That Thing Called Baguio Food Trip Weekend

It has been a  very hot summer in Metro Manila. And at least one day in the Summer Capital would be a delight. So, the Baguio Weekend happened.

It was not really a tourist kind of break. And apologies, I didn’t really take a lot of photos in this trip. Because we stayed in Baguio for some years for college, so it was like merely visiting “home” for the weekend. So we skipped all the tourist-y items and just went straight to the food trip. Because that’s what you do when you come home for the weekend–enjoy home-cooked meals, watch TV, eat take-home dessert in bed and squeeze in a massage.

A little warning for those who want to go to Baguio via Victory Bus Liner: get your tickets as early as possible. And by early, I mean days before, or even weeks. There are A LOT of people going to Baguio. I got our tickets for the Saturday trip three days before. We wanted to leave at midnight but the closest time with available seats was at 2 AM. There was a long queue for chance passengers when we boarded the bus. So if you don’t want the hassle, get your tickets from the bus station early. Online reservation is not yet available.

Kiwing na Kahoy Food Community at Ili-Likha Artist Village
We arrived in Baguio at around 8 in the morning. It was too early to check in our hotel, and a good breakfast after a long bus ride was a must. I stumbled upon this food place a month ago and the moment I learned it’s an artist haven (read: arts all over the place), I knew I have to go there.

I learned that it opens early, so it was the perfect place to commence the Baguio Weekend. Unfort11169994_10152973102923842_1697687131801777942_nunately (or is it fortunately?), the only food spot that was open that early was Balbacua at Urban Kamote. It boasts of organic food at very affordable prices. We ordered balbacua, of course, and longganisa with red rice. The balbacua was tasty. I would have preferred a slightly toasted longganisa, but it was fine, together with the refreshing Fresca Chia drink. They also serve this interesting coffee concoction called Bulletproof Coffee that has grass-fed butter. It was a bit bitter for my taste, but it seemed oozing with healthy goodness.

I was wishing to see blue-eyed Kawayan working10408737_10152973095668842_4601074600567719223_n on one of his masterpieces, but no, he wasn’t there. We saw lots of artworks, though. It made me remember the Ponce Suites Gallery Hotel in Davao, which was covered with Kublai’s artworks. There are other shops in this little community and they are set up strategically and artistically to look like a tree house. It’s not the safest place to be especially in a high-altitude city like Baguio, which is prone to tremors. But it is worth a try.

Ili-likha Artist Village is located at Assumption Road. From Victory Liner, walk to Lower Session Road. Stay on the right side of the road where your landmark would be the Bohemian Cafe, which was featured in That Thing Called Tadhana. It’s a long walk (we could testify), but you’re in Baguio. Walking should be fun!

North Haven Spa
Okay, sige na, burgis na kung burgis. Eh, gusto ko talagang magpa-massage because the past few weeks have been tiring. Good thing I wasn’t the only one who wanted to de-stress. And so we went to the North Haven Spa in Ferguson Road, a bit farther away from the city center. Opted for this main branch instead of the one in Casa Vallejo (Upper Session Road, which was featured, too, in That Thing Called Tadhana) because of the location. It offers a more relaxing ambiance because it’s located inside a village and a prettier view that is more like the Baguio I fell in love with. You can see the mountains from this area.

11180311_10152972750618842_4850506291217109454_nWe got there early. I actually called in advance to make a reservation, and because I am OC, yes. It turned out we got the whole spa to ourselves. We took time in choosing what treatment we would want. The friendly staff was very eager to help and recommended that we try this particular massage that I forgot the name of (sorry!). But it’s 1 hour and 45 minutes long. It was almost two hours of bliss! Which was capped off with cups of refreshing lemongrass tea.

I would have really wanted to try the Strawberry Bliss package, which involves scrub and jacuzzi (bubble bath!) but I just couldn’t at that time. Well, it’s a good reason for me to go back.

Ozark Diner
I discovered this place last year. I was curious about the dark beer cheesecake. I’ve told him about it and he was able to try the place when he was in Baguio for work. It’s fine, was what I gathered from it. Plus the location is far from the city center. So, I was actually ready to skip it. Good thing he insisted that we go here for lunch.

We got lost because Manong Taxi didn’t know where the place is. But here’s a tip, tell your cab driver that’s it’s near SLU Mary Heights Campus. It’s in Bareng Drive. The 100-peso taxi fare is worth it, I tell you. Look for this red door. But that’s not the entrance. It’s downstairs, via the side door.

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I was not that hungry when we got there, so I ordered a burrito–the most inexpensive and humongous burrito I’ve ever had. The beans are real. Hindi sila nagbibiro. We also ordered half spring chicken with biscuits, which were heavenly. I would go back for those biscuits and those spiked milkshakes (they call it “adult milkshakes”). I managed to take a sip of the Grasshopper, and I liked it. I was just wary to order one for me. Baka kasi hindi sila friends ni beans.

The location is good. But there was an ongoing construction outside, so the noise could be disturbing. It bothered me a little because diners tend to talk in loud voices. Dining out means chatting over good food so it really bothered me. Buti na lang walang nakaisip mag-date dun at mag-propose noong mga panahong maingay dun. Major bummer kapag nagkataon.

Anyway, of course, we had to order a slice of the dark beer cheesecake, but unfortunately, we had to have it to-go. No more space! I only managed to eat half of my burrito, and I was so full. I was able to taste the cake in the hotel. It was fine, nothing very fantastic about it. I still don’t like beer after eating it.

Holiday Park Hotel
There was a downpour when we were on our way to our hotel to finally check in at half past 2 in the afternoon. Checking in was a breeze because I have booked it a week ago. I chose this hotel over Veniz Hotel, which I have stayed at before, because of the location. It tends to be noisy at Hotel Veniz. The first choice was actually Baguio Holiday Villas, which I’ve stayed at last year (a bit noisy, too) but they didn’t have a room that’s good for two. I was so glad I booked Holiday Park Hotel. It is the best one in Baguio so far. It’s a bit pricey at P2,200 for a de luxe twin room, with free breakfast for two, but I love it.11036528_10152975369393842_1892662631988847053_n

I love the room. It’s spacious for two. There was already an extra pillow inside the room, I love it. The bathroom is nice and clean. Basic toiletries included; no hair dryer, though, but it’s available upon request. I have a thing for hair dryers. Dapat lahat ng hotels sa Baguio meron kasi malamig. The location is good. It’s not too far from the city center, but not in the busy part of Kisad, so it’s quiet at night. Plus, the staff is great. I would love to stay here again. And the longganisa is da bomb, by the way. Cooked just the way I like it. Free-flowing coffee, too, all day!

Mt. Cloud Bookshop+Cinematheque
We were supposed to watch some documentaries by UP Students at the Baguio Cinematheque, but it was raining. And the bed was so conducive to sleeping. We missed the 4:30 showing of the six documentaries that I am sure are worth the while (go, UPB!), but we still went to the place after resting in the hotel, on foot. I repeat, on foot! I don’t think I would do that again, but let’s just say that it’s in preparation for an upcoming major travel, practice lang. Goodness, I thought I would faint walking from Kisad Road to Lower Session to Upper Session. I used to enjoy walking up and down Session Road thrice non-stop. It’s a sign of aging, I know.

Canto at Ketchup Food Community
We’ve both been here before, but he hasn’t tried the baby back ribs and I was craving the freshest greens there was in Baguio. And so it’s Canto for dinner.

The Ketchup Community comprises of different restos. I’ve only tried Canto, so I cannot say anything about the other ones. It’s located in Romulo Drive, near the St. Joseph Church, in Pacdal Circle. I don’t know how to get there via jeepney, but the cabs are all familiar with this popular place.

11027468_10152973345153842_7827106855259876124_nAnyway, we ordered half slab of the famous lomo ribs. It’s better than that of The Pilgrim’s daw. But RUB’s is still the best. And we also had the Veggy Pizza with lots of alfalfa, arugula and basil goodness. When in Baguio, eat vegetables because you can’t go fresher than anywhere else. Skip the burgers, please. Manila has lots of those.

By the way, the Garapon Craze has invaded Baguio, too. It’s very hipster, but it’s forgivable. The Lorna Iced Tea was unforgettable. And with some jazz on the side, it’s one of the best dinners I have had.

Choco-late de Batirol
10985373_10152973371023842_7503041242537294092_nWe dropped by this little cafe near (or was it inside?) the Baguio Country Club, which I think would be perfect for breakfast or afternoon snacks because it’s actually a garden. It was dark, so I couldn’t really appreciate the ambiance. But they serve good chocolate de batirol drinks. I had the strawberry-infused one called Baguio Blend. It was good, but too strong, I wasn’t able to finish it. I would want to go back to try the Kahlua, though.

Cafe by the Ruins
11060452_10152975267303842_8952798194308259360_nTo cap off what has become a Baguio Food Trip Weekend, we had lunch at Cafe by the Ruins (which was also featured in That Thing Called Tadhana, why not?!). We ordered pinikpikan because it’s fun to enjoy torture sometimes. Hehe Good thing I’ve overcome my allergies, I can eat chicken now. It was delicious. I’ve had a cheaper version of it, and it wasn’t that delectable. Mas masarap pala talaga kapag mahal. I chose Gado-gado for salad, and boy, it was nagado (a lot, in Ilocano). It has fried tofu bits and is served with interesting peanut dressing. I would have loved to try the strawberry cake we saw from the other table or the Pavlova for dessert but I was full. My tummy was very happy about all the green goodness I’ve consumed by this time. For drinks, we ordered a strawberry milkshake and ginger fizz, which comes with a stalk of lemongrass. This established the theory na ayaw kaming lubayan ng tanglad.

It was a fun travel. Looking forward to the next one!

Zombietches in EK: The Podcast (That is Not Really)

So we went to Enchanted Kingdom to celebrate Jan Marc’s birthday. And these things transpired, in no particular order.

On the way to Market! Market! (na kailangan talagang may exclamation points!), Jan Marc called asking where we are because he’s already waiting at the parking lot.
Jan Marc: Hey, where are you?
Arlene: We’re on our way na. Margaret, nasaan tayo?
Margaret: Nasa may billboard ni Angel Locsin.
Arlene: Si Angel Locsin ba ‘yan? Hindi naman yata.
Margaret: Ah, hindi ba? Basta papunta na kami.
Arlene: Nasa tulay na kami. Pasig River.
Margaret: Hindi Pasig River ‘yan. Marikina River yata.
Arlene: Eh, nasa Pasig na tayo, ‘di ba? So Pasig River ‘yan.
Jan Marc: [beep]
Arlene: Ay, binabaan tayo.

At the parking lot, as Margaret is parking the greatest parking of her life, so it seems.
Jan Marc: Do you realize you were driving on the wrong way back there?
Margaret: I know! Parking lot naman ‘to, eh. Wala namang MMDA.
Arlene: Margaret was so confident and cocky finding a parking slot until you came along.

Going out the parking lot, in Jan Marc’s car.
Jan Marc: (to the car in front of us) Ano ba ‘yan?! Antagal naman! Walang pambayad!
Margaret: Oh, my gahd. You’re so bad.
Arlene: That’s what he gets in playing online games.
Jan Marc: Yah, I get too violent.
(to Ate Parking Cashier) Walang pambayad ‘yun, no? Antagal-tagal.

At McDonald’s, whining about the sloooooow service despite having a lot of staff.
Arlene: Ambagal nila, ‘no?
Margaret: Oo nga, sa Makati hindi naman ganyan.
Jan Marc: Pero andami-dami naman nila. Bukas na ‘yung Enchanted Kingdom, nandito pa tayo.

After eating a very healthy brunch of fries and burgers.
Margaret: Gutom pa ako. Can we buy food when we get to EK?

At the toll gate…
Jan Marc: (to the car in front of us, again) Wala na namang pambayad ‘to! Antagal-tagal!
Margaret: Oh my gahd. Ang sama mo.
Arlene: You know what, Margaret? ‘Yung combined good points natin, nauubos ng bad points n’ya.

At the Enchanted Kingdom entrance…
Margaret: Let’s ride that! Ano’ng pangalan ng Nanay mo?!
Jan Marc: Myr-nuuuuuuuuh! The Myrna Ride!
Arlene: Please no judging if I don’t ride all the rides you want to ride.

In Enchanted Kingdom, finally…
Jan Marc: I hate this. It’s so hot! And so many J People!
Arlene: Eh summer kaya. Sino ba nakaisip nito?! How much did you pay to get in?
Jan Marc: None.
Margaret: Don’t complain.

At the Rialto line.
Margaret: Can we buy food?

After lining up for Rialto and finally got in.
Jan Marc: This better be worth the time we spent under the freaking sun.
Arlene: How long is this? One hour? Can we let people ahead of us for like an hour para nandito lang tayo sa aircon?

After experiencing the Rialto’s sorry excuse for a 3D ride.
Jan Marc: That was it? What was that?!
Bading sa Tabi Namin (in a more exaggerated disgust): Oh my god! That was it?! Such a waste of our fucking time!
Margaret: Let us go back to the line and warn the people.
Jan Marc: Yes, we should. It is not worth it, people!

At the souvenir shop to get Jan Marc a change shirt.
Jan Marc: Help me find a shirt.
Arlene: O, Margaret. Help your boyfriend find a shirt daw.
Margaret: We are all conceited at one point, no?

At some point while wandering around.
Margaret: Can we buy food?

Before the Wheel of Fate ride.
Margaret: Wala magi-spin habang umaandar, ha?
Jan Marc: Yes, no spinning.
Arlene: Frienship Over ang mag-spin.

While queuing for the Rio Grande Rapids.
Margaret: This kid is annoying! (pertaining to the kid at her back)
Arlene: Switch places with Jan Marc, dali!

While queuing for the Rio Grande Rapids… still.
Jan Marc: This kid is annoying!

While waiting for the rubber raft at the Rio Grande Rapids, where we got in via the “express” lane, which is a fucked-up system, really. Go there to find out why for yourselves.
Ate Attendant: Dalawa?
Us, three: Tatlo kami, Ate.
Dalawang Guys sa Likod: Kami!

Jan Marc: Couple. Hashtag alam na. Ayan, o, gusto pang magkatabi sila!

During the Rio Grande Rapids ride.
Arlene: Oh my gahd! Basa na ako.
Margaret: Upuan pa lang basa na!
Jan Marc: Oh my gahd! Huwag kami! Huwag kami!
Arlene: Shit! Waaaaah!
Jan Marc: Fuck! My falls! Huwag kami. Sila naman!
Margaret: Oh my gahd! ‘Yung bag ko!
Jan Marc: Tangina. Bakit ‘yung mga lumalabas kanina hindi naman basa?!

At the “magic drying station”…
Arlene: One hundred fucking fifty pesos??! This better work!
Jan Marc: I wasn’t expecting to get so wet like this!
Margaret: I told you we’d get wet!
Jan Marc: But not this wet! Pati underwear talaga?!
Arlene: I have to buy shorts and tsinelas. Ang gastos ng birthday mo.
Jan Marc: Only because we got wet!
Arlene: But it was fun!
Jan Marc: Yah, it was fun! But we got wet!

On the way to the parking lot to get our change shirts.
Batang Nagtitinda ng Espasol: Ate, bili ka.
Arlene: May shorts ka ba dyan? ‘Yun bibilhin ko.

While lining up for the Air Race.
Jan Marc: Parang binabalahura ka lang, o. We have to ride this, Margaret!
Margaret: Arl, may bata. You have to ride this!
Arlene: No way. Ayokong mabalahura.

On the way out.
Jan Marc: Let’s go. Let’s eat on the way.
Margaret: Chowking! That Milky White Halo-halo!

My Easter Sunday and Father Sanjay

For more than a year now, I have faithfully attended the 9 AM Mass at the National Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes in Quezon City. Well, not really faithfully. There were some Sundays that I’ve missed because of unavoidable circumstances like out-of-town trips, family obligations, etc. Waking up early on Sundays is not really too big a deal for a morning person like me. But for someone who’s not very vocal nor showy about her faith in the Catholic Church, I admit it was at some point a struggle for me to go to Mass every Sunday. However, that was before Father Sanjay.

He had me at his visual aids. No offense to other Catholic priests I have encountered (with the exception of Father Sonny Ramirez, Nanay’s favorite priest who used to say Mass in Sto. Domingo), I get bored with their homily most of the time. Some tends to be preachy and others seem like scolding me for something I am not really sure about. With Father Sanjay, it feels like he’s communicating with me through his AVPs and stories. During his homilies, he is not just delivering sermons. He is telling stories, much like Jesus did with his parables.

I learned things about Alexander the Great, Oprah, Bill Gates, etc. He told stories not just about famous persons but unnamed people as well. There’s the story of the two brothers’ love for one another that made me wish I have one (and then I immediately took it back, because I actually have one!). The story of how a professor taught his students that “life is like a cup of coffee” is something I would surely tell others when the chance comes up. There’s also that amusing first-hand anecdote about the mute kid who received a miracle.

There were videos with kurot sa puso that made me shed some tears (that I had to creatively wipe away). There’s this video in Chinese about a son and his senile father that Father Sanjay had to translate for us. He said that it may be in a language we don’t understand, but we’d probably end up getting the gist of it. True enough. It may be in a foreign language, but the message of love is universal.

And, of course, how could I forget the fact that Father Sanjay introduced me to the music of Matisyahu through “One Day”?

There are a lot of good stories I’ve heard from Father Sanjay and I regret not writing about each of them. Besides his creative way of delivering homilies, I also enjoy his meditation included in every celebration of the Mass. He would ask everyone to close their eyes and focus on Jesus. Surrender everything to Him and trust that everything will be all right, he would say.

Today was a special Sunday. My family woke up early at 4 AM to attend the “Salubong Mass” in the nearby church, while I decided to stay behind and catch some more sleep. They’re used to me not joining them to Mass, anyway, since I continued going to Lourdes for Mass even after we moved to the new house.

It was a cool summer morning and the Church was packed probably because it’s Easter. Father Sanjay’s homily was about a US soldier and a boy named Tad. The story goes like this: once there was a soldier who went to the White House to ask permission from President Abraham Lincoln to go home to be with his wife who was sick. Naturally, the guards didn’t permit him. While he was outside the gates looking upset, a young boy approached him and asked what was wrong. He told this young boy that he wanted to speak with the president to ask for permission. The boy told him to hold his hand and he would bring him to the president. The soldier hesitated because he, a soldier, couldn’t get past the guards, how could a kid do it? But he mustered courage and hold the boy’s hand. Much to his surprise, when they were at the entrance, the guards open the gates, waved to the kid and let them in. The boy holding his hand was, none other than, Tad Lincoln, the youngest son of the President.

Father Sanjay used this story to convey the message that we only need to hold on to the hand of Jesus who will take us to the Father.

It was before the Final Blessing that Father Sanjay said his goodbye. He said that after four years, he has now finished his studies. Apparently, he has been officiating the 9 AM Mass since 2011. I wish I have gone to hear Mass led by him since then.

I was so sad, I had to fight back some tears. My heart was breaking.

The congregation gave him a round of applause, and when the Mass has ended, the usual number of people who approaches him for his blessings, tripled. I was one of them.Trying to fight my emotions (because one usually don’t cry when a priest says goodbye, really), I joked to myself while walking towards him that I should probably say to him, How could you leave, Father? Ikakasal mo pa ako, eh!

When he placed his hand on my head, I was only able to say, Thank you, Father.

Truly, I am grateful for him. He made me go to Church to hear Mass. He taught me a lot of things through his homilies. He even made me want to get married someday, with him officiating it. (Well, a particular Veluz gown did that to me, too.)

Kidding aside, I was changed because of him. I may not be very vocal about my faith and beliefs, but through him I have learned that the way to do it is to put my whole trust in God. I am a work in progress, and I’m happy about it.

I will surely miss anticipating hearing the words “Our Mass will be presided by Father Sanjay” next Sunday. I will surely miss his usual “Magandang umaga! Kumusta kayo?” greeting with sweetness and slang. I will surely miss his stories, his videos, his personal views on things and his inspiring meditations.

But Easter is for new beginnings. And new beginnings should be full of delight. So, I sincerely pray for a fruitful new chapter for Father Sanjay. May he continue to collect stories for him to be able to tell them during his homilies, and change lives like he has changed mine.

As for me, I pray that someday I will encounter him again and attend a Mass officiated by him. Sana sa India. 🙂

How to Get a Japanese Visa via an Awesome Friend

So, I owe someone an explanation, or rather an account of how I acquired a Japanese visa. Actually, I owe him this and a food trip, too, when he comes home.

Short version of the story of my attempt to go to Tokyo. I was lucky enough to score a round-trip ticket to Tokyo about same time last year via CebPac P1 Seat Sale (scored it for around 7k!). First, I wanted to go because of the Tokyo Open (Rafa eventually didn’t participate in the tournament). And second, to experience fall (which was not gonna happen had I push through because the date I picked was way too early for the leaves to actually change colors and fall). I could say it wasn’t really the perfect time for me to go because of several instances. There was a minor accident (I was so thankful, I decided not to push through with my original schedule), a storm in Tokyo (which I was also thankful for, I got a refund!) and the fact that there was a major change happening in my life in the last quarter of 2014 that I couldn’t, for the love of me, squeeze in a major and expensive trip. It was a Failed Fall, you could say.

So there, I wasn’t able to use the visa, which I easily acquired, despite not having a hefty bank account to prove that I can afford to visit Tokyo (that’s the easiest way, I think).

You can check out the Embassy of Japan for the full list of requirements for the different visas available for Filipinos. Visa application is via accredited agencies. I went to Attic Tours for mine because it’s the nearest agency to the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines. It’s in Pasay.

I applied for the visa for visiting friends or distant relatives. Here are the requirements/steps:

1. Have a very awesome friend in Japan. Preferably one with a foreign registration certificate and who is willing to help you out and act as a guarantor. As for me, I am thankful to have a good high school friend [Thank you, Glen!] who went out of his way to prepare and send me the following:

  • Invitation Letter. You can download that from the Japanese Embassy website. It’s in Word document so filling it out is gonna be easy. It will ask for the details of your guarantor/friend, your details and the reason for visit. There is no special answer in the essay part, but I think it pays to be honest and concise.
  • Foreign Registration Certificate from City Hall. It’s like your friend’s identification card in Japan, I think.
  • Guarantee Letter (MIMOTO HOSHOSHO). You can download the Word document from the Japan Embassy website. This will say that your friend will take full responsibility of you during your stay in Japan. It will also bear their seal, which is so cool.
  • Income Certificate from City Hall (SHOTOKU SHOMEISHO), Tax Return Certificate  from Tax Office (NOUZEISHOMEISHO: form2), KAKUTEISHINKOKUSHO HIKAE. Or a Bank Certificate (YOKIN ZANDAKA SHOMEISHO) would do, according to the Japan Embassy website. This is to prove that your friend can afford to have you as a visitor.

Remember that these documents should be valid for 3 months from the date of issue. So I requested Glen to send me these roughly a month before my intended flight. Meanwhile, I prepared the other requirements on my end.

2. Acquire the OC Attitude. Because you will need that to prepare these:

  • Valid Philippine Passport. Get yours from the DFA if you still don’t have one, or if yours is expiring in 6 months, you must renew it.
  • Visa Application Form. Check it out here. You can actually print it from there or save it so you can fill out the PDF format and be sure your answers are readable and there will be no erasures.
  • Photo. It should be 4.5cm x 4.5cm with white background. Let the studio know that it’s for a Japanese visa. If you don’t get it right, Attic Tours can take your photo for P200 (I think).
  • Birth Certificate. It should be NSO issued with receipt and valid within (1) year. You can order it online or go to NSO or request via SM Business Center, which I did because it’s more convenient for me since I wasn’t mostly at home during those times to receive it from the courier.
  • Tour Itinerary (TAIZAI NITTEIHYO). There is a sample here in English. It’s in Word form so you can just edit it. As for me, I made a real itinerary. There’s no harm in being honest. Show this to your friend/guarantor (or consult them), too, in case the Japanese Embassy would check with them.
  • Documents or photos to prove relationship. Good thing we took photos during meet-ups. Hehe
  • ITR and Employment Certificate. It’s not really part of the requirements, but I submitted these anyway, to prove that I am employed and I am returning back to the Philippines and does not intend to marry some Japanese and never return. hehe

That’s it! Bring all these to your agency of choice. Here are your choices. While the Japanese visa, when granted, is free, you have to pay the agency a processing fee. I paid P1500 (+ 12% tax) to Attic Tours. I submitted the application on a Thursday and got a message from them the following Tuesday saying my passport is ready for pick-up. Very quick! They won’t tell you if your application is approved or not. You have to feel the anticipation, you know! It’s part of the experience.

Oh, by the way, all the requirements won’t be returned to you, except for the photos. I don’t think they want to keep them. Why would they? Hehe

There you go. I was warned that I may have a hard time getting another visa (I am not yet giving up on you, Tokyo!) since I wasn’t able to use the visa they first gave me, but I am trusting the Universe that all will be fine when it’s really my perfect time to visit the Land of the Rising Sun and Murakami. 🙂

Fifth Pelikcula

It’s our fifth year to attend the Spanish Film Festival organized by Instituto Cervantes at the Greenbelt Cinema 3, and it was fun, as always. I watched the first one with Marvin. He had to travel from Baguio and back for this. Can’t break a tradition, says him [Thanks!]. And then we watched the next one with Jel and Anna, mis amigas whom I always look forward to seeing.

I kinda regret not writing entries for the previous films we saw. I only managed to write about the very first two, “Unforgettable La teta asustada” and  “Disturbing Desierto adento“. I cannot believe I didn’t write something about “Biutiful”, one of the most beautiful films we’ve seen so far at the festival. But then I remember writing about it for my online job and got it published here.

In an attempt to break the regret streak, I will try to write about the films we’ve seen this year.

2 francos, 40 pesetas
It’s a film about the crisis in Spain in the 1970s, when Spaniards were forced to migrate to Switzerland to search for work. Albeit that premise, it tells the somewhat lighter side of the story. It’s about family and friends coming together to Switzerland from Spain to celebrate a baptism.

It’s a funny film that could easily make you laugh without exerting too much effort to appreciate the humor. Each character is amiable in their own way, and they become more lovable when together. My favorite part would have to be when they finally get together for the baptism. The scenes are full of stereotypes represented by each one and they are hilarious. There’s that scene of awkward dancing, the endless bickering of the two grandmothers, the tension created by illicit love affairs. And that drunk priest singing wailing his heart out cracked me up for a while. And, lest I forget, that scene with the black doctor in the earlier part is just painfully funny. Even in Switzerland, there is discrimination for black people.

We also had fun watching Howard Wolowitz (seriously, one character looks so much like him!), and I particularly enjoyed ogling the very attractive Pablo, portrayed by Adrian Exposito. Ah, those eyes of his!

The picturesque Switzerland is also a treat to our eyes. And the variety of accents (there’s German, French, Spanish, if I’m not mistaken), is just like music to the ears, and sometimes, just plain funny. We can now say “milk” the way Germans do. Such a good lesson this film had taught us!

10000 noches en ninguna parte
Have you seen a film that made you scratch your head and go, Huh? It’s that kind of movie. Well, at least for me us (speaking for everyone now). I can confidently say that because the majority of the movie house shared the same look of bewildered amusement (was it, really?!) after the movie. Most of us were standing and ready to leave the cinema even before the lights were turned on.

Okay. I shall come out clean now. When I learned it was R18, I immediately thought it’s one of those “art film bordering porn” kind of movies. For someone who saw “Lust, Caution” (Ang Lee, 2007), that was what I was kind of expecting. Well, I wasn’t THAT disappointed, not really. Sorry to spoil it a little, but the R18 part of it was a mere 1 minute (I think it was less than that, actually) of an orgy of four people in broad daylight.

Now that that is out of the way, I think the reason for the R18 rating is people under 18 would not understand the film. We are over 18 and, guess what, we didn’t get it at all.

We tried to make sense of it to no avail. The line between reality and fiction is very blurry, one could easily get lost just like the protagonist (is he even real?). Perhaps that’s the main objective of the director, Ramon Salazar, to let the viewers feel how it is to get lost and be nowhere. It’s called “10,000 Nights Nowhere” in English, and that would have to be a give-away.

The story goes like this… You know what, never mind. It’s just too complicated. I have seen “Vanilla Sky” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and there is no way I can make a decent summary of those movies. This film easily becomes an addition to that list of mine.

It’s not that it’s bad. Also, I’m not saying I didn’t like it (“Mondo Manila” is one particular movie that is bad and I did not like).  In fact, the cinematography is beautiful. That cemetery scene is unforgettable, and so is the colorful party. The characters played their parts well. I hated the Mom but felt pity towards her, too. The menage a trois are a lovable bunch of perky and stoned hippies. And Andres Getrudix’s portrayal of the main character is effective in making him the center of the story, when in fact he doesn’t seem to be in it. It is a complicated storyline. Forgive me if I’m not really making sense.

Perhaps the film is just too profound and there’s room for improvement in the narrative. But it’s an interesting film, nonetheless. And I’m grateful I got to see it with friends.

Looking forward to next year’s line-up!

August 31st

It was a Saturday. I was 12. There was an invitation from a neighbor whose name I’ve forgotten now to a birthday party at their house. I wanted so badly to go with my cousins so I asked permission from her. She said it was okay to go; so we, my cousins and I, were at the neighbor’s house when someone from home came to pick me up telling me to rush home. Nanay wasn’t okay.

It’s a hazy memory now and I could only remember bits and pieces. What I couldn’t forget was the look in her eyes, the most loneliest eyes I would never ever forget, looking at me as I leave the room to frantically contact Tatay. I couldn’t remember how many messages I left on his beeper that day. It could have been dozens, but I couldn’t remember the exact messages now. In retrospect, I might have been thinking that if Tatay gets home, everything would be okay. Nanay would be okay.

But that didn’t happen. He eventually came home but it was too late. Nanay was gone. And Tatay wasn’t at her side, neither was I. It’s the biggest regret I have up to this very day. I should have been on her side.  I wish I didn’t leave her side. I wish someone had told me to never leave her side. That she needed me to be by her side. I was only 12, I was very afraid and I didn’t exactly know what to do.

I could have said it’s okay for her to go, that we would be okay. That she needed not worry. I could have lied to her and perhaps those lonely eyes of hers would have never been my last memory of her.

It took me 18 years to write about that day. It was the most painful day of my life. I couldn’t bring myself to write about it in those 18 years. Every year since then, this scenario has been playing over and over in my mind especially as her death anniversary approaches. I guess I just couldn’t translate the memory to words. It’s that painful.

It’s been 18 years of questioning God why He took her away from me, from us. Why did she become sick? Why did the symptoms come out after my 12th birthday? Why did she have to suffer? Why did I have to take that frightful ambulance ride with her during that one time she needed to be rushed to the hospital? Why did I have to be the one to go to the pharmacy at the wee hours of the evening to buy the expensive medicines she needed while Tatay stay with her at the emergency room? I was only 12 years old then.

Why did she have to lose her wonderful short hair? Why did a wig cost so much way back then? We could have bought her one so she’d still feel pretty even while undergoing  the painful chemo and cobalt therapies.

It’s been 18 years, and it’s still painful.

The questions are just there being answered each day in one way or another. I may never find the exact answers to all of them but I get consolation and strength that I know it’s part of God’s plan.

This year as I remember her more fondly day by day, I’ve come to realize that instead of feeling greatly devastated about her death anniversary,  I should be thankful for that one Saturday in 1996. It was the day God ended Nanay’s physical suffering and called her home, where pain has no place and everything is bright and wonderful.

At this moment, I picture her looking at me from where she is, smiling because I am writing about her and maybe laughing a little at her “naning”, who’s once again shedding tears just because.

I miss you, Nanay.

Wedding Whatnot

This is actually a post that is more about what not to do during weddings. I’m learning the ropes of event coordination and I have been exposed, sort of, to a number of weddings, so I guess an entry about my observations is due. It’s either I do that or I would continue on whining about them with some of my close friends, and I think I pretty much made the rounds already.

I may strike some ego here because I have no editor to please nor advertisers that I owe flowery words to. So let me warn you that this entry is riddled with somehow blatant observation and apologetically peppered with sarcasm.  Now that that is clear, let me get something straight this early.

Unless it’s yours, a wedding is not AT ALL about you. It’s about LOVE, and, yes, the couple that is getting married and, to some extent (because our society is what it is), their immediate families. If you do not belong to the two categories, stop thinking that it is your event and start being a considerate guest.

That being said, here are some of my unsolicited wedding insights, ladies and gents.

RSVP
This means “répondez, s’il vous plaît” in French, which means “please reply” in English. If I should go my way, I would replace “RSVP” with a little note that goes: Please confirm your attendance on or before (insert date that is at least two weeks before the wedding). Failure to do so would mean you’re not attending and you are giving us the liberty to assign your reserved seat/s to someone else. Thank you.”

And then I may add a PS that would say: We really mean it. So we would really appreciate your reply. As in.

I don’t know how some people plan their schedules, but not really having the courtesy to even reply with a yes or no to an invitation is just plain rude. The couple is spending their hard-earned life savings on their wedding (mind you, that wedding invite is expensive, too) and they want you to be there to witness it and be a part of this very special event. Please have the decency to let them know if you are going or not. The fact that they are asking for a reply only means that they need your confirmation. It’s not just something that they are doing because everybody seems to be doing it these days. It has a purpose, people!

In case you’re still wondering, it’s basically for the headcount for the reception, so the couple would know how many guests are coming. So that they can also adjust their expenses. Because getting married doesn’t really mean the couple won the lottery and is all-out in spending money. They are working on a budget, too. Unless you know that they are multi-billionaires, of course. But then again, if you are friends with those kind of people, you would really know what RSVP is for and would act accordingly, wouldn’t you?

The +1 Privilege
I say it’s a privilege because it really is a special privilege. With the exception of the relatives and really close family friends, chances are the invitation is only for the person whose name is written in the envelope. Unless your entire family is very close to the bride and groom, then Mr. and Mrs. (insert your name) are the only ones that are officially invited to the wedding. But if the couple are really generous and the invitation says there are 3 or more reserved seats for you, then you can bring the kids, specially if the couple knows you do have kids/s and they welcome little kids to their wedding.

Please don’t ask the couple (specially right at the moment they handed you the invitation) if you can bring someone to the wedding when it’s clearly stated in your invite that they have reserved 1 seat for you. It is RUDE to do that. Not only are you putting them in an awkward position to answer in a shy “no” or forced “yes”, you are also adding actual expense to their budget.

And to tell you the truth, in case you are really oblivious, wedding receptions held in hotels or event venues are not cheap. Unless it is held in a fastfood chain or someplace that is not horrendously expensive, don’t ask if you could bring someone (or some people) if the couple didn’t say so at the onset.

A tip to couples: if you really want to refuse their +1 request, tell them politely that you would look into your guest list to see if there are still free seats and that you will inform them before the wedding if they can accommodate their “guest”.  Then inform them, through your coordinator, that they cannot bring a +1.

To the friend who was refused of the +1 privilege, don’t feel bad. It’s the couple’s special day, not yours. But, if you really, really want to bring your current SO to the wedding, because you thought that it’s a good dating venue and you’re just so cheap the couple hasn’t met him or her yet, well, just don’t. There is a different social event for that. It’s called a get-together.  Invite them to a dinner or coffee and introduce your special someone. I’m sure they will know him or her better in that kind of social setting than during their wedding, when they are so busy enjoying the moment, you know, because IT IS THEIR WEDDING.

And if you couldn’t really, really, really accept the fact that you are going to the wedding alone, despite the fact that the bride or groom was a classmate or an officemate and surely there would be other classmates or officemates invited to the event whom you could mingle with, then don’t go at all. Clearly, you have mental issues are better off not going to an event that is not yours.

The +1 Rules
Yay! Your very generous couple friends gave you a +1 (or +2 or +3) Privilege! It means that they value their relationship with you that much (or they are really thoughtful since you’d be a total stranger on the wedding because the only people you know are just, well, them. True story).

Now that you get to have your own “guest” as a guest, consider giving a gift to the couple even if they really didn’t say gifts are mandatory. It’s a sweet gesture that means you really appreciate them to have invited you and your “guest” to their wedding.

Also, it is only apt that you let the couple know who you are bringing to their wedding, that they have been preparing for all their lives (special stress on that description) because, I couldn’t emphasize more, IT IS THEIR WEDDING. Cut the “it’s a surprise” crap, please.

Now, let me give you some ideas on who you should NOT bring as your wedding date.

The Uninvited – Do you know that someone–a friend, batchmate, classmate, officemate, cousin or whoever–you and the couple (either one) know yet didn’t get an invitation? There’s a reason he or she didn’t get an invite. Take a hint. And please don’t let him or her be your +1. If the couple wants them to go to their wedding day, they would have gotten an invite, too.

The Anti-wedding Person – This is a bit self-explanatory. Just don’t bring someone who is so against weddings. Don’t let photographers capture one poor soul in the photos that the couple paid for to treasure forever. Don’t bring with you the bad vibes.

The Out-of-Place Date – Your date, your responsibility. It’s your duty to brief the +1 on what to wear, who’s who and how to behave, specially if he or she is a stranger to the couple or to everyone, for that matter. It’s also a good idea not to bring someone who couldn’t hold down alcohol that well. I haven’t experienced a ruined wedding because of a drunkard, but just to be safe, don’t bring a potential threat to the affair.

Kid/s – A wedding is considered a formal event, an affair for the grown-ups. Unless it is clearly stated (or hinted) by the couple that kids are welcome, consider that they are not. Simply because kids, however cute they are, can be obstructions to the event, specially if they are aplenty (read, more than five). Sure it’s great that the photographer caught a cute moment of them during the ceremony (kids are cute, I have no objection to that). But these same kids will get in the way of the official photographers when unsupervised, which usually happens specially if you’re part of the entourage.

In case you really don’t have any idea, most of the couples pay thousands of money for their wedding to be covered by professional photographers just because their wedding is one of the most special moments of their life together. They want it to be as perfect as possible. Let them have that.  The photographers (and all the suppliers, actually) are working their ass off to make the wedding run as smoothly as possible. Don’t let them be bothered by kids, please.

And don’t get me started with the incessant crying of babies during the ceremony. The horror!

So, unless they are part of the entourage, consider not bringing kids to the wedding specially if it’s a super formal one. Besides, kids would be bored with wedding ceremonies and receptions are mostly not kid-friendly. You would know, you’ve been a kid once.

Entourage
A wedding is not just one of the most important events in a couple’s life. It’s also a celebration of relationships, both with the couple’s family and with their friends. If you have been chosen to be part of the entourage, that means the couple considers you as someone very important to them. So it is only appropriate to return the favor by playing your part. And play it well, please. Don’t be just there for the photo ops.

If the bride is shouldering your gown, be there for the fitting. If she’s the kind that is too shy to ask for favors, go ahead and volunteer. It could be to accompany her to scout for suppliers or just to go in for a massage or a mani/pedi. A phone call or a text message to say hi and ask her about the wedding would mean the world to her. Or you can volunteer to drive for the groom in one of his wedding errands. If you know you can help out, go ahead and help.

Organizing a wedding is huge and can be very stressful. Don’t add to the bride and groom’s stress by letting them feel you’re not into their wedding 100 percent. If you think you cannot play the part really well, beg off and state your reason. If you are really in good terms with the couple, they would surely understand. It would be better to be considerate than letting them down.

A tip to the couple: consider family members and friends that you can count on to be part of your entourage (and guest list, too). Even if you could hire the best and most expensive wedding coordinators and suppliers, there is no better support than the one that is from the people who truly loves you.

After all, a wedding is all about LOVE, and you, the bride and groom, of course.

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