First of all, I would like to give a shoutout to for nominating me for the Quintet of Radiance Award. Its my first time to be nominated and I’m really psyched to be part of it. So, I’m copying off the rules from (a big thank you by the way), and the rules are as follows.

blogger1. Thank the person who gave you the award.

2. Include a link to their blog

3. Select 15 bloggers you follow and want to pass the award onto.

4. Nominate the 15 bloggers and inform them of it.

5. Finally, list seven interesting facts about yourself.

So, that being said, here are the seven interesting facts about myself :

1. I am an animal lover and I would have wanted to be a vet but I’m afraid of real blood. (For horror movies, my motto has always been the gorier the better).

2. In relation to Item #1, I absolutely love tigers and if given an opportunity, would want to raise one as an exotic pet.

3. I love to go on adventures and am willing to try everything at least once, but I am also a believer of the concept of a calculated risk. Thus, I try as much as I can to ensure my safety before doing anything extreme.

4. I would like to study abroad (preferably on a scholarship because I can’t go on my own)

5. I love my mom above all others

6. I would love to get a job in development communication

7. My dream is to backpack Europe

So, now for the Quintet of Radiance. It is a total of four awards. They’re pretty self explanatory :D


In order to accept these awards, I need to describe myself using every letter in the alphabet. This is super tough so brace yourself.

A- Adventurous : I am always game to try out a new thing and see new places

B- Big hearted : I  have a soft heart when it comes to those in need.

C- Clumsy: Anything that requires balance or coordination? Count me out

D- Devoted: I am very loyal to my friends and family

E- Emphatic: I feel for others and understand pain and suffering

F- Fun: I always look at the positive side of things

G- Gregarious: I love to spend time with my friends and family.

H- Hilarious: I crack up my friends all the time. I must be funny.

I- Intuitive: I have a good grasp on stuff involving people.

J- Jolly: I like to smile a lot and be positive about things, even though things don’t always go as planned.

K- Kind: I try to show compassion where I can and try to be a good person most of the time.

L- Loving: When I give my heart, I give it completely.

M- Mischievous: I’ve been known to prank people once or twice. *wink wink

N- Nurturing: I like to share my experiences with others so that they may learn from it, whether its good or bad. I likewise like learning from other people’s journeys.

O-Ordinary: I’m a simple girl with simple tastes. I have big dreams though :D

P-Professional: I take a lot of pride in my work and my work ethics.

Q-Quirky: If you saw my list of quirks, you would agree.

R- Resourceful: I always try to make the best of any situation.

S- Strong: I would like to think that I am strong willed.

T- Temperamental: I have a mean temper, something I would like to curb and manage better in the future.

U-Underrated: I think that there is a lot to me that people don’t know yet, but they would be surprised, and pleased to discover.

V-Versatile: Life has taught me to go with the flow, and I have become quite flexible to different situations because of it.

W-Wide reader: I love to read. Nuff said.

X-Xenochial: I had to consult a dictionary to find a word that describes me using the letter X so I came out with this, which means hospitable

Y- Young at heart: No matter how old I get, I want to maintain a child-like enthusiasm for all things

Z-Zealous: I am a passionate person at heart for a number of causes.

Whew! As for my nominees, here they are:

So I hope you guys accept this nomination because you all totally deserve it. Ciao!

Conquering Pico de Loro: My first climb

pico (41)It was Chinese New Year and a holiday when my buddies finally convinced me to join them for a climb. If you knew me, you would know that I don’t have the best cardio in the world (far from it, really). I worry that I might hold up the rest of the group because I’m slow, or maybe I might injure myself in the attempt. After much negotiation, in which they pretty much catered to my every request (not to complicated climb, not too expensive etc., etc.), we finally settled on Mt. Pico de Loro in Ternate, Cavite as the destination of my first day hike (They’ve been there before, they just accommodated me. Yes, I have great friends).

Eventually, our small group of three expanded to 16. We were joined by my officemate Rene’s group of friends, and we were very lucky that they were an awesome bunch. We rented a jeep for P4,000 and met up at Dasmariñas before 5 am. We reached our destination at around 7 am and logged in at the DENR mini office at the base of the mountain and paid a minimal fee of P20 per head for the use of DENR facilties like the toilet and huts. There are times that the DENR personnel lecture hikers on the rules when visiting Pico de Loro.

Pico de Loro, also known as the Parrot’s Peak, is a popular destination for newbie climbers, although at 664 meters above sea level, it is one of highest peaks in Calabarzon, because it is actually part of the Mt. Palay Palay- Mataas na Gulod Protected Landscape. Because of the rich biodiversity in the area, it is essential for hikers and mountaineers to observe the rules when traversing the mountain. Its pretty simple, really — pick up after oneself and don’t destroy anything on the way up or down. Sadly, some of the hikers have vandalized some of the trees by scratching and writing on them, as well as the rocks. True, conquering mountains is a pretty memorable achievement but not at the expense of marring the beauty of Nature with markings.

Reaching the base camp took us roughly an hour, and we registered anew in a different log book. We paid another P20, this time to help with the maintenance of the site. However, the base camp does not come close to covering the first leg of the journey. It is merely an introduction to the challenges ahead for those who want to reach the top and tick off an item on their bucket lists. At the base camp, hikers can fill up their bottles and canteens with cool water sourced from a nearby spring. There are also two cubicles for showering/ answering the call of nature. There are no more of these amenities on the way up so this is a last chance for those who want to visit the loo or wash up. For dog lovers, there are some dogs who thrive on the attention of the hikers and they’re very friendly. Some even accompany their new friends to the top and serve as guides.

Following the base camp, the trail gets a bit more challenging as the path gets pretty uneven so its advisable not to use thick pants like jeans because it impedes movement. I was wearing jeans thinking they provide better protection from the shrubbery but alas, I miscalculated and paid the price for my folly. It is better to wear trekking pants which are lighter and gives wearers more room for movement, something that is essential in negotiating the bigger steps required for uneven surfaces. A trekking pole comes in handy for the assault parts of the trail. One thing I learned from my journey was that hikers call ascending paths assault. Assault is just about right because I felt like my muscles were being assaulted on the way up. So for beginners, training for at least a week before the climb is important or else, your muscles will be screaming halfway to the top. When I wasn’t focusing on catching my breath, I took the time to appreciate my surroundings and the serenity of the area. After all, its not everyday that one can commune with nature and out in some much needed exercise that is not readily available during the workday.

Hikers seemed to have agreed that the holiday was a good day to climb because we passed over a hundred of trekkers on our way up. Some were smarter and camped overnight the day before so they were already on the way down when everyone else (including us) were going up. I am not exaggerating when I gave the number estimate. When we reached the camp site some three hours (and a lot of perspiration) later, there seemed to be a convention of sorts as tents peppered the site to the point where late arrivals would have no place to pitch their own portable abodes.It was nuts, but I was glad because I felt the general sense of inclusion that mountaineers and hikers have in their community. No wonder there are a lot of people who enjoy the outdoors so much.

After the campsite, we headed out to the summit which was roughly 15-20 minutes of pure assault. It was more difficult to climb because soil was not too stable and there were a lot of rocks along the way. After a short breather, we had to hold on to cogons (wild grass) gradually make our way to the top. Everyone seemed to be really friendly and really happy to see each other. Strangers greeting each other when they pass by and a lot of them actively helping us out, literally reaching out their hands for us to cling to when the terrain seemed too tough, especially on the way to the summit. Not only were we coached and encouraged on climbing techniques by fellow hikers but four to five guys almost had to pull me up and pass me around before I reached the top. Same thing on the way down. They were probably more tired from the effort than I but that did not discourage me from extending their help to other members of our group.

At last! The view from the summit was nothing short of magnificent. A 360 view of mountains, seas and clouds surrounding Pico de Loro contributed to the sense of accomplishment I felt after the four hour climb. But it seemed like there was another challenge awaiting adventure seekers. Pico de Loro had not one but two summits, the second one being the Peak, a giant slab of stone that was next to a steep ravine. Those who dared to reach the top really had to dig in deep to rely only on their skill and single rope dangling from the top. I didn’t attempt to conquer the second peak because I was a beginner and a bit on the clumsy side. Besides, I promised my folks that I will go back home alive so I contented myself watching as half of our group ventured towards the next challenge and took pictures of their success instead.

Despite the exhaustion, my first climb was a great experience. One that I would surely be repeating soon. Challenging, true. But rewarding nonetheless. The sense of accomplishment and the opportunity to appreciate nature. Making friends and being embraced into a community of these great natured outdoorsmen? Priceless.

The 34th Manila Book Fair at the SMX: A bibliophile’s paradise

Manila-International-Book-Fair-2013I missed last year’s Manila International Book Fair and it took me a year to get over it, especially after learning of the great deals that fellow bookworms were able to get at the event. As soon as I heard of its return at the SMX for September 11-15, I cleared my schedule to make sure that I became part of the action this time around.

I went to the book fair alone because everyone that I knew were either a) busy or b) already went to the book fair during the weekday. But as soon as I entered, it didn’t feel like I was alone. Rather, it felt like a homecoming of sorts, to be among people who shared the same excitement about being enclosed in a space lined wall to wall with books.

I must admit though, that I was bit overwhelmed — at first.

WHERE DO I BEGIN? As a first timer in the book expo, I was excited and overhwhelmed by the sea of people and reading materials available at the event.

WHERE DO I BEGIN? As a first timer in the book expo, I was excited and overhwhelmed by the sea of people and reading materials available at the event.

My initial dillema when I initially went in was that  I didn’t know how I was going to navigate the maze of book stalls of distributors, retailers and other specialized publishers. When my friends told me about last year’s book fair, I immediately assumed that the promo items would be free flowing and books that I wanted were going to be immediately accessible whichever way I went. In actuality however, it would take a while to get the complete lay of the land. It took me about 20 minutes to check out where certain types of books were before I finally buckled down to seriously hunt down marked down titles that I wanted. When I started to get the hang of it, it was pure heaven.

The book fair was pretty organized in terms of layout. The religious book stalls were organized in one area along with the inspirational and self help books of literature. There was even one stall that featured books from local authors, all brand new and all for the price of P100. I bought five books from said stall. I also checked out the National Bookstore stall where most of the stuff were 20 percent off. The Fully Booked stall was bigger but proved to be more difficult to navigate than the former. It seemed like two branches of the book retailers were inside the expo. The collection was that extensive. There were also travel books on sale that originally sold for over P900 but were on sale for less than P300. I lucked out and got a Lonely Planet guide to Beijing for P75. There were also bestsellers that sold for P99 each. I quickly nabbed a couple of them.

What really struck me was actually the Learning is  Fun booth where Children’s Book titles and activity books were being sold for a fraction of their original price. I got gifts for my nieces and godchildren for only over P100. The items were originally priced at over P300 in local bookstores so it was a total steal.

There were even authors scheduled to sign books purchased during the event, and there were prizes raffled off in most of the booths.

All in all,  I thought that the best thing about the book fair was the general air of excitement among the attendees. The opportunity to find books on sale makes these literary materials accessible to bookworms, parents and children alike. This not only advances the advocacy to continue reading, but also gives book lovers an opportunity  to add to their collections and spend hours curled up with words from their favorite writers. At the end of the day, I left the expo with my pockets a little lighter, my mood brighter, looking forward to the next book extravaganza. By then, I think I will be more prepared and more experienced in getting the best out of the book expo, hopefully this time accompanied by a friend with similar tastes.

In defense of Miley: 5 reasons I still love Miley Cyrus

miley-cyrus-robin-thicke-615x400Despite her most recent performance in the MTV Video Music Award (VMA) which earned notoriety in cyberspace as one of the most racy performances on a live awards show, her seeming aversion to clothes, her outrageous comments in her live interviews about pot and her vague twitter posts about the the status of her realtionship with Australian actor Liam Hemsworth, I am still a big fan of Miley Cyrus.

When celebrities like Miley act up, people always assume the worst because so many child stars have trodden the same road before. Whetever good things they accomplish suddenly vamish from people’s memories but that is just unfair. Just because a person changes the way she dresses doesn’t mean that she is not the same person. Everybody is entitled to their own opinions but judging a person for something they cannot completely understand is not right.  In Miley’s case, I believe that whetever she is trying to accomplish, Miley is a smart girl, and a businesswoman at heart. This is why I still love her and believe that the former Disney artist turned edgy sex kitten is attention seeking but not ‘desperate.’

The internet is already bombarded with reports of Miley’s wild child ways but there are still some things that I choose to focus on that deserves some credit.

MILEY WITH HER POOCHES. Miley hangs with two of her babies in her LA home.

MILEY WITH HER POOCHES. Miley hangs with two of her babies in her LA home.

5. Miley loves animals. As a fellow animal lover, I believe that compassion for animals in need is a great gauge of somebody’s character. And it’s not just a celebrity stunt, Miley actively campaigns for animal adoption and walks the talk as well. She has adopted several rescue dogs and gave them a home and a conducive environment in which they can live happily.

EQUAL LOVE. Miley supports gay rights with her equal sign tattoo.

EQUAL LOVE. Miley supports gay rights with her equal sign tattoo.

4. Miley supports gay rights. Everybody deserves to be happy, and Miley believes that even the LGBT community deserves the same privileges granted straight people. She got an equal sign tattooed on her finger, despite negative comments from her more conservative fans, and explained that the tattoo symbolizes that all love is equal and that the idea of anybody not being able to be with the person they love most makes her “sick to her stomach.” She speaks her mind about her opinions, stands by them and does not let the negative feedback affect her individuality, and this is always a plus for anybody.

3. Miley is charitable. Since her Disney days, she has been active in charity work, something she continues until now. In 2012, she shared top honors with country darling Taylor Swift as the “most charitable celebrities” by after she campaigned for animal rescue and adoption, partnered with TOM’S One Day Without Shoes challenge and also helped the Save The Music Foundation, the Starkey Hearing Foundation, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She ia also known as an advocate for the battle against cancer and this year, she posed nude for Marc Jacobs for the benefit of NYU Cancer Institute and NYU Langone Medical Center. While many have speculated the reasons behind the nude pictorial, at the end of the day, it’s still for charity.

2. She has not been arrested for anything. On this front, I hope Miley will not change. I am glad that despite all the controversies, Miley still manages to keep her nose clean enough so as not to merit any arrest from excessive alcohol drinking or barfights.

1. She works hard. Say what you will, but Miley is one harworking celebrity. While I will not consider her a great actress (she is a natural as Hannah Montana) in her other roles, she does try her best. When working on her album and promoting her singles, she is one busy lady. The twerking incident at the VMAs was cringeworthy for the most part but it did bring in the ratings, and she did get people talking on the social media. But her singles are selling all over the world even before her actual Bangerz album comes out in October and that is a genius stroke of marketing, I, for one, think that Wrecking Ball is a great song, even without the publicity but her antics have certainly piqued my curiosity even before I took a listen.

In my opinion, people can razz on Miley all they want, but as long as she keeps a level head on her shoulders and knows her limits, I think that her talent and good work ethic will keep bringing in more work and accolades for her in the future. She is no longer Hannah Montana but I guess that we all need to move on from this image of Miley because she needs to grow into her person and she deserves the space for that. I do not claim to be a Miley expert and I’m just saying this to be fair.

Experiencing Dolby Atmos @ the Promenade

(photo by Mae Obispo)

BenCab (center) is joined for the unveiling of his sculpture by the management of the Greenhills Cinema, Mayor Guia Gomez, Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares and Senator JV Ejercito. photo by Mae Obispo

In 2006, I was fortunate enough to be one of the reporters who covered the launch of the first IMAX theater in the Philippines, thereby making me one of the first to engage in a different movie viewing experience. Now, some seven years later, lady luck has once again favored me as I was invited to attend the launching of the first Dolby Atmos theaters at the Greenhills Promenade. Now, as a blogger, I am yet again, one of the firsts to experience this movie viewing encounter. For a movie buff and reviewer like myself, I cannot explain how cool this opportunity is.

THE NEW PROMENADE, a fresh take on the classic cinema

The new Promenade can be considered a mix of old and new, imbibing the vibe of old theaters and paying homage to Oscar greats in its look and feel.

The cinema in itself is a work of art, incorporating sculputures of old school cinema equipment like reels and projectors in the design. At the centerpiece of it all is a metal sculpture created by none other than National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto Cabrera, better known as BenCab, who is actually better known for his murals.

According to BenCab, the piece, entitled “Eight Movements” is inspired by the cinema, because motion represents the theater and eight represents infinity. His work, he said, is actually the symbol of eight variations of motion.

BenCab said that he was inspired by the venue and thought that a mounted metal sculpture would suit it well than a flat painting. While he explained that dealing with metal was a welcome challenge as the medium is relatively new for him, he said that he was fueled by the thought of “perpetualizing a work of art that would be a testament to movement and gestures that is a fitting homage to the theater, which is a series of still images that when projected on screen creates the illusion of motion.” Judging from the response of the attendees, his hard work and vision paid off in spades.

Despite being a throwback to the good old days of cinema, the Promenade does not shy away from embracing modern technologies and does so by adopting the latest innovations in audio equipment like the Dolby Atmos.

Dolby Atmos is the latest revolutionary sound technology available on the market today but the Promenade was not content with launching just one. Instead, it invested in three state of the art theaters equipped with the audio tech wonder, making the Philippines the first in the region to have the most number of Dolby Atmos theaters in one location.

Levelling up from audio technologies used in Dolby Surround 5.1 and 7.1, Atmos incorporates the features of the earlier versions but now enables each loudspeaker to give unique feeds covering all levels of the theater. And yes, it has overhead speakers, giving the audience the complete feeling of being “in” the movie as the audio pans and travels appropriately where it is needed. It kind of reminded me of a 4D theater set up, minus the wind and the water which makes it all the more cooler.


From my experience watching Pacific Rim on the Dolby Atmos Theater, the overhead speakers made a significant difference in my viewing of the movie. It felt like I was completely enveloped by the sound and even the impact from the overhead produced breezes that made the movie more engaging. From the Dolby trailers alone, I was already impressed, but when it came to the movie itself, I was blown away.

The theater in itself was very comfortable and cozy. It was relatively smaller than a regular cinema with balconies. Instead, it had a single with each row slightly elevated so as to give the audience unimpaired view of the wide screen. The seating areas were also roomier with a lot of legroom which provides comfort to the viewers. Definitely a plus for moviegoers who want to relax while watching blockbuster hits. The only downside perhaps was the limited restroom facilities inside the theater.


All in all, I must say that a visit to the new Promenade cinema is a must for movie lovers. The Dolby Atmos cinemas is an awesome experience in itself, and the artworks are amazing. Be the first to check it out and be sure not to get left out.

To learn more about Dolby Atmos, check out this link

Keane Strangeland: Live in Manila — How a simple fan became a superfan

When I first heard that Keane was visiting Manila, I had getting tickets to their concert part of my immediate bucket list. I discovered the band way back in the fifth season of American Idol when Blake Lewis sang Somewhere Only We Know in one of his performances and liked the song right away. While I became an instant fan of the band, I still wouldn’t consider myself hard core as I was not always updated on their new releases and new music.

When we got found a great deal on the tickets a week before the event, it was like a sign from fate, and going to the concert became a must. My friend Mae and I, while we had a difficult time explaining who the band was to our friends (we had to sing Somewhere Only We Know and our lack of musicality did not help in familiarizing them with the band)  were totally excited and even had to go on half day at the office to have time to pick up the tickets (we got vouchers from an online deal site) and rush to the concert venue. We had to watch our time because I had to run a last minute errand and buy batteries because I forgot to bring the rechargables for my camera, which was totally idiotic of me. Last I remembered from my experience with the NKOTBSB concert at the Mall of Asia Arena, the lines were long already three hours before the show, so we made sure to arrive two hours before. We managed to sneak in an early dinner first, of course.

MAKING NEW FRIENDS. Mae and I with 5 year old superfan Tarko.

When the gates opened at 6 pm, we were the first in line to enter the venue and fall in line. It was a long wait but we managed to make new friends — writer Ms. Lorella, her mom and her super Keane fan Tarko, a five year old cutie who knew each Keane song by heart, and also Ms. Betsie, a BPO supervisor who came with her daughter (also a superfan) who won a Meet and Greet with the band prior to the concert. Anyways, the wait was a bit long (almost two hours) but in the end, we got pretty good seats really close to the stage (long story) thanks to ushers Christian Martesano, Jayson Aberin and Jom Lansang who were very accomodating in helping us find our way.

The concert started a bit before 9 so by this time, we have been at the venue for 3 hours. So when Tom (vocals), Tim (piano), Richard (drums) and Jesse (guitar), hit the stage and opened with You Are Young, everybody rose up and crowded to the center, raised their hands (and cameras) in the air and gave themselves to the music.

While Mae and I were not that familiar with all of the songs, I must admit that we enjoyed every single one of them for the simple reason that the performance was so good. The vocals were so clean that one would think that one was listening to a record the way Tom belted out their original songs. And Tom was not the only one who came to Manila to perform. The rest of the band was so awesome and performed each song seamleslly transitioning from song to song with no effort at all. What’s best about the band (all of them) is that when they perform, they totally feel the song and use their entire bodies to communicate the message of their music, a message well received by the fans which they respond to quite eagerly. There were points that Tim was rising up and using one hand to play the piano while he danced and Richard took out his camera to take a picture of us, the crowd.

The stage was quite simple, and the lighting was also subtle, but each lighting transition complemented each song — a statement to the crowd that yes, you’re in a concert. And yes, this is Keane. All in all, they performed a total of 26 songs in two hours and made sure that Manila will remember them not as just one of the many foreign acts who came this year, but a giver of outstanding performances that is consistent whether they are in Britain, the US or Asia.

photo courtesy of Manila Concert Scene Official Facebook fan page)

The only subpar part of the concert was perhaps the videos being projected on the giant screens flanking both sides of the stage. The videos are important for the people who are sitting farther from the stage so that they can see what’s happening even if they can’t see the actual artists in close up. I think for this aspect, the production was not up to snuff because of the blurred focus and the general lack of filtering for the video, making the projections appear amateurish.

In total, I think that producer DAYLY Entertainment and Trilogy Live did great job in bringing acts like Keane to Manila, an opportunity not wasted on the type of fans who arrived at the venue. There might not have been a packed house last night but the enthusiasm and devotion of the fans who came to see the band, I’m sure made an impression on them, so much for them to say that they want to come back again. And we would welcome them back too. I proudly declare that after last night, I have upgraded byself to superfan status. Witnessing Keane in concert was an outstanding experience that I would not soon forget.

Goofing Off, Having Fun: Seriland

Last weekend, my buddy and I used the discounted tickets that I got months ago from an online shopping site and went to Seriland, located in the Manila Ocean Park building on the second floor. The park has three major features — The Trick Art Museum, the Mirror Maze and the 3D theater. The Museum is a collection of artworks that are made to seem 3 dimensional rather than flat 2D. One could take wacky pictures and copy suggested poses on the framed pictures next to the artwork. Here are some of my favorite shots of the day.

I SEE YOU(r underpants)

STUBBORN AS AN OX. Or in this case, a carabao, who stares cluelessly at you while I try to fake drag him away.

YIKES. The right angle gives an illusion that this painting (on the floor) is actually a waterfall behind the cliff I’m kneeling on.


OW! I fake get hit by a watermelon that fell off the frame.

SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND. Cool huh? This little dog that I’m petting is actually painted on a floor.

Moving on, here are some pictures that the ushers took of us while inside The Mirror Maze, where the real challenge is getting out amid a sea of mirrors. Believe me, I had loads of fun trying to figure out the real hallways from the fake ones. I even fell for some of them. We had to wear gloves so as not to mar the mirrors with fingerprints, and we had to walk with our hands in front of us to avoid accidents. Its been known to happen that some guests bump into mirrors if they are not careful. The attendants at the attraction are very mindful of guests’ safety. They are also accommodating of photo requests. They even volunteer to do it for you.

MULTIPLES OF ME. The adjacent mirrors help create the illusion of  multiple versions of me.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. My buddy and I are strategically photographed in front of two mirrors.

MANY ME. So this is what Michael Keaton felt in the movie Multiplicity. Unfortunately, my clones can’t do any chores for me.

We also took in two 3D movies with one hour intervals. Each movie is 15-20 minutes long so kids will surely enjoy it. We caught Sonic Night of the Werewolf with a smaller group and Rilly’s Sky Adventure with a bigger one. It’s actually more fun to go with a larger group of people, especially with kids. It heightens the enjoyment more to listen to and see their reaction to the movies.

I had a great time checking out these three attractions. And I’m already an adult. I would surely recommend this to parents who want to do something fun and different with their kids. By the way, there’s also a play area for children in Seriland. Depending on the package, tickets may or may not cover this. Check out their facebook page for more details and current promotions.

Tip: If you’re going on a weekend, go early as field trips tend to be scheduled on these dates. The crowds will surely cramp your style when taking a bunch of photos. Plus, the Mirror Maze can also accommodate a certain number of people at a time, so numbers are given out and called after the previous group finds their way out

Phantom Fever: The Opera takes Manila

When my friend Leslie and I heard that the international production of The Phantom of the Opera was coming to Manila, we couldn’t wait to see it. I’m not as big an expert of the show as she is but I did love the movie and I am absolutely nuts about musicals so what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than taking in a performance of world class artists and getting lost to the best compositions of Andrew Lloyd Webber?

I figured that should not pass up this opportunity because who knows if I would be able to see them abroad or if they even return to Manila in the future. It was a bit pricey (We spent over P2,000 each for a balcony seat and we were really far from the stage) but I should say that the show was no less exciting from afar.

The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a deformed musical genius who haunts the Paris Opera House , one of the most prestigious halls of art in (of course) the French capital. Christine Daae, whom the Phantom has developed a tendre for,  is a talented young singer who is suddenly thrust upon center stage when the Phantom causes an “accident” in the theater which endangers the life of Señora Carlotta, the prima donna of the opera. Unknown to Christine, the stranger who has been giving her lessons whom she refers to as the angel of music is actually the Phantom and that he has plans to lure her to his lair underneath the opera house to make her his bride. But her childhood friend Raoul stands in his way, as his muse favors her suitor to the hideous ghost who ruthlessly murders people who defies his wishes.

From the time that the orchestra played the opening bars of The Phantom of the Opera, I knew I was in for a treat. The intricate detailing of the set pieces, the flawless transitioning from sequence to sequence —  unbelievably astounding. I was truly curious to see how the production would execute the changes in the setting because when I watched the movie, they had a lot of sets, but I was completely blown away by how well the stage was utilized.

HUGE TURNOUT. The crowd loiters the halls of the CCP prior to the performance.

The performances were so amazing. Not a single pitch off key. The cast was absolutely marvelous and drew applause after each production (deservedly so). The actress who played Daae, Claire Lyons was an absolute pro who performed popular pieces like Angel of Music, The Phantom of the Opera and Music of the Night effortlessly. The crowd loved her. Anthony Downing, who took on the role of the suitor Raoul, embodied his character and injected his own flavor to his performance as well. Among the secondary characters, I loved Christine’s friend, the ballerina Meg Giry played by the Cat Lane. I felt that she was a very likeable character and the ease in which Lane portrayed the role made the audience easily relate to the part.

But truly, the most fabulous character in the show was none other than the Phantom himself, played by Jonathan Roxmouth. All of his scenes were perfect because he had this excellent voice projection that translated his emotions through his performance. More than his charisma, he had a unique type of voice quality that reaches out to the audience draws them to the character. He is so good that one can listen to him for hours and still be amazed at his skill. I’m having trouble describing it because I myself, can’t get over it. I have never thought that a musical performance could bring tears to my eyes, but Roxmouth was able to, just from listening to him (We were too far out to see his acting close up) and that, I believe is a feat in itself. His voice just has that power — to enchant the audiences, make them empathize with the Phantom and bring them along to the journey that is his story.

Aside from saying that I had goosebumps after each performance or never for once felt the need to say anything other than, ang galing (awesome), I think the entire production is deserving of superlative praise for this world class act. I especially want to give credit to the orchestra, for bringing the music to life.

All in all, I am glad I saw it and if they come again, I would gladly wait in line for hours just to see the show again. The Phantom of the Opera is not just an ordinary musical, not just a regular play. It is an experience. An experience that I was glad to have, even for a short while. Bravo!

Fight Night: OneFC Pride of a Nation

I have always had an appreciation for mixed martial arts. Not because I want to watch athletes get their faces bashed in or because of the sheer violence of the sport but because I appreciate it as an art form. Like boxing and wrestling, and all its predecessors, mixed martial arts entail a huge amount of discipline, presence of mind, and intellect. Because there are a lot more techniques available in one’s arsenal, it is more explosive, and more unpredictable. Most often than not, one does not have an idea what to expect from a match and this makes the sport doubly exciting.

READY FOR THE FIGHTS. My bro and I arrive relatively early to check out the stadium. Excited much?

When my brother and I learned that ONE Fighting Championship, Asia’s version of of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was coming to Manila with veteran UFC fighters Andrei “Pitbull” Arlovski and Tim “Maine-iac” Sylvia as co main events of Pride of a Nation, I just went nuts. I have been pulling for the Pitbull every since his days as a champ in the UFC and I really want him to get back at Sylvia for the two losses in their trilogy. Our very own URCC champ Eduard “Landslide” Folayang was pitted against Japan’s Felipe Enomoto, a BJJ expert, while another URCC champ Eric Kelly was matched against former UFC lightweight champ Jens “Lil Evil” Pulver. Two Pinoys also opened the fight with URCC lighweight champ Honorio “The Rock” Banario taking on conteder Andrew Benibe. Three fighters from the Enzo Gracie Academy also fought for the pride of their family — Gregor, Igor and Rolles Gracie — Believe me, having Enzo at the event was awesome not only for the fans, but obviously for the fighters as well.

At first, I was afraid of what my reaction to watching a live fight would be. While from afar, I am perfectly comfortable watching the athletes destroy each other, I’m not really big on violence while it is happening right in front of me. During the first fight, I was feeling twinges of sympathy of Benibe, who showed a lot of heart but was outclassed in technique but I was soon able to adjust my perspective, and see the matches as excellent back and forths between two warriors wanting to give the fans a good show. As with the rest of the fans, I yelled my head off and enjoyed every moment of the event.

BOO! Judges rule Arlovski vs Sylvia 4 a “No Contest” due to illegal soccer kick to the head, but really, its just Sylvia chickening out. Andrei is obviously not happy. (photo courtesy of OneFC Facebook page)

There were highs and lows of course — even the UFC has such moments but what’s great was that everybody came to fight, well most of them. The event that I was most anxious to watch — Arlovski vs Sylvia was actually the biggest letdown. Before the match, they aired a mini primer where Tim boasted that he would expose Andrei’s weak chin and that he was taking the pitbull down like he did years back. When game time came, however, the weak chin never materialized. During the first round, Tim was able to corner Arlovski a couple of times and landed combinations of strikes but Arlovski weathered him out and was generally unaffected by Sylvia’s attacks. He was obviously better conditioned between the two as Sylvia was already gassing out by the end of round one. Arlovski took control of Round 2 and landed two punches that dropped Sylvia to the ground, where he continued his onslaught. Unfortunately, Arlovski prematurely landed two soccer kicks to the head which is considered illegal in the OneFC until the referee says so. He is given a yellow card and Sylvia is given several minutes to recover. After announcing that the fight will resume shortly, the crowd was surprised (and outraged) when instead of getting on with the fight, the judges have a huddle inside the cage and later on rule the match as a No Contest because Sylvia is unable to continue. It was truly a WTF moment because he obviously had his wits about him, and he was standing up and all. Andrei was obviously pissed, as were we. The biggest dude on the fight card was obviously the biggest wus.

THE DRAGON IN ACTION. Some Mitch Chilson action during the early rounds of the prematurely ended fight. It could have ended better because the two fighters really had great game going on. (photo courtesy of OneFC Facebook page)

Another disappointing result was the premature stoppage of the fight between Thailand rising star Shannon Wiratchai and crowd favorite Mitch Chilson. Mitch pretty much took control of the first round and Shannon was returning the favor in the second round. When Wiratchai landed a heavy punch and a kick that knocked Mitch to the ground, the referee stepped in to immediately stop the fight, even when Mitch was already getting up and returning to stance. The ref never lived it down, as the crowd booed him at the beginning of every match that he was called to referee. That’s what you get for sucking, bud.

ENZO GRACIE, NUFF SAID. The legendary Enzo Gracie coaches from the corner.

The high points of the evening obviously came from excellent submissions from the Gracies. Gregor submitted Australian URCC champ Nicholas Mann via armbar. Mann was very good natured about getting locked on a Gracie submission as hugs were exchanged between both camps after the announcement. Rolles finished opponent Tony Bonello in the third round with a textbook rear naked choke but Igor got caught by his Korean opponent, the stonecutter Jun Hwang Cha who controlled his takedowns and turned on some vicious ground and pound, handing Igor his first loss in his OneFC debut.

Folayang won against CFC champ Felipe Enomoto via his lethal kicks and and great takedown defense. Enomoto was unable to practice his BJJ on the Landslide mainly because he could not find an opportunity to take down Eduard.

TITLE SHOT. OneFC President and CEO announces Folayang’s title shot in October in Singapore against a still to be determined opponent. (photo courtesy of OneFC)

I love this kid. Really, in all his fights, he has shown great courage and consistency and I am glad that this champ is getting his shot at a OneFC belt in October as announced by ONeFC CEO Victor Cui himself. Eric Kelly finished the scrappy Jens Pulver in the second round after a lengthy (but entertaining) back and forth in the first round. Eric, not known to let the grass grow under his feet, capitalized after he landed some hard rights and sees that Pulver is hurt in the opening of the second round. He follows with a body kick and Jens drops to the ground. The crowd goes wild and it is over. Eric, it was announced, will be vying for a title shot in the next OneFC against his compatriot and fellow URCC fighter Honorio Banario. Anyhow, Jens was a great sport and even heaped a huge compliment down Kelly’s head, dubbing him the Manny Pacquiao of the MMA. Pretty big. Plus, he’s also helping out typhoon victims from the Philippines through his website” I can’t help but love this guy.

The biggest finish of the night came from the New York badass himself Fil Baroni, who never gave BJJ expert Rodrigo Ribeiro a chance to land a punch. He went in with a hard right and landed a barrage of punches against his opponent. Lights out for Ribeiro but party time for the American as he danced around the cage, jumped up and down and just engaged the crowd. Fil Baroni rocks. (Mike Swick was in his corner too)

The main even between CFC champion Gustavo Falciroli and former Dream champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandez was kind of anticlimactic, perhaps because it was the last match and people were leaving after the Folayang fight. Bibiano won the fight in the third round, which was frustrating because he could have ended the fight sooner as he got Falciroli in different vulnerable positions on the ground plenty of times throughout the match.

Overall, my experience in watching a live match was awesome. I’m not really great at writing blow by blows but I hope you got the idea. Thank you OneFC, for coming to Manila. Please come again. And if the UFC is thinking of coming too, Dana White, you would be more than welcome.  Bring it on!

For a more detailed account, check out this website:

Fashion Star: Rooting for Ronnie

Ever since I started watching Fashion Star several weeks back, I just fell in love with the show. I liked the concept. It wasn’t all about the designs but rather, it also factors in the education for designers on designing for particular markets with buyers from prestigious shops like H&M , Macy’s and Saks (Caprice, Nikki and Terron) making offers for collections that the designers present. This gives contestants the leg up that they need to have their clothes sell on the floors of these establishments. A dream come true for struggling designers.

In doing so, designers are challenged to go the extra mile and think like business people who want to establish their brands and create a niche in the market for themselves. Mentors Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos provide inputs and guidance but pretty much leave the designers to decide how they want to brand themselves and show off their creativity.

THE DESIGNERS. 14 designers with their own unique style battle it out on the floor to get their dresses sold.

I like the show because it has a really cool vibe going on and the contestants don’t spend too much time trash talking about other people’s work. Because of this, the show focuses more on the actual product and the creative process rather than the drama behind. Don’t get me wrong. I love Project Runway but it has a different atmosphere than Fashion Star and it has its own appeal. I’m just saying that Fashion Star is refreshing and fun to watch.

The first week I watched, the talented Ronnie Escalante was bucking up after five weeks of not being bought by any of the shops. My heart immediately went out to him, especially since I saw that his clothes were quite understated but classy. From the get go, I was keeping my fingers crossed for the guy and when he was up for elimination, I was glad that the mentors chose to save him. Week after week, Ronnie had hits and misses and his worry was obvious (I understand how traumatic and nerve wracking it would be to be passed on for so many times) but yet he persevered and stayed true to his style, at the same time absorbing the inputs of the buyers and modifying his looks to suit the mass market.

THE BUYERS. These are the guys that the designers need to impress more than the mentors. They have the power to eliminate contestants that do not suit to their tastes.

When the final three were announced, I was so worried that Ronnie would not make it. His style was so subtle compared to the edgier contestants, but he did, and for that I was glad. When he showed his final collection, the mentors did not fawn over it like they did the rest but Ronnie’s designs have evolved, and he has obviously become better. (I think Ronnie’s style is more conservative, perhaps owing to his roots in the Philippines. Just to clarify, I was rooting for Ronnie before I learned that he was Filipino).

In the end, he did not win the $6 million deal to sell to all three stores but I know that he has loads of talent, and he has a great many ideas yet to reveal. I’m proud of Ronnie and I’m looking for a new season of Fashion Star. And ______ (I’m not going to spoil it for you) was a deserving and gracious winner. All in all a great finale to a great show.