My mum used to bring me with her to their office in Intramuros so it’s easy to say that I’m very much familiar with the area. Last Sunday, I went here with my brother to visit some of the old-but-reused buildings for their assignment. I’m delighted that I was able to go with him because it made me remember how happy my childhood was. It’s good to see that despite major developments here and there, the ambiance stays the same and that everything could still be reached easily by walking.
#HelpAFriend: We have a couple of foulards (pronounced as foo-lards in English and foo-lah in French) at home and I plan on selling them. We don’t use them here — heck, I only use it as a “bag tag” to identify which one is mine. I’ve included some photos to let you all see how it looks like and how it can be tied on a bag (thanks mum for letting me borrow something out of your bag collection!)
Aside from being a bag tag, foulards can also be a great way to counter summer heat and to deal with the cold winter. It’s lightweight, made up of 100% silk and is very easy to wash and dry.
Our foulards measure 34×34 inches (about 87×87 centimetres). However, this ships straight out of Singapore, and so I apologise if the designs and stocks are very limited for now and might take a while to get delivered.
Giorgio Armani sells them for about $300 (PHP 16,200, $1 = PHP 54), which I don’t intend to do of course. Haha. If anyone’s interested, I’ll be delighted to help.
On this day, when we remember what a great man my grandfather was, I’ve had the chance to be with my cousins, aunts and grandma. Finally, our busy schedules have aligned today, and as a bonus: I was able to speak to my dad on the phone albeit short. He’s travelling to France as of writing. I’m wondering what Tatay has been doing up there and whether he’s proud of what I’ve become today. I mean, who knows? X
I have no words to describe this week, but let me tell you than I am happy. I don’t think I am in the position to complain about anything, even though I feel empty; consciously know that there is something lacking in me. I am tired—beyond exhausted—but happy and content. To remind you how beautiful life could be, here are some photos I took on our way to the City of Dreams Manila in Pasay City for the #PFIP2018 5th Gala Night.
It was Becs’s idea to meet up here at Marindo, a newly opened restaurant located at the heart of Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City. Conveniently located at the G/F of Manhattan Garden, it’s not that hard to find but caveat that there are no parking space available except the open parking outside.
They were operational since 6 October and serves Indonesian-Malay menu. I MUST try their Laksa, even if it meant skipping my diet for the night, and boy, it did not disappoint for something worth PHP195 ($3.61). I’ve also ordered Vegetable Fritters for PHP90 ($1.67) for everyone (not in the photos) which was surprisingly good and it reminded Japan’s Okonomiyaki but less savoury which is what I like. ($1 = PHP54)
The first I’ve noticed was probably the clean vibe that Marindo exuded and I have to give it to those white walls, clean utensils and Instagram-worthy lighting which only some restaurants have. They operate on a self-service set up and you have to pay as you order, so please do not expect this to have a fine-dining set up.
Some of the best people I’ve known for roughly 9 years, albeit my first time to meet Marvz with Kiefer today. Thanks for Jeric, too, for still going all the way to Cubao from Cogeo even if it was already late. If it wasn’t for Becs‘s business (go check @powercasesmnl!), this wouldn’t be possible. Look at what I’ve ordered from them too, and it costs way cheaper than your Starbucks Venti drink! It was seeing everyone last night, and I think I should do this more often now. X
Let’s all admit it – we never like how bad the traffic could get on Fridays and how humid it could be in the afternoon, but there is something about Makati Central Business District (CBD) which makes you love it as it is.
I visited Makati today after attending some brotherly duties at home. I had this sudden itch to feel the city vibe that only Makati CBD exudes. Although I weren’t able to roam that much, I still found myself in awe whilst at the elevated walkway near Paseo de Roxas and Greenbelt. I think it was just a great timing as there were few to almost no passers-by when I took these shots.
I didn’t bring my camera with me because I want to test the camera of my new phone – and it did not disappoint at all! For edits and colour play, I have created this new orangey preset from Lightroom. I’m sure this will work on natural lighting and I will continue using this until my eyes could not take it anymore.
Indeed, it’s a good way to get my weekend started and to end a busy work week! X
I grew up in a land locked province, and we are from a town that’s totally far from bodies of water. We weren’t famished because we’ve been considered as one of the top rice producing places in the country, but one thing is for sure, and my mum can attest to this – we are totally fond of seafood!
I guess it’s obvious to say that we’re in love with seafood simply because we don’t get to eat them anytime we wished to. If there’s a chance for us to have it, we wouldn’t let it pass. I’m not kidding at all – my mum can eat a whole casserole of steamed crabs in just one seating; my brother can down a platter or two of buttered shrimps; and I can devour huge fried butterfly squids without flinching. This is probably one of the best reasons why we love dining here at Above Sea Level.
It was my grandma who invited us at Above Sea Level – The Gate branch. When we dined in here last 1 September (our second time), it was actually Nanay’s fifth time already. I’m not joking, it’s probably the first time, for a very long time, that I saw her get so fond of a restaurant, apart from our usual Hap Chan weekend family dinner. She said, one of our close relatives discovered this and brought her here. From then on, Above Sea Level has always been our go-to place for the past 3-4 weeks.
In case you’re wondering, there are different sizes for the Giant Butterfly Squid. So it’s not just a giant Butterfly Squid but there’s actually a bigger size than what we call as giant. I find this very interesting because where the heck do they get these bigger squid sizes!? I’m dying to get one. Anyway, here’s the list of the Giant Butterfly Squid sizes:
“Giant” – 190 Pesos ($3.33), good for 1-2 persons, comes with one (1) FREE Java rice;
“Super” – 250 Pesos ($4.63), good for 2-3 persons, comes with two (2) FREE Java rice;
“King” – 350 Pesos ($6.48), good for 3-4 persons, comes with three (3) FREE Java rice;
“Groot” – 450 Pesos ($8.33), good for 4-5 persons, comes with four (4) FREE Java rice.
One good thing about Above Sea Level is their Barkada Treatwhich comes four (4) Giant Butterfly Squid, four (4) Java rice, and one (1) Seafood Festival platter. You can enjoy this for only 1000 Pesos ($18.52), not a bad price, especially if you’re dining with your family and friends. I highly suggest that you get this instead of single orders to save a lot of money.
I kid you not, the Seafood Festival platter really looks and tastes nice! As what the owners have shared to us, the Seafood Festival platter is not only cooked in butter but with crab fat/meat (alige, in Tagalog), too. The toppings include kernel corn, crab, mussel (tahong, in Tagalog), and shrimp (hipon, in Tagalog). So to those people who have high cholesterol count, who are prone to high blood pressure, and who are on a diet, this dish isn’t necessarily what you’d like.
Above Sea Level – The Gatealso offers other à la carte options such as Squid Overload (all-squid platter) which is good for sharing (2-3 persons) only for 250 Pesos ($4.63), Firecracker Shrimp for one (1) person and it comes with FREE Java rice for 180 Pesos ($3.33), Bacon Wrapped Shrimp for one (1) person + FREE Java rice for 240 Pesos ($4.44), and Squid Fest which is good for sharing (3-4 persons), comes with three (3) Giant Butterfly Squid, and with FREE three (3) Java rice for 490 Pesos ($9.07).
For drinks, they serve HUGE towers of either a Blue Lemonade or a Red Iced Tea. You can choose whether to get a 16 oz. individual order for 50 Pesos ($0.93), a Jar (1 liter) for 100 Pesos ($1.85), good for sharing (2-3 persons); or a Juice Tower (2 liters) for 180 Pesos ($3.33), good for sharing (4-6 persons).
More than its affordable price, availability (as of writing, Above Sea Level has more than 50 branches across Luzon) and its sumptuous food, our family likes an excellent customer dining experience. To the owner of Above Sea Level – The Gate, Ms. Monina Lindo, thank you for always welcoming us with big smiles and open arms. These days, it’s so rare to find such a hands-on owner who makes sure all of our requests are attended immediately. I look forward to more visits soon! X
In the Philippines, you’d easily spot those who are truly wealthy – and they would call themselves as comfortable, but being rich isn’t enough. More than money, you need connections that many people don’t have, powers that one would never think exist, and a handful of attitude to carry everything out. Who would have thought that being rich can get really crazy? This is everything summed up on Kevin Kwan‘s Crazy Rich Asians, his first book from the trilogy.
The crazy story all started with Rachel, a Chinese-American, NYU economics professor, and Nick, an Oxford-educated bachelor and a professor by profession, planning a getaway “to the east.” “Like Queens?” Rachel asked, but Nick had other things in mind. He wanted his family to meet Rachel. He felt it was about time after dating for more than two years. Besides, it would be the wedding of his best friend, Collin, where he’d be the best man and he wouldn’t want to miss that once in a lifetime chance. All along, Rachel thought everything would be smooth sailing but not until she finds out that her boyfriend is an heir to a massive fortune in Singapore.
Character roll call
A lot of names were mentioned but here are some of the notable characters that have stood out from the rest:
Nick’s Ah Ma (grandmother), Shang Su Yi, whose mansion is beyond imaginable, guarded by Gurkha army men, and has been well visited by various heads of states and their respective delegates because she is that powerful. Her fortune is what you’d call as the old money in Asia because their family, both goes for the Shang and the Young, have been rich for many decades (and even centuries) already;
Nick’s lovely cousin – 2nd cousin, if that makes any difference at all – Astrid Leong, a free-spited, sophisticated lady who adores Rachel right after meeting her. She has more than 40 high-end real estate properties across Singapore and Asia and shops for all haute couture in sight. She’s the fashion goddess, somebody who is influential in the fashion scene for the young women in Singapore. With oozing hot Michael Teo, an ex-Army man who now serves as the CEO of a tech company, as her husband, they form a formidable couple that most people would get envious with;
Rachel’s college best friend, a “trust funded” lady from Singapore who she hasn’t seen in a very long time and whose family is into the construction business, Goh Peik Lin. She was not just Rachel’s best friend. She could even pass as Rachel’s fairy godmother. From getting her stunning but not revealing clothes, letting her stay in their lovely mansion after her hiccup with Nick, to even bringing Rachel all the way to the Tyersall Park for the family dinner hosted by Nick’s Ah Ma. I wish we could all have a Peik Lin in our life;
The ‘wedding of the century’ couple, Araminta Lee, a supermodel icon and daughter of Annabel Lee, a renowned hotelier in Singapore and across Asia, and Collin Khoo, Nick’s childhood best friend whose family owns the hotel where Rachel and Nick would stay for the wedding. It was Rachel’s first time to meet the lovely couple when they picked them up at the airport and had Chicken Satay for dinner at this famous Newton Food Center (Hawker Center). It was clear that both Araminta and Collin loved Rachel immediately with the way they welcomed her in Singapore;
Oliver T’sien, Nick’s 2nd cousin from the T’sien side. He was the one who made sure Rachel would know who she needs to and she does not need to trust in the crazy clan of theirs. It was not a surprise when he instantly liked Rachel but had to do his job to diss Kitty Pong, a soap opera star in Hong Kong and the fiancée of Alistair Cheng, another 2nd cousin of Nick, simply because she would never be a good addition to their family. Oliver was frank and would know his worth more than anyone else in the family, albeit not a crass;
Dr. Gu was not someone you’d notice until you’re more than halfway through the book. He’s described as a link to a forgotten world where being rich wasn’t just defined by money. Why is he important? The way he remembered Nick’s grandfather, Sir James Young, was as if money and power never have existed. Nick’s grandfather spared his life during World War Two. This proved that being wealthy is not just about accumulating so much money because there is a world beyond that;
Then there’s Eleanor Young, Nick’s mother and married to Philip Young, one of the wealthiest men in Asia. She does not joke around. When she has her eyes on the prize, she’ll make sure to get it no matter what. Eleanor is how you’d picture out a rich lady who cared about who Nick would date, even going as far as Shenzhen with her friends to investigate on Rachel’s background.
Okay, here we go
The first thing you’d notice from the book would be the luxury brands, but the thing is these rich people do not chase these big names. One particular instance of this was Astrid’s private shopping for jewelry in Stephen Chia. Mind you, those weren’t just regular jewelry but antique ones, even dating back to those of Chinese dynasties. A pair of earrings could pay a mortgage of two houses in Singapore. Another one was Eleanor and her friends who all went to Shenzhen to simply have a spa weekend, only to find themselves at the hidden shopping paradise for all overrun designer goods. A designer luggage priced at $2500 will only cost $700 even if these are of the same quality. No one will ever forget that moment when Peik Lin brought Rachel to a shopping spree before the night of meeting Nick’s relatives at the Tyersall Park, the name of the mansion where Nick’s Ah Ma lives. Perhaps one reason to explain this habit of our rich friends is that they would always want to keep it low key. In fact, if you’d observe around you, Chinese or non-Chinese, those who are filthy rich wouldn’t even look like they are rich at all. I guess it has always been ‘less is more’ for them.
Speaking of less is more, I could never forget that moment when Eddie Cheng got shut down by his family. Eddie is the eldest son of Alexandra Young, youngest sibling of Felicity (Astrid’s mother) and Philip (Nick’s father) and Dr. Malcolm Cheng, a renowned heart surgeon who has this thing about protecting his hands and needed a chauffeur. Why do I have to mention this? Eddie wanted to fly from Hong Kong to Singapore with his whole family in a private plane – something that his best friend from Shanghai, Leo Ming, loaned to him. His family didn’t agree to avoid any issue and so as not to be a show off, but that’s what Eddie wants – fame, attention, paparazzi sprawling around him. To cut the story, Eddie is an ass, even when they were still kids. Up until the time when he married his wife, Fiona, and had kids, he has never been better. In fact, he just got worse. He is the living proof of how a rich kid could become a spoiled brat simply because his parents were well off. What prompted Eddie to be like this? He has this thing of comparing his family to that of his friends and couldn’t accept why his parents have always been cheap to him.
Another thing I’ve realized was that these rich people were not totally different from what an outsider does in life. They weren’t invincible after all. It was definitely shown when Astrid was having problems with Michael. Astrid caught Michael having an affair but only to find out it was not real, thanks to Astrid’s childhood love, Charlie Wu, a tech billionaire now based in Hong Kong, who flew Astrid the night after Araminta and Collin’s wedding from Singapore to Hong Kong because this was where Michael was seen with another woman and a boy. Even if Astrid’s character was a strong woman who could buy everything she wanted to, there’s also a weak side of her and that was her love for Michael. I knew she would be like this when she have already seen the dirty text message on Michael’s phone but wouldn’t want to confront him simply because she didn’t want any commotion before the wedding and that they’d appear as happy, formidable duo (or trio, if Cassian, their son, would be in the picture). I’ve learned that nothing could ever beat love, especially when one gets so blinded by it that they’d throw away whatever wrong doings their partner have committed. Did it really matter what others would say about her and her failed relationship with Michael? I guess it does if you’re coming from a prominent family like hers. But in reality, I don’t think it makes sense.
Kwan also gave a nice glimpse of the how complicated and how big the family tree, an extended one if I may say. Right from the start, I knew that it would be like that since it’s not new to most people that most of the Asian families do have huge family trees. I just had to mention this – even with non-Chinese families, we normally call elders as auntie or uncle, even if we’re not blood related, to show respect. But as what Oliver T’sien said, the honorific should be earned. Gone are the days when younger generation would simply say yes to everything that older people would say. Oliver even said that his auntie and uncle, Nancy and Dickie respectively, do not give a shit about him so why should he bother calling them that? Class!
What also spelled the difference was the kind of love that only a mother could give to their children. Whilst Kerry, Rachel’s mum, could be so jolly and candid, it wasn’t the same case with Eleanor, who does not show her emotions and makes sure she’d keep Rachel guessing for her next move. Kerry was so used to being western that she does not even care whether Nick comes from a family with good lineage. She simply wants Rachel to be happy, to be respectful of their culture, and for Nick to look after her only daughter well. Eleanor, however, could pass as the definition of how crazy an Asian mum could be – did an in-depth background investigation of Rachel Chu, flew off to Shenzhen so she could avoid meeting her for the very first time, took advises from people who are not even blood related to her, made sure she puts a stop to Nick and Rachel’s relationship… I definitely felt for the woman. Besides, I know she was simply doing her job to protect her son’s interest at all cost. However, to pin down all the blame to her is absurd, even if Nick’s dad did not even care who he dates at all and it was only Eleanor who’s trying to put a stop to what was going on with Nick and Rachel, because this reflected the cultural differences, albeit coming from the same Chinese background/race. I thought that Kwan brilliantly sewn these parts together so it would be easier for readers to understand how the Asian culture works, especially those who are coming from a conservative background. From an outsider’s perspective, this could result to a disaster because, really, what would you don’t like about Rachel Chu? She’s smart, always curious, prompt, and could speak Chinese, but from an Asian perspective, we have to understand that everyone is almost connected in the family that what the parents say (and even those from other relatives) matters.
What I’m saying is that…
It’s been more than 2 weeks since I had the chance to read the book, but I still couldn’t get over it. Aside from the urge to become rich, I thought that the book was a good eye opener to the rising consumerism and materialism in Asia. The book represented Asia not just a hub but a superpower; it is the melting pot and this is happening right before our eyes.
Moreover, it was not hard to connect with the story even if I don’t have a knight in shining armour like Nicholas Young, even if my family was not as rich as theirs, even if I don’t speak more than 3 languages just like them because of the way the story unfolded. I loved how Kwan described things and people and it made me feel that they truly exist. From describing how peaceful it was when Rachel and Nick headed to the Young’s vacation house in Malaysia, how the Tan Hua flowers bloomed beautifully at night but withered moments later, to the private island where Araminta, her friends, and Rachel went for the bachelorette party, I didn’t have to wonder if they truly exist or not because it was believable.
One pain point I did notice, however, was the spotlight on the other members of the family. I know, I should wait for the second book because they’d probably be there, but I was craving for more details about what the others do in life. I definitely liked how the story introduced some of the family members and their ongoing issues, but I was hoping to go on with more drama. Funny that I hate family drama in life but that’s what kept me hooked all throughout the book.
I also hoped Kwan could’ve explored more of Collin’s anxiety issues. It was a good topic to touch on because this isn’t a new thing with most Asian family members who would always felt pressured to do well in school, to get a high paying a job, to marry as soon as possible and have an offspring. I felt for Collin when Nick noticed he wasn’t really ready for anything bigger than his responsibility of being a bachelor. Collin said that whatever is good for the business is always good for the family, even if it would sacrifice his own happiness (this was of the merger of the Khoo and Lee families after his marriage with Araminta Lee). It was as if everything is a competition to these people and being ahead of the game is a must, but come to think of it, who do they have to compete with?
I really wonder what happens next after Rachel, Nick, Peik Lin, and Kerry, Rachel’s mum, went to the Marina Bay Sands to catch some famous Singapore Slings – did Fiona and Eddie make up after their misunderstanding? I hated Francesca, and I wonder what would happen to her once she finds out she was not the chosen one after all? What would be Eleanor’s reaction once she finds out Nick and Rachel would still end up marrying each other? How will Astrid be able to cope up with Michael moving out of their family If the answers are on the next book, China Rich Girlfriend, then I can’t wait to have my copy delivered soon in our house! X
And August has ended – just like that! We’re finally entering the “-Ber months” and it means 2 things in the Philippines: one, the traffic will go from bad to worse because of the early Christmas sale and shopping madness; two, Jose Marie Chan will be all over the malls and parks. If you’re curious to know about his songs, you can check this Spotify playlist.
This month’s music suggestion, brought to you by Spotify and Spotify Premium, will feature artists you probably have never heard of. This is my way of reminding myself that there’s more to life than listening to my usual pop songs. Don’t get me wrong – I love pop songs and listening to one makes me happy instantly, but it’s about time I step out of my comfort zone and continue discovering new artists and songs to listen to. If you’d notice from my August music suggestion, most of the songs I’ve included were a little slow and soft. I don’t know, but it reminds me of the time when R&B was such a hit in 2000s.
Out of the line-up this month, my favourite song to listen to would be Easy by Mac Ayres. The song reminds me of how easy it is to love somebody. Loving should never be complicated, although sometimes what we feel towards another person is something words could never define. With its slow beat, my mood can turn from frantic to calm in no time.
20 songs. 1 hour and 6 minutes total run time. I don’t know what can go wrong whilst listening to another chill playlist. I also want to know your thoughts after listening to the playlist and you can do so by posting comments or directly sending a message to me – would appreciate all of these to help me improve! X
And here’s another ‘Aha!’ moment whilst having dinner with my family. I am introducing a new portion of my blog where I will do a fortnightly recap. This will include the things I will be able to scout, interesting activities which I will find worth sharing, feature of the new (and old) restaurants and food house I will visit, some life learning and recent discoveries… basically a bi-weekly update of all things I thought worth sharing.
This week is like no other week. From developing a new habit, buying new babies a.k.a. books to read, to getting myself some new investments. Although pricey and my expenses suddenly went high, my heart is filled with joy. I guess this is what prioritizing self-care does to you – doing the things you’ve always been scared to do, indulging yourself with favourite comfort food, developing new hobbies, renewing your burning passion to be a better version of yourself.
I’ve had doubts whether to grab a copy of Crazy Rich Asians or not because of the initial reviews I’ve seen online, but my instincts were wrong. When I finally saw the movie trailer and talked to few of my friends about their thoughts of the book by Kevin Kwan, I finally gave in, just in time before the Crazy Rich Asians premiere in the Philippines on August 22 (Wednesday). Now, I have to be honest, I couldn’t put the book down and I’m so hooked! I’ll be doing a review of this as soon as I finish reading it and will do the same after viewing the movie.
Tip: There are copies in almost all major book stores in the country but was able to buy from Powerbooks in TriNoma, Quezon City for only 399 Pesos ($7.47). Also, please don’t forget to bring your Laking National Bookstore Card because they honour that – sayang ang points!
Sandugo “Pulag” sandals for only 675 Pesos ($12.64), less 10% thanks to The Great Marilao Sale at SM City Marilao last Aug 17-19, 2018.
It will be less than 5 months before my first solo travel, but I’ve been preparing for it as early as now. Call it excitement, but it’s really more than it. I want to make sure everything will go as planned, even thought I know in reality it does not really happen at all. The first step I did? Secure a reliable sandals. I have never been a fan of sandals, but this particular Sandugo pair of sandals stood out. It’s called “Pulag” which reminds me of Mt. Pulag, the 3rd tallest mountain here in the Philippines.
Why did I choose to go for sandals instead of my heavy duty boots? One, it’s lightweight – I don’t have a check-in baggage allowance for my trip so I need something that wouldn’t be hard to sport around. Two, I don’t have to think about if it would look good on what I will be wearing. Every sandals I’ve owned would always go well with almost any outfit that I’ve worn. Three, I need something good for walking. I’ll probably bring a pair of running shoes with me but that’s it. Four, it’s on sale!
I think the fourth reason was the most important thing for me, as a very practical young professional. I actually didn’t realize that SM City Marilao has a 3-Day “The Great Marilao Sale” last August 17-19 (see here) not until when I was already there. I tried to look for other options, but my eyes were instantly set to those Sandugo sandals. Moreover, Sandugo has been a trusted brand of my parents – and I didn’t realize mum and I have the same sandals design not until last Tuesday when we went shopping and coincidentally wore our Sandugo “Pulag” sandals.
I’ll probably add climbing Mt. Pulag to my bucket list, and for sure will be booking with Trail Adventours for this. Check their trip information of Mt. Pulag here and let me know if anyone’s interested to join me before the year ends.