that brings honor to the country - especially in the international scene. I told him that in Manila, people line up on the streets en masse for sports heroes (like Manny Pacquiao) or beauty queens (like Miriam Quiambao and Lara Quigaman) because they create a positive international image for the country.

Also, this is an event that doesn't happen very often. After all, 44 years have passed since the Olympic torch was last here. The people who were there probably weren't born yet when it happened, and some might have been too young to remember. Still others might not be there anymore when another 44 years pass by. By being there today, people can proudly say: "I saw the Olympic torch as it passed through Hong Kong."

And yes, I saw the Olympic Torch as it passed through Hong Kong.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Blame it on Boleyn

Thanks to this film, I spent most of the day reading books and researching on-line. It's been a long while since a film that was based on a true story got me so interested on the true story. "Elizabeth" doesn't count because I've been reading about her since I was in elementary school, and was familiar with her life story way, way, way before Cate Blanchett's acting opus. In contrast, I've heard the names Ann Boleyn and Henry VII, but never really bothered to know their life stories. Until this film.

The story of the Boleyn sisters is fascinating. It's proof that life can be one big soap opera. The story of Ann and Mary, their parents, brother, uncle and subsequently Henry VII, had everything - romance, drama, suspense, conspiracy, comedy, action, sex and a smattering of almost-incest. Their lives had such a complicated plot line, and it brought the concept of "dysfunctional families" to a new high.

One of the reasons for my fascination is that I didn't realize how much Ann Boleyn changed the face of England. She had a short life, but a long legacy. After all, she is the mother of THE Elizabeth I. I can't imagine any other contribution that can top that.

Funny thing was, even if I knew the fate that Ann would suffer, part of me was hoping that the movie would change the ending - just to make it more Hollywood. But alas, it was still "off with her head" in the end. But after reading how Queen Elizabeth I named her martyr and heroine after her coronation, it made me feel a bit better.

The film also got me interested in the peripheral characters in their story. I spent an hour reading about Catherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary of Tudor. Their stories - though separate - eventually wind up with Queen Elizabeth I. Then I was able to piece together parts of the first "Elizabeth" film with the story of the Boleyns. And the story comes full circle.

While this film is nowhere near "Elizabeth" and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" in terms of impact and acting, I'm glad that I watched it. It gave me a better appreciation of the intricacies of the royal family and the foundation of England. Plus, it awakened the history buff in me. Trust Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson to make history a lot more interesting.