Aggressively pulled noodles

26 03 2013
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Chef Wong Seng Wei’s assistant chef and eNTeNG, Lan Zhou La Mian, 19 Smith Street, Chinatown, Singapore

KNEAD.  ROLL.  Rub.  Dust.  Grab.  Twist.  Pull.  Stretch.  Fold.  Dust.  Grab.  Twist.  Pull.  Stretch.  Cut.  Cook.

This is the art of the hand-pulled noodles in sixteen words.

And here in Singapore, I have never seen this in better display than at Lan Zhou La Mian at 19 Smith Street.

The name of this unassuming restaurant gives it away.  Lan Zhou is the style used to work the dough – which is, “aggressively”.  Chef Wong Seng Wei, who has always been at the shop every time I have been there – or all the times Kuya Michele, Michele, and I had been there – slams the noodle dough against his work table with the intensity of someone taking out all his anger on the world.  (“Pick up a hobby.  Learn a sport.  Release your aggression.  Or, you can make noodles.”)

La Mian, for its part, literally translates to pulled noodles.  So Lan Zhou La Mian means aggressively pulled noodles.  There you go.  Though dear reader, I still advise you not to take your Chinese–to–English lessons from me.  Hahaha!

I’ve been coming back to this place quite often.  There was a time I would be eating here every single day of the week.  Eventually, I brought with me my Italian friends, and on one occasion my really close American friend Mama Trisha.  To Kuya Michele and (the third) Michele, it was a big hit.  Soon enough, like me, they were already on first name basis, so to speak, with the staff and the chefs.  (Zhou Bin, I should take you here!  You be the judge!)

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That’s Kuya Michele on one of our trips to Lan Zhou La Mian.

 

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The “third” Michele also loved this place. And the noodles. And the dumplings.

In my case, the very moment I enter the place and secure a spot, all I would give the wait staff is a smile and a nod.  And that means my usuals would be hitting the table in mere minutes – pickled fruits and vegetables (“achar” / no pineapple for me, please), eight steamed dumplings (xiao long bao), hot and sour noodle soup jia mian (huge serving!), and, freshly made lime juice.  There was only one time when I made a different choice for my noodle dish.  On my very first time at the place, I asked for the minced pork with black bean sauce noodles, with a serving of the hot and sour soup on the side.

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“Achar” or simply pickled fruits and vegetables. They know not to put any pineapple in mine. Haha!

 

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Everything about my bowl of hot and sour noodle soup is a whole lot of extra – the noodles, the noodles, the chili oil.

 

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My bowl of happiness, here bathed in the glow of the mid-day sun and bathed in – whatelse?! – chili oil!

 

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The noodles are always perfectly pulled and perfectly cooked. I love that they are springy, with a little give to them.

 

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Notice how the hotness and spiciness is kicked up a notch by ground black pepper?

 

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I can finish all these eight steamed dumplings all by myself! Hahaha! But in the presence of company, I’m willing to share.

 

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Sometimes I “deconstruct” the dumpling by eating the wrapper first, then the filling. I usually have it with lots of the sliced young ginger soaked in black vinegar.

 

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Everytime you have xiao long bao, I recommend that you have at least one eaten entirely on its own, no dipping sauce, no ginger, no nothing. Just be wary of the steaming hot broth inside each pouch!

 

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See what I mean about the ginger?

 

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The minced pork with black bean sauce noodles… which I’ve had only once. I’m willing to have it again.

I walked away from that first experience bugged by the thought of how the coarse texture of the springy noodles would be perfect to soak up the spiciness and tartness of the hot and sour soup, much like how I like it in the Philippines.  So I asked for it on my second time at the place and have since never looked back – I mean, never looked through the menu.

Eventually, change will come.  But I’m still happy with my usuals.

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The restaurant’s unassuming facade.

 

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Everything’s on a beat-up laminated card…

 

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…which they’ve replaced by Chinese New Year.

 

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Happy tummy

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Postcard from Bavaria by way of Norden

25 03 2013

IN THIS day and age of split–second communication – wall posts, “instagramming” and 140–character tweets – to receive a correspondence written in cursive and on to which is stuck that adhesive label to indicate that postal fees had been paid at the place of origin, is quite a refreshing surprise.  See, someone could still be old-fashioned as to be willing to lick a stamp.  I happen to be one of those.

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Postcard from (almost) the edge (of the world)

 

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Post from Bremen

Last week, I found this in the mail, beneath piles of flyers and bills.  The postage stamp says “SOUMI Finland” and I knew from only whom it could come.

Thanks a lot, my little brother Steven!  All the best on your studies.  See you again once you’re back, ok?

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Before his last day of internship (“industry atteachment”) at the office, Steven gifted me with this very nice T-Shirt.

 

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This elaborate detail is embroidered both on the front and at the back.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Grazie for panettone mandorla and buon compleanno Kuya

25 03 2013
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From where all scrumptious good things come – Pasticceria Chantilly (http://www.chantilly.sicilia.it/), Via Umberto I, 81 98057 Milazzo Province of Messina, Italy. Reach them at +39 090 922 1184. (This and all Pasticceria Chantilly photos are courtesy of Kuya Michele.)

CHRISTMAS IN March made it to our home in the Philippines – in time for Mama’s birthday – after traveling on Lufthansa for 6073 miles from Milazzo in Italy to Singapore, then for another 1475.83 miles on Philippine Airlines from Singapore to Manila.  All those thousands of miles and it had lost none of its charms.

Kuya Michele, my Italian big brother, has gifted me yet again with that star of the Italian Christmas Eve dinner – the panettone.  The first one I got from him traveled with me on utmost comfort on board a Singapore Airlines flight in early January.

This second one was treated no differently – even better I have to say.  Especially since it traces its provenance from Pasticceria Chantilly in Milazzo in the Province of Messina in Italy.  This pastry shop happens to be owned by Kuya Michele‘s brother (Donato) and sister-in-law (Donato’s wife).  Small– to medium–scale family–owned shops never fail to fascinate me and earn my patronage.  Usually, they are purveyors of specialty delicacies with quality that can make large commercial brands pale in comparison.

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Pasticceria Chantilly Pastry Chef and Owner, Chef Donato. He is Kuya Michele’s brother!

 

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The Master of the House behind some of his wonderful confections, almond biscotti and that beautiful cake!

 

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Chef Donato and a couple of his signature panettone. I’m inclined to think that one of those was the one that eventually made it to me in Singapore. Then, the Philippines!

 

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Biscotti and everything else delicious

 

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Another side of the delicious display counter

 

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Santa in chocolate!

 

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Dark chocolate makes me want to sin. Happily.

 

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Pristine white chocolate in various shapes, as well as tender truffles.

 

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I think these are fruit tarts. Very colorful. They give new meaning to bursts of color and flavor!

 

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I see this and all I can think of is, “Let them eat cake!”

 

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I just love this duo of cakes at the counter. I’m thinking that the one on the left is a chocolate panettone all dressed up for the holidays. The other one is perfect for a kid’s birthday party. Could it be Jack and Jill? But I don’t see a pail of water. What about Hansel and Gretel? Hmmm… it doesn’t look like it.

Panettone Mandorla by Pasticceria Chantilly is top notch.  My family loved it so much that it was practically gone the moment it hit the table.  As expected from the eggs and butter in the batter, this cake was rich and fluffy.  “Mandorla” is Italian for almond.  And that’s the fragrant whiff that arrests your senses the moment you let one of these scrumptious confections free from the cellophane packaging.  Then you see the golden brown crust, glazed with sugar and dotted with toasted almonds that further underscore the delicious variety of panettone that just begs to be devoured, putting your sense of self-control to test.

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Panettone Mandorla by Pasticceria Chantilly

 

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A tight shot of this panettone mandorla’s yummy top. Golden brown. Glazed with sugar. Topped with almonds. Yum!

 

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All the eggs and butter that go into the batter make for a rich, fluffy panettone!

Once again, thank you, Kuya Michele for this wonderful gift of an edible work of art.  And while I did greet you already, I want to greet you here again.  Happy BirthdayBuon Compleanno!

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Brothers Michele and Donato

 

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Kuya Michele came back to Singapore bearing panettone mandorla from Pasticceria Chantilly!

 

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Noodles are for long life. BUON COMPLEANNO, Kuya Michele!

 

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That’s all for now. Ciao!

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





The Best Man’s speech

24 03 2013

(I listened attentively while my friend Raoul was delivering his speech as Best Man at Sead and Mitzi’s wedding.  The very moment he was through, I liked a lot what he said that I knew I had to ask for a copy.  As it is always the case with me when I encounter, say, food I fall head over heels for, I turn to a persistent solicitor of recipes. So in this case, I had to have a copy of his speech.  It’s in the sincerity and the unpretentiousness, peppered with just the right anecdotes.  Here is his speech, published with his permission.)

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The Best Man, Engr. Raoul Masangcay, speaks as the newlyweds listen attentively. (Photo by Engr. Aris Gaduyon)

GOOD EVENING.  I’m Raoul.  I am really glad to be here on this occasion to celebrate this wonderful day with my two good friends.  But first of all I would like to raise a glass for the Zildzic and Nuda families for bringing us such a wonderful people together.  Thank you very much!

I met Sead five years ago during my stint in Folsom.  I had the chance to work with him because I needed his expertise.  Right?

The first time I met him, I already knew that he was a good person.  He is kind, very approachable, and easy to work with.  He just has this aura that will make you feel intimidated by him.  I think that is because he is too good looking.

Getting to know him more through our regular meetings and meet-ups (that is when he visits Singapore) I can say that he is a great man, a true born leader, and a very responsible person. I’m really impressed on how he manages the challenges at work and how he makes complicated things look easy to handle.

With such qualities, I am confident that he will raise a good family and will be a very good husband and a great father in the future.

Mitzi, you are really lovely and beautiful tonight.  I’m very happy that you have found what you’re looking for.  I know Mitzi as being a conservative person when it comes to a relationship.  Even back in Cavite I already knew she had suitors that couldn’t win her heart.  That’s why I was so excited when I first heard that she was dating Sead.  And that was before we were able to guess the person she was always talking with over the phone during our night outs and the person who always sends bouquets of roses.  That was very sweet!

When I found out it was Sead, I already knew that there’s a happy ending to this story.

“Marriage is not about finding a person you can live with.  It’s about finding the person you can’t live without.”  And I’m so happy that my two friends have found that person in each other.

I wish you two the very very best as you start this new chapter of your life.  I wish you both an eternity of happiness.

I would like to invite everyone to raise their glasses in a toast.

Here’s to a lifetime of happiness and love for Sead and Mitzi.  Cheers!

.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Scenes seen at a wedding

21 03 2013

SO THIS is how it must feel to have a hangover.  I guess it’s actually part hangover, part appreciation for really nice snaps taken by a shutterbug I actually know.  The name’s Aris – make that, Engr. Aris – a colleague and friend here in Singapore.

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Engineers all – Aris, Raoul, Sead, and Mike. These are some of the people whose intellect, character and professionalism I really admire, and yes, aspire for. Notice how different the ties are – yet they work together for one cohesive look.

 

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This takes the cake for Best Stolen Shot. The DJ and Iron Man. Theirs is a “walang iwanan” friendship. Every person should have that kind of association.

Of course I like the choice of subjects, the play of light and shade, the asymmetry at times, and the angles.  It’s a plus that his images captured my countenance in a manner not hazardous to human sight.  So brownie points for that.  Hahaha!

Eventually, the question begged to be asked.  Apart from his being a photography enthusiast, I had to know what his (current) choice of tool of the trade is – it’s the Canon 60D.  Like how I reacted to the speech of the Father of the Bride (Mitzi’s), the discovery of the camera make and model just left me pensive.  The image of a Tibetan monk perched on the summit of Mt. Everest – a Sherpa by his side – contemplating the future of post-Mayan Apocalypse Earth comes to mind.

I guess I should save up if I really want one.

With permission from Aris, I’m sharing here some of his photos that I really R–E–A–L–L–Y like.  All the rights to these images are his.  Thanks, Aris!

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Sealed with a kiss! That’s my good friend Mitzi and her man, Sead. Notice how they are framed by two suits. Nice.

 

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Sead and Mitzi and their thoughtfully selected Principal Sponsors.

 

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Sead and Mitzi with their Best Man, Maid of Honor, Groomsman, Bridesmaid, and all those cute kids who either carried something symbolic or showered their path with flowers. Ok, for the kids alone, this photo is so cute!

 

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“She’s mine!” / “He’s mine!”

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“All that really matters in this crazy world is you and I together. Baby, just remember. The first day of a dream…”

 

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“Okay, let’s seal it one more time.” In the backgroun, the lady in purple is Rez, who to me will forever be the quintessential Quality and Reliability Manager.

 

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Let’s try to answer: “What is love?” … Hmmm… I think love is knowing that not everything is in your control. That you need to learn to trust someone else, let go, and allow someone some freedom to take flight. Haha! Way to strecth the metaphor. All I want to say is, “Sead and Mitzi release the doves!” Haha!

 

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Lovely couple Aris and his wife, Joy. I only met Joy here in Singapore.

 

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I move in professional circles with these three – Aris, Raoul and Brian – and I’m reminded that not one person, especially myself, has monopoly on intelligence. Ok, let’s also throw it in there – charm! Me, charming is what I hope people see me after I win them over with my personality. Me?! Personality? Haha!

 

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What is a Filipino photo shoot without the requisite wacky shots? Haha!

 

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Alluding to that line from Moulin Rouge, “Come and get me, Sead!” … I call this the dramatic glance back.

 

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Hey! Hey! The gang’s all here! – Rez, Omeng, Joy, eNTeNG, Mike and Brian.

 

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Let’s try it one more time! Aris jumps in on the action.

 

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Table No. 7: Shanghai… My fave table and exactly where I was seated.

 

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Ready for its close-up – A tight shot of the really beautiful blooms.

 

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Once more with feelings… S–H–A–N–G–H–A–I…

 

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On with the show! Being part of this celebration made me really count how many times I’ve emceed a wedding reception. Sead and Mitzi’s come in at number… 10! I’ve done it all for just really close friends. Gratis et amore all the time.

 

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Sead and Mitzi make their grand entrance moving to the beat. Couldn’t you tell? It’s all in the shoulders.

 

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Of course I sang for them. I sang … not one … but two songs! Hahaha! As is usually the case, I would come close to offering to pay just to be allowed to sing. Hahaha!

 

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Sead’s Best Man, DJ Raoul, here with his “Best Woman” – wife Erin.

 

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“Right on, dude!”

 

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All The President’s Men. Err, make that “All The Groom’s Men” – The Best Man, The Second Reader, The Secondary Sponsor and The Groomsman all ready to party!

 

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The Groom with two of his colleagues from the States – Manoj and Adam.

 

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Hey DJ keep playin’ my song all night. On… and on… and on… DJ Raoul in action.

 

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The couple that move to the beat together… are most likely dancing. Hahaha! Seriously, the couple that move to the beat together, move to their own song and only with each other. Lovin’ the outfit changes here. All the best, Sead and Mitzi!

 

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





The New Builder

19 03 2013
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This is where I earned my degree – the Mapúa Institute of Technology inside the historic walled city of Intramuros in Manila!

 

WHERE THE hell is Mapúa?”

I was quite happy that when I looked up I immediately saw “The Bayleaf” all lit up in the Intramuros sky.  Though I was running late for my meeting with Ms. Ann of Beautiful Weddings for the final run-through of the Zildzic–Nuda reception program, realizing that I didn’t have to really worry where “Muralla corner Victoria Streets” is took care of whatever cares I initially had.

However, being still cognizant of the Intramuros skyline of 17 years ago, I knew that a part of The Bayleaf’s wall (or firewall) had passed beyond where I used to enter and exit as a college student proud to brandish my ID that said I was a Mapúan.  So right after my official business was through, I had to run next door to pay my Alma Mater a much delayed visit.

I don’t know what it is about “coming back home” to one’s school that instantly put an ear-to-ear smile on my face.  Even the possibility of being rejected entry at past 8:00 PM didn’t faze me a bit.  I immediately noticed that while the small security guard office of my youth had remained intact, the school had built a more spacious receiving area to welcome students and visitors alike.

Faced by the guard on duty, I blabbered about being an alumnus and how thrilled I was to be back within my Alma Mater’s hallowed halls, how I had just come back to the country after being away for quite a while, and how they should let me in just to allow me “a journey to the past”.  I guess I still had whatever iota of charm other people had attributed to me because before long, the security guard himself was smiling ear-to-ear at me, a reaction dittoed by a few students standing nearby.

“Sir, do you still know your student number?  And what degree?”

Like the muscle memory that makes you never lose your knowledge of riding a bicycle, the part of my brain that stored my college student number could only be too happy to finally retrieve the information from deep within my cerebellum convolutions.  Before I knew it, the numbers were just firing off.  “It’s 9–x–x–x–x–x–x–x!”

“Sir, here you are.”

“Really?  Does it say I graduated at the top of my class and that I was the Editor–In–Chief of the school paper?”  It has to be said that my reaction was part excitement at the thought of being granted entry and – yes, it has to be admitted – part (little) braggadocio.  It just felt like a very safe environment to just be myself.  After all, I was among “my people”.  My fellow Mapúans.

They made me note my entry down on the visitors’ logbook, demanded a valid ID, and on to my right wrist stamped, “MIT:  VERIFIED MAPUAN”.  I kept staring at this stamp, wanting to preserve it for as long as I could – which meant up until the time I took my next shower.  Hahaha!

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This way to my school! It’s the one on the third floor.

 

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It’s been almost a couple of decades since I last took this flight of stairs!

 

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The School of ECE–EE–CoE is still at the exact same location. The office just had a facelift.

 

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That flight of stairs was where my small circle of friends would gather daily before class. I’d pass by here on my way to the office of the school paper. I can’t remember if the circular bench was the one that was already there during my time but I do remember sitting here everytime it was my turn to distribute the latest issue of the paper.

 

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The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Office. I used to hang out here almost daily. It was already closed when I stopped by.

 

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The ATM machine is still located in the same small room across the Registrar’s Office. It’s RCBC now. But during my time it was a PCIB terminal. PCIB was later acquired by Equitable Bank, to become Equitable PCI Bank. This in turn was acquired by, I think, Metrobank.

 

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The Gymnasium. Still exactly as it was when I was a student. This was where I delivered my Valedictory Address during my High School graduation.

Aside from all the rooms being air–conditioned, I don’t think much has changed.  The stairs landings where I would meet up with my classmates to check up on assignments or group projects are still there.  The NW (North West) room where I aced (read: got 100%) all of my Statistics exams – arriving 15 minutes late yet finishing first in about 15 minutes every time – is still there.  The laboratories where I played Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier now hold not only the history of those who had come before me, but also my own.

I went to the School of ECE–EE–CoE and asked the lone remaining faculty member and his four students all sorts of questions like who the dean now is and if there is anybody from my batch who has stayed to teach.  I heard some familiar names and left word for them to get in touch.

I left the faculty room all set to pay one final place a visit.  Clearly, I saved the best for last.

At the corner of the NW Building on the fourth floor is a place that was my home for four years.  As the “traditional” honor student in college, I shunned any involvement in extra–curricular activities except for three things – as a guest tutor at IECEP or any ad hoc remedial classes, as officer of the Honor Society (Hey, I wouldn’t miss my annual acoustic solo of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” during the Christmas Caroling!), and as a writer for the school paper.  That corner happens to still be the official address of The New Builder (TNB), “the official school organ of the Mapúa Institute of Technology”.

I felt my heart beat grew quicker and quicker as I inched closer to the office door.  It was as if the most important muscle of my body had lost regard for my existence and was threatening to break free from flesh and bones, wanting to beat me to making it to my intended destination.  I didn’t know what to expect and what to say to whoever I would chance upon at the office.

The only other time I was that nervous going to the TNB Office was when I went to report on my first day as Staff Writer.  It has to be said, I topped the Qualifying Exams of my batch of over a hundred aspirants.  Haha!  They took in the Top Four.  I guess that of the many things I wrote, it was my essay on how to handle criticism that was the clincher to my favor.  They handed us back our work and that essay was the one with the most glowing (handwritten) reviews.  Looking back, I was also nervous because I didn’t want to disappoint my eldest brother who was in the staff at the time and later became Editor–In–Chief himself.  In High School, we were in the same situation – he was Editor–In–Chief a couple of years before I assumed the post myself.  Insert cliché here – “history repeats itself.”  Haha!

I noticed that it was the still the same wooden door.  It was the same glass window.  The familiar comforted me and stilled my beating heart.

I knocked.

The door was opened and I broke into yet one of my unbridled introductions.  All that Staff Writer Ruben “Ruru” A. Mercado, Jr. could do was smile.

And I guess silently pray that I wasn’t some psycho.  Hahaha!

It really felt great to be home.  I couldn’t wait to go back.

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My office of four years as part of the school paper. Hmmm… Memories light the corners of my mind… Hahaha!

 

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eNTeNG, Editor-In-Chief (School Year 1994-1995) and Ruru, Staff Writer (SY 2012-2013). I started as a Staff Writer myself, SY 1991-1992.

 

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It’s my turn to smile now.

 

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This is Ruru, in action as drummer in the TNB Band (yes they have a band!), captured in a sketch by his girlfriend who is taking up Multimedia Arts and Sciences (MAS) and is on the Staff as well. Apparently, a lot of the writers in the school paper are taking up MAS.

 

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There are at least twice as many people on the school paper Staff this time than during mine. To maximize the space, they built cabinets and desks all around the walls. Each staff member has his or her own space.

 

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I think it was still a blackboard during my time. Hahaha! I like concept “brainstorming” or development that is on it.

 

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It’s time to go. I will always love this place.

 

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Of course I asked from Ruru a copy of the latest issue. As well as a copy of the latest Qualifying Exam questionnaire. During my time, we didn’t have this questionnaire. Instead, we were made to “anonymously” write a number of pieces under time pressure (a couple of hours) – an editorial, a personality profile, an interview feature, a couple of essays, poems, etc. I say “anonymously” because our works were only identified by control numbers, no names.

 

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The Masthead. So now it is officially called “The Official Student Publication of Mapúa Institute of Technology”.

 

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So we’re still lording it over Quiz Shows. I’ve had my fair share during my time. Hahaha!

 

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I find this Editorial to be quite powerful and very “now”.

 

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Meet The New Builder Staff! One thing that immediately leapt off of the page to me was the line “The New Builder is a member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)”. We weren’t yet when I was Editor-In-Chief.

 

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The TNB Staff… Putting faces to the names.

 

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I totally agree!

 

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Okay, I will say it… Guilty! Hahaha! Hopefully not all of the time. I have to say this, this is my favorite column name! “The Coffee Bean”… Nice noh?

 

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Amen!

 

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The center spread is a very colorful feature on “Mapúa in Christmas Apocalypse”.

 

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This is me! Hahaha!

 

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I’m so tempted to answer this Qualifying Exam questionnaire!

 

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The questions are part serious, part fun. I’m curious to read actual responses to such tricky, witty questions! But to start, I want to try answering them myself!

 

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This marker commemorates our founder, Don Tomas Mapúa.

 

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Proud to have a copy of the latest issue of The New Builder! The writers are really talented!

 

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Parting shot. Till next time, MIT! And TNB!

 

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





The universe conspires and makes dreams come true as one comes forth from two

17 03 2013
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The very classy invitation, personally delivered to Singapore by the Best Man himself. I love both the cursive and block fonts used.

MARRIAGE IS the feeling of one in the understanding of two.

After hearing that from the father of the bride, I walked away from my latest wedding reception emceeing gig with the persona of a pondering, pensive young man staring at one of life’s truths foisted on his way.

You live your life single long enough that you soon miss out on life’s little truths and – dare I say – life’s little pleasures.  It takes a wedding to bring things to light.  One could easily dismiss the speech of the father of the bride as the requisite dispensing of pieces of advice – often about how the newlyweds need to be patient with one another and, it has to be said, “work” on the marriage – but that evening, the words I heard reverberated with a deeper meaning and the thoughtfulness of someone who really meant well.

At weddings, we often hear well-wishers encourage newlyweds to nurture the best things that they like about each other, as their separate lives become one life; separate homes, one home; and, separate fortunes, one fortune.  Throw in individual backgrounds that trace their roots to two different continents, and you realize that as a well-meaning friend, you share in your friend’s joy just as much as you whisper a prayer of thanks that this really is one of those when – hold on for the cliché ahead – two become one.

I looked at my good friend of many years, the blushing bride, Mitzi, and I knew that all this time, her life has been made a bit more interesting by the possibility of having a dream come true.  She said so herself in her vows.  Her dashing groom, Sead, dapper in his coat and bowtie, fulfills her dream by coming to her life just when she was ready to receive him.  I’ve always believed that there is something so magical about weddings.  But at that very moment, I also got reminded of Paulo Coelho’s  The Alchemist because it did feel like all the universe conspired to help realize – and make successful – the Zildzic–Nuda nuptials.

The wedding march started at the exact appointed time at San Agustin Church and Convent inside the historic walled city of Intramuros in Manila.  One of the most popular venues for weddings, San Agustin Church is one of only four Baroque churches in the Philippines to be designated as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.  A place with such rich history and importance proved to be the only fitting place to solemnize and bless the first day of Sead and Mitzi’s lives together.

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The façade of the historic San Agustin Church and Convent, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

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The ceremonies started at the appointed time. One can’t be inside San Augstin Church and not feel being transported in time by the ornate carving, grand chandeliers, granite floors, and all the gold gilding.

 

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View from the ornately carved main door. Simply breathtaking.

Through this church’s ornately carved main door and beneath a historic  trompe-l’œil ceiling, Mitzi, radiant and doll-like in her white wedding gown with an intricately beaded bodice and a skirt that brought to mind the restless billowing sea, took her trip down the aisle to meet Sead waiting for her at the other end.  Framed by the afternoon tropical sun, Mitzi, my good friend, was a vision.

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One more look at the façade and it was time to head to the reception venue for some final pre-work.

 

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I kept time in check – running to and from home, the church and the reception venue – by wearing a Rolex to this very special event.

 

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Notice the earphones plugged into my Blackberry? It’s because I used all the time I was in the car to rehearse “in my head” the two songs I sang at the reception. One was in Filipino and the other was in English.

As both guest and emcee at the wedding reception, I knew that I had to cut short my partaking in the church ceremonies.  I took one quick glance at my Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air–King and knew that by the time the first reading (by Engr. Rez C. Punzalan) and the second reading (by Engr. Michael S. Borreo) were done, I had to rush to the reception venue to make it to the strict call time of 5:00 PM.  (Being given a “call time” made everything feel quite professional apart from the very personal aspect of being asked to emcee this event many months prior.)

This being an event wherein “all the universe” conspired to make it happen, I wasn’t surprised that at the helm of all the planning was Beautiful Weddings Bridal Consultancy and Wedding Planners, headed by the very lovely and gracious Ms. Ann Samiado.  As planning for their wedding was a huge production of international proportions – Mitzi and Sead are based in the States, their families are scattered throughout Europe, Northern America and the Philippines, and their friends and members of their bridal entourage are split between Singapore and the Philippines – the couple opted to get the services of a real pro to ensure that their exceptional day will become exactly that – exceptional.

From the church, I hopped back in the car and after a couple of turns along four blocks found myself staring at the impressive façade of La Castellana, as if caught in a space–time continuum that warped me back to Spanish Colonial Philippines.  Located at Cabildo corner Beaterio Streets, Intramuros, Manila 1002, La Castellana, which used to be an ancestral house, further underscored the sense of family and respect for time-honored traditions that Sead and Mitzi’s wedding was clearly becoming to be.

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The impressive façade of La Castellana, the wedding reception venue.

 

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The very first thing I did was meet up with Ms. Kristine, then… I just had to check my outfit on the mirror. Hahaha! I usually wear an all-black ensemble and just put a pop of color by wearing the wedding motif as the color of my necktie or bowtie. For Sead and Mitzi’s wedding, I put on a new pink dress shirt of Italian provenance and a bowtie in fuchsia pink. In my left hand is the clear folder that contains, of all things, the printout of my e-Ticket for my flight back to Singapore the next day. My very trusty travel agent of years now had provided it to me earlier in the day.

 

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The Bayleaf in Intramuros, the venue of the final rehearsal and where I first met Ms. Ann of Beautiful Weddings and her team.

 

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The marker at The Bayleaf Intramuros

I was told to look for Ms. Kristine of Beautiful Weddings who would brief me on the last-minute, final adjustments to the reception programme – just the changes from the rehearsal and “final” run-through we had a couple of nights back at the Bayleaf Hotel, also in Intramuros.  But before I could do that, I had to soak in the sights that were before me.  I walked through the three-paneled entrance and found myself admiring the grand foyer, for a split second finding my synapses struggling with which between the amber crystal chandelier and the huge flower arrangement atop the solid wooden table was the focal point.

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The Grand Foyer, La Castellana. Notice the granite floors, the solid wooden table on which rests that huge flower arrangement, and the famed amber crystal chandelier.

 

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There was a mirror at the Grand Foyer. I couldn’t help it. Hahaha! My perfume of choice for this event? The classic EGOISTé PLATINUM by CHANEL.

I admired the granite flooring, made my deep aubergine English leather shoes of Singapore provenance play against the texture, before my peripheral vision caught the striking color motif of this celebration – fuchsia pink against a backdrop of pristine white – and got reminded what I was there for.  To prepare for my emceeing job and contribute in my own way to make Sead and Mitzi’s day even more special, if that was at all possible.

I stretched my hand out in greeting, as I introduced myself to Ms. Kristine.  Like clockwork, she knew what to pull from a stack of papers, handed me a bag on to which was indicated “For eNTeNG” and quickly went over the final reminders.  As I’ve been emceeing wedding receptions for really close friends for quite a while now – this one should easily be at least my tenth time – I’ve always made it a point to prepare my own cue cards.  I was quite pleasantly surprised that Beautiful Weddings was a step ahead and had actually prepared for me a “professionally made” cue card set.  (This had happened only once before.)

Nerves had always played a part in my emceeing – and singing.  I felt that if I had lost this, together with it would go the excitement that undeniably makes me try my best to do a good job.  I often deal with this by taking a few minutes right there at the reception venue, while it would still be quiet, marvel at how beautiful and appropriate the décor is, and on a piece of paper just write away my opening spiel about what this particular wedding reception is all about.

The Salon de Joaquin Ballroom was set with linen-laid tables, perfectly balanced with the use of Tiffany chairs, very shabby chic in the gold glint of the glossy wood.  The flower arrangements in tall crystal vases, the linen, and the table settings popped as the table-and-chairs décor was not overtly done with fabric.  Everything was elegant and quite stylish.  Even the welcome hors d’oeuvre platter of a selection of crostini by Hizon’s Catering Services Inc. oozed with the discriminating taste of the refined palate.  I took my seat at Table No. 7: Shanghai and turned my attention towards the direction of El jardin de la Luz (The Courtyard).  I saw more beautiful flower centerpieces in a different dominant shade, imagined how romantic the fountain would look at dusk, illuminated by cascading crystal lights, and got reminded of the portents that led to this day.

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Ready for the celebration. A view of the Salon de Joaquin Ballroom.

 

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I like it that they opted for the more classy Tiffany chair than the usual fabric-covered chairs with huge ribbons tied around them.

 

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Table No. 11 is special to me. It’s FOLSOM! I heart FOLSOM.

 

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Table No. 2 is close to my heart as well. It is, after all, my current second home – Singapore!

 

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The welcome hors d’oeuvre platter of a selection of crostini by Hizon’s Catering Services Inc. oozed with the discriminating taste of the refined palate.

 

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Beautiful flowers at the center of each table. There are touches of lilac here. It’s the wedding’s secondary color motif.

 

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Welcome to my table, Table No. 7… SHANGHAI!

 

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I heart SHANGHAI. Once of my best friends in the whole wide world lives here.

 

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My favorite number, 5, is assigned to Sacramento. It never fails to bring to mind the line “If San Antonio sweeps Sacramento…” from the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding”.

 

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Awash in fuchsia pink at its special corner in the Ballroom is the three-tier wedding cake. In place of the usual bride-and-groom cake topper is a bouquet of purplish pink roses rendered in fondant.

 

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The wedding cake was a study in contradiction. Outside it was pristine white, punctuated only by touches of the wedding’s fuchsia pink color motif. Inside, the fondant ensconced a sinfully rich, devilishly deep dark chocolate cake!

 

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Right in front of the wedding cake table was the sound system and musicians setup. Here. one of the technicians was performing the sound check. Kudos to the sound people. For an open venue setup like Sead and Mitzi’s, I found the acoustics to be top notch, the speakers well-balanced. (But of course I will defer to the professional opinion of the DJ Raoul on this matter. Haha!)

 

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Subtle touches all around the Ballroom evoke images of the ever-present things in Sead and Mitzi’s life. Pretty ornate suitcases like these two in front of the newlyweds’s table speak of how much travel has been part of their individual lives and more so now as husband and wife.

 

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The newlyweds’s table. Notice how the Tiffany chairs are the same yet subtly different? I could tell which one’s Mitzi’s and which one’s Sead’s. Haha!

 

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Outside at the El jardin de la Luz (The Courtyard), several tables for cocktails and drinks were propped up. On top of each was this beautiful floral centerpiece. Very pronounced on the touches of lilac on these ones.

 

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Beyond these flowers you shall see the Spanish Colonial architecture of the courtyard, the cascading crystal lights and the palm trees that couldn’t help but provide a romantic backdrop to the festivities.

 

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The reception table where guests were orderly received was likewise beautifully set up.

 

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The Zildzic-Nuda nuptials was another exceptional event by Beautiful Weddings Bridal Consultancy and Wedding Planners. The firm is headed by its Principal Wedding Planner, Ms. Ann Samiado.

I tapped my fingers on the linen and found myself overwhelmed with happiness for the beautiful couple.  Before I knew it, the words were escaping from inside me, leaping off of my consciousness as pen hit the surface of paper.

TONIGHT IS a very special night.  I can’t think of a better place to be in to be part of the ultimate celebration of love – than in a wedding.

Tonight, Sead and Mitzi requested the honor of your presence as they give their love its fullest expression.  Fullest expression – don’t you just love those words?

We are all here because there’s always something so magical about weddings.  Look around and you will see that it brings family and friends together – some of you traveled miles, even halfway around the world to celebrate our couple tonight.

The table names echo just how much our couple’s love for each other defied distance and made “home” not just a place you can point to on a map or associate with a country code, but a reflection of them, their love for each other, and beginning tonight, right here, “home” is the reflection of their shared life.

Tonight, it’s about these two people who are willing – you can even say, brave enough – to take a chance in front of all the people they care about.  It’s incredibly inspiring.  It’s incredibly hopeful.

It just feels great to be a witness to that.

What I found to be most touching about this wedding was the presence of people from practically all over the world, a clear testament to just how much Sead and Mitzi are well-loved.  Families and loved ones came from different regions in the Philippines, Europe (Norway), and the United States.  Colleagues from Folsom in California, Singapore and from the Mitzi’s university and previous companies in the Philippines were well represented too.

It was noticeable that the couple assembled the people closest to their hearts to stand as their Principal Sponsors, Secondary Sponsors and members of the Entourage.  Clearly, people who hold the most influence to them from among family and the various stages of their lives – from student to accomplished professionals – were all accounted for and given the unique opportunity to help shape their young married life.

Among all these well-wishers, I waited in particular for the speeches from the Maid of Honor and the Best Man.  On a personal note, having known the Best Man Engr. Raoul M. Masangcay for years now, I marveled at hearing him speak in length and with such thoughtfulness for the first time.  He took a trip down memory lane, complimented the couple, and led everybody else in wishing the best of health and wealth for the newlyweds.  It was music to the ears.

And from the opening strains of “Seasons of Love (Theme from the Broadway musical RENT)”, lovingly interpreted by ANIMA Choir and Strings, it was clear that Sead and Mitzi’s union is a celebration of love, and that they will only allow it to be measured in terms of seasons of the same.

Congratulations and Best Wishes, Sead and Mitzi!

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Honor Guards lined the red carpet for Sead and Mitzi’s grand entrance, both at San Agustin and at La Castellana.

 

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I took this shot against the backdrop of the dinner buffet queue during the first break in the reception program. I later realized that I failed to take photos of the couple and the many guests on my own camera. Though we did manage to snap lots of shots with many other people’s DSLRs and iPhones.

 

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The very colorful and pretty dessert table. Beside it was a very retro touch – a chocolate fondue station!

 

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The guests were serenaded by the vocal stylings and top musicianship of the ANIMA Choir and Strings. That’s their manager Roger on his solo.

 

 

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The “strings” section of ANIMA Choir and Strings is composed of a percussionist, a flutist, a keyboardist and a violinist. The guys are awesome. They were only informed by Ann of my two songs a couple of days ahead, and we only had exactly one dry run less than an hour before the reception started. But I felt like they were able to take my voice where I wanted to while at the same time downplaying my vocal flaws. A–W–E–S–O–M–E. No wonder they’ve been a byword in the wedding industry.

 

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Doesn’t The Courtyard El jardin de la Luz transform into a place perfect for a romantic rendezvous at night time?

 

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i realize that I only managed to snap a shot of the couple during the bouquet and garter toss. Bummer! (I’m waiting to copy photos from my friend and colleague Engr. Aris’s DSLR.)

 

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This elicited a lot of cheers from the guests as they prodded Sead to go L–O–W–E–R! I couldn’t agree more with the Best Man in saying that our friend Mitzi was at her most radiant, most beautiful that evening.

 

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I don’t have all the photos to show for it, but I have to say that one thing that Sead and Mitzi’s wedding allowed was a veritable “reunion” of sorts among colleagues and friends from across the miles and seas. This one photo that survived the editing is of me and my good good G–O–O–D friend Adam from our company’s offices in Folsom, California. The last time that we bumped into each other was during business meetings in China. I was just so glad to see him at Sead and Mitzi’s wedding (Mitzi did tell me Adam was coming over). It was also nice to meet his girlfriend who he brought along.

 

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When it was already party time –WITH THE BAR OPENED WITH FREE-FLOWING WINE AND BEER!!! – another set of musicians took care of the sounds. This group is called, quite aptly, “Totally Mesmerized”. I loved their version of Gangnam Style that I found myself totally wanting to break into dance!

 

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That’s my cue card set which I made especially for Sead and Mitzi’s wedding. Notice that the first card is handwritten, as has always been my own “tradition”. I write my opening spiel only when I’m already at the venue of the reception. Some sort of belief that … “It will come to me!” Hahaha! Though I have to say that this time, I did end up using for the most part the cue card set provided by Beautiful Weddings. They have quite an amazing team – Ms. Ann, Mr, Jason, Ms, Kristine, Ms, Aya, and many others.

 

Sead_Mitzi_42_Table_Shanghai

I hope that Sead and Mitzi will forgive me for running away with my table’s name card – “Table no. 7: Shanghai”. I just simply loved it and thought it is the perfect souvenir. As you can see from the list, I shared the table with some of the most beautiful people.

 

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Cue cards and lyric sheets! As you can see, I prepared three songs (Hahaha!). I sang Filipino 70s band Hotdog’s “Ikaw Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko” (Sead took a liking to this song, among many Filipino hits)… and Lionel Richie’s “Truly”. As backup, I have Baron Barbers’ “I Will Always Stay In Love This Way”. This song was the first ever that a couple asked me to sing for them. So I always have it in my backpocket so to speak.

 

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The beautiful wedding invitation! This is a nice addition to my growing collection.

 

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The Principal Sponsors, Best Man, Maid of Honor, Groomsman, and Bridesmaid.

 

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Esteemed collegues, family, really close friends and their little kids played the other important roles.

 

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Before long, it was time to bid La Castellana – and the party – adieu!

 

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One last look at La Castellana before my family and I headed off to another historic part of town – ONGPIN (a.k.a. Chinatown)!

 

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





At the Fort

14 03 2013
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AVANT AT THE FORT. I’m really lovin’ this Lacoste Flag Shirt, Korea edition. Of course I also have it in Italia.

I KNEW I was really sick when I couldn’t care less about the inflight cuisine.  I couldn’t be bothered by the flight attendant to respond with my choice of meal.  Instead, I ended up snacking on antipyretics while ensconced beneath a blanket.  The very first time I have ever done so on a flight.

I spent the first three days of my most recent vacation just trying to convalesce.  By the time I was up and about, I knew no better way to spend my time than tag along with my brother when he went inspecting his latest projects.  He’s currently working on a couple of units at some of the more covetable addresses in the metro.

When he was done talking to his teams – the foreman, contractors, laborers, electricians – we went to lunch at UCC, with the rest of the family.  But not before first making a walking tour of Burgos Circle at Forbes Town Center, with the requisite stop at the MINI COOPER dealership on Fifth Avenue.  At UCC, he introduced me to his favorite coffee concoction – the Kori Kohi Coffee – as he lunched on Seafood Risotto.

Kori Kohi Coffee is simply coffee “ice cubes” in a tall glass, on which you pour warm milk until the cubes melt.  A little stir turns this confection into a freezing frenzy that could make you ditch your usual latte at the more popular coffee chains.

I did.

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Our first stop was AVANT at the Fort. Upon entering the lobby, my sight got transfixed on to this “ceiling treatment” of a chandelier. I was told that it was inspired by actual Swarovski crystal-studded dangling earrings.

 

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Another view of the chandelier over the lobby.

 

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I was told that the lobby was designed by the country’s top interior design firm. I actually liked the cathedral ceiling and the furnishings. Spare and minimalist.

 

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Then it was time to hit the elevator. Of course, when surrounded by mirrored walls, I couldn’t help cam-whoring.

 

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A parting shot at the elevator landing.

 

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I lug along a number of my wristwatches when I travel. For this day out, I decided to strap on a Philip Stein Signature Large and a Tissot Heritage Prince I.

 

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The view from one of the windows of the “huge” unit – the first of a couple of my brother’s projects in this high rise.

 

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I love this other view for how the golden arches stand out!

 

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Then it was time to hit the elevators again to go to the other unit several floors down.

 

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Cam-whoring!

 

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This unit has floor-to-ceiling glass windows on one side.

 

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I just had to snap this photo of this window because of the number “4”. It happends to be an important number to me.

 

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See, I snap anything that says number “4”!

 

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I saw my reflection on the elevator panel and I felt like a Fernando Botero.

 

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I had to wait in the lobby as my brother went on with his official business. I like waiting in lobbies.

 

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See, I had time to admire the appointments. I particularly liked this glass table top supported by this “wavy” or “wrought” metal.

 

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Of course, I had to pose by that Swarovski crystal chandelier.

 

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ONE McKINLEY Place is nearby.

 

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At ONE McKINLEY Place

 

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I love the look of this building. It’s like one big gift with silver ribbons swirled all around it.

 

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Yehey! It’s the MINI Store!

 

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By the MINI COOPER in silver.

 

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Red is always auspicious!

 

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Tickled pink. Mama loves this one.

 

 

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At MINI GLOBAL CITY on Fifth Avenue

 

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I heart Taguig!

 

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“WRONG RAMEN”. This restaurant was still on soft opening. The name caught my attention. The personnel at the door was kind enough to engage me into a discussion about the place’s name. It is ramen so good that it is “wrong” for you.

 

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“The last guy who ate here left screaming in pure ecstasy.”

 

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Whoever did the branding for WRONG RAMEN got it all right! The “X” could mean “wrong” or the chopsticks that you eat ramen with!

 

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I already have a favorite from this list!

 

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I find that the soft opening menu was quite pretty in its stark simplicity.

 

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My heart skips a beat over anything gelato.

 

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Here’s looking at you, Kuya Michele. Hahaha!

 

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This sculpture at the “park” piqued my interest.

 

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Gotta have a photo!

 

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Pasta! Pizza! Steaks! Count me in!

 

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It’s all about living the good life!

 

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…Which to me means lots of sleep! Hahaha!

 

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After all the walking, it was time for lunch! Mama and I on our way to UCC at Burgos Circle.

 

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Mama brought along one of her Cath Kidstons, among her many bags.

 

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The Kori Kohi Coffee is served! We went over my blog on my brother’s Google Nexus 7.

 

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The Italians are quite the consummate coffee connoisseurs. So my photo with Kuya Michele and the “third” Michele by good Kori Kohi Cofee is quite fitting.

 

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Kori Kohi Coffee is simply coffee “ice cubes” in a tall glass, on which you pour warm milk until the cubes melt. A little stir turns this confection into a freezing frenzy that could make you ditch your usual latte at the more popular coffee chains.

 

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UCC’s Seafood Risotto hits the table! It’s my brother’s favorite.

 

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This is a winner!

 

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The afternoon sun and the clear blue sky made the day perfect. On a clear day, you can see forever!

 

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