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.