The perfect presents

29 12 2011

Nothing like polka dots to usher in an auspicious beginning for the coming year.

WHILE I maintain that the best reason for giving is for no reason at all – amidst all the countless reasons under the sky as to why – I couldn’t help but feel really thankful for getting a ton of presents this Christmas 2011.  I never knew I could be overjoyed too.  The odds said improbable.  But what do I know?

I guess all I needed was a chance to feel this way.

Each present, I honestly love.  And on each was attached the antithesis of what our modern-day relationships have been reduced to – a series of facebook status updates and 140-character tweets – the handwritten note.

I write this right now, at 2:33 AM, surrounded by these presents, each of which appeals to a facet of my personality and is able to capture my being child-like sometimes, my passion for cooking, my love for scents, my being practical, and my stark simplicity.  A couple of them ignited a love for Belgian chocolates I never knew had been pent-up inside of me, waiting to bubble over.

In this pile is the fulfillment of my wish list.  And somewhere here is a gift that, just like me, has a lot of goodies to give away.  (I mean, I try to share goodies as much as I can.)

Most of the gifts I received this year

And trust the power of unexpected gifts to make you change your mind over something.  I’ve long resolved not to replace my worn-out, weather-beaten leather wallet until it literally falls apart, threads unraveling required.

But as I write, I’ve kissed that seeming unbreakable personal injunction goodbye.  And this is so not me to say, but, I love the smell of calf leather.

To all of those who had me on their lists this year, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.  To quote one note I received, “Give and it will be given back to you.”

This gift came all the way from Taiwan!

All piled up.


This card said "Bubbly Greetings!"


I love receiving notes, like this one. I actually keep all that I get. Sometimes, they outlast the actual gifts.


I've been reading this and re-reading... Sweet.


Thanks for the well-wishes!


It didn't have to be "branded" but this was a fulfillment of a wish list item.


Such a lovely couple. They've been sort of taking care of me ever since I moved to Singapore.


I emceed their wedding reception and we've been great friends ever since!


Gift from the 4 J's


Something from someone who always makes fun of me... and my tummy! Haha!


From someone who always asks the tough questions! Haha!


From someone I've known from all the way back, and became really close friends with here in Singapore.


This couple gave me my first home in Singapore. That is something I will never forget.


Thanks for yours too!


"Give and it will be given back to you."

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

‘Twas the night of Christmas

26 12 2011

“STAR BRIGHT / First star I see tonight / Could you or would you please shine your light? / Shine it so I can see / My Savior smiling at me / Star Bright, I hear you once proclaimed / This is the way, keep on followin’ me / and at the end of the road will be, a baby…”

I spent Christmas Day by having dinner at 313@somerset, a little shopping, walking on Orchard Road, catching whatever remained of the “Christmas is Love” show, hopping on the train to Esplanade, planning for high tea while passing by The Fullerton Hotel, walking to the Merlion, seeking some peace and quiet, and having coffee at Starbucks at One Fullerton.

It was a lot of walking amidst a seeming City of Lights.  It was like following that Star.

Outside the Esplanade Mall, I couldn’t help but hear “Star Bright” in my head as I took in the view of the amazing Singapore skyline.  Everything was lit up, everything was festive.  Everything was cheering me up.

And just like me, everybody has a silent wish.  Some of them brave enough to commit these wishes to paper – to be more accurate, plastic actually – as they wrote them on the shining diamonds that hung from posts outside the mall.


Star light, star bright,

The first star I see tonight;

I wish I may, I wish I might,

Have the wish I wish tonight.


Merry Christmas.

















Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

“Meri Krismas, Kabayan!”

26 12 2011

Chilli Crab, Jumbo Seafood (Riverside), Clarke Quay, Singapore

I GUESS that when you put on an LED-lit miniature Santa hat on your head, you forfeit any and all right to lose patience at the fickle-minded weather, at the foot traffic, and at the motley crew that had chosen to converge at the only place seemingly open on Christmas Eve here in Singapore.

But come to think of it, the 24th of December is all about Christmas.  And Christmas is love.  As my favorite GAP ad of all time said, “Put a little love in your heart.”  And in your tummy, put a lot of great food.  It doesn’t matter where you are; Christmas Eve is all about Noche Buena (literally, “good night”).  In the Philippines, families gather for this traditional dinner at midnight.

This year, Noche Buena to me meant hopping on the 65 to go to Potong Pasir MRT station, and from there taking the train to Harbour Front.  And throughout the travel time, a little bobbing of the head was involved, as “pa rum pa pum pum” played incessantly on my mind.  (I had just come from the Christmas Pageant at St. Michael’s.)

My friends Loradel and Don and I were surprised to get a table easily at Jumbo Seafood at the Riverside.  We didn’t even break a sweat at the wait.

We vowed to splurge on this season that we are spending away from our own families.  So we had resolved to get the Chilli Crab, and around it built a spread that was worthy of Christmas – Braised Shark’s Fin Soup with Crab Meat, Fish Fillet with Sweet and Sour Sauce, Fried Noodles Hong Kong Style, Deep-Fried Mini Buns, Seafood Fried Rice, and a couple of jugs of arguably the best Homemade Barley.

The best part of the meal for me was the soup, so even at S$ 14.00 a pop, I didn’t mind having seconds.  You can never put a price tag on good food, on food that you love, and especially, on Christmas.

(The title is in Filipino and reads, “Merry Christmas, Countryman!”)

Soup so good that I had to have seconds!


Fried Noodles Hong Kong Style


My first portion of the noodles.


Fish Fillet with Sweet and Sour Sauce


Seafood Fried Rice


The fiery Chilli Crab


This clawed its way to my heart. Haha!


The bill


With the guest check. (I collect these.)


"Meri Krismas, Kabayan!"... With Loradel and Don.


Santa Baby. Hahaha!


Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

Pa rum pa pum pum

26 12 2011

St. Michael's Rd, Singapore, at dusk on Christmas Eve 2011

A CHRISTMAS pageant, for me, has suburban America written all over it.  So imagine my surprise when I learned there was one that was going to be held here in Singapore, on Christmas Eve, at the church where one of my friends goes to.  I looked forward to it, while thinking that it felt so Gilmore girls season one.

The play was told from the perspective of the grown-up Little Drummer Boy.  The costumes were elaborate.  The singing heartfelt (the lead was a bit Josh Groban-ish).  The children’s acting rang with sincerity.

For a while there, while seated at the front pew, I forgot that I would rather be somewhere else – my whole family was at my youngest brother’s house – and got awashed in the spirit of the season.

I left the church singing to myself, “I am a poor boy too, pa rum pa pum pum.”  Me and my drum.

The little drummer boys and the rest of the cast get ready for the processional.


The grown-up Little Drummer Boy narrates the story of Christmas. "I am a poor boy too, pa rum pa pum pum..."


The pageant started with the whole cast appearing on stage.


This group of girls took care of all the dancing that was needed in the play.


The grown-up Little Drummer Boy and the cutest shepherd girls.


Didn't I say they are the cutest?!


Josh Groban, err, the grown-up Little Drummer Boy waltzes back into the scene.


Mary and Joseph make it to Bethlehem where the baby Jesus was born.


Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus


The grown-up Little Drummer Boy reflects on his finest gift, playing on his drum. "Come, they told me, pa rum pa pum pum..."


Six Little Drummer Boys


As the song built to a raging crescendo, two Little Drummer Boys went down to bang on these big drums. PA RUM PA PUM PUM!


The adult choir


Take a bow.


eNTeNG at St. Michael's Church, Singapore, Christmas Eve, 2011


St. Michael's Church, Singapore


Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

I won’t be home

24 12 2011

"Starbright, first star I see tonight, could you or would you please shine your light..." ...A Star from the Brendarryl Christmas Tree 2011

I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, the song, is one Christmas tune I have a sweet spot for.  As a member of the Honor Society in college, we would have annual Christmas caroling at our alumni’s homes and after all the jingle bells and sleigh bells had been rung, the “choir” would clear the floor to leave me and the guitarist for my solo spot.  Yes, I’ll Be Home For Christmas was my solo spot.

This year, I wouldn’t be singing the tune, as I’m here in the Lion City.

Not to fret because I’ve always believed that home is where the heart is.  And I know where mine is.

“It’s comforting to know, the ones you really love are always in your heart.  And if you’re very lucky…  a plane ride away.”


Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved


24 12 2011

"Farewell, my comrades." – JC with some of his guests and new friends, YC, WS, V, T, and KL.

DECISIONS ARE always tough to make.  It is about choosing one over another.  One would win your favor, and the other would be left out.  If that doesn’t sound tough, I don’t know what is.

When someone has gotten used to be in a place or a group that he himself would tell a new friend to be “a great place or company to be in,” and yet he comes to the point when he would need to pursue his own goals of personal technical growth by way of, let’s say, a PhD, that is a tough decision to make.  I can’t imagine being in his shoes.

I can’t imagine that, but I can throw a send-off lunch.  Haha!  Yes, it is send-off number two in the space of a couple of days.  This time, the man-of-the-moment is my highly dependable logistics guy in the – hold on, there’s that word again – “Committee.”

I got asked what exactly I meant by “send-off.”  It is simply an organized expression of goodwill (that’s why I’d gather the important and closest people) at the start of a new trip (as is the case of WCC) or a new venture (as is the case of man-of-the-moment JC).  Though I’d rather call his an “adventure” as I hope for him both fun and learning on this ride.

That, and three things – salt so that his life will always be full of flavor; bread so that he will never go hungry; and a map so that he will never lose his way.  Especially now that the “Batmobile” will have to be parked somewhere else.

Lunch was at Swensen's!


Rodeo Chicken Wings


Mozzarella Sticks


I've never met a mozzarella stick I never liked. These would've been perfect if they came with the usual marinara sauce. But I devoured them just the same!


Deep-Fried Mushrooms, each with a super crunchy crust on the outside and a tender, delicate fresh shiitake mushroom inside!


Caesar Salad made with huge pieces of torm hearts of Romaine Lettuce, except...


...that I don't know what the red and green bell peppers, and the imitation bacon, are doing in it. The dressing tasted straight out of the bottle. But it was fine nonetheless. The freshness of the vegetables and the overall flavor made up for everything.


My Curry Chicken Baked Rice. This one, I loved.


Halfway through my Curry Chicken Baked Rice. I love the sour notes of the gravy, which I was struggling to identify if it was coming from vinegar or plum tomatoes that had been crushed into the sauce. I guess tomatoes. There was a hint of sweetness too that permeated the melange of spices. Lovely.


Macaroni and Cheese... good, but not exactly what I was expecting. I have a very exacting standard on macaroni and cheese.


T and JC may be perusing the menus but somehow, they also managed to talk (almost debate... hahaha!) about gadgets.


The Man-of-the-Moment, and his new friends. Four of us didn't make it. But they sent their well-wishes just the same.


WCC is raring to give the appetizers a go; V has to shoot first (like me!); T must've heard something funny!


WS must've quipped, "Guys, eNTeNG is taking our photo!"


YC, eNTeNG, V, T, JC, and KL


On our way back, after wishing a friend well and having some bonding time.


"Here's looking at you, kid."


Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved


23 12 2011

WCC with some of his guests

TRAVEL IS the best teacher.  A lot of life’s greatest lessons are not printed on books, broadcast on TV, or streamed on the internet.  Sometimes, you have to change zip codes to feel how it is to sit on the lap and be under the tutelage of this thing we call Life.

My trustworthy Co-Chair in the “Committee” is off to the land where potatoes are so good they are the subject of a research body and are actually registered under a trademark.

Of course we won’t let him go without giving him a proper send-off.  And in my book, that means great food and a little present.  Ten of us – and three of his own personal guests – stuffed ourselves crazy with the amazing sushi, sashimi and à la carte offerings at SAKAE SUSHI at Bugis Junction Mall (one of my new favorite happy places!).  Wait, I guess I was the only one who did stuff himself crazy.  Hahaha!

As I told WCC – yes, I always have to say something in any gathering – living alone in a totally new place can make you gain a deeper realization of the truth that not only can you be truly independent but also that you have inside you the kind of strength that you probably didn’t know you ever had.

All the best, WCC!  We’re all just an IM, text message, or e-Mail away.  About all matters, you can talk to us.  Oh, except financial stuff.  Hahaha!  Kiddin’.

Waiting for the bus. We hopped on the 133.

SAKAE SUSHI doesn't have a long table so we had to sit in groups of three to four.


WCC and his friends

T, V, KL


First round of sushi!

I love how the camera captured the stream of soy sauce as it hits the wasabi. Yes, that much wasabi.

Kani Sushi

Ebi Sushi

Unagi and Tamago Sushi


Ebi Tempura

Cha Soba


Mango Avocado Sushi

Wow soba!

Yey unagi!

T learned how to use chopsticks in less than half an hour!

WCC with eNTeNG MunchTime

Heading to The Windmill

Some introductions had to be made...

...and then some more.

They have no choice but to listen to me speak. Haha!

WH and KS listen intently.






Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

Send for Sendong

23 12 2011

Text messages from new friends alerted me of what was happening back home. I felt like I was living under a rock. (Photo by TY, taken with my brand new SONY NEX-5D)

IT TOOK a text message from a new friend, a Malaysian, for me to realize that another typhoon had hit the Philippines.  And hit it real damn hard.

I heard your country was hit by a storm.  So sorry to know about this.  Is your house affected?

Glad to hear your home is alright.  But the storm, it’s quite depressing.  Take it positively, at least it reminds us not to take anything for granted and (learn to) appreciate.

The following morning, I bumped into another new friend, a Singaporean, and he too asked about how my family was doing.  He was quick to add though that, “the typhoon is in Mindanao.  You live in the north?”

Then he said something like, “I don’t know how to say this, but I’m glad your family is alright.”  I got what he meant.  It’s all about feeling grateful you were “spared” because it’s just unimaginable for all of those affected.  And it’s even more unimaginable to think of all those lives that were lost.

International efforts are still well on their way to help the victims of this natural disaster.  I hope we could all do our share.  Here’s a link to Ms. Daphne Oseña Paez’s post on UNICEF’s emergency appeal.

I want to say THANK YOU to all my Malaysian, Chinese, American, and Singaporean friends who did express their concern.  It means a lot.


Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

Geek in the pink

19 12 2011

With six of the 11 who make my Teambuilding Committee at the office.

LIKE A kid on Christmas day, I opened presents on Friday morning, donned a new shirt, and started to play with a new toy.

It’s because last Friday, we had our department’s office Christmas Party.  It was, as I had enthusiastically texted someone, officially my first R-E-A-L party here in Singapore!  The very first one I truly enjoyed.  Everything about it worked.  The speeches (the explanation about the door gift was cool), the entertainment, the games, and the lucky draw.

This chandelier hung over my head. It was so beautiful.


With one of my closest friends, Jossel.

I’m all about the food and I L-O-V-E-D everything!  And it did help that while lined up at the buffet, my new good friend Camy was passing by.  She pointed at each dish, and gave me her signature no-frills, succinct, honest review of the culinary offerings.  I have to say that I trust her taste.

My first plate has a vegetarian spring roll, a salmon treat in a puff pastry crust, and chicken wrapped in pandan leaf.


I also had to have a couple of the steamed shrimp dumplings and some fried vegetarian bee hon on the first round.


Seeing this bowl of pickled green chillies at the buffet spread was enough to make me do my happy dance. I love this condiment!


See, my second plate had the pickled green chillies as the star.

I enjoyed myself the whole time and never had a dull moment.  There wasn’t really a downside to the full-packed two or so hours we had, except that I wish there really was…  dancing.  Hahaha!

Like a kid on Christmas day, I went to the party in some of the best I could put on, with everything revolving around my brand new Dior shirt.  And to capture great moments for posterity, I finally debuted my SONY NEX-5D digital camera.  I haven’t really gotten around to playing with all the features of this gadget.  But I can say that the best is yet to be realized.

I told YC that we had to maximize use of the camera they gave me. Haha!


One more snap before I had to change to a different line.


"Thanks guys for my new Dior shirt and my SONY NEX-5D camera!" Here with KS, WH, KL, WC, WS, and T.

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved

So this is how it feels

14 12 2011

If there's any doubt as to the provenance of the white shopping bag, this ribbon helps take care of it.

ALL THIS time, I thought that I’ve got the art of pulling a surprise down pat.  I have believed that nobody would be able to pull one on me.  Well, until yesterday.

It started with an invitation to an “emergency” meeting to discuss some late-breaking feedback on the event the committee I’m chairing just threw.  Even when it had the line, “Especially you eNTeNG, we need your insight,” I didn’t suspect something was up.  If anything at all, it sort of bothered me and actually threw me off a bit from the many tasks that I had lined up for the day.  I was trying to think what could’ve gotten wrong that needed mending.

I tried to pry by way of Instant Messaging and asked for “clues” if the actual matter couldn’t be discussed virtually.  It came to the point of asking if it was something “good” or “bad.”  “Do you think I will call an urgent meeting if it was good?”  At that point I was almost restless.

The two words “command responsibility” kept buzzing like neon in my head.

The appointed time came and the couple of follow up calls asking where I was just further impressed upon me that I needed to drop everything I was doing and make time for this meeting.

I walked through the door and saw everyone quietly seated and patiently waiting.  I can’t remember if I opened by asking, “Okay, what’s the problem?”

All I can remember right now was that they said that nothing was wrong and that they were there to give me something.  Actually, some things.

They brought out a bag full of camera accessories.  We had lunch together last week and they must’ve probably noticed that I would almost always end up not in the photos because I would be the one taking them.  “There’s a tripod in there,” I can still hear one of them saying.  And then one by one he brought out a dust buster cleaning set, an extra battery, a memory card, and a carrying case.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up pulling a rabbit out of the bag.

What was happening still didn’t dawn on me.  My head was still processing the sense of relief over the fact that nothing was wrong.  I don’t know if my face was blank.  But I know I was staring at the things they brought before me.  But I couldn’t say a word.

Then they said they had a “real” gift for me.  It was something in a Dior shopping bag.  At this point, I could feel a lump form in my throat.  I couldn’t speak.  The “powerful” voice that others had complimented me on days before was nowhere to be heard.

Seriously, one of the best shopping bags ever. It almost has the luxurious feel of exotic leather.


If I understand it correctly, the girlfriend of my committee member who took charge of getting this gift knows someone at the ION Orchard store. So they were able to make special arrangements, including the use of this really wonderful gift box. The box alone is a gift in itself!


Box and ribbon... lovely stuff.


I kept taking photos of the box. If I could, I would have left it unopened forever.


Just like the paper bag, the box has this luxurious feel of exotic leather.


Dior and Dior


Pulled the ribbon loops...


Finally, the ribbon is unraveled.


I so love love L-O-V-E this gift! The fit is perfect. I can't wait to wear it!!!

I felt so overwhelmed hearing some of them speak words of appreciation about having me as their committee chair that I still couldn’t speak.  I attempted to, but I realized I really couldn’t.

That’s when they handed me their ultimate gift.  It came in the form of a “property pass,” a card issued at the front desk for packages deposited for safekeeping.  It was for a SONY NEX-5D Double Lens camera kit.  S-E-R-I-O-U-S-L-Y?  “And here’s a card for you from all of us.”

They said it even through the gift wrapper. Sweet =)


Two boxes to make anybody feel to be somebody loved.


I've never had a camera with a detachable lens. So this is my first.


I'm really lovin' the look of this camera. I was told it has had great reviews!


They said they got me this for my blog. Again, sweet =)


I can't wait to use this!!! I've got to name this camera!


This is the card they gave me.


Sometimes all it takes is one word...


I will never forget how they made me feel. (The balloons at our last event were my idea. So drawing them on the card was a touching gesture.)


They made me feel so good that nothing could put a damper on the rest of my day. I was, to quote one of them, "on a high."

So this is how it feelsI had to write them a letter.  I love all eleven of them for how good they made me feel.  They didn’t have to.  But they did anyway.

I can’t say thank you enough – K, W, W, and T…


...and T, Y, W, V, and K. As well as J and K.


Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved