Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Binondo Church, Chinatown, Manila, 1902

What a wonderful gem of a photograph I found over at Flickr!

Below is a photo of the Pasig River from the same set: Each photo was scanned from the original glass plate negative, the quality of the snaps are amazing. Even more precious are the grandfather's diary entries during his stay in the Philippines on December 02-12, 1902. It's always nice to read about Old Manila, even more so from a visiting traveler's perspective. The entries are on the Binondo Church photo's comments page here, they're really worth reading.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Cyma Greek Taverna

6/F, The Ledge
Edsa Shangri-La Mall

In our past dates, Abet and I have experienced the cuisine of Italy, Spain, Mexico , Thailand, and Persia. We have tried the yummy fare of Singapore when we were there last December, where we also tried authentic Indian food in Little India. For some reason though, we got stuck in a gustatory rut this 2009. Dinner dates were usually at Sbarro, Mexicali or good old Jollibee. We were getting boring! It was high time to let our palates take us somewhere exotic: Greece! Cyma is probably the most popular Greek restaurant in the metro (even my dad loves the food there), so off to Cyma we went.

For starters, we got the Saganaki or Flaming Cheese (P200), Cyma's flagship dish:
This dish is served quite dramatically: just before setting the dish on the table, the waiter pours alcohol onto the cheese and sets it on fire, while the crew cries a jolly "Opa!" in unison. Our cheese was just freshly flambéed in the picture above, I wasn't quick enough to take a photograph while the plate was on fire. We got the Cyma Style Saganaki which was made up of mozarella and parmesan. The other option was the authentic Greek kefalograviera cheese made from lamb's milk, which the waiter claimed was more flammable. I'm not too happy about the thought of lamb being milked, so I passed. The mozzarella+parmesan was yummy enough, especially with the grilled bread:
Abet had the Moussaka (P250), which is supposedly Greece's national dish:
Those Greeks sure know how to eat! The moussaka was comprised of a layer of ground pork and beef topped with Japanese eggplant (how it's different from our local eggplant, I don't know) topped with a nice thick layer of bechamel, all drowning in extra-virgin olive oil. It was very rich, which complemented the vinegar dressing of my dish perfectly:
I'm a salad person, and I can say, hands-down, that this Roka Salata (P330) was the best salad I ever had. The combination of romaine lettuce, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan, and candied walnuts plus their special Greek vinaigrette was a winner in my book. Oh, that vinaigrette! I'm already craving for this salad as I type.

We ordered chicken gyros as well (P160 + 100 for roasted potatoes):
Both the gyros and the potatoes were bursting with flavor, the gyros from the tzatziki (yoghurt) sauce, and the potatoes from the oil and spices they were roasted in. Abet and I were fighting over this, I kid you not. Actually, Abet and I were practically not speaking to each other during our meal. We usually can't stop talking to each other about anything and everything during our weekend dates--that's the only time we see each other, after all--but when we're enjoying a really good meal, aba, galit-galit muna!

Regrettably, we were too full for glyka or dessert, a rarity for me. Even their iced tea was so good that we had refills upon refills, leaving us with no space in our tummies. Next time, I'll just have that super yummy roka salata so I can have me some baklava.

Thanks for dinner, love!


This was dessert, Yoh-Gurt Froz from Hobbes and Landes. Abet is seriously addicted to frozen yoghurt now. We would have preferred Red Mango or White Hat, but there's neither in Shangri-La. I personally don't mind that he's eating too much of the stuff--at least it's 98% fat-free.


Charles & Keith shoes
My dad sprung for these kick-ass sandals earlier today! I have no idea where I'll wear them, but I just lovelovelove these babies (and my dad for coughing up the dough). They're fierce yet comfy. I think I'll wear them to sleep!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Travel Wishlist

It's just two more months until our Asian backpacking trip! *puhon* I just wish that the next few weeks will fly by as quickly as possible, I want it to be October already. All flights and hotels have already been booked and we're now working on our itinerary.

If I had all the money in the world, I'd get all these travel stuff I'm lemming for:
1. Longchamp Le Pliage Medium Short Handle in a dark color - this is the perfect bag for travel, I'm seriously lusting after this. Unfortunately, the price tag is prohibitive for someone travelling on a budget like me.

2. Faux croc passport holder - it would be waaaay cooler to whip my passport out in this than in the clear plastic case with the travel agency's name I got it from emblazoned on it. Anyone know where I can get one?

3. Luggage scale - Our hotel in Singapore had a coin-operated weighing scale which was really a very big help. We checked in at just 0.4 kilos below our baggage allowance because we knew exactly how much our stuff weighed. We had discarded early on the unnecessary stuff that literally weigh us down (Abet made me throw away my toiletries, huhu). I'm scared of excess baggage fees, so we'll probably get this.
4. Neck travel pillow - 12-hour border-crossing bus ride. 'Nuff said.

5. Toiletry kit - Hard to believe I still don't have one. My toiletries are stored in plastic bags when I go on trips. Tsk.

6. Crumpler 5-Million Dollar Home - I want a camera bag that doesn't look like a camera bag. This is a good investment for the DSLR and we'll get one sooner or later. We're still trying to decide if we can afford this investment right now.

7. Gorilla Pod - Camwhore little me wants this, and this...

8. Extendable hand-held tripod - ...so that Abet and I will no longer be at the mercy of waiters/strangers (!) to get a photo of us together.

Haaaaaay. So many things I want, so little money... I really need that promotion now, I need to level up. In any case, I know that our trip won't be any less fun if I don't even get at least one of the stuff I want above.

I'll get to travel to exotic locales with the man of my dreams, I really couldn't ask for more! :-) *Uuuuy, sobrang cheesy!*

Friday, August 14, 2009

Baguio again in a bit

Mama, Papa and I will be off to Baguio in a few hours to bring Joe his cello. I cannot explain just how happy I am to know that Joe will get to make music while in the Academy. I'm sure that having his beloved instrument with him will bring him a bit of comfort. I'm glad that the PMA officials are encouraging their cadets to keep on developing their talents.

My brother has major talent in his pinky fingers alone.

I'm gonna miss Jackie the cello here (I haven't been using her that much lately, anyway), but she and Joe will have a good time!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Low E.Q.

Why did Rustan's Essenses have to be right smack in my path? I'm too weak to resist!

I went to SM Makati to buy some fruits, and I really think that there's some kind of magnetic pull coming from the Machiavelli Chocolates counter. Really, I swear!

I did get what I came for (aside from a bag of salad greens and a tray of watermelon):

A medley of fruits for P125/kilo. My tub of green apple, honeydew, watermelon, mango, pineapple, papaya and grapes was just at P63.75. My mother doesn't like me buying these sliced fruits at the supermarket, she says that these are not clean and are latak. I don't care, I've always believed that I have a tough tummy anyway. I'm a fruit-holic as much as I am chocoholic (and that is saying a lot), and where else can I get this variety of fruits conveniently and inexpensively? I'm just waiting for the SM Hypermart in Las Piñas to open so I wouldn't have to troop to SM Makati for my fruit fix--thus avoiding the temptations that gourmet chocolate brings.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pepper Lunch

Until this afternoon, I was probably the only Chuvaness fan in Manila who has not tried Pepper Lunch yet. The first two branches (Rockwell and Shangri-La) aren't too accessible to me. Luckily, Pepper Lunch opened at Alabang Town Center two weeks ago. I dragged Abet and May there for lunch today.

Pepper Lunch
May's Beef Pepper Rice (P198)

The dish is served on a patented cast iron heated to 260 degrees centigrade and stays hot for up to 20 minutes. The meat is raw when it arrives: you're supposed to cook your meat on the plate, mix everything up (there's special butter and sauce in the middle of the plate), and drizzle the food with steak sauce (Amakuchi - Honey Brown or Karakuchi - Garlic Soy).

Pepper Lunch
Abet's Shimofuri Pepper Steak (P610)

Just look at that pretty chunk of beef above, doesn't the marbling look good? We couldn't talk to Abet after his dish was served, he was too busy enjoying his steak.

Pepper Lunch
my already-cooked and already-mixed Chicken Pepper Rice (P198)

I enjoyed everything about my Chicken Pepper Rice, and I don't even like peppercorns. I guess it made a difference that their peppers are freshly prepared each morning, with just the fragrant outer shells used. Their honey brown sauce was just to die for, May and I practically drowned our food in it.

I can't believe it took me this long to try Pepper Lunch. It was worth queuing for more than 15 minutes to order and smelling like our food afterwards. With the ATC branch nearby, the only thing that's keeping us from dining there more often is the price. Don't get me wrong, the food was worth it, but Abet and I shouldn't be spending so much at this point. Still, I'm dying to try the salmon chicken rice and the hamburger + cut steak combo. Next payday, perhaps? I just need to make sure we don't go there during lunch time.


Abet took me to the Pluck and Struck concert at the Insular Auditorium in Alabang last Saturday evening. It was my first time to watch Abet's professor and mentor, Sir Ruben Reyes, in concert. He played Brouwer's Concierto Elegiaco and I was in awe: he really is the best. Perf de Castro performed one of my favorite pieces in the whole world, Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, and I was utterly disappointed, both with the guitarist and the orchestra. What a bummer. Jovianney Cruz's Liszt Piano Concerto no. 1 was fantastic, so it was still a good concert overall.


While waiting to meet up with Abet last Saturday before the concert, I caught this nice old man playing the grand piano at the Commerce Ave. part of ATC:

I was looking at shoes at VNC (great stuff there, by the way) when I heard "I Wish You Love" playing from outside the store, and I just had to follow the music. A small crowd had gathered to listen to him play standard tunes. Lolo was really good--he took requests--he must have been a hotel or bar pianist in his younger years. I have a video of him playing "That's All." It was a nice treat to hear good live jazz music when I least expected it.


Abet and I watched Marley and Me on DVD--Marley looks exactly like our Labrador Retriever, Django! We were cooing during the movie. I wish our dog lived with me instead of with my boyfriend--I only get to see him on weekends--but I don't think I can handle all the feeding and the cleaning up.


I'm drinking chocolate Vodka Mudshake as I type. Good stuff.

I hope y'all had a good weekend.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Missing the cello...

Abet took me to a concert by the Manila Symphony Orchestra at Phil-Am last night--Haydn's Symphony no. 104, Paganini violin concerto with Junior Saraza as soloist, and Beethoven's Symphony no. 5. What a nice Saturday evening date! The soloist was amazing, I had goosebumps during his entire concerto (and his two encores), and Beethoven's 5th is always a joy to experience. My boyfriend is the greatest for surprising me with tickets.

I used to be an avid classical and jazz concert-goer when I was a student. Back then, I'd go alone most of the time--none of my friends were into the same kind of music I liked. Now, I have a default companion (who sometimes gets tickets at a discounted rate or even for free), there's really no excuse for me not to watch more often. Plus, I get little lessons about classical music whenever I watch with Abet. ("That's a fughetta, hear that?")

He's taking me to another concert this Saturday, whoopee!


I picked the cello up for the first time in months today. It felt like being reunited with an old friend. Since Joe left for Baguio, the instrument (her name's Jackie after cellist Jacqueline du Pre) has just been sitting forlornly in the little anteroom we have upstairs. I didn't realize how much I missed it until I touched it. I did a few scales and played a few notes of that Bach piece I was working on when I left off--and then I cried.

I missed Joe so bad. I missed my cello buddy. And I was saddened at the thought that he's not making music right now, something he loves to do.

Right now, he is being trained to be the best soldier he can be, something he loves even more.

And that makes it all okay.


Here's Joe the day he got his cello case in May 2007:

He loves that case. We went to a concert at CCP later that evening, just the two of us.

I hope there's a nice concert when he gets to come home after his first year *puhon*, I'm sure he misses concert-watching as well.