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Here it is again! 😀

It’s my Firsts for 2013. The better story of this project that spans a lifetime can be found over here. But in a nutshell, these are the things that I experienced for the very first time, whether good, bad or ugly.

This is the stuff life is made of. 😀

  • Painted a set, c/o Theater 151.
  • Learned a Javanese dance.
  • Performed outdoors under moonlight.
  • Had a picnic in UP.

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Photo c/o Debbie Afuang.

  • Discovered this lovely little café. It’s now a favorite haunt of mine. 😀

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This is Magnum Opus in BF Homes, Paranaque. Photo c/o Patton Lucas. 

  • Of course, that led to this…

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The first Whovian Philippines meet-up I attended, in a Clara-inspired dress. 😀 Photo c/o Regina Layug-Rosero.

  • Attended a poetry night at Mystic Brew.
  • Achievement Unlocked! Centerstage!  Did a solo variation on the CCP Main Theater stage. (Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux, female variation) It was an audition, but still. First time! 😛
  • Saw Vin Diesel for the premiere of The Fast & The Furious 6.
  • Spent my birthday on top of a ferris wheel, on the edge of a mountain.

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Sky Ranch, Tagaytay. I call this my Birthday Ferris Wheel. 😀 My hunny, of course, ever the culprit. Photo c/o Patton Lucas.

  • Accomplished the following costumes…

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Jim Lee Psylocke, completed (left). Weeping Angel (top right). Tauriel (bottom right). Photos c/o Patton Lucas, Dianne Singson, and Sionee Lagman, respectively.

  • Visited the Mind Museum.
  • Achievement Unlocked! You won’t feel a thing… Experienced my first surgery: a wisdom tooth extraction.
  • Performed in Giselle.

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Corps de ballet. Photo c/o Victor Ursabia. 

  • Contributed for Juice.ph
  • Achievement Unlocked! Volcano-ception! Climbed Taal Volcano.
  • Achievement Unlocked! Shared the spotlight! Took a bow onstage next to one of my idols, Edna Vida-Froilan, during a tribute for my uncle, Tony Fabella. 🙂
  • Beach outing with the geeks – Pundaquit and Anawangin, Zambales

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  • Achievement Unlocked! Surf’s Up! Learned how to surf!

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  • Enjoyed a staycation at Acacia Hotel.
  • Joined Outbreak Missions twice. 😀

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We were trying to be a movie poster. 😛 Photo c/o the Official Outbreak Manila Facebook page.

  • Did some online work through freelancing sites.
  • Attended the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Party!
  • Participated in a costumed fundraiser for survivors of Yolanda.

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Photo c/o Patricia Vega.

  • Rode a ro-ro!
  • Saw the purple mountains and cotton candy skies of Don Salvador.

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Photo c/o Bianca Cueva. 

  • Achievement Unlocked! I speak whale! Made some really huge friends in this family beach outing. Also, my first time in Cebu!

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  • Tried out go-karting! (I drive like a turtle.)
  • New books including 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello, the new titles in the X-Men series (UXF, AvX, All New…), Small Gods by Terry Pratchett.
  • Gave Christmas goodies to 38 random strangers.

And most importantly…

  • Achievement Unlocked! United we stand… Christmas together with the cousins again, for the first time in a loooooong while. 😀

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I thought that I’d fall short with my list this year, but it turns out there are more achievements on here than on 2012’s! And thus, I end 2013 and start 2014 feeling optimistic, happy, loved, blessed, alive, adventurous, fearless. 😀
Happy 2014, everyone!

The Problem With Tauriel

An adaptation of a well-loved fantasy novel is always a risk. Not everything that works in a book will work on the silver screen, and vice versa. Peter Jackson’s stared down that firing squad of fans before and came out with a basketful of Oscars.

For the next round of Middle-Earth hype though, Tolkienites have a new target: Tauriel. A character made just for the movies, non-existent in Tolkien’s writings. (I like to refer to her as a fictional fictional character. Or Legolas’ imaginary friend.) And here’s the clincher – a non-canonical love triangle attached to her.

After having seen the movie several times, and even dressing up as the character herself…

thdoscp_15eLegolas and Tauriel at the IMAX premiere of The Desolation of Smaug in Manila, doing our best to copy the pose. (Photo c/o Chiqui Perez, aka Bofur)

thdosrl_07The whole gang! Aren’t we awesome? 😀 (Photo c/o Ruby Llamas, craftsmith of Lord Elrond’s armor)

Here are my thoughts on the new girl in Mirkwood, Tauriel.

WARNING! LOTS OF SPOILERS! If you haven’t seen the movie, leave now… It is, most undoubtedly, a trap.

First off, Evangeline Lilly is fantastic. (I’ve loved her since Lost. *hearts*) She’s a hot, kick-ass mom, loves the outdoors and climbing trees, and corrects people’s pronunciation of “Smaug” as a Tolkienite – of course I love her. 😀 Tauriel is a new character, and her process was different from the other actors’. She had to insert her character in a puzzle that was already complete. That alone takes balls. To add to that, she knew she was going to be burned at the stake by Tolkien purists with this character; she happens to be a fan herself. But hey, if you’ve been a longtime fan of Middle-Earth and Peter Jackson gives you a call and asks you to be an elf, would you – would anyone – turn that down? 😛

Looking fierce enough to stare down the Smoke Monster.

I was very skeptical, but Tauriel’s introduction was great, everything that a modern heroin could be – slaying multiple enemies with multiple weapons, all while looking gorgeous and being sassy, and fitting right into the movie. Evangeline Lilly’s physical skills are superb and she shows that she can carry the female action hero role. There is a hint of a romantic connection with Legolas, but that part wasn’t too bad, handled with enough elven subtlety – though it is still something for Tolkienites to raise their eyebrows at.

In all honesty, Tauriel was quite formidable, up until this scene:

Legolas: Tauriel, why does the dwarf stare at you?

Tauriel: Who can say? He’s rather tall for a dwarf, don’t you think?

Uhm. What? All of a sudden, because he’s a little short to be a stormtrooper – I mean, tall for a dwarf, this badass fighter turns into a blushing schoolgirl with a crush? Really? What happened to the Captain of the Guard? Why couldn’t they have cut it at “Who can say?” and left it at that?

The following Tauriel-Kili scene is somewhat alright. They talk about stones and starlight, and although it contributes nothing to the story, it’s actually rather nice. Tauriel lost that giggling schoolgirl thing from the previous scene and came off as though she was lecturing Kili on the culture of the elves, as well as being genuinely interested in Kili’s stories. However, it’s all rather pointless and contributes nothing to the story and everything to their relationship. (Enter a jealous Legolas, scowling from above.)

So, let’s go to another scene, one of my favorites – the Barrel Scene. While the dwarves are escaping, the Mirkwood gates are ambushed by orcs, and Tauriel and Legolas lead the elves with their kick-ass moves. Kili gets wounded with a Morgul shaft by Bolg (although there are no Nazgul in sight and one has to wonder how on Middle-Earth Bolg came by a Morgul shaft). As Kili cries out in pain, Tauriel turns her head in alarm. In fact, everytime she turns her head towards the dwarves in concern, it’s because of Kili.

She then seems to have renewed hatred in orcs, as we move to her next scene where she, Legolas, and Thranduil the Fabulous are interrogating the orc they’ve caught. The orc says that the young one was killed and Tauriel lunges at him, before Thranduil tells her to stop with a flip of his hair. This leads to her running after the Company, presumably because she knows there is a greater evil and that the elves cannot just sit idly by.

This could have been a good angle to Tauriel, but if this was so, why does she react only upon seeing Kili is hurt? It’s difficult to believe that she was going after them because she cared about their quest and knew it was for the greater good. That would have been great – if they actually showed that she knew anything about it. She never even interacted with Thorin or the other dwarves. (Is there an extended scene we’re missing?) Why not have her talk to Thorin or Balin about their quest, and have her character be the one to see the importance of helping the dwarves get to Erebor? (And then Thranduil would of course say no, and she’ll go after them anyway, because she’s badass like that, and she’ll end up in Esgaroth just she’s supposed to.)

My problem with Tauriel is that the character is contradicting herself. The film establishes her as a ruthless fighter and Captain of the Guard, and then suddenly that’s all thrown away just because a beardless good-looking dwarf comes her way and stares at her? You’d think that a military leader, favored by Thranduil, wouldn’t have just abandoned her post so recklessly. She didn’t even have any scenes that showcased her authoritative position. Didn’t they want the character in the movie so that there would be a strong female presence among all the men? Why then couldn’t have Tauriel’s philosophies and beliefs be more enforced, instead of just being a product of Kili’s tall, beardless charms?

And then, there’s the last scene. Oh Valar, help me. This last scene.

So, if abandoning Mirkwood wasn’t enough… While orc-hunting in Laketown, Tauriel then ignores Legolas (her prince), leaves him to get beat up by orcs, and instead stays with Kili, who is dying from his wound.

And I have to say, I never thought I would facepalm while watching anything related to LotR, but I did. I facepalmed. And even hit my head repeatedly on my bow.

Tauriel heals Kili in a strange healing ritual, with glow-y effects that mimic the athelas scene from FotR. (Apparently athelas does that to people. Like acid.) Kili, delirious, then utters some of the cheesiest lines ever to be uttered in Middle-Earth (“Will she ever love me…? <3*”), and to wrap it all up in a bright pink bow, reaches for Tauriel’s hand, and their fingers clasp.

What in the name of Varda.

I don’t think of myself as a Middle-Earth racist, nor a Tolkien purist, but this cannot happen! The whole Tauriel and Kili thing is just wrong. It just doesn’t work AT ALL. It’s out of place in the story, almost as if the romance was added only as an afterthought, after the filming of the entire trilogy was completed. (Oh wait, was it?)

Above all else, it undermines Legolas and Gimli’s friendship, which was supposed to be the first and only one of its kind. Because this is a prequel, suddenly it looks as though Legolas-Gimli supports Tauriel-Kili, rather than the other way around. And with so much of the “emotion and feels time” invested in Tauriel and Kili, a relationship that never was nor should be, what was forgotten? Uhm, maybe the character arcs of the other 13 characters in the film? (Thorin probably deserved more of a character arc in this one, because of what happens later on in the story.)

I have no issue with Kili’s feelings towards Tauriel. Dwarves and other creatures have been known to fall in love with elves, swept off their feet by their beauty. (Gimil ❤ Galadriel) The whole thing might have even been believable if it was one-way.

The elves of Middle-Earth don’t even have a word in their vocabulary for love in the romantic sense, it just doesn’t exist for them. (So yes, elves friendzone everyone.) Tolkien’s works taught us that romantic love isn’t the only kind of love that deserves a story. Bonds of fellowship, commitment, respect for authority – these kinds of love are important as well. Hollywood has yet to realize this and it disappoints me that Peter Jackson and his team succumbed to the whole romance thing of showbiz. Not every film has to have a love story in it, and certainly not every female character has to have a love interest.

My conclusion? The romance angle destroyed Tauriel. She could have been exactly the character they wanted her to be if she just brushed off all advances, dwarf or elf, and fought instead for what she believed in, her people, and for Middle-Earth.

Thoughts? Please feel free to comment and share them with me! (The Lostie/PJ fan in me is fighting to give Tauriel a chance.)


******
PS: Yes, the title of this post was a reference to Neil Gaiman’s “The Problem of Susan.”

One cloudy afternoon, I found myself in Tagaytay. Patton and I decided to take a spontaneous trip “up south” for a weekend, after a series of stressful events. 😀

Upon reaching Tagaytay, our first stopover was at Bag of Beans for some of their famous hot chocolate. We also ordered blueberry cheesecake, and – as recommended by my Mom – their pumpkin soup, which is now my favorite pumpkin soup ever.

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But we weren’t just there for pumpkin soup. What we really wanted to do was climb Taal Volcano.

Because this trip was rather spontaneous, our next order of business was to find a place to stay for the night. After inquiring at several bed and breakfast places, we finally settled on Bali Village Hotel Resort, a little past Taal Vista Hotel. (Weird, I know. Bali Resort up on a cold mountain.) They were kind enough to give a discount (from Php 3000 to Php 2400) since we were only checking in for half a day. We booked a standard room with a queen-sized bed, TV and breakfast in the morning. The resort unfortunately doesn’t overlook the lake, so if you’re looking for a view, look elsewhere. Their hot and cold shower wasn’t working during our stay so I became an ice cube after my bath. It was alright though – I’m not at all picky when it comes to accommodations, just as long as Patton and I can sleep comfortably, we’re good. (Besides, it was a sudden trip, I was just relieved that Bali had a room available.)

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The paved walkway leading to our little cottage room thingy.

Bali was also kind enough to help us book our Taal Volcano hike. They helped us get a tour package for Php 3500, inclusive of pick-up from the resort and the boat ride. (Php 1750 per person. Pwede na.)

A tricycle picked us up at Bali’s doorstep at 10am and took us down the mountain via Talisay Road. In case you don’t know where that is, you know that little rotonda with one road leading to Manila, one to the ridge, another to deeper within the city and a final, tiny road leading to God-knows-where? You’re going to God-knows-where. It’s a rather daunting road – with lots of “warning” signs – that tightly hugs the mountainside and twists and turns as if it’s trying to spell out someone’s name in cursive. (Speeding car + this road = Final Destination.) It’s quite a scenic 30-minute ride though, especially if you love foliage and 50 shades of green.

Upon reaching the bottom, after all that spiraling down, suddenly – lake! Several groups offer boat rides right by the lakeside. Our package came from Tourister, just a few houses away from the road up the mountain. We settled our payment there and right after, made our way via boat to the volcano. (Might I add, the driver of our boat had excellent taste in music. Bon Jovi, Nirvana, Europe. So yeah, we were singing along.)

After 15-20 minutes, touchdown! We stopped over a small village area to pay for some extra fees, which amounted to P600 (P500 for the guide + P50 per person for tourist/environmental fees). I was a little annoyed that Tourister didn’t inform us about this beforehand; they said that the P3500 had no extra charges, so I assumed the tourist fees were inclusive. Anyway…

We were advised to go on horseback up the trail (an extra P500), but we insisted going on foot. We wanted to scrimp so we could eat more later, and because “I hiked up a volcano!” sounds better than “A horse carried me up a volcano!” (If Samwise carries you up a volcano though, I can’t beat that.)

Our guide’s name was Ranger, a dude apparently so used to climbing Taal, he can do it in slippers. The trail going up is pretty straight forward. (I’ve heard that if you’re feeling confident, you can opt not to hire a guide and just follow the trail.)

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It was one of those long-weekend holidays when we took the hike, so the trail was always occupied and we had lots of friendly greetings on the way up. Ranger told us to stick to the sides most of the time, to give way to the horses. We noticed that most foreigners, particularly Westerners, prefer to go on foot while Asians usually take horses.

ImageThe road up!

Hiking was quite rewarding. 😀 It’s a 4-km walk uphill – great workout for the legs and a good test of stamina. We also got to look around and enjoy the scenery when we’d get a good view or when we had to rest and have a drink. The most interesting spot on the way up was an area right on the trail with several vents and steam rising from the rocks. (Don’t worry, the way down is a lot easier.)

ImageCouple shot by the vents. 😛

If you’ll be hiking too, I’d suggest packing sports drinks for extra hydration (we packed Gatorade and extra water bottles), and wearing the most comfortable clothes you have. You’ll be sweating like you’re in a sauna. (Duh. It’s a friggin volcano. An active one too.) Don’t bring fancy expensive shoes either – the trail is 50% earth and volcanic soil, 50% horse shit. The smell of horse overpowers the smell of sulfur on the trail, and there’s no way you can avoid stepping on the poop.

When we reached the top, all fatigue was forgotten. The scenic reward waiting at the top of the trail is absolutely breathtaking. And there’s just something about hiking up a volcano that gives you an awesome sense of achievement.

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It’s a lovely spot to have an internal monologue about life, give in and purchase some overpriced but deliciously fresh buko juice, and just take in the fact that you’re staring at a lake, in a volcano, that’s in a lake. (It’s lake-ception! Where else are you going to see something like that?)

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It was a wonderful experience, one I’d gladly do again! 😀

My First Wisdom Tooth Extraction

A few days before Ballet Philippines’ much awaited performance of Giselle, I encountered an emergency. I woke up one morning with excruciating pain in my lower right cheek, which had swollen to the size of a golf ball. I could barely open my mouth, and chewing was so difficult. Judgment Day for my wisdom tooth had come.

Except I had one huge problem. It’s Giselle. I was part of the corps de ballet in Act 2. Any ballerina would know just how important the corps-work in Giselle is and how crucial it is that all dancers are present. ALL THE TIME.

Oh frak. So, what did I do? I did what anyone would do this today’s tech-driven age – I looked it up online. Surely someone out there in the big wide world must have had the same problem right? Which is what I thought, only to find out that there was nothing on the web that could help me. All related items had dancers who had time on their side and took a couple of weeks off after the surgery. Were there any dancers who had to rush recovery and had to be back in tip top shape as soon as possible?

That’s why I decided to blog about this. For the next poor ballerina/danseur, who has to panic the way I did right before a performance. (I feel for you, my friend. I really do.)

 

The Extraction

‘Twas the middle mark for rehearsals of Ballet Philippines’ Giselle. I was so determined to be present for all rehearsals and focus all my energy on the show when suddenly…

This had to happen.

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My wisdom tooth (lower, right side) decided to harbor a nasty infection that threatened to grow into something serious if I didn’t have it removed right away. (I was hamster-cheeked for a few days due to this infection. It was so painful, I couldn’t even open my mouth!)

Before the extraction could happen though, the infection had to go away. I was given antibiotics for a week to take care that. During that time I was still dancing and doing full runthrus, trying to make up for future post-extraction absences. My surgery was scheduled 5 days later and on a weekend, so that I’d have time to fully rest.

Now, I just have to say that I’m chicken shit when it comes to dentists. I was so scared for my very first extraction that I almost wanted to back out, but at the same time, I knew that having to deal with the pain from the infection would be a lot worse.

The surgery took almost 2 hours, but hats off to my Tito Raffy Borromeo, who gave me all the anesthesia I wanted! The tooth itself was out quick enough, but a tiny part of the tooth got dislodged and he even had to use an X-ray to find it.

ImageTricky bugger. See the tiny root that broke off?

To my amazement, I didn’t feel anything except some pulling, pushing, and some patting thingy on my gums. My jaw though became a little sore from having my mouth open for 2 hours, and light bruising happened near my lips. To keep myself distracted from the huge ass injections and various paraphernalia going into my mouth, I closed my eyes, played Giselle music and went through the dances in my head.

 

The Recovery

Luckily, I had 3 full days of rest. During this time, I survived on nothing but yogurt, arroz caldo, oatmeal and soft eggs. I barely felt any pain though, and it was even more painful that my family had burgers and burritos right after my surgery and I was stuck with plain rice porridge. (And my cheek was more swollen from the infection than from the surgery.)

I followed all my dentist’s instructions – saline rinses at least thrice a day, all my pain meds and antibiotics, vitamin C everyday to speed up recovery and the hot/cold compresses. My dentist also said that my blood clots quickly, good news for me since I had to get better. Really fast.

By my 4th day, I was able to sit-in and watch rehearsals. I was discouraged from moving around too much, so I only sat in a corner, took videos and notes. On my 6th day, I took some light barrework, but I was careful not to overexert myself. I was still on a soft food diet so my energy was also incredibly low. To play it safe, I also avoided forward bends and backbends because I could feel some slight tugging on my stitches. Whenever I could, I sat down and rested and packed some yogurt and chocolate pudding for extra energy.

On my 7th day, I was able to do full barre already, though I still stayed away from centerwork. I was able to do a full run of Giselle’s Act 2, although during post-run corrections and notes, there was some slight bleeding after I got a bit too excited with some running.

My 10th day fell right on the onset of production week. By this time, I was off my antibiotics and pain meds, successfully able to eat solids, and more importantly, I was back to full-time dancing. Fouettés, runs, grand jetés and all!

 

The Advice

I was lucky enough that my timing was just right. Had the surgery happened a day later, I think I might have been taken out of the show. My recovery period fell on a weekend, I was permitted to cut my academic classes, and there was an additional day when I wasn’t needed in rehearsals, giving me ample rest time.

However, should you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what I’d advise…

1) Follow the dentist’s instructions down to the letter. It’s for your own good, and you’ll be able to recover faster. That is what we want, isn’t it? So don’t forget the meds, the warm saline rinses, and hot/cold compress. Don’t drink from a straw, and avoid hard foods. And DON’T poke it with your tongue.

2) Take it easy! Don’t be in such a rush to go back to rehearsals. You may just make matters worse and you don’t want that! You are still recovering from surgery, however minor it may be. Start out with a few barre exercises and stretching, and gradually build it up. If you feel your wound throbbing with pain, that’s a signal to stop. Save the jumps and runs for at least 7 days later. (And that may be pushing it already!)

Most importantly…

3) Be honest with your choreographer/teacher. I was very thankful that the powers-that-be on my end (Nonoy Froilan, Monette Victoria, and Paul Morales) were very understanding and allowed me to miss a few days of rehearsal, despite the looming production week. I informed them as soon as I could and provided them with the dental certificate and dentist’s advice. Even though I couldn’t move, I still attended rehearsals to take note of blocking and any corrections or changes made.

If you can push the surgery to a better date then good! But if not, let your superiors know about the problem, make a choice, be accountable for yourself and just be ready to face the consequences.

One of the main reasons I love living in the South, particularly in BF, is the food. Sure, just about every restaurant up north has a branch somewhere here, but there are also fantastic little “holes-in-the-wall” that have noms you’ll end up dreaming about for days. (I speak from experience here.) I’m going to share some of the savory, Southern treasures Patton and I found recently. 😀

PS: Sorry no pictures. 😦 I don’t usually take pictures of my food, despite current trends. Especially when said dish is really yummy, I just go straight to eating it. Maybe for my next food post!

Mystic Brew’s Blue Raspberry Cream Slush

The moment I saw the picture I already wanted to have it. Basically because it was a bright, baby blue color, and blue things make very promising food choices. Creamy, milky, blue raspberry-y goodness! But wait, there’s more! Look at the other flavors! 😀 (Click it!)
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=386029981509618&set=a.253207171458567.51647.251429078303043&type=1&theater

Would it be too much if I drank all five cream slushes at the same time?

Price: P90

Mystic Brew is located in BF Resort Village, Capitoline Hills St.

Don Limone’s Mediterranean Rice

Not sure if that’s the name of the dish, but I think it’s the only rice dish there. Now, I thought I tried Meditarranean rice before in other restaurants and it’s not something I usually crave for. But oh my Gallifrey, it was DELICIOUS! I don’t know what it was – Saffron? Myrrh? Frankincense? – but they had herbs and flavors in there that I’ve never even tasted before!

Since we ordered a full meal platter (it was Mother’s Day), the rice also came with lamb on top. Soft, wonderfully cooked lamb that complimented every bit of the rice it came with. And I don’t even like lamb!

And for dessert, the Don Limone specialties are their cheesecakes, so make sure to try a slice too. They’ve got quite a selection with, again, flavors I’ve never tasted before, like fig liquor and pistachio cheesecake, peach and piña sangria cheesecake, apple pie cheesecake, and a whole lot more. (Seriously, who comes up with those combinations?)

Price: P1,500+ for the platter with a free Mother’s Day cheesecake. Can’t remember the price for the a la carte, sorry!

Don Limone is a few steps away from the intersection of Aguirre Ave. and De La Rama St. in BF Homes Parañaque.

*Going to Don Limone? They don’t accept walk-ins so make sure to reserve your table ahead of time. 🙂

Larcy’s Choco Chip Cupcake

This place is Madam Puddifoot’s brought to life! (Reference to Harry Potter, if you didn’t catch it.) It’s like someone squeezed out the essence of a Valentine card and used it as wallpaper to decorate the café – in a good way!

I’ve tried a handful of the cupcakes, including their Bananutella (another yummy one) and Pink Velvet (too cute to eat!), but my personal favorite is their Choco Chip Cupcake. It looks and tastes more cookie than cupcake, like someone made a cookie in a cupcake baking cup. 😀

Price: P55

Larcy’s can be found along Aguirre Ave., just after the intersection of Aguirre Ave. and De La Rama St. in BF Homes Parañaque.

Crazy Katsu’s Crazy Katsu

I mean Chicken Katsu. All their katsus! I’ve never really been into katsu, but a friend gave a recommendation I couldn’t refuse. This isn’t exclusively south though, Crazy Katsu has a well-loved branch in UP Village. (Not sure if there are others. Please let me know!)

I had their chicken katsu, a yummy stomach-filling meal with teriyaki sauce and loads of peppers! Might be a tad spicy for those who don’t like the tang. But spicy food is my forte and that’s why I love this katsu. ^_^

Price: P140-160

Crazy Katsu, just like Larcy’s and Don Limone, can be found along Aguirre Ave. in BF Homes Parañaque, right across popular drinking spots Central and Laiya.

Magnum Opus’ Monte Cristo

“I got cheese, it’s got ham, it’s got cherry jam!” says Jonathan Choi, head bean at Magnum Opus. 😀 And that’s basically what the Monte Cristo is – a light, fluffy ham and cheese sandwich topped with cherry jam. (This cherry jam is magical. I couldn’t get enough of it!) Add a cup of MO’s Hot Belgian alongside it and it can’t get any better than that!

Oh wait, yes it can – did you know this café has a TARDIS? ;D

Price: P190

Magnum Opus is located at the intersection of Aguirre Ave. and Elizalde St. in BF Homes Parañaque.  Sometimes. It travels through space and time.

It’s Been Oh-so-quiet…

I’m alive! 😀
I know I haven’t been writing as much as I… Well, I haven’t been writing at all. And no, I don’t have an original excuse for it, so here’s a barrage of the usual: I got busy – something came up – I didn’t have time – I was traveling with the Doctor –  I was marathoning Sherlock –  I was playing The Secret World – my dog ate it.

Since we had a month off this summer, I had time to put together some thoughts and experiences I wanted to write about. (Man, when I’m not dancing, my head gets really really noisy.)

I just hope I can be consistent once again!

Cheers!

First Experiences for 2012

I really only have one New Year’s resolution, one that I’ve been keeping the past few years – experience something new at least once a month. It makes my bucket list just a little bit shorter every year and also gives me a warm, triumphant sense of accomplishment as the year comes to a close. Particularly big, meaningful or even just really cool ones I’ve highlighted in “Achievements”. 😀

And as I did last year, I’m going to share just how awesome my year was! 🙂

  • Nerf Apocalypse. Very epic. (Photo from one of these guys, can’t remember who took it. :P)

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  • Performed in a show with purely Renaissance and Baroque music and dance
  • Zambales Geography 1 Camp
  • Colored my hair. By the end of the year, I became a redhead.
  • Attended Sipat Lawin’s Battalia Royale
  • Achievement Unlocked: Wanderlust! Took my very first trip abroad! 😀 To Singapore!

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  • Spent an entire day geeking out at Universal Studios
  • Passed the Intermediate RAD Exam with Distinction
  • Ran a marathon – and even better – one with zombies! 😀

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  • Tried poi spinning and hooping
  • Did an on-camera shoot thingy for the Nido Discovery Center
  • Crafted a makeshift katana for Psylocke
  • Enjoyed a romantic birthday getaway at Vieux Chalet
  • Watched an Indian cultural show at the Singapore Embassy
  • Got an awesome cake for Patton’s birthday 😀 (facehugger + cake = cakehugger)

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  • Saw the Smashing Pumpkins live!
  • Southron Gaming Nights: Last Night On Earth, Betrayal, Balderdash and more!
  • Attended a dance workshop with Hollywood choreographers at Airdance
  • Went to the John Williams tribute concert by the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra at Meralco Theater
  • Visited Intramuros
  • Visited the National Museum (This actually isn’t a first, but when I last went there, I was too young to fully appreciate it.)
  • New Games: Portal 2, Diablo 3, The Secret World, Assassin’s Creed 3
  • Achievement Unlocked: And You Have My Bow! Tried Archery! ^_^

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  • Took some classes at Barre 3 (a mix of pilates, yoga, ballet)
  • Interviewed artist Kent Williams for Fully Booked

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  • Saw a Flamenco performance (EnDanza courtesy of Instituto Cervantes)
  • Performed at the Convergys christmas party… And learned a valuable lesson about “commercial dancing”
  • New books including The Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger, A Leg To Stand On by Oliver Sacks, and the Fables comics
  • And last but certainly not the least… Got to watch The Hobbit in HFR 3D and in costume! 😀 (Photo c/o Casey Copengco)

Image2012 was a year of fun, learned lessons, important foundations, and unexpected journeys. I wonder what 2013 has in store? Should be exciting, don’t you think? 🙂

For my nth birthday this year, Patton took me to Vieux Chalet, a lovely  Swiss-styled restaurant nestled on the slopes of the mountains of Antipolo. It gives a beautiful view of the Manila skyline, from Eastwood to the edges of Makati and the Fort.

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 Unfortunately don’t have any good pictures of the outside. 😦 Sorry!

The establishment is the home of the Hassig family, who opened their doors and turned it into a restaurant  in 1984.

The St. Moritz Inn, a joint-inn a few steps away from the restaurant and owned by the same family, topped off the escape from the city an overnight package. The inn has 3 rooms fully airconditioned rooms, a swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna, and a massage area – fully equipped for just-out-of-town R&R.

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 The St. Moritz Inn, from the doorway of Vieux Chalet.

The 3 rooms at the inn are named after the Haggis children, Florence, Olivier, and Katharina. We stayed at the Olivier, a sizable room for two with a queen-sized bed, couch area, TV and DVD player and bathroom. (I didn’t get to see how the other rooms looked like, but they probably have the same layout, except that the Florence room has a canopy thingy.)

After settling into our room, I decided I wanted to get a headstart on the food. Vieux Chalet offered us welcome drinks, a cool and soothing lemongrass concoction to start off our weekend escape. We ordered their Swiss Platter for our merienda: 3 platefuls of their homemade ham, bacon, Swiss cheese, fresh tomatoes, smoked salmon/sardines (your choice), liver pate made from their very own special recipe, and hard-boiled eggs. Their liver pate was deliciously spicy without being overwhelming and their stone-cooked ham was just about the juiciest I’ve ever had. We also had their Swiss Quark cake, an authentic Swiss cheesecake served with a fruit paste topping.

ImageVieux Chalet’s Swiss platter. Good for 2 and delicious. *drool*

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 The Swiss Quark cake. Light and lovely!

I was impressed with how courteous and well-trained their whole staff was, on call every time and attentive to details. Upon checking in, they asked us whether we’d like our complimentary meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and what our orders would be so they could get ready beforehand. Their manager, Rico, was very welcoming and chatted us up frequently, making sure everything was to our liking.

Our getaway package included complimentary use of the jacuzzi (which I thoroughly enjoyed and made a bubble bath out of) and sauna, as well as a whole body massage given by blind therapists.

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A warm bubble bath after sauna time. 🙂

And my favorite part of my birthday: our romantic dinner overlooking the city. To my surprise and girly delight, our reserved table was candlelit and covered in rose petals all the way down to the floor, topped with a birthday card from Vieux Chalet. And yes, I did blush in spite of myself and wore a smile big enough to make the Joker shut up. 😀

Image My birthday card from the Vieux Chalet staff! It reads: Hope your special day brings you all your heart desires! Here’s wishing You a day full of pleasant surprises! Happy Birthday! Yours truly, the Vieux Chalet staff

For starters, we were served a creamy soup (I can’t remember what it was!) and fresh garden salad with Swiss cheese.

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I remember that this soup had cashews… Argh, still can’t remember what it was called. It was really good!

Image Our fresh garden salad. Mmm… Arugula. 😛

We chose their Beef Fillet Mignon for our main course, served with fresh veggies and potato hash. I highly recommend this dish for anyone drops by Vieux Chalet for dinner or lunch – one of the best I’ve tasted! I’ll be dreaming about their fillet mignon’s gravy for days to come.

Image Again, gravy was FANTASTIC. I’m getting hungry with the memory of it as I write this.

My affair with the fillet mignon was interrupted however by a surprise birthday song and dance from the Vieux Chalet staff, complete with a surprise birthday dessert – a Swiss chocolate cake topped with their chocolate custard and a cherry! 😀

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 The Vieux Chalet staff singing and dancing (yes, with choreography) my birthday song. 😀

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 I was too happy to take the picture right-side up. 😛

We had a second dessert too which came with our set meal, a carrot walnut cupcake topped with butternut ice cream. I don’t think I need to say that both were very delicious. 😀

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 Two desserts. Yes, I finished them both. 😀

The next day, we decided to have breakfast before packing up and heading back to the city. We chose their brunch meal for two, which included eggs, tomatoes, their special fruit jam, Swiss cheese, stone cooked ham and bacon, and homemade bread with fresh orange juice and brewed coffee. (This brunch kept me full the entire day. Yum.)

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 A brunch fit for a hobbit!

Upon our checkout, Vieux Chalet presented us with a departure gift – a jar of their homemade fruit jam! We also grabbed some last minute drinks (lemongrass) before finally leaving, which they were kind enough to give free of charge.

I’d say this is one of the best restaurants I’ve been to. It’s not the easiest place to get to, but the food, ambience, and overall experience are definitely worth the effort. It was one of the most memorable dinners I’ve had, thanks to the Vieux Chalet management and staff, and of course the main culprit, my hunny Patton Lucas. ❤

Visit Vieux Chalet’s website at http://www.vieuxchaletswissrestaurant.com/

 “I’m a Dance Major.”
“Dance?? There is such a course?? What do you study there?”

I’ve had one too many conversations that take this path, so I decided to write something about this little known course. Not a lot of people know exactly what being a student of Dance means. Moreover, not a lot of people know that Manila is fortunate enough to have (currently) two schools that offer Dance as a tertiary-level course, the University of the Philippines Diliman and De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde.

UP’s Dance Program, the older of the two, falls under the UP College of Music. Aspiring students do not need to take the UPCAT, but they are required to take the College’s Music Theory Exam and prepare for a dance audition. The dance audition expects at least 2 years of formal classical ballet training. A contemporary dance portion is also included, as well as an interview with the professors of the department. UP Dance Majors may choose to join the UP Dance Company, currently one of the most active local contemporary dance groups, or other dance companies. Former and current students have managed their studies while dancing with Ballet Philippines, Airdance, Ballet Manila, Philippine Ballet Theater, and even hip-hop groups.

To apply for CSB’s Bachelor in Performing Arts, one must first take and pass Benilde’s entrance exam. As Benilde’s Dance Program is under consortium agreement with Ballet Philippines, there is a scholarship option available for the dancers and scholars of Ballet Philippines, wherein almost all tuition fees are waived. CSB’s Dance Program was originally established so that BP dancers, with their hectic schedules and non-stop rehearsals, could still get their college diplomas. Of course, CSB Dance Major applicants must also audition with Ballet Philippines when applying for the BP scholarship and upon passing, will be required to take classes and perform with the company.

On a side note, the Office of Culture and Arts Scholarship of CSB is also dancer-friendly, offering students an opportunity to join St. Benilde’s Romançon Dance Company. Students under this scholarship however, do not need to major in Dance. They are encouraged to take up other courses in the college.

For both UP and CSB Dance programs, subjects include Dance History, Pedagogy, Anatomy, Dance Composition, Folk Dance, Dance and Society, Classical and Contemporary Technique, and Stage and Dance Production. UP takes the more theoretical approach in teaching dance and includes many music subjects – like Music Theory and Music Literature – in their curriculum. CSB has required institutional courses as well, such as learning about the history of La Salle. There are additional subjects mandatory to the students of each school, such as a required number of units for General Education subjects and meeting each school’s standards. Both UP and CSB dance courses culminate in a recital or dance showcase, wherein the student will be choreographing, conceptualizing, and directing an entire show, as a requirement for graduation.

Dance isn’t a normal college course. In many ways, it’s a lot more challenging. As previously mentioned, most students perform or are encouraged to perform with a dance company outside of their studies. (It’s like having a part-time job, except one that’s physically exhausting.) These rehearsal hours often extend late into the night, around 9pm or even 10pm, leaving little study time and even littler free time. And of course, when performances come around, students must excuse themselves from their classes and catch up with missed lessons, exams, or projects.

CSB Dance Majors are given the opportunity to work with Ballet Philippines, experiencing the life of a professional dancer first-hand. The school is also located a few minutes away from the CCP, an advantage for students ready to dance well into the weeknights. The program is performance-heavy, encouraging the onstage life of a full-time dancer and instilling the discipline of good theater habits right from the beginning of freshman year.

UP Dance Program also exposes its students to performances, but uses a more theoretical approach in teaching dance, such as applying eurythmics in movement. Dancers explore more of contemporary and experimental dance alongside classical and modern. Studies can be more challenging, as UP is still UP, and students will be expected to keep the university’s academic standards. Students may have to take subjects seemingly unrelated to Dance, such as Math, Anthropology, or Philippine Ensemble Music.

Both college programs allow students the opportunity to perform with semi-professional to professional dance companies, exposure to different teachers and dance environments, and development as an artist. Alumni from the UP Dance Program include former BP dancers Judell de Guzman-Sicam and Brizel Maribbay, dance critics Joelle Jacinto and Donna Miranda, Airdance’s Ava Villanueva and Elena Laniog, and Yasnina Jumalon, daughter of the late Noordin Jumalon. CSB’s Dance graduates include famous Ballet Philippines names like Georgette Sanchez, Camille Ordinario-Joson, Cristine Crame, and current award-winning principal dancers Candice Adea and Jean Marc Cordero.

Benilde’s Bachelor in Performing Arts in Dance takes 12 semesters or 4 years to complete, while UP’s Dance Program first passes through a 4-year Diploma in Creative and Performing Arts before students undergo an additional year to complete their Bachelor’s Degree in Music. (A total of 5 years, given everything proceeds without any delays.)

Sounds interesting? I hope so! The world could use more dance scholars. For more information, you may contact the following:

UP College of Music
(02) 981 8500 loc. 2629 & 2639
http://music.upd.edu.ph/
 
De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (Admissions)
524-8233
http://www.dls-csb.edu.ph/ or email admissions@dls-csb.edu.
 

PS: I wrote this in order to better inform those who are curious about the programs. This is still a personal blog and opinions are my own. Bias is not intentional, although on my part, inevitable. 😛 Thanks for reading! 🙂

I attended WifiBody’s Conference on contemporary dance last July 5-6 at the UP Dance Studio. There were many interesting topics, such as the lives of the Filipino Disneyland dancers, the interaction of folk dance and contemporary dance in and outside of Manila, and the nature of choreography.

For this entry, I decided to reflect on Sir Jose Jay Cruz’s talk on “The Journey of Contemporary Corporeality”.

Sir Jay started his talk with a short video explaining Schrödinger’s Cat, using layman’s terms and cute stick-figure drawings. A cat in a box with an instrument of death, such as a poisonous gas, might be both dead and alive… You should be familiar with it already. The thought experiment has been popularized in various media forms though I’ve never heard it being applied to dance.

Sir Jay also introduced his project, entitled Contemporary Corporeality: The Body As Facilitator, wherein he collaborates with a musician and a graphic designer, with the vision of capturing “the necessity of the human consciousness to see the world as a big picture as a requirement to understand the complexity of the reality that we are in.” (A lot of big words, and even bigger ones followed!) Although rushed during his talk, he was able to share briefly the concepts that his venture explores. These included quantum mechanics, faster-than-light speeds, and theoretical physics.

Okay, this is all very well and good but how could something like this relate to dance?

First, the talk made me think about how we experience art. Betty Redfern, author of Dance, Art and Aesthetics, wrote “… there cannot be a private language, so art is essentially public. What is art cannot be determined according to personal whim or even the serious reflective judgement of a single individual.” Can we consider ideas “art” then, if we do not show or share them? Is this where Schrödinger’s Cat comes in, relating to art neither being here nor there until it is observed or experienced by another?

Maybe in order for us to understand the “corporeality” of dance, we must first turn to its opposite – the immaterial things that surround a dancer’s everyday life in the new millennium: the INcorporeality of today. The world changes too fast for our reality to be completely stable, most often it just breezes by. Theories are proposed, factualized and disproven in the span of years, and in the near future, it may even be faster. The pace of the human race has quickened exponentially, and our day-to-day reality as dancers and as people is borderline intangible.

Incorporeality also describes the medium through which our creative ideas (and in fact, almost all information) is shared: cyberspace. The stage of contemporary dancers is shifting from the CCP Main Theater stage and beneath lofty proscenium arches to that of YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and the like. That’s not to say theater is dead – of course not. Art is just evolving, and artists must adapt to these new cyber environments.

Sir Jay also talked about new skills that the new generation must acquire in order to adapt to today’s reality, citing something about faster-than-light speeds and quantum mechanics. What immediately entered my head was the FTL speed at which ideas travel through the collective consciousness – the sharing of information all over the world via the internet and yet another example of our contemporary incorporeality. This might be best simplified with the feeling of “someone else stealing my idea.” Have you ever experienced coming up with an idea but then realized it was already done or is being done by someone somewhere else in the world? (Of course, I think all artists have that fear.) These new skills mean being braver and more willing to take risks and leaps of faith, don’t they?

So… Where then is our corporeality? Is it in us, in our dancing? Is it the “ground” we hit after taking an artistic leap of faith? Is our art or our passion the anchor in the flurry of everyday life? It must be, right? Otherwise, nothing is real. But reality is perceived anyway, isn’t it?

The talk started out with the question “What is contemporary corporeality?” Personally, I didn’t find my answer in Sir Jay’s talk. It might have been because he didn’t have enough time to elaborate on his ideas properly, but maybe it was also because that wasn’t the point. It certainly got me asking myself some questions (like the many ones I’ve shared) and, as part of this generation of contemporary dance today, maybe that was more important. Perhaps he wanted to stimulate us – the fresh batch of dancers he addressed his talk to – to make our own answers, our own dance philosophy.

A final note on what I gleaned from Sir Jay’s talk… Let’s go back to Schrödinger’s Cat. From the science perspective, this dichotomy is controlled by physical laws that we have no control over. However, the beauty of art is that we get to choose the outcome. What we perceive is up to us. As we observe art and create art, we mold its reality through our experiences – what we feel, what we see or hear… Which is also why, as Sir Jay put it, we must start thinking of the bigger picture.

Aside from being braver and more fearless in sharing our ideas, we cannot afford to be naïve or selfish or close-minded with dance, because when we do, we end up poisoning the fields of our creativity. We need to speak up and share and learn more willingly, especially now when contemporary dance is so volatile and susceptible to the public’s perception – a particularly important fact for the generation of young dancers today.

After all, aren’t we the ones that get to decide whether our “contemporary cat” lives or dies?

 

 
Schrodinger’s LOLcat iz from dis pleyz: http://www.joeydevilla.com/2007/06/01/schrodingers-lolcat-updated/