My Ooma favorites—and that fish that tastes like bacon

I’ve been meaning to try Ooma in Rockwell ever since I read about it in Pepper. I liked how it was described as the casual version of Mecha Uma, which I’ve heard so much of (though I haven’t been there either). So when Pam invited me for lunch as a guest of Ooma, I said yes right away.

Umami, the Japanese term for savory taste from which the restaurant got its name, is exactly how I’d describe the dishes we tried: there was no room for subtlety, as if each sushi was meant to deliver a punch—and immediately. This makes sense: as a casual restaurant (and with limited seating capacity), diners do not have as much luxury to slowly build up their meal with say, five courses. One bite and it’s wham, bam, thank you ma’am.

Still, the dishes came out so beautifully, like this Steak Aburi Maki, with threads of fried onion delicately balanced at the top:

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Steak Aburi Maki (torched steak, pickled and fried onions, truffle oil, grilled and marinated leeks)

 

And this Soft Shell Crab Tako-Maki, oozing with aligue mayo like melted cheese:

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Soft Shell Crab Taco-Maki (open-faced temaki wrap, crispy soft shell crab, aligue mayo, ebiko)

 

My favorite was this hamachi that would have fooled me for pork; the fish is torched just right enough to taste like bacon—I’m not kidding.

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Hamachi and Kani Aburi Maki (torched hamachi, sesame seeds, pickled carrots, fried shallots, aioli, teriyaki sauce)

 

I also got to try sake for the first time. I thought it would taste like vodka, but they couldn’t be more different: vodka burns, but sake soothes. It tasted clean and fresh, and I like how it reset my palate after we demolished each set of sushi. Same with the Half-Baked Chocolate Lava Cake—it wasn’t too sweet, perfectly rounding out our meal. This takes 30 minutes to make, so order ahead of time.

 

Ooma
G/F Rockwell Edades & Garden Villas
Amorsolo cor Waterfront Dr, Rockwell, Makati

Monday-Sunday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
+63 2 958 6712

Yoga

Quite a stretch

 

I tried a yoga class—my first ever—early this week. It’s called FNR Athletics at the Urban Ashram studio in Makati. It’s part of the lifestyle changes I’ve wrought upon (lol) myself. I can’t even touch my toes without bending my knees, so going to the class, I knew it was going to be a day of reckoning and my pounding heartbeat reminded me so.

Being a newbie, I didn’t understand the nuances of the class description on the website. All I got was the neon notice that marked it as “beginner friendly” and so phrases like “prepares the student to handle more complex work,” “recommended as cross-training for athletes,” and “students who are looking to transition from FNR to Vinyasa” slid past this oblivious yogi. I don’t even know how “Athletics” managed to squeak by my brain without ringing alarms in my head.

So, I’ll cut to the chase: the resting position for FNR Athletics is the plank. Lol. THE PLANK!!! I can last barely a minute on the plank, and here, everyone settles into it like they’re about to get ready to sleep. So for every pose and transition, we all eventually default to the plank and shift to downward dog (another resting position), then vice versa–by the 20th minute mark, my mat was wet with sweat and my shirt clung to my body like I just had a wet shirt scene in The Notebook. And the thing was, no one else was struggling, no one else was drenched, and everyone kept up with the instructor. Meanwhile, I would sink into my knees, catch my breath, attempt to blot the pool of sweat with my towel, then jump to the final pose. It was tough, but it was great. I liked how it whipped me real good.

At the end of the class, I was smiling inside. I liked how the experience both humbled and challenged me. I liked how my chest and shoulders opened up, and how my legs stretched and my spine lengthened. I liked how my body ached—for rest and a good night’s sleep. Overall, it was a good experience. The studio was well-maintained and the staff was pleasant and professional. I have one more class this week, and I’ll most probably drop by for more.

START

The latest chapter

I feel like I need to reclaim my own space online—Facebook has been venomous lately, though I can’t blame anyone for that: I will always uphold democracy, so that includes the right of trolls to be an idiot.

Since the six months I’ve posted here, I’ve entered a new stage in my life: that is, getting old. And I’m no longer just talking about the few gray hairs and the little lines on my face; I’m talking about regular hospital visits and maintenance meds. It’s not as troubling as it sounds, although yesterday, my cardiologist (I now have one, lol) crunched some numbers on her app and showed me a stat: apparently, if I don’t change my lifestyle, I only have a 50 percent chance of making it to 85.

“The good news is,” she said consolingly, “if you keep up with your healthy choices, that chance increases by 5 percent.”

I lol’d.

I never think about these things, but when I shared this with my colleague who’s going through the same health issues as I am, he turned sentimental saying he wanted to reach the age of 80 so he could see his son turn 50; now that is worth increasing your chances by 5 percent for.

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Joaquin’s Bed and Breakfast in Tagaytay

 

I learned about Joaquin’s Bed and Breakfast in Tagaytay when I was checking out the highest-rated hotels in Agoda and TripAdvisor. Joaquin’s had a slew of gushing testimonials and some of the things that I kept reading about aside from the excellent service were the view and the rooms’ smell. I don’t think we read enough about an accommodation’s aroma, so that got me curious. But really, it was the consistent positive reviews that made me book the place.

Joaquin’s is located along Nasugbu Highway, a five- to seven-minute walk to popular restaurants, such as Balay Dako and Leslie’s. Given its address, it’s in the thick of traffic so driving there and parking can be difficult especially during weekends and holidays. No exaggeration: we got there around 3 p.m. and traffic was crawling; we went out again at 7 p.m. and the road looked even worse.

Nevertheless, all the traffic noise disappeared once we entered the premises and we were served pandan juice. Check in was a breeze and the staff was friendly, considerate, and courteous.

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New Year’s Day Post

Writing this post is like going to the dentist–a necessary evil! (Sorry, dentist friends.) For the first time in five years, I read the least amount of books in a year–down to 1/4. 😝 There’s literally pain in my chest as that information sinks in.img_8662
I got hooked on watercolor, which I guess, is not such a bad tradeoff. I got commissions from friends and sold a few ones. My interest dipped later in the year, but I was back in the saddle by December. I’m still not as prolific as when I started but I will get there.img_8664I started meditating in the last quarter of the year; I lie down, concentrate on my breathing and try my best not to think of anything else. You may check out the Headspace app and The Meditation Podcast (my favorite is the episode on letting go of negative feelings–I felt like I started on a clean, fresh slate after this. It’s also funny that my grudges were with total strangers I bumped into at the MRT, malls, etc., haha!)

My lack of reading has taken a toll on me, I know it. I am less focused now, unable to pay attention on one thing for as long as 10-20 minutes. When I read articles, I merely browse through the page, almost deriding sentences that don’t give factual information. (Watercolor–where I can spend hours and hours of concentration and which lead me to skip meals–doesn’t seem to help in this aspect.)

I do not think I can do it, and therefore, I will not include reading more books in my resolution. I simply do not have enough time during the weekday. Watercolor alone sometimes take me up to three hours; exercise is one hour; and catching up on Internet reads is another hour or two. With the traffic and later, dinner and meditation, I cannot even squeeze in time to go out or see people (e.g., date). Still, I will try, but it’s really just not going to be a priority.img_8663I’m okay with being single by the way, though often, I’ll slog through my workout and think, “What’s the point of having these gorgeous pecs for?”😀 and it can be very self-defeating when I have another set or two of push-ups to go, until a tiny voice says, “The clothes–you’re doing it for the good fit of your clothes” and I just focus on that and allow the mantra to grow louder and louder until the deafening cry of this fashion-related target propels me to an awesome push-up victory. Lol. By the way, I’m doing advanced push-ups now: it’s called the dead-stop reset push-up. I got major gains in just a week–try it!

I’ve been medically diagnosed as “slightly obese” during my last two annual check-ups.  I’m skinny fat (they’re all in my waist), which I think is worse than being fat all around, because then at least, you are well-proportioned. Still, that hasn’t convinced me to go to the gym: the exercises I do home is just as grueling–not optimal–but challenging nevertheless. (Though there’s a part of me that says I cannot leave this world without experiencing being borta.)

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So, generally, I plan to keep up with my watercolor, meditation, and exercise. I also plan to go back to school, but I don’t want to go into the details yet because I still don’t how it will play out, given that I feel I don’t have enough free time outside my day job. I’m also determined to have an entirely liquid emergency fund by the end of the year. Oh, and for simple resolutions, I will take more selfies😀 to document happy moments and show that I am #confidentlybeautifulwithaheart.❤

 

My 2015 National Costume For Philippines

(Each year, I try to re-imagine the national costume for Miss Philippines at Miss Universe. So far, I’ve done the carrozzababaylan, parol, palaspas, People Power, and Philippine jeepney.)

I’m late this year!

I actually have two national costumes designs in mind and which I’ve been going back and forth on, when Pia Wurtzbach herself inspired me to do a third one instead.

But before that, let me just say that I mean no disrespect–I think Albert Andrada’s national costume was simple divine and definitely one of the best we’ve had in years. (And may I dare say, the best by a Filipino designer in the history of the contest.)

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Our Annual Christmas Gift-Wrapping Contest: Flora and Fauna

Each year, our barkada holds a gift-wrapping contest on top of our Christmas dinner. The winner of the previous year gets to set the theme and judge the contest, and is therefore ineligible from joining. And for 2014, that person was me!😀

Our beautiful dinner spread. Thanks Giff, Jill, and Pam!

Our beautiful dinner spread. Thanks Giff, Jill, and Pam!

Since it was my first time to win in the four-year history of our tradition, I didn’t realize it was going to be heartbreaking to have to decide on a winner, especially when friends began telling their stories on how they painstakingly made their entries. “Inumaga na nga ako eh…” “Nag-spray paint pa sya ng wires!” “Bumili pa ko sa iTunes.

Aarrrgh!!!!

The theme this year was Flora and Fauna. I did want the theme to be as generic as possible to make it easy for everyone, but apparently, that made it hard for some to zoom in on a specific design or concept. (Our previous themes were Halloween, Circus, and Vintage; we didn’t have one during our first contest.) Nevertheless, everyone brought their A game and here’s the rundown (all photos taken without permission from Jill :-D):

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My Christmas 2015 wish list

Aka, a basic’s wish list, haha.

I actually come up with pretty much the same items every year. It’s hard for me to think of stuff I want–on my birthday a couple of months ago, my mother and sister walked with me around the mall because they wanted me to point out the gift that I wanted; I ended up going home empty-handed. As I grow up, there are fewer material things I want for myself, I guess.

Anyway, here’s the list I came up with for my barkada’s annual Christmas Dinner. I eventually ended up having the speaker, sketchpad, Instax, and hand cream!❤

Hope this helps you. And here’s last year’s entry for more gift ideas.
Jason 2015 wish list

 

 

Winsor & Newton field box review

I got a sketch notebook for Christmas and so I thought I’d give it a spin by using it as a watercolor journal. It’s been weeks, probably months, since I last did some serious, painstaking work and I figured this will be a good way to get back in the saddle. Also, I’ve always preferred loose paintings, so hopefully, this will also help me develop the style, since I plan to reserve this notebook for quick sketches.

For my first entry, I decided to do a snapshot review of the Winsor & Newton field box, a watercolor tool which easily fits my palm. (There are mobile phones larger than this, seriously.) I love it, even though I haven’t taken it outside for a spin.

 

Winsor & Newton field box

Focused on its utilitarian merits versus an actual paint review since I’m still trying to get the hang of things, but as you can see above, there is little granulation, if any, and good transparency. It’s just not as bright as I hoped, though my paintings normally look better in person than in photos (#ehdiwow, lol), so it’s not as washed out as it looks in the picture. Also, since I’m a cheapskate, I tend to dilute the paint with too much water for more coverage. Still, I would highly recommend this tool box for its ingenuity.

Achievement unlocked: building my emergency fund

In the 11 years that I’ve been working, I finally got to save a 6-month emergency fund.

My Top 15 for Miss Universe 2011

In my case, my target was to save six times my monthly salary: should I find myself out of work, I will have six months to find a new job before I panic.

I hope I don’t make any use for it, though. *knocks on wood* Half of this is in UIT funds, which goes against the normal advice on the subject, which is to keep the fund liquid. To me, investing it may or may not be a good idea, depending on the following:

  • How badly I would need the cash to be at hand in case of an emergency. In my case, my chosen funds take four days (COB) to settle a redemption order.
  • The value of my investment should I need to withdraw it. The last time I had an emergency, I had to sell my stocks at a loss, because I badly needed the money

After weighing these cons, I decided to take the ‘risk’ and invest half of each of my monthly savings, hoping I won’t have to use my emergency fund soon. (The risk hasn’t paid off so far—stocks have been down for most part of Q3 and based on what I’ve read, they likely won’t recover until mid-2016.)

So the next goal is to raise the 50 percent so that my emergency fund is fully liquid—that is, kept at a savings account and easily accessible in its full amount anytime.

Why did it take me this long to save the amount? The short answer is that I’ve only barely managed to stretch my salary. For one, as a single guy with no kid, I am heavily penalized by the BIR even if I have my own huge responsibilities, too. It also pains me to think that due to our poor system, I’m paying the maximum income tax provided by the law, the same amount which is peanuts for CEOs and executives, but which I could really have a lot of use for. Hay. But what’s important is that I finally unlocked this achievement. I deserve a pat on the back! *pats back* Looking back at my financial journey, here’s how I managed to do it.

Aggressive saving. I’ve pegged my savings at 35 percent of my salary. It took me years to get to this point, but since my first job, I’ve worked on the following premises: I pay myself first before anything else; and I budget. I hate having an Excel file to account for all my expenses down to the last peso, so what I do is I give myself an allowance which I can spend on anything, minus bills and utilities. I find this less stressful than having to be anal with receipts and other expenditures.

Of course, one’s savings is dependent on the next point.

Having no debt. I always pay credit card bills in full. If I need to buy big-ticket items and I can’t pay in cash (or it seems wasteful to do so, since I can also let my extra money sit in the UIT fund), I raise 50 percent in cash and pay the rest on a zero-percent installment basis. If I go this route, I make sure I’m able to pay the balance in three months, max. If I can’t meet these criteria, then it simply means I cannot afford to make the purchase.

Understandably, there are loans you need to make in your life that might stretch for many years, such as a car, housing, or business loan. Personally, I’m uncomfortable about these. For example, as a single guy with no domestic partnership legal rights, I think I’m just going to rent for the rest of my life, but we’ll see.

Buying quality items. This sounds antithetical, but I actually prefer paying more—as long I’m assured of the quality*. This applies to everything, from appliances and gadgets to clothes, bags, shoes, and even underwear. The logic is that they’re supposed to last me for years. True enough, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to replace anything because something malfunctioned, got broken or torn, or ‘baconed’! Interestingly, before I got to publish this post, Quartz wrote an article on how the American middle class lost its taste for mindless consumerism:

The financial crisis and its aftermath made middle-class Americans distrust mindless shopping. Instead, a new set of values emerged. More is no longer better. The middle class is more concerned with quality and experience.

*This is also why I prefer Uber even when regular, theoretically cheaper taxis are available.

Splurging once in a while. This is where my personal allowance goes and it’s also based on my behavior: if I go cold turkey on unnecessary spending for say, more than a month, I lose a part of my soul. LOL. But seriously, I don’t like the person I become when I become very OC on spending: I get sad, angry, and very critical of myself and my choices. So since then, I make it a point to indulge myself, whether it’s on travel, art lessons and hobbies, to expensive meals and coffee. Even with aggressive saving, one should still have a life.

But also holding back. Every morning, I ride on the back of a tricycle in my corporate attire, squeezing myself into the tight space with one other person, hunched forward and with my head down because I’m too tall for the roofing. The sun is on to me like grill to a barbecue, and either pollution or body odor violates my circle. On some days, a car would honk and I’d see a friend from high school in his SUV and with his driver.

Every day, I whisper to myself that the money I save with my P20-morning commute is worth it.