Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Spa

Once you're in the city, you're near a lot of distractions that it's considered a luxury to just have the chance to shut the world out. There are times when I want the sheer silence of being alone and just relaxing. Not always, but sometimes.

I make myself feel better about the splurge by thinking about it this way: it's one of the ways to love yourself. To show yourself that you are worth that extra splurge once a month. It really is gratifying to be able to treat yourself for something that you experience rather than something you wear (though that's good too!).

It's a good thing my favorite spa is just a hundred peso cab ride away from home.
The Spa is probably the only place I can really let go of anything. It's pretty private so no worries about chatty spa goers or therapists. It has a jacuzzi, showers, sauna, and a whole lot of rooms to fit your taste and budget.
Plus: they have the best ginger tea! I can have up to 3 servings in one visit. I'm not shy in asking for more. Again it's a splurge, so I take advantage of all the "complimentary" stuff I can get! :)

Ground Floor, Greenbelt 1,
Paseo de Roxas, Makati City

So, how do you relax?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Intramuros: Walk and History

Fie and I went to Intramuros last week and it made me want to travel back in time! The structures are so beautiful that you want to preserve them, and maybe live in them someday.

Intramuros is one of the most historical places in Manila and it holds so much grandeur and glamour despite of wars, earthquakes and time. This was one strong (albeit unlucky) city! I've never been before so I was excited as Fie and I met up in Boni MRT station, rode it up to Taft avenue, crossed over to LRT then rode the other train to Carriedo LRT station. Whew. What a tiring commute! But it was all worth it, I swear. :)

After visiting Fort Santiago, we went around the other parts of the walled city. It was hot and we were sweaty but the buildings and the history behind them are fascinating. I'll shut up now and show you the photos!! And some fun facts just because I like you. :)

An old bank office that was technically about a kilometer away from Intramuros. It was beautiful so I took a photo anyway. You can see this outside the Carriedo LRT station. You can ride a jeepney to Pier in front of it.
Palacio del Gobernador
The jeepney to Pier will pass by this building, you won't miss it. It's on the left side, just beside Manila Cathedral.
Plaza Roma
Manila Cathedral
The Chinese Museum. You have to pay a hundred pesos to get in and photos were not allowed.
San Agustin Church. Known as the "wedding capital of the Philippines", the oldest stone church in the whole country.
A Japanese cannon
Soldier headquarters
The 12 Japanese cannons surrounding the fort.
A gallery of all the past presidents of the Philippines

So, where did your casual wanders bring you?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I'm a coward..

For thriller-suspense books, that is. I have enjoyed reading books for as long as I can remember so I have a pretty high standard on how good a book is. I usually have chicklits (the "girly" books, so they say) as they bring me a sense of balance especially when I'm busy or stressed. Reading a good book beats a massage anytime.

My book of the month for May is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.


On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? (from Goodreads)

Five reasons to read this book:

1. Gone Girl made me think. It gave me goose bumps and it made me hate, pity and sympathize with either Nick and Amy. As I turn the page, every step leads to the seemingly logical conclusion of the husband-kills-wife scenario. I spent days feeling creeped out and brainstorming ways of how he could have killed her. I really obsessed on that, thinking that that is what the book was all about..

2. It's real. The complexities within people's relationships were clearly shown, maybe it was emphasized a little too much that "reality" became "evil" but nevertheless, it's a book that knows what human emotion is all about. As third persons in this story, we have our own decisions and sides, but in the end, if we were in the position of the character in the story, we would have done the same.

3. The plot was masterfully written. Trust me, there are twists that will jump at you at the right moment. It was pretty hard to put this book down especially when you're starting to get creeped out. The plot was built slowly and with a higher intensity for each chapter. The next thing in the story is unpredictable -- something I always like in well written books.

4. I learned this: the pressure to be perfect is tempting that people opt to develop a part of themselves that are really not who they are. They are there to please, to be liked and eventually, to be happy. Gone Girl shows just how imperfect the desire for perfection is. It's "normal" for some people but can be deadly for others.

5. You'll hate the ending.. But at least you'll know what happens! ;) It was anticlimactic for me but you still have to read it because it will make you think real hard, about human emotion and personal decisions. Ask yourself: What will you have done if you were in their place?

RATING: 3.5/5

Update: Check out the movie trailer for Gone Girl here. I heard that Miss Flynn changed the ending for the movie. Exciting.

Art by Luis Alves

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila

Fie and I love learning and exploring (as you already know if you've been reading my past posts). We don't have much time and energy for the weekend but we try as much as we can to see whatever we haven't seen yet.

This is why walking tours became such a gift for us. There are some in Manila, so we can commute to it, and it will just be for a couple of hours. The fee isn't much either (not anything more than $15-$20) so it's always a win.

Binondo was a fun day, inspite of the heat and everything else. And now we visited another part of Manila that we always hear about but we never really explored.

Manila is the center of everything a century back. All that you need is in this city--huge schools, the most beautiful architecture, business, commerce, travel, everything that gives back profit, you can find it there. But due to wars and the consequences of age and progress, Manila has gained its lackluster present.

Our walking tour became a pedicab tour. It's this public ride wherein the driver pedals you wherever you need to be. It's way cheaper at 150 pesos (less than $4) for 30 mins. You can find a lot of pedicab drivers offering this service outside of Manila Cathedral. Others are more expensive than the rest so make sure to not quickly choose the first one to approach you.

Quick tip: Make sure the you tell the driver what time you started because they can pretend that the tour lasted for two hours but it was only more than an hour. Then you have to pay double of what you really have to. Trivial monkey business at its finest. I know because that's what happened to us. The money is something I can move on from quickly, but the disappointment that a fellow Pinoy did that to us is something I dwelled on.

I overanalyzed that little bump on the end of our tour but Fie had the grace to tell me that it's fine and all, what we have to be is to be wiser and more careful next time.

Fort Santiago is our first stop in Intramuros (city "within the walls). It will be the only content for this post since it's just beautiful inside and we cannot resist taking photos. It's actually a venue for wedding receptions and is totally private once you rented the front area. The garden was well kept and the architecture preserved. We paid 75 pesos to get in.
I won't be loading you a lot of history, it's better to discover that for yourself. See the ruins, feel the stones, admire the architecture. This was a place that had so much consequences from the war and its sad. What's sadder is if we do nothing to preserve and honor it.

Almacenes Reales (Royal Warehouse)
Students are currently working on the restoration of this establishment. This will be the main visitor's lounge of Fort Santiago once restored to "almost" its former glory.

The martyr priests: GomBurZa - Gomes, Burgos, Zamora

Raja Sulayman Theater
Reconstructed main gate of Fort Santiago. It bears the image of Saint James (“Santiago”) the Great, patron saint of Spain (Manalo, 2013).
Where Rizal was on his final hours (prior to execution).
These were originally used for vault storage and powder magazine of the Baluarte de Santa Barbara. Because it wasn’t suited for its purpose (due to dampness and humid weather), the Spaniards built a new storage in 1715. These vaults were converted to prison cells and store rooms in 1718 (Egot, 2012).
Since Fort Santiago is located near Pasig river, it has a huge geographical advantage that was best for trades and war strategies (Manalo, 2013)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

I have read possibly a hundred romance novels.
Every time, the word "love" is mentioned, I immediately conjure images of how the "loving" should seem like. 
There are times when the authors are generous enough to give more scenes to show how the love was developed, challenged and nourished.
It gets tiring for awhile since every romance is almost identical to the last. But this book by David Levithan is different.
Five reasons why you should read this book:

1. Anticipation builds after seeing that the pages of the book only reaches up to 250 (give or take, depends on the font of your ibook app) is bittersweet. It seems so short, initially making you wonder why.
 2. There are no formal introduction of characters, no chronological arrangement of events. The story was written in chapter A but the plot is somewhere in the middle. The push and pull of the story is gentle yet it leaves you with a question every time.
3. The short chapters are cute. The story for that single chapter was so well written that there is no need to make it a paragraph. It can be a sentence, yet it carries so much weight, emotion, reason. It gives you the chance to make your own characters, to create faces, personalities, pasts.. The book was just a guide for your imagination to make the characters alive.
4. There will be moments when you think the book describes infinite love. Yet it was followed by an anecdote that will give you reason to doubt if what you're reading really is actual love, or just two people playing the game. Both wanting to win, so they fight and work for it, but to no avail.
 5. The book was written in a confused person's perspective. Something that we all have been at some point in our lives. It is a documentary of emotions from the desire to try, the moment of falling, and the steady decline towards everything opposite from what you initially felt.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reaching my toes

Yoga gives me the time to sweat, reflect and feel the sensations in my body -- things that I choose not to acknowledge most of the time.
There are times when I get too busy to fully see and hear myself. I'd rather give time and focused attention for deadlines, files, and computations (my job). I become too stressed out that the little discomforts are too trivial to matter until they're too severe to be ignored.
Then I do yoga. Yoga is my teddy bear, my safe spot, the light that leads me back to myself when the world tries to pull me away.
Something that made me smile last night was when I discovered that I can now comfortably touch my toes in paschimottanasana (sitting forward fold). That has been my weakness ever since I started doing yoga. I can do the dancer's or camel pose with so much ease I make myself proud. But this little pose of sitting down, breathing in, elongating my body and folding from the hips, comes with a lot of discomfort that I just settled in placing my hands below my knees rather than my toes.
It was painful when I was starting. The teacher said that I have short hamstrings and that it will be better with continuous practice in time.
After almost 2 years of alternating yoga with other exercises, the pain is more tolerable but reaching my toes is still a challenge. I notice and disappoint myself constantly because of that.
Now that I practice at home, with no teacher but my favorite Fightmaster yoga video, without classmates that I'm compelled to compete against, I finally let go and not expect anything from my body. It does what it can and that's fine.
Finally, my body decided that tonight is the night. In the moment of accepting the limits of body and the mindfulness I gave in my sun salutations, I felt invincible. My body rewarded me with the best triumph in my short yoga journey -- reaching my toes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Slappy Cakes kicked our butts!

Slappy Cakes is the the food joint Fie and I always pass by but we never really wanted to try since we saw the menu outside and the prices are pretty steep for our taste.
The dishes are around 250-400 pesos (~$5) each and that's too much, isn't it?
One fateful afternoon, we were half-hungry and this is the only place we haven't tried yet. We always, always want to try something new. So inspite our initial hesitation, we went in.
Gustatory curiousness wins over stinginess.

Now for some history, they were owned by a family in Portland, Oregon--a place known for being a brunch town. Slappy Cakes combined people's two favorite pasttimes: eating brunch and DIY cooking. They now have locations in Maui, Japan and Singapore! We love breakfast food, so yey!

Fie had Slappy Moco, which is basically a burger patty with 2 sunny sideup eggs and white rice. Mine was the FRENCH TOAST. They were huge, I swear (hence, the capital letters hehehe).
When the waiter served it, we looked at each other and laughed. We were thinking "French toast for 250 pesos? This has to taste good." But no, it tasted good and the serving was for two people. Of course, I finished mine on my own. What was meant to be just a merienda became a huge meal for us. It was a tummy-filled day indeed :)

Second Floor, The Block, 
SM North EDSA, Quezon City