Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Extremely Impressive: Our Varekai Experience

It’s hard to get over Varekai, the Cirque du Soleil show we watched over the weekend. After the awesome performance, I was already negotiating with Person A if we can watch their next run in the Philippines or head to Macau to watch the regular show. Scratch that, I am saving up for a gazillion of things and I don’t need another vacation.

For those who are not familiar with Cirque du Soleil, it is a Canadian performance company that mixes circus acts with street entertainment. After containing my excitement for a couple of months, July 25 came and we met up with friends at 1:30 in the afternoon to be in time for the 2:30 opening of the Grand Chapiteau at Quirino Grandstand.  This is where the infamous bus hostage drama happened and it is right in front of Luneta, where kilometer-zero is and where Jose Rizal stands.

Isn’t that totem a beautiful sight? Parking is right in front of the tent and do have an umbrella just in case it rains. Security is tight and there’s a ticket booth outside, probably for walk-in viewers. I don’t suggest it. We got our tickets online and make sure to print it out.

Ushers scan your tickets at the main entrance door and while you wait for the show to start there are stalls with Varekai goodies: shirts, hats and souvenir programs. The goods are of great quality, prices start at PhP 1200 for shirts while the program is at PhP 200.

There is also a snack corner if you want to load up on popcorn, nachos and drinks. 

The comfort rooms are located outside the main tent. It is also wise to unload before the show starts since no one can enter the main tent once the performance begins.

There are numerous entrances to the performance area depending on where you are seated. The tent is small hence wherever you are, you still get a detailed picture of the performance. We made the right choice to pick seats from section 200 (Level 1), upper middle area – as this gives us an unobstructed view of the actors minus the stiff neck from looking upwards as compared to the premium seats.

The only thing you’ll miss is audience participation as the show’s comic “hosts” pick from the premium area. Yes, there are 2 comic “hosts” who pop out from nowhere all throughout the show.

And so Varekai begins with the beating of the gypsy drums and the appearance of queer creatures from Varekai. The plot is based loosely on the Greek myth of Icarus, who melts his wings after flying too close to the sun. Rather than drowning in the sea below him, in Varekai Icarus lands inside a lush forest, in which the creatures teach him how to fly again.

The music is lively and has that gypsy, nomadic and romantic feel. Guitar, drums and the voice of the male and female singer in i-have-no-idea-what language dominate the background of the performance. The costumes are very colorful and out of this world.

Let us establish that the acts are extremely impressive. I spent half the time watching with my jaw dropped and the other half clapping my hands. Some of the astonishing acts I remember: aerial dive and contortions in a net performed by Icarus, 3 young acrobats twirling ropes with metal cups (parang sosyal and next level lang ng poi), the enchanting Georgian dance!, hand-balancing on canes and I am yet to find a person who’s not amazed by the Russian swing. Propelled by two Russian swings, acrobats are hurled high into the air, alighting on their partners' wrists or on a landing canvas, sometimes even flying from one moving swing to the other.

Photo: Neil's Wandering Soul

That was the last act and it was 2.5 hours well spent. Manila is treasure trove of good, old restaurants so the next logical thing to do is have dinner in one of the Chinese restaurants along Roxas Boulevard. We headed to Emerald Garden, most foodies tag this place as the best Chinese restaurant in Manila. 

The food is good and for 6 dishes, we only paid PhP 261/person. Value for money! The place is not big on ambiance and dish presentation but the food tastes great. They don’t serve Peking Duck though.

We ended the night at one of the best coffee shops and dessert place in Manila: Diamond Hotel’s Cake Club. We shared Honey Praline, La Opera, Strawberry Fraise and Baked Cheesecake. All four were extremely good. As for their coffee, you can never go wrong with the winner caramel.

In Summary

1. Varekai is worth the money. The storyline is a bit confusing but the music, costumes, props and acts make up for it. 

2. The best seats are at the upper middle section (Section 200) since you get an unobstructed view, without the stiff neck and and less than the Premium price.

June 23 - July 24
Quirino Grandstand

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bubble Tea Fever: ChaTime, Moon Leaf or Serenitea

As shared here and here, it is no secret that I love my tea. I like it with cakes and pies (so British!), on its own and with any savory. Personal favorite is green tea though I crave for black tea especially when I want a stronger cup and whenever I want to concoct milk-tea mix. It's so much better than mixing milk with my green tea. I still wonder how people enjoy green milk tea.

Acquired taste perhaps?

It's quite natural for me to be curious about the " Bubble Tea" shops cropping up by the day within the metro. Boy, from the moment I had that first sip from Serenitea, I never stopped ordering a cup every single day.

So wrong: think calories and caffeine.

Bubble tea is the new in thing much like Zagu was in the late 90s and Froyo in the past years. According to Wikipedia, bubble tea is a sweetly flavored tea beverage invented in Taiwan in the 1980s which contains tea base mixed with fruit or milk. Pearl milk tea is the face of the bubble tea: black tea, milk and chewy tapioca.

Trust me, this is really good. The good thing about these milk tea shops is they serve the tea mix, on the average, in 5 min, you can adjust the sweetness and the ice. I normally like mine with less/half/slight sugar and minimal ice.

Here's my rundown of the 3 shops I frequent, in alphabetical order. Let it be known that I don't have any preference - partly because it's tea and I LOVE TEA TO PIECES.

ChaTime: Just Right Milk Tea

The stall boasts that it has conquered Taiwan, the US, Australia, and Philippines. I call it establishing its credibility and has successfully done so. The tea in its pearl milk tea and roasted milk tea varieties has that authentic fresh taste. Milk mix is just right giving the drink a refreshing taste and the tapioca is nicely chewy. Order time is fast. Price is around mid-range: PhP 70-85 for a regular-sized drink.

The menu looks overwhelming at first: there are milk teas, fruit-infused teas, and the mousse mix. They have the widest selection among the shops I've visited.

What to get: it's got to be the classic Pearl Milk Tea (PhP 80) with less sugar and less ice.

MoonLeaf: Value for Money Option

At PhP 85 for a large-sized drink with pearls, the same size can set you back by PhP 100 at other shops. This is a no non-sense store. The interior is very simple, the prep area is not as high-tech as the other tea shops, and you don't get the stickies with your order specs: these measures allow them to price their cups lower than the competition.

As for its taste, tea is not as strong and sometimes you don't taste it at all. However, it will do since it's still refreshing nonetheless. Remember, you get more volume for your buck.

My favorite is Wintermelon Milk Tea: milk tea mixed with wintermelon, a vegetable of the gourd variety  which gives the drink a distinct and refreshing taste. It can quench your thirst after a tiring activity.

What to get: Wintermelon Milk Tea and Hakka Milk Tea with Pearls.

Serenitea:  If You Need an Authentic Tea Shot

The strength of Serenitea lies in its tea base. It's strong and tastes very authentic. Any flavoring added to the drink will not overpower the freshness of its tea. Also, if you want to have an earl-grey-tasting base, this is the best shop to head to. I also like how they package their teas: okinawa, hokkaida, assam... etc. They have savory such as chicken shots or something that can go with your tea.

Let it be known that this is the most expensive among the shops I've been to. Price is around PhP 100 for a regular sized drink. Their custard/pudding sinkers is a good replacement for the tapioca.

What to get: Okinawa Milk Tea and Wintermelon Milk Tea.

Do pardon me, I love Wintermelon Milk Tea.

In Summary:

1. Milk tea is refreshing and I wish with the Bubble Tea experience the Filipinos will become a tea-drinking nation, much like our neighbors.

2. If you want a "Just Right Tea-Mix" in terms of price and taste, then ChaTime is the best shop to head to.

3. If you want a value for money, nothing fancy cup, you can order a large-sized drink from Moon Leaf.

4. If you crave for strong tea base with a cosmopolitan flare, then Serenitea might be the right cup for you.

P.S. I would have wanted to include Happy Lemon in this write up but I haven't had the chance to try it yet.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Who's Afraid of Zombies?

I am not.

Because tonight I'll sleep with a peashooter, a cherry bomb, squash, jalapeno and kernel-pult.

My plant army will fight the lone zombie and keep it from eating my brain. That is the cutest and most stupid-looking zombie ever. It even has blue shorts on!

Oh Yeah!

For those who are not familiar with Plants vs Zombies, it's a sickeningly cute game in which players place differnt types of plants and fungi, each with their own unique offensive/defensive capabilities, around a house in order to stop a horde of zombies devouring the brains of the residents.

If you haven't played it yet, I suggest you do, it's highly entertaining and addicting.

P.S. The plant army isn't mine, they're Person A's. However, I got dibs on eight of them, including the zombie. That is if he'll give it to me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Once A Princess, Always A Princess

A colleague gave me this sign to put in my car

This made me laugh and I asked her why?

"Kasi ikaw lang ang nag-iisang girl sa office at kikay ka." 

She's most likely right, more so on the kikay part. I just can't string my name and that word together. (Clearly, we see a denial here).

If you ask me, I say I am just well-loved. -(",)-*wink* Haha!

Thank you Anna! I still laugh every time I see this sign.

The Friendship Algorithm

According to Dr. Sheldon Cooper (of Big Bang Theory), if you have a hard time making friends, you can follow this algorithm to get one!

Person A wore a familiar shirt last Friday. His Christmas present to himself.

So geeky and .... i love it. =P 

Coincidentally, we also watched Green Lantern that night. Green Lantern is Sheldon's favorite superhero.

I can't stress that enough, he's even got the ring and the lantern to boot.

Geek boys are so adorable.

Monday, June 20, 2011

El Nido: The Ultimate Beach Get-Away

There are places that are magical when captured through a camera lens: they are photogenic. And there are places that no camera lens can do justice to their beauty: they are paradise here on Earth.

El Nido, Palawan belongs to the latter.

My trusty Canon Ixus 860, the almighty Nikon d90 and the borrowed Canon G10 with the underwater casing can’t capture the beauty El Nido has both above and underwater.  Or we’re just bad photographers.

I prefer the former.

Towering limestone cliffs, magnificent lagoons, fine white beaches and tropical forest teeming with giant trees, exotic birds, mammals and reptiles dot this group of islands on the northern tip of Palawan.

Beneath its water lie an array of corals housing small and big fishes, urchins, sea cucumbers, turtles and the darling nemo (the clown fish-anemone tandem).

After scraping off an arm and a leg to pay for a post-summer getaway, I found myself getting on this teeny-weeny aircraft bound for the exotic island of El Nido. I can’t hide my excitement despite the car mishap a day before, 3 hours of sleep and a bad case of hyperacidity.

The travel buddy is not as giddy as I am. He used to call El Nido his work place, took the same flight each month when the chopper can’t accommodate the facility’s workers and when a project requires it has to stay the night at his offshore base. Glamorous no?

He calls it a job that feeds him and a career that he's passionate about.

Upon touchdown in El Nido, an activity guide of the resort ushered us into the waiting area to discuss the activities that we can enjoy for the rest of our stay. There were at least 30! We chose only a few since we thought of enjoying the resort to practice the art of doing nothing.

We think we made the right choice.

Lagen Island: The Resort

To start with, Lagen Island is gorgeous: it has a tropical rainforest right at its backyard, a snorkeling area right by its front yard, the whole perimeter of the island to kayak and several coves to head to when you feel like going on a short kayak paddle.

As for the resort, it is in a lush garden setting with numerous flowering plants, with a pool and the clubhouse as its centerpiece, a beautiful path that leads to the water cottages, the friendliest and most accommodating staff I have encountered, 5-star hotel amenities, let’s just say the place is definitely worth the price you paid for.

This is the view by our water cottage veranda. And expect to be woken up by the mournful coo of the Grey Imperial Pigeon, that sound is just so lovely to wake up to.

Let me share with you that the resort has a quiet and relaxed feel. Partying is best left in Boracay, so if a magnificent, deserted hideaway is not your cup of tea, then you might not enjoy this place.


Most of the activity fees are already included in the daily rates except if you availed of some promotions, wherein you have to read the fine print and the activity fees are charged.

Spend a Day at Miniloc Island

We arrived way ahead of our check-in time so we headed straight to Miniloc Island and spent the day at the resort. This is the value of being in your swim wears and all gears are with you so that you’re ready to jump into the water, literally by the way, when needed.

Miniloc is different from Lagen Island. It is packaged as an adventure/native resort hence the huts don’t have the luxury hotel feel of Lagen Island but beautiful nonetheless. The restaurant is an open area, it has a wider beachfront (Lagen has none) where you can soak up some sun, it houses the famed Miniloc House Reef and you can play basketball, volleyball, pingpong, while enjoying a martini from the bar.

We had lunch in Miniloc and whiled the time away snorkeling and kayaking. We also got the chance to see some of its house pets: a school of 1-meter jacks in five-foot deep water!

Big and Small Lagoons

Visiting the Big and Small Lagoons is a must-do for any El Nido visitor. It is best done as a side trip while you are in Miniloc because it’s just 5 minutes away by speedboat. It is 30 minutes away I think if you depart from Lagen.

The important thing to do here is marvel at the limestone cliffs, take loads of beautiful photos, be with your thoughts, spot the hornbills, kingfishers, macaques, monitor lizards, and an array of flora growing on the surrounding wall

Snorkel at the Big Lagoon

And kayak at the Small Lagoon where the water is still and bluegreen.

Hike the Lagen Trail

Another of our must-do is conquer the 30-minute Lagen Trail. You can have a guide or do it on your own at your pace. We chose the latter and we fared pretty well. Before the hike we put on some insect repellant and brought water. The trail starts at the back of the resort, moderate in difficulty and has a blue rope that you can hold on to. One can see huge trees, wild shrubs and berries, and you can hear all sorts of animal calls. It is magical.

At the end of the trail, one can find a cove with fine, beige sand, perfect way to cool off from that very humid hike. It has a deserted feel so it feels like you discovered the short stretch of beach. It’s a good place to have private lunch (you can set it up with the resort), take loads of magazine-worthy photos, sunbathe and dip in the water. Don’t worry, there’s a resort staff who’ll attend to you if you need anything. 

Head back to the resort via a 15-min kayak paddle. You surely want to do this.


Speaking of kayaking, you can do this all you want in El Nido. It feels nice to tread the water utilizing your arm power. You can do this by the safety of the resort’s shallow water or be a bit bold and explore the nearby coves.

The way we want it is to head to the open water and take photos of the cliffs and the get near to the nesting birds! I personally don’t like the sound of the waves crashing the base of the towering cliff but the reward is just priceless.

You can’t just kayak enough. Trust me.

That and snorkeling. I don’t think I can stress that more than enough.


Another way of saying do nothing and just enjoy the resort.

Admittedly, we weren’t able to maximize the resort’s activities. However, we won’t have it any other way. The resort in itself is just so beautiful that it’s well worth it if you stay put. There’s a nice pool, there’s a bar where you can have drinks, lounge by the pool and surf (God forbid, please minimize your online time), read at the library, read outside, marvel at the balinsasayaw and other birds, sit down by the wooden port walkway and count the parrot fishes and other schools of fish, play foosball and air hockey, and enjoy a massage!

Oh yes, I forgot to add that, have a massage at the end of your stay to soothe your tired muscles.


The resort has a buffet in the restaurant or you can order ala carte. You can also have room service and enjoy a meal by your veranda or have one at the bar. One good thing about having the whole island or make that the whole El Nido as your playground is you can enjoy a meal at any island of your choice. That comes at a price but this is rest and relaxation we’re talking about.

The food is not its strongest suit. Price is similar to Manila mid-range restaurants so I say not bad at all but the taste can definitely be improved, especially at Miniloc. Seafood is abundant so as Asian/American/Italian cuisine.

For prices, please refer to the resort’s link. Please click here.

In Summary

1. El Nido is paradise made of limestone cliffs, fine sand beaches, a biodiversity of flora and fauna and worth the visit.

2. Lagen Island Resort is worth every penny you paid for. The resort in itself is crafted as a luxury, tropical hideaway and it doesn’t disappoint. The rooms are well thought of and have good amenities and essentially you don’t have to lift a finger to make your stay most comfortable.

3. It is perfect for a romantic get-away, family vacations and if you just need to relax. It is best to take it easy, do a half-day activity and spend the rest of the day lounging in the resort.

4. Service is its strongest suit. The staff is friendly and they seem to have thought of everything that you need even before you ask for it. That includes the strategically-located umbrellas, towels, even the kayak that you need to get back to the resort. Safety is also an utmost priority. You are not allowed to do any water activities if you don’t don on a life jacket. –(“,)-*wink*

5. If I’ll have it my way, I’d like to make my annual summer pilgrimage to El Nido but then again life happens and there are things that must be accomplished. So until I’ve saved up for my El Nido fund, I’ll just soak up in the memories of this one magical trip.

Bacuit Bay, El Nido

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Fist Bump

Remember this famous fist bump that happened in 2008 when a Chicago, Illinois Senator accepted the Democratic Presidential Nomination

Well, look what we have here

Taken over a weekend vacation in El Nido

I think this photo is priceless

This is our way of affirming that we've succeeded as a team, no matter how small a task it.

Cheesy, i know. I should have brought this entry down.

Anyway, we're better at "high fives". That's way cool than the fist bump.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Impossibly Beautiful Place

Isn’t this the best view at 7:00 in the morning?

When you've just jumped out of bed.

The best place to Eat, Play and Love: El Nido, Palawan.

I am writing this entry by the poolside.

Living the life.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shoe Lovin'

While I prepared my things for tomorrow, I thought it was amazing that these three pairs were lined up at the foot of my shoe cabinet

Left: What I wore up in the mountains of Bulalo earlier.

Middle: What I am gonna wear in the concrete jungle of Makati tomorrow.

Right: What I will wear traipsing the beach over the weekend. 

They're not to die for designer footwear but...

Aren't they just purr-ty?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Taal, Batangas

Most people think Taal is synonymous to Tagaytay.

I did, until last Saturday.

Taal, Batangas is located right across Tagaytay and just past Lemery, Batangas. It's one of the prettiest heritage towns I've been to. Much of the town still has the old Spanish stone houses and the capiz shell windows.

What sealed the deal for me is the Basilica de San Martin de Tours, the biggest church in Asia.

Notice the facade, it's very artistic.

The interior of the church is shaped like a cross and reminds you of the big churches in Europe. 

I love how the wall has aged with time.

To be consistent with the town's theme, here's the public comfort rooms within the church's premises.

Taal, Batangas is about 130 kms from Manila. If you take the Tagaytay-Lemery route, you will be greeted by a better view of Taal Volcano and the rolling hills surrounding the main crater.

For those who are familiar with the Fantasy Land, here it is along the road to Lemery.

Taal is one of the loveliest, if not THE loveliest town in Batangas.


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