The Sunbaked King

Bliss in Aisle 10

People in this fast-paced modern world have found different ways of relaxing after work. Some go to the gym to benchpress the workload away or get a shiatsu massage in a nearby spa to ease all those painful stress points. Others head out to the cinemas to watch the most recent offerings. Of course, most don’t need to spend that much to relax– a pack of cigarettes or a favorite book on the ride home will do just fine. For me and my friend, Jel, though, there’s an activity so invigorating it’s a regret that we get to do it only once a month: grocery shopping.

Who knew carrying five heavy SM plastic bags would be so much fun?

It might sound indulgent, yes, but Jel and I indulged in items we thought were necessary in providing our daily sustenance, maintaining our pleasing and professional demeanor, and establishing order and equilibrium in our room. The essentials, so to speak. Every now and then, while Jel wasn’t looking, I was tempted to slip in those delightfully non-fattening (but forbiddingly expensive) Jacob’s vegetable crackers, that Dove Body Bath cream I discovered to exist only a few seconds ago, or a pack of that deliciously sour Knorr Sinigang mix, the MSG-laden contents of which won’t probably meet any boiling liquid in any pan (a story for another time). But alas, the Strict Guardian was there, ready to slap my arm whenever I got too eager.

I didn’t mind. We still got giddy purchasing what we did get. Our favorite buys:

Kerwin. I’m a strong advocate of ironing clothes before work each morning. Unfortunately, I often had to rush through the entire exciting chore because time forbids me from enjoying each warm second. It’s doubly unfortunate that the clothes remain wrinkled; sprinkling water on them before ironing just took too much time, and frankly, didn’t work that effectively.

Thank God for Faultless Sizing Ironing Aid! Now, even though I’m in a rush, I get to enjoy ironing AND I get to wear wrinkle-free, fabulous clothes! All my colleagues in the office have noticed the remarkable improvement! Wow! Thanks, Faultless Sizing! 

 

Jeland. C2 Iced Tea has always been our favorite drink of choice. It’s really totally awesomely healthy; there’s not a lick of preservatives in it. Who knew I’d enjoy such a “natural” drink? For me, C2 is the new water. I can’t eat without it! I can’t smile without it! Can’t laugh, can’t sing, finding it hard to drink anything!

So what are you all waiting for? BUY NOW!

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Filed under: Domesticated

The Wall

While Ken and I were waiting for the 10:30 PM showing of The Dark Knight, we decided to head out to Fully Booked (why does this introduction sound so familiar?) to take a picture of that Top 100 Books wall I mentioned about earlier (ahhh, this is why). We had to do so stealthily, because Fully Booked does not allow picture-taking in its premises. I was already reprimanded once because of my “bad” behavior. (Start of rant: Can I just say how rude the sales staff in Fully Booked Rockwell can be? There’s really something about these stores located in “posh” malls; their staff seem to think they can look down at anyone. Hey, I’m a paying customer, treat me like one. End of rant.) In any case, here was what I got when I positioned myself at the railings outside the store.

Front: My brother, Kenneth. Back: Fully Booked. Zoom: 0.

Technically, we weren’t violating any rules, since we weren’t in the premises. I just happened to have a very powerful camera with a very extensive zoom range.

Unfortunately, it would take several shots of the wall to get the complete list of books. So Ken and I decided to enter the premises and agreed to type down each book title and author in our phones. (Yes, we’re crazy.) We divided the list of books into two, and then went at it. I was midway through my set when Ken approached me, holding the Top 100 list. My jaw dropped. Before you accuse me of not thinking about asking, the last time we were there, we asked one of the store staff if they had any copy of the list on the wall, and she said there were none. (Start of rant: Irksome little imp. End of rant.)

Because of my irritation, I took pictures of the wall while inside the store.

I thought I got away with it, but while I was on the phone, a sales staff approached my brother to reprimand him, instead. Defiance does have its consequences. Nonetheless, I got what I wanted. Check out the Book Club section to see the fruits of my misplaced labor.

Filed under: Bibliomania

Four

I took my first actuarial exam on November 4, 2004, a little less than 4 years ago. Two weeks prior the BIG date, the first half of my 4th year in college came to a temporary halt; sem break had just started. While my other friends in the dorm were out in Boracay or abroad or vacationing in their provinces, I chose to stay put, knowing that if I went home, I wouldn’t be able to study for this BIG exam.

So stay put I did. For two weeks, I woke up at 8 AM, went to McDonald’s Katipunan to study with Joey at 9 AM, and didn’t go back home until it was 6 PM. I thrived on Double Cheeseburger (hold the pickles, please) and Large Coke. I helped burn down several trees by solving on pages and pages of yellow pad paper. And from pressing the calculator too hard, I had unconsciously embossed my fingers with squares the size of a calculator key.

I passed. For the heck of it, I checked out my old blog entries to see if I wrote anything about the MOMENTOUS event. I did. This was what I wrote back then:

January 21, 2005

It’s the actuary profession for me, baby!

Finally, I find time to blog about this. Hee. All these posts but no post about passing the exam? Well, here it is: I PASSED THE FIRST OF SEVERAL ACTUARIAL EXAMS. I didn’t write about this right away, because I wanted to write about it in the way most representative of what I felt during the day I found out about the results. 

Eyes: Passing Candidate Numbers: 11038. 
Heartbeat: DUG DUG DUG DUG DUG DUG DUG DUG DUG DUGGGGGG!!!!!! 
Brain: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!! 
Mouth: I passed! [grins] 
Brain: YOU PASSED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
Heartbeat: DUGGG!!! DUGGG!!! DUGGG!!! DUGGG!!! DUGGG!!! 
Mouth: I passed!! [grins wider] 
Brain: Maybe there’s an error. 
Heartbeat: DUGGG!!!! [stops] 
Mouth: [wide O] 
Eyes: Passing Candidate Numbers: 11038. 
Eyes: Passing Candidate Numbers: 11038. 
Eyes: Passing Candidate Numbers: 11038. 
Brain: OH MY GOD YOU DID PASS! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!! 
Mouth: I PASSED!!! [a wider grin, if that was even possible] 

My non-sem break was worth it. The endless computations were worth it. The McDo breakfasts, lunches, and dinners were worth it. 

I feel exhilarated once again. Perhaps I should opt to take the next test this May? Hee. ACTUARY, here I come!

It’s funny; almost four years and six more exams later, nothing much has changed. Replace McDonald’s Katipunan with Starbucks 6750 or Seattle’s Best Coffee, exchange the Double Cheeseburger with a Triple Espresso Cafe Mocha, and adjust the waking hours to something a little later, and I end up being in the exact situation– studying for an exam, struggling to pass, sacrificing what little time I have for everything else. 

The only difference was, I failed this time around.

Amazingly, for someone who cries the night before an exam he feels he’s totally unprepared for, no tears fell when I heard the bad news. Perhaps it’s because I knew that my shot at passing was slim; I knew it days before when I could barely concentrate on my readings, I knew it midway through the exam when I couldn’t properly eat lunch; I knew it afterwards when everyone was talking about their answers and I could not believe why I didn’t answer that. In other words, it was an expected event.

But perhaps there’s another reason why I didn’t cry over the failure. Because like everything else that remained unchanged after four years, one thing still rings true: I still want this. The exhilaration of passing motivates, yes, but the pain of failing challenges. At the end of the day, whether I’m giddy at a positive result or grieving over a negative one, the only question I’ll have to ask myself is this: How loud can I still exclaim, “ACTUARY, here I come”?

Right now, my answer’s clear: pretty loud.

(Oh, in case you’re wondering what the entry title’s all about, well, that’s my grade. The passing mark’s a 6.)

Filed under: Rat Race

The Boob Tube

I’m a reality TV freak. No, I’m not a fan of those shows that follow celebrities’ lives around or those creepy detective-type spectacles that try to catch your spouse cheating on you. I’m also not a fan of those dating-type shows that claim to be avenues for you to find your One True Love. And I really hate Fear Factor. So… I guess I’m not much of reality TV freak, after all. Maybe reality TV groupie is the better term.

But my TV choices are pretty clear: I don’t watch Lost, Prison Break, Heroes, Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty, or Gossip Girl, not because they’re not good (from almost all accounts they are GREAT), but because they are a chore to watch. You have to watch entire seasons to get a clear of idea of how everything goes. With elimination-type reality TV shows, though, you get action in delicious bite-sized pieces, similar to those Big Bang and Cloud 9 chocolate bars I used to enjoy in Grade School. And when the season ends and a contestant is declared a victor, you can safely withdraw all the emotions you have invested into a single person. Life moves on. Another season awaits. (Unless, of course, they do All-Stars, in which case, it’s back to safeguarding your heart.)

Of course, I sometimes watch non-reality shows just for the heck of it. The more obscure a TV series is here in the Philippines, the more likely I’m going to download its episodes. I don’t know why I do this. Maybe because I like telling people they’re missing half of their life by missing out on a certain show. Maybe because I want to brag. Or maybe because I’ve missed out on the first few seasons of every show everyone is watching, and can’t catch up, and I’m being bitter. Whatever the reason, the fact remains: I watch some shows, and skip others. Whatever rocks your boat, right?

Check out the shows that do rock my boat in my new section: the Boob Tube

P.S. In case you haven’t noticed, the entire entry is just one big plug for the new section. In television, in blogging, and in life, a little razzle-dazzle can’t hurt, right?

Filed under: The Couch Potato, TV

Sunday

It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The clouds have split open to let out a little rain, but only for a short while. The roads are consequently wet, free from the bondage of dust and dirt, but they’re not flooded. Cars speed by without slowing down; traffic is as light as the raindrops that have fallen on the roads.

The coffee shop I’m in isn’t crowded. Everyone is evenly spaced out, and most have come alone. They who have arrived solo are immersed in their laptops or their books or their PSP’s. Every once in a while they take a sip from their frappes and lattes, yawn, or adjust the volume setting on their iPods. Then they resume typing, flipping the page, or attacking the controls. Those who have come in pairs or groups, on the other hand, are huddled in animated but subdued conversations. No boisterous laughter erupts, no shouting develops. 

I am one of those who’ve brought a book along, but I didn’t come solo. My roommate’s beside me, engaged in some weekend work. I share no such burden. The world is a lovely place to be in today. The couch I’m sitting on is my meadow of sunflowers; the music I’m listening to is my concerto of birds’ tweets; and the book I’m reading is my picnic basket. 

It feels so good to be free. Nothing to distract you, no one to distract you.

If only every day were a Sunday.

Bliss.

Filed under: Sunshine

Kaban ng Karunungan

Kaban ng karunungan, hindi nababawasan. – Filipino riddle

While Jel and I were waiting for the 11:10 PM showing of The Dark Knight, we decided to head out to Fully Booked to buy the book of idiomatic expressions that Jel started having interest in. Amazingly, the store did not have the book that we wanted. Back in Grade School, I used to have this little dictionary of idiomatic expressions (published by the almighty Oxford, no less) because I had to learn several of them in my Reading class. I guess the days of nifty little booklets are gone now; only these “Practice Makes Perfect” exercise books with their huge font sizes and gargantuan blank lines remain.

But I digress. While we were roaming the shelves, I saw this huge poster running across one of the walls. It immediately grabbed my attention. The poster lists the Top 100 Books of the Last 100 Years, and displays the covers of these books in full color. The whole thing was breathtaking, at least for me, and a little bit humbling. It’s been some time since I last completed a non-Stephen King non-academic book. I tried picking up Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things, and found it positively rich, but somehow I couldn’t read it unless I was taking a dump. I guess what I’m saying is this: books have somehow left its usual prominent top position in my wishlist during birthdays and Christmas, and are now somehow at the bottom of it. 

I then thought of my 23 Things, Goal Number 16: Buy books NOT written by Stephen King. With my obsession over lists, and that particular goal in mind, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to start reading books again. I feel that my literary mind has gone on *snooze* long enough. Time to wake it up.

I begin with Richard Adams’s Watership Down.

[You can check out the books I’ve read (and the whole list, once I’ve taken the picture of that Fully Booked wall) in the Book Club corner. Soon.]

Filed under: Bibliomania

The Dark Knight

BEHIND THE LINE

The Dark Knight

Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal

I’ve said this time and again: I believe in the innate goodness of man. I don’t think, even for an instance, that someone can be completely and utterly evil, so totally immersed in their malicious treatment of others, and– this is important– be aware that this is so. Call me naive or call me pitifully ignorant, but even the worst of men have their good sides, delusional or otherwise.

Christopher Nolan’s Joker (played by the late Heath Ledger) has shaken this belief to a considerable degree. By himself, the Joker is a spokesperson for evil. Chillingly cruel and atrociously anarchical, he sends Gotham City literally in flames with the ease of flicking a finger or clenching a fist. However, the scariest part about him does not lie in his capability to do grandiose acts of chaos. The scare lies in the fact that his brand of evil is mostly psychological in nature. He plays with people’s heads. Somehow he knows that the greatest damage is done when his victim has turned against himself. 

Ironically, the Joker is the only stable character in the movie, the only one you’ll trust to be doing something he is ought to do: evil. Everyone else is not so lucky to have a consistent frame of mind. The movie captures the tug-of-war between choices of morality and ethics so forcefully and effectively. The film tells us that Harvey Dent is not the only Two-Face here; we all are. Even though we don’t actually have our own coins to dictate to us what we ought to do, we have our own metrics by which we gauge our actions, we have our own versions of leaving it to fate.

In the middle of the film, there’s a ferry scene. One ferry contains Gotham City’s civilians. Another ferry contains its criminals. The Joker then decides to play a little social experiment with the two. I won’t divulge any more details, but that powerful scene encapsulates the core of my beliefs about human nature in 5 heart-pounding minutes. 

Whoever titled this film “The Dark Knight” is a genius. It’s dark, all right, and it’s staring you right at the face.

And you cannot NOT watch it.

Filed under: Cinema, The Couch Potato

Single Guy In Transit

Outside, the winds begin their urgent whispers, their floating lips galloping alongside the railway train.

You pay the weather no attention. Your mind is stormy as it is. Your eyes, however, are another matter altogether. They are like the eagle’s; they dart from side to side, in search of easy prey. Mobile, but focused. Agile, but sharp.

Target sighted: Humanoid X by the train door. Looking out the window, deep in thought. You trace the Humanoid’s vision and discover the rain for the first time. You dismiss it. There are more important things than a little precipitation. Like the Humanoid’s face. It’s immensely interesting how the jawline meets the ear in a sharp angle, and how the hair cascades down the forehead like, well, dark rain. Further down, two hollow depressions appear on the Humanoid’s nose, one on each side. It has been wearing its glasses for too long a time today. 

You smirk. Nothing escapes your vision. Not in the face of such beauty.

Outside, the winds have replaced its urgent whispers with more forceful kisses. Inside, you feel a vibration in your pants. Your gaze falters; your smirk softens to an uncertain but hopeful smile.

You reach into your pants and grab your cellphone. Against the bluish backlight are written 3 little words: 1 New Message. Your heart skips. Just once. With a little quiver, you lead your thumb to the keypad and press OK. Like the other times today, you may have pressed a little too hard. But this does not matter. The act does its job. The screen changes to reveal your Inbox. At the very top is the unread message: it’s a quote.

Your heart sinks, but your face does not show it. It has learned to adapt.

You shove your cellphone back into your pocket. You glance up. You have arrived. Before you step off the train, you check out the Humanoid that has captured your attention so forcefully a few moments ago. Your forehead contorts in visible puzzlement. Suddenly, everything seems wrong. The jaw juts out a little too far away from the face; the hair is a slimy mess. With nary a second look, you walk away. 

Past the mob. Past the Humanoids. Past the people with everything to tease, but nothing to offer.

You climb the next flight of stairs. You go down the other one.

First station. Next train.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Humanoid X in one corner; Humanoid Y in another.

Outside, the winds begin fucking.

Filed under: Eros, Fiction, Yes?, Ra

Five Cows

 

What? It seems to be proud of its ice cream creations.

Where? Trinoma, North Avenue, Quezon City

Let’s break it down:

Food. For our entrees, Kenneth ordered the Red Wine Chicken Adobo (FTM: Thigh, drumstick, and wing. Red wine adobo sauce. Pickled vegetables. Rice.). I chose the Grilled Honey-Bourbon Chops (FTM: Porkchops. Honey-bourbon glaze. Buttered vegetables. Rice.). Actually, I urged Kenneth to take on the adobo. I was intrigued by the inclusion of red wine, and besides, chicken adobo is always a delicious dish, wherever it may be served. 

Sad to say, the adobo was bland, and lacked that little kick. I’m not even sure if the red wine was present. If so, it was underwhelmingly subtle. The chicken was cooked perfect, but the lack of taste nullified that positive aspect of the dish. My pork chops, on the other hand, were superb. The honey-bourbon glaze really gave the meat a sweet but tangy taste which my taste buds appreciated.

Speaking of sweet, we moved on to dessert.  Since the restaurant was so confident of their ice cream delicacies they named their place as a “Resto and Ice Cream Bar,” we had to taste for ourselves. Kenneth had the Ferrero Crunch Supreme (FTM: The most talked about creation! Classic vanilla ice cream mixed with crunchy bits and our very own concoction of choco hazelnut filling. Definitely a must try for those who enjoy a truly amazing chocolatey experience!), while I had the House Specialty, Blueberry Crumble (FTM: Two generous scoops of classic vanilla ice cream, blueberry filling and streusel bits.) The lack of exclamation points in my description was a give-away that the Ferrero Crunch Supreme was, indeed, going to reign supreme. It’s sin in chocolate form.

Ambiance. I hate restaurants with seats that extend to the outside, where people walking by can see you struggling with your pork chops, or licking the underside of your spoon for residual ice cream bits. Five Cows is one such place. The inside looks inviting (yellow lights, yay) and comfortable, but the outside was just a dreary place to be in.

Service. Given our unfortunate seating, it was difficult to get the servers’ attention. Fortunately, all bad feelings were gone by the time they’re done, since the servers make it a point to be as accommodating and as yielding as possible. And we got a free Five Cows cap!*

* Not exactly free. It’s an additional 50 pesos for every single receipt worth 1,000 pesos. Hee.

Filed under: Gastronomy

The Taipan

What? Chinese (Cantonese) Cuisine

Where? Philamlife Tower, Paseo de Roxas, Makati City

Let’s break it down:

Food. Eat-all-you-can dim sum buffet! I didn’t recognize half of what’s being served in our table, and I wasn’t even able to take a look at the menu. What I know is that everything is shrimp-based. Hakao, shrimp dumpling, abalone on top of shrimp, pork on top of shrimp. I’m not complaining; I love shrimp. However, some variety would have been nice (yes, there were chicken legs, but no one even touched them).

4.5  out of 5

Ambiance. The place is as opulent as the jewelry in The Forbidden Palace. As such, it was not the place for loud conversations, camwhoring, and excessive display of gluttony. But we had all three, anyway, because how often can you say that you got in the most posh restaurant in the Philamlife Tower? Not very often, that’s how.

4  out of 5

Service. The waiters were very professional, both in style and form. They were efficient winds– unseen and unfelt, yet our glasses never seemed to run empty. We would have wanted the same treatment when it came to our soy sauce saucers; we had to ask for a refill.

 out of 5

The entire dinner was free, so I couldn’t really rate anything based on price. And since the place was available only to members, I couldn’t openly recommend it to everyone. You’ll just have to take my word for it; the dim sum, shrimp-monotonous as they were, were simply delicious.

———————————————

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a peek at some of the scenes during dinner. (Yes, I have to post this.)

 

While the food may be delicious,

it wasn’t as smoldering

or as sexy

or as sumptuous

as the rest of us.

Filed under: Gastronomy, Vanity