My sis’ birthday was in July. But due to some reason, I didn’t get to post the birthday vid I made for her here in my blog on that day itself (I presented it in my FB status instead and she liked it).  So even if it is late, I am still publishing even if it is a tad too late.

And so here it is… it has a bit of a history lesson, too, btw. And I chose the song that Joni Mitchell was singing on this vid because she sang it live (as recorded) in Chicago on the very day that my sis was born (which was quite a number of years ago – the exact year of which I shouldn’t mention anymore because I don’t want to drive it in any further).  The song is “Both Sides Now” which is apt for her since she had her share of ups and downs, and in a way, has learned a lot of good lessons along the way. Good for you, Sis!

Disclaimer: I do not own nor am I claiming the rights to the song or some of the pictures used in this vid. Thanks.

Both Sides Now
(Words and Music by Joni Mitchell)
Rows and flows of angel hair,
And ice cream castles in the air,
And feather canyons everywhere,
I’ve looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the Sun,
They rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done,
But clouds got in my way.
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow,
It’s cloud illusions I recall,
I really don’t know clouds, at all.
Moons and Junes and ferris wheels,
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real.
I’ve looked at love that way.
But now it’s just another show,
You leave ’em laughing when you go.
And if you care, don’t let them know.
Don’t give yourself away.
I’ve looked at love from both sides now,
From give and take, and still somehow,
It’s love’s illusions I recall.
I really don’t know love, at all.
Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say I love you right out loud.
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds,
I’ve looked at life that way.
But now old friends are acting strange.
They shake their heads; they say I’ve changed.
Well something’s lost but something’s gained,
In living every day.
I’ve looked at life from both sides now,
From win and lose and still somehow,
It’s life’s illusions I recall.
I really don’t know life, at all.

Whew! Greetings have all been sent, the Christmas rush is through, gifts have been opened, just need to clean up the mess and deal with the leftovers from last night’s feast… then, finally, I can catch up on… well, things that I’ve missed and have been missing out on.

It was a rainy Christmas, much to my slight surprise. Found it strange for I don’t think it has ever rained during the holidays, well, at least in my lifetime…  And these December days are really cold compared to the previous years–finding it hard to wake up in the morning, you just want to sleep up to noontime which of course something I can indulge in during this holiday break… yay!

Here are a few pics from our last night’s Christmas Noche Buena feast:

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Paella and Pinoy Barbeque. Took a shot at the paella again, this time with garnishing on top, looking more presentable than the last time.

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Been wishing for a fondue set for years, now finally got around to getting one.  Baptized it with chocolate fondue which ended up sweet but a tad bitter…

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Paw and I attempted to make churros for the first time… but they ended up in little crazy shapes…haha! Oh, well… better luck next time! I also didn’t expect how messy it was going to be…we all had chocolate-stained shirts to prove it!

stuff-225Bring out the wine!: Doc, Sis, Lolo Dad, Pchie, Paw and Levic were present for our quiet simple Noche Buena.  By the time, the cooking was done, we were all famished.  I was so tired I couldn’t see stuff-227straight.

Levic enjoying his barbecue (right)…

We thanked God for the blessings we received this year (even if it had been a roller-coaster year-we all had our share of ups and downs but hey-we’re still here, right?) and wished for a better and wonderful year ahead as well. Merry Christmas!

(I wasn’t able to upload pictures from my cellphone camera for the past weeks.  Something went wrong with my computer lately due to viruses I got from the Internet. But now it is semi-fixed and so I have a backlog of 200 pics waiting to be uploaded and some are worthy to be posted.  So you will see a lot of pictures in my upcoming posts for the next few weeks… starting with the following pix from two weekends ago…)

Spent the weekend of Dec. 12 to 14 mostly in Marikina because it was the birthday of Levic.  I’ll just let the pictures do the talking:

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Sushiiiiii(!) which was a gift from a relative, pusit, pasta, barbeque, and other yummy dishes served for the party prepared by Sis.  Happy Birthday, Levic!

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It was the year’s last biggest full moon that hovered over us that weekend according to the news.  Took a pic of it but it was partly hidden by clouds.

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Enjoying one of my favorite comfort foods: ice cream and barquillos (crunchy sweet wafer rolls) leftovers from the previous night’s party on the rooftop slash balcony of the house.

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Checking out the Marikina River scene and Bayani Fernando and his missus’ attempt to make it look great…Hmm, still smelly and it’s no Disneyland but at least it’s clean, attracting some crowds, and the residents seem to like it.

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Tis the season to go bargain-hunting!: Paw and I checking out the ukay-ukay strip along the river’s banks.  She got some great bargains on sandals and blouses (like 2 for P180)–not bad!

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From low-end ukayan to high end ukayan (below): Passed by San Juan to check out an indoor bazaar in front of the Pinaglabanan shrine (above pic)

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The San Juan ukay-ukay was selling merchandise that were branded factory overruns which include Chanel shirts, Vera Wang, etc. If you still want to check it out, it’s at the second floor of the building in front of the said shrine.

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Every weekend for this month, fireworks light up the Marikina skyline at night…

So goes the weekend…

Undas is a major holiday that we observed as the “All Souls Day” (Nov. 2) in the Philippines.  It is celebrated along with All Saints Day (Nov. 1).  It is a Catholic tradition that was adapted from ancient Mexican rituals of honoring departed loved ones (um, I think).

During the Undas, families and clans reunite.  They go home to their respective hometowns or regions, clean and repaint the tombs of deceased relatives, and cook up a simple feast (usually kakanin or glutinous rice delicacies like biko) to take with them to the cemeteries. Families would have picnics by the graves or tombs, offer flowers or food, play cards, camp out, eat and pray.  On the downside, there would be lots of traffic jams along major highways and naturally, plenty of headaches and occasional petty traffic spats and squabbles.

Offering flowers, lit candles and prayers for Mommy (Oct. 30, 2008):


Picnicking on the memorial park grounds at night and watching out for shooting stars together with Sis, Doc, Pchi, Paw, Levic, and Lolo Daddy.

Traditional holiday food: Biko prepared at home, made from glutinous rice, sugar, and coconut milk:

I remember when we go to the memorial park way back in the 80’s to visit mama.  There were a lot more people back then.  There was generally a festive atmosphere at that time.  There were food stalls all around and many families would stay for hours and hours or set up huge tents on the grass so that they could camp overnight.

Now, I have noticed that the number of people visiting the park during the Undas have dwindled down considerably during the past years.  Or that if they do visit, they will stay for a short time, and then leave.  Or some visit ahead of time (like what we did) so as to avoid the traffic hassles and headaches.  Times are changing, I guess but I am pretty sure the tradition will continue to live on…  After all Undas is all about remembering.  As an Irish blessing goes: “May you never forget what is worth remembering nor ever remember what is best forgotten.” Nobody wants to be forgotten so let’s hope we all live a life that is worth remembering… Have a Safe and Happy Undas, Pinoys!

Eversince the 90’s, I have heard of a waterspa and other wellness spa of such sorts that, alas, only catered to A-list celebrities and rich people.  I thought i would never partake of such a luxurious experience–cascading water massaging your body, soothing tired and aching muscles and relieving anxiety and stress

So I was excited to finally find out about Ace Waterspa through some people.  It also helped that I saw it featured on a show on qtv11.  I looked it up, checked their website, found the price affordable and made a date for a relaxing Sunday.

The ladies at the front desk gave us our locker keys (left) which we have to wear around our wrists the whole time as well as red swimming caps (a must–to avoid having falling hair from clogging up the pools’ drainpipes).

I rented an extra towel (forgot to bring one more-so dumb of me!) which costs 100 pesos. I also had to rent swimming trunks for Levic who could not find his at home (P150–oh, well!).  I was hesitant to let Levic go inside the men’s locker and dressing room unaccompanied but I felt assured knowing that there were male attendants inside who would keep an eye on him.

The spacious locker room inside the female dressing area (Right).

They don’t allow pictures to be taken inside the pool area (so I had to take some stolen shots–hehe, well you know me!–as if that would stop me):

The Spa Pool

The Lap Pool

Levic pausing to catch his breath after swimming in the lap pool.

It was wonderful! Levic enjoyed the Waterfalls Massage and Lazy River that flows around the pool while hanging on to a floater.  I thoroughly relished all the spa pool facilities.  My personal favorites: I basked under the invigorating Rainfall Acupuncture (water falling like rain but ‘pin-pricking’ your body as you lie flat out on a smooth tiled slab), Jet Chair with Foot Massage (water massaging the soles of your feet, thighs, shoulders and back), and the Hydro Massage Chairs (bubbly, jacuzzi-like water targeting your lower torso and neck as you lie on a chair).  There were also the herbal hot baths–mint, jasmine and lavender (I only tried the Mint pool which was only 36 degrees warm) as well as the lap pool but not the sauna rooms (for some reason i still feel uncomfortable with idea of ‘bathing’ in wet steam).

We were only allowed four hours or else we will be charged for the extra hours if we exceeded.  There were free shampoo and liquid soap (theirs was alright but I still prefer to use my own), hair gel, ear buds and free use of their hair dryer.  I was also provided with plastic bags to place in our wet items, much to my relief!

Plus, they gave us free hot soup.  Chinese Corn Soup served hot at their restaurant.

The whole waterspa experience was like magic. The endorphins were released and flowing in me, (plus with the help of the hot, soothing soup) feeling relax and slightly elated and light.

Since I was in such a good mood, I was also compelled to try their Shrimp Popcorn with mango mayo dip and a dash of spring onions which was juicy and delicious.

Levic enjoying the food…

Pero kapag nagtitipid ka, beware! Dahil alam nilang nasa good mood ka, baka mapabili ka sa kanilang restaurant ng di mo inaasahan. I had no regrets though. Their food tasted good.  All in all, Ace Waterspa would make an ideal treat for hard-working people who would like to reward themselves from time to time.  Worth your 550 pesos? Yes!  Hmmm, but is it just me or the endorphins talking?

We took a restful short breather last Aug. 23 to 25 which happened to be a long rainy weekend.  I joined up with Doc, Sis and kids for an overnight stay in Tagaytay where the weather was damp and cool.

There are many things and sights to see in Tagaytay, much of it are already well-known by most Luzon dwellers so I don’t need to talk about them here.  But there’s only one place we visited (and may revisit) and it is the ‘bulalohan’ eateries at Mahogany Public Market (right).

There were many eateries to choose from along this foodstrip.  Sis wanted the one which had the most customers (having more customers means it might be the best) but naturally, there were no available seats anymore.  So we chose “Betchay’s House of Food” which was great, too.

The Bulalohan Foodstrip alfresco-style: it’s like dying and going to Bulalo heaven.

Bulalo is a dish of boiled bone-in beef shank with vegetables.  The bone marrow is the bulalo itself and it is the soul or core of this dish (pun intended).  It is not an ideal dish for those suffering from high levels of cholesterol so it should be something (as do most  delicious foods, I guess—sigh!) that you only get to enjoy once in a while.

Bulalo is what we came here for and that’s what we got:

Perfectly hot for a rainy cold weekend: They served bulalo in a very presentable transparent serving soup bowl heated up by a small flame underneath (wow, where can I get one of these?).  This brilliant idea serves to keep the fat in the broth from congealing into greasy soup which pretty much ruins anybody’s appetite.

….We enjoyed tawilis (small sardines) –fried to a crisp (left).  Condiments recommended for bulalo (right): patis (fish sauce) and calamansi juice with hot sili.

(Right) Get as many as you want! They also serve banana señoritas…for free!

The ‘bulalohan’ experience was worth it and really affordable. There is a public restroom near the market but it would be better to do your ‘business’ somewhere else before coming here.  Betchay’s food attendants were helpful and courteous.  The utensils looked clean enough.  They might need to improve on the quality of their tables and chairs for they tend to wobble while one chair I noticed was missing a leg (the ground is also a bit uneven).  Also being an open marketplace, the place has  some souvenir vendors walking by. So expect many of them to strut food and souvenir items and to ask you to buy from them while you’re sipping your broth.  It comes with the territory, I guess.  You can buy from them or politely refuse…after all, we all have to earn a living.

The next day, we went back to buy beef from the market itself.  A kilo of freshly butchered beef costs just a hundred and fifty pesos. And when I mean fresh meat—I mean meat that was still twitching while hanging from their hooks (pardon me for the visual imagery…I mean, I know! While  i was watching it, I don’t know whether to be appalled or be fascinated by it)!

We bought enough meat to last us for several days.  Beef chunks and ribs for Dad’s nilagang baka (a favorite of mine), and sirloin bought at low prices compared to the ones in the supermarket.  Like what our dads and lolos used to say…“Ayos na ang butu-buto!” Nuff said!

One day, at mcdo…

I saw what appeared to be a doppelganger lady or my Sis’ probable twin! I secretly took pictures of her look-alike…

In fairness, the doppelganger lady looks like a movie star (oo na, shempre, ikaw rin, Sis!).  I did not only say that to appease doppelganger lady in case she gets riled up if she ever finds these unauthorized pics of herself posted on the web (just think of it as papparazzi kunwari, k?), and also for calling her ‘doppelganger lady.’  nah, i ain’t scared of that.  i’m sure she’s a nice lady.  Maybe invite her for tea and for some chit-chat, too.

Kamukha mo siya! Mas kamukha mo pa nga siya kesa sa akin…Siya ang totoo mong kapatid–kakambal mo pa ata!” I cajoled and teased Sis when we met up one weekend. I showed her the candid shots of her mystery twin.  “Oo nga…ako nga yan! Haha!” she exclaimed.  Everyone agreed when they saw the photos from my cell’s cam.

To show you the uncanny resemblance, here is Sis during Paula’s birthday 2 weeks ago (it’s the only one i could find–a blurry shot of her profile that matches my equally blurry shots of the doppelganger lady):

And here is the doppelganger lady (i didn’t eavesdrop on her conversation—I’m not THAT nosy; i just used my imagination just to make this post a little more interesting.)   😉

“Napanood mo ba kagabi?”

Ang cute ni Gabby no?”

“Ay, oo, mare…sinabi mo! Dapat piliin ni Claudine si…”

“Hay, ang init sa labas…libre mo naman ako ng mcflurry o.”

What do you think…kamukha ba? 🙂