Friday, December 26, 2008

The Best Music of 2008 Part 4

The last part before the Top 10. 'Woohoo's for summer anthems from Boys Like Girls and Scouting For Girls (no relation, but they seem to have an affinity for the season). A little tribute to the poptastic songs played on Gossip Girl, and a slight note to Dashboard Confessional - two years late!

11. Dashboard Confessional - So Long, So Long
12. Boys Like Girls - The Great Escape
13. One Republic - Come Home
14. The Script - The Man Who Can't Be Moved
15. Vanessa Carlton - Nolita Fairytale
16. Timbaland featuring Keri Hilson - The Way I Are
17. Taken By Cars - Uh Oh
18. Jason Mraz - Make It Mine
19. Arctic Monkeys - Flourescent Adolescent
20. Scouting For Girls - Heartbeat
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Best Music of 2008 Part 3

21 Dizzee Rascal featuring Calvin Harris and Chrome - Dance Wiv Me
22 The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus - Your Guardian Angel
23 Kings Of Leon - Use Somebody
24 Boys Like Girls - Minutes To Midnight
25 Sara Bareilles - Love Song
26 Jesse McCartney - Leavin
27 Mariah Carey - I'll Be Loving U Long Time/Bye Bye
28 David Archuleta - Crush
29 Maroon 5 - Goodnight Goodnight
30 Athlete - Hurricane

Lots of late cather-uppers here. Glad to see that Kings Of Leon made it. Johnny Foreigner, and All American Rejects will have to wait for next year.
Sunday, December 21, 2008

That Twilight Book

I'm honest enough to say that the Twilight movie was pretty decent, apart from the fact I watched it in a Makati cinema late in the evening. (Still, that didn't stop Trish from guffawing madly at the pale figures on screen). The soundtrack though was pretty awesome - yey Iron and Wine!

The next step was for me to check out the novel. A boring family reunion plus a boring road trip minus no other book on hand equals a twilight opportunity. What was the book like? It was dripping in swoon. I'm worried that at every page the book will gasp-faint-then-shriek.

Every other paragraph was peppered with "dazzling," "perfect," or "flawless". We get it Meyer, you love the vampire - I just don't get it that he has to be described everytime. I'm starting to imagine how she wrote the book - oops. I'm supposed to be writing GP here, hehehe. But it's not a bad thought...
Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Our Christmas Tree Screams "Ho Ho Ho!"

How does you christmas tree look like? The rest of the family spent a good day at Trinoma running through the usual holiday chores. While dear Mom shot down my suggestion of getting a new tree, she went with new, untraditional (at least for us) trimmings.

So, Mom filled her basket with red lights, red poinsettias, red christmas balls, and to top them all, a red ribbon with a bow. Mom had a field day with it, and came up with this:

My sister gasped: "Cabaret much?"
My initial reaction: "Ma, our tree looks like a hooker!"

I'm buying a new tree next year.
Monday, December 08, 2008

The Best Music of 2008 Part 2

Second installment for the list, and this batch features a very visual palette that accompanies the music. Of note is the extremely sensual heist featuring 2 lovely ladies, and a tesselation of sorts with The Ting Tings.

31 Scouting For Girls - Keep On Walking
32 One Republic - Prodigal
33 Boys Like Girls - Thunder
34 The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus - Cat And Mouse
35 Colbie Caillat - Bubbly
36 Angels and Airwaves- Everything's Magic
37 Timbaland featuring Keri Hilson and Nicole Scherzinger - Scream
38 The Ting Tings - Shut Up And Let Me Go
39 Mary J. Blige - Just Fine
40 MGMT - Kids
Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Best Music of 2008 Part 1

In order to fill my blog with posts (I may have missed the 2008 quota), I'm doing an installment of my favorite songs from here until the end of the year. Two songs per day, for twenty days.

It's been more of a homogenuous year, and it gets a bit harder as I don't listen to radio. Don't worry, no High School Musical songs here. The songs that didn't make it:

41 Maroon 5 - Won't Go Home Without You
42 John Butler Trio - Better Than
43 The Maine - I Wanna Love You
44 Secret Handshake - I Wish
45 Feist - I Feel It All
46 Until June - Sleepless
47 Mute Math - Control
48 Emmy Rossum - Slow Me Down
49 Mariah Carey - Touch My Body
50 John Mayer - Say
Friday, November 14, 2008

A Vegan Weekend

It's really hard to go vegetarian in the Philippines, as the options her are a bit limited (plus peer pressure can bea bit overbearing at times), yet I managed this weekend of 48 hours to be absolutely meat-free.

Being fully stuffed by glorious puto from Friday afternoon, I decided to skip the meat and just have salad for dinner. Inspired by the vegan meal, I spent Saturday morning picking up random vegetables from the supermarket. Just sharing the weekend menu, you might want to cook up a veggie meal one of these days.

Zucchini and Eggplant Fusilli in Cream
Pseudo Roka Salata
Chili Tomato and Oyster Mushroom Pasta Soup
Nachos with Jalapenos
Peanut Butter and Banana Toast
Apple and Nori Salad
Stir Fried Soft Tofu and Broccoli

Sounds actually yummy. Any suggestions on what to do this weekend?
Monday, November 03, 2008

Twin CDs

Hi everyone. I think I've composed myself and this entry (Pun. Glee.)- It's interesting how I picked up 2 CDs, born 14 years apart, and they look the same save for the color:

In case you can't figure out the doodling, it's Dookie by Green Day and We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. by Jason Mraz. It's Billie Joe Armstrong and friends when they were young, just stepping out of the indie scene and into mainstream success. It's Green Day's debut album, a poppier, spunkier, neurotic sound and it definitely reflects the atttude of the early 90s (Compare that with today's kids in skinny pants, emo glasses and incessant screaming in the radio). Green Day back then was the rowdier, schizophrenic brother of the blooming alternative scene, and a tribute to the Slackers vibe of the grunge generation. I love it. And if you can remember the large noses going around the Basketcase video, then give me a high-five - you're definitely in my age group.

You know the songs in the album already, but I think I got so enticed by this album (a decade and a half late, I know), ergo, American Idiot is getting a nomination to join my album shelf.

Contrast Dookie with Jason's new album, where he trades his bebops (well, at least most of it), retreats into the cabana, and puts on his flip flops. Watch out Jack Johnson. Mraz relaxes with his latest songbook, and does away with the overture he created in Mr. A-Z, and strips it down to some fancy guitar strumming, easy melodies, and, well, a bit of the scatman thing. Did not like the collaboration with Colbie Caillat, but the subtle harmony created with James Morrison was indeed haunting. Interestingly, their voices are similar, with Mraz carrying a more fluid veneer to his melodies, and Morrison providing the coarseness to highlight the differences.


More music news - it's November already, and the race is on for this year's most loved song. Justin Timberlake walked away with the trophy last year, and I knew it by September. This time, I can honestly say, I don't know; I don't even know what my favorite top 10 songs of 2008 will be. Any suggestions?
Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pinoy Backpack Festival 2008


Would like to invite all of you to the Pinoy Backpack Festival at Alabang Town Center this 25-26 October. I wish we had one of these earlier, I think that this is the first one that's being held in the country.

If you've always wanted to travel, but don't know what the first step is (cost? where to go? how long? safety?), this 101 course suits you perfectly well. There are workshops on photography, sketching, how to pack, and other useful information. I was particulary amused by the backpacker's starter kit that they sold - it had an expense tracker, a calculator, a bandana, and a Philippine flag button. Cool.

As one of the highlights (for me of course), I'll be a resource speaker, and I'm going to talk about the CouchSurfing experience. What is it? Come over, will be happy to share the experience with you.

Formore details on the festival, drop by ROX Philippines.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Radicals All Over!

So you've been brainwashed too - New Radicals has disbanded and will never be heard of again. I was so surprised to learn a few moments ago that Gregg Alexander has been writing all this time, and won a Grammy in the process.

My favorite songs from Texas, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor were actually written by Gregg Alexander. That's Inner Smile and Music Gets The Best Of Me. No wonder...they have that anthemic feel to it. As an added bonus, he also wrote songs for Ronan Keating, which made the former boyband member a bit more bearable. Hehe.

So, New Radicals lives! I've been mourning for 7 years already. Pop quiz: Any idea which the Grammy winnning duet is?
Yup, there has been quite a lull in this blog. But for crying out loud - how was I
supposed to be blogging when I spend my days at work, and the rest of my nights still at work? The rest of my free time was spent downloading watching Tina Fey impersonate, nay, copy Sarah Palin.There was enough time to catch a movie at this year's Spanish Film Festival, where I saw La Orfanata (The Orphanage), which I did not know was a horror movie. Good thing Ididn't, and was pleasantly surprised and impressed at the storytelling capabilities of the Spanish. The downside of which, I was creeped out driving alone from Alabang to QC. Yaiks. More on this in a separate entry.

Onwards I say. I picked up two CDs last weekend, to make amends for my recent downloading spree. Not my fault the CDs I've been looking for are not available here - but I downloaded Graduation by Kanye West just to spite him (All bias aside, that record is truly meritorious of all the praises it reaped).

Still, I can't get to my point - I'm so scatterbrained lately, I can't even compose a decent, cohesive blog post. So I think I'll just stop and do this another day.
Monday, September 15, 2008

Slick OPM

Bring on the dance!

It's already September, but I still haven't found a landmark Filipino song for 2008. Since I don't listen to radio, all the good music I catch on are from word of mouth. Last year's crop included Julianne and Up Dharma Down. It took a while, but this year, I finally caught on Taken By Cars. Late, but not too late. Thanks to the first of 120 Days of Octoberfest, a rekindling of local act burns once more.

View from the crowd: I though I saw Daniela Hantuchova...


(Looks up)

I had initially planned to write a snippet of a blog post, but I was completely enamored by the sound of Taken by Cars that I had to rush to the nearest record bar to get a copy of their album. So here's a review:

My Malaysian friend would probably call the album "another suprising, polished effort from the crafty Filipinos," but I don't think it's not just polished. I think the sound is slick and glossy, which reminds me of The Gossip and The Myriad. I think it's just phenomenal, to have a indietronic attitude in the rather drab battle-of-the-bands OPM atmosphere. Finally, local music that will give Sneaky Soundsystem, Simian Mobile Disco and Bloc Party a run for their money. I'm so proud right now. And grateful that I attended that Octoberfest party.

ps. I wonder what bonus track I'll receive when I log in with the audio CD. That track remix by Funk Avy is truly ear candy.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Blinded By Memories

Stephan Jenkins brings it on!

I would like to believe that I have good music memory. The first record (cassette tape!) I ever bought was Vanilla Ice's To The Extreme. Yes, I have no shame saying that. The second CD I got, was Third Eye Blind - and it sits wonderfully in my music library, getting the distinction as one of my favorite albums ever. The year was 1997, and Semi-Charmed Life was my high school graduation song (see related music list here). And as with all my Favorite Song Of The Year Awardees, the nostalgia just flows when you hear your song. It's one of those few remaining songs that I can sing from memory.

Just when I thought my music year couldn't get any better (Lifehouse anyone?), I am presented with media passes to 3EB. Blogging, I love you even more. So, before I relapse in to total fanboy mode, let me just say that I had given up seeing them live. I honestly thought that there wouldn't be a chance in hell that they'd come over and perform here. Never say never I guess.

The great thing with the concert? They sang a lot of stuff from the first album, including Jumper, Narcolepsy, How's It Gonna Be, apparent cult favorite Motorcycle Drive By and God Of Wine for the encore. Missing from the list was Blinded, which was perfectly fine by me, and a personal favorite of mine, I Want You (also known as my favorite *ahemahem* song). That's all right, the set ended with the band performing SCL; even though I was dehydrated from all the sweat, and hungry for passing up the buffet dinner, it was one final chance to rock out to one of my favorite songs of all time.

Stumbled upon them during their soundcheck!

Just to wrap up a wonderful night of memories, it felt like graduation day for me all over again: the sky was gold, it was rose, I was taking sips of it through my nose, and I wish I could get back there.
Sunday, September 07, 2008

World Record Breaking

Here's something to add to your "distinctly Filipino quirks" list. It's not a party if there's no world record to break. File it right beside "Giant Wooden Spoon and Fork".

Remember all those kissers some Valentines Day ago? What about those fish roasters in Dagupan City and General Santos? So, throwing a grand event? Make sure you plan to break a world record to make it count; no matter how ludicrous it may sound.

World's Longest Bar...before night time, and the massive crowds

I really thought last night was the "Most People Wearing A Scarf in 80% Humidity, 35 C Weather In An 8-Person Per Square Meter Area" world-record breaking activity. Close, but San Miguel made sure we were aware of what claim to fame we were gunning for: World's Longest Bar. Spoiler alert - we did bag the record, with a length of over 600 meters. Great job for the organisers, but couldn't they tie it up with "Longest Octoberfest Celebration"? This year's Octoberfest starts in September, but ends in January. Wow, more world mysteries as we roll this blog.

But the biggest mystery would be, how come Third Eye Blind wasn't too publicized? Thanks to Benj and the rest of the blogging community, I was able to catch wind of the event, and get inside the venue.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008

US Open 2008: Men's Quarterfinals

Nadal vs Fish
In a rematch of Indian Wells, expect a change of coasts, but not of outcome. Nadal has been unstoppable since the start of the clay season, and his quest to end the year with a flourishwill not stop here. Fish will try to outserve the Spaniard, and he probably will, but he will most probably be out-returned as well. With Fish throwing piercing winners, expect Nadal to return most of them wil interest. Four sets should do the trick.

Del Potro vs Murray
Sorry, I thought this was the "Most Improved Haircut" category. But hey, look up their old photos, JMDP's Frankenstein look will give Murray's Krusty The Klown hair. Oh yeah, we were talking tennis. Finally. Murray's guile is now matched with his sense of balance, and you can see that shine through in Cincinnati. With 4 straight tournaments in tow, he's definitely this season's breakout star. This will be decided by a coin flip, and should this go the distance of 5 sets, expect the Scot to fire up his campaign for a first Slam. I think it will, but it will not save us from the bicep pumping exercise please.

Roddick vs Djokovic
Include me to the group of people who's actually written off Andy to win another major. He's proven me wrong, with a stellar first week then capping it off with a sensational win of hard hitter Gonzalez. He's been playing grounded tennis, less of the fancy powershots, and more of the patient slice backhand game. Honestly, I'm bored, but if it takes him a step further, then New York and the rest of the US will have something to celebrate. Djokovic, on the other hand had a slight blip against up and comer Cilic, and turned into a nightmare with Robredo. Hopefully the Serb will pick up the pieces there, and peak right in time for another final in Flushing.

Not sure if he'll survive the Roddick QF test

Muller vs Federer
I would've chosen Nole or Roger to take the title, but their 4R challengers took away their mantle of invincibility. This section of the draw is stacked, and Federer still may salvage his worst season in 5 years with a title run. He probably won't lose to a qualifier, and he should be able to save enough energy to face the withered winner of the Andy-Nole encounter.

Semis and Final
I'd choose Federer and Nadal. It's going to be another thrilling final match up, and I'm crossing fingers that the Swiss will not end the year Slamless.

I'm going to rule the hardcourt slams too...

A last hurrah!
Tuesday, September 02, 2008

US Open 2008: Women's Quarterfinals

Flavia vs Dinara
Looks like a winnable match for Lil Sister - with rising confidence and falling champions in her draw this should be a walk in the park for her to reach another Slam semifinal. Given that it's the hardcourts, expect Dinara to shine in straight sets.

Venus vs Serena
A very joyous occassion for American tennis fans. What they missed out in Beijing and an awful schedule in London, they will gladly make up on primetime. Both sisters have been cruising since W, but I would gladly give the edge to sister Serena. It's payback time, and has anyone noticed, she's World # 3 already? For all that popcorn factor, let's see this one stretch into the morning with 3 sets.

Elena vs Patty
Nice to see the remaining Swiss Miss to sneak in quietly in the draw. However, I don't think she'll be contesting for the title, and with a bonafide contender in Dementieva, consider her hopes dashed. I've seen 3 matches by Elena, and I've noticed that people have stopped picking on her serve. The signs are coming true! Two long sets here.

Sybille vs Jelena
She's the highest seed left, yet she hardly looks the part. She's lucky that Sybille is new to the big stage, and given the rowdy NY crowd and night lights, the Austrian might crumble to pressure. She should draw up her previous matches, and come out blazing - Jelena, show em you're in the mix to win the competition.

Less tournaments, more focus!

Semis and Final
I wanted a Jelena-Elena final, to guarantee that one of them will finally graduate from kiddie table onto the Slam Winners elite. If I was to choose which one of them is ripe to hold that trophy and 1.4 Mn USD booty, I'd side by the Russian. By this time, the Serb would've wilted from all that match play. To make her win credible, a final test with Serena Williams should to the trick.

A win! Finally!

On her way to claim the top ranking again..
Monday, August 25, 2008

US Open 2008: Men's Draw

Men's Draw
Defending Champion: Roger Federer

First Quarter

It's been a golden run so far for Nadal, and what an exclamation point would it be to end the year in electric NYC? Given his stellar gameplay in the past months, it's hard to imagine that he'll coast through the draw, Berydch in R16. His opponent, is a bit of a toss up. Nalbandian, Fish and Monfils might show, but based on past performance expect Blake to bring the noise, and put on a fight in Flushing Meadows.

QF Match: Nadal vs Blake

Second Quarter
After winning four straight tournaments in a row, the obvious summer pick is Del Potro. He's got a breakthrough draw, whose major threat is Ferrer, who ended up playing on clay after Wimbledon. On the bottom section of this quadrant, choices come around aplenty. Fireplace Stan (sorry, I didn't get the joke in Beijing), Youzhny, and Lopez have equal chances to go beyond the final 16, but I would pick on Murray (despite his Olympic flop) after his win in Cincinnati.

QF Match: Del Potro vs Murray

Third Quarter
Comparing with the past section, this one is completely stacked. You've already got Djokovic in Federer's half, but Nole has a lot more things to take care of before getting to the final 4. He's up against recent winner Cilic, or Safin, then will move on to the winner of the Gulbis-Roddick match. Perhaps Olympic medalist Gonzalez? Keep your eyes peeled for this section, as fireworks are sure to come on.

QF Match: Gonzalez vs Djokovic

Fourth Quarter
The good news is Federer has the easiest draw of them all. The bad news is, this hasn't been his year. It's his last chance to salvage a Slamless season, and with Nadal's star burning so brightly, Roger will need to have an amazing two weeks to get past Djokovic and Nadal. It's not that he's been having a bad year, it's just he hasn't been playing up to standard as of late. Can Sampras sleep better now that his Slam record is safe?

QF Match: Gasquet vs Federer

Some matches to watch:
Clement vs Djokovic in 1R
Roddick vs Santoro - Who will turn up to be the better showman?
Johansson vs Gulbis - A battle of the Baltics
Safin vs Moya in 3R - Former #1s chasing past glory, one may be too late, one had a dream run in Wimbledon
Women's Draw
Defending Champion: Justine Henin

First Quarter
Though top seed and current World #1 Ana Ivanovic has had spotty results post-Roland Garros, her consistency is still the buoyant force in her game. I actually like this quadrant, and here's to hoping that Daniela to get some sort of resuscitation in her clump of late. Still, one wouldn't expect her to get far, as this year's biggest (and most consistent) revelation in the women's tour Dinara lurks in R16.

QF Match: Ana vs Dinara

Second Quarter
Really, nothing happening in the section of the draw, except for a Williams sisters showdown. Of all the Eastern European ladies threatening to rain on that party, I would choose the lanky Agnieszka to have the best chance of ruining a repeat of this year's Wimbledon final.

QF Match: Serena vs Venus

Third Quarter
When Elena landed that silver in Athens, she was also able to bag 2 Grand Slam finals. Now with a gold in tow, it's her best chance to graduate from the Non-Slam Winners club. It's reasonably, soft, and mostly a Russian army in the wings (8 out of 32 in that quarter alone).

QF Match: Elena vs Svetlana

Fourth Quarter
I'm not sure whether former world #1 Jelena (so what if it's a 1 week reign) still has gas in the tank, but hopefully she has one final spurt to run up to a Grand Slam. Still, her time is running out, and without a finals appearance to show, she'd better cut down on those tourneys and get herself some rest.

QF Match: Vera vs Jelena

Some matches to watch:

Na vs Shahar in 1R - Na missed bagging a medal in her home Olympics, but expect her to carry the momentum here. Compatriot Jie had a wonderful run in London, so why can't she?
Lindsay vs Vera in 4R - If Davenport gets past young Canadian Wozniak in the opening round, treat this as a final song in the American's encore year.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008


This blog has mostly been quiet the past few days. Before I get a close with the Olympics and dust up for the US Open, I'm filling this blog with a boring entry. Yaaaawn. Next week?
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lifehouse In Concert

Awesome panorama of the group. PJ, where are my royalties?

Sneaky me, I collapsed my trusty 400D, and smuggled it into the venue. There are a lot of blurry photos, but, I tried my best.

Can you say California surf? I love the hair. Rock on!

So, life goal attained. Good thing they didn't sing "Everything", I wasn't ready with my wedding proposal yet. Until then. Yup, it's that big.

Lifehouse says thanks. No, thank YOU! Happy concert!
It's looking like 2008 is my year. It's only the seventh month, and I've already completed not one, but two of my life goals. Granted that my life goals aren't really held 'high and lofty', but the fact that I can take them out of my list is achievement already.

Attend a tennis Grand Slam. Check - you've read all about it last February. And just this weekend, I had just finished 'See one of your favorite music artists in concert'. The list of people I have to see perform live isn't exactly a long one, so the chances of completing this life task isn't as easy as you'd think.

Who made it to that list? Garbage, but since they broke up, a reunion tour wouldn't be in the works anytime soon. Daft Punk - they hold their concerts every 10 years, and I missed Alive 2007 in Sydney by only a couple of days. Last on the list, lo and behold, Lifehouse.

I had promised myself 2 years ago that if Lifehouse were to perform in SE Asia, and skip the Philippines, I would definitely pick up plane tickets to watch them, wherever that may be. Luckily, Jason Wade and the boys decided to go to Manila - and nowhere else. Someone must've pulled some major strings to have them break their North American roadshow and cross the Pacific and 12 time zones to perform here.

So, whoever did that, mucho thanks! That's one life goal completed last weekend!
Friday, July 18, 2008

Portuguese Chicken Saved My Macau

Rainy, rainy. Tsk.

Despite my conflicting schedule, I still managed to squeeze a Macau visit. By squeeze, I mean 2 hours in Macau - 3 if you count the time I wasted queueing for immigration. If being harried so bad from trying to catch my return ferry to HK was miserable enough, it rained hard when I was in Macau. I love my quirky city walks, and believe me, it's no fun when you don't have an umbrella, or when you're galoshing through puddles.

However, all was washed away when I had lunch. I literally stumbled into a Macanese eatery (called Cidade on Rua de Sao Laurenco), and fortunately, someone knew how to speak English. The kind fellow recommended Portuguese Chicken and here's what it looks like.

Mmmmm...Portuguese chicken....

It may look like curry, but it's kind of far from that taste. The sauce is a buttery concoction, plus the oven-burnt chicken skin adds a yummy smoky taste to the chicken. Apart from those delectable custard pies, now I have something to look forward to my next Macau visit. Apart from seeing the city other than the ferry terminal.
Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hongkong My Love

Going back few blog posts earlier, what did I do in HK? I walked, battled 95% humidity, and had a fantastic time. Sorry Singapore, but Hongkong kicks your ass big time. Despite having terrible, terrible humidity (as if you're being slapped by a warm, damp piece of cloth as you emerge from an airconditioned room), my HK experience was definitely awesome.

Let me count the ways Hongkong trumps Singapore's bum. The battle of an amazing skyline goes hands down to where IM Pei, Norman Foster, and Pelli have laid their works. And with HK tearing down more heritage buildings as we speak (or type), expect more shiny high rises to sprout in the future.

Dizzying heights, thanks to the world's greatest architects...

Transport is their well-machine. The airport has a convenient check-in counter right at the heart of the city, the ferries are numerous, plus Chek Lap Kok is absolutely gorgeous. They link nearby locales such as Shenzhen, Macau and the rest of China so easily.

Chek Lap Kok, an artificial island on its own

To be fair to Singapore, Changi is chock-full of amenities, so despite the carpeted, stuffy interior, it wins the "Most Useful Airport". Plus, the cultural diversity around the city (Little India, Arab Street, Peranakan lane) is much to be envied.

Still, HK gets my two thumbs up as my favorite SE Asian city (if it counts as SEA), trumping Bangkok, Hanoi, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur. Manila, my love, you are exempt, of course.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Protege in the Making

I've been in love with my DSLR since last year, but was trumped when I handed it to Sophia, a 6-year old (belated happy birthday!) prodigy. Her shots put mine to shame, and she definitely has an eye for color and placement. Well, at least I'll be one of the few to lay claim that I handed her my camera first.

Sssh! Genius at work!
A good eye for primary colors
Still life
Monday, July 14, 2008

The Greatest Match Of All Time

After a long-standing (7-years!) invitation to visit a place that's only 2 hours away, I finally made it to Hongkong. Yup, there may be a lot of pictures right here of other places, but the perennial Filipino favorite, HK, has not been tread by yours truly. Until now.

However, let me start with the things that I did not do:
I did not go to Disneyland.
I did not go to Ocean Park.
I did not take a side trip to Shenzhen.
I did not go shopping at the night markets.
I did not even have Cantonese food.

So, what did I actually do there? As agreed with Mida, we went on to watch tennis history. Not just a match, but HISTORY. We saw, until dawn, the Roger-Rafa Wimbledon final. Through rain, darkness, there was an electric magic through Centre Court that day. Pure genius from both ends of the court. Though the result is not what I had wanted, it was such a pity that someone had to lose that epic battle. If last year's final was hailed to be a titanic match, 2008's culminating match was for the ages.

The coin toss that started it all

Enough tennis for now. More on my trip. Later.
Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Jump

Like I was saying before I got interrupted by Wimbledon, I jumped off a cliff, literally. Whee.

In an upset-filled 2-weeks, and bright, bright sunshine, could it be that a British winner be the final surprise?

QF Match: Federer vs Ancic
The last man to defeat Federer on grass is back, and hopefully in full health. Attorney Ancic must've been weathered from his 8-6 win in the 5th in the previous round, but with a day of rest, we're ready to see him in full force. Federer's performance has been downplayed but make no mistake, he's still the one to beat in this competition. Even Borg has called him out, but it's definitely time to turn up the volume and claim what is rightfully his. Federer in four sets.

QF Match: Safin vs Lopez
Who would've thought that the real Marat Safin would show up and defeat, err, shame the pompous Djokovic? Throw all recent results away, because we're talking about the mercurial Russian. It's also nice to see Lopez (the only other Spanish player that thrives on grass, imho) make it this far, but I'm crossing my fingers for Safin to re-emerge as one of the titans of the game. Straight sets for Safin.

QF Match: Schuettler vs Clement
In a battle of former Aussie Open finalists (both losing to Agassi), it's pretty hard to pick which one of them will have the advantage on this surface. Just based on previous results, I would have to pick Clement to squeeze a win.

QF Match: Murray vs Nadal
Looking for a high-octane match? This one will have an electric crowd, a fiery competitor, and a tantrum throwing home favorite all for show on Centre Court. After his from-the-grave turnaround against Gasquet, Andy Murray is finally putting himself together and giving the very hard-to-please British crowd a real battle. Nadal's routine demolition of Youzhny in R16 did hit one snag - an impending injury. It's hard to let down 15,000 spectators on the bleachers (and hundreds more on Murray Mound), so I'm going to root for Murray to get past grass season's hottest pick and let the British fans rejoice for one more day.

Semis and Final
The last time Federer and Safin met at a Slam semifinal, we all knew what happened, and can we expect to see the same here? I'm still rooting for Wimby #6 and Slam #12, but I bet on Murray a long time ago to be a contender for the majors, and a final appearance has been long overdue. Safin to win it all? That should be a good story, because of all his batchmates (Hewitt, Roddick, Ferrero, etc), he's the only one that really threaten the players of today and the upcoming ones.

Perfection still.
Close, but not just yet!
So, all top 4 seeds are gone, just one of them making it to the second week to actually contest the #1 spot. Then again, Wimbledon has always been a Williams affair, and this year, the show is about to continue.

QF Match: Jie vs Nicole
It was luck that saved a sloppy Ivanovic in 2R, but that wasn't enough to escape the doubles specialist Zheng in the round of 32. Steady groundstrokes make up her game, but with a revived Vaidisova, perhaps she should be ready for some heavy running. Speaking of Nicole, it's nice to see her finally string back to back wins this year. Hope she can put it together and go one past her 2007 result. The Czech in 3 sets.

QF Match: Agnieszka vs Serena
Like I said, it's one-way street here at Centre Court for the sisters, but if there was one to derail that train, it would be this teenager. Save for the drubbing in one set, she played courageous tennis attacking a tentative kuznetsova in the previous round. Which leads to calling myself out for shelving Serena; she won 3 titles on the trot, but lacked inspiration in Paris. It looks like she's back on track but here I go crossing fingers gain to root for the happy-looking Pole to eke out a 3-set win.

QF Match: Elena vs Nadia
What is a Grand Slam QF without an all-Russian match? I'm just crossing my fingers that the new and improved Dementieva comes out here to finally breakthrough on grass. Good serving an consistent baseline play will deliver Elena to the SF in straight sets.

QF Match: Venus vs Tamarine
Two asians in the QF, yey! It's a battle of 2 veterans here, one who's reached the 4th round six times already, while the other has won it four times. Though it's pretty obvious who's going on top with this one, just would like to highlight that grass seems to be Tammy's surface of choice. Remember when she defeated Hantuchova, and celebrated prematurely? That one's a classic.

Semis and Final
It's going to be a tough road for Radwanska, but she's won this one before, but she didn't face two Williams. One is wishful thinking at this stage of her young career, but two (at Wimbledon at that) might be stretching it. I'm going to play it safe and anticipate that the star of Venus will shine on final Saturday.

Trying to catch up with Federer!
Another debutant at a Slam Final!
So, not to be oblivious and insensitive, but when Typhoon Frank tore apart Manila, we were busy with an impromptu adieu to summer. I've never been Pangasinan for more than 4 hours (just passing through!), and reaching one of the westernmost points of Luzon was indeed an interesting sight.

I've been meaning to return to Hanoi and take a boat at Halong Bay, but a day at Hundred Islands suited me just fine. So as a mini-review, the place was awesome not just because of the great natural wonders surrounding you; but I loved it because I felt that it was an easy thing to do. Let me explain, if I was backpacking across SE Asia, and wanted to see Hundred Islands, it's such a breeze to take a bus to Alaminos, hire a trike to Lucap (the seaside barangay), then hire a boat for the whole day. All rates are fixed and posted at the tourist center, so you don't have to worry being ripped off. Rates for the boats go lower if you stay at one of the nearby lodges. Total expenses for the 2-day trip? 2.1k, very reasonable.

There are a bunch of (developed) islands to choose from, but the pic above was where we had our packed lunch: we had it half-swimming in the water, and under this cove. It's really one of the more unique, local, and most enjoyable vacations I've had in recent memory. The summary? See below:

ps. As a parting shot, we jumped of a cliff into the water in one of the islands. Good thing a friend was sissy enough to chicken out and take the video.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wimbledon 2008

Gentlemen's Singles
Defending Champion: Roger Federer

First Quarter
It's the Federer Show Season Six! This year's ensemble (at least in this quarter) of the draw is played by returning guests (Ancic, Hewitt, Hrbaty), cast additions (Haase and Nishikori), and possible cameos (Berdych, Ferrer). We've seen a harder path before, but mowing through the draw should be very easy for Federer. I'm hoping that the slump with Berdych has already stopped, and he turns in a better performance for 2008.

QF Match: Federer vs Berdych

Second Quarter
With a triad as a rivalry platform in tennis, the excitement is built up starting from the draws. Which half would Djokovic land on this year? Federer's. But that still a far 10 days away. His game against Marat Safin beckons to be a thriller of a 2nd round match.
A lot of complains with the seedings this year, and Baghdatis is one of the few benficiaries - still his draw opens to Johansson, Karlovic, and possibly Nalbandian before putting up shop against Nole in the quarters. However, I think it's high time that the tall Karlovic benefit from the surface, and snag a quarterfinal appearance.

QF Match: Djokovic vs Karlovic

Third Quarter
Though he wasn't able to defend his Queen's Club title, Roddick's semifinal made people remember that he is still very much part of the Top10 of the ATP. We suddenly forget him, come clay season. His draw is pretty interesting, as he could meet compatriot James Blake in the R16.

Instead of adjusting his game to grass, Davydenko preferred to nurse his claycourt hangover by sweating it out in Warsaw. He's never really done well here, so I'm picking someone else.

QF Match: Roddick vs Niemenen

Fourth Quarter
The most interesting quarter so far. Nadal is ready to usurp Federer crown on the grass, and his title at Queens Club was a breakthrough for all the dirtballers of Spain. Watch out though, as my bet Ernests Gulbis might face him in the second round, and that should be a pretty good test.
There's the injured Gasquet that should be readily upset by Fish in the opening round, and a Haas-Murray clash in the third round. With on-court antics a-plenty - worm-dancing (Stepanek), head-bleeding (Youzhny) and racket-shooting (Kiefer), this quarter is the definite source of entertainment for the fortnight.

QF Match: Fish-Nadal


Ladies' Singles
Defending Champion: Venus Williams

Ooops, ran out of time.... so:

QF Match: Ana vs Anna
QF Match: Svetlana vs Serena
QF Match: Lindsay vs Maria
QF Match: Venus vs Jelena
Saturday, June 14, 2008

Summer Mix 2008

It's a bit late, but here's what my MP3 player was playing during the past couple of months; it my Summer 2008 mix.

1. Gavin DeGraw - His sophomore, eponymous outing, sadly feels like some showpieces from American Idol, a swagger here, then a belt-out finale. Gone are his self-righteous declarations, enter an angrier, slighted singer. Yet, the album is still catchy, almost like the debut, but some riffs just sound like taken from a hillbilly roadhouse. Anyway, I like the album enough to keep it on rotation.

2. Arctic Monkeys/Favourite Worst Nightmare - Admittedly, the first one took quite a while for it to grow on me. After several repeats of Put on your dancing shoes, you dirty little swine!, it was a headbanging, awkward-dancing affair. Their second album didn't take much acclimatisation, this one caught on fast. Teddy Picker, D Is For Dangerous and Flourescent Adolescent stand out to be really listenable. Full credit to Arctic Monkeys for bringing the pop into indie; and like their swipe at Brian in Brianstorm, top marks for not even trying.

3. Scouting For Girls - This year's summer anthem is brought to you by this UK act. I'm always on the hunt for for a zippity, skippity, boppity (I'll stop now) song that defines the energy, and carefree attitude of summer. Summery. (I have got to stop inventing words.) They sound like Counting Crows, with more piano that feels like taken from a stage musical. There's even a quirky tribute to Sean, Roger, George, Timmy, Pierce and Daniel at the end of the album. The entire album is pieced with short happy tunes that you'll enjoy walking under the crisp yellow sun while listening to it.

4. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus/Don't You Fake It - I don't like the emo-shouting at all. However, their slower pieces Your Guardian Angel and Cat & Mouse warrant some airplay. Probably some self-emoting in the car. But no shouting! Kids in America, tsk, tsk, tsk.

5. OneRepublic - Don't let Timbaland's popular remix of their hit Apologize throw you off. There's a lot more on offer from the band, and I am reminded of the time I used to listen to The Calling, matchbox20, and the sort. The music is way different, but alternative rock nonetheless. The falsettos aren't exactly my cup of tea, but hey, the melodies work out all right.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I may have mentioned somewhere that I have had a book published. Whoops, how immodest! Screw that, that 's why I have a blog anyway.

So, I signed up for Flickr - that explains that badge of little photos moving around to your right. They have a tie up with Blurb (, that lets you download a software, and create a book with your uploaded photos. It's easy as peanuts, and there are lots of photo layouts to choose from. It took me quite a while to put together my favorite photos, it's actually because my other laptop is so old, at it emits this faint hum when operational.

Plus, I had to carefully select the photos I want to include, since extra pages cost extra bucks. The end result is a coffee-book looking hardbound masterpiece that has some of the best things I've seen during my travels. Total cost is somewhere around 25 USD plus shipping. One word of advise though, Blurb ships to the Philippines, but it'll cost you around 60 USD. Best if you send it to someone in the US; shipping will be one-tenth the overseas price.

So here's my little book, doesn't the cover look familiar? (Scroll down this page, you'll see the same exact photo).

the book....

The exhibit you say? AFP Theater. Two of my photos were on display as part of my in-work Photography class. Really, no biggie, but hey, I got published and my works were on public display. Not bad at all.
Women's Quarterfinals
Defending Champion: Justine Henin

With former champion Serena Williams and sister Venus leaving the tournament early, and title holder and top-ranked Justine Henin surprisingly bidding the game adieu, the women's field is ready to crown a new winner on the terre battue. The game is wide open, and with minimal shockers in the first week, we're all in for a treat once the tournament reaches the final eight.

QF Match: Dinara vs Elena
Back to back all-Russian encounters ate up my evening last night. It was a truly delightful match, though I was expecting to see Maria and Vera here instead. However, I was cheeering for these two; Dinara's steady performance against the top seed was definitely a showcase of maturity - she was never ahead of Sharapova, and was ready to be swept away in straight sets. Still, that patient shot making and clever shot selection of hers pulled through. Dementieva on the other hand, has steadily worked her way into the second week. I'm likely to choose Little Sis on this account, her Tier I win in Berlin included scrapes against Justine, Serena, and yes, even Dementieva in the final. Another entertaining three sets here.

QF Match: Svetlana va Kaia
Since both matches aren't finished yet as of press time, let's keep this short - I just might jinx both of them. I'm looking for Kuzzie to reach the final 2, but another compatriot needs to be taken out before that happens. We'll see.

QF Match: Carla va Jelena
The only seed that Jelena has met was Polish teenager Aggie R, and that turned out to be a rather impressive affair for her. And with all the chips falling her way (facing an unseeded opponent), except for one - injury. Still, it's expected that she wins this match, in straight sets, but not enough to go beyond the semis.

How's that arm?

QF Match: Patty vs Ana
Claycourt veteran and lefty Patty might give last year's runner up some trouble, but the blooming Ivanovic has the side of youth and fitness on her side. She may not have the stellar warn-up tournaments results, but her double bagel trumping prior to this round looks very ominous. Straight sets for the ravaging beauty Ivanovic.

Just so beautiful....


Men's Quarterfinals
Defending Champion: Rafael Nadal

"Oh no!" you say, not another Rafa-frustrating-Federer final! This year, there's a twist, an emerging Djokovic is ready to spoil these plans, and the quartefinal lineup is interesting enough to keep us all glued to our TV sets all week.

QF Match: Federer vs Gonzalez
Not seeing any surprises - it's Federer to show up on the last day of the tournament. Hopefully, he won't be a bridesmaid this time to Nadal's 4th crown.

For the win! Nice shirt, by the way.

QF Match: Monfils vs Ferrer
About time that the former French junior #1 perform well in slams - at his home tournament at that. I must admit that I wasn't able to follow his matches, so I can't make a good call on his battle with David Ferrer. I'm going to pick Ferrer, just because he eliminated the possibility of seeing worm-dancing on courts.

QF Match: Gulbis vs Djokovic
If I was to choose an unseeded player, I would've chosen the Latvian in the Fantasy League. In his US Open debut, he made it all the way to the 4th round, and in his 2nd RG, a QF appearance (darn, he crashed out early in Melbourne, would've had a chance to see him in person). Folks, look at a player of the future, just hoping he doesn't turn out to be a total nutcase like my last pick, Andy Murray.

Sorry, back to the game. Though Novak does have a steadier game, and hordes of experience, I wouldn't count Gulbis out - the Latvian plays a patient, composed and well-measure type of tennis, not typical of someone who is just in his 5th Grand Slam event. Him winning might be a long shot, but not impossible. I'm going on a whim here and say he's going to pull through in 4.

Let's go Latviaaaaa!!

QF Match: Almagro vs Nadal
This matchup took forever, but here it is. The King of Clay meets the King of Smaller Claycourt Tournaments. Almagro has been long picked to breakthrough in the big stage, but always comes up short. Here he is to prove his mettle against the game's true heavyweight. Alas, this will be short-lived, 3-time winner has yet to lose a match here and most likely won't lose this one. Straight sets.
Me, my couchsurfer, and a friend went off to see Harrison Ford reprise his role as Indiana Jones. I just couldn't resist Cate Blanchett, that's why. However, we were gravely (pun alert!) disappointed with the movie - it was an exercise of cliche counting for me and my friends. Spoilers beware, but here's the list, in random order:

1. Falling off waterfalls
2. Plastic wigs
3. Long lost son
4. Mayans
5. Aliens
6. Roswell
7. Love angles
8. Raving lunatic of an oracle
9. Groundhogs
10. A spiffy outfit (that's never wrinkled)
11. Weddings
12. Distracting accents

We're still figuring out if everything was done tongue-in-cheek but don't think so. If you've got more cliches to add, please do!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Floating Market

One of Bangkok's touristy spots that I've never experienced yet is a visit to the floating markets. We made good on that this trip, thanks to our new super best best friend Mary. That leaves a trip to Ko Kret and Lopburi for the next Bangkok expedition.

So anyway, it was another overpriced market (save all your shopping for Chatuchak, always has been my guideline). It was a good thing that we came to the floating markets quite early, when the sun provided gentle lighting, and there weren't too many tourists running around and getting on/off the boats. It was nice to join a group tour, where you don't have to worry about connections etc. However, it gets a bit annoying if you keep going to places you don't want to go. I remember going to The Greatest Show On Earth - a cobra show. Yaiks. No, I didn't go in, I hate snakes and I loved the last remaining 200 baht in my wallet.
Saturday, May 10, 2008

Back In Bangkok

While I was happily hopping around Australia last January, my best buddies bought me a ticket to Bangkok. So, for our traditional summer outing (so far we've had Baguio, EK, Anilao, Galera, Nasugbu/Iloilo-Guimaras), our 7th Annual Summer Let's-Play-Cards-Somewhere-Else Bonding event, we went international.

The Land of Smiles was, well, less smiling when we got there, but hey, with a more humid, more dank, weather, who can blame them. Oh, the traffic (as viewed from their BTS) looked more pitiful than ours.

Since it was my 3rd visit already in 4 years, I made the itinerary, and became tour guide (I was handsomely rewarded with elephant allusions and unflattering photos), we just did the touristy bit. Grand Palace! Reclining Buddha! Wat Arun!

7 out of 10 people who had cameras were using DSLR camera. Wow, they made DSLR cameras look "normal". Oh well. Everybody wants to have good photos, and with a backdrop as stunning as Bangkok, who can blame them? *raises guilty hand*

All these photos were taken from The Grand Palace++ Complex, and I was careful not to repeat a photo I took a couple of years ago. Anyway, I love the Angkor Wat replica, and having seen the real deal myself, I couldn't help but smile, and stand in awe. Here's a nice tunnel shot from that replica.

All right, that was Day One of the trip - by the end of our day, our pants were sweaty as hell that flies won't even come near.