Thursday, May 17, 2007

Blogger vacation leave

The top 3 things I want to do before I die:
  1. Teach.
  2. Write a novel.
  3. See Europe.
Obviously, I can already put a check beside number 1. By June, I can do the same for number 3. Tonight, my parents, Hanks and I (Bens has summer classes, boo) are leaving on a 2-week tour of Spain and Italy. Although I still want to see Greece and France and Switzerland and England, Italy has always been my most desired destination, so even if I never get to go to Europe again, I'll be content.

Now if only I could see myself getting started on number 2...

Expect blog silence for the next 2 weeks, and a gazillion pix to be uploaded to my Multiply when I get back. Ciao!

P.S. It's my sister's birthday today. My mom and I are threatening to ask the flight attendants sing Happy Birthday to her on the plane. :p

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

2 reviews: a delightful Discovery and a sappy sequel

The Country Suites in Tagaytay, operated by the Discovery Suites group, is as lovely as the brochures make it out to be. A large country-style house converted into an inn with a bed-and-breakfast vibe, there are only 7 spacious and well-appointed rooms, each with a unique interior design theme (we were shown the Japanese-inspired Zen room). There's also a small garden with an outdoor hot tub, with a great view of Taal Lake and its famous volcano.

But what lured my family to the Country Suites in the first place was its restaurant, Verbena, where we had lunch last Sunday to celebrate my dad's birthday and Mother's Day. The food was excellent and surpassed our expectations. For a starter, I had the Tagaytay tomato soup with ravioli, which was hearty and filling. Then I shared the rib eye steak with my dad. Medium-well was really medium-well (a feat rarely achieved, pun not intended), the meat was tender and flavorful even without the peppercorn gravy, and Chef David's super creamy potato puree was as delicious as it sounds. For dessert, I stole bites of the yummy coffee panna cotta served with the set menu my brother ordered, and the complimentary slice of birthday cake (orange carrot with chocolate frosting) they gave my dad. The service was efficient, although the only person who showed some genuine country warmth was the supervisor on duty, who showed us the Zen room upon my dad's request.

Room rates are a bit steep (ranging from P10,000 to P15,000 depending on the size of the room), and the menu prices at Verbena rival posher Manila restaurants', but based on the quality of our meal and the aesthetic appeal of the inn, I'd say it's worth the splurge. The Mother's Day set menu was actually very reasonably priced; at P850++, Bens got 6 courses, with portions generous enough that he barely had room for dessert. I'm sure the next time we take a trip to Tagaytay, we'll be considering the Country Suites as an option for our accommodations, and a meal at Verbena will definitely be on the itinerary.

* * *

As far as comic book film adaptations go, the Spiderman franchise has done a pretty decent job, in spite of all the liberties taken with the characters and story lines. Even a purist like me appreciates how director Sam Raimi churned out entertaining blockbusters with the first 2 Spiderman movies, inaccuracies notwithstanding. After all, one shouldn't take comic book movies too seriously.

However, Spiderman 3 was a letdown in that it had way too many corny and cheesy parts, even for a superhero flick. I kept wincing whenever Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) had one of their countless teary-eyed moments, or when a crowd of overeager extras would gape open-mouthed at an invisible, CGI-generated web-slinging Spidey overhead. At some points, I actually felt like slapping my forehead (the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, lame lines like "Shut up!" in the middle of a fight scene, and an inexplicable, incongruous Saturday Night Fever-ish segment). Throughout the 2 hours and 20 minutes, I couldn't decide if I was watching a maudlin soap opera that happened to have some action scenes thrown in, or an unfunny parody of a comic book (in one scene, Spiderman actually cried "Shazam!"). Too much drama, too little Venom, too much focus on the romantic angle, too little time spent saving the Big Apple from bad worms.

The bright spot in the whole movie was Abi's darling James Franco, who played Harry Osborn with an easy grace that was equal parts arrogant swagger, angry intensity, and devious charm (AND the boy can shake his booty!). Conversely, James Cromwell was wasted in an insignificant supporting role as the police chief, and I just couldn't take Topher Grace-- especially with the bleached hair-- seriously (to me he'll always be Eric Foreman from That 70's Show). And what was up with all the Raimis in the cast credits? Did Sam dole out bit parts to his entire family?

Of the 3 Spidey movies, this last one was the worst. I hear Spiderman 4 is in production, even if Tobey Maguire hasn't signed on for a fourth turn as Marvel's most popular masked hero. I don't know if they're planning a shift a la the Batman franchise (changing directors, casting different actors as the Dark Knight), or if they'll be successful in doing so (just as Warner Bros. hit the jackpot with Chris Nolan and Christian Bale). But it had better be an improvement over this last disappointing debacle, TV reporters with absurd British accents and all.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Our Father, who art in Shangri-la...

I'm no mall rat, but given my current job and the nature of our business, the total number of hours I've clocked in at malls and department stores across the country (and beyond) has reached a figure that rivals the daily caloric intake of Nicole Richie. There are weeks when I am so sick of conducting store visits, I'm tempted to pick fights with the security guards inspecting bags at the entrance, just to see if they'll deny me access. But occasionally, on the weekends, I like indulging in a little retail therapy, preferably in a mall where none of our 6 brands are present... or at the very least a mall with just 1 or 2 brands.

For that reason, Shangri-la Plaza is one of my favorite places to shop. While both Arrow and Ep Espada are inside Rustan's, out in the mall, I don't have to worry about work. It's also not as crowded as Megamall or Gateway, is more accessible than Glorietta or Greenbelt, has more shops than the Power Plant and the Podium, has clean restrooms, and has several coffee places where one can put down her shopping bags and rest her weary feet. In short, of all the malls in Metro Manila, it's where I feel least stressed.

However, I detest being in Shang on a Sunday afternoon, because they hold Mass in the second floor atrium by the fountains. Before I hear enraged outcries against the non-practicing Catholic heretic, allow me to explain myself. Here's the scenario: Mall personnel break out the Monobloc chairs and set up the table from where the priest will read the Gospel and deliver his homily, and by 6PM, the so-called faithful flock to the center of the mall to listen to the word of God. Meanwhile, Ailee, loaded down with Sinequanone and Aerosole shopping bags, emerges from Rustan's, and finds this holy horde blocking her direct path to Marks & Spencer. Ailee then has to squeeze her way through the crowd, inadvertently hitting people with her purchases, muttering "excuse me" and "sorry", head down in mortification, while being subjected to the superciliously sanctimonious glares of people supposedly deep in prayerful reflection. And it is only upon emerging on the other side of the congregation that it dawns on Ailee:

Why the hell should I be made to feel guilty for SHOPPING in a MALL? These people are the trespassers, not me! A mall was built precisely for the purpose I'm there, to blow my money on overpriced merchandise I don't really need. I have every right to be there, and no one should make me feel bad for disturbing religious rituals being held in a place of commerce! If people want to commune with God, they should go to a freakin' CHURCH! That's what THOSE structures were built for!
I know they say God is everywhere, but does He really spend Sundays picking out a cashmere cardigan from Zara? And how dare this pious party judge me for spending the Sabbath searching for the perfect lip gloss, when they're too lazy to haul their self-righteous asses to the nearest church, opting to squeeze Mass in between watching Spiderman 3 and dinner at Cibo?? At least I don't pretend to be a saint, unlike the huffy woman too busy giving me the eye that she forgets to recite the responsorial Psalm.

I can understand why malls would want to hold Mass inside their premises (to keep the mob and their wallets right where they are), but I don't understand why the Church would allow it. Don't they disallow garden and beach weddings for the very reason that it destroys the solemnity of the sacrament? Shouldn't that logic follow for Mass? Or is the Catholic Church this desperate to hold on to the already disintegrating faiths of their followers that they've adopted a "if Muhammad won't come to the mountain, the mountain must come to Muhammad" attitude?

Maybe I will burn in hell for not attending Mass every Sunday, not to mention speaking ill of the devout, but it riles me when I get ostracized for doing something perfectly harmless, and being made to feel apologetic for it. Honestly, I don't even care where these people choose to hold Mass (basketball courts, movie theaters, public libraries, Internet cafes, wherever!), as long as I get to shop in peace, without having an invisible scarlet letter slapped on me by acrimonious apostles of the big Mall Rat upstairs.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Now and then

With my high school batch's 10th graduation anniversary reunion looming, I've been accessing a lot of memories lately, brushing away the accumulation of 10 years' worth of dust from the mental snapshots and soundbites stored in the attic of my brain. It's funny how some things have changed (drastically, in some cases) in 10 years, and how some things never seem to change at all.

Last Sunday, I spent the afternoon and evening with some high school friends, one of whom, Marilyn, I haven't seen since we graduated from Jubilee. She and I were close in our freshman year. I was the nerdy new student who had transferred from a nerdy Binondo school, and my social skills were very much stunted; Marilyn offered her unconditional friendship and helped me adjust and settle into my new environment. We fell out of touch over the years (our batch was reshuffled every year, and we were never put in the same section after 1st year), but when we met up on Sunday, it was amazing how the 10 years seemed to just melt away. She's the same honest, guileless, easy-to-laugh Marilyn I got to know in freshman year, and it was wonderful being reunited with her, even if I'm no longer the same awkward, mousy Aileesa she knew back then.

With us that day were Raqs and Angge (faithful readers of my blog would already know who those two are), and another high school buddy, Dexter. Unlike Marilyn, Dex was never a close friend of mine during high school. We were in the same classes in 1st and 2nd year, but we didn't run in the same circles, even if he was also a transferee like me (he was a good student, but not a certified geek like me :p). We only got to know one another through Raqs, since they were blockmates in college, and we started going out as a group along with Angge. When I asked Dex if he had ever imagined that 10 years down the road, we'd be hanging out together, sharing love life stories ("AiLEE?!?") and swapping double entendres, he laughed and admitted that it never occurred to him.

It's also funny how some things come around full circle. 10 years ago, I was one of the emcees at my high school kabarkada Vina's debut (she was one of a handful of our batchmates born in 1979). This Saturday, I will be the emcee at Vina's baby's baptismal party (I will also be a ninang-- Ty will be my first godson! =D). In high school I was dubbed the "walking dictionary" of our batch, and while my writing was far better than my oral communication skills, it was not unusual for me to be asked to speak in front of class or a larger group. I suppose the only difference now is that I'm much more comfortable doing so, after having taught high school English and all.

Coincidentally (and contributing to my recent nostalgic mood), the book I'm currently reading, Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics, is narrated by a teenage girl who has just transferred to a new high school for her senior year. It reminds me of another book set in high school, Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, which Maddy and I were talking about just last week. In the course of our discussion, I surprised her by revealing that when I was a high school senior, my best friend was a guy... and not just any guy, but a varsity basketball player, CAT officer and campus heartthrob. And me, I was the four-eyed editor of the school paper, class treasurer, and consistent honor student. "Ailee, you and a... JOCK??" Maddy laughed in disbelief. Given that she knows me as Ailee the intellectual snob/grammar nazi/cynical pragmatist, it was no wonder she found that tidbit about my past quite amusing.

After all this time, it now hits me how far I've come along since high school... how far, yet not so far as to not be able to look back, remember, laugh, and appreciate everything and everyone I had in my life then and have in my life now. 10 years... don't they go by in a blink.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

One big Ateneo survey

1. What's your ID number? ---970680 (still have it memorized after all these years)
2. Passed or wait-listed? ---Passed, natch ;p
3. How did you know about the ACET results? ---A family friend who was an Eliazo dormer called my dad. My dad shared the news with the rest of my family, and they decided to play a very unfunny joke on me and told me I didn't pass. I was depressed all afternoon, and they only told me the truth before they dropped me off at a party, since they didn't want me moping all night. Meanies.
4. Was Ateneo your first choice?
---Not really, but as soon as I found out I had gotten in, it was as if the 2 other schools I had applied for vanished from my mind.
5. Do you know what your ACET score is? ---Nope.
6. What course was your first choice? ---IS. No, seriously. As in Interdisciplinary Studies.
7. Second choice? ---Legal Management, baby! :) I decided to switch to my second choice before OrSem.
8. Anong course mo ngayon? (for alumni, course dati) -- Graduated an LM major, and damn proud of it. =D
9. Did you have any plans of shifting? ---At one point, I was interested in ComTech, but never seriously entertained the notion of shifting.
10. Chinito/chinita ka ba? ---Duh. What do you think? And what does this have to do with being Atenean?
11. Taga-Ateneo High? ---Obviously not.
12. Did you have fun in your OrSem? ---Sadly, no. I actually didn't like my blockmates very much at first. I only got to really know my LM girls in our sophomore year. It's true what they say: the strongest bond of friendship is a common enemy. Haha.
13. Saang gate ka pumasok nung first day? ---Gate 2. I always enter through Gate 2, exit through Gate 3.
14. Are you staying/did you stay in a dorm? ---Never was a dormer.
15. Ever had an F in your grade report? ---A nerd like me? Nah.
16. How about an A? ---Yup, a handful. Most proud of the ones I got for History of the Modern World under Jo-ed Tirol and Romantic Literature under Emmanuel Torres (not even Management subjects :p).
17. Highest grade? ---A
18. Lowest grade? ---
I believe I got a C in Math 11. I improved to a C+ for Math 12.
19. Worst experience in ADMU? ---Hmm. Can't think of anything TOO horrible... But there was one ugly incident involving a yellow notebook and our Marketing teacher. That was kinda bad. Right, Pia Girl? Hehe.
20. Do you always attend class? ---Erm, nope. I was a nerd, but not a model student. I cut some classes out of sheer lack of motivation (either the teacher was boring, the classroom was too far away, or I had something better to do, usually involving group projects or org work).
21. What are/were your orgs? ---LEX, our home org (joined other orgs like AJMA, Celadon and ASEC, but was never active)
22. How many units have/did you pass/ed? ---I can't remember. I just know I completed all my required units, plus I took an audit class (Fookienese, just to find out how it was being taught, since I was thinking of applying for a teaching job in the Chinese Department after college).
23. Nangangarap/nangarap ka bang maglaude? ---I graduated, period. Didn't want to finish with honors. Had a point to prove.
24. When will/did you graduate? --- Graduated in 2001. First batch to graduate from the SOM, before it became the JG SOM (thank goodness).
25. Fave subject? ---Hands down, History 15 (now 18) with Sir Tirol.
26. Worst subject/s? ---Math and Accounting. I'm allergic to numbers.
27. Fave landmark sa ADMU? ---The statue of St. Ignatius. Every morning when I passed by it I would see a little bird sitting on St. Ignatius' head. I named it Iggy. =D
28. Fave kainan?
---On campus? ISO caf (sizzling chicken fillet and burger steak!). Off campus, Full House (best chicken crepes and chicken a la kiev ever!). It's gone now. :(
29. How do/did you get to school? ---I was always driven to school (yeah, yeah, spoiled little girl, I know :p).
30. Are/were you always at the lib? ---During my freshman year, yes, because I didn't have a social life yet. Eventually I'd only go there during midterms/finals season, and if I needed to do research for a paper.
31. Ever gone to the infirmary when you were sick? ---Nope, never.
32. Do/did you have a crush in campus? ---Oh yes. One being a very popular teacher with a very popular butt. :p
33. May balak kang mag-MS, PhD? ---No thanks. For a nerd, I don't like studying very much.
34. Have you ever watched a graduation ceremony? ---Just my own.
35. Do you know the "Song for Mary" by heart? ---I can sing it in my sleep.
36. Memorize mo ba ang Fabilioh? ---Yes.
37. ...ang Halikinu? ---Oh yes.
38. ...ang Blue Eagle Spelling? ---And again yes. I have all the Ateneo cheers memorized, thanks to 6 years of watching UAAP games.
39. Are you part of Team Ateneo? ---Nope.
40. Who's your fave UAAP basketball player? ---Doug Kramer!!! Bwahaha. Kidding aside, I'd have to say... JC Intal. The kid's got mad skills, and a lot of heart.
41. Ever had a perfect score in an exam? ---I came close. 69 over 70, Sir Tirol's 2nd long test. Stupid True or False item about Darwin's theory of evolution.
42. Ano ang ayaw mo sa Hell Week? ---The deadlines. I hate deadlines.
43. Dito ka ba natuto uminom ng beer? ---Nope. Anyway I don't like beer, even now.
44. What do you like about our school? ---The gorgeous campus, the strong school spirit, the legacy of Magis, the unique brand of Atenean arrogance. :p
45. Ano ang ayaw mo? ---Too many Theology and Philo classes.
46. Have you ever bought anything at the A-shop? ---Yup, a t-shirt. And an ID cord.
47. maganda ba ID pic mo? ---Not my first one! I had ghastly hair. That's why I applied for a new ID, in my junior (or was it senior?) year.
48. Done anything illegal on campus? ---I cannot disclose anything without implicating someone else. So I plead the 5th. Haha.
49. Bought anything at National Katips? ---Countless items, among them my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. :)
50. Ever gone to Starbucks Katips? ---Yup, but only a few times, because I think it had just opened when I was in my senior year (I know, I know, I'm ancient).
51. May nakaaway ka na ba sa school? ---Yesiree. A fellow officer in my org. That wasn't pretty.
52. QPI? ---Graduated with a final QPI of 3.34 something. 0.01 shy of Honorable Mention. Just as I intended. ;)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pleading guilty

Several weeks of mediocrity later, and part of my brain can't comprehend why I'm still watching American Idol. Last night featured the music of Bon Jovi, one of my favorite bands (go ahead and laugh, Mike), and I realized with amusement that it was the coming together of 2 guilty pleasures of mine. You'd think an intellectual snob like me would not deign to watch reality TV, or listen to 80s rock (cheesy lyrics and all). But to me, AI makes for entertaining television (not to mention easy money, since my parents and I bet on who gets kicked out each week), and in my opinion, Bon Jovi is the last of the great stadium rock bands (stadium rock being defined as the type of songs that get the whole crowd singing-- nay, screaming-- along, complete with energetic head-banging and fist-pumping). Is it so bad that I indulge in such mindless, even crass forms of entertainment? Well, even the most high-brow, erudite nerds need some triviality in their lives (Maddy has her lust-laden romance novels, I have Blake Lewis beatboxing You Give Love a Bad Name).

AI and Bon Jovi aside, I have recently discovered a new guilty pleasure: the TV series Heroes. I am totally, totally hooked. Hanks and I started watching just last weekend (thanks to Yang and Fara for the discs they burned for me! =D), and we're already up to episode 15. The thing about Heroes is, each episode ends in a maddeningly suspenseful cliffhanger, so you're compelled to continue watching (as you can imagine, this is not helping our already whacked sleeping habits). When you think about it, the show's premise is nothing new. It's X-men meets Lost (or so they say, since I've never seen Lost). But something about the characters and their individual-yet-interconnected story lines is so riveting, I can't get enough. I don't know how I'm going to stand it when the first season ends... and it will probably end on a monster cliffhanger too. Then, more than ever, I'll wish I had Hiro Nakamura's power to "bend time and space", so I can fast forward to Season 2.

So yes, I read Shakespeare for fun and I watch "nosebleed" movies. But I'm also hopelessly addicted to a TV show with the ludicrous tagline "save the cheerleader, save the world", I know the lyrics to Livin' on a Prayer by heart ("Tommy's got his six-string in hock..."), and if I could, I would text a million times to vote for Melinda Doolittle to help her become this season's American Idol. It seems laughable, but hey, I need SOME frivolous fun in my life. So sue me. :p