Making a list, checking it twice

16 11 2014

I’VE BEEN searching the Christmas shop window displays so much lately that I must have seen more windows than a Medieval artist working on stained glass.  Not that I’m complaining.  I guess the phrase “the most wonderful time of the year” also does apply to the visual feast that is the vitrines.  Besides, whatever retail therapy I do is in the pursuit of making someone happy, my contribution to a little more altruism in this world.

And I couldn’t think of any other better way to wait out an hour–long torrential downpour than in the confines of well–appointed shops, ensconced and out of the rain.

Blue is indeed the warmest color.  Louis Vuitton always does an excellent job dressing up their windows.  For this holiday season, it coincides with the Delphine Arnault–Nicolas Ghesquiere–initiated project dubbed “Celebrating Monogram,’ in commemoration of the house’s 160TH founding.  This is my favorite – “F.G.” stands for the iconoclast, THE Frank Gehry.

Blue is indeed the warmest color. Louis Vuitton always does an excellent job dressing up their windows. For this holiday season, it coincides with the Delphine Arnault–Nicolas Ghesquiere–initiated project dubbed “Celebrating Monogram,’ in commemoration of the house’s 160TH founding. This is my favorite – “F.G.” stands for the architecture iconoclast, THE Frank Gehry.

 

If there is ever any doubt as to who is paying homage to the monogram at this display.

If there is ever any doubt as to who is paying homage to the monogram at this display.

 

Frank Gehry's celebration of the monogram is structured, contemporary, cutting edge.  Much like the Fondation Louis Vuitton, this bag is a "cathedral of light" and a "miracle of intelligence, creativity, and technology."

Frank Gehry‘s celebration of the monogram is structured, contemporary, cutting edge. Much like the Fondation Louis Vuitton, this bag is a “cathedral of light” and a “miracle of intelligence, creativity, and technology.”

 

I know someone very close to me who will love everything on this display.  I’ve never been one to fall head over heels over Louis Vuitton.  But these, I’m feeling like I could love these too.  Okay, “like,” I mean I could like these too.

I know someone very close to me who will love everything on this display. I’ve never been one to fall head over heels over Louis Vuitton. But these, I’m feeling like I could love these too. Okay, “like,” I mean I could like these too.

 

This is Comme de Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo’s interpretation of the Louis Vuitton monogram, seen on someone who obviously doesn’t have any qualms snapping it up for the US$ 2790 price tag it commands.

This is Comme de GarçonsRei Kawakubo’s interpretation of the Louis Vuitton monogram, seen on someone who obviously doesn’t have any qualms snapping it up for the US$ 2790 price tag it commands.

 

Frank Gehry’s works dominate print media.  The Twisted Box monogram bag, which retails at US$ 4400, on a magazine ad, vis-à-vis Fondation Louis Vuitton, that “spaceship” that was dropped on to Paris.  Both of these are new testaments to Frank Gehry’s status as a truly legendary architect – small– and big–scale.

Frank Gehry’s works dominate print media. The Twisted Box monogram bag, which retails at US$ 4400, on a magazine ad, vis-à-vis Fondation Louis Vuitton, that “spaceship” that was dropped on to Paris. Both of these are new testaments to Frank Gehry’s status as a truly legendary architect – small– and big–scale.

 

The Mulberry Men’s signature Brynmore Tote in Black, Evergreen & Midnight Blue Reverse Small Grain bovine leather tote.  Someone on my list wants this for Christmas.  Haha!  It comes with an adjustable woven cross–body strap and a set of three of the brand’s signature postman’s locks.

The Mulberry Men’s signature Brynmore Tote in Black, Evergreen & Midnight Blue Reverse Small Grain bovine leather tote. Someone on my list wants this for Christmas. Haha! It comes with an adjustable woven cross–body strap and a set of three of the brand’s signature postman’s locks.

 

I love that the Mulberry Brynmore Tote has a buffed up (“finished”) inner leather.  It can be worn across the body, or carried by the leather handles.  Really in love with this one.

I love that the Mulberry Brynmore Tote has a buffed up (“finished”) inner leather. It can be worn across the body, or carried by the leather handles. Really in love with this one.  I should be.  It costs almost S$ 3000!

 

The Mulberry Brynmore – in the Tote and Slim Messenger incarnations – in Grey Soft Grain leather.  Be still my heart.

The Mulberry Brynmore – in the Tote and Slim Messenger incarnations – in Grey Soft Grain leather. Be still my heart.

 

I have no complaints with my decades–old carry–on luggage, but then I saw this Mulberry Oversized Bayswater in Oak Natural Leather.  I am seriously considering to switch.  This has got to be the perfect weekend duffel or business trip bag!  You can’t help but love the antique toned metal components and that iconic postman’s lock closure!

I have no complaints with my decades–old carry–on luggage, but then I saw this Mulberry Oversized Bayswater in Oak Natural Leather. I am seriously considering to switch. This has got to be the perfect weekend duffel or business trip bag! You can’t help but love the antique toned metal components and that iconic postman’s lock closure!

 

This year’s Takashimaya S.C. Christmas Tree is brought to you by Cartier!  To me, Takashimaya’s is arguably one of the best – if not the best – on Orchard Road.  Its lighting up is an event on its own.

This year’s Takashimaya S.C. Christmas Tree is brought to you by Cartier! To me, Takashimaya’s is arguably one of the best – if not the best – on Orchard Road. Its lighting up is an event on its own.

 

If there is ever any doubt as to who’s in charge with this year’s tree, all you need to do is look closely to see the signature red boxes or the brand’s monogram in gold.

If there is ever any doubt as to who’s in charge with this year’s tree, all you need to do is look closely to see the signature red boxes or the brand’s monogram in gold.

 

…Or, you can simply look up to see the storeys–high scroll that brandishes a signature timepiece from, yes, Cartier.  Look, up in the sky.  It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  No, it’s the Ballon Bleu de Cartier!

…Or, you can simply look up to see the storeys–high scroll that brandishes a signature timepiece from, yes, Cartier. Look, up in the sky. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s the Ballon Bleu de Cartier!

 

The other eye–catching Christmas tree is all–pink, also located at Takashimaya S.C., and is by Laduree.  Yes, purveyors of some of the most scrumptious Macarons De Paris!

The other eye–catching Christmas tree is all–pink, also located at Takashimaya S.C., and is by Laduree. Yes, purveyors of some of the most scrumptious Macarons De Paris!

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Paved in luxury

7 11 2014

Luxury gleams on the world’s best shopping streetSOME SAY that luxury has lost its luster.  But all you need here in the Lion City is take a leisurely day of shopping on Orchard Road to see that it – luxury – has in fact lost none of its charms.

The façade of ION on Orchard.  I hear the word "ION" and my senses are arrested by thoughts of a positive charge powering and energizing Orchard Road.  So apt.

The façade of ION on Orchard. I hear the word “ION” and my senses are arrested by thoughts of a positive charge powering and energizing Orchard Road. So apt.

Leisurely’ is the operative word to guide the pace of shopping on this famed street.  While the sheer number of shopping options that dot the whole stretch may prove to be dizzyingly daunting to the faint of heart, the lineup of 22 shopping malls – the best of which house under one roof an eclectic mix that juxtaposes world-famous mainstream luxury brands with labels that have yet to garner the same global attention – and six departments stores could very well be the playground of the tasteful rich.  Think Aspen minus the snow.

This claim was all the more put to fore after Presence Mystery Shopping, a Paris-based marketing consultancy firm, revealed in 2012 that Singapore’s Orchard Road came out in first place on the list of the world’s best shopping streets.  The more seasoned in retail therapy would be quick to zoom in on the ranking and would be quite surprised to see that of the 29 other iconic shopping destinations on the short list, Orchard Road beat Paris’s Champs Elysées, 16th place, and New York’s 5th Avenue, 26th, by a wide margin.

ION Orchard on 2 Orchard Turn is “where it all comes together.”  Imposing at daylight when the rays of the sun hit the award-winning architectural latticework and more captivating at night time when the multi-sensory multi-media façade comes to life, ION Orchard has come to be the flagship of the Singapore shopping experience.  The play of lights and virtual short films on display perfectly set off a veritable marquee of who’s who in the world of fashion and style – Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior, Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana.  You can step into its cavernous space – eight levels of covetable brands – and instantly feel that if appearances alone make for the best shopping street, you could not be at any better place.  But then again, the street offers plenty of equally tempting choices.  So off you go.

Who again wears Prada?!

Who again wears Prada?!

 

A beanie by Louis Vuitton.  I love how the Louis Vuitton logo is composed of the colors of the Philippine flag.

A beanie by Louis Vuitton. I love how the Louis Vuitton logo is composed of the colors of the Philippine flag.

 

Like slices of medium rare lamb strewn atop mesclun greens, contemporary pieces of art are scattered all over ION on Orchard.  And it has to be said, beautifully so.  This one is the "BA PANDA", a painted bronze sculpture, by Julien Marinetti.

Like slices of medium rare lamb strewn atop mesclun greens, contemporary pieces of art are scattered all over ION on Orchard. And it has to be said, beautifully so. This one is the “BA PANDA“, a painted bronze sculpture, by Julien Marinetti.

Across the street from ION is Wisma Atria, fresh from a facelift in 2012 that welcomed the Tag Heuer flagship store to its fold.  Sharing equal billing on this strip is the eponymous fashion label Tory Burch, a name synonymous to preppy-bohemian chic, business savvy and philanthropy.  But before these brands bannered the new and improved Wisma Atria, it has long been anchored by one of its top tenants leading Japanese department store Isetan, the GAP, and Nike on two levels of athletic shoes and apparel love.  These and about a hundred other specialty stores are Wisma Atria’s claim to fashionista heaven – and haven – fame.

Blue is the warmest color.  And it has always been synonymous with Wisma Atria.

Blue is the warmest color. And it has always been synonymous with Wisma Atria.

 

The façade of the Wisma Atria store of Tory Burch's eponymous label.  There's no better address for one of the world's most powerful women.

The façade of the Wisma Atria store of Tory Burch‘s eponymous label. There’s no better address for one of the world’s most powerful women.

 

So, Matthew McConaughey is wearing HAMILTON in his latest movie INTERSTELLAR.

So, Matthew McConaughey is wearing HAMILTON in his latest movie INTERSTELLAR.

Further down Orchard Road is Ngee Ann City, the place where there is “something for everyone” beginning with the lovers of two of the most iconic names in the world of style and merchandising – Chanel and Takashimaya Department Store.  In keeping with the times, Chanel has just recently undergone a sprucing up and has come out fiercer in their window displays that marry the traditional (those quilted 2.55s will never go out of style) with the cutting edge (have you seen their mix of materials and the cute backpack?).  It has always been on a par with fellow tenant Louis Vuitton which in recent memory has enticed with their aviator-themed displays and collaboration with renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.  But still it is Takashimaya that anchors Ngee Ann City in its rightful place as a staple on the world’s best shopping avenue.

This photo doesn't convey how compelling or I guess, inviting, the façade of Ngee Ann City is at night time.  But I've come to love this snapshot as it shows how the trappings of luxury and modernity marry harmoniously with nature, quite evident with the number of trees that dot Orchard Road.

This photo doesn’t convey how compelling or I guess, inviting, the façade of Ngee Ann City is at night time. But I’ve come to love this snapshot as it shows how the trappings of luxury and modernity marry harmoniously with nature, quite evident with the number of trees that dot Orchard Road.

 

This leather bag sit unassumingly at the display window, until closer inspection reveals the impeccable craftsmanship that can only be Hermès.

This leather bag sit unassumingly at the display window, until closer inspection reveals the impeccable craftsmanship that can only be Hermès.

 

Louis Vuitton has always had amazing window displays.  They are a spectacle all their own.  Tells you that luxury is (should be) synonymous with high quality and work of art.

Louis Vuitton has always had amazing window displays. They are a spectacle all their own. Tells you that luxury is (should be) synonymous with high quality and work of art.

If it’s another layer of sophistication you’re after, then the Mandarin Gallery may just be the place for you.  Home to Bell & Ross and Montblanc, the place can surely remind you that there is a time for indulgence after all.  And it could very well be a handsome timepiece on your wrist, just what you need to time your pace as you check out the sartorial offerings at Paul Smith, Emporio Armani, Marc Jacobs and Y–3, just a few of the undoubtedly well-curated selections at this “gallery.”  If you feel like you’re starting to lug around more than you had initially hoped, a sturdy and well-crafted Mulberry might just be the bag you need – to carry your loot in style, as well as your daily essentials.

Mandarin Gallery, with all its lighting treatment, is always a visual feast.

Mandarin Gallery, with all its lighting treatment, is always a visual feast.

 

Coming from ION on Orchard, Mandarin Gallery is an array of namedroppables, beginning with EMPORIO ARMANI.

Coming from ION on Orchard, Mandarin Gallery is an array of namedroppables, beginning with EMPORIO ARMANI.

The attention-grabbing storeys-high LED screens that have shaped the Orchard Road skyline echo the recent influx of high-end mass-market labels to this center of luxury.  Abercrombie & Fitch and H&M – both of which opened to much fanfare and queuing frenzy – hog one of the belt’s busiest intersections, on the way to 313@somerset, the address Forever 21’s flagship store calls home.  At this mall, style of European provenance – Zara – stands vis-à-vis the fashion sensibility and multifarious offerings from the land of cherry blossoms – Uniqlo.

Crossing the street to our next stop!

Crossing the street to our next stop!

 

Where there is H&M, there is a crowd.  No matter what time of day.

Where there is H&M, there is a crowd. No matter what time of day.

 

The walk to 313@somerset on its own is paved in luxury of the gastronomique nature.

The walk to 313@somerset on its own is paved in luxury of the gastronomique nature.

From the convergence of purveyors of style basics, it’s back to upmarket choices at luxury central Paragon Mall.  Mirroring the enticing sight that is ION Orchard, Paragon shimmers amidst this seeming paradise with its lit-up Miu Miu storefront, opposite from the virtually gilded Gucci façade that makes a case for that oft-spoken line “all that glitters is gold.”  Inside, its rather unassuming interiors belie the affluent choices that are bubbling to the surface, waiting to be consumed.  You see it in the perfect tailoring at Alfred Dunhill, and the exceptional pieces at Salvatore Ferragamo and Bulgari.

Paragon Mall is dressing up for the holidays!  I see this and couldn't help but burst into song.  Though the weather outside is frightful...  Hahaha!

Paragon Mall is dressing up for the holidays! I see this and couldn’t help but burst into song. Though the weather outside is frightful… Hahaha!

 

Paragon Mall is framed by Miu Miu on one side...

Paragon Mall is framed by Miu Miu on one side…

 

...and by Gucci on the other.

…and by Gucci on the other.

 

The ROBINSONS Department Store building is a requisite stop too!

The ROBINSONS Department Store building is a requisite stop too!

Appearances do seem to make for what the world calls as the best shopping street.  But with its wide open spaces, clean pavements and service staff with a ready, welcoming smile, Orchard Road clearly has one up against any other world-famous shopping haunt.

Here in the Lion City, these shopping malls fling their doors wide open to welcome you for the ultimate in luxury retail experience.  But while the images of multi-media wall screens and well-lit windows from the outside haven’t fully left your cerebellum convolutions, you soon realize that in their place is inching your own smile – brought about by a usual day at the mall turned into a pleasant multi-sensory jolt – that best speaks of the luxury that has not lost its luster.

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Frankly speaking

18 10 2014

THE VITRINE had literally vanished from my field of view with the intensity – and it has to be said, some semblance of a most deep longing – at which I stayed transfixed at this then newly unveiled time teller.  The debate in my head had drowned the sales associate’s repeated enquiries (“Sir, do you want to try it on?”), limiting my multi–tasking to only gazing at the object’s rather unusual dial with a consuming, tempestuous, fervent desire I had only read about in books.  Until then.

The limited edition "FRANK GEHRY with FOSSIL" GH–1011, with a solid titanium case and a mirror dial

The limited edition “FRANK GEHRY with FOSSIL” GH–1011, with a solid titanium case and a mirror dial

Yet, I passed up on the opportunity to strap it on – the limited edition FRANK GEHRY with FOSSIL wristwatch.  The year was 2004.  And it has turned out to be a regret that shall haunt me through these years, especially since it has proven to be so elusive, inexistent even in the deepest recesses of the connected cyberspace.

It was as if I was living with a frazzled fate built upon the thought that I shall never come across such a beautiful ticktocker ever again.

Fast forward to 10 years hence, an assignment in the City of Trees, a fateful visit to Google, and a serendipitous tickling of the keyboard.  I secured the find, breathless in anticipation all throughout the three–day wait for the auction to close, and with the reckless abandon I would channel at karaoke, blurted out. “the search is over.”  Haha!

I have the utmost respect for architects, and clearly for their collaborations with mainstream brands.  Frank Gehry the American–Canadian famous for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, among many other works that include his house in Santa Monica, California, is at the pinnacle of my list.

A recent feature on Singapore's The Straits Times, "HEAD OF THE CURVE" by Natasha Ann Zachariah brought Frank Gehry – and the wrist watch he designed for FOSSIL – back to mind.

A recent feature on Singapore’s The Straits Times, “HEAD OF THE CURVE” by Natasha Ann Zachariah brought Frank Gehry – and the wrist watch he designed for FOSSIL – back to mind.

 

One of Frank Gehry's more recent projects is for Louis Vuitton!

One of Frank Gehry’s more recent projects is for Louis Vuitton!

Finding the FRANK GEHRY with FOSSIL GH–1011, with a solid titanium case and a mirror dial, felt like an accomplishment.  I wore it first to the opening of The Amazing Spider–Man at the downtown Edwards Cinemas, and then tucked it away in its box.

The watch comes in a most beautiful metal box!

The watch comes in a most beautiful metal box!

 

Don't you just love all the things they put on the back of the watch?  I mean, except when it's an automatic and an exhibition caseback.  Haha!  Notice that this says, "solid titanium case"?  That's why it looks hefty but is nowhere near heavy at all.

Don’t you just love all the things they put on the back of the watch? I mean, except when it’s an automatic and an exhibition caseback. Haha! Notice that this says, “solid titanium case”? That’s why it looks hefty but is nowhere near heavy at all.

 

The inscription on the casual center bar metal buckle is just a lovely touch.

The inscription on the casual center bar metal buckle is just a lovely touch.

 

I saw this wall at Edward's and couldn't help but scream, "I blend!!!"  Haha!  Ok, the proper caption here is that the first time I wore the wrist watch was to the opening screening of The Amazing Spider-Man.

I saw this wall at Edward’s and couldn’t help but scream, “I blend!!!” Haha! Ok, the proper caption here is that the first time I wore the wrist watch was to the opening screening of The Amazing Spider-Man.

I had long professed that for me, the wrist watch is my ultimate material expression of the highest regard I could give someone.  So I would be the least surprised if I’d give this away.  The thrill of the find – after all – had been satiated.

I find that the beauty of this design lies in the imperfection of the handwriting, which to me is the art that is really endangered ("Tell me, when was the last time you wrote something by hand?  Signing the credit card receipt doesn't count!").  I just love Gehry's "signature" and the way the hour markers really have the handwritten feel.

I find that the beauty of this design lies in the imperfection of the handwriting, which to me is the art that is really endangered (“Tell me, when was the last time you wrote something by hand? Signing the credit card receipt doesn’t count!”). I just love Gehry’s “signature” and the way the hour markers really have the handwritten feel.

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Boise in a list of 40

16 06 2014

WE NEVER forget our first.  I mean to say, “firsts,” as well as all other things worth taking note of.  My first sojourn to the land of world–famous potatoes is coming to an end.  I allow myself to wax nostalgic and I’m not surprised that as I sip through my Tall Breakfast Brew with room for cream and brown sugar mixed in, I couldn’t help but break into smiles as my list of 40 unravels.

They say that life begins at 40.  I think I’m off to a great start.

01

I’ve been made aware of Boise and of Idaho more along the lines of being one of the best places to live in the States, and to raise a family.  I didn’t realize that this assignment would inadvertently allow me to tick off an item on another kind of list:  “TheCNN10 Dare To Go” List, http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/05/travel/cnn10-dare-to-go/.

"The CNN 10 Dare To Go" has Idaho on its list!  I have to say, I've ticked this one off!

“The CNN 10 Dare To Go” has Idaho on its list! I have to say, I’ve ticked this one off!

 

01_Arrival_00

eNTeNG, mere minutes from arriving at Boise Airport.

 

Welcome to IDAHO!

Welcome to IDAHO!

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Hudson!  "And I DO like...  Hoo-hoo...  Living under your STOP LIGHT...  Hoo-hoo..."

Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Hudson! “And I DO like… Hoo-hoo… Living under your STOP LIGHT… Hoo-hoo…”

 

02

Somehow, it is indeed very nice to know that “in Boise, you are just within 15 minutes of almost everything.”

In Boise, all you have to do is hit the open road...  Always just about 15 minutes from everything!

In Boise, all you have to do is hit the open road… Always just about 15 minutes from everything!

 

03

In Boise, nature is beautifully and peacefully juxtaposed with modern–day technology.  I was first able to write about a similar observation on my first ever trip overseas, when I delivered a speech at a UN–sanctioned international conference for students held in Japan in 1990.

Sights in Boise are easy on the eyes.  The Foothills.  The Blue Sky.  The pristine white clouds.

Sights in Boise are easy on the eyes. The Foothills. The Blue Sky. The pristine white clouds.

 

04

I have never driven my whole life.  So that was the first and foremost concern I had when I learned about my trip to Boise.  Cue The Beatles:  “I get by with a little help from my friends”  Cue James Taylor:  “You’ve Got A Friend.”  And of course, cue TLC: “I don’t want no scrubs.  Scrubs is a guy who can’t get no love from me.  Hanging on the passenger side of his best friend’s ride…’  #Ouch!  Hahaha!

 

05

I was able to get my fill, to my heart’s content, of all the Boise State University (BSU) #BRONCOS merchandise I could get my hands on.  Sadly, I wasn’t as fortunate with University of Idaho #VANDALS.

Lovin' my Boise State U #BRONCOS jacket!

Lovin’ my Boise State U #BRONCOS jacket!

 

Hats galore.  The #BRONCOS are for me and my brothers.

Hats galore. The #BRONCOS are for me and my brothers.

 

06

FOR A place with stark interiors, the menu at Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant on Broadway was daunting.  But just like what The Library of Babel T-Shirt says, “You can’t rule the world if you can’t decide what to order.”  So, armed with my own resolve to rule my own world, I zoomed into the taste of the familiar that seemed buried beneath an array of lunch specials and enticing combo options.  I ordered their Pho the first time I was there, and never looked back.  I also never ordered anything else.

Everybody I know has fallen in love with Dong Khanh's Spicy Chicken Meal!  Well, everybody but me.  Not because it isn't any good.  It is excellent.  But I'm all about the pho.

Everybody I know has fallen in love with Dong Khanh’s Spicy Chicken Meal! Well, everybody but me. Not because it isn’t any good. It is excellent. But I’m all about the pho.

 

My favorite Dong Khanh Beef Pho!  Probably the best I've had the world over.

My favorite Dong Khanh Beef Pho! Probably the best I’ve had the world over.

 

The perfect pho benefits from a generous heap of Thai sweet basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeno peppers.  And oh, a squeeze of fresh lime!

The perfect pho benefits from a generous heap of Thai sweet basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeno peppers. And oh, a squeeze of fresh lime!

 

07

YOITOMO in Downtown Boise may not be the best Japanese restaurant around, but their All–You–Can–Eat lunch and dinner specials are right up my alley.  And I give them a gold star for the most creative names for their dishes.

I've eaten all I could at this place.  At Lunch, and Dinner.

I’ve eaten all I could at this place. At Lunch, and Dinner.

 

I would go through at least five of these awesome bowls of the freshest vegetable tempura.  And I could slurp that dipping sauce...  if I could.

I would go through at least five of these awesome bowls of the freshest vegetable tempura. And I could slurp that dipping sauce… if I could.

 

This is how the FIRST sushi platter would look like.  Then a seeming endless flow would emanate from the general direction of the sushi chefs.  Haha!

This is how the FIRST sushi platter would look like. Then a seeming endless flow would emanate from the general direction of the sushi chefs. Haha!

 

For the perfectly cooked Japanese rice alone, I would keep going back to Yoitomo.  And I mean at least four bowls every single time!

For the perfectly cooked Japanese rice alone, I would keep going back to Yoitomo. And I mean at least four bowls every single time!

 

I knew I would miss these jalapeno bombers / poppers too.

I knew I would miss these jalapeno bombers / poppers too.

 

08

The undivided love and attention I usually give to an excellent piece of ribeye steak has finally had to yield to some level of sharing.  How could I not with those amazing sweet potato fries?  My first – Legend’s.

My first plate of steak and SWEET POTATO fries at Legend's.

My first plate of steak and SWEET POTATO fries at Legend’s.

 

A knife through the steak.  And a sweet potato fry through the dip.

A knife through the steak. And a sweet potato fry through the dip.

 

When I did have a hankering for sweet potato fries, the one from Jack in the Box would do it for me just fine.

When I did have a hankering for sweet potato fries, the one from Jack in the Box would do it for me just fine.

 

09

Speaking of amazing sweet potato, the baked version served at Texas Roadhouse, the one with melted honey brown sugar oozing down to the sides, has always been worth subjecting my ear drums to decibel levels that will send me to the EENT someday.

I swear that there would be times that I was ready to totally overlook the steak in favor of that sweet potato!  My heart would've melted way before the butter or the brown sugar did.

I swear that there would be times that I was ready to totally overlook the steak in favor of that sweet potato! My heart would’ve melted way before the butter or the brown sugar did.

 

A close shot of the object of my affection.  Gustatory affection, that is.

A close shot of the object of my affection. Gustatory affection, that is.

 

In my ecstasy over the sweet potato, I have totally forgotten about the rolls at Texas Roadhouse.  Served hot, fresh from the oven, these are arguably the best buns in town.  Haha!

In my ecstasy over the sweet potato, I have totally forgotten about the rolls at Texas Roadhouse. Served hot, fresh from the oven, these are arguably the best buns in town. Haha!

 

This steak had to fight with the sweet potato and the rolls for my affection.  The latter often win.  (But I finished every steak I ever ordered!)

This steak had to fight with the sweet potato and the rolls for my affection. The latter often win. (But I finished every steak I ever ordered!)

 

Texas Roadhouse boasts steaks handcut under refrigerated conditions, within the premises.  The display alone would make anybody's mouth water.

Texas Roadhouse boasts steaks handcut under refrigerated conditions, within the premises. The display alone would make anybody’s mouth water.

 

10

My seatmate on the Portland–Boise leg of my incoming flight told me that real Idaho potatoes could not be had in Idaho.  If they ever could, they would cost an arm and a leg.  Fortunately, to make my now–famous (haha!) chicken–pork afritada and beef mechado, Winco Foods keeps me covered by stocking up on the best potato in the world!

I love grocery shopping so much that I would often have my photo taken in front of WinCo, among others.  All the time I would wish that a breeze would make those broad stripes and bright stars wave.

I love grocery shopping so much that I would often have my photo taken in front of WinCo, among others. All the time I would wish that a breeze would make those broad stripes and bright stars wave.

 

Seen at WinCo – New Crop Idaho!

Seen at WinCo – New Crop Idaho!

 

My now–famous Chicken/Pork Afritada.  #BBF Steele became fond of this.

My now–famous Chicken/Pork Afritada. #BBF Steele became fond of this.

 

I did bring my very Filipino Chicken/Pork Afritada to the office for #BBF Steele.

I did bring my very Filipino Chicken/Pork Afritada to the office for #BBF Steele.

 

I would often go to WinCo not only for the potatoes but for – and actually more so – the tomatoes!

I would often go to WinCo not only for the potatoes but for – and actually more so – the tomatoes!

 

11

Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine, the current office cafeteria concessionaire makes the best Sugar Cookie.  She doesn’t make a lot of it per batch so when she does, I would hoard them.  I share some and the rest, I portion and ration to my own self as much as I could to delay the ultimate gratification.

Amazing Sugar Cookies by Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine!

Amazing Sugar Cookies by Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine!

 

12

I wish I spoke Italian.  So that I could fight with someone so fiercely, which is the perfect excuse to later make up over a pint of Haagen–Dazs gelato.

I did fall in love with Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato.  Guilty as charged!

I did fall in love with Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato. Guilty as charged!

 

Gelato reigns supreme over ice cream.  Well, sometimes.  Haha!  As you can see, there is real space devoted to frozen delights in my freezer.

Gelato reigns supreme over ice cream. Well, sometimes. Haha! As you can see, there is real space devoted to frozen delights in my freezer.

 

My eyes were always wide open for amazing deals such as this.  I'd see this and there would only be one logical course of action to do – hoard!

My eyes were always wide open for amazing deals such as this. I’d see this and there would only be one logical course of action to do – hoard!

 

With TOP NOTES and FINISHING NOTES, it felt like consuming edible perfume.

With TOP NOTES and FINISHING NOTES, it felt like consuming edible perfume.

 

13

For more wholesome pleasures, Tillamook Cake Batter ice cream is the perfect choice.  I can finish the half galloon all by myself until I get sick.

Tillamook's Grandma's Cake Batter is so good I could finish this whole 1.75QT tub in one sitting.  And on one occasion, I did.

Tillamook’s Grandma’s Cake Batter is so good I could finish this whole 1.75QT tub in one sitting. And on one occasion, I did.

 

14

The best store–bought gelato is Talentis Tahitian Vanilla Bean.  I get it for US$5.99 at Albertson’s.  And for US$3.99 only at WinCo!

I saw this pint on the shelf at Albertson's and just had to take a snap.  I took it home with me, fell in love, and haven't looked back since.

I saw this pint on the shelf at Albertson’s and just had to take a snap. I took it home with me, fell in love, and haven’t looked back since.

 

Talenti Gelato comes in a number of really scrumptious flavors.  And for just $ 4.39 a pint at WinCo.

Talenti Gelato comes in a number of really scrumptious flavors. And for just $ 4.39 a pint at WinCo.

 

Talenti Gelato goes for only $ 3.99 at Fred Meyer!

Talenti Gelato goes for only $ 3.99 at Fred Meyer!

 

I have to say, I fell in love the most with these two.

I have to say, I fell in love the most with these two.

 

15

A pint of Ben & Jerry’s will set you back by about US$ 4.00 at your friendly Albertson’s, Fred Meyer, or WinCo.  In Singapore, it costs S$ 15.00.  The exchange rate is US$ 1.00 to S$ 1.30, typically.

Gotta keep lovin' Ben & Jerry's for not being boring.  Well, anybody who makes Red Velvet and Coffee ought to be loved.

Gotta keep lovin’ Ben & Jerry’s for not being boring. Well, anybody who makes Red Velvet and Coffee ought to be loved.

 

16

Nothing beats homemade goodnessChase Mecham’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, his grandmother’s (secret) recipe, is so good it belongs to a prominent place on the supermarket frozen section aisle.

The perfect Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is homemade, and is by my awesome friend, "Chef" Chase Mecham.

The perfect Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is homemade, and is by my awesome friend, “Chef” Chase Mecham.

 

I intentionally set aside half of the pint Chase gave me.  On my actual last day in Boise, I savored this amazing homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream while waiting in line at the DELTA counter at Boise Airport.  I think it was the best edible item to cap a most amazing 120 days in the City of Trees.

I intentionally set aside half of the pint Chase gave me. On my actual last day in Boise, I savored this amazing homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream while waiting in line at the DELTA counter at Boise Airport. I think it was the best edible item to cap a most amazing 120 days in the City of Trees.

 

17

My first real experience of Mexican cuisine was at my mentor Ralph Kim’s family dinner at his sprawling home of a house.  I had a taste of unforgettable tacos and that killer of a key lime pie!

My mentor Ralph Kim and his wife and family put out a huge spread of authentic Mexican tacos.  It was a great first time experiencing this cuisine.

My mentor Ralph Kim and his wife and family put out a huge spread of authentic Mexican tacos. It was a great first time experiencing this cuisine.

 

Ralph made Carne Asada on his awesome, Bobby Flay-caliber outdoor grill, chopped them up, and it was the flavorful, juicy, meaty filling of the tacos.  I smothered mined with onions, cilantro and the homemade salsa.

Ralph made Carne Asada on his awesome, Bobby Flay-caliber outdoor grill, chopped them up, and it was the flavorful, juicy, meaty filling of the tacos. I smothered mined with onions, cilantro and the homemade salsa.

 

The flour tortilla was also homemade!

The flour tortilla was also homemade!

 

The Mexican dinner ended with a dessert sampler!  With the brownies and the "leche flan" is the unforgettable key lime pie.

The Mexican dinner ended with a dessert sampler! With the brownies and the “leche flan” is the unforgettable key lime pie.

 

18

I think the Boise Factory Outlet Mall is seriously underrated.  When you’re done shopping, you can actually soak in the awesome view of the Boise Foothills.  (Okay – I can hear you sayin’ that the same could be had right smack from the parking lot.  You have a point.)

 

19

Speaking of the Boise Factory Outlet Mall, I had a couple of field days there, rummaging through the CLEARANCE section at LeVI’S.  I used to only shop where it says S–A–L–E in big bold red letters.  But LeVI’S has changed this to big bold red letters that spell C–L–E–A–R–A–N–C–E.  I got several pairs for myself at only US$ 9.53 each after a further 40% was cut from the lowest–ticketed–price of US$ 14.98.  #SWEET.

"Take an additional 40% off already reduced items."  Were sweeter, more profound words ever uttered?!  Haha!

“Take an additional 40% off already reduced items.” Were sweeter, more profound words ever uttered?! Haha!

 

A wall of denim is always a good thing.

A wall of denim is always a good thing.

 

A pile of denim is also a good thing.

A pile of denim is also a good thing.

 

Sometimes, I just fold my jeans exactly how they would do it at the stores.  I find this...  what's the word...  ah, therapeutic.  Haha!

Sometimes, I just fold my jeans exactly how they would do it at the stores. I find this… what’s the word… ah, therapeutic. Haha!

 

20

My good friend Chase Mecham, the generous Baker King himself, would usually make his own mix of nuts, seeds and spices that he would throw into his dough mix – the image in my head involves a lot of wrist action like in flouring a counter top on to which the dough would be mercilessly slammed – but on the one he brought for me to sample, he used a mix he found at random at Trader Joe’s.  It’s called DUKKAH: A Nut & Spice Blend.  It was a whiff of inspiration.  Chase’s homemade bread had become my favorite.

My favorite homemade bread is by Chef Chase Mecham!

My favorite homemade bread is by Chef Chase Mecham!

 

What's one of the best things in the world?  Butter melting and sliding down hot toast!

What’s one of the best things in the world? Butter melting and sliding down hot toast!

 

21

I was running an errand at Sephora one day when I stumbled upon a kiosk that sells artisanal olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and focaccia so good I must’ve finished all the samples – cubed morsels of rosemary–perfumed goodness – while I carried on an animated conversation with the lovely shopkeeper.  She was so nice I ended up requesting a selfie with her.  And yes, one huge loaf of the bread!  The shop is called Olioteca.  They are online at http://www.olioteca.net/.

Zeppole Ciabatta is the perfect tasting bread to Olioteca's artisanal extra virgin olive oil.

Zeppole Ciabatta is the perfect tasting bread to Olioteca’s artisanal extra virgin olive oil.

 

Artisanal olive oils by Olioteca!

Artisanal olive oils by Olioteca!

 

My lambskin bag of French provenance was the perfect carrier for the very Italian loaf I carried around Macy's.

My lambskin bag of French provenance was the perfect carrier for the very Italian loaf I carried around Macy’s.

 

The requisite #selfie with the very lovely shop keeper.

The requisite #selfie with the very lovely shop keeper.

 

22

My good friend Jonathan Young makes a spicy marinara sauce so good, I had to restrain myself from licking the Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ in full view of the Building 36 lunch crowd.  Sometimes, whatever little sense of propriety a person has always comes in handy.

Al dente angel hair and smooth marinara sauce live together in perfect harmony.  Side by side on this Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™...  sometimes, why don't we?

Al dente angel hair and smooth marinara sauce live together in perfect harmony. Side by side on this Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™… sometimes, why don’t we?

 

The life cycle of this pasta ended with Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ so clean, short of being licked!

The life cycle of this pasta ended with Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ so clean, short of being licked!

 

23

I may have no problem strapping a Rolex on my wrist but at the same time, I do derive as much pleasure – if not more so – from all the discounts I have managed to score, shopping at ROSS, Marshalls, and TJMaxx.  And trust me, it is amazing the bursts of clarity that come with psychotic retail therapy.  I had formed some of my more brilliant ideas while taking a pause beside the clearance racks.  Right there, just beside the further–reduced bins.

 

24

I would wait for the Macy’s commercials on TV.  I love how the word “doorbusters” rings with much profundity.  My favorite Ralph Lauren Trail Sweater in navy blue cost me only US$ 19.60 + tax after 80% was slashed off the original price.  Major score!

Going all–out with Ralph Lauren, starting with this Trail Sweater that I got for a steal!

Going all–out with Ralph Lauren, starting with this Trail Sweater that I got for a steal!

 

25

I collect the beautifully designed “scent swatches” (cards) that are used to test perfume or cologne in department stores.  I re–purpose them into gift cards where I write my signature personal notes that come with whatever I give away.

 

26

I thought I was good at making the Filipino leche flan.  And then my good friend Chase Mecham‘s crème brulee came along, by way of one ramekin all to myself!  Same holds true for Filipino specialties that I realize could be made so much better by others – Rafela Sim’s mom Mamita makes the best “ginataang halo–halo”, Arvin Daguro’s wife makes the best “ginataang hipon”, and, Ricky Victor’s wife makes awesome pasta.

Rafela's Mamita whips up the best "ginataang halo-halo."  I had this regularly, lovingly sent over to me the whole time I was in Boise!

Rafela’s Mamita whips up the best “ginataang halo-halo.” I had this regularly, lovingly sent over to me the whole time I was in Boise!

 

I finished about five cups of piping hot steamed white rice with Arvin Daguro's wife Lea's "ginataang hipon."  (Shrimps in coconut milk)

I finished about five cups of piping hot steamed white rice with Arvin Daguro’s wife Lea’s “ginataang hipon.” (Shrimps in coconut milk)

 

27

#BBF Steele Stone’s lasagna developed in me a deeper appreciation for pasta doused in sauce that has been simmered for hours.

Major fist–bump–worthy homemade lasagna by my #BBF Steele.  The sauce is a study in patience as it is usually made to simmer for hours!

Major fist–bump–worthy homemade lasagna by my #BBF Steele. The sauce is a study in patience as it is usually made to simmer for hours!

 

#Selfie with #BBF Steele!  Of course I wore the Superman shirt in his honor.

#Selfie with #BBF Steele! Of course I wore the Superman shirt in his honor.

 

#BBF Steele with my other best friend, Zach, at the wheel.  They brought me out to lunch on this day.

#BBF Steele with my other best friend, Zach, at the wheel. They brought me out to lunch on this day.

 

28

#Hump_Day_Wednesday means a box of a dozen donuts – often from Country Donuts – shared with the best people you know.  This I learned from the example of #BBF Steele Stone.

It was inevitable that I had to account for my growing vocabulary while I was in Boise.  An eighth of my white board took down terms that would soon pepper my own sentences.

It was inevitable that I had to account for my growing vocabulary while I was in Boise. An eighth of my white board took down terms that would soon pepper my own sentences.

 

This unassuming box of Country Donuts has always been a welcome sight on Hump Day Wednesdays!  I miss these donuts.

This unassuming box of Country Donuts has always been a welcome sight on Hump Day Wednesdays! I miss these donuts.

 

#BBF Steele would often let me choose a donut from the box.  Like this chocolate–glazed one!

#BBF Steele would often let me choose a donut from the box. Like this chocolate–glazed one!

 

29

Eating gluten–free is not a fad.  With all the pasta I devour, I couldn’t imagine an easy existence if I were allergic to gluten.  So I give mad props to all those who whip up edible works of art that pack all the flavors and nutrients sans the allergens.  I’ve been fortunate to sample muffins and (Bundt) cakes made by Sandy Kralik and Heike Brown.  “There’s even no sugar in there eNTeNGJust bananas.”  They were so good that I went bananas.

The Sandy Kralik "There's–Not–Even–Sugar–In–There" Muffin!

The Sandy Kralik “There’s–Not–Even–Sugar–In–There” Muffin!

 

Heike Brown's luscious Bundt Cake.

Heike Brown’s luscious Bundt Cake.

 

30

Gotta love those oatmeal cookies made by Nick Kaiser.  I had to send him my 10–second review from the very first bite.

Not much to look at and doesn't photograph well (or maybe it is my limited photo skills) but these oatmeal cookies by Nick Kaiser are just awesome.

Not much to look at and doesn’t photograph well (or maybe it is my limited photo skills) but these oatmeal cookies by Nick Kaiser are just awesome.

 

31

Some of the best gifts I have ever received this past four months are handwritten notes.  And I would be remiss if I’d not make mention of all the handwritten cards I did receive.  I’ve been reading them over and over again.

Some of the handwritten notes, cards and letters I received while in Boise.  I have to say, these are the best things I'd remember the place – and my time there – by.

Some of the handwritten notes, cards and letters I received while in Boise. I have to say, these are the best things I’d remember the place – and my time there – by.

 

32

I would start my day with happy, fast songs that I think would put the spring to my step.  I can’t listen to Tiesto’s Red Lights without images of South Federal Way buzzing like neon in my head.

This song comes on the radio and my day would be set.

This song comes on the radio and my day would be set.

 

33

I am not afraid of color.  I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  On two occasions – once in Singapore and once here in Boise – I was told by someone that I bring “Gummy Bears” to mind.  Haha!  I find that to be a huge compliment as it came from two people whose opinions count.

Yes, I am a Gummy Bear!

Yes, I am a Gummy Bear!

 

34

Trader Joe’s opened in Boise on February 28, 2014.  Of course I was there.  After taking several snaps of the bottles of Cookie Butter on the shelf, I had the urge to clean all 35 bottles on display.

Of course I was there to welcome Trader Joe's to Boise!

Of course I was there to welcome Trader Joe’s to Boise!

 

I just had to take a photo of the display before I cleaned off this shelf.  I has to literally elbow my way to getting ALL of these.  I also got approached and asked about what cookie butter is and why I seem to be in love with the stuff.  I was happy to explain!

I just had to take a photo of the display before I cleaned off this shelf. I has to literally elbow my way to getting ALL of these. I also got approached and asked about what cookie butter is and why I seem to be in love with the stuff. I was happy to explain!

 

When I may not be in the mood for the butter, I nibble on the actual cookies that inspired the spreadable concoction.

When I may not be in the mood for the butter, I nibble on the actual cookies that inspired the spreadable concoction.

 

By my second visit to the store, they had already stocked up on the Cookie & Cocoa Swirl version.  This one gained a lot of fans.

By my second visit to the store, they had already stocked up on the Cookie & Cocoa Swirl version. This one gained a lot of fans.

 

A pretty common sight after just a few minutes at Trader Joe's.  Haha!  Yes, all I would need is about 10 minutes – in and out the door and DONE.

A pretty common sight after just a few minutes at Trader Joe’s. Haha! Yes, all I would need is about 10 minutes – in and out the door and DONE.

 

Made a friend at Trader Joe's.  Eric would always ring up my purchases and yes, I had to explain to him too my fascination with Cookie Butter.

Made a friend at Trader Joe’s. Eric would always ring up my purchases and yes, I had to explain to him too my fascination with Cookie Butter.

 

35

The very first car at the parking lot that I took a snap of has the license plate “BELLA”.  I thought the owner was a Twilight fanatic.  I couldn’t be more wrong.

Hello Gorgeous!

Hello Gorgeous!

 

36

I don’t drive but I do lust after cars from time to time.  I’ve had the longest and deepest longing for the MINI COOPER.  Some of the more recent important days of my life had been punctuated by a sighting of a MINI swooshing by.  I think of it as some sort of lucky charm.  There is a nice MINI I would see at the parking lot on some days.

eNTeNG & the MINI, at the Boise Factory Outlet Mall.

eNTeNG & the MINI, at the Boise Factory Outlet Mall.

 

... and at Albertson's.

… and at Albertson’s.

 

...  and even in Chicago!

… and even in Chicago!

 

37

I think I will miss my cubicle of 120 days – that little corner by the door of Room 113A.

The accounting of the final month of my assignment was handled by the Accounting Firm of Stone & Pritchett.

The accounting of the final month of my assignment was handled by the Accounting Firm of Stone & Pritchett.

 

And then...  it was DONE.

And then… it was DONE.

 

38

I am ending this assignment feeling so well taken care of by locals.  By those who have given me a ride to and from my apartment and “dream” destinations.  And by all my friends at…  Boise City Taxi!

I Heart Boise...  City Taxi!

I Heart Boise… City Taxi!

 

39

They say life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.  I would say, life is what happens when you actually live those plans.  I couldn’t have been anywhere else better in the last 120 days than in 83706, in this Gem of a State.

With this chocolate, I shall remember always.

With this chocolate, I shall remember always.

 

40

Food that provides real comfort could prove to be perfect for mopping up tears – cue here those singular nights of homesickness – and when made really really well, they could move an old man like me to tears.  Such was the oxymoronic delight that is the Blondie from the Mecham family kitchen, which, as I have unabashedly declared here, is equal parts home baking goodness (by his wife Jen) and a treasured family recipe.  For sure, I will miss this Blondie.

The BLONDIE of my wildest dreams.  'Nuf said.

The BLONDIE of my wildest dreams. ‘Nuf said.

 

The sweetest card came with the sweetest treat.  Thank you so much, Chase, Jen, Natalie & Elle Mecham!

The sweetest card came with the sweetest treat. Thank you so much, Chase, Jen, Natalie & Elle Mecham!

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





The Great Gatsby

13 05 2013
The_Great_Gatsby_01

My copy of the American classic The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is a 1953 re-print of the 1925 original. Cover art is by the great Paul Bacon.

BY THE end of the first three paragraphs of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third novel, I knew I would not be able to put it down anymore until I hit the end.

Anybody who has ever asked me about my writing would know that I would always struggle with the opening paragraph.  To me it’s the most important part of any written work.  When I get past it, everything else just flows.  And this is why I love The Great Gatsby, the novel.  The opening paragraph can hold you captive – up until you read about “a sense of the fundamental decencies” by the time you reach the bottom of page one.

I own the 181–page, 1953 re–print of the 1925 classic.  The cover art is not the original Francis Cugat but is Paul Bacon, regarded as one of the most prolific book jacket artists of all–time.  The unforgettable cover art for CATCH–22 and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest were also by him.

Back to the prose.  I will forever hold The Great Gatsby – often called the best American fiction ever written – in the highest regard not for the story it tells, but for how this story was written.  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing is stylish, elegant and sparse yet enough to bring into existence characters with varying shades of hue and perceptible depth.  This quality in his writing may have prompted Baz Luhrmann to render his celluloid interpretation of this beloved classic in 3D.

I won’t say that The Great Gatsby is the best written work of fiction.  But for how it was written, I have only one word in mind.  Perfect.

The_Great_Gatsby_00

My copy sits perfectly with my wristwatch magazines and notebooks.

 

The_Great_Gatsby_02

This copy was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons/New York, the original publisher of the 1925 first edition.

 

The_Great_Gatsby_03

Copyright Page. Cover art is by Paul Bacon.

Now, how does the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher, and Carey Mulligan measure up?  We’ll see.  I’m re-reading the book before I hit the cinemas.

The_Great_Gatsby_04

About 10% of what’s on queue for my reading. Hahaha! That’s Carey Mulligan, who plays the role of Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann’s celluloid interpretation of The Great Gatsby.

 

The_Great_Gatsby_05

Carey and Eric with Jay

 

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





Inching closer

21 04 2013
Philippine Star Supreme - Boardroom 1 01

eNTeNG at the Open Call for Writers for the Philippine Star (Supreme Section), Boardroom 1, Dusit Thani Hotel Manila, 12 June 2010.

YOU STAY on a job for close to two decades and chances are, opportunities for change just pass you by.  Or, you do find yourself staring at the giddy precipice of change from time to time, feeling that all you need is a nudge to send you plummeting to something new.  But you realize that the nudge just wouldn’t come along.  And you just don’t take the leap yourself.

But sometimes, true to the wise words of the saccharin-laden love theme from the movie “Chances Are,” “after all these stops and starts we keep coming back…” not to “these two hearts” but just one – I keep coming back to my own.  My heart and the undeniable passion to write.

Three years ago, I woke up to a page on one of the two broadsheets we read at home.  It was the nudge I was waiting for.  Something I could no longer ignore.

It was an open call for writers for the Supreme section of the Philippine Star, at the Dusit Thani Hotel ManilaSupreme is the hip, happening, “young” section under the huge Lifestyle section of the paper I read from cover to cover.

Philippine Star Supreme - Meeting Center Board 00

This was the first thing I saw, alighting from the lift.

 

Philippine Star Supreme - Boardroom 1 00

Yehey! I made it to the open call!

I arrived at the holding room and found myself to be just one in hundreds of aspiring – and it has to be said, really young – writers eager to snap up the chance to add “contributor” to their multi-hypenated existence.

Tim Yap, Supreme section editor and supreme multi-hypenate himself, ran the open call.  He gave us three pieces to write under extreme time pressure.  He gave the first assignment and at the end of the few minutes we were allowed, collected our work before proceeding to the second one, and so on.

The first assignment was our manifesto, in 150 words or less, in three minutes.  Or was it 10?  All I remember is that I just wrote away.  And reminiscent of how I was as a student, I stood up and passed my paper before the time was up.

Philippine Star Supreme - Essay 1_01

The closing paragraph of my manifesto.

 

Philippine Star Supreme - Dusit Thani Pencil 00

They provided us with pencils from the hotel. But I chose to write in my favorite shade of blue, using my own pen.

The boardroom still abuzz over how unexpected the first topic was – “Did you get to write something, like, really write?  I mean, so out of left field, right?” – Tim asked us to reach into our bags or pockets, and find something to write about.  I thought, anybody from advertising was going to nail this one.  Haha!  I reached deep into my Adidas UEFA EURO 2008 bag and found my then-brand new kikki.K DAILY NOTES notebook.  I wrote about it for the next 10 minutes.

The feature on an item taken care of and our pieces collected, Tim told us to pair up with someone in the room (“Look to your left or right”).  For our third and final task, we had to conduct an interview and then write a feature about it, all in 30 minutes.  I ended up working with the lovely Toni Alexis Araneta.

We broke for lunch (at least for me), came back, and for the next two to three hours, remained holed up in the boardroom like a bunch of revolutionary writers who had decided to go into seclusion or hiding together.  After making Toni Alexis’s acquaintance, I met a couple new friends – Lester Cavestany and Iñigo Del Castillo.

The Supreme team came back and true to American Idol Hollywood Week traditions of old, separated the room into two, sending half – the names they called out on a roll – to the room across the hall.  Toni Alexis, Lester, Iñigo and I stayed behind.  We later found out that we made the cut and those sent away weren’t as fortunate.

Then it was time for the interviews.  They called us in five at a time to face the panel.  The interviews were conducted really lightly, dare I say almost casual, with all five of us made to interact among ourselves and with the panel, and then on situational one-on-ones.  They had in front of them as a guide our written works, by now bearing marks they had made – a “star” meant the piece was stellar or outstanding and a “heart” meant that it was something they just couldn’t help but love (grammar rules be damned).  Some pieced had both a star and a heart.

Of my three pieces, the one that clearly stood out was my feature on Toni Alexis.  They said I write really well about people.

Talk shifted to what we would most like to produce for the paper.  Without a second’s hesitation, I spoke about my love for food, cooking and wristwatches with fervent, impatient enthusiasm.  Tim went on to ask how interested I would be to be sent on an assignment that would look into what goes on behind the scenes of the many cooking shows that had cropped up on Philippine TV.  Ideas immediately went into overdrive in my head as I tried to remain calm and punctuate my responses with subtle bursts of aha – spoken as if the vowels were being rationed.

“You can go to the first show on Monday.”

Then Pepe Diokno interjected, “But Tim he has a full-time job!”

And I still do, thankfully so.  But it has never extinguished the flame that has always been inside of me.  Who knows, right?

Philippine Star Supreme - With Alex 00

I made a good friend at this open call for writers. That’s the lovely Toni Alexis Araneta. My interview with her and the resulting piece I wrote about it was my best work of the day.

 

Philippine Star Supreme - With Lester & Alex 02_00

I actually made three good friends that day – Lester Cavestany, Iñigo Del Castillo (in white), and Toni Alexis Araneta.

 

Philippine Star Supreme - Alex Dedication 00

Toni Alexis leaves a note on my kikki.K DAILY NOTES notebook. On the reverse, Iñigo wrote too.

 

Ukkokei Ramen Ron - Solo 00

I ended this day with my first dinner at Ukkokei Ramen Ron!

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





A stopover in Hokkaido on the way to the flat

3 04 2013

YOU NEVER ever forget your first.

The first time I was out of the Philippines, my destination was Japan.  I went there to speak at a United Nations international conference for students.  I carried with me a speech – the original draft of which I still have – with the most appropriate and beautiful opening paragraph courtesy of my eldest brother.

I was 16 years old at the time.  I still vividly remember walking up to the rostrum, faced the crowd and saw that everybody had their headsets on (for real-time translation) to listen to me.  “Just like in the movies (when heads of state would meet just before a disaster strikes),” I told my surprisingly calm self.  I was confident enough not to bring with me the printout of my speech.  Back then, I had unwavering faith in my memory serving me right.  And for the five days leading to the speech, I had had sufficient practice delivering impromptu talks at all the primary schools, secondary schools and the Ministry of Education office that we visited.

I think I got thunderous applause.  But nothing was louder than the one I got after singing a capella before the program closed.  Mine was the only musical number they allowed in what was a strictly formal event.  It was a last-minute addition too.  The organizers asked me to sing after hearing me do so at one of the schools we had gone to.  I was later approached by an Austrian violinist who wanted to offer me a music scholarship in Europe.

Why am I suddenly waxing nostalgic?  And of Japan of all places?  I blame it on Cold Storage.  I blame it on them for setting up this “Hokkaido” gastronomic festival of sorts at the open area of the mall nearest my flat.

I didn’t go to Hokkaido during that trip to Japan.  I went to Tokyo and Yokohama.  But if what I remember of all the gustatory delights I had in those two cities could at least be a faint figment of what the country’s biggest island offers, then I am all for shopping to my heart’s content.

I scoured all the racks radar-locking at anything that resembled my favorite Japanese cookie, the Fujiya Chocochip Cookie Cocoa Country Ma’am.  Apparently, it doesn’t trace its roots to the island.

But it wasn’t any reason to fret.  I love Japanese curry (Hello, Coco Ichibanya!) and there were a lot of choices on offer – scallop, salmon, clam, and octopus.  I equally heart ramen, so this I got in all its broth variations – shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce) and my all-time favorite miso (fermented soybean paste).  The closest I got to the chocolate chip cookie of my dreams was a box of sweet choco soft rusk.  And to top everything off – and to best end a day of nostalgia – was a tub of Hokkaido Ice Cream in Premium Vanilla.

This promotion runs until Friday this week.  And I can’t wait to go back tomorrow and stock up.

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Scallop Curry

 

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Salmon Curry

 

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Clam Curry

 

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Octopus Curry

 

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These are squid stuffed with rice.

 

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Sweet Choco Soft Rusk

 

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I got sold the instant I saw the tag line: “Only Hokkaido Taste”! This is the shoyu (soy sauce) ramen.

 

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Miso Ramen

 

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Shio (salt) Ramen and that cute Kid’s Ramen!

 

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There was only one freezer for the frozen delights. The tubs of ice cream each sells for S$ 9.30, and comes in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.

 

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They were quite proud of the fact that only “Hokkaido milk” goes into the ice cream.

 

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Why settle for vanilla when there is PREMIUM vanilla?! This was the one I got!

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





Almost home

1 04 2013
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Best friend Darryl on the phone with his wife, Brenda, right after checking in all his luggage. No excess baggage!

I’M NOTHING if not fiercely loyal to my family and my friends (who are actually quite few).  I find that to be very Filipino, having grown up on Social Studies classes that always associated the words “family” and “closely knit” to no end.

A couple other things that I do find to be very Filipino are – as I have always said on this space – welcoming loved ones at the airport or sending them off.  Trust me, stop by the NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) at any given time and you will find throngs gathered as if they are there to topple a dictatorship.

I use this as one of two excuses to either pick up or send off friends at the airport.  The other excuse is that Changi International Airport is just so beautiful.  I call it an urban oasis where the tummy can be filled, the senses satiated, and where serious retail therapy can be had.  And I actually only need to hop on the Purple Line and take a couple of short interchanges before I soon find myself within the halls of Terminal 3, imposing with its cavernous, cathedral ceilings that render the place nothing short of hallowed.  I emerge to a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf shop to my right, ask for their Red Velvet Cake, sit back, and feel that I wouldn’t want to be someplace else.

Yesterday, I was back.  This time, to see best friend Darryl off.

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“I see the tower! I see the tower!” “Fast approaching Changi International Airport. Darryl, a stickler for keeping schedules, told me that he had to be at the airport at exactly 4:00 AM.

 

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Darryl arrives at Changi International Airport Terminal 1.

 

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Long-standing friends eventually develop patience for me. Because as you can see, I will keep on asking them to… pose for second here, here, here. Hahaha!

 

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“It should just be here somewhere.” Darryl, though quite sure that every piece of luggage meets the airline standards, still wanted to have a final weigh-in.

 

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On the way to the industrial-grade weighing scale by Door No. 5, I saw this Audemars Piguet wall clock. See, we were able to beat our goal!

 

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Darryl soon realized that I was actually of no use. Hahaha! Yes, I accompanied him to the airport but I just let him do the heavy lifting all by himself. Haha! Sorry about that. You know me and my camera, we sometimes have a world all our own.

 

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Everything was weighing in according to Darryl’s expectations. Good job!

 

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Note to self for future reference – that’s how much a 40-inch flatscreen in its original packaging weighs. All of 20.55 kilograms!

 

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The stroller for the TV was checked in separately. It’s what airlines call as “irregularly shaped” items (for check-in).

 

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Now that the weigh-in is done, It’s time to head off to Row 07 for Darryl’s check-in.

 

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We couldn’t walk past this very “old school”-looking information counter and not take a snap. At some point I had to mention to Darryl that Singapore should seriously consider lobbying for Terminal 1 to be made into a UNESCO Heritage Site. The place just feels so historical in all its well-preserved glory. I couldn’t say the same for the NAIA, sadly.

 

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“Hold it right there! Say cheese…” (Ok, not really a very popular word right now. Hahaha!)

 

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Darryl goes through his papers while he waits for his turn at the counter.

 

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It was not a long wait. But of course I still managed to squeeze in a self-portrait session. Hahaha!

 

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Row 07 check-in counters are right beside the entrance to the departure area. Time check after clearing check-in? 4:10 AM! Everything’s going on smoothly.

 

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Time in one’s hands is a good enough excuse to… eat! Hahaha!

 

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I love it when a place speaks my language!

 

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We decided on KFC for breakfast! Very important reminder: Outside food is not allowed.

 

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My platter of a breakfast! The eggs were nice. I particularly loved the crust on the original recipe chicken (fillet). Quite peppery. Some like it hot!

 

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Darryl had Blueberry Pancakes and a side of Scrambled Eggs.

 

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Something to slather on to the pancakes

 

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Breakfast was on Darryl. Thanks a lot!!!

 

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KFC has this sweeping view of the airport check-in area. Notice how this scene is beautifully awash in blue.

 

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I really like the orange-and-white color combination on the Jetstar Boarding Pass.

 

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For some reason, I find the Jestar logo design to be quite smart, catchy, and with good recall. Speaking of recall, the logo brings to mind a skinny tie I had eons ago. It’s black silk, with – you guess it right – a star subtly embroidered on it. I would wear it to gigs to give me an instant boost of… stardom. Hahaha!

 

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At the airport, a traveler checks and checks again his stuff.

 

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On the way to the Departure Area, guess what Darryl saw? A tarp for QANTAS, the flag carrier of Australia!

 

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We just had to take one last selfie before we hit the road – I mean, before I hit the road and Darryl hit the sky at 30-plus-thousand feet up in the air.

 

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Buh-bye!

It was practically his last day in the Lion City, en route to a place where the opera house by the water is considered to be one of the first marvels of modern architecture.  The route he is taking is by way of a week-long break in the Philippines, then an hours-long layover in Singapore to pick up his remaining luggage, before it would be time to scoot to the Great Outback.

There, his wife Brenda – along with their plans for a new life – awaits.

I know it is still a matter of a few more days to the day.  But it is so close that best friend Darryl can already smell the kangaroos.

All the best, Darryl & Brenda.  You know I will miss you!

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I love looking at the Flight Information Board at airports!

 

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I would’ve wanted to wear a DLSU shirt in honor of the traveler. But I realized that I don’t have one. HAHAHA! I thought a green shirt would do. But then I saw this “UC DAVIS” shirt and just put it on.

 

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After seeing best friend Darryl off, it was time to hop on the Skytrain to Terminal 3.

 

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Inside the Skytrain, I got transfixed on to this ad. Nice visuals. Hahaha! Oh, the key message bears repeating – you get 7% savings on the GST if you shop at the Changi International Airport.

 

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Gotta have another shot of me in my “bagong gising” (just-out-of-bed) look. Conceited much??? Hahaha!

 

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I can buy my month’s worth of magazines at Times Travel in one go! I had to come back later because it was still quite early and they don’t open until 7:00 AM.

 

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Changi Airport presents “Fascinating Russia” from 16 Mar – 7 Apr 2013!

 

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Prepare to be fascinated by Russia!

 

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Welcome to Red Square!

 

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I saw this part of the “Fascinating Russia” setup framed in my Canon IXUS 860IS and I knew right there and then that I want it printed on a shirt and I’d wear it!

 

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I can’t help but feel so tiny whenever I’m inside Changi Airport Terminal 3. And I’ve always loved the ceiling treatment. I’m not sure if those panels serve a specific, important purpose. Better ask my brother!

 

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I can get stuck in Terminal 3 and never want for anything. Haha! This board has my name written all over it.

 

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I love giving feedback. So when I saw this terminal, I knew I just had to write something for all the amazing people behind Changi Airport. Besides, I had plenty of time to kill while I wait for the shops to open.

 

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The keyboard has a very Apple feel to it. Though one of the keys clearly says otherwise.

 

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Didn’t take me long to fill out the online form.

 

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Of all my TOMS, this one in red corduroy has racked up the most mileage. One of my brothers got this for me as a send-off gift on the day I left for Singapore. On the wya to the airport, we stopped by Alabang Town Center. There, he asked me to try on TOMS (he was the first one to go crazy over these shoes) ans whichever I liked, he said he would get for me. The sales people ended packing up what I had on as I decided to wear this pair on my flight.

 

Darryl_Departure_50_Longchamp

Accompanying me while I waited for the shops to fling open their doors was my Longchamp Parisi in lambskin leather. It’s not as obvious given that it is in black, but I can tell by the feel of the supple leather that this bag has been developing a lovely patina.

 

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Again, given that I had a lot of time in my hands, I decided to go to the Information desk and clarify what time the shops will open. Impatient much?!?! Hahaha!

 

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From the Skytrain/Departure Area on Level 2, the Information personnel recommended that I check out the shops on the Arrival floor.

 

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I saw this panda at a promotional booth and wanted to buy it. Hahaha! “Jia Jia” is the name.

 

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See, there’s recreation at Changi Airport. This one is called The Slide @ T3.

 

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I don’t think I’ll survive this slide. I got nauseous just staring at it.

 

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Just about anywhere there is a mirror. Hahaha!

 

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I took this photo as a shout-out to my Italian big brother Kuya Michele!

 

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I really find the elevators at Terminal 3 to be such marvels of architecure, or in a simpler term, construction. This for me is a conversation piece with my youngest brother.

 

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Yey! Times Travel had finally opened! I immediately hit the magazine racks that occupy almost two walls.

 

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I picked up all the titles you see on this photo. Obviously, I’m a believer of Style, silver linings, and Oz The Great and The Powerful!

 

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These wall clocks hang above the men’s magazine section. i looked up and saw them as if they were my shining stars. Hahaha!

 

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I saw that the Robb Report’s latest edition features wristwatches so I’ve just got to have it! It was a pleasant last-second addition to my already heavy stash.

 

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First the wall clocks. Now these editions of The Lonely Planet. Singapore and Australia side-by-side. What are these, portents of things to come?

 

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“Ring up my purchases please!” Notice that the sales associate was kind enough to double up my carrier. It was THAT heavy. It would be a considerable journey by train so I figured that all these reading materials would come in handy. It was still quite early so there should be plenty of seats on the train on the route back.

 

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Even this escalator ride to the MRT station just has an air of grandeur and elegance that speaks of a budget that didn’t allow for any corners to be cut.

 

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Changi Airport MRT Station

 

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The last text. See, only a real best friend can make a reference to a nonexistent lovelife. Hahaha! Notice that Darryl’s number is still recorded on my mobile under his wife’s name (who used to use this number). Darryl would keep on reminding me to update my records. I didn’t get around to doing it. Hahaha!

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 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.

 

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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)!

 

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