Wednesday, December 13, 2017

9:10 a.m.
You know traffic is so bad when I haven’t even been to a Greenbelt 3 cinema in close to a year. I savored the seats, which I think is the best of them all (excluding La-Z-Boy types). I also haven’t been able to watch as much movies as from years before when we would run out of films to watch—that’s about once or even twice a week. Now, I have Netflix, plus the nearer Century City and PowerPlant malls, which all absolve me of having to go through horrendous Manila traffic.

IMG_0981We saw Coco, which I thought was about a dog, haha. If I knew this would largely feature skeletons, I probably would have seen Smaller and Smaller Circles instead (promise, I will try my best to catch it in cinemas #golocal), but reviews have all been positive. Good thing I didn’t invite my family to see this, but went with P instead—the movie was about remembering the legacy of family members who have since passed away. So ultimately, it’s a pro-life movie—having children to pass on one’s memories, craft, and business or livelihood. There is a huge deal made with having someone put up a dead family member’s photo on an altar (to celebrate Día de Muertos or Day of the Dead), symbolizing how they are remembered by the living. It reminded me of the guilt I have about not having children, robbing my parents of the joy of becoming grandparents, which they have been looking forward to becoming.

But could it also be vanity? Why do people need to remember you when you have passed away? I have no knowledge of my great grandparents—I cannot even speak their names for their names have never been spoken before me—except that one came all the way from southern China. In a huge family (my mother’s side), memories of ancestors ran dry after only three generations; two, on my father’s. If I die, no one would be indebted to put up my photo on an altar or visit my grave. But the internet lives.

Then over the weekend, I completed watching Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which is also about making babies, though more literal in the sense of an actual intercourse and on a broader matter, ensuring one’s survival—or lineage—in this world. It’s a fantastic series, alarming and terrifying in its probability of actually happening.

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Fave hotspot: Seoul Galbi restaurant

This is becoming our default restaurant whenever P and I are in Brgy Poblacion, Makati. Which is interesting because this is an old (Korean, at that) restaurant in an area that has become the hottest spot in Manila for its vibrant local food scene, wherein new restaurants pop up every few weeks.

But for P and I, it’s reliable, comforting, and most importantly, delicious—check out the beautiful spread below.

Seoul Galbi spread

We always go for the pork belly and marbled beef; we tried the pork skin one time, but grilled, it turned out gummy and not crisp as I anticipated. The banchan, those small dishes that come with the barbecue, are fresh and well-seasoned. P loves their steamed egg, which got cropped out of the photo, while I can’t pick a favorite—I enjoy everything. They can be refilled twice, but the staff here has always been gracious and pleasant, I’m sure patrons would be able to charm them for more. (We never made it past to two refills as we always end up full even after round one.) What I do is get a big lettuce leaf, spread the meat on top, add as many of the kimchi as I like, then roll and eat it like a wrap. On some nights, we order rice and pick off the banchan as we eat along.

They use charcoals made from coconut and your server would gladly grill the meat for you. It can get smoky in there, but they have retractable exhaust hoses for every table, so it’s as manageable as it can get. Couldn’t recommend this place enough.

Seoul Galbi is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

My 2017 UAAP Cheerdance competition notes: Nowhere to go but UP

No shade, just keeping it real. #toughlove

  • So tired of the whining and excuses coming from UP regarding its academic load and lack of gymnasts. This has been ongoing for what, 5 years? Challenges aren’t exclusive to just one school. During the preview, there were stories from other schools about their athletes working as a janitor, not being able to visit a mother who suffered from a stroke in Bicol, and losing an ear from a motorcycle accident; one school had no reserve members so they had to stop training for three weeks and could only resume when all were healthy enough. EVERYONE has problems, even the best of them.
  • I don’t get UP’s recent disdain for themes as if the petty rephrasing to “kwento” is such a stroke of genius. (It is still a theme; potato, potahto.) And the irony with #kwentongisko is that there was no narrative in their performance at all. Watch it without the music and you will have no clue as to what the message is. (Even with the music, I had no idea what was happening. The cheer portion was a hot mess.) Now, compare that to their previous performances; even as a silent “film,” all their past routines will clearly give you the narrative, whether through the visually stunning uniforms, pompoms, formations, or choreography. Having a solid theme got them eight championships and it’s what would get them the next one, particularly if it won’t be able to recruit gymnasts. Play it smart. On that note…
  • … NU is not unbeatable. I think what we saw from UP is the equivalent of a person having a mental breakdown. And I can’t blame them—we really did witness atrocious judging in 2015. But I do hope the results of this year’s competition make them see that winning UAAP Cheerdance does not mean you have to play their game and recruit gymnasts year after year. Let’s say NU hit all their stunts, I thought UP could have definitely killed them in the creative department.

Come on, UP: you’ve rocked a coliseum; you’ve sent in tribal warriors and ended a performance without being on the mat, with a “naked” Oblation to boot; you’ve used sunflowers, disco balls, and cone-shaped bras as pompoms; you’ve gone blond and shaved your heads; you’ve had female bases and male flyers; you actually represented all schools in one routine (now, that’s a stroke of genius); and you freaking had a heart-shaped pyramid!

You have a storied history and legacy behind you. You got this. But there’s a lot of work to do.

 

PS: The judges scored it fair and square this year: as I’ve previously written,

…what’s the point of having difficult stunts if you can’t execute them properly? In sports, a score is earned not by effort but by execution.

so I was glad to see that AdU, UE, and UST earned the top spots. When I tweeted my personal ranking, I based it on how the NCC would judge it. I hope they stick to rewarding those with a good balance of difficulty and clean execution.

 

First impressions: the XF 23mm F/2 WR

Did a quick test of my new XF 23mm F/2 lens yesterday. (Apparently, I’m now that person who can write the lens type and brand without referring to the unit or Google. This is coming from someone who asked why his prime lens wasn’t zooming during the camera test.) First, let me give another shout out to i-Click Outlet. They are friendly, responsive, quick and hassle-free to deal with. I’ve been looking for the 23mm in black, since my 50mm is already in silver and I wanted a lens that would finally match the body color of my XT20. (Now, that I have a black lens, I actually think a silver one gives my camera more character—and yes, I don’t think these things matter to serious photographers, haha.) The lens wasn’t listed on their website, so I figured there’d be no harm in messaging iClick on Facebook. Within minutes, they promised to deliver it to me the next day, which they did.

Contrary to reviews I’ve read, I found that the lens performed well in low light conditions. These were taken around 6 p.m., which was already dark. Most were set in ISO Auto 12800, hence the graininess.

Auto focus was way faster and more reliable than my 50mm, where I had to depend more on the manual settings. But image quality was way sharper with the 50mm even when cropped. (For example, these photos of SCTEX views were taken from a moving car.) Still haven’t tested how the 23mm would be able to handle the same conditions.

Other XF 50mm F/2 photos:

I got the 23mm because I wanted a wide angle; I found it difficult to take photos, of say, my hotel room at I’M Hotel, which I had hoped to write a review on. It was refreshing to take photos yesterday, wherein the field of view was close to my vision and I didn’t have to look through the viewfinder before realizing I have to move further away from my subject. However, I realized that composition was actually easier with the 50mm as subjects are easily detached from their environment, which is my personal preference: I like isolating my subjects and creating a sense of stillness. With the 23mm, I need to be more careful with my composition since more objects are likely to make it to the frame. So in other words, my 23mm and 50mm complement each other and I should stop my lens shopping here.

Friday, October 20, 2017

1:58 p.m.
I had a glorious lunch at Wholesome Table with Cecile earlier. It was a splurge—for a salaried worker’s ordinary lunch, at least—as we spent a little over P1,200 for both our meals. I had sourdough bread with spinach dip, garlic spaghetti, and arabica; she had tomato soup and chicken salad. They made for quite a lovely spread at one of the most beautifully designed restaurants in the area. “No guilt,” she said. I told her she deserved it of all people I know.

2:05 p.m.
I just finished Call Me by My Name. I had been in love with the novel even before I began reading it and now, I cannot wait to see how the film will translate the book. As a fan of Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, I’ve created mental images based on these two films and reading the book, I’ve already cast Armie Hammer in the role of Oliver. At this point, I doubt anything in the film will disappoint me.

Today, I wore a billowy blue shirt—and I think I might have splurged at lunch—in honor of the book. And I might drink wine at dinner in honor of Italy.

11 p.m.
I did end up having wine at dinner: after getting my haircut in Legazpi, I searched for a nice restaurant in the area and I ended up in a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant. It was a very stylish and dimly lit place, which was perfect for this solo diner; I did not feel alone at all and even then, it felt more chic than melancholy. I sat by the bar, two seats apart two gay guys. I overheard them saying complimentary things about me until one said, “Baka mamaya marunong mag-Tagalog.” So I ordered in Tagalog, lol.

The food was good, but the proportions—for the prices—were really small. But again, it was a day for splurges, so I hardly winced as I paired the dishes with a red. After I finished another satisfying meal, the waiter chatted me up. First, he asked me about the food and I gladly gave my feedback: I praised the tiradito and lomo, but complained that the side dish was a struggle (a runny egg yolk fenced by fries; the plate was flat so when I pierced through the yolk, it threatened to spill over the plate and so I had to constantly reel it in. I thought about asking for a spoon but it would be incongruous to the dish and the setup.) Then, he started getting really personal: he asked about my work, where I live, and later, what I thought really ruined the elegance of the place, my marital status by prefacing it with, “Are you stable, sir?” (After asking him a couple of times to clarify, I realized he meant, “settled.”) I lobbed back his questions and he didn’t hesitate to overshare: he told me he’s from Cavite and that he had to put his schooling on hold. Although I didn’t feel rushed as I was ready to go home anyway, I felt the need to extricate myself from the situation and asked for the bill.

I went to the grocery and bought a bottle of wine to drink at home in peace.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

8:50 a.m.
Yesterday’s workout:

Tabata
(8 rounds)
Handstand hold
Double-/single-unders

Five rounds
(20min cap)
Run 200m
10 hand-release (dead stop) push up
Run200m
5 pike push ups

Notes: One of the rare occasions wherein it was a relatively easy workout. Given my hypertension, I actually immediately felt dizzy on my first scaled handstand walk (vs hold) so I didn’t push myself further. I did manage to hold on for all four rounds; I previously would collapse before the 20 seconds is up. I’ve never been able to do or practice double-unders and to be honest, it’s no longer a goal. For the second set of workouts, I felt good in all my runs–I’m not sure if it has anything to do with me disciplining myself to breathe in through my nose and exhale through my mouth (I’m almost always the person heaving and gasping for breath during runs and after every workout), but this time, I didn’t look as pathetic. I’ve been doing dead-stop pushups for many years now, so it was easy-peasy. First time to do the pike push-ups and I like the burn it gave my shoulders; I just might do it at home, too.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

8:57 a.m.
I am in the middle of reading Call Me By Your Name. Yesterday, I finally reached the now-infamous peach scene, which by now, has been widely reported by the crew of the film version as entirely plausible to reenact at the comfort of your own home. The last time I remember a food has figured this much in a… coupling in a film is in American Pie, but Call Me turned out to be more… saporous. Anyway, I was cringing and it was awesome, haha.

Lovely, lovely book. Here’s an excerpt:

As I waited, I took both our bikes and walked them toward the war memorial dedicated to the youth of the town who’d perished in the Battle of the Piave during the First World War. Every small town in Italy has a similar memorial. Two small buses had just stopped nearby and were unloading passengers—older women arriving from the adjoining villages to shop in town. Around the small piazza, the old folk, men mostly, sat on small, rickety, straw-backed chairs or on park benches wearing drab, old, dun-colored suits. I wondered how many people here still remembered the young men they’d lost on the Piave River. You’d have to be at least eighty years old today to have known them. And at least one hundred, if not more, to have been older than they were then. At one hundred, surely you learn to overcome loss and grief—or do they hound you till the bitter end? At one hundred, siblings forget, sons forget, loved ones forget, no one remembers anything, even the most devastated forget to remember. Mothers and fathers have long since died. Does anyone remember?

9:09 a.m.
Yesterday’s workout:

EMOM 10
First minute: Two Turkish get ups
Second minute: 10 goblet squats

Five rounds
(8min cap)
10 kettlebell deadlifts
8 Russian KB swings
6 American KB swings
12 ring rows
*KB at 24kg

Notes: First time to do the Turkish get ups, which was a bit complex to learn at first but I imagine would be “fun” to do later on. Coach advised us to go really light so I only used a 15lbs dumbbell. I should have used a 20lbs or 25lbs, because I didn’t feel the burn and I only breezed through the movements. For the second round, Coach advised us to use a kettlebell that would enable us to do both the deadlift and swings in unbroken reps, so I scaled down to a 16kg KB. I finished in 7:40min.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

9:31 p.m.
I’ve probably had the toughest two weeks of my year: my days were stretched and I had very little rest. Up until Saturday, I was up all day and I couldn’t take even one minute off. I went to Pam’s birthday party without any gift because I simply couldn’t squeeze in the time; I couldn’t even get a haircut. But I’m glad that everything has worked out. At work, my boss’s boss described my report as “excellent” and would send it to the CEO, COO, and CIO as I wrote it. I know it’s only the beginning of what would be a roller-coaster 2018, but hopefully, it would be for the best.

Pa was in his best health in a month, with “best” being a relative term. Surprised that he managed to go up and down one flight of stairs without heaving. It was a joy to see him with us as Ma showed off her room renovation project—he has been missing good family moments as we were frequently in the hospital the past four weeks.

My body must have felt all that stress go away—for many weeks now, I’d be jolted awake at 6 a.m., panicking at the thought of the list of things I needed to do (I haven’t even had a proper birthday celebration—I took three days off work but all those days, hours were spent running errands); but this morning, I woke up close to 12nn with 11 hours of sleep. Bliss is what I call it. I spent all Sunday in bed, finally finishing the first two seasons of Narcos. I thought about going out and getting that haircut, but I didn’t want to waste time not being in a state of relaxation.

9:52 a.m.
In Narcos, at least you know the government was running after the number one drug lord and narcoterrorist of his time—in many episodes, I believed that the extrajudicial killings were justified. However, that is not the case in the Philippines: President Duterte’s drug war has been very soft on drug lords and very heavy handed on poor, small-time users (not even suppliers). Drug addicts, the wrongfully accused, and innocent bystanders alike are all killed every day. P6.4 billion worth of shabu was smuggled inside the country, with his own son being implicated, and Duterte has yet to lift a finger and hold those responsible accountable. I don’t hear of any vision on how this government plans to do eradicate cartels (if they even exist here); plans are so small-minded that all it has offered is to set up drop boxes so citizens can report on each other (and yes, people have already been arrested this way).

If only Duterte had shown brute force in dealing with corruption and crimes in the country, then he may have had won me over. Instead, he cowers in fear of China, which has been emboldened to claim more Philippine islands for itself thanks to his presidency, and has magnificently displayed his sense of gratitude to the Marcoses, who contributed to his campaign coffers, by allowing the deceased patriarch to lie at the Heroes’ Cemetery after being denied the honor by previous administrations. Recent independent-body investigations now show he may be as corrupt as the others have come, and instead of welcoming said investigations to clear his name, he has lashed back and threatened retribution. He is often described as a strongman and in the strictest sense of a brooding authoritarian figure, maybe he is, but he has shown no balls where iron will and leadership have been required: standing up to foreign invasion, eradicating corruption in high places, and sacking bumbling and errant government officials. Instead, his immorality, which goes far beyond words—and his words are gutter language in all senses of the word—has advanced and abetted impunity, divisiveness, and injustices, most especially to the poor. Duterte is not only unhinged, but spectacularly lame.

Friday, October 13, 2017

11:15 a.m.
Abs are gone, lol.

Yesterday’s workout:

1min on / 1min off (20 rounds)
200m run
American kettlebell swings 24kg

Notes: I scaled down to a 20kg KB. I was winded after the first 200m run. There were many rounds I only did 100m runs and my KBs were only either five or 10 reps. Basically, I was extremely lousy.