Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all had as much fun as we did. Here are a few pics from our Christmas lunch with the Co Family. I still have to upload the pics from our celebration with Rey's family.

And here's the card we sent out to our family and friends. (Shhh. Panj hates her pic and promised to give me a substitute but I suppose she forgot about it.)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Down with the Flu

I was fine Friday evening. I just felt a little stiffness on my back so I had a massage which brought me straight to dreamland. A few hours later, I woke up feeling like someone poured glue into my nostrils - I couldn't breathe and I felt like my brain had solidified. And I felt really heavy, so heavy that I couldn't stand or sit for more than a couple of minutes. Thinking that I was dreaming, I went back to sleep. My sleep was unusually light, I woke up everytime B moved. As the sun started to shine, I woke up feeling like a block of cement was weighing down my chest. I was down with the flu. Too bad I got it on the 28th, as we were supposed to go to my brother's house for my sister-in-law's birthday and their village trick or treat. I guess I'll be using the horns that I bought for trick or treat next year.

Two days, decongestants, a mucolytic, a steam treatment, a kilo of fruits and liters of orange juice after, I am still sick. I can breathe through 1 nostril, my brain has been turned to mush and my throat has become so itchy that I start scratching my neck. I am now able to sit and walk a few meters but I feel like I'm walking in a cloud. I croak like a frog when I speak.

This is boring, I can't do anything. I get dizzy when I read and sleepy when I watch TV. I guess I'll just go back to bed and sleep.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2006

Please indulge my obvious hangover from our latest trip:

Yes, the travel bug has bitten us again!

Since our ambitious 20-day vacation last April in Italy, France and Belgium left us financially poor (but rich in pictures!), we decided to visit nearby Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

Subic started out as a Spanish naval port in 1884. The United States engaged the Spanish army in a battle in 1889 and took over Subic in 1990. Days after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese conquered Subic in 1942 but the United States reoccupied the base in 1945. Despite the declaration of Philippine independence in 1945, the United States continued using Subic as a military base until 1991. Shortly after the Americans left Subic, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) was created to develop the former military base into a self-sustaining commercial, industrial, financial, transshipment and tourism center.

It appears that SBMA has succeeded in achieving its goals.

Subic is now a Freeport Zone that offers a bundle of tempting incentives for entities that establish their businesses in the area. It also has a lot of attractions for people like us, who seems to have a travel leech stuck on our bums (or on our battered wallets.)

From Manila, going to Subic is a breeze – Subic is just a 2-hour drive over well-maintained roads. But going around Subic is a different matter. You have to make sure that you have a vehicle as public transportation to the attractions is not readily available (there are no trains and trams and you can hardly see any taxis.) But once you've solved the transportation problem, everything will be just fine.

For our vacation, we just wanted to go to 3 places: Ocean Adventure, Zoobic Safari and the Extreme Adventure Park. (However, Subic has other attractions. It has several public and private beaches, including a world-class resort. It also has a Jungle Environmental Survival Camp where you get to camp, visit a mini zoo, an insectarium and a butterfly garden, interact with aetas and gain a deeper understanding of forests. For the adults, Subic also has a casino that features live bands nightly. There are also lots of shopping places for the bargain-hunters.)

We went to Ocean Adventure and I have to admit that it really is a poor relative of Ocean Park in Hong Kong or the Seaworld in Singapore. The aquariums were not impressive and there were only a few shows. But, we still had so much fun watching the false killer whales frolic around the bay with their trainers. The sea lion show was also entertaining. Visitors may also swim with the killer whales and the dolphins for a price. We didn't choose this option as the next morning we headed to Zoobic Safari.

Zoobic Safari was a treat for us. It had a small serpentarium, a mini-zoo where you get to pet a goat, a miniature horse, a deer and other free roaming animals. It also has a Rodent World and a Honey Bee Farm. However, the most exciting part of the theme park is their Tiger Safari where you ride a Pinoy jeepney with metal grills, and see tigers as they roam around a huge fenced area and pounce at live chickens. In our case, we went early in the morning when the tigers were hungry. They got so excited seeing the live chickens! One of the tigers happily ate his chicken at the roof of our jeepney. Another tiger ate his meal while hanging on to the metal grill at the side of the jeepney. It was such a thrill that I ended up seating on my husband's lap. The fainthearted may choose to ride on a jeepney without live chickens. That way, they can watch the show without being too close to the action. After the Tiger Safari, the Savannah Ride was a bit anti-climactic. The ostriches, pigs and goats freely roaming around the Savannah area were a bit curious but there was no real action. However, our excitement level shot up to the stars again when we decided to have our pictures taken with a baby tiger. The cub was so adorable! He gamely posed on our laps for as long as we fed him his milk. His trainer told us that they would be offering tiger walks within the month. In this new attraction, visitors will be allowed to give a leashed tiger a walk around a park.

Since it was a bit warm at the Zoobic Safari, we decided to spend the afternoon shopping after having a delicious and filling lunch at Meatplus cafe (we love their steaks and their rhum cake). We were able to purchase lots of food (Belgian chocolates!) and Rey purchased a case of Tiger beer and his Sobraine cigarettes.

In the evening, we had dinner at one of the restaurants near the Boardwalk. The food was okay but we missed the great Japanese food that we had at Sakura the night before. After dinner, we took a tour at the Subic Diamond Casino. It was packed with customers but it didn't feel too crowded. It had a relaxed atmosphere as the Casino doesn't have a dress code. People were gambling in their beach outfits! There was also a live band performing at the bar area. Rey was a bit disappointed that we missed the fashion show of the Philippine FHM models the night before we went to the Casino. We didn't stay too long as we wanted to visit the Extreme Adventure Park before we left for Manila in the morning.

We were at the Extreme Adventure Park at 8:00 in the morning. We were first in line! The first thing we had to do was to cross a hanging bridge. And then we got strapped to a zip line that got us flying over a jungle. It was so exhilirating! It wasn't too scary as the straps felt secure. I didn't wobble as I slid down the metal cable. We just had a little difficulty trekking back to the car as we are, admittedly, physically phhhht instead of physically fit (it really was only a 5 to 10 minute hike.)

In any case, the hike primed us for the buffet breakfast at the Subic International Hotel. For P350 per person, it had a decent spread of breads, fruits and Filipino breakfast dishes. They also have an omelet station where I got a fluffy and tasty ham, onion and cheese omelet.

We spent the last few hours of our vacation at our room at the Subic International Hotel. The Delta room was spacious and looked so comfortable with its cream walls, brown wooden furniture and orange trimmings. We loved the 29-inch flat TV and the fact that they kept the air-conditioner on even while we're out of the room. It just felt so good to enter a cool room after spending hours under the Philippine sun. (Oh, and I so loved their sheets that I ordered a few sets from their supplier as soon as I got back to Manila.)

We felt a little bit sad checking out of the hotel room but we were comforted by the fact that if we decide to go back, Subic is just a hop and a skip away from Manila.

Abie - saving up for the next trip!


You may view our Subic pictures at:


Monday, May 22, 2006


Planes, trains and automobiles and the law of karma

Going to Europe has always been my dream. Unfortunately, getting there is another story. First, I paid US$1000 for the plane fare on economy. That alone almost made me cry. Then, I realized that I paid so much money to torture myself by going on a 19.5-hour journey. This does not include my 1-hour journey to the airport and the 3 hours of waiting in snake-like lines when I got there.

But since I desperately wanted to visit Europe, I grit my teeth and bore the suffering.

Rey wanted me to go to the airport early. My flight was at 7:50 but he wanted to leave Quezon City at 3:30. After having lunch with Panjee, we went to the Shang Plaza. Since I didn't feel like malling, Rey and Panjee left me at Hairbytes, where I had my eyebrows waxed and my hair cut. I really didn't have much time for blowdrying but Dang, the senior stylist didn't want me to leave the parlor with wet hair. So, to lessen the drying time, 2 people were working on my hair! I knew would never experience this in Europe so I made myself forget about the time and enjoyed the pampering.

We left the parlor at exactly 3:30 and arrived at the airport at 4:30. Security lines at the entrance weren't bad, so going in was a breeze. From the entrance, I walked to Lufthansa's own security line where they checked if I had the necessary documentation. The guy at the counter asked me if I already booked my hotel accommodations. When I said yes, he said he wanted to see the vouchers. So I opened my locked backpack and fished out my travel envelope. The ass didn't even look through it! He said it was too thick. After stuffing my documents back in my packpack, I lined up again to have my bags weighed. After that, there was another line for checking-in.

Throughout the whole procedure, a pretty 40ish morena was behind me. She kept on accidentally bumping my luggage with her trolley. Since I didn't want to waste energy arguing with her, I just cheerfully told her that she obviously didn't have any talent with her trolley. She smiled and repeatedly apologized. I smiled back.

After checking-in, I paid for my airport tax then proceeded to Immigrations. The lines were a bit long. I patiently stood there and decided to be zen about the people who kept cutting the lines because their flights were about to depart. Of course, I had the urge to tell them that they should have left their houses earlier but I was feeling generous and just imagined that they did leave their house early but were delayed for some reason.

To reward myself for being nice, I paid P400 get in the Sampaguita Lounge. I was immediately served pancit canton (tasted like pancit carton) and chicken barbecue without the stick (surprisingly yummy but a challenge to eat with the plastic fork, I missed the stick.) I also took advantage of the buffet and feasted on their sandwiches and nutrilicious mango juice.

After enjoying my meal, I decided to have the P300-20-minute back massage. It was expensive but it was worth the price. I felt the knots on my shoulders loosen and the massage lady was able to make me relax.

After my massage, I went to the boarding gate and got on the plane where I was seated next to the pretty 40ish morena. Buti na lang di ko siya inaway! We chatted and I found out that she was an OFW in Belgium for 4 years before she got married to a Belgian 16 years ago. They have a beautiful 12-year old daughter. She went home last month because her father passed away. As we talked, I realized that marrying rich wasn't all that easy. Aside from having to learn a foreign language, she also had to be nice to her in-laws and her husband's daughter who all thought that she was just marrying for money and didn't have qualms saying it to her face. And of course, she had to teach her husband proper hygiene. For a time it got so bad (the family's treatment, not the hygiene) that when she got pregnant, she decided to give birth in Manila. It's a good thing that everything's fine with her now and that after 16 years of being faithful to her husband, she was finally accepted by his family.

As usual, after our chat, I immediately fell asleep. I only woke up at around 10 pm when they started serving sandwiches, which wasn't bad at all. But when I thought that I'd be having sandwiches for dinner for the next 18 days, I must admit that I got a little depressed. So, I tried to cure my depression by sleeping.

I was mildly irritated when I was awakened by the sound of carts being dragged on the aisles at around 1 am. The irritation vanished when I got my tray of Chicken Curry with Steamed Rice. Sarap! I couldn’t help but jiggle my butt with glee.

After the meal, I brushed my teeth and happily went back to sleep. I woke up hungry at around 9:30 am Philippine time. It was only 3:30 am at our destinations so I assumed that they didn't have any plans of serving food. So, I asked the stewardess for some snacks. I was thinking that she'd give me biscuits, but she gave me a steaming cup of instant seafood noodles. It felt good to my growling stomach. (While eating the noodles, I realized that they gave out menus while I was asleep. The cup of noodles was listed in the menu as optional.)

A few hours later, they served breakfast, which consisted of a roll, a strip of bacon, scrambled eggs, a small hash brown and some beans. It was okay. It would have been excellent if they served more bacon instead of their clean-tasting beans (I prefer the pork and beans that came in a can even if there’s only one piece of pork in the can.)

We arrived in Frankfurt a few hours later at around 5:45. Leaving the plane took 20 minutes as there was a security check at the gate.

The airport in Frankfurt was huge. It was so huge that it made me think of 1-kilometer sprints. I was mistaken. It was actually a 2-kilometer sprint. The walk to the Connecting Flights Area wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, the line I was in was held up by a Chinese man who was being refused entry. I decided to change lines. It was moving at a reasonable pace until the officer decided to help the officer who was being harassed by the Chinese man. Seeing that I was running out of time, I asked everyone in front of me if I could go ahead as I had to be at the boarding gate in 20 minutes. They all agreed and I got to be first in line. It only took me 3 minutes to get my passport stamped. I had 17 minutes left!

I followed the directions to my boarding gate and had to line up again to have myself and my hand-carry baggage checked for weapons. That took another 10 minutes as the person in front of me almost needed to strip to his underwear before he was allowed to pass through. And so, I had 7 left minutes to reach my boarding gate, which was on the other end of the airport. I had to walk really fast and when I got to the elevators, there was a line of people. Dozens of us decided to take the stairs. Little did we know that it was 4 flights down. It's a good thing I had a small handcarry trolley bag which can be worn as a backpack. People with the usual trolley bags had a more difficult time going down. Some actually dragged their bags down the stairs.

Reaching Terminal A, I gave a sigh of relief, then realized that there was about a 20-meter distance between gates. I had to reach gate 21 (which was roughly 400 meters away) in 3 minutes. Some of the other passengers started running. I didn't as I was comforted by the fact that there were 2 middle-aged women behind me who were taking the same flight. (If ever we get there too late, there'll be 3 of us who'll miss our flight!) By that time, I was already tired so I just walked a little bit faster than the 2, who were already huffing and puffing. I made it to the boarding gate 10 minutes before the scheduled flight (we're required to be there at least 15 minutes before departure.) There was a short line of people who looked liked they went through a marathon. I joined them. When I got inside the plane, I just had enough time to use the washroom and make a quick call to Rey.

The flight from Frankfurt to Rome was a short and uneventful one. The only memorable thing about it was that they gave out a salami sandwich, which I saved for lunch.

We arrived in Rome at 9:30 but the luggages were released 30 minutes later. After getting my luggage, I walked to the Customs Area. They didn't seem interested in checking my luggage so I literally walked through them. I was surprised when I found myself at the airport lobby. I asked a handsome policeman (siempre, magtatanong ka na rin lang, mamili ka na ng cutie) where the train to Rome was and he directed me to Terminal C. I was in Terminal A! Accepting that it was my fate to walk, I headed to Terminal C which wasn't too far away. On my way there, an Andy-Garcia-look-alike winked at me. Feeling pretty tuloy ako! Ayan tuloy, I missed the escalators and had to ask a Pinoy hanging around the area. Big mistake, he tried to convince me to hire his car for 40 Euros. Mas madali daw. I pity the ignorant Pinay who would take his offer. I walked back a few meters and saw the escalators. I took it and followed the crowd to the train station. I went to the ticket booth and paid my fare: 9.50 Euros.

A fellow Pinay sat beside me at the train. She was so nice and so helpful as she even helped me drag my luggage off the train. She also offered to bring me to the ticketing booth where I can get my ticket to Florence. Unfortunately, she only knew about the automated ticketing machines which I couldn’t use as I had large bills. We both searched for a ticket booth and found one. I got my ticket a few minutes later. After paying for my ticket, I walked around and found the station's official ticket booth. I bought my ticket at a travel agency that charged me an extra 3 Euros. It's a good thing they taught me how to read the ticket so I didn't feel too bad. P195 din 'yun.

I had an hour to waste before the scheduled departure. I wanted to sit to eat my lunch. I saw travellers seating on the floor. I refused to join them and decided to walk around the Termini. I found seats near a Music store! They were mostly unoccupied as these were a floor below the platforms and the foreigners probably didn't know about it. I finished my sandwich, bought a bottle of water (1.1 Euros!) used the washroom (.70 Euros) and checked what platform to go to. I easily found my platform and was surprised to see my train there since there was still about 15 minutes before it was scheduled to leave. I looked for my car and seat number and was seated beside 2 Spanish women on vacation. They were blond and frumpy and looked as if they were on a happy pill. They were nice and chatty and even offered me some mints. They only spoke the most basic English and there were time when we communicated using hand signals. They kept me awake throughout the 1 and a half hour ride.

I arrived in Florence and was greeted by a magnificent church. The people were very nice and helpful even if they speak very little English. Their helpfulness led me to my hotel/pensione.

After travelling for 24 hours (19.5 hours to get to Rome, 1 hour to get to Roma Termini, another hour to get my ticket and 2 hours to Florence), I was exhausted, but Florence was so worth the long journey.

Viva Firenze!

I got lost looking for Hotel Pensione Ferretti. I overestimated the size of the streets of Florence ang ignored a couple of passages that turned out to be streets. It's a good thing the person manning the tabacchi was able to give me the correct directions, "avanti, no right, no left." I followed his directions and found Ferretti.

Ferreti was more of a pensione than a hotel. To get to the reception, you need to climb a flight of stairs. From there, you take a flight of winding stairs to your room.

The idea of carrying a luggage and a backpack stressed me out, but I managed to do it somehow. I also managed the second flight of stairs, but this time, I had to stop in the middle to catch my breath.

The room was nothing fancy. In fact, it was starting to wear out. But it had its charm - it had a view of a few buildings and the street below, the bed was comfortable, the closet roomy, the toilet, bidet and sink were gleaming and the pale yellow walls were very comforting. It also had a ceiling fan which I never got to use and a heater which was illegal to use in the spring and summer seasons. I didn't stay too long though, as Firenze church bells reminded me that there was a whole new city to explore. (Yes, I didn't take a full bath but for sure ako pa rin yung pinaka-mabango doon.)

Firenze (no one there called the city “Florence”) is a walking city. The city centre is only a beautiful 45-minute walk from end to end, filled with cobblestone streets, small shops and lovely old buildings.

I was looking forward to attending vespers at the Santa Maria del Fiori but I was too early. So, I decided to make a quick stop at the Basilica de San Lorenzo. I wasn't impressed.

Basilica de San Lorenzo boasts of being the parish of the Medicis, the family who ruled Florence for centuries. Unfortunately, most of its beauty is found in the Medici chapel. Outside its doors, people lounged around and the whole street was full of vendors. It forced me to remember the story where Jesus shooed away the vendors from the church steps. To me, the church of San Lorenzo was just another Quiapo church in a foreign land.

From San Lorenzo, I proceeded to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori. Despite the throng of people outside its doors, it looked magnificent. I went inside and was just awed by the interiors. The stained glass windows were beautiful and the last judgment images on the walls were very colorful. The church became even more beautiful when the vespers started. The priests, in their fuschia and white robes took their seats one by one before the celebrant led the processional. The priests led a handful of people througout the ceremony but everything was done so sincerely. The chanting by the priests and the parishioners gave me goosebumps. It was just sad that vespers and even masses were held only in a small portion of the church as there were only a handful of parishioners (and from what I could see were either senior citizens or Filipina OFWs.)

I didn't enter the Baptistry but I took a look at its beautiful doors.

Happy with my first day in Florence, I headed back to Ferretti where I chatted with Rey using their free internet, and took a long hot shower before going to bed at 7:00 pm.

Extra Challenge

Challenge 1 - eat without a fork

My second day in Tuscany was full of firsts. Waking up at 9:30 am Manila time, I realized that I was hungry at 3:30 am in Florence. I tried to sleep it off but my stomach was detemined to have a conversation with me. So, I brought out my favorite Yakisoba and put hot water in it, only to realize later that I didn't have a fork. Desperate for food, I called on my Ilongga side and started eating with my fingers. It was so much fun! I decided to do it more often but definitely not with the bowl of hot noodles that I planned to eat that night.

Challenge 2 - Go to Pisa

After having my first meat-and-rice free breakfast, I headed to the train station to go to Pisa. It was my first time to use Italy's regular trains (the Leonardo Express and the Eurostar are special trains). I got my ticket at the station, looked for my platform, validated my ticket and boarded the train. I was already thinking that having old trains wasn't that bad for as long as there was something available for people to use until our train stopped right before a station for 10 minutes. No explanations were given but as we pulled out of the station, I saw a man lying on a platform being attended by 3 emergency personnel. Yaiks. Sana di siya nasagasaan.

Even if I took a nap for a few minutes, I got to see Tuscan farmers at work in long sleeves and slacks and really fat sheep grazing on the grass. I also saw the residential buildings with external cable wires and laundry (read as: nakatiwangwang na kable at labada) which would have looked ugly if seen in Manila but since they were in Tuscany, they looked charming.

After about an hour, we reached Pisa. There were no available maps at the station (there were big ones available at the tourist office, though) so I bought a small foldable one from the Tabacchi. It had all the information I needed in a small piece of paper. Armed with the map, I walked to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Extra Challenge 3 - Find the Leaning Tower

There were so many things to see on the way to Piazza Miracoli. Beautiful old buildings lined the street and there were plenty of opportunities for window shopping (literally).

I also loved the little-town feel that it gave. I also felt that its people welcomed tourists - there were lots of signs that pointed where the attractions were. The streets weren't too crowded and I felt so safe and comfortable walking on its streets.

Near the Piazza Miracoli, I noticed a line of beautiful trees, I decided to deviate from the direct path to take a look at them. It led me to a beautiful park with lots of trees, pigeons, dogs on leashes and babies in carriages. It was a nice sight, as it gave me a glimpse of real Tuscan city life.

A look at the map showed that I was near Piazza Miracoli. True enough, as I looked up, I saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I was overwhelmed as the truth that I was in Italy suddenly hit me on the face. I felt so giddy! I continued to walk towards the tower and reached Piazza Miracoli. I then realized that if the Leaning Tower wasn't leaning, it would have been the ugliest structure there. The cathedral beside it had a facade that was decorated with white marble, colored sandstone and glass forming flowers and animals. The baptistry was equally stunning. And I loved the statues on top of the Campo Santo.

Unfortunately, it was another throw-away-the-vendors moment. Lining the Piazza was a row of souvenir shops. Just outside its gates were rows of buses bringing in hundreds of tourists. I took my cue from the buildings and tried to be unaffected by them. After taking a few shots, I took a bus to the train station.

Extra Challenge 4 - Find Nerbonne, Home of the Florentine Steak

Deliriously happy from my Pisa adventure, I went out to search for Nerbonne, a restaurant inside the Mercato Centrale which was famous for its steak. Looking for the Firenze's central market was a joy to do. The path was full of tiny stores selling leather goods, trinkets and scarves. Unfortunately (fortunately for me!), these leather goods, trinkets and scarves were the same stuff that you see in Divisoria at much lower prices.

The Mercato Centrale was another feast for the eye. It was full of colorful fruits and vegetables (giant tomatoes and round violently violet eggplants!) as well as huge but still pretty bottles of olive oil and an unimaginable variety of pasta and mushrooms. At the north corner were huge slabs of meat hanging on humongous hooks. I saw the Nerbonne near that area.

I ordered their specialty - Florentine roast beef on bread. It was prepared in front of me - a handsome teen cut paper-thin slices of beef from a juicy slab, poured drippings onto the bread and slapped the beef in the bread. The sandwich was as big as my face! But it was utterly delicious. I ate it at one of Nerbonne's tables, next to a couple of old Italian men who were having an animated conversation while drinking wine and greeting friends who passed by.

Final Challenge - Climbing up the Hill to the Basilica de San Miniato

One of my must-do's in Firenze was to hear the monks chanting at the Basilica de San Miniato. There were two ways of getting there - a 30-minute bus ride or a 2-hour walk. Since I wanted to see Ponte Vecchio and the Basilica de Santa Croce, I decided to walk. Knowing that I had lots of time, I decided to find my way to these places without a map. Wandering the side streets of Firenze was a wonderful experience. I saw dozens of street cafes tucked away in the tiniest of streets and a couple of baby stores selling tiny lace bonnets, knitted mittens and booties and white wooden cribs with ruffled sheets.

I reached the Santa Trinita bridge and was given a magnificent view of the Ponte Vecchio. After taking some shots, I walked to the Ponte Vecchio. It was so much alive with its rows of shopes and picture-hungry tourists. Near its foot was a shop selling miniature luggages in real leather. I was smitten.

Crossing the Ponte Vecchio, I suffered through a line of tourist traps and headed for the Santa Croce. I had to walk with a sea of tourists, who thankfully, while headed in a similar direction, didn't go to Santa Croce.

Santa Croce was another beautiful church with beatiful paintings, sculptures and even more beautiful crypts. But what gave me the strongest impression was the marble pulpit carved with scenes from the bible. The carving was so intricate that I got mesmerized. Interestingly, it wasn't one of the highlights of the church.

From the Santa Croce, I had a few minutes to reach San Miniato. As I looked up by the side of the river, I saw the church' outline at the top of the hill. I took out my map and planned my trek. It was a tiring one.

The climb up required me to take hundreds of steps and several steep slopes. There were time when I had to walk slower so I could catch my breath. These were the times when I wanted to give up and just go back down but I continued. After an hour, I was greeted by a bed of red and yellow tulips at the Piazza Michaelangelo. They were so beautiful! As I walked to the railings, I was rewarded with a magnificent view of Firenze. This alone was worth the long hike up.

A few steps from the piazza, I saw the church of San Miniato. I was a bit disappointed as it was dark and a bit dreary, although it did have a set of beautiful stained glass. I asked the lady arranging flowers at the altar what time vespers started, and she said that there were no vespers but there was a mass at 6. That sounded odd to me since I knew that the chanting was done at vespers. It was only 5 pm so I decided to wander around the area. It was then that I saw the Basilica de San Miniato. It was beautiful. Like the church of San Miniato, it was dark inside but the treasures of the church were lit. I took a few shots, rested at the park outside the church and went back for the 5:30 vespers. The chanting of the priests were better than the chanting in Santa Croce but I felt that it was less sincere. It still gave the basilica an ethereal feel, though. And I had another goosebumps moment.

After the vespers, I went out and was treated to another view of Firenze. This time, I couldn't help but ask a stranger to take my picture.

How Great Thou Art

My last day in Firenze was reserved for the museums. But then, I also realized that I can actually get to see the largest open market in the area which was open only on Tuesdays. And so, I woke up early and started my happy journey at 8 am.

This time, I decided to ride the bus as my feet were already battered from all the walking. I didn't know which stop to get off to so I asked a nice-looking old lady. It turned out that she was also on her way to the market.

The market was huge! There were only 2 rows of shops but the 2 rows were probably a kilometer long. I loved looking at the flowers, the fruits and the meats. There were also cheap winter and fall clothes that were being sold at the same price. May ukay-ukay sa Florence! Ay, "vintage shopping" nga pala ang politically correct term. Anyway, I got a body bag from one of the vintage shopping tables for €3. Wagi!

From the market, I went around the Lorenzo street market again. The cheap leather bags looked like the ones being sold in Greenhills while the truly beautiful ones are way beyond my budget. So, I decided to ignore the wares and proceed with my museum tour.

I grabbed a panini from a store and looked for a place to sit and eat. I found it in Piazza Signora, in the middle of all the statues in the square. I enjoyed the sights while munching on my delicious panini in front of a statue holding a decapitated head.

Right next to the piazza was Uffizi, the biggest museum in Florence. I wasn't planning to visit but I decided to go since I wanted to see Michaelangelo's Holy Family. Luciano of Ferretti booked a ticket for me in advance so I didn't have to line up. I just had to claim and pay for my ticket at one of the gates.

Except for the paintings of Fra Lippo Lippi, the first few rooms were unimpressive. I wasn't even impressed by the famous Birth of Venus painting. But the Holy Family was something else. Perhaps it was the combination of bright colors or the extraordinary way the Holy Family was portrayed but I was just mesmerized by it and I stood there for minutes. (Warning: I also get mesmerized by Christmas lanterns.)

All other paintings looked plain compared to the Holy Family. And I didn't see the beauty of the paintings by Raphael and Rembrandt. After seeing the sculpture of the happy pig, I didn't see any other interesting work so I decided to leave.

On my way out, though, I was led through their Leonardo da Vince Project. It showed and explained his works, even making models of the things he invented. It also showed his artistic and scientific studies. It was pretty impressive and I specially loved his water organ, which was actually a musical instrument where the same amount of water is poured into ceramic pots of different sizes. The ceramic pots gave out different sounds.

After going around the whole floor which was dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci, I became a fan. The man was a genius.

After my enjoyable time at the Uffizzi, I walked to the Accademia, enjoying the paper and leather shops along the way. I saw another store selling the miniature luggages but still decided not to get one as they were a bit expensive.

When I got to the Accademia, I claimed my ticket, again using the booking code that Luciano got for me. At first, I was irritated that I was behind a bunch of teenaged boys. But after looking at more paintings that seemed more and more similar, their comments gave me a fresh perspective. I started seeing "jiggly boobs", "hard asses" and "orgasmic faces." And then I saw the original David, the real reason for my visit. I had another I'm-really-in-Italy moment.

Most people skip the Accademia as David has copies both at the Piazza de Michaelangelo and the Piazza de Signora. But these copies are exposed to the elements making David look like he had gonorrhea (as if it weren't enough that his penis is so minute!) The original David was way more beautiful. I loved looking at the details (veins on the hands and the intelligent look on his face.)

After gushing at the statue for several minutes, I entered a room filled with the plaster molds used for various structures in Paris. Many of the molds were unnamed but several of them were pretty interesting. I loved the mold that had a girl with a dog and the lady in a provocative pose.

It was getting pretty chilly when I left the Accademia so I needed to get home. But as I started to walk home, I remembered the miniature luggages and decided not to leave Florence without one. So, I bought a cheap Indian scarf and walked back to the store. I spent so much time choosing and decided on the first one that caught my attention - a classic-looking one in red leather. The man at the store carefully wrapped my purchase (in an expensive-looking sheet of gold-colored paper!) I was happy.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Abie's Answers (A's) to N@W's Thursday Questions (Q's)

1. What was your high school mascot?

A gecko. I studied in Philippine High School for the Arts which is located at the National Arts Center in Mt. Makiling. We never had a human-sized mascot but the image of the gecko appeared in most of our school stuff - shirts, banners, yearbooks, shadow plays, etc.

2. What's the last time you stayed up having a grand time after 2 AM?

A few days ago. B and I were watching episodes from the second season of House.

3. Anything you want to whine about today?

I have so much to do!

First, there's work. Ever since I got back from our vacation (which was so much fun, by the way) my accounts have required much work - meetings from 9 am to 9 pm, several opinions and a month's work of contract revew which I need to finish within a week. Aggravating this huge amount of work is that our clients and their foreign counterparts smoke during meetings! My poor lungs suffered for a week and I'm now back to bringing my asthma meds with me everywhere I go.

Second, we have no helpers at home!!! Last March, B fired our personal helper (Mama, my Mother-in-law, has Nellie and Mercy.) We got a replacement in April but the replacement resigned allegedly because her mother sent her home. Later, we found out that she needed to go home so that she can enroll for her senior year in high school. So, I guess she was just in Manila for a "summer job". Kainis! Anyway, she left on May 7 and we haven't found any replacement since then (it's not easy to find one who's willing to take care of Porkchop.) On 11 May, Nellie and Mercy went to Masbate. They had to take a vacation at the same time because Nellie will be marrying Mercy's brother. Mercy will be back next Friday, Nellie will spend more time in Masbate before coming back to Manila. Mama has been sincerely willing to do most of the household chores, but good manners and pride prevent me from letting her do all the work. So, every morning, I wake up an hour early so I can feed the dog and prepare breakfast. After breakfast, I wash the dishes, clean the bathroom floor while taking a bath, clean the sink and its counter after washing my face, sweep our bedroom floor and make the bed before I go to work. I swear, I'm already tired even before I leave the house. I try to finish all my work at the office before 7 so I can be at home by 8. By then, B would have fed the dog and prepared dinner. I eat dinner and wash the dishes before I go up to our bedroom. This morning, I dropped off our laundry at my parent's house (hindi na kaya ng powers ko maglaba!). Tonight, I will have to iron B's pants. Hay.

4. How will you & your spouse spend some quality time this weekend?

Saturday evening, we ordered pizza and mojos. After feeding the dog, we went to bed and chatted for hours. On Sunday, we watched Hostel on DVD in the morning, had lunch with Mama in Casa Armas at the Podium, went to Metrowalk to buy a few more DVDs in teh afternoon, then watched a Korean movie (A Millionaire's First Love) in the evening. I fell asleep in the middle of the movie. Hehe.

5. What are you celebrating this month?

My mom's birthday - May 12 (my sis and I went to the cemetery a week ago)
Mothers' Day - had lunch with Mama at Casa Armas

6. The last time your car got filled up with gas -- how much did it come to?

Last week, the gas tank was still 1/4 full when I put in P1000 worth of gas. The needle went a little above the 3/4 mark. Last time I had a full tank, I paid around P1,550.00. I spend around P1,800 on gas every week!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Tale of Two Birthdays

In preparation for our trip to Europe, B and I decided not to celebrate our birthdays in the usual way - we agreed not to purchase expensive gifts (unless they're necessary for the trip) and we agreed not to have our usual hotel-resto date (waaah! no Prince Albert this year!)

As the clock struck 12 on the 10th, B handed me a box and a huge birthday card. On the box was a post-it note instructing me to open it first. Inside was a beautiful pashmina scarf. A real one. Not the type you'd buy in Greenhills. I was so happy with it, I already wanted to use it. Then B nagged me to open the card, it was a funny one saying that I should not worry about the past and the future, but instead focus on the present. And then from the word present, my eyes were led by an arrow to a small envelope at the bottom. Inside the envelope were crisp P1000 bills! A little note in the envelope said that the money was for thermal gloves. I got teary-eyed because I was already feeling kawawa for not having spending money on my birthday (hey, it's ok to be emotionally sensitive on birthdays) and I was so touched that B knew what to give me to make me happy (shopping money!!!) So, on my birthday, I got myself a pair of gloves (P50 from Shopwise, Mwahahahaha!), matching bonnet (P50 din!!!) and a pair of Nike walking shoes (a lot more expensive than P50.) We also got our hotel dinner in Heat, courtesy of Mama. Happy birthday to me!

So, I wanted to make sure that B would also be happy on his birthday. BUT, since I'm the head of our cost-cutting department, I couldn't spend even a fraction of our Europe money for his birthday. So, I planned to play the "perfect wife" on his birthday. Since he has breakfast in bed often (the best way to wake him up is to feed him bacon), I decided to prepare the clothes that he would be wearing. I got underwear, socks, slacks and a nice polo and placed them where he would find them (underwear and socks on top of the drawers in the bathroom, polo and pants on the bed.) His dad woke him up to greet him early in the morning and so B was up earlier than usual. After taking a bath, he immediately found the underwear, the polo and the pants. The polo was a bit tight so he chose another one. And then he went inside the closet to get a pair of socks! When I told him that I already brought out a pair for him, he sheepishly said "ay, hindi ako sanay!" Aba, nagparinig pa and mokong. As usual, we ended up laughing.

Since his birthday wish was not to spend a centavo on his birthday, I picked him up from work. We then went to Galileo for a light dinner (mga excited! our reserations were at 8 but we were there at 6.) We tried the set menu (P400 per person) consisting of a cheese platter (my favorite grana, the nutty and tast padano and smooth asiago), cold cuts platter (Salami Milano, Prosciutto and Mortadela), Penne Con Porcini (Penne in Mushroom sauce) and a glass each of red wine (Corte Brocca Rasso). He loved the food and apparently, the place as well, as he almost walked around the resto with a plate of cheese, he settled for one big chunk instead! I gave him my glass of wine as I ordered the hot chocolate and the vanilla gelatto. The hot chocolate was thick and creamy and the gellato was the best I've ever tasted! It was very creamy and it smelled and tasted like real vanilla beans. Both were totally worth working out for (unlike the food in Mr. Kabab! But that's another story). B loved the cheese so much that he ordered an extra platter to take home. Forgetting his birthday wish, he volunteered to pay for the items he ordered. When we got our bill, we loved Galileo even better! The total bill, including the set menu, the hot chocolate, the gelato, B's cheese platter my 100 gms of grana, was only P1,215! It was well within my budget that I paid for everything. So, B still got his birthday wish. He didn't spend a centavo on his birthday. Not only that, we'll also have lunch in Casa Armas this Saturday, courtesy of mama (coccinillo, here we come!) where he would also receive my gift to him - the MP3 player that he wanted to have ever since his old MP3 player died on him (I got it at Electroworld as they have a O% interest payment scheme. I only need to pay P500 a month.) Happy birthday, B!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

On cost-cutting, working out and eating like a pig

As part of our cost-cutting plan, B and I decided to go back to our pre-wedding weight so we can wear our pre-wedding clothes. And so, we make it a point to go the the gym thrice a week, and on the days that I don't go the gym, I complete a 30-minute fat-burning work-out at home. So, does it work? Hmmm. I did lose some fat on my back and at the sides of my waist and my legs and arms feel lighter. But the visual result is comical - I know look more pregnant than ever! I guess I'll have to work out more and eat less to get rid of the last ton of fat on my tummy.

Speaking of eating less, my tummy has been really happy these past few weeks.

On my birthday, my beloved mother-in-law treated us to a buffet dinner in Heat, the newest resto at the Edsa Shang. The concept of Heat is the same as that of Circles in Makati Shang - they have different food stations for each food nationality. It had stations for Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Indian and American/Continental cuisines. It also had a cold seafood station with prawns and rock lobsters. The Japanese and American/Continental food were nothing spectacular but the Chinese and Filipino and Indian food were really yummy. We love the sweet and sour fish and the roasted duck from the Chinese station. The dishes were cooked in the usual way but the ingredients were obviously fresh, making the dishes taste clean. The lechon from the Filipino station had crispy skin with juicy chunks of tender meat which had the right amount of saltiness. It was so heavenly (read as: a little bit more cholesterol and you'll meet your Maker soon.) The lechon is best eaten with the rice pilaf from the Indian station, which was soft and sweet. As for the seafood station, the chilled prawns were sweet, firm and juicy but the lobster felt and tasted like mud. What we enjoyed best are the desserts - aside from the usual milk chocolate fountain, Heat also had a white chocolate fountain which tasted like melted Toblerone! It was perfect with the fresh strawberries and the hefty serving of banana crepe topped with chocolate ice cream.

All in all, Heat wasn't bad at all. However, I still prefer dining in Paseo Uno which charges almost the same price for a buffet dinner. Plus, I was a bit disappointed that they didn't serve my favorite smoked salmon. So, Heat is a bit lukewarm for me.

Hotter than Heat is this place in the middle of Mandaluyong - Galileo. Don't rely on the map that they give out as you'll end up passing through a dark and crowded 1-lane alley with at least 4 wakes for the dead. By the time you get to the resto, you'd really feel like you've discovered a gem or proven that the world is round.

Galileo is a wine bar that looks halfway between a tavern and a well-ventilated Chinese warehouse. As soon as you enter the door, you'll see floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with pasta and wine. We love their cheese and cold cuts platter. The cheese platter is made up of different cheeses with different textures and tastes. It's the same with their cold cuts platter, I just love the spicy italian sausage and their beef carpaccio. We usually share several plates of pasta after pigging out on the cheeses and the cold cuts. We always finish our meals with a serving each of pistacchio gelato. All these, plus 1 or 2 glasses of wine costs approximately P450 per person.

Another new resto find is Fig & Olive along de la Costa street in Salcedo Village. The place is decorated with pictures of Santorini and it serves delicious Greek cuisine. They cooked the food so well that I ate stuff that I never liked before. I'm not a fan of chicken liver because of its texture but their chicken liver dish didn't taste powdery. And, while I love the flavor of pepper, I don't usually eat the pepper itself as I find the flavor too strong. But their rice-stuffed pepper was so perfectly flavored that I even ate the pepper.

Their kebabs were also perfectly grilled and it tasted great with the sweet rice pilaf, which I so loved. But I loved the rice that was served with the grilled fish even more. It was a bit sweet but it also had a spicy edge. We capped our meal with their sinfully rich molten chocolate cake (which I think is better served with Vanilla ice cream.) They also serve really good sangria that tasted like a fruit punch with a real punch.

After all these meals, I guess it is really not a surprise that my working out isn't working out. But if I really think about it, with all the food that I've enjoyed devouring, if I weren't working out, I would be bigger. A lot bigger. And if I were a lot bigger, I wouldn't fit in the clothes that I'm wearing now. So, working out does have a contribution to our cost-cutting plan. Plus, I'm really attached to the ton of weight around my tummy, so it doesn't really matter if it's still there.

Hay, hirap i-justify ang katakawan.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Happy Meal Near McDonalds

I had dinner with officemates last night at Je Suis Gourmand at the Fort (near McDonalds) and the food was excellent!

We loved the pate platter - it had different types of pate, all of them creamy and tasty. We also enjoyed the prawn and smoked salmon salad. The prawns weren't so big but they were perfectly grilled and the smoked salmon was creamy and tasty. It also had some greens (except arugula! yey! for arugula lovers, they have arugula with smoked salmon). I also got to taste the roasted vegetables and feta cheese salad - the vegetables were just lightly roasted and the feta cheese was a good foil to the vinaigrette dressing.

An officemate likes their pea soup and their pasta. I didn't get to taste these dishes, though.

For the main course, we had the duck confit which was tender and served with mushrooms. We also got to taste the lapu-lapu, which, by itself was light but flavorful, but tasted rich and creamy when eaten with the sauce (the sauce was so yummy that it can be eaten with bread!). An officemate loved their braised lamb shank in peppered mushroom sauce.

For dessert, we liked the creme brulee, the strawberry sherbet and the grand marnier sherbet.

The owner is a French chef who is married to a Filipina.

It is best to reserve a table before going to the resto as it only has a few tables and it gets filled up quickly. Their number is: 8158801.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My DFA Adventure

It has been years since I renewed my passport and as far as I can remember, it was such a breeze. I just had my picture taken, filled-up a form and paid a travel agency to handle it. I paid for rush processing and I got my renewed passport in 1 week.

This time, I decided to have an adventure and renew my passport without using a travel agency. This, of course, is due in part to an exchange of emails in Newlyweds@Work where it was discussed that it was easy to have a passport renewed. Plus, I really didn't want to let go of my current passport as it has my precious Schengen Visa.

So, I downloaded the application form from the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). It was in Rich Text Format so I just typed in my answers and printed the form. Cool! Then, I browsed through the website to check what other documents I needed to submit. The requirements were on the same page where you can download the form. If I weren't planning on using B's surname, all I needed to submit was the application form, my existing passport, a photocopy of the first 3 pages of the passport and the page where my last arrival is stamped and 3 passport-size photos. The photos must be taken within 6 months from the time the application is filed.

Since I looked terribly fat in my last studio picture, I walked to Greenbelt to have my passport picture taken. First stop was Kameraworld. I paid approximately P95 to the girl at the counter, took a seat and gave the photographer my sweetest smile. They told me to claim the pictures after an hour. And so I did. It was surprisingly clear. In fact, it was so clear that I could clearly see the giant pores on my nose and the blemishes on my face. Needless to say, I wasn't too happy with it.

And so, with my vanity in tow, I walked to the next studio. I saw a Kodak Express around the corner but since I couldn't wait for another hour, I didn't go in. I approached the Tronix booth instead as it promised passport pictures in 5 minutes. And so, I paid approximately P60 to the girl at the counter, took a seat and gave the photographer (who happened to be the girl at the counter) my sweetest smile. Unlike Kameraworld, Tronix didn't have reflectors. All they had was a digital camera and a white cartolina taped on the wall. In less than 5 minutes, they were able to hand me my photo. I looked terribly fat (but I can't do anything about it since the girl admittedly just took photos and not created miracles) but I wasn't too happy with my hair. It looked flat on one side.

And so, the next day, with my vanity and my husband in tow, I visited another photo booth. This time it was the good old Foto-Me. I talked to the girl at the booth, and went straight to the booth. I couldn't find the dark-colored glass which I was supposed to look at! The girl explained that she had to "prepare the camera". By this, I thought that she would be preparing the camera that was supposed to be hidden behind the glass. I was mistaken. She took out a camera, attached it with a cable to where the glass was supposed to be and asked me to sit in the middle of the booth. It was only then that I realized that she will be taking the shot with the camera while I sat inside the booth looking out at the whole-wide world (not actually the whole-wide world, just the bystanders in Grotesco Disneyland who got a kick out of watching people having their pictures taken at a Foto-Me booth.) After the girl took the shot, she showed me my picture on the camera viewer and proudly said that if I weren't happy with it, she could take another shot (and give those idiots another opportunity to watch me have my picture taken?! I didn't think so.) It's a good thing that B loved the shot. The girl at the booth charged me P125 (I should have charged the bystanders P5 each!).

This afternoon, with all my passport pictures, my existing passport and my application form, I went to the DFA. The helpful guard at the front gate told me where to go. However, before I reached the gate, a person from the Mayor's Office asked me if I already attached my pictures to the application form. When I said no, she led me to a table. I handed the lady at the table my Foto-Me pictures. She said that the DFA wouldn't accept them as my face was too small. She explained that the size of the head (from the top of the forehead to the tip of the chin) must be at least 3 centimeters. I showed her my other pictures and she chose the one from Tronix. She pasted one of the pictures at the box at the top of the page, placed the other 2 in a small plastic envelope and stapled the envelope at the bottom part of the application. She then asked me for my existing passport and the photocopies. I handed everthing to her. She arranged and stapled all the documents (including my passport) and charged me P5. That was cheap! I felt generous and gave her a P10. However, as I started to walk to the DFA gate, I remembered that I left my Affidavit of Mutilation (an additional requirement if the passport has some damage) in the office. And so, I went back to the table and asked them if they can prepare 1 for me. The girl at the table looked at my passport, agreed that I needed the affidavit and referred me to another lady who was seated at the next table. This other lady got my passport, asked for my address and typed an affidavit for me in 3 minutes using a manual typewriter! (I drafted a better-worded but basically the same affidavit in 15 minutes using a computer.) She charged me P200. This includes the notarial fee. Not bad!

I was about to walk out when the lady at the first table called me. I went back to her and she explained that she'll re-staple my documents for free. I handed her the documents and she stapled the affidavit with my other documents. She then directed me to the gate.

From the gate, the guard told me to go the basketball court which was only a few meters away. A couple of DFA employees told me where to line up for verification. When I got to Table 1, they checked the pictures and all the documents stapled to my passport. I was then led to Table 2, where they checked the information which I typed on my application for renewal. Next to Table 2 was Table 3, where another DFA personnel read all the documents attached to my passport. He confirmed if I would still use my maiden name even if I'm already married. When I said yes, he gave a sigh of relief and said that it was better that way, otherwise, he would have required me to submit a copy of my marriage certificate on NSO security paper.

From the basketball court, I was led to the main building. The guard told me to line up at Windows 41 to 45. Window 42 had a sign saying "Muslim Applicants Only". Window 43 had the sign saying "Senior Citizens, Veterans, People with Disability". I figured that I could only line up in Windows 41, 44 and 45. I chose Window 41. As I fell in line behind the 6th person on Window 41, I looked longingly at Window 42 as there wasn't anybody in line. I guess the girl at the window saw me as she motioned for me to come forward. I did and she processed my papers! She repeatedly looked at my existing passport, the pictures stapled on my application and at my face. When she was convinced that I am the same person on all the pictures, she made a quick check through my documents and gave me a slip of paper and told me to go the cashier. There were several windows to choose from at the cashier. I chose the leftmost window as there were only 2 people in line (the other windows had at least 6 people each, I couldn't figure out why they weren't lining up at the other windows with shorter lines.) I paid P750 (P500 for the passport and another P250 for rush processing.) The cashier gave me a small slip of paper. When I looked at my watch,I realized that the whole process (including the drafting of the affidavit) took less than 30 minutes! I was impressed.

While waiting for Mang Al to pick me up at the front gate, I told the guard how surprised I was that the whole process was so fast. He said that ever since they removed the daily quota on the passport applications, the process has become more "relaxed" although some people still needlessly go there at 6am just to be first in line.

So now, I'm P1,240 poorer but I'll be claiming my passport on Thursday. Woohoo!

(For those interested in applying for or renewing their passports, check out: http://www.dfa.gov.ph/consular/passport.htm)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Nananaginip ng gising

NOTE: This was supposed to be published earlier today, except that my computer crashed early in the morning, had to be reformatted, and so I spent the whole day re-installing my programs.

Consistent with our no-week-end-spending-until-after-the-Europe-trip, B and I spent the whole weekend at home. B was playing "Pirates", a pc game that required the lead character to travel around the Carribean. This inspired me to surf on the places that I wanted to visit (except Western Europe as we were still waiting for our visa at that time.)

And so, I started surfing on Eastern Europe (more specifically, Prague, Budapest and Bucharest), the areas which I call the cold Europe (Amsterdam, Germany, Austria and Switzerland), Spain, Portugal, Oceania (Sydney in Australia and New Zealand), Alaska (for the aurora borealis!), Greece and Turkey. I spent the whole afternoon looking at pictures (which made me want to go to Salzburg as well), figuring out routes (I discovered that Santorini island in Greece is a bit difficult to go to so I guess the best way to get to the nice places in Greece is to join a cruise!), learning about the weather (I will not be able to tolerate winter in Alaska but the aurora borealis only appears at around that time, so I guess I'll have to join another cruise) and the cost of visiting these places (it will take me years to get to any of them). There's a lot of the world to see and I was so engrossed that I didn't stop until it was time to go to bed.

As I joined B in bed, I couldn't help but whisper, "matutulog pa ba ako, e kanina pa ako nananaginip?"

Friday, February 24, 2006

I'm Alive!!!

It's been so looong since I last blogged. My excuse? I got caught up in other things. Yeah, it's a lousy excuse, but it's the only one I can think of.

So, what have I been up to?


September - I designed invites for the first birthday of sam, my niece, for the fifth birthday of gen, my godson, and the first birthday of gen's sister, maki. Rey took a job at the BIR.

October - My niece's first birthday! We also saved up for our 11th anniversary as a couple.

November - We celebrated our 11th anniversary by staying at the Manila Hotel for 2 nights. G joined us on the second night. Sobrang nakakaaliw! On our first day, we just stayed and enjoyed our room, which had a lovely view of Manila Bay. We also walked around Manila Hotel and had dinner at this cheapo buffet place near Bay Walk. For around P250 each, we had loads of grilled squid, really good french fries, peking duck, paella, salad and iced tea! The next day, G joined us. We drove around Intramuros, then went to Westin Philippine Plaza to enjoy the sunset. For dinner,we went to Seafood Palace in Malate. After dinner, we went back to the hotel room for a Sponge Bob tournament on the XBox. As expected, I got third place! I really love Manila Hotel even if they have ugly furniture. The service is always excellent and they have the best buffet breakfast!

December - Christmas season! Grabe, nakakapagod. Three of my officemates were on leave so we had to take over their accounts. We worked like crazy! On the 24th, Rey and I visited his dad's family in Blue Ridge in the morning, had lunch and merienda with my family in Project 4 and had Christmas dinner at home. We had so much fun, though, and we loved the gifts that we received! On the 31st, we had lunch and merienda at my sister's house, then dinner at home.

The first wedding anniversary - We didn't plan on celebrating our first wedding anniversary on the 27th as we planned on going to Bali for a second honeymoon. So, we were quite prepared to have an ordinary day at home. BUT, Rey's uncle died a few days before Christmas and we buried him on the 27th. So, the first activity for the day was to go to the cemetery. At least I got to wear white!

So that we will have happier memories of our first anniversary, we decided to eat out. With the generous Christmas gift of Rey's siblings, we decided to splurge and have dinner at Price Albert. When I booked our table, they asked me if we were celebrating an occasion. I told them that we were celebrating our first anniversary. When we got there, we were happy to see that the place was almost empty. We got a nice corner table and ordered our favorite Prince Albert dishes - smoked salmon, steak and seabass with risotto. We were in foodlover's heaven. We had our own waiter (who seemed able to read our minds as we never had to ask for anything) and the food was, as expected, perfect. The sweetest thing though, is that Prince Albert gave us an anniversary gift - a chocolate cake!!! I wanted to kiss Francis, the captain waiter. I kissed Rey instead.

January - Despite the recent bombing in the Kuta area, we decided to proceed with our Bali trip! We stayed at the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel. We were given a room near the beach with a view of the swimming pools. The furniture were old but were utterlky charming as they looked so Balinese with all the trimmings. The food at the hotel was also excellent - they served the best nasi goreng we ever tasted and we pigged out on bamboo lobsters during theur lobster night! The reception area also reminded us of our honeymoon in Santiburi, Koh Samui. The Nusa Dua area was also beautiful - it had landscaped gardens on its streets and had beautiful gates and sculptures. The beach was peaceful and didn't have too many people. And I loved strolling around Ubud. Hay, sana I get to write about our trip in detail soon!

Also in January - I got my first black eye! As I was climbing up a flight of staris to the reception area of our office, I coughed continously and got dizzy. I tried to the sofas across the room but I ended up with my face at the side of the reception table. According to the 3 doctors that I consulted with, I had a tussive syncophal attack. In english: I passed out due to excessive coughing. It turns out I had pneumonitis and bronchitis. It's a good thing they didn't see anything wrong with my heart and my head. It was an experience to go through the tests, though. It was the first time I had a 24-hour holter monitor test where I was strapped with a tiny machine across my chest for a whole day. For my brain, they attached a whole bunch of tiny wires all over my head for about 40 minutes to monitor my brain waves. The whole thing stressed me out as they suspected that I had arrythmia, a serious heart condition. It's a good things that they were able to rule it out. I was also conscious about my appearance - battered wife ang dating! I wore Paris-Hilton-shades all the time. I even wore shades during the much-awaited dinner with Pazette, Tin, Laine, Len and Clarice!

February - here's what I wrote to my girlfriends about our Valentine celebration:

"una, dahil nasa tipid mode kami (saving for a trip na sana talaga matuloy), nag-decide kami na dito na lang sa Hotel Hogan (aka A Casa di Mama) mag-dinner. mabyuti na lang at na-inspire ang mother-in-law at nagluto ng japanese dinner. so meron kaming fish tempura, grilled prawns and sukiyaki. dinner in bed na lang kami (as always kasi di kami kasya sa ka-isa-isa naming food tray sa kwarto) pero habang lumalafang, nichi-chika namin si mommy. nasa room din si panjee pero nag-e-edit ng kaniyang webpage.

after dinner, naglabas ng roses ang Biik for me and panjee! wag kayong maawa kay MIL kahit wala siyang roses galing kay rey dahil nabigyan na siya ng isang gigantic floral arrangement ni FIL at may natanggap din siyang super sosi floral basket with cabbage roses and gerberas from ate korina (naks! feeling close). pinagkatuwaan namin ni MIL ang cabbage roses at ibinalak isawsaw sa balsamic vinegar para maging salad. tapos, pinatulog na ang panjee at ni-arrange ni MIL ang roses na binigay ni Biik sa vase. Habang nagpapaka-ala Boy Mahusay ang MIL, nag-email muna ako ng kung anikanik habang naglalaro si Rey sa computer. after 30 minutes, umalis na ang MIL and back to valentine's day na! at ang activity - manood sa DVD ng "The Maid"! sigaw ako ng sigaw. (I wonder what our neighbors were thinking.) at sobrang kaming physically close ni Rey kasi nga nagpaka-duwag ang lola niyo, medyo mega-kapit sa Biik!!! (I wonder what MIL was thinking nung nakita niya ang scratch marks sa braso ni Rey.) After The Maid, In Her Shoes naman para makalimutan ang mga kakatakot na scenes. naaliw naman ako pero di naman natapos.

happy kami kasi sobra kaming tipid pero di kami feeling kawawa. Ay, si Rey pala, di masyadong happy kasi feeling injured (hanggang ngayon may scratch marks pa.) hehe."