Thursday, July 31, 2008

Still more cheap thrills

After watching "The Mummy", Mark and I decided to have dinner (or pre-dinner) at Super Bowl in Glorietta 4. They had a promo on Crispy Noodles with Seafood and Mark just loves Crispy Noodles.

We ordered the Crispy Noodles (which was a big portion), an order of siomai and house tea. Then, as Super Bowl always does, they threw in the complementary bowl of crackers.

After the hearty dinner (or pre-dinner), we asked for our bill. The tab came up to P199.00. A filling Chinese meal for two for less than P200 is definitely a thrill. Maybe we should eat here more often.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Although it isn't as extensive as the train network in Tokyo or Barcelona, our 3-line LRT system offers the same convenience as the first two. (The efficiency part needs a lot of improvement, though.)

Thanks to these lines, I was able to go from Cubao to a meeting in Manila, then to an errand in Ortigas, and another errand in North Avenue, then back to Cubao in 3 hours. Yup, I rode all 3 trains in one day.

Among the 3 lines, the LRT-2 - or the line that goes from Santolan to Recto - is the cleanest and most efficient. The train arrives at regular intervals, the stations are well-maintained and orderly, and the crowd isn't as huge or aggressive. In terms of trains, the LRT-1 has the most modern looking ones - thanks to its new and spacious coaches. (The old ones are still there, though. But I didn't ride any of them today.)

I was surprised to see how LRT-1 has improved. Some of the stations have been renovated and are now more spacious and less grimy. The ticketing system is more efficient, and the crowd isn't as thick as it used to be.

Likewise, the 3 lines now have a more efficient "interchange system." A footbridge and connecting tower has been built in between Recto and Doroteo Jose Stations. The entire walk is clean and covered, which makes up for the not-so-clean view. Taft Avenue and EDSA stations are connected via the MetroPoint Mall - the mall fondly called the "poor brother of the Ayala Malls." And of course, the Cubao Stations of the MRT and LRT-3 are connected via Farmer's Plaza and Gateway.

Thanks to these interchanges, transferring from one train to another is easier - rain or shine. Incidentally, there was rain and shine today, but I couldn't care less because there was a roof over my head the entire time.

According to the news, the LRT-4 which connects North Avenue to Monumento will be built soon, along with the Northrail which connects Monumento to Pampanga. At the LRT-3 station, there are signs that claim that a train system to Alabang will soon follow suit.

I hope these plans materialize soon. That should make it easier to go around Mega Manila - from the Northmost to Southmost parts. In particular, to Robinson's Pampanga and Alabang Town Center.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

SM is Sosyal Much

Once upon a time, SM was synonymous to "so masa." People who saw themselves as "discerning" and "fashion conscious" wouldn't touch SM with a 100 foot pole, much less be seen within a 100 foot radius of the store. The stuff they sold were either made with low quality fabrics, or the designs were more divisoria than divine.

Last year, when we finally stepped on the massive mall that is SM Mall of Asia, the first thing I noticed was the merchandise of SM Department Store. Their in-house brands had designs and fabrics that could very well go up against Zara. In fact, they had a number of dresses that were Zara knock-offs. (Now there's a thought. A knock-off of a knock-off.) But unlike the usual knock-offs which are usually of lower quality, the ones at SM were at par. It was like buying a Zara for 1/4th of the price.

The past few months, I've been marveling at the continuing quality upgrade of SM's clothes. Each visit, a new surprise would be sprung -- and I'd instantly text Arnie. Surprises like seeing Jojie Lloren and Dennis Lustico's diffusion lines being sold exclusively at SM. Or how Vittorio Barba and Cesar Gaupo have set up their brands there. Or how the latest dress of their SM Studio Line is SO Lanvin.

Another day, another surprise.

While waiting for Mark, I wandered off to SM Department Store Makati, which I think is now better than any Rustan's store I've seen. There was one part of the 3rd floor that looked refurbished, and upon closer examination, I had to do a double take to make sure I wasn't seeing things.

SM Makati now carries BCBG by Max Azria. Gosh! In Hong Kong, this brand is being carried by Seibu and Lane Crawford - two of the shopping capital's most posh department stores. And now, you can find the same brand at the same place that used to be "so masa."

Add to that, they also now carry Max and Cleo - which is Max Azria's younger (and cheaper) line.

This means that SM is really serious in changing their image and making them THE go-to store for every Filipino - masa or fashionista alike. At the rate their going, they'll be seen as the country's answer to Seibu very, very soon.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


After Dad found the Ikea clothes hamper that I brought home from HKG, he asked if I wanted to put the "ropero" in my room.

Ropero. Now there's a word you don't hear anymore. But when we were kids, I'd hear that word a lot. From my grandparents, from my parents, even from Lolo and Lola's mayordoma - Aling Sianang. (Bless her soul.) Nowadays, people just call them "clothes hamper" or the generic "lalagyan ng labada."

Suddenly, I missed the days when I'd listen to my grandparents and parents converse using a mix of Spanish, English and Tagalog. There was a certain elegance when Lola Dita would call our attention by saying "Oye, hijo" or the "Ven acqui." At times, she'd point something out to her maids by saying: "mira." One speaking habit she had that Tita Evelyn still carries with her now is punctuating her Tagalog sentences with "eh" or "vale."

Growing up, there were certain words that I thought were Tagalog because my grandparents would use them in a tagalog sentence. But when I'd use those words in front of my friends and classmates, their reaction would often be: "ano yun?" Later on, I realized they were Spanish words that would be inadvertently mixed in.

Words like "vajillas", "cubiertos," "pequeno" and "alli." Once, while eating at my classmate's house in Sto. Domingo, I told him and his Mom that their "vajillas" were very nice. They looked at me strangely then asked what part of the food I was referring to.

Plus, I miss how they'd say tagalog words in their original spanish pronounciation. Just like how they'd say "ventana," "arroz," "mantequilla," and "favor."

Spanish really is such an elegant language to listen to and speak. It makes me wonder why we've removed it from our curriculum and why we've stopped speaking it. Times like these, I wish that I listened to Lolo and Lola more during my youth. That way, mi Espanol would be maravilloso.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bus boy

Another day, another surreal experience.

I rode a bus today. (Nope, that's not the surreal part.) Since it was fairly full, I took the first available seat - it was on a 3-seater row where a guy already occupied one seat. While the bus was traversing EDSA, the guy beside me (Guy 1) started talking to the guy seated at the row across us (Guy 2). From what I gathered from their short and staccato conversation, the 2 guys were friends and Guy 2 was asking Guy 1 to pay for his fare.

The conductor reached our row and immediately reached out for the money that Guy 1 took out.

GUY 1: "Dalawang Letre, ho. Estudyante."

Since I was the one sitting beside Guy 1, the conductor looked at me, then looked back at Guy 1. He glanced back at me, and with an authoritative voice ordered Guy 1:

CONDUCTOR: "Patingin nga ng I.D. mo!"

While the guy was fishing his I.D. from his wallet, the conductor got the tickets and gave them... to me! At that point, the guy and I were both surprised.

GUY 1: "Hindi po siya ang kasama ko."
CONDUCTOR: "Eh sino?"
GUY 1: "Siya po." (pointing to the other guy across.)

After giving Guy 2 a once over, the conductor barked at him:

CONDUCTOR: "Patingin nga ng I.D. mo?"

The two guys showed their Identification cards, and all was well and good.

When it was my turn to pay, I gave the conductor my money and told him where I was going. At this point, he said:

CONDUCTOR: "Estudyante ka, diba?"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Caught this feature on Bea Valdes and her creations. It's amazing how much intricate work, creativity and love goes into each of her bags. I've said this before and I'll say it again - this woman is a genius.

During a visit to Harvey Nichols, I was able to catch one of her bags up close. They are price-y, but they're definitely worth it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Aldo the right thing

I've never been drawn to Aldo shoes. After having seen their stores in the U.S., Mexico, Shanghai, Bangkok and Singapore, I found the stuff for guys too generic, and the stuff for girls too "Nine West-y" and a bit cookie-cutter. Their accessories are an altogether different thing, though. I think their AIDS awareness pendants were very novel.

Since they opened shop in Manila, there hasn't been an urge for me to visit their stores. But this weekend, an unknown force caught me like a tracking beam and drew me to their Galleria branch. (Honestly, the "unknown force" was a huge sale sign.)

My perception of Aldo was changed, thanks to that visit. (At least for the women's shoe side) Beyond the "Nine West-y" stuff which is still there, Aldo has a number of edgy and surprising pairs. Two of which were so edgy and surprising, I had to bring them home for Ate.

The first was a black patent pump with huge, metal studs up front. At first glance, it looks like your regular black pair. But upon closer scrutiny, the interesting details start popping out.

Among them are pleats on the side.

Plus metal bands on the heel. This gives the pair a "rock-star-meets-secretary" vibe.

Then there's this pair of seemingly normal black patent D' Orsays. The workmanship is also commendable, although I've seen equally nice shoes for less than what Aldo sells them for. But a quick look at the side springs the surprise.

Architectural heels. Yup, that's definitely worth the price of admission.

These pairs have given me a renewed interest in the brand. Renewed to a point that I'd like to check out the other stores in the vicinity. And if they have more good stuff like these two, then Aldo it all over again.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Meryl Streep can do no wrong...

Mamma Mia was a joy to watch. ABBA's music was obviously one of the reasons behind this,(after all, Mark and I were bobbing our heads to the songs at some part of the film) but the acting was also equally noteworthy. For me, Meryl Streep's turn as Donna Sheridan made the movie as well.

Whether she's cash-strapped and singing "Money, Money, Money" or lamenting a lost love to the tune of "S.O.S." or giving it up for girl power with "Dancing Queen" or seeking closure while saying "The Winner Takes it All", Meryl Streep does it with such vulnerability and sincerity.

As I was telling Mark after the film - and even throughout the time it was showing - she deserves another Oscar nomination for this. She delivered a winning performance, and as the song aptly says: the winner should take it all.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Soaking it all up

Oishi Sponge crunch is so good. So deliriously good. So "I've-got-to-control-myself-lest-I-eat-2-bags-in-one-sitting-good."

Yes, Oishi is living up to it's name in coming up with really yummy snacks.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Yeoh Girl

I've always enjoyed watching Michelle Yeoh, even during her earlier days as a martial arts actress in virtually unknown Hong Kong films. My admiration for her solidified after watching "The Soong Sisters" - a Chinese film that my Chinese colleagues were shocked to know I watched. And when she finally "made it" to Hollywood via "Tomorrow Never Dies" - her James Bond flick - I was happy to know that the whole world was in love with her as well.

While in the queue to buy tickets for "The Dark Night" at Greenbelt, I was able to check out some movie posters. And Michelle Yeoh doesn't have one, but two big Hollywood films coming up. There's "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" with Brendan Fraser, and "Babylon A.D." with Vin Diesel. This comes right after a string of hits like "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Sunshine" - both of which I've seen, of course.

Two more new movies with her. Two more reasons to look forward to watching movies.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More Cheap Thrills

And the list goes on. Here's something I discovered at Watson's while trying to buy something just to break my P500 bill. And it turned out to be one of my best "accidental purchases" ever!

1. Oishi Bread Pan (all leading supermarkets) - P5.95 - Can I just say that this is one of the best tasting "wholesome snacks" I've ever encountered. The cheese and garlic variant ROCKS!
2. Turon (St. Francis Square) - P10.00
3. Tourist Orange Wafer (SM department store) - P8.95
4. Hai Mint Candy (Salazar bakery) - P6.00 for 2

I'm sure there's a lot, lot more to be discovered, so I better get crackin'! I just love this city!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's quite easy being green

Arnie will be pleased.

During my last visit to H&M, I bought a pair of organic denim jeans, and I'm wearing the pair today along with my Zara shirt that's made with fair trade cotton. While fashion is largely considered as lofty and promotes excess, it's good to know that fast-fashion companies are doing their bit in making the industry green.

I'm not sure how far Asia has gone in embracing this cause. Hong Kong, for one, is such a wasteful society and people have no qualms about buying and throwing stuff away. That penchant for throwing stuff is the reason why there are so many HKG clothing in local ukay-ukays - which means the Philippines is doing its share by recycling. Harhar.

I read about this clothing shop near Unitel which uses only organically produced fabric, and Mamu told me that they have gorgeous stuff. But they're supposedly uber expensive - mainly because organic processes are expensive. Then again, what's important is someone takes the first step in introducing earth-friendly fashion in the country. And really, there's more to it than Cinderella copying Anya Hindmarch's bag or people introducing "recyclable shopping bags" that no one uses for shopping.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rick and Dick; Dayana and Alicia

Talk about "Retro in the Metro."

Rick Astley is coming to Manila for a concert on the 1st of August. Yes, Rick of the "Together Forever" and "Never gonna give you up" fame is having another concert here. If memory serves me right, he already performed in Manila a couple of years back.

The peculiar thing is: whenever I tell people that Rick Astley is performing here, they often have the same reply:

"Baka naman si Roderick Paulate lang yan, ha."

Hmmm... his "Never Gonna Give you up" production number in "Tonight with Dick and Carmi" must've had such a strong impact that it's practically seared in the mind of Generation X. And it's true! Even I can still hear Dick's nasal voice in my head.

And speaking of "people who remind you of other people", I had another case of that after watching the replay of Miss Universe 2008.

The eventual winner, Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela, reminds me of Alicia Machado - the last Venezuelan who was named Miss Universe.

Both girls have that carefree and I-don't-care-if-I-win-this-or-not-attitude that's so refreshing to watch. Dayana and Alicia are both bubbly and possess an innate joie-de-vivre which the judges must have picked up on.

Look at them giggle, they're like little girls.

It's amazing how girls from Venezuela always do good in these contests. Just like how amazing it is that people co-relate Roderick Paulate with Rick Astley.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bunso Bonding

It's been more than 20 years since the "Morales Bunso Club" was last complete. We had a grand family reunion at our old house in Tomas Morato and all the Morales cousins from Manila, Barcelona and Bicol were in attendance. The highlight was a huge, huge group picture taking session at the veranda, and I saw that photo on display in Tita Evelyn's house in Spain.

Whenever the Spanish side of the clan visited the Philippines, the 5 bunsos would normally troop together. Back then, Troy was still part of the group, but he seceded his claim when Jake was born. But since Jake was still too young back then, we'd still hang out with Troy.

Last month, Trixie flew in from California, and 4 of the 5 Morales Bunsos had a long overdue reunion. While it would've been perfect if Yolanda was here, it was still a reason to celebrate and take a picture.

This is actually the Morales Bunso Club plus. Aside from the Bunso cousins: Trixie (Bunso of Tito Ting and Tita Dolly), Marcia (Bunso of Tito Hector and Tita Moring), me (Bunso of Daddy Edgar and Mommy Tess) and Jake (Bunso of Tito Linden and Tita Lon), we also have Tito Linden (Bunso of Lolo Enrique and Lola Trinidad) and Ruby (Bunso among out Titas.)

Although I see Yoly during my trips to Spain, it would still be cool if the 5 of us could get together again - just like we did 20 years ago. It's an event I'm willing to wait for, even if it takes another 20 years.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cheap Thrills

One of the things I love about Manila is the abundance of cheap thrills. Especially now that a lot of the malls and shops are on "Mid-Year Sale" mode. (Probably in response to all the sales happening Asia-wide.) It's increasingly difficult to stay away from shops these days, especially with their huge SALE signs bannered outside. The biggest I've seen is the sale sign of Crossings Department Store in TriNoMa - I'd say it was 12 feet high!

Nowadays, you can get a pair of VNC shoes for P300, an ultra-chic wood and leather platform sandal for Charles and Keith at P700, and a structured skirt from Bayo for P250. But the cheap thrills I've been indulging in aren't clothes or shoes (but I did buy the abovementioned items... har...) since their state of being "cheap" can be questioned. After all, one can get a pair of shoes or a mondrian-style shift in HKG for about P150.

The past week, I've been raiding malls, sidewalks and even train stations for cheap eats. When it comes to that, Manila trumps HKG, definitely. Aside from the P10 turon near The Podium and the P15 Green Tea drink at St. Francis Square, I've come across more goodies at very appetizing prices. Among my favorites are:

1. Mister Donut Donuts (every corner has one)- P10.00
2. Large Buco Pandan Drink - with real buco and pandan jelly (Cubao MRT station) - P15.00
3. Mini-empanadas (EDSA MRT station) - P4.50
4. Hong Kong style noodle with siomai (St. Francis Square) - P25.00
5. Gummy Thai Tamarind Candy (SM Department Store) - P13.75

These finds make me miss my teaching days at St. Scholastica's. I remember how Prichy and I would walk around campus and discover all these little restaurants serving good food. (There's Miggy's in front of school, and another restaurant near Nursia whose name I can't remember now.)

Now that I have spare time, I should go back to that area and look for more cheap thrills to add to my list.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Barry distressing news

Say it isn't so!

They can't! Steve and Barry can't be closing. Heck, it's on the list of my "destinations" for my planned US trip in a few months. Along with Century 21 - the department store, not the real estate company - after Arnie told me about the Badgley Mischkas on sale there. Ever since I saw a feature on this store on ABC, I've been itching to fly over and ransack the place.

A month back, my brother and niece were singing praises at Steve and Barry's "nothing more expensive than $8,99" pricing. Plus, Amanda Bynes has her clothing line there, which is why the shop is on top of Princess' mind. Then there's SJP's clothing line, Bitten. Imagine, she wore an $8.99 dress to a premiere of SATC. How's that for an endorsement.

Please Mr. Steve and Mr. Barry, don't close anytime soon. You're going to make a lot of people barry, barry sad.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Life is shorts

Maybe it's a case of "sabbatical-chic." For more than a month now, I've been wearing shorts everyday. Yes, every single day. (Well, except for days when I'm traveling because I can never get myself to wear shorts during a flight. Looking shabby during a flight is so not cool.) If memory serves me right, I was in shorts most of the time in Japan. (The exceptions were Mark's graduation and the trip from Urasa to Tokyo.) And I'm liking this short lifestyle. It also helps that the weather nowadays is conducive to this kind of attire.

I've had a variety of comments from people who are sartorially familiar with me. One said: "You look so relaxed." The other said: "Para kang turista sa Pilipinas." And another quipped: "I wish I could dress up like that everyday."

Not surprisingly, my recent shopping trip in HKG yielded shorts as opposed to the usual jeans. Was able to get 2 pairs at H&M and 1 at Zara. Whenever I meander around Glorietta or Galleria, I'm drawn to shops that have shorts in their window display. Even at home, my shorts have been "promoted" to the top shelf of my closet.

Really, I can get used to this. But I know that somewhere in my closet, a hundred pairs of jeans are getting restless.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

In Tens Sale

Looks like inflation is also hitting fast fashion brands.

When I checked out the Zara sale in IFC this weekend, the was one glaring difference. The prices have gone up by HK$10.

The past 3 years I've been checking out (and participating in) the Zara sale, their initial price points were:


Looking at this sale's price range, the blouses were at HK$79 and HK$109, the dresses were at HK$199, HK$259 and HK$399. Not surprisingly though, this hasn't deterred the shoppers. The queue at Zara last Saturday was crazy-long! After all, around the Asia region, Zara Hong Kong is the cheapest during sale season. Heck, they even mark down a HK$499 dress to HK$59 on the 5th or 6th week.

When I shared this little factoid with a friend who was also in HKG this weekend, she furrowed her brows and said: "Why do you even remember the prices from 3 years ago?"

As I've told Mark before, I think I've got sales down to a science.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Because I want to free my soul...

Thanks, Sheilah Marie for putting this on your site. It made my day. Better yet, it made "all my seasons."

And thank you, Ate Vi, for the wonderful production numbers. It's campy, but it's wonderful.

You really are the Star for all Seasons! Yes!!!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Move over, Royce...

... Caramel Corn is my newest, favorite-est sweet product from Japan.

I think it started when I found a pack at the 6th floor lounge after Mark's Catholic/Christian farewell party. After opening the pack, I was hooked. So hooked that I bought a couple of packs when we went to the supa. So hooked that I bought some for the trip from Urasa to Tokyo. So hooked that I bought the milk variant at the supa near Shinjuku Washington. So hooked that I bought 4 packs near Saizeriya. (In 4 different flavors: cream soda, rootbeer float, almond and classic.) So hooked that I bought ANOTHER 4 packs before we flew out of Japan. So hooked that I ate the Cream Soda one at the airport. (Fizzy much?)

So hooked, I'm planning to eat another pack after finishing this entry.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Konnichiwa Chronicles: Arigato Gozaimashita

For allowing us to experience the magic of four seasons
For inviting us to see loads of new things
For being Mark's adoptive home for 2 years
For being my "occasional-adoptive-home" for the same period
For Saizeriya
For Mos Burger
For Pepper Lunch
For Caramel Corn
For all those great finds at Hard Off and Sofmap
For our accommodations at the Washington chain of hotels
For the rush of the Shinkansen (figuratively and literally)
For Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza and Akihabara
For Urasa, Niigata and Nagaoka
For Osaka, Kyoto and Nara
For Ghibli Museum
For the Yurikamome
For those fabulous buffets at The Oven, and most recently, Sizzler
For Denny's and Royal Host
For the 3 hour bus rides
For our Karaoke nights
For the ski trips and snow festivals
For sleeping-in and breakfasts in bed
For getting into trouble
For the all-nighter Mahjong sessions
For Kabuki-cho
For Tokyo Disneyland
For goods with weird prices
For reconnecting with Cathy and Paul
For the 100 yen shop
For Father Bruno
For a lot more things in between
For letting us grow
For watching us grow
For all the wonderful, wonderful, WONDERFUL new friends I've made
For a trove filled with memories that will last this entire lifetime

Arigato Gozaimashita, Japan.

No sayonaras, just see you again sometime.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Konnichiwa Chronicles: Top of the World

If there's one place in Tokyo that Mark and I visit most frequently, it must be the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. We've both been here a couple of times together, and a couple of times individually. Mainly because it's just across Shinjuku Washington Hotel - the place where we usually stay.

I'm not certain if it's THE tallest building in Japan, but it's definitely one of the tallest. From the top, you can see a complex maze of buildings, streets and the odd tourist landmark here and there.

They say that on a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji from TMG. Even though I've been here a lot of times, I haven't been lucky enough to see Japan's most famous natural landmark. But one nice thing about visiting this place quite often is seeing this building under construction. The first time we saw it was when it was just a bunch of frames. The second time, it was half-finished but still covered in a protective net. Now, it looks like it's completed. (Actually, we thought it was. But when we passed by this afternoon, we found out that it's still a work-in-progress.)

Another reason why TMG is worth visiting is because of the cool toy and gift shop on the top floor. Mark bought his Mickey Mouse watch here and the reason for this visit was because he needed to buy another watch for his friend. He got what he wanted (a nice Mickey Mouse watch with a yellow strap) and I got a picture with this huge machine that dispensed rubber bouncing balls.

I've definitely had a lot of fun and have a lot of fond memories from TMG. So among the many places that we've visited here in Japan, this has got to be among those at the top.