Saturday, May 31, 2008

Advance Celebration for Caitlin @ Tagaytay Highlands

Since our Boracay trip did not push through due to bad weather, we decided to celebrate Caitlin's birthday in advance this weekend. Cols booked us at Tagaytay Highlands' Pinecrest condotel care of Auntie Rosie Go's membership. We left Manila around 10:30am. Ethan, Yaya Rose and our household helper, Sheryl, came along for the trip. A large section of South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) was under construction. So it wasn't smooth driving all the way.

We reached Tagaytay's Josephine restaurant (with a quick stopover at Rowena's for some tarts) around 1pm, I think. We ordered their grilled seafood platter and fried chicken. Early on into the meal, my false crown tooth fell off again! This is the 2nd time in a week! And since I'm out of the city with no dentist tomorrow (Sunday), I have to bear with a sensitive tooth for the whole trip. Bummer.

We were about to finish our meal, when Dad, Mom and Auntie Betty (Nikki's mother-in-law) arrived to join us at the restaurant. They ordered more food (more than what we ordered earlier for ourselves, actually) plus desserts. It was around 2:30pm already when everybody was done eating. We drove off into Tagaytay Highlands to check-in.

Our room is 1014 Pinecrest. Its a basement room below the parking level. But since it was built along the mountain side, if you step out into the terrace, there is actually still one more level below. The view outside the terrace is not much. It just faces another mountain wall. The room came with 1 bedroom and a large living area. Yaya Rose, Sheryl and Ethan slept on the sofa bed, while Caitlin, Cols and I slept in the room with a folded mattress on the floor.

Caitlin wanted to go for a swim after checking-in to our room. The weather was pretty warm so I agreed to go with her. We drove to the sports complex area in midland (very near our place) where the pool was located. The water was warm although the air when you come out of the water was a bit cool. The pool was nicely designed. The main area is only about 5 ft deep, and there is a shallow kiddie poool. We swam for about an hour from 5pm to 6pm. I had to bring Caitlin to the men's locker room to dress her up, then we headed back to Pinecrest.

After a clean shower, Cols, Caitlin and I drove out of Highlands to look for dinner. We ended up in a place called Tootsie's which serve home-cooked meal. The owner (who else -- Tootsie) was there and talking randomly to guests (including us). It was a bit windy and cool tonight so we ordered for their specialy molo soup and grilled ribs. The portions were quite big so we had to take home the ribs leftover.

When we got home, we called it an early evening. Caitlin slept with me on the small (Queen?) bed while Cols slept on the floor. Click image below to see slideshow of the web album.

Monday, May 26, 2008

My Tooth Falls Off

While biting on a bar of Toblerone last night, my fake crown on my lower left molar came off. This is the one that was installed by my dentist (Dr. Joseph Macasiray) after he surgically removed by impacted wisdom tooth about 6 to 7 years ago. Without the crown, the tooth underneath is very sensitive. Anything from lukewarm water to a cool brush of air causes a sensation. So I slept it off and called up the dentist office first thing this morning for a 9:30am appointment.

Dr. Macasiray's clinic is just at Herrera Tower -- practically a stone's throw from The Peak. His junior dentist attended to me to re-attach the crown. He said the gum underneath may have expanded a bit without the crown above pushing it down. So at first, the fit was not very comfortable. He used temporary cement in case we need to pull it out again later if I really feel discomfort. But after it was re-attached, I felt fine. He just advised me to stay away from chewing hard the next couple of days. No charge for the re-attachment. I guess it comes with a lifetime warranty. :)

We met up with Auntie Betty (Nikki's mother-in-law), Uncle Ray (Leslie's uncle) and a companion at Annapolis Seafood for lunch. Business at Annapolis is rather slow nowadays. They even give away 30% discount for weekday to Saturday lunch! I guess Choi Garden must be really killing them since they are only several hundred meters away from each other. The food today was so-so, and it was rather slow considering there were hardly any other customers. By the time the sweet-and-sour pork came out, I was already finished eating.

From Annapolis, we went to Loyola Grand Villas to check on our construction. Then its off to UP for binding a couple of picturebooks. After that, we passed by the Bulacan Garden area in White Plains to look for a contractor to do our landscape. The landscape designers themselves were not around in most of the stalls. We came across one though where the owner/designer was there so we asked him to do a site survey and give us a basic proposal.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mr. Sulu's Gay Wedding

I was reading through the Philippine Star's foreign entertainment section when an item caught my eye. It talks about George Takei, known by most sci-fi fan as Lt. Hikaru Sulu of the original Star Trek series. It seems that Takei has come out of the closet in recent years. And with the US Supreme Court overturning the ban on same-sex marriage, Takei has announced his plans to marry his partner for 21 years. Takei is 71 years old, while his partner is 54.

While I have nothing against gays, nor with gay marriages in particular, I just found it hard to imagine that Mr. Sulu, the helsman of the USS Enterprise, is gay. :) I was never much of a big fan of the original series with William Shatner. I kinda grew up more with Patrick Stewart's Star Trek: The Next Generation. And if I find out Lt. Commander Data is gay too, that will really flip me out!

Takei also starred as Hiro Nakamura's strict dad in Heroes Season 1 & 2. Kinda hard to picture him now as the stern dad who teaches kendo to Hiro.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Binalot @ RCBC

I had lunch again at RCBC today. I avoided Reyes Barbecue this time and tried Binalot. I've never eaten at Binalot so I wanted to try it out.

The average meal in Binalot is cheaper than Reyes. I ordered a meal with 2 viands (sisig and inihaw) for around P70 and it came with salted egg and raw mango salad. An additional P10 gives you a small sago't gulaman drink.

The food quality was nothing special though. I guess you get what you paid for. The sisig did not taste like sisig to me, and neither did the inihaw. Only the salted egg tasted as expected. Overall, the packaging was good though. It was very environmentally-friendly. The rice and viands were wrapped in banana leaves; then the banana leaf bundle was further wrapped with brown paper to prevent the oils from leaking, I guess.

I wouldn't dismiss Binalot just yet. Maybe I should try their other meals next time before giving it my judgement.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sotanghon Soup @ Reyes Barbecue

I tried out the food court at RCBC Plaza today for a change. I'm getting tired of eating at my usual ones (PBCOM, LKG). The walk was a little bit farther, but it was worth it. The food selection is definitely way much better. There were high-end restaurants as well as those that catered more to the masses.

I tried out the Reyes Barbecue outlet there. I'm generally happy with Reyes' food taste and value-for-money. I ordered the half grill hamburger with rice meal, and an additional order of the sotanghon soup to go with it. The wait was fairly long as compared to other similar fast food joints.

The burger patty arrived first so I started eating. I intentionally ate slow since the soup hasn't arrived yet. But even at my slow pace, I was almost done already and the soup still hasn't arrived. Now I'm normally a patient person and I don't like complaining to restaurant establishments even if the service is poor. But after making a couple of follow-ups, I decided to tell the waiter to just cancel it if they cannot produce it. I mean -- how complicated is it to serve soup? Soup is normally just prepared in a soup pot and the server would just scoop it with a big spoon and put onto a bowl.

Anyway, the soup finally arrived. It was very, very hot (I think they microwaved it). I had to let it cool down a bit before tasting it. When I finally did get to taste it, errr... well, it tasted like water with bits of chicken and vegetable and very little actual glass noodle (aka. sotanghon). I've had better tasting "free" soup from the usual food courts I go to.

Actually, I also ate at the small Reyes Barbecue outlet in Paseo Center last Friday. That outlet is so small that it is mainly doing take-outs. Business there is also very brisk so, as expected, the wait for the food was also quite long. In that incident, the wait was so long that I ended up getting stuck there because it poured. I was only supposed to take out my food, but because I did not bring an umbrella, I just had to eat it there. The waiter was apologetic with the delay.

It seems that something goes wrong everytime I eat at Reyes. Anyway, I give the sotanghon soup at Reyes Barbecue a two-thumbs down.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Day 2 at Punta de Fabian

It was another long day. Woke up at around 7:30am for breakfast. Actually, its Mother's Day today. So Cols isn't too thrilled that I'm not home to celebrate. But I did schedule to send her flowers care of our very own VirtualBlooms, of course.

After breakfast, its off to the "War Room" again. Louie walked us through understanding what our company's core strength is and what market we have been trying to enter. It was long and hard work with lots of small group brainstorming. We ended up around 5pm. Most of the guys opted to go to town (Baras) to attend Sunday mass. I stayed behind and had a quick swim with Mrs. Gan, Louie and Christian (Louie's assistant). Weather is still bad. It rained a bit while we were swimming.

We did a quick 1-hr wrap-up session after dinner just to make sure there are no hanging pieces. From there, I'm off for an early sleep again. DocMike still went out for a swim.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Tiring Weekend at Punta de Fabian

Mozcom is having its first(?) management workshop at Punta de Fabian in Baras, Rizal. Since it is going to be a 3-day workshop, I decided to not take the car and just go with the Mozcom van. The van passed by Rockwell around 7:30am. In the van with me were Mike Blancas (Manila), Gerard Java (Cebu) and Kym Alvaro (Baguio). We took the Pasig/Cainta/Rizal route. There was a bit traffic going there. And we took a wrong turn in a road fork in Baras. So we arrived at Punta de Fabian close to 9:30am. Kym let us in on a little trivia -- Baras is the birthplace of the Filipino martial arts called Sikaran (which, as its name implies, is mainly using the feet for fighting).

Nestled between the Sierra Madre mountain range on the left, and Laguna Lake on the right, Punta de Fabian sits on top of a mountain (or is it just a hill?) with a great view. The place is fairly new. It sports a modern Asian architectural look. After entering the main gate, the road goes up very steeply. We were greeted with welcome drinks at the reception area. Then we were led to our rooms. I shared the room (4-C) with Mike Blancas.

The weather hasn't been good the past few days in Manila. Its been raining and today was no exception here in Baras. It would drizzle on and off. But it did not matter much since almost the whole day, we were just holed out in the centrally located, octagonal-shaped, cabana, which I call the "War Room".

Our strategy consultant, Louie Montalbo, facilitated the discussion. Also present for the seminar were Beta Gan, Doc T, Elvie Lopez, Tisha Corros, Michelle Eduave, Malou Zambrano, Ronald Aniceto, Cris Caneda, Leeca Saulog, Maricae Legazpi, and Mariechris de Leon. The morning was spent doing some ice-breaker exercise, then re-analyzing Mozcom's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Lunch was served at the restaurant (well, there's only 1 restaurant). Its buffet-style, but the waiters serve the portioning to the guests. So its not really an eat-all-you-can -- except for the rice. After lunch, some of us went for a short siesta/nap. When the session resumed in the afternoon, it was more work on evaluating Mozcom's current processes and plotting them on a matrix. We ended by around dinner time and had supper, where else -- the one-and-only restaurant.

I went back to the room after dinner. Mike still went swimming with the rest of the guys. I was too tired and sleepy from waking up early so I decided to call it a night.

For more photos of Punta de Fabian, visit my web album.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Authoring DivX Videos

I downloaded a 30-day trial copy of the DivX Author software from, well where else -- DivX. Creating DivX movies complete with DVD-style menus was pretty easy. You can import still images/photos, music files or video files (divx, avi, etc.). Video files can easily be edited with the built-in Editor. You can cut sections you don't want, or cut only the section that you do want. Then you put a music track to serve as the background music.

All these look great. The only problem is -- the output of DivX Author can only be played by DivX Ultra certified players. As far as I know, there are no DivX Ultra-certified players in the Philippine market yet. A scan of the list of certified players at DivX shows one that does interest me though -- the Philips DVP5982 has the features including an HDMI interface and upscaling capability to HD (1080i/1080p). And most amazingly, it lists for as low as $59.99 at Circuit City! At the current exchange rate, that's only around P2,500! And so far, I'm pretty happy with the performance of my Philips DVR, which unfortunately, is only DivX standard certified (not Ultra).

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Globe 3G

Globe finally came around its senses and offered a time-based 3G/GPRS mobile Internet access, as opposed to, its old method of charging P0.15 per kb transferred. Well, actually, they still offer the former as an option but I doubt if people will still use it given that there's now a time-based option. As is typical between Globe and Smart, they try to out-do each other by providing smaller and smaller denominations. So whereas Smart offers 3G mobile Internet access at P10 for 30 mins, Globe offers it at P5 for 15 mins.

Since I mainly use 3G access for GMail Mobile, the 15 mins. option suits me better. Its only seldom that I actually surf on my phone, or use my phone as a modem and surf on my notebook. Globe access point settings can be found in this obscure Globe URL.

Monday, May 5, 2008

New Picatoo Feeds

I've recently updated the colors of Picatoo from the former fun-and-lively orange-and-green to a more formal/artistic/edgy black theme. Our new front page has a photo of OPM signer Allona. The "controversial" photo was previously used by PARI for their AWIT Awards.

Also new to the site are sections on photography tips and gadgets. The current tips were written by professional photographer Ms. Dail Deri. Dail is the daughter of local photography legend, Mr. Ibarra Deri. Dail has also carved a niche for herself in pet photography.

I have updated by FeedBurner account to include RSS Feeds for these two new sections: