Monday, September 27, 2010

All Mixed Up

I had the most shocking experience. I wondered after how I was taught English and Filipino when I was young. The results were actually convincing and the lessons I have learned stuck long after that encounter. I put my hands down to Javier! Thank you. I guess I was still disoriented that my feet brought me to the Taiwan Film Festival in Shangrila again. This time around though it was so unplanned and as I said, not myself yet, so I went in half-heartedly at the exact play time. There were no lines outside this time and everybody was in already. A woman behind me suddenly asked if I collect stamps. She was offering and I obliged because it rekindled my youthful interest in them. Now I have to make time to find that stampbook since I had to add the ones I bought from this lady. The situation and timing seemed awkward but I doubt if she could make money for 20 pesos a set. She was 80 and these were her old collections she said. As for me, I jumped on the deal hoping that my hundred could take me places someday. With all these weird happenings I had, plus a movie that I couldn't make myself watch anymore, I went out the theater in the middle of the film feeling very tired and confused.

I came back to my senses at around dinnertime for that gastronomic adventure in CCA Restaurant in Eastwood. It wasn't meant to be for ramen so we tried out this hidden culinary school restaurant instead. Unlike Enderun, CCA has a more casual feel to it. We ordered the Slow-Cooked Beef with risotto (with free salad bar and soup buffet) and the Seafood Linguini with tomato sauce plus an extra favor to add cream. I ended up raiding the salad bar, tried the soups and lickin' my pasta bowl. The verdict: the food was reasonably priced for a full-course meal and we ended up like two very belly satisfied. We would definitely go back, me to try that corn soup they didn't refill and to try the other stuff in their menu. I was definitely happy about the food upgrade. I was dead tired when we got to Ronza's for a birthday bash. But I sampled the unlimited Nachos and Cheese before I went home early. It was a nice brief night of catching up with a few friends. 

Enderun and Culinary Restaurants

To be in Enderun seemed like a castle-like, majestic and fairy-tale experience, where you will eat good food paired with good service. The service had to be world-class with its international administrators and educational system. Or because the name sounds classy at the very least. I had these thoughts when I entered the restaurant of this college. I wish we had scorecards to rate the students to make it a different experience. I once heard of a restaurant also run by those offering a culinary education cooking up 50-peso full-course meals. If 50 pesos is the price for being a food lab guinea pig then I wouldn't miss that culinary adventure for the world. That was a gig they do on lunch during weekdays and closed on weekends because there were no classes. I think it's still available. I'll divulge the details to my friends and make the plans for the future food trip. Maybe after I've tried it on October...

Back to Enderun, the food took too long to arrive for me and I wish it wasn't because of the GC. But as long as the conversation kept on flowing, I guess it would be tolerable. The bread was yummy so I had two or three helpings before I stopped myself and continued waiting on the main meal. NomNom =) ordered the Pork Belly with rice. Jeff ordered Slow-Cooked Beef with french fries. I ordered Tagliatelle Pasta with parma ham and truffle cream sauce. The verdict: a little pricey and the food was so-so only for me. My pasta tasted like something I had before that I hated but this one was not too salty so I liked it. The beef didn't taste like beef. The pig with the pork belly was fat. The good thing about this place is that I think they change the menu often. The ambiance is magnifique, especially the events place that was all setup for the party that night. I would like to hold an event there someday - the place looked grand. It was very inviting and it could be intimate due to the size. Our timing was not perfect for the school tour but I was glad for it too. Maybe it's just the grand design and white walls that captivated me. I wouldn't go ahead with the tour if the insides would ruin my impression of the place.

"Healing" Spa and Berroni's Pizza

I swore I would never go to the spa again but the temptation was strong enough to carry me to Hotel H2O in Manila Ocean Park. The spa manager differentiated their spa with "healing properties". We were hooked with the scientific experiments and it was like we were in a lab and he was the scientist. There was the explanation about the positive ions forever present in our environment (which are unstable and mutate in the city) and his claim that a Japanese company has invented a way to balance it with materials that give out negative ions. It will increase blood flow for one and our fingers were subjected to a capillary microscope immediately. It turns out that my capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in my body, are pretty healthy (except for that one twisted capillary from the "lechon kawali"), they were visibly long and has a regular flow rate of blood, according to the microscopic evidence. When the material emitting negative ions was put in my arm near the finger, the flow rate within the capillaries magically increased. The excitement died down when the treatment started. Sadly, the material made that cute scarf cost a whopping three thousand plus pesos! The massage was normal and okay...until I was pressured to give a tip. I was also a little bothered when they were at a loss about what's next and made me wait out in the open. The hot bed was different but I was a little uncomfortable with the effects on my back shoulder henna mess. But it tickled my creativity and it was a different feeling to be in a sauna-like room lying down, at the same time alone in the dark with your thoughts. I ended the treatment after I couldn't breathe anymore. I was sweating like a pig in less than 30 minutes. The concept of the spa was nice but I couldn't get over the fact that the service was very poor and that no one was there to explain to me the connection between the "healing" intro speech and the spa treatment. Meanwhile, the little chat with the girls in the locker room calmed my nerves. It was like a spa party with friends that I never had. 

I was delighted when it was time to try out Berroni's, the pizza that I never had too. Berroni's is a quiet little place near the Valle Verde Country Club. It was named after the three sons of the Chinese owner, which surprisingly sounds very Italian to us. I ordered dinner myself without waiting for Jeff in my excitement. I ordered the Mushroom Soup, their Rockefeller Oysters, Lasagna and the Berroni's Pizza for us. The verdict was good - the ambiance is nice and it was a filling light dinner. The food though was perfect for a light afternoon snack or if you are just chilling out with your friends. The oysters were the bestsellers and the typical Berronian way to eat is with their hot sauce and some calamansi if you dare. The recipes come from an old restaurant in Metrowalk that closed down and it's a good thing that the staff still remained to revive the specials through Berroni's. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Rare Silence

Today, I watched a baby sleep for the first time. Unconcerned with all the noise around him, he slept so peacefully. I simply couldn't take my eyes off of him. I found myself content at staring, I didn't want to disturb his sleep. When he woke up, he was the center of attention. The others found him unusually quiet and unresponsive to all their provoking. When he turned his head to me, his fingers caught my hand and he stared at me amusingly. I hesitated to hold him in my arms for fear that I may do something wrong to this beautiful baby. But I wanted in my own way to make him smile. He was the perfect baby at the moment, I wish my future baby will be as quiet and used to people like him.

We were all gathered for the annual MoonCake Festival celebration of J's extended family. As what is tradition among the Chinese-Filipino families living in the country, we participated in a dice game with the exciting prizes at mind. The game was followed by a potluck and home-cooked dinner complete from salads to soup to pasta, chicken, beef, seafood and dessert. The air was filled with laughing and story-telling as groups form at separate dining tables. Children were also running around and playing with their young cousins. I don't have a big family and our celebrations are limited to my immediate family, an uncle, an aunt and my two cousins. Until now, I am still not used to being in big crowds and spending the day with a lot of people. When things slow down though, I wish I could be that baby who is left alone in peace. But the success rate would definitely be increased if I were as oblivious as him to the uncontrollable things happening around me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Freebies and Contests Galore

I tagged along to a Tang launching event in SM Mall of Asia for the unveiling of the coolest Tang Pick & Go Baon Pack. The hall was filled with kiddies and parents all lined up for the activities such as the pachingko and the face painting booths. While waiting, there was enough time to take a picture with the big IMAX modules for the Think Big Photo Contest. We saw the Eden booth promoting the Sarap ng Pasko a few steps away. This used to be an Eden Cheese Cafe a few months back but now, they are just using it for online registration site via IPad for the campaign. Jeff and I also decided to try out the Delifrance Tongue Twister Promo and ended up going to Netopia just to print that coupon for the Chicken Bourbon Sampler (around 1/3 of the original). "How much bourbon can a chicken drink if a chicken can drink bourbon?" is stuck in my head after reciting it for the cashier three times. The sampler was good and filling for a snack and it left me thinking that I have tasted something like it before, probably along the lines of Chicken BBQ. Back at the Tang event launching, I ran into a friend who was part of an ad agency handling the event. Here I learned from Jeff that several ad agencies can work together, but with separate jobs, at the same campaign. We watched the program until the end when they announced the winner for their contest. The new Tang sachet 3-in-1 drink is a great concept with its different flavors. The good thing about this is that kids can bring it to school and make the drink they like themselves. I don't know about others but this instant drink can teach kids a thing or two about lifting a finger and make their juice.

Dinner was a buffet GC for two claimed at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Galleria. Jeff and I had a great time in 7 Suites and we both agreed that the selection was just right. It is not as abundant as Spiral in Sofitel but it won't lose to Circles or the Hyatt buffets with added points for its location in the heart of Ortigas  which was nearer to us. The selection was complete with a salad bar, bread and cheese corner, cold seafood, Japanese sushi and sashimi, Indian food, Chinese noodles, pasta, pizza and meat section, a generous slab of rib eye and a hidden helping of lechon. There was also a desert corner with fruits, gelato, sherbet, cakes and chocolate fondue. I loved the tomato cream pasta and lemon-butter lobster that I asked for as a favor outside of the selection. The place was not jam-packed too, the service is good and parking is free. It is a quiet place to have a good conversation with your date. 

Expenses for the Day: 
Netopia computer time and printing - Php 12
Delifrance extra order of peach croissant - below Php 100

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Henna Mess

I spent the week recovering from the flu and a severe allergic reaction to the henna tattoos I got in Boracay. In one week, my fun and unique tattoos at the back of my hand and my upper back turned from black to itchy red and it felt like a horror movie. From the moment I had them, I had been reluctant and careful to wash them (the more visible one at the back of my hand especially) with soap for fear that the memories from the trip and the excitement I experienced will simply fade away like that. And because I look at it every day so happily, I had noticed the tiny red bumps that started forming that Wednesday afternoon right away. At first I thought it might be a symptom of dengue for I had the flu already going on since Monday and I was in a very bad shape. Surprisingly though, the red bumps appeared only in the outlines of my henna tattoos. I went online and found out that this type of allergy from henna tattoos was common, especially from small shops and in my case, sidewalk offers in third-world beach destinations. I was horrified to find out that it could scar forever. I helped myself to a tablet of Celestamine I kept for emergencies and rushed to the E.R. that night just to be sure. The doctor confirmed that it was contact dermatitis and prescribed anti-histamines for 5 days. I wondered how long the tattoos will stay there. Before I had the allergic reaction, I had wanted to wash off any red ballpoint pen residue used for my back to draw the tattoo so I washed it with a deep action cleanser I use for my face, soap and hot water all the time. I also accidentally scratched the one at my back on the first day so washing it all off did not matter anymore since the design was ruined anyway. After the E.R. incident, I tried to wash and rinse the area where the all the tattoos are (including the black of my hand) but I could see that little specs of black ink are still there at close range. Together with the red bumps.

The torture went on for that 5 days until now. It is also so dangerously itchy and I found myself time and time again, even after distractions, continuously scratching the red bumps. The bumps fully outline the design of my tattoos now especially at my upper back and they look like burn marks at my back. Tying my hands together did not help either. Distracting yourself is the key - doing other stuff, asking yourself if you want to have scars forever and taking cold baths. I am guessing those hot baths and rinsing did helped my skin in some way absorb the chemicals from the henna tattoos faster by opening up the pores more. I wish my body would recover from the stress I had put it through and for the physical scars to heal in time too. The experience will stay with me though as a very good learning to treat your body well and to remember that when you want to have fun in the long run. And it is the experiences that matter not the tokens that will only dig a hole in your pocket. The tattoo artists, as I would say, were only trying to make a living and they are very good at what they do. According to some, these people do not get penalized and had never been prosecuted because by the time the allergy appears (around 1 week), the tourists are already home or at some other place. Maybe they don't know themselves. I have wondered all this time why they, exposed to the henna as seen in the stains of their palms and hands, probably did not have the same experience as I had. It would not be wise to earn a living so openly about a substance you know would cause great harm or pain to other people, and in this case tourists who sustain their everyday living, and even pose so happily in the picture with me. Maybe my skin is just sensitive from my other allergies and glorious city living. Better not risk it too much next time and just spread the word to be careful when having fun.

Update: I recovered from this. I actually forgot when but as of 2013, no marks/scars whatsoever left.

Bad ER Rating

If there's anything I'm proud of health-wise, it would be that I have never been rushed to or confined in a hospital. The first of the two major E.R. visits I had, however, occurred because I was such in a dramatic and emotionally imbalanced state in Tagaytay so I "hyper-ventillated", which was a major happening for me because I thought I was going to be paralyzed forever. The trick was a brown bag and I would be okay. The learning I got was that too much oxygen/inhaling too fast would numb your hands and feet first, then your whole body. And if it happens, do not panic or you'll breathe more in. Stabilize your heart and control/slow down your breathing even if you suddenly can't speak and your mind is racing. The second visit just happened last week and it is "contact dermatitis". The learnings are not to get henna tattoos until you've researched well and my main focus in this post, how the E.R. people at CSMC treated a paying outpatient like me.

First, a person asks what is wrong with me and takes my temperature, blood pressure and heart rate and asks me to fill out a form. Next he asks me to wait at a corner and to just sign a waiver that says something like they will not be responsible if I go to them and I am mentally incapable or something (I did not read it through that much anymore because he was waiting). A young doctor passes by, chats with me (it went something like tattoo girl or something and laughed when I asked if it was dengue) and examines me there in the waiting area with another doctor saying you have to wait again. I waited while I see doctors/people in different colors of scrubs walked around, joked around, doors of nurse areas opened, doors of nurse rooms closed, doctors talked to the parents of a patient and I could hear them and maintenance people carry trash around. No other patients like me go in or out but there are others who just came and goes right in ahead of me. The young doctor who entertained me first takes a look at my rashes and throat and asks me questions at the waiting area again after 30 minutes. After a while, she ushers another senior doctor out to examine me there at the waiting area and the senior doctor has a recommendation. The person who took my temperature took it again for my discharge papers. After another long time, the young doctor shortly and happily briefs me on taking medicine like taking it after a meal and going back if it doesn't work. It was time to go pay the bill after that almost 2-hour long "public check-up". I was given my discharge papers and I found that they were supposed to do a final blood pressure and heart rate too but the figures there were all made up. There was no final check-up, except for the temperature because I had to pay for the ear cup. After that, I went to the drug store only to find out that they prescribed me with a medicine that I gave me severe stomachaches before. When I went home and read the label, it mentioned that a person should not be taking it when under a certain weight and I was at the border! They did not even bother to ask me relevant questions such as height and weight. Furthermore, I took the medicine after a meal immediately as the doctor instructed and there was that painful stomachache. I followed the label that said 2 hours after, stayed away from dairy and I got better without the stomachache. I wish this was an isolated case. I have decided that I don't want to be sick to the point that they will treat me in this hospital.