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21 January 2014

Team Lea for Life and Other Side Stories

For probinsya-dwellers like me and my husband, going to the city is a rare occurrence. Of course, we visit Paranaque and Marikina once in a while because our folks live there, but we seldom visit the other places.

Last Saturday was Manila day for us. We were watching a concert in the evening. But knowing how unpredictable Manila traffic can be, we decided to leave before lunch and spend the rest of the day in Manila.

First stop was Harbor View Restaurant near Manila Ocean Park. It was my second time to visit the place. The first time was a few years ago when Rhuel took me there for my birthday. I loved the ambience and the food, of course. Part of the restaurant is located on top of the Manila Bay so you get a good view of the nearby sights. I know we all have preconceived notions about Manila Bay, but surprisingly, that part of the bay did not smell so bad, except if there's a sudden gush of wind.

The restaurant serves Filipino food with a good number of seafood dishes. For lunch, we had sisig, grilled prawns with lemon butter sauce, green mangoes with bagoong, and dalandan juice. The sisig was okay but Trelli's will always be our favorite sisig. I had a hard time eating the sisig because it had a lot of onions. But it was tasty and crunchy.

The grilled prawns were NOT prawns. They were just shrimps that were way too small and overpriced. It tasted good because after all, how can you go wrong with shrimps, lemon, and butter but because of the serving size and the price, it was not really a good buy. The steamed suahe could have been a better and cheaper option. (Not sure though if it would be tasty.)

We were lucky that there were not a lot of people in the restaurant during that weekend. We were able to have our lunch in peace and to enjoy the sceneries. Even the bratty kids around us were tolerable.

After lunch, we proceeded to Harbor Square located beside CCP. We had to pay a lot of parking fees that day, hmpf. It was only around 2 pm and the concert was still at 8 pm so we had a few hours to waste. We decided to stay at Starbucks and read books. The couches were not comfortable so we had to settle for the normal chairs. We had a good view of the bay from our seats.

A few hours later, I got tired of sitting down. I took a walk around Harbor Square. It was nice to see families walking along the bay and enjoying the breeze. We've been lucky to have this cool weather the past few weeks. I hope it stays this way forever. :)

At around 6 pm, we decided to have an early dinner so we can get to the concert venue on time. I was craving for the returning and sinful KFC Double Down and lucky me, there was a KFC branch in Harbor Square. But when I proceeded to give my order, the cashier had this weird explanation about the product not being perfect so they were not offering it yet. But I've seen Facebook statuses of people who have already tried it and even the branch itself had it on the menu board. Bwiset.

We decided to forego the early dinner and just have dinner after the concert. We proceeded to PICC instead. Finding the parking entrance was a bit tricky so it was a good thing that we went there early.

There was a Via Mare stall/booth serving dinner inside PICC. But they were just selling sandwiches and pasta so we had to pass. I was just praying that the baby and I will not be too hungry and grumpy during and after the concert.

THE Concert

We were watching a repeat of Lea Salonga's Playlist concert. The original run happened in December. Being kuripot (except on food), I did not buy tickets for the December shows. But when I started seeing videos of the concert uploaded on YouTube, I began feeling sorry for myself, hehe. So when Lea tweeted that there was going to be a repeat, I already knew what Christmas gift I wanted from Rhuel. I was not letting this opportunity pass again.

Anyone who really knows me would know that I LOVE Lea Salonga. We go way back, haha. I was maybe an 8-year second grader when she passed the Miss Saigon auditions. Someone (I cannot really remember who but I suspect it was a close family friend) gave me a multiplex of the original soundtrack of Miss Saigon and I fell in love with the musical and with Lea, of course. I even managed to get a copy of the script. I had this grand illusion that I could be a Lea Salonga some day, hehe. I wrote letters to her while she was based in London. I would bug my father to mail the letters for me. He would often tease me that he dropped my letters in the Marikina River. I think he mailed my letters (or I hope, hehe) but Lea never replied. *sigh*

I've been an avid fan since then. Never mind if my father would tease me about Lea's fake British accent that she'd use when she introduced herself. I watched her movies with Aga. I bought her tapes and CDs (thanks to Rhuel for completing the collection).

I've benn fortunate to have watched her in 2 stage plays. One was Baby, staged at the Meralco Theater (with Jett Pangan and Agot Isidro, among others). The other one was God of Carnage staged in Singapore. But I have never watched a Lea concert. So I was really looking forward to this one.

And she did not disappoint. The moment she sang her first note, I was already in tears. The way my husband was in tears when he heard the Eraserheads play their first note during their reunion concert. Buti na lang patay ang ilaw, hehe. I loved the songs she sang and I loved everything about her. It was a treat to be there for 2.5 hours without any breaks. The baby, perhaps realizing that mummy loved Lea so much, cooperated. :)

The entire evening was magical but here were my favorite parts:

  • When she sang Chasing Pavements.
  • When her daughter sang. Cute!
  • Her Movie in my Mind duet with Rachel Ann Go. 
  • The 70's, 80's, 90's medley.
  • When she sang After All with Martin Nievera. I'm not fond of Martin but I love that song because it sorta kinda depicts our love story. 
  • The Abba medley. 
Basta, it was worth every peso spent. I will always love Lea even if they call her OA as a judge of The Voice and they say that she can't dance to save her life. She will always be my idol. 

They were selling souvenir books for Php2,000 and Lea can sign them. But I found it too expensive and the autograph queue was so long. Mahal ko siya pero di pala sobra, hehe. Besides, I did not want to push my luck with the baby. Baka magalit na sa gutom. So at around past 11 pm, we decided to leave. 

Dinner was at Aristocrat. Yey. Proof that you learn something new everyday...it was my first time to learn that Aristocrat was popular for their chicken barbecue. I've been there a number of times before but I've always associated it with Filipino food like crispy pata, kare-kare, etc. So I was surprised when Rhuel told me, "Di ba sa barbecue sila sikat?" And true enough, when I looked at their table napkin, it was claiming the same thing, hehe. So we both had chicken barbecue. 

Being a 24-hour restaurant, it was still full house even if it was close to midnight already. We had to wait to be seated. And the staff and crew seemed like headless chickens who were running around, clueless on how to manage the large volume of customers. The receptionist was not easily accessible so you had to compete with other people to make sure your name finds its way on the list. We even had to wait for a couple of minutes for our bill to arrive. Ang ingay pa ng katabi namin, hehe. 

We reached home at around 1 am. That's way too late for homebodies like us. But it was really a day well spent. This is best wrapped up with that old phrase I often used on my field trip reaction papers in grade school - we went home tired but very happy! :) 

02 September 2013

Jackie

Jackie in front of Papa and Mama's chair. She loves lying down there because whoever's sitting on the chair is assigned to stroke her hair. 



Jackie and her favorite frenemy, Joey the beagle. 








Jackie working the camera :) 



My favorite bonding time with Jackie.


Jackie's favorite hobby - sleeping! 






Jackie was the labrador golden retriever pet of my husband's family. I used to be scared of dogs, especially big ones, but Jackie changed everything for me. 

I first met Jackie in December 2008. My husband and I were not yet married at that time. I attended my in-laws' joint birthday party and it was my first exposure to Jackie. We did not really interact that much then because the party was held in another house. Admittedly, I was scared of her. 

On January 8, 2009, my husband's birthday, I had dinner at their house. This time, my exposure to Jackie was longer. After dinner, my husband and I lounged around in their living room and Jackie made sure her presence was felt. Nagseselos siguro. She made sure there was room for her between me and my husband. I had to stroke her beautiful golden hair and whenever I stopped, she would call my attention with her paws. :) 

Since then, I've fallen in love with Jackie. She was very sweet, nice, well-behaved, and endearing. Quite different from the noisy and playful Joey the beagle, the family's other pet. After my husband and I got married, I had more opportunities to bond with Jackie. I loved stroking her hair and even talking to her when we were given alone time together. When I get shy to join the conversations with other members of my husband's family, Jackie would be my go-to girl. She would always be there for me - to keep me company, to listen to me, and to just be there for me. 

On August 6, 2013, we received an SMS from my brother-in-law informing us that Jackie was brought to the vet the night before. She was weak and they suspected either some sort of infection or ovarian or spleen cancer. If it were cancer, then it was not curable. My husband got more information and he was told that Jackie would undergo ultrasound in the afternoon to determine her real illness. There was hope because after all, it could just be an infection. 

While I was walking home that day, I was checking my Facebook account and I saw my brother-in-law's post giving homage to Jackie for serving the family well. Shortly thereafter, I received an SMS from a niece asking if my husband already heard the news. I sent an SMS to my husband right away and he confirmed that Jackie was gone. I tried so hard to hold back the tears the rest of the way home. I only let them drop when I got home and hugged my husband. 

Jackie was 8 years old; yep quite old for a dog but we still wanted more time with her. Jack, I know you're having fun in doggie heaven. I hope someone up there always strokes your hair and plays with you and lavishes you with a lot of love and affection. Sorry I could not say goodbye in person. But I guess it's better that way. It would have been tougher to see you go if we were there. Thank you for helping me overcome my fear of dogs. No, scrap that. Thank you for teaching me to love dogs (basta kasing bait at gentle at sweet mo lang ha). Thank you for being a real and good friend to me. Visits to BF will never be the same without you. 



We will definitely miss you. I will miss stroking your hair, taking photos of you, watching you and Joey fight, 







feeding you pan de sal and ice cream popsicles,


playing with you, 


forcing you to run, 


watching you waddle, watching you compete for food with Joey, watching you happily take a bath, 


seeing you with flowers on your hair after your garden playtime, 




trying to pacify you when you ride the car, 


watching my husband laugh whenever you start licking him, etc. 

We love you. Don't worry, we'll take good care of Joey. :)  






Bintan, Indonesia

Since we're going home in a few days, we decided to visit another nearby spot. We spent the weekend in Bintan, an island in Indonesia.

I must be getting old or becoming more impatient. I no longer seem to have the energy to create an itinerary from scratch. For the weekend trip, I availed of a package I found in one of the resorts in Bintan.

I booked the Free and Easy Package at the Bintan Spa Villa Beach Resort. It covers fare for the ferry trips, transpo to and from the resort, overnight stay, and buffet breakfast. Cost is SGD143 per person, inclusive of the SGD24 weekend surcharge. I placed my reservation online at 12 midnight of Monday. They replied by 10 am. They're quite easy to deal with. Once you confirm your booking, you can pay with your credit card and they'll send you the hotel and ferry vouchers.

We took the 11:10 am trip on Saturday from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.


The ferry terminal in Singapore is so nice and clean and comfortable. Way different from our ferry terminals in the Philippines. Might even be better or at least comparable to the Domestic Airport Terminal. Even the toilets were clean. *sigh* Note that you're not allowed to go inside the pre-departure area until 40 minutes before your departure time.





The ferry trip was smooth and easy. It's free seating and the seats were very comfortable. No free food though, hehe. It's operated by the Bintan Resort Ferries. You can upgrade to the Emerald Class, sort of business class for them, but you have to pay an additional SGD21. For a short trip, it might not be worth it.




Trip to the Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal in Bintan took around 55 minutes. Upon arriving at Bintan, we lined up for the immigration checks. Indonesia is one hour behind Singapore time so when we got there, it was still 11 am. :) Since we're from an ASEAN country, we were not required to get visas. Nationals of other countries needed visas which cost SGD10.



There's a separate queue for the visa, after which you need to line up for the immigration check. Immigration lines were a bit long but they moved fast.

After going through immigration, we picked up our boarding passes for the trip back to Singapore, as advised by the resort personnel.

We then looked for our sundo. There were a number of us headed to the resort. We boarded a coaster/van. The trip to the resort took about an hour.


I think there's a ferry terminal nearer the resort but trips might not be that frequent. If you're planning a Bintan trip from scratch, make sure to check which ferry terminal is nearest your resort so you can save time. There were a lot of zigzag roads on the way. But we did not really mind. The route was quite scenic. It had a very probinsya feel. Not the urbanized provinces that we associated with Penang and Malaysia. This was really probinsya. Reminded me of the trips from Tacloban to Sulat or Borongan. Lots of trees and plants and mountains. Houses reminded us of houses in the provinces - may nagtitinda ng gas, mga sari-sari store with all the huge signs, Pinoy looking kids walking on the streets. This was definitely a place Rhuel and I would be comfortable in. :)


When we got to the resort, the personnel welcomed us.


Oh, the package also includes welcome drinks. We noticed that the Indonesians looked like Pinoys. More similar than the Malaysians. After showing them our hotel voucher, we were given the card key to our room. The resort had around 8 villas on the sea and they had a 3-storey building with 5 rooms per floor. Each room had a view of the sea.





Check-in time is at 3 pm but they'll allow you to check-in early if there are no other guests. In keeping with our budget conscious travel tradition, we stayed in the 3-storey building.


Room was okay. It had a balcony and the basics.


The furniture looked nice.


It was quite scary though because our room had a mosquito repellent spray. There was a note saying that they fog the premises twice a week but there might still be some insects so guests are encouraged to use the spray. It didn't help that when we were about to alight the ferry, I saw a couple putting on a lot of mosquito repellent patches all over their clothes. Being the paranoid person that I am, I started spraying the repellent on myself and Rhuel. Better be safe. We noticed that there were some mosquitoes in the toilet. We also saw some stagnant water in the resort's premises which could be the source of these mosquitoes. Tsk. I have some mosquito bites but let's hope and pray they're nothing.

After dumping our stuff in the room, we went to the resort cafe to have lunch. We had some spicy prawns and rice. They were okay. We also had some asparagus soup which also tasted good.


The nice or funny thing about Indonesia is the value of their Rupiah. SGD1 is roughly equivalent to IDR8,800. We had SGD100 changed at the Singapore ferry terminal and we were given IDR800k+. Ang yaman namin bigla. But I think Bintan is very used to having tourists from Singapore. They actually accept SGDs. Whenever you buy something from stores, they automatically convert the price to SGD. So if you're coming from Singapore, no need to have your money changed. You can pay with your SGDs.

After eating lunch, we decided to explore the place.










I was in the mood for lounging around and relaxing. Chill-chill lang, hehe. I got my iPad and started reading my book. Rhuel went for a swim while I relaxed on one of the beach chairs. The life.





I wish we had a nearby beach in Sta. Rosa too. Yung mga tipong 1 hour drive lang with nice crowd and environment. Rhuel says the beach water was not so clear but at least it was shallow and the waves were not strong. Definitely swim-able.







I spent the rest of the afternoon reading my second Pretty Little Liars prequel. Natapos na rin.



It was dinner time already. The resort offered seafood barbecue for IDR200k or IDR300k, depending on the items you're having. We chose the latter package. You see, we don't scrimp on food. :D We had shrimps, squid, chicken wings, spring chicken, some fish that I did not really like, and sirloin steak. They also served it with a huge potato. Okay naman. Good enough to satisfy our inihaw craving. Tasted Pinoy actually. :)



Since there was nothing else to do after dinner, it was meme time for us. The resort actually offers free shuttle to their sister hotel, Bintan Agro Beach Resort, which has a swimming pool. But we just wanted to relax and didn't really want to explore so we stayed put. The resort also has a jacuzzi you can use and they offer spa and massage services too.


Breakfast is served from 7-10 am. The food they served was actually good. Not that many but quality was okay. Better than the food in Penang. :) I had waffles, eggs, bacon, bread, and sausage. Rhuel ordered hard boiled eggs. He was whining when his order arrived because the eggs were soft boiled. But when I re-read the egg menu, half-boiled egg naman pala ang nakalista. Kaya naman pala, hehe. :D

After breakfast, we played some billiards and darts. Rhuel ruled billiards, I ruled darts. Hehe. The darts were nice because they were magnetic, not the sharp ones that I don't really like. We lounged around the rest of the morning and took photos.






Check-out time is normally at 12 noon but they allow you to extend til 1 pm if there are no other guests. I noticed some guests checking out even later than 1 pm. I guess they do not enforce this rule strictly.

After checking out, we had lunch. Rhuel had a burger while I had a hotdog bun. Both tasted okay. While waiting for our transpo to the ferry terminal, we played some more billiards and darts. We also enjoyed doing our favorite pastime, people watching. Rhuel especially enjoyed watching the Asian guy and Caucasian girl couple who were PDA-ing all over the place. He would also compete with me for the best seats in the cafe or wherever so he can get the best view of the couple. :D


Our transpo to the terminal left the resort at 3:30 pm. We were supposed to leave at 3 but there were some delays at the resort. Schedule became quite tight then because our ferry was leaving at 5:35 pm. It didn't help that it was raining so the roads were quite slippery. The driver could not drive so fast. Mabuti na rin because his driving the day before was quite scary. He didn't slow down on the blind curves and sometimes he would pull the hand brake while driving. Anyway, I slept for most part of the trip. We got to the terminal at around 4:50 pm.

The terminal was quite chaotic when we got there.


Good thing we followed the hotel personnel's advice to get our boarding passes the day before. There was quite a long line at the boarding pass counter. Since we already had our passes, we had the time to search for our ref magnet. We didn't really like the magnet we saw because it didn't look so sturdy but we had no other choice so we got it. We then proceeded to the immigration line. Lines were shorter this time.

There were more shops inside the pre-departure area. And we found a better looking magnet. Tsk. The ferry terminal had 3 Polo shops. Rhuel said the shirts there were cheaper.



The line to board the ferry was quite long and crazy.


But we still managed to get window seats. So okay pa rin. Ferry left at 5:35 pm Indonesian time. I enjoyed watching Rapunzel during the trip. This time we sat near the ferry's bar. Even the bar looked organized. *sigh*



It was 7:20 pm when we got to Singapore. I was a bit nervous to go through the immigration this time. Rhuel and I had some pass boo-boo. We had Rhuel's pass cancelled earlier and he was on Social Visit Pass since July 24. The SVP is only valid for 30 days. Since we went to Penang in August, he had a fresh 30 days when we got back on August 12. But since we're leaving on September 25, that would still be beyond the 30 days granted for the SVP. We wanted to visit the nearby spots but we were afraid that the immigration personnel would question the length of his stay in Singapore on SVP. One option was to just have the SVP extended for another 30 days. Pero sayang naman if we don't visit Bintan. So we decided to take the risk. We were prepared with our story. He's here to help me pack because we're going back to the Philippines. We also had our tickets to the Philippines on hand in case they ask for it. I was praying hard that things will go smoothly. I do not want to be left here alone. Thank God, everything went smoothly at the immigration check. No questions asked. Fresh 30 days for him, which means he can validly stay here til September 25. Yey! :)

It was a good weekend getaway. We enjoyed Bintan even if we only stayed at the resort the entire time.








I'm guessing the other resorts would have better facilities and there might be other places to visit on the island. We loved how everything felt rural and relaxing.







We must find a similar spot near Sta. Rosa. :)