Saturday, January 21, 2017

WELLNESS | It's a white Christmas!

I'm not a materialistic person, but there are still things that I'm sentimental about. So sentimental, in fact, that I actually name them. My current laptop - the MacBook - is Eli. My five notebooks for 2017 are Bruce, Triumph, Permission, Universe, and Curiosity. My fountain pens are Jose, Protacio, and Rizal, after our National Hero who wrote with the prototype of these instruments. My knife is Kindness.

My gis all have names, too. My white 31/Fifty (which I already gave to Lily as a gift) is Batman, because the guy who sold it to me proclaims he's Batman. My navy blue Fenom is Peanut Butter, because the girl who sold it to me is Ludee. My black Hyperlyte is Vader II. It's my replacement gi for Vader, the black Prana I bought on the fourth of May, which I sold to fund a road trip, haha! And then there's the navy blue Fuji, Lauryn Hill.

So when I decided to buy another gi as a holiday (and birthday) present for myself, I immediately started thinking of a name. I ordered an Ikiro Chrome Lite gi. After staring at the pictures of this white beauty on Facebook, I thought of calling it CHRISTMAS! Haha! It arrived after New Year's though, but it doesn't matter. Here's a photo:
It's sooooo pretty, isn't it? :) I'm a minimalist, and that's why I really appreciate the clean and understated design aesthetic of Ikiro. And although this particular gi is pretty light, I'm told that it's still tough enough to take abuse from training and even competition. I'll find out soon enough - I'm currently sidelined by two injured wrists (one from surgery and one from a sprain), so I can't train yet (BOO!). But I'm probably going to hit the mats again in a week or so - just for drills, but definitely no sparring yet - because I really can't wait to take Christmas out for a spin!


Thursday, January 19, 2017

CREATIVITY | A quick turnover

With a lot of encouragement from my bosses Kristoff and Sonny, I decided to sell Elise, my recently-acquired Asus Zenbook, to get a MacBook! Haha! The discussion started when Kristoff told me that I should get a Mac because it would make my life so much easier when I'm preparing presentations using Keynote instead of Powerpoint.
In my new room, too!
My first laptop was actually a Mac - my Dad got me an iBook similar to the one Elle Woods had, except that mine was dark blue. At the time, I'm pretty sure I'm one of the few students in Ateneo who owned one. I had to sell it on my senior year to pay for some of my school expenses. I don't mind doing so - it wasn't particularly useful for me at the time because I didn't have Microsoft Office, which I needed for my thesis.

I've had a number of computers since - one desktop, and three laptops. I only used a Mac during my brief stints in PR and in advertising, and I didn't really like it then because I got the really shitty hand-me-down units that were already too slow and too buggy.

To be clear, I wasn't particularly eager to buy another laptop, especially since Elise is barely a year old. But then Sonny made me an offer I couldn't refuse - his barely-used, mint-condition MacBook at a considerable discount and a friendly payment scheme. The last "sign" I needed to finally decide to buy the Mac is if I could find a buyer for Elise. And to my surprise, my cousin Rocel was actually looking for a new computer and she ended up getting it!

So now, I'm typing this blog post on my Mac, woohoo! For the same reason that I'm inspired to write when I have nice notebooks and pens, I'm also inspired to work with my new computer, haha! I've decided to call her Eli - still after my Mom, and sort of in memory of my previous laptop, which I also liked a lot.

So excited for all the things I will write with my Eli! :)


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

FIRSTS | Pista na diri!

Last November, I got “stranded” in Dumaguete because of the threat of extreme weather. The night before my departure, Typhoon Signal #1 was raised in the neighbouring islands of Negros and Cebu, which effectively cancels ferry trips and my flight to Manila. But the signal was lifted the following morning after the typhoon changed directions while we were all sleeping. I could have gone home, but because my heart wanted to be stranded, I ended up staying for four more days.

Staying meant I’d be in town for the annual fiesta. It was my first time to be in town for the festivities, and it was definitely worth the cost of rebooking my flight and extending my hotel stay. Haha! 

The entire morning was spent with Andy - we had coffee in Gabby’s Bistro, which is actually becoming our mini-tradition when I’m about to leave town. That’s when I made the decision to stay. So we went to his house to meet up with Tita Margie and Simon, and together we went to our first house for fiesta. 
I’m terrible with names so I can’t remember that of our host’s, but she used to be Tita Margie’s assistant at work. She actually had catering, as though the occasion were a wedding or a debut! It was awesome. I, of course, helped myself to a generous helping of good old lechon. But I tried to control how much I ate because I knew I had other houses to visit. Tried. 

Our friend Miggy picked me and Andy up from there, and we rode with him to the next house, which was that of their other brother from De Molay. The food was divine, but as I was still full from the first house (yeah, I tried to exercise restraint but I didn’t succeed 100%), I didn’t eat that much. The boys were reminiscing on the wild days of their youth, and the stories left me in awe, laughing like a maniac, and appalled. Haha!

Since I extended my stay, I had to do my laundry, so they dropped me off at the self-service laundromat in Daro as they continued their house-to-house journey.  On our way there, we saw a couple of drunk lads fighting viciously on the street. People flocked to watch, which effectively caused a major traffic jam. I know I wasn’t supposed to find it amusing or anything, and I’m sorry because I did: neither were trained fighters and it was ineresting to watch how they threw their punches. 

The boys picked me up again when I was done with laundry, and then we went to our second to the last house - that of Andy’s ex. Haha! They’re still good friends. She’s actually already married to someone else and she has a very young baby who was just super cute! They have a beautiful house and the food they had for guests was delicious. I ate a lot, because by then I was already hungry again.
Partial group photo taken by Nat! :)
Our last stop was, of course, The Belltower Project HQ - Enting and Dabz’s house. That’s where I got really drunk, but with the grace of the Universe and help from dear friends, I made it back to the hostel safe and sound. I didn’t mix drinks so I didn’t wake up with a hangover. Since I’ve been eating all day, I passed up on Pista, the pig that the Trasmontes bought to slaughter for the fiesta. It’s crazy how they named the animal after the occasion they were going to kill it for. Haha!

The fiesta is a big deal for Dumaguetenos. Having grown up in rural Bulacan, I can’t say I’m surprised - Filipinos love their fiestas! I love the spirit of generosity that prevails in each home that can afford to share not just with their loved ones and friends, but also with those who have much less. I’d be happy to be in Dumaguete next year for this occasion!


Saturday, January 14, 2017

CREATIVITY | The big switch

I finally did it. After years of weighing the pros and cons, and after a difficult process of letting go of my small but beloved collection of paperbacks, I finally decided to get a Kindle. I actually started selling some of my books back in October, when we had that garage sale in Cubao. But because I hadn’t made up my mind about getting the gadget at the time, I still held on to half of my titles - the ones that I really loved.
Last December, however, my best friend Joandrea offered to sell me her Kindle for the bargain price of Php1,500. I jumped at it, of course - that’s a steal! She takes care of her things, so it was used but not abused; she was selling it because she decided to consolidate her gadgets (she’s a bit of a techie person). The timing couldn’t have been more perfect - I had already decided to move to Dumaguete, and I knew that it would be impractical to bring my books with me. 

So I took to Facebook to sell more, partly to fund the Kindle and partly to just let go of the weight. I’m only holding on to a handful of very important books given to me by friends and family, but everything else was either sold or given away. I didn’t even bother to take back the books I loaned out; I just pray that the borrowers would take care of my former babies. :)

Joandrea helped me set up an account and load the gadget with a few books I wanted to start with (mostly self-help for now). I love that the gadget lets me carry a library no matter where I go - sans the weight. I can actually bring it with me the next time I go camping! I’ll miss my paperbacks, the smell and the feel of printed pages, but I have to consider not only my mobility, but also my carbon footprint. So yeah, Kindle it is.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

FIRSTS | Russian pancakes

There are a lot of restaurants serving all sorts of cuisine in Manila - the easiest to find are Filipino (well, duh!), Japanese (ramen, katsu, sushi), Chinese, and Middle Eastern (shawarma!). There are also some European places (Italian, French, and even Yugoslavian), but I have yet to find a place that serves Russian food in our capital city. So imagine my surprise when I learned about a newly-opened Russian restaurant in Dumaguete, of all places!
Count to 4Tea2!
The establishment is called 4Tea2 (forty-two), located along Hibbard Avenue. It’s actually just a house that they converted to a restaurant. It’s the closest food source to Flying Fish, the hostel where I stayed in my November and December 2016 trips to Dumaguete, so it became my go-to restaurant. The food is really good, the servings are huge, and the prices are definitely reasonable. So far, I’ve tried the cheesy mashed potato balls (yes, it is as sinfully delicious as it sounds), the dumplings (it’s perfect if you’re craving protein), and the “blinchiki,” which are Russian pancakes.
Cheesy mashed potato balls
These dumplings are NOT Chinese.
Russian pancakes are far from the fluffy sort I’m used to having for breakfast. It’s flat and thin - kinda like crepe, but slightly thicker. It’s used as a wrap for your filling of choice. My two favourite blinchikis are the Chicken Salad and the Beef & Onion, and they taste terrific! People who know me well will tell you that I eat A LOT, but I really struggle finishing the humongous blinchiki! 
Super stuffed Beef & Onion blinchiki! BEATS SHAWARMA ANY DAY
As for dessert, this place serves what I consider the best cheesecake in the Visayas. I have VERY HIGH standards for cheesecake because of my friend Bryan - the dude behind Blue Belt Bakes - but the one in 4Tea2 passed with flying colors! I’d still choose the Blue Belt Cheesecake in a heartbeat, but really, this is not bad at all. I love its thick Graham crust.
The other cheesecake
Another thing that makes 4Tea2 absolutely special for me is their selection of loose leaf teas. Natalie and I would frequent the place for our fix of Black Currant hot tea. It’s flavorful and fragrant, and a liter of it is cheaper than what you would normally pay in most coffee shops. They even let you refill your pot, so you get more of it. But here’s a tip if you’re going to ask for a refill: do it while the teapot is still half-full, so the taste doesn’t get watered down. Their brewed iced tea is just as amazing, and it’s wonderfully refreshing on hot days. That’s usually what I order when I’m there for lunch (the hot tea is better consumed in the evenings when it’s cooler). 
I could drink this every day.
By the way, if you like cute art, you’ll appreciate the murals on the walls. I got to talk to the owner (I forget his name, sorry!), and we had a good laugh when I told him that I totally got the teabag/tea Rex artwork! Haha! They have board games and art supplies that customers can have fun with, so it’s definitely nice to come here with friends.
Tea Bag, Tea Rex!
If you find yourself in Dumaguete and you’re looking for a place to eat, try 4Tea2! :)


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

WELLNESS | I’m Wolverine

Okay, obviously I’m not Wolverine, but I like to joke that I am whenever I get a comment on how quickly I heal. My dentist Ate Paula, who’s also my cousin, by the way, was so surprised that the incision from the tooth extraction she performed on me closed overnight. My surgeon, who sliced my wrist open recently to take out a cyst, was also surprised that the wound dried up fast. So when they comment on how fast I heal, I’d just respond by saying that I’m actually Wolverine. BOOM!

Sadly, though, I don’t recover as fast when it comes to joint-related injuries sustained from jiu-jitsu training. I mean, I still heal faster than the average person - most athletes or people with active lifestyles do - but not as quickly as I would like (because I hate being sidelined). My wrist is particularly vulnerable. I don’t know how accurate my assumption is, but I’m guessing that one possible reason for that is they’re very small relative to my frame and my legs. So when I punch in boxing - with power coming from my big, round, strong legs - they absorb the impact. And when I do my inverted yoga poses, they bear my full weight.
Mahilig mag-headstand si Tita
Laughing off the injury helps... A bit.
(photo by Dan Alvarez)
Other weak points are my left foot (which I injured in training after I landed on it while it’s bent, following a takedown from one of my teammates) and my right arm (which I popped during my match in Artesuave Manila because I got caught in an armbar). On top of the gravity of the injuries, it didn’t really help that I couldn’t give those body parts the rest they need to fully recover - I walk a lot, and I rely on my arms for my chores (lifting groceries, doing laundry, and so on). 

But I don't really subscribe to the belief that you’re supposed to just sit and be a sloth while you wait for injuries to heal. There’s a way to stay active and heal at the same time. My orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Orson Odullo, said it best - your body will tell you when to stop. So after the foot injury, I kept training (because that was a week before Artesuave Manila, haha!) but I was careful not to apply too much pressure on it. And I stopped when I felt sharp pain, because I didn’t want to aggravate it.
Good stuff. Thanks for the tip, Franco!
I also started taking Turmicap - it’s a new brand of pure turmeric. There’s hardly any turmeric in my diet because I don’t eat curry (the main source of turmeric), so the supplement came in handy. My friend Franco recommended it to me when I asked him if I should take whey or BCAA to help me recover faster from the usual post-training mini-injuries. He told me to take Turmicap instead, and I’m glad I listened - because when I Googled the benefits of turmeric, I loved what I read!

I’m usually very skeptical with vitamins and supplements, but I figured that since Turmicap is all natural, there was no harm in giving it a try. I read online that it helps a lot with arthritis. To be clear, I do not suffer from arthritis - but my injuries are mostly in the joints, anyway, so that makes turmeric a good supplement for me. I told myself I’d give it a try for a month, but I ended up taking it regularly thereafter. I even bought two bottles at Artesuave Manila (they sold it at discounted prices there, haha!) just to be sure I wouldn’t run out anytime soon.

The benefits go beyond my joints - I’ve found that doubling my daily dose of turmeric helps me get rid of the sniffles faster! I usually take just two, but when I feel sick (or when I feel that I’m about to get sick), I take four daily. Again, it’s 100% natural so it won’t hurt my liver or kidneys like other vitamin or mineral supplements would at big doses.

Try it out if you’re a candidate for Alzheimer’s or heart disease, or if you’re injury-prone like me! You can order online via Facebook - for my first order, I just messaged them there and they replied pretty fast. :)


Saturday, January 07, 2017

ADVENTURES | Away for Christmas and my birthday!

I turned 30 last December. I didn’t really plan anything big - I was ready to spend it in the condo, quietly sipping my wine. But my friend Daiva, whom I met in Flying Fish (best hostel ever!) in Dumaguete, wanted to come back to the Philippines mere weeks after leaving and she asked if I had any holiday plans. Since 30 is a milestone year, I figured I’d do something I’ve never done before: to go on a birthday trip!
My birthday crew! <3
We planned the whole thing over Facebook, and the next thing I know, I was on a plane to Cebu. I spent one night in Dumaguete, after which we boarded the boat to Siquijor. Christmas was spent there, and although it was a bit sad to be away from family, the owners of JJ’s Backpackers Village adopted us for the occasion. They prepared a lovely lunch feast and it was absolutely wonderful. The husband and wife team, John and Jeisa, are officially my favourite people in Siquijor.
Christmas lunch! Yum!
On Christmas Day, I hopped on a scooter and drove around the island with Chris, who was also staying at the hostel at the time. I’m used to being the passenger on a motorbike, but not being the driver; I got into a minor accident when I was 12 and I never drove one since. But Siquijor is a wonderful place to drive - the streets were not crowded at all, and everything you see is just beautiful. Chris was very nice to offer to drive around with me - knowing he’s just nearby at any given time helped ease my anxiety about driving.
Oldest in the country
Here fishy fishy fishy 
I survived it, and beautifully, too - no accidents or any untoward incidents whatsoever. Chris and I first stopped at the Balete Tree, the oldest in the Philippines, to have the dead skin on our feet eaten off by fish. HAHA! It tickled a lot so I was really just laughing most of the time, but I think Chris enjoyed the experience thoroughly. It was an instant foot spa! There’s a small pond right at the roots of the Balete, and the water streams from the tree, itself. That was my third time seeing it, and each time I do, I always remember the Tree of Life from the movie Avatar - it’s just absolutely magical.

The only thing I didn’t like about the Balete Tree spot is that they have two dogs and a monkey in a cage - the animals should be allowed to roam freely. Or at the very least, they should be on a long leash by the tree. Putting them in cages, especially the monkey, is something I can’t stand. But there’s really nothing I can do about it.
Church of Lazi
We drove to the Church of Lazi next. I absolutely love that structure - it’s made of stone, mostly. Inside, it it has a wooden floor and a high ceiling. It’s been there since the Spanish occupation, so that explains why I like it so much (I’m an old soul, you see). They were actually preparing the place for a wedding when we got there! It was Christmas day so I said my prayers of gratitude; I got candles for Chris and myself to light.
It remained as beautiful as I remembered it.
Top tier
From there, we drove to Cambugahay Falls, and although I didn’t have an extra shirt, I couldn’t resist getting in the water! It was so cool and refreshing - perfect after the hot afternoon drive that gave me a t-shirt tan line. Haha! I had the top of the three-tier waterfalls by myself - everyone else was at the lower levels. 
December 23 sunset
December 24 sunset
Christmas day sunset
We headed back to JJ’s in time to catch the sunset by the beach. Daiva and I have this thing about taking a sh*tload of sunset photos because every minute is uniquely beautiful, and we couldn’t decide which one is the best (thank God for digital photography! We wouldn’t be able to do that with film cameras, haha!). Since I got to Siquijor, I made it a point to upload one sunset photo per day so other people could see how amazing our world is.
Cozy lunch spot: Dagsa!
The following day - my birthday - I drove to the port to pick up Cousin Mathieu. We had lunch in Dagsa (YUM!), and then we headed to Kagusu-an Beach where I did the mandatory headstand! (I did it too in Paliton Beach and in the beach fronting JJ’s.) I hurt my wrist doing so because the ground wasn’t even, but Daiva took such an awesome shot that the pain was totally worth it.
Kagusu-an Beach
Since Kagusu-an Beach was all the way in Maria, Siquijor, we didn’t have time to go anywhere else before it got dark. A shame, really, because it was Cousin Mathieu’s first time in the island and it would have been nice if we got to see more places. But we did go back to the Balete Tree the following day for another foot spa, and then we went to see a healer for my arm (my elbow was bothering me). I don’t know if it’s just placebo effect, but my elbow did stop hurting! My wrist was still in pain, though - I guess he can only heal one thing at a time. :)

Other highlights were three phone calls - with my Dad, my brother, and my dear best friend, Joandrea. The first two were quick phone calls, but with Joandrea, my phone actually started to overheat! Haha! But December was a busy month for both of us so we had a lot of catching up to do.

I’m really glad I went on the trip; after all, I only turn 30 once. I love being 30 and the stability that comes with it - the stronger sense of self, the independence, the calm. I’m living my life in my terms, and I like being able to call the shots. My life has been amazing so far and I know it gets even better from here. 

Cousin Mathieu and I already have plans to go back there with Brother Glyn in May, when I move to Dumaguete. :) So excited for it! :)