Sunday, September 21, 2014

Colorless lacks color

A lot of my friends know how fond I am of Haruki Murakami's books so you could imagine how excited I was to get my hands on his latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

The book was about a middle-aged man, Tsukuru who went about looking for his high school best friends to find out why they decided to suddenly abandon and stop being friends with him sixteen years ago. The plot itself is very exciting since it tackled issues of loneliness, hope, self-discovery and friendship.

I got the book the first week it was released and finished it under two weeks. The first chapter sold it for me and I have to admit it was an easy read but as I read more and more of it, I found it... colorless. I was trying to determine why I didn't find the story compelling so I kept reading but it didn't get better for me. There was something missing in it. And I can't put a finger to what it is exactly. I'm thinking maybe something got lost in the translation (it's not by one of my favorite Murakami translators) but I kinda had a feeling that it was rushed. And in a way, it was a bit predictable which is surprising because the thing I love most about Murakami is that he keeps me guessing and the endings are never what I had in mind.

I can't speak badly of Murakami because I love him too much but suffice it to say, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki isn't one of my favorites from him. I am kinda disappointed cause I waited a while for his next book but I hear he's coming out with another one in a few months so I'm excited for that! 

Colorless may not be for me, but I still love you Murakami!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Haler Baler!

Last weekend, I went to Baler with my colleagues. To be honest, I didn't have much expectations about the place, all I knew was that it was a great place for surfing but other than that, I didn't think it would be so special. Well, let me just say, Baler blew me away!

We went to Baler straight from work on a Friday and arrived at around 6 am. I have to admit the road trip was tiring because it is really far and you have to go through Sierra Madre so the road would wind up and down which is scary and a bit dizzying. When we arrived our colleague (who was to host us) laid out our itinerary for the day which included a visit to two waterfalls and surfing in the afternoon!

Mother falls was so beautiful! It is a little tough to get to, that I have to admit, but it was my first waterfalls so I'm not complaining :P The trek can be challenging but for it's a good hike for beginners. A note though, the water is freezing!

We also went to Caunayan walls, which I like calling "baby falls" which is rather pleasant and more laid back. We had lunch by the falls and swam in it after.

After spending half a day at the two waterfalls, we settled down at Sabang surfing beach to try out surfing!

I am so happy to report that I was able to stand up my board after just a few tries! I didn't think I would even learn how to surf but apparently, I'm a fast learner. I may even have found a new sport *squeeeee*

We stayed at AMCO Diguisit beach resort which is about 15-minutes away from Sabang. It's a more laid back area of Baler but the view is just spectacular! It's perfect if you want a more peaceful environment to think and just take in the beauty of nature :) Plus, accommodations at AMCO aren't that expensive too! *wink

I had the most amazing time at Baler and I will be back for sure! Apart from the surfing, I will definitely be back for the suman!!! I am telling you, Baler suman tastes amazing! I only have three words(?) for it: NOM NOM NOM.

Thank you Baler for the amazing time! See you again soon!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Top 5 Filipino Restaurants

A few days ago, we were asked by an online site to give our top five restaurants. It was a worldwide community so we decided to take this opportunity to do a little country promotion as well and decided to focus on Filipino restaurants. Since we already got together and compiled a list, we might as well share it with you guys. Here are our picks:

1. Antonio's (Tagaytay City) - Hands down our favorite restaurant in the Philippines. If you've been a follower of our blog, you'd know how many times we've raved about the food at Antonio's. It is one of those restaurants you should take your balikbayan or foreigner friends if you want to show them how good Filipino food can get. We cannot emphasize enough how tasty the food is, add to that the fact that the place itself is beautiful! You can read about our visit to Antonio's at the following links:
 On Roadtrips and Breakfasts , Breakfast at Antonio's ,Easter Idea: Breakfast at Antonio's

2. Bale Dutung (Angeles City, Pampanga) - Bale Dutung is another outstanding Filipino restaurant. What makes it extra special though is that it is owned by one of the best Filipino chefs in the country! In fact, Anthony Bourdain has already visited this restaurant and raved about the good food. When we visit Bale Dutung, we were treated to a 10-course feast which you can read about in detail here.

3. Pamana (Tagaytay City) - Honest to goodness Filipino food, that is all we ask, right? Well Pamana has that and more! This quaint restaurant in Tagaytay is an easy favorite because the place is beautiful and the food especially so! Read about our visits here and here.

4. Abe's - Abe's is just one of the restaurants in the LJC group that we like. It is known for downright good Filipino food. I dine in the restaurant a lot of times and never have I been disappointed. It's one of those places that you can count on for Filipino comfort food. My favorite however is still the Sikreto ni Maria. For some reason though, we haven't written about it much in the blog (probably because it doesn't need more publicity than it already has) but you may check out our feature on this lovely dessert: Sikreto ni Maria

5. Crisostomo (Quezon City) - I remember dining at Crisostomo with Sophia's family. The restaurant reminds me of Abe's with its amazing Filipino food and ambiance. The cool thing about Crisostomo (and its siblings from the Florabel group) is that they are able to incorporate traditional Filipino cuisine and make it modern. The result is a gastronomical experience that will leave you (craving) and proud of Filipino food.
photo credit:
photo credit:
So there goes our top picks! There are so much more restaurants we would love to add to the list but we'd like to keep the list (in a way) exclusive. Here's to the best Filipino restaurants! And here's to making Filipino cuisine known all around the world! :)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

MUSIKAL!: The Best of Filipino Musical Theater

I love musicals. It is one of my favorite forms of art because it is like a cauldron in which other forms of art are mixed in-- there's dance, theater, music, literature, and lighting/stage/costume design. I enjoy it a lot because it engages my senses in many different ways.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to catch Musikal! at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Musikal! is showcase of 21 original Filipno musicals, staged in celebration of the Cultural Center of the Philippines' 45th Anniversary. It showed excerpts of popular Filipino musicals that includes Himala, Zsa Zsa Zaturnah, Rama Hari, Katy, Rak of Aegis, Caredivas, Magsimula Ka, Maxie, and Rock Supremo among others.

The entire show was like walking through memory lane for me. So much memories! I grew up watching a lot of shows at the CCP and with every excerpt, it was like I was taken back to that day I first saw that same scene. It was so beautiful!

I cannot congratulate CCP enough for staging such a great show! I am not exaggerating when I say I was teary-eyed so many times. The talent present on that stage was just overwhelming. I am so PROUD to be Filipino and to see how amazing our artists are. World-class talent indeed! You all deserve my respect, applause, admiration, and unending gratitude for being so passionate in your craft. Congratulations! And thank you. A thousand times over, THANK YOU.

Let me leave you one of my favorite songs from Rock Supremo:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Get your party on at Neverland Manila

I admit, it was only fairly recent that I got into Electronic Dance Music. But it came to me like the plague--strong and all at once. I've had this fever for about two years now and I've always wanted to watch an EDM concert live. Of course, the ultimate goal is to fly to Belgium for Tomorrowland but while I'm still gathering the funds for that trip, I'm grateful that EDM artists are starting to visit Manila more and giving us the chance to experience (or even just get a glimpse of) that sort of Festival.

photo credit:
photo credit:
Well to all fellow EDM enthusiasts, I have two words for you: Neverland. Manila.

Set at the SM Mall of Asia Concert Grounds on October 3, Neverland Manila brings in some of the topnotch DJs in the world such as Afrojack, Axwell ^ Ingrosso, Knife Party, and Ferry Corsten. Complemented with impressive effects and a gathering of the country's most dynamic audience, it will surely be a music festival to remember.

I am personally excited for the festival! I can't tell you enough how obsessed I am about Afrojack's Ten Feet Tall. Such an amazing song! And I just know it would be so much better live!

INSTAGRAM and TWITTER: @neverlandmanila

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Azkals barking out loud

Let me hear you shout: PI-LI-PINAS! I am obviously still on a high from watching the Azkals game versus Chinese Taipei last night.

I don't want to say I'm a very big fan of football, in fact, I don't watch that much, but the Azkals are the exception for me. It's only my second time to watch their game live but like the first time, I am again elated from the entire experience!

 We were actually having second thoughts to watch the game or not because it was already raining hard yesterday afternoon. But for a couple of minutes the rain let up and so we decided to just go for it. Plus my friend who is a bigger fan says it's also a cool experience to watch the game in the rain.

When we arrived, it was only drizzling so it was all fun at first. My friend was smart enough to bring garbage bags for our bags and to sit on cause the bleachers were already wet (and umbrellas are not allowed inside the stadium). It was all good in the first part, we scored two easy goals before halftime but in the middle, it started to rain. HARD.

Since umbrellas weren't allowed we had to rush into a side pit to take cover. It was really raining very hard but much to our surprise, they didn't stop the game! Our boys played for a few minutes more in the midst of the rains (with lighting to top it off!)
photo credit:

The referees had to stop the game though because the rain was starting to get ridiculously strong and the water puddles made the field unplayable (the balls were getting stuck!) We had to wait for about an hour for the rain to stop but afterwards, it was game time again!

The game ended with a strong 5-1 finish from the Azkals. I am happy beyond words for the turn out of the game. Not only did getting drenched in the rain worth it, it also made up for that heartbreaking loss from Gilas :( (yeah, we were also following the FIBA game via twitter) Thank you so so much Azkals! That was truly an amazing game! I am so proud!

On a side note though, I would just like to comment on how some people criticize the Azkals for not being "pure Filipinos". I understand where they are coming from, I myself prefer to have a National team who doesn't look so white but I also don't want to discriminate against the Azkals for being half-Filipinos. I think it is offensive to not acknowledge the fact that they are still Filipinos. Having a foreign mom/dad does not immediately make you less Pinoy. You are still Filipino because Filipino runs in your veins. It doesn't even matter if you grew up in the Philippines or not. I even think it is unfair to take that against them because I know people who have purely Filipino parents but grew up abroad and are acting more Caucasian than Pinoy. I wish people would stop making it a big deal just because the team looks white. No matter what they look like or where they grew up, they are Filipinos and that will not change. If you take that against them, I say that that is a show of discrimination.

I am proud of our team for what they have done and is doing for the Philippines. And whether they are purely Filipino by blood or not, it doesn't really matter because they have the heart of a Pinoy. And if what they are doing (and sacrificing) for the country is not enough for some, then so be it. I still believe that what makes Filipinos Filipinos is dictated by what you give back to the country. It is all about how you represent the country. About how you show your love for it. And how despite all the options you are given, you still choose the Philippines above all. That is what being Filipino truly means.

Thank you Azkals for making the Philippines proud!

A taste of Malaysia's Cuisine

Before even leaving for Malaysia, it was common knowledge (albeit unspoken) that we'll be indulging with food and coffee. As a result, I've decided to do a separate post on the restaurants that we tried while in Kuala Lumpur.

As I mentioned in a previous post, our hotel is located beside several hotels so the restaurants I'll be touching on are found in either Avenue K or in Suria KLCC. Let me start with Suria KLCC which houses our favorite (and probably the favorite of other tourists and locals as well), Madam Kwan's!

Madam Kwan's offers Malaysian hawker food but in a restaurant setting. Aside from its excellent food, it's notorious for having long lines even after the usual lunch time. We got there at 3 PM and there still were several people waiting for a table. Fortunately, they were able to accommodate our small party right away.

We ordered some dishes that they're known for - Nasi Lemak and Nasi Bojari and some that we just wanted to try - Mixed Satay and Deep Fried Dumplings.

All the dishes did not disappoint. We especially loved the deep fried dumplings for its crunchy texture and fresh filling of crab and shrimp. We liked the dumplings so much that we ate there twice. I had the Nasi Lemak the first time we dined there and tried the Nasi Bojari on our succeeding visit.

Madam Kwan's is located on the 4th Floor of Parkson Suria KLCC. Just a little reminder, on the same floor is a similarly named stall, Miss Kwan. That is an entirely different restaurant.

Another dining spot that we tried in Suria KLCC was 8 Ounce Coffee.

We were curious about their coffee but only got the chance to try it on our last day. Honestly, I didn't like their coffee that much. It tasted too sour for me. But don't let my comment stop you from trying them. We all have different coffee preferences, so you just might like their brew.

8 Ounce Coffee is located at the 1st Floor of KLCC.

The last restaurant we tried in Suria KLCC was a dessert place, Wafflemeister. It is originally from London and, as the name suggests, specializes on waffles.

We decided to try this because I was craving for something sweet and familiar. I also read online that this is the only branch outside London and UAE. The one pictured above is called Dream Team. It comes with one scoop of your choice of gelato and a drizzle of either dark, milk, or white chocolate. I chose Hazelnut gelato and dark chocolate. Yum!

Wafflemeister is at Suria KLCC's 3rd Floor.

The other mall close to our hotel is Avenue K. This mall has an underground passage and is connected to the train and to Suria KLCC. Naturally, we explored this mall before venturing to Suria. So, the day we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, we decided to try Taste Enclave in Avenue K for dinner.
Since it's a food court, we got to order several dishes from separate stalls. Seen above are the Sentul Ah Yap Charcoal Hokkien Mee and the Heun Kee Claypot Chicken Rice. The crispy pork bits in the Hokkien Mee and the mixture of chicken and sausage in the Claypot Chicken were pleasant surprises.

Taste Enclave is in Avenue K 2nd Floor, Jalan Ampang

The first coffee shop we tried during our  stay in Malaysia was The Library Coffee Bar. Among the coffee shops we tried, we ended up loving this the most for its flavorful, full-bodied coffee. We liked it so much that we finished our drinks way before remembering to take pictures of it!

As you can see in the picture, they also offer spiked coffee and cocktails. Sadly, we weren't able to try any of those.

 The Library Coffee Bar is located at the Ground Floor of Avenue K (beside Johnny Rockets; entrance can be accessed from outside)

We also dropped by Old Town White Coffee several times (to order snacks for take away and to buy instant coffee to bring home to relatives and friends). Old Town is the most famous brand of White Coffee in Malaysia whose popularity has spilled over to its neighboring country, Singapore. I remember my friends and I hoarding these in Singapore last year

Old Town White Coffee has several locations but we frequented the one in Avenue K, Upper Concourse level.

Last but not the least is Urbean. This is my second most liked cafe among all the coffee shops we tried in KL (next to The Library).

It wasn't just the coffee that's worthy of praise; the ambiance and the very attentive staff are also commendable. The meals we ordered were not only pretty but also delicious!

Urbean is in Avenue K's Concourse level.

A bonus foodie retreat that we went to was strongly recommended by my college friend, Katy. Jalan Alor is a popular food street that is walking distance from the shopping district of Bukit Bintang. 

We arrived at 7 PM and the place is starting to get packed. To reach Jalan Alor, you can take the train to Bukit Bintang station. Once you're out of Bukit Bintang Station, go left (away from Lot 10 mall). Go right once you see the KFC on Changkat Bukit Bintang. Just keep walking straight and you'll see Jalan Alor to your left. You've now reached Jalan Alor, enjoy!

As the post proves, what we did in Malaysia was mainly to stuff ourselves with great food and great coffee. That just shows that we're firm believers of experiencing the country through their food. :)

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed composing it. As Kurt Vonnegut said, "You can't just eat good food. You've got to talk about it too. And you've got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.”

Suria KLCC
Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur City Centre,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Madam Kwan's: 4th Level
Wafflemeister: 3rd Level
8 Ounce Coffee: 1st Level

Avenue K
156 Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur

Taste Enclave: 2nd Level
The Library Coffee Bar: Ground Level
Old Town White Coffee: Upper Concourse Level
Urbean: Concourse Level

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