Monday, March 19, 2012

Cold Summer in Baguio

Welcome to the summer capital of the Philippines! I believe there's a sign somewhere upon entry to this little haven for the heat weary populace. But I must have missed it because I've been sleeping on and off, on this trip. 

Am not much of a road tripper. I get lulled to sleep while on the road. If I don't, I'll be plagued with the motion sickness. Anyhoo, we planned on checking out BenCab's museum on our first day (Friday) but we arrived an hour too late. The museum has closed and it doesn't open on weekends. Boo. 

It was my first time to be housed at the Camp John Hay's The Manor. Well, the entire development is really charming. And I love how well-manicured the place is. I admit, I have a weakness for all things pretty. 

It was a very quick trip. We only had a chance to visit Session Road at night which was buzzing with activities. A few steps away is the night market beside the Burnham Park. We had our moments. I went back to my hotel with three pieces of sheer dresses at P35 each! Huh.

We had a nice dinner at Mario's on our second night. Spanish cuisine didn't make that much of an impression to me. Only the rockefeller oyster. Everyone went gaga. Yum.
Mario's rockefeller oyster. You'll forget your name once you've taken a bite.
But I was very intrigued with its popular dessert called flambe. We ordered Mango Flambe. I asked the Chef what makes it so special. Ah, it has liqueur. It's so good, I forgot to take a picture. Boo, again.

On our last day which was a Sunday, we went to the public market to buy freshly ground coffee. I was amazed that the selection has considerably grown. Eight years ago, I only remembered about three -- barako, robusta, and arabica. Now, it has gone designer! There's hazelnut, almond, and vanilla flavors. 

After a half hour of amazing race inside the Baguio Market, we emerged with a few good buys. A head of lettuce, a kilo of strawberry (note: it gets squishy) and a few other green stuff. Okay, veggies.

Before heading back to Manila, we took our lovely time at Cafe by the Ruins. It's a place for artsy-fartsy people that wants to enjoy their food and the place. All the artworks are so beautiful. Handsome, even. It's a great place to chill with friends and loved ones. 

The food is unbelievably yummy!

It's menu is full of trivia, too. There's a sandwich inspired by National Artist Nick Joaquin. He doodled on a napkin what he wants in his sandwich. And voila, it's one of the cafe's bestsellers!

Look how green is my salad. It's topped with goat cheese. Crunch on the outside, soft on the inside. Heaven.
Another healthy option. Erika swears it's super yummy!
While our Baguio trip was such a short trip, the memory is lasting. Nothing's a blur. I think I've truly embraced how it is to seize the moment. 

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.- Anon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nail Tropics

Why do I love going to Nail Tropics? It's a little piece of heaven tucked away in the corner of Greenbelt 5's 4th floor. I've discovered this place over a year ago when they were just on a soft opening phase. 

The ambiance, the service and the price are very favorable to my needs. So, I never looked back. The most interesting part is they have a double reward system. One comes in plastic card which records all transactions and gives a specific reward when a certain number of points is reached. It takes a while to get there but the rewards are worth the wait. Another is privilege card that awards you a stamp/signature each time you have a service done. On both cards, I've enjoyed a free hand and foot massage, signature foot spa and free mani and pedi. 
Nail Tropics Reward Cards.
Last night, I was in for a surprise. When I handed my cards, the receptionist asked if I will use already my free mani-pedi reward. Awesome, right?
Hello, pretty nails.
 Happiness is free nail spa. Indeed. 

Nail Tropics is at Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center
Phone: 632 5013999
Mobile: 0917.8521662

Urban Living

When I was living in a small town in the province, I'd be home by six o'clock in the evening. I had always been a nocturnal person though. Since there are very few choices for night time activities, you either choose to be a couch potato or cocoon in your reading corner. 

If we're lucky and the night is wonderfully moonlit, we'd play patintero. I think this is my only sport. Ha ha ha. It's a bonding activity amongst neighbors. Sometimes, the adults would join in the fray. 

In my teens, the game lost its appeal to most of us. Choir membership was in vogue in my time! Unfortunately, I haven't been gifted with any musical talent, at all. It's a department I so wanted to be good at. Being tone deaf is not something that can just be ignored. 

Then, almost suddenly I found myself living in the metro -- where days and nights, overlap. My non-existent social life suddenly bloomed. 

These days, my after office hours are filled with activities that otherwise I wouldn't be doing in my past life. Some nights, I go to my fave salon for a hair trim. Other nights, I'd meet up with friends to re-group, to re-connect or to re-energize. It could be just over a cup of coffee punctuated with long chats or over dinner, which is becoming to be a mainstream, default activity of choice. 
At BGC Central with Josette and Cathy.
At Aria in BGC Central.
At Starbucks Greenbelt 3.

Some nights, I'd have my nails done. Like tonight. I actually have a few minutes left to meet a friend so we can hang out at our favorite nail spa. 
Obsessing with my bangs.
Why do I all these things at night? I don't really know. Maybe it's because of the simple fact that I'd rather stay home during the weekend to catch up on my reading and sleep. 

Life is changing. The years have turned the tides of my life into different directions. The fabric of my core however remains. Am still a barrio girl that is just thrown into the arena of metropolitan living.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wanted: Dream Job

I was trying to dream of my fantasy life today. And I shared it with my friends during lunch. Yes, I was trying to regale them with my tale on how I am going to be a fab driver. 
Yes, she's my peg when I get my dream job.

And yes, my dream job is that of an executive driver. Not a family driver. Or any other driver. Here are the reasons, why not: 
1.) a taxi driver can be held up; you have no control over the scent your passengers will carry with them 
2.) a bus driver is a hideous profession; motorists abhor them because they're undisciplined and they tend to cause not just traffic but a lot of road accidents
3.) a jeepney driver is a thankless job; you ply the avenues and boulevards for a few pesos per passenger under the scorching heat of the sun and the smog-filled air. Then, some passengers would even dare not pay the fare!
4.) a family driver is like a headless chicken. Enough said.

But an executive driver has a lot of perks:
1.) when the boss is just in the office, you're left to your own devices at the driver's lounge
2.) when the boss is on a business trip, you don't have to go to work
3.) the car you drive is in tip-top shape so there's a very slim chance that it'll breakdown in the middle of a highway
4.) driving a luxury car must feel good... even if you don't own it!

Because an executive driver has so much time in his/her hand, I have already lined up my personal improvement activities so that I can serve my boss as efficiently, as possible. And I'd like to live that credo of going the extra mile. I will...

1.) read books on my iPad -- will immensely entertain me and will improve my vocab (by the way, this is my favorite past time and it's interfering with my work-life balance)
2.) write blogs using my MacAir -- very handy! light as a feather. And if my boss is pressed for time, I can offer to make his PPT presentations or simple AVPs
3.) actively moderate an online book club -- I have to ensure that our driver's lounge has a wifi connectivity

I know all these entail a lot of money. And we all know that executive drivers are not exactly paid gazillions so I decided that I would just live a spartan life. I will move into a bedspacer in a relatively safe neighborhood so I can afford my lifestyle in my chosen vocation. 

And if my boss would take a long vacation, I may just get a second job as a part-time Barista. (It's my second dream job!)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hotel Review: Oxford Hotel, Clark

Live in the moment. Be spontaneous. Don't over-plan.  

All these we did, the weekend of the 17th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Clark Field, Pampanga. We were supposed to book ourselves at Abe's Farm. But since it was a valentine weekend, it was fully booked. Just like the rest of the hotels in nearby out of town destinations. 

Keeping our fingers crossed, we chanced upon Oxford Hotel, albeit on wait-list. Saturday, February 11, we arrived at Oxford with trepidation. True enough, the front desk man told us it isn't possible to check in because there are no more rooms! But we persisted, thinking there might just be one that will be freed up, if we just wait long enough. The guy was adamant in telling us to look elsewhere. In fact, he gave us the name of another hotel. But it was outside of Clarkfield. We didn't want to risk braving the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the hot air balloon event causes every year. 
It looks okay from afar but don't be fooled. It's a crumbling structure.
 After a while, this pretty front desk woman told us that hey, one room has freed up. Woot, woot! See, persistence works! We paid for the night's bill, P3,600 for a room for three. We didn't bother checking the room because we wanted to go somewhere and the room is not yet cleaned. No problem there. 

We left the hotel with a smile. Then, we drove to the mall. We shopped, dined and talked and drank coffee. 

We got back around 10 o'clock in the evening. Upon entering the elevator a scary crossed my mind. What if the room sucks. But I brushed it away hoping for the best. As we stepped out of the elevator, we saw that the lobby's carpeting looked like it hasn't been shampooed for a long time and it smelled funny. 

Our room was near the exit. It took us forever to reach it. And it was really disappointing. Yes, it even looked the room is disappointed in itself. But beggars can't be choosers. 

When Mei was about to take a shower, she shrieked! The shower head was spewing out dirty water with rusty looking elements. 

So, on top of the sagging bed, dirty bathroom and dirty water, the air conditioner is barely working. We called the front desk to report the depressing condition of our room and request for a transfer to a better one. 

Alas, there is no other available room. The front desk even intimated that a lot of guests have already complained. There is simply nothing they can do about it. 

Eh? We slept lightly that night. And our minds were filled with dark thoughts that it invaded our consciousness. We believe it haunted. Ha ha ha. 

The next morning, we headed to the "cafe" for our free breakfast. If the room was disappointing, the breakfast fare was even worse. The buffet station was dirty. There was barely anything left on the chafing dishes. And there are no waiters. Dirty tables aren't bussed simply because no one has the time. 

On a very busy season, the hotel did not have enough manpower and the good sense to inspect the condition of its amenities. Of course, we demanded some form of appeasement. The hotel manager was very apologetic and embarrassed. She gave us a small discount.

So, if you find yourself in Clark Field, Pampanga and need a roof on your head for a night or two, don't ever entertain the thought of staying there. You're setting yourself for a big disappointment. 

Bulgogi Brothers

We decided to snip away some of the stress of corporate life last night at StudioFix by Alex Carbonell in Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center. Of course, my hairstylist Hermes, who's taking Personality Development lessons in John Roberts Power, know that am just in for a trim. I have this weird fixation on the quality of my bangs, and of its length. And Hermes knows that I am as thrilled with StudioFix's segafredo coffee that I drink black -- that good!

My friend Erica had her hair colored, highlights and lowlights, name it. And the result is just fabulous. Naturally, we were famished afterwards. But the restaurants in the mall were mostly closed already. 

One shining beacon that welcomed us was the Bulgogi Brothers. We've never tried it so, we don't know what to expect. 

Once seated, our table manager presented us with the menu. Erica and I both settled with the Beef Bibimbap. A few minutes later, our waiter came back with all these, on the house. 
Side dishes galore. On the house.
 These were served to us with a flourish. Really appreciated. And we were served with its house tea that tasted so good, we finished the content of the pitcher. 
House Tea.
 Dinner was this. 
Beef Bibimbap (P395).
 It's delish! You have to dip it in the miso soup for a twist.

Dining at Bulgogi Brothers is an experience worth repeating. Good food, nice ambience and excellent customer service. 

Try it.

Boracay Escape

Carpe diem! On rare occasions that an opportunity presents itself on a silver platter, one must really just seize the day. We had the privilege of setting our weary feet in the powdery sands of Boracay under the February sun, a few days ago. It was very brief but it painted a lasting impression in my mind. 
We traversed the island on board Boracay Regency's speed boat.
The trip was for a business conference. And I knew from experience that it's hard to mix business with pleasure. So, I only packed my business casual clothes except for two kaftan items that were to be worn during the luau themed fellowship night. And a piece of bathing suit, just in case.

Oftentimes, when you set out with no expectations you get pleasantly surprised with what awaits you. This is how my summer in Boracay (included in Lonely Planet's 10 beach destinations) began. 

We were housed at the nicely furnished Boracay Regency Hotel with a nice view of the beach.
Our hotel. Amusing that a lot of people have used this space as a backdrop for their pictures.
Yes, we were the humble occupants of the Royal Suite.
The suite's lounge area.
View from our balcony.
Boy, the day that we arrived we still had a few hours of daylight to dip our toes in the tempting waters of Boracay.  And get a glimpse of its beautiful sunset. 
Romantic Boracay sunset.
Really, this picture did not do justice to the awesome scene before me. I couldn't ask for more.
Dinner at Aria.
Eggplant Parmigiana (P400+).
Tuna in Pesto Sauce (P500+).
Night life in Boracay is bustling. There are so many choices; the only real kicker is the kind of music you want to listen to. Everyone else has a distinct beach front ambience. The breeze is balmy at night. But who cares when one is supposed to wear as minimal pieces of clothing, as possible. It's a feast for the senses.

We even had a nice little night cap by the beach. We shared a long talk over a cuppa.
Ed sharing his secret for an unbeatable Temple Run score :-)

As luck would have it, we had one whole day in between the conference that was just truly ours! Ha, I didn't know. But who's complaining? So, we set out our itinerary for the day: frolic in the sun, sand and sea of Boracay.
Boracay Island, Philippines.
Look closely. The sand is powdery white!
 And I made a point of making my friends wear their heart on their sleeves, by writing their names on the sand. 
We're always on the lookout for the next best summer beach destination. Naturally, I miss them.
And wished he were there. Cheesy, I know! Lol.
A scenery is made more beautiful with gorgeous friends on the foreground. Erika.

Make sure that you take home with you a nice souvenir.
Have your shirts hand-painted by cool artists in Boracay. Watch while they paint. Awesome.
 So, what are your summer plans? Tell me about it. Better yet, spend your beach getaway in Boracay because it's more fun in the Philippines.