Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Two Serendra Blast: The Results are FINALLY Out!

The results are FINALLY OUT. Exactly 125 days after the Serendra blast, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas announced in a press conference earlier this afternoon that the blast was caused by “negligence.”

See article on Rappler: 3 Ayala firms face charges over Serendra blast.
Why did it take more than 4 months to figure out??
And just like that, Roxas has declared that Two Serendra residents are now allowed to move back into their homes! Well. It’s not that easy, mister.
  • First off, it will take a while before they figure out what to do with this “result.” I heard that they are suing a whole lot of corporations, so this will be one messy legal battle.
  • Secondly, our “homes” are a complete MESS. We have been displaced from our condos for 125 days! Can you imagine the amount of dust that has accumulated on our stuff, and the level of deterioration the elements have caused on our exposed floors and walls? There was damage to the property to begin with, because of the blast, but leave all of that alone for long, and you will get a hell of a mess.
  • Thirdly, Alveo, the developer will need to get started on insurance claims ASAP so that they can start with the renovation of common areas (hallways, windows, etc.). We can’t go home yet when the ceilings in the hallways are all blasted open, and the doors are all unhinged! Crazy talk. I've been back a couple of times to get some of our stuff, and the whole Section B is a ghost town and a wreck. It's safe to say that it's going to take a while for Alveo and the contractor to sort everything out. Renovation might take 6 months minimum. Oh, and they need to replace the elevator too. Procurement, delivery and installation of an elevator takes MONTHS. Better get started, Alveo.
  • And last but not the least, they need to have a third party check if it is indeed safe to move in already. Structural, electrical, plumbing and gas experts have to recheck all of the building elements and utilities to ensure that the residents’ lives can go completely back to normal upon moving back in.
I, for one, am glad that they have finally decided to release the results, but I'm still a bit puzzled by some of the (incomplete) details. For example, they will still need to clarify which governing body allowed the tenant to move in without first inspecting the unit after renovation. I find that part a bit iffy. And I'm sure a lot of people have their own questions about the investigation as well.
It's sad that it had to take this long for the government to come up with answers. Because of the delay, the residents have gone increasingly restless. Our fears may be calmed for now, because of the release of the results, but I sense a bigger battle ahead. Now, everybody will be clamoring for ACTION. Now that the "why" has been (partially) answered, what needs to be answered next is: What's the next step? What needs to be done? When will this be done? How?
More questions. How long will it take to answer each one?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My looloo statistics

200+ reviews
2000+ followers


I know it seems kinda mababaw to some of you that I am writing about this "feat" of mine on a social media app that I love (looloo!). This entry is not meant to be boastful; I just thought that it was worth noting (for me!) that ever since I joined looloo some 5 months ago, I have already been to at least 212 establishments from 52 categories, and in 11 different cities / municipalities in the Philippines (including "out of Metro Manila" locations such as Cebu, Boracay and Tagaytay).

Wow. That is a lot of food...errr, I mean...a variety of experiences. :)

And, hey! It's a bonus that 2000+ other people are interested to read what I have to write about!

My 1st ever looloo review! I wasn't as "talkative" then. Haha.

As I mentioned in one of my previous blog entries, "Discovering the foodie in me thru looloo," this cute little app has helped me discover the Philippines, one place at a time. I've been to restaurants that I would never have given a 2nd glance at if it were not from raving reviews from other looloo users. I've tried unique dishes that are out of my comfort zone just to have a taste of the food they've all been gushing about. I've paid more attention to the details of my dining experiences. I've even tried reviewing places under the category of "Tourist Attraction" or the "Great Outdoors." I am exploring our country, not just in places which are convenient for me, but also those which I am curious about. Isn't that what real adventure is made of? :)

So, anyway, I realized this morning that at 212 reviews (and counting! I have a couple more up my sleeve), this means that I average a total of 42 reviews per month! Whew. So, the little part of me that is O.C. (a very, very little part of me) wanted to make a monitoring sheet of all my reviews. Wala lang. Nalilito na kasi ako. :)) I may not be very organized, but I am very big on monitoring: I like to know where I stand. :D

It's hard to keep track of 212 reviews

22 out of 52 categories I have reviewed

Ang adik ko, diba? Haha. From my organized lists, I was able to find out the following information:

  • My most reviewed place: Wrong Ramen (4 reviews). It's supposedly tied with "El Chupacabra," but I reviewed it as "Mexicali" the first 3 times, so...
  • My most reviewed "brand": Serenitea (7 reviews, 4 different branches)
  • City where I review the most places: Taguig (81 reviews). My previous profile description said: "Pakalat-kalat sa Bonifacio Global City." Hehehe. Next is Makati (53 reviews).
  • Place with the most out-of-town reviews: Boracay (13 reviews)
  • Food category I review the most: Filipino Food (17 reviews)
  • Non-badge category I make the most reviews of: Mexican food (7 reviews)

...and to think there are still SO MANY places in my Must-Try list! (Question to the looloo admin: If I review a place, shouldn't it automatically be removed from my Recommendations list?)

The statistics above may just be numbers to you, but for me, they have a unique experience attached to every single digit. In other words, I have 212 different stories. :)

I guess the reason why I love looloo so much is that it indulges my frustrated-blogger side. I love to write. I'm not very good with food adjectives like Edwin of looloo; my writing style is more narrative and casual, not really very technical. I like to pull people into my story, to make them feel comfortable in it. Some of my friends say that I write exactly how I speak, and they could easily imagine my voice while reading my words. Haha. I guess that's a good thing? :)

The goal here isn't to make the most reviews, or to eat the most food (LOL. But I could do this, if I had to). My goal is to be curious and adventurous enough to try places that are out of my "comfort food zone;" to keep an open mind when it comes to new experiences; and to be more aware of each detail of my experience. And of course, to live past the food coma to be able to write about it. ;)

"Looloo didn't just allow me to discover new places and new dishes; it also allowed me to discover the foodie in me. I didn't know I could enjoy food and the dining experience so much until I made a conscious effort to be aware of every single detail of my meal. As a frustrated-blogger, I think it's good practice to critique your experiences, because it is an exercise of observation. Getting that observation into words that other people can relate to is a most-welcome challenge for me!" - "Discovering the foodie in me thru looloo,"

So here's to more awareness and more experiences; here's to adding more reviews to my growing list; to writing more stories; to trying more cuisines; to suggesting more places; to giving and receiving more credit; and to exploring more of the Philippines!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Two Serendra Blast: An Insider's Perspective

I was inside the building when the explosion happened.

On that last day of May for the year 2013, I was inside Section B of Two Serendra. However, if you expect to find pictures of the "crime scene," or accounts of doors being blasted open, or paintings falling off the walls, well, you've come to the wrong blog.

I do not have any pictures. I do not have any experiences of any glass breaking or boards falling on my head. Yes, I was in the building, but I wasn't in my condominium unit, nor was I out in the hallway...I was in the damn elevator.

Diagram of the proximity of the elevator lobby to the ill-fated unit

Timestamps are important

I remember the sequence of events very clearly, and I have a timestamp in my head of every single action I made prior to that blast. Let me try to recall the events leading to it:

  • I arrived at our condominium unit from work at around 5:50 p.m. As I was driving to my parking slot, I saw a group of men chatting by one of the fire exit stairs at the basement before they entered the door. I think they were maintenance personnel, there to witness some sort of testing. I dunno what kind of testing, though.

  • When I got to my parking slot, I noticed that the generator set was on (my slot is right in front of the GenSet room), so I was thinking that maybe there was a power interruption at that time.

  • When I arrived at my unit, I changed into my yoga clothes. Electricity went out at around 6:00 p.m., then went back up again a few moments after. I was thinking that maybe they were putting the Meralco power back on. I remember my sister complaining to me that day that she experienced several power interruptions on that day and the day before (May 30 & 31, 2013). I think it was a routine check by maintenance.

  • At 6:30 to 7:45 p.m., I was at the FNR yoga class at Urban Ashram (at the Active fun building near Bonifacio High Street).

  • At 7:50 p.m., I hurriedly left the studio because I wanted to get home to Serendra before 8:00 p.m., to be able to shower and dress-up for my movie date at 9:20 p.m. at Glorietta 4.

  • While walking home, I replied to my sister, who messaged me at 7:53 p.m. to borrow some of my clothes for her dinner that night. The timestamp on my reply was 7:55 p.m.

  • I was already walking across the Two Serendra garden at the time I received a reply from her at exactly 8:00 p.m. After pausing to glance at her message, I proceeded to brisk walk to the Section B lobby. I remember a couple of security guards in uniform at the lobby, as they were on their way out for a dinner break, I think. I even exchanged pleasantries with one guard who was on his way out of the door.

  • At a little past 8:00 p.m., I rode the elevator at the ground level, pressed my floor number...and then, BOOM! That's when all hell broke loose, but I didn't know it at that time.

Isolated from the chaos

It's hard to relate to the feelings of trauma and terror that some of the other residents felt during the whole ordeal, because I was so removed from it all; my trauma and terror were of a different nature, borne from a different situation.

Others were traumatized because of the loud boom that reverberated as far as Market! Market! mall. Some others were trapped inside their units (they had to kick their doors down), while some had their main doors blasted open during the explosion.

I didn't have any of these jarring experiences because I was isolated inside a steel box, which was in turn, inside three (3) solid walls of really thick reinforced concrete. The elevator shaft usually doubles as the "shear wall" in most buildings. Its strength and stiffness provide lateral resistance to a structure so it is actually the strongest structural element in a building (aside from the foundation, I guess). In short, given the situation, I was probably in the safest place in the whole of Section B. 

I was also in the most isolated place. Being in the elevator car, visually shut off from everything that was happening outside, the fear that gripped me was the fear of not knowing.

No room for panic

When I heard the BOOM, I let out a little scream while instinctively covering my ears. I felt a jolt under my feet, and just a few milliseconds after the BOOM, there was a CRASH on top of the elevator car (most probably pieces of the FiCem ceiling), and white dust billowed in through the vents.

Do you want to know the first thought that entered my mind when the elevator dropped? I'm a bit ashamed to admit this, but for posterity's sake, I guess I should disclose my first thought bubble after the BOOM:

"Oh no, I'm going to be late for my movie date."

I honestly thought that it was an isolated event; an elevator malfunction. I naively thought that I was the only one who was affected by whatever that BOOM was. It was a selfish, self-serving thought, but one that was caused by not being able to see what was going on outside.

After pressing the alarm button a couple of times, I decided to calm down and LISTEN. I didn't have my eyes to help me out, so I depended on my sense of hearing to get a grasp of what the heck was going on. That's when I started to hear the chaos outside. I could hear sirens blaring, fire alarms going off, feet pounding, voices shouting, glass breaking, and someone frantically pounding on a wall.

This wasn't just an elevator mishap. Something really bad was happening outside. Was it a bomb? A fire? Which floor? What unit? My mind immediately zoomed in to the memory of leaving several gadgets (including my phone) plugged into the convenience outlets to charge. Could that have caused a spark? After all, I remember that the power fluctuated shortly before I left the unit.

And then I thought of the possibility of my sister still being in the unit. She was just texting me (through my other phone) that she wanted to borrow my clothes. What if she was still there? What if the fire was in our unit? My text attempts changed from cries for help to frantic texts asking about my sister's safety:

The 2nd-5th lines of text were my attempts of messaging my sister from inside the elevator. Obviously, this was only sent the moment I got a signal on my phone, after I left the elevator

Something inside me was saying that I should be panicking, why wasn't I panicking? But the other part of me was saying: don't add to the chaos. Stay calm, preserve your oxygen, and work out the clues.

At that point, I squatted down to the floor, hugged my knees, and just listened for more clues from outside. The banging from nearby still hadn't stopped. I assumed that it was from the other elevator car; maybe somebody else was stuck. Later on, I learned that it was from one of the units at the lower floors: they were trying to knock their main door down to get out.

I was very calm, given the situation. If you knew me, you would not be surprised: my natural demeanor is really very...umm...quiet. I'm very soft-spoken, I'm not a very vocal person, and I hate confrontation. I know that panicking (flailing my arms around, banging my fist on walls, or shouting) is very "un-me." However, I also know that I have a tendency to freeze during emergency situations. That night, two things helped ground me:

  1. As someone who works in the construction industry, I was very familiar with the safety features of an elevator. I know that those elevator free falls they show in movies aren't real. In the event of a power outage, machine malfunction or cable-breakage, the elevator has emergency brakes which automatically clamp on to the steel rails along the shaft. And even if that fails, there is a shock absorber installed in the elevator pit. I know that our building was only a few stories high, so I couldn't have had fallen from too high a height to result into a big ball of fire.
  2.  The guy speaking to me through the intercom. He spoke to me a bit too late (20 whole minutes after the blast), but he was very reassuring. He tried to calm me down: "Ma'am, wag ka mag-alala (Ma'am, don't worry)." Then he gave me information: "May parating na po na maintenance para buksan ang elevator (The maintenance personnel are on their way to open the elevator doors)." Then he proceeded to calm me down some more. "Huwag po kayong magpapanic (Don't panic!)." Thanks,  Mr. Voice Through the Intercom. :)

There was a time, though, that Mr. Voice Through the Intercom was talking to someone else, and what he said almost brought me to a panic. He said: "Kailangan ng susi sa 7th floor! Dalian mo! (They need a key for the 7th floor! Hurry up!)" What was happening at the 7th floor? Who was trapped there?? What's going on?!?!

Breathe in. Breathe out. Stay steady. Stay calm. I was telling myself: "What's running through your mind right now is all just speculation..."

What was really happening outside the elevator
I only found out about the real events when I got out of the elevator. Aside from the obvious fact that Unit 501-B was blown into smithereens, the maintenance & security groups were also helping out several trapped residents in Section B. It was not my unit that exploded. The building was not on fire. My sister was not in the unit. I'm not sure what "key" Mr. Voice Through the Intercom was referring to, although I am speculating that this is the key to the fire exit stair door from the inside of the fire exit stair well. Maybe they were trying to go up to save some of the residents who were in their condominium units during the blast.

What really happened inside that elevator

DILG secretary Mar Roxas said that as part of their investigation, they will be reviewing all CCTV footage in the lobbies and elevators. If they were to check the footage in elevator 2, where I was, they would probably see nothing out of the ordinary. Aside from the initial BOOM and CRASH, and me letting out a tiny little scream, they would probably just see a lot of dust floating around...and me doing any of the following actions at one point:

  • pressing the alarm button frantically
  • typing out a text message or two...which was totally useless because there was NO SIGNAL whatsoever inside that steel box, so I was...
  • waving my phone around, raising it to the ceiling, trying to find a signal
  • staring at myself in the mirror
  • pressing the alarm button to the beat of "Happy Birthday"
  • taking a picture of my surroundings (ok, I admit it, kasama ako sa picture)
  • pressing my ear against the door, trying to make sense of what was happening on the other side
  • knocking on the door very meekly (yeah, like how you would knock on someone's front door)
  • (ok, maybe just once I was) pounding the elevator door with my fist.

In the 30 minutes that I was inside the elevator, I admit that there were times when I wanted to cry. But my rational side prevailed (a miracle, given how emotional I am), and I just decided to stay strong until the time I could see for myself what was happening outside.

My elevator experience was truly a harrowing experience, but I was one of the lucky ones that night.  I am thankful that we weren't inside the unit when the blast happened. I am thankful that my sister and I were both at the right place at the right time. Any second earlier or later and I could have been stuck in between the doors, or maybe pinned under a fallen ceiling. I am thankful to the maintenance and security personnel of Serendra who responded right away. There were even some volunteers: some residents who were wearing the Two Serendra basketball league uniforms.

I saw how quick they were to respond, and how brave they all were. They were rushing up and down the fire exit stairs to save the residents, even if they were aware of how dangerous the building might still be after the blast. :)


I mentioned earlier that the fear that gripped me was the fear of not knowing what was going on. I imagine that it must be the same for the friends and family who have been trying to reach me through my cellphone/s. My main cellphone, whose number is known by most, was left inside the unit. When I was able to retrieve it a week after, I saw that I had 61 unread text messages, 764 WhatsApp messages, and 36 missed calls. <3 It warms my heart now, to know that so many people were concerned, but I can only imagine how anxious they might have been when I didn't answer any of their calls or messages.

Such was the case with my sister, when she tried calling both of my numbers and was met by either a busy signal, unanswered ringing, or the dreaded "the subscriber cannot be reached" recorded voice. She knew that the possibility of me being in the unit at that time was high, and when she couldn't get a hold of me, she panicked. I think she was even more hysterical than I was. :)

I was able to contact her soon after I got out of the elevator, and she ran all the way from Bonifacio High Street Central to Two Serendra in high heels. Ah, sisterly love. :)

Needless to say, my movie date did not push through. Thank you to my boyfriend, Ton, for rushing to the scene, and for assisting me and my sister that night. :*

Different perspectives

As of today, the investigation is still underway, there are still no definitive results, and we are still not allowed back to our unit, even just to get a few important items. There are a lot of speculations / conspiracy theories floating around. I, myself, have my own theories, but I choose not to voice it out here because I do not wish to spread false information. After all, I am not a forensic expert.

All I can do for now is to sit back and wait. Wait for all of the government agencies to finish with their investigation. Wait for them to make sense of all the information / evidence they have gathered. Wait for them to make a conclusion. Wait for them to finally release the "crime scene" and allow us back into our homes. I know this could take several months, but I have hope that they will give us the complete results, in time.

I imagine this to be a huge PR nightmare for Ayala Land, but so far, they have been handling it very well. They give us daily updates, and that in itself is the most comforting thing they could ever give us. I have also gotten to talk to my neighbors in the building whom I used to just nod to in the corridors or in the elevator. I guess you can say that this incident brought the community closer together. Shared experience is always a good starting point for friendship.

If you could get to eavesdrop on conversations between neighbors, you will hear a lot of "insider's perspectives" during the blast. Every resident's story is interesting, as each have an opinion on what they think happened, based on their  unique experiences. Each have their own emotions attached to each story. Mine is just one story, one perspective.

In the days to come, maybe more stories will surface which can help paint the complete picture of what happened to Section B of Two Serendra (on this note, I wonder why the investigators are not getting personal accounts from residents?).

There are sure to be tragic stories, like those who've lost their family members in such a sudden way, or those who have gotten serious injuries or trauma. But there are also stories of hope; stories that show us how humane our society still is; stories that show concern for others; and stories that showcase the kindness and bravery of people. :)

How about you? What is your perspective?

* * * *

Pahabol: The day after the incident, I posted a status on Facebook to update my friends and family who have been trying to reach me through the whole ordeal. As I mentioned above, I left my main cellphone charging in the unit and I haven't been able to retrieve it. The status was as follows:

"To everyone who has been trying to contact me, and to everyone who is concerned, don't worry, my sister & I are ok. Our unit is 2 floors above unit 501-B, but thankfully, I wasn't in the unit YET when the blast happened at 8:10 p.m. At exactly that time, I was on my way up on the elevator. It fell a couple of floors, but thank God for automatic brakes. Maintenance personnel rescued me at 8:40 p.m. 

I talked to our neighbors who were in their unit during the blast & they said that all main doors along the length of the hallway were removed from the hinges & crashed down into the units during the blast. All of our valuables are still in the unit (including my Smart phone, so please do not contact me there). I hope that there is minimal damage (& hopefully no theft!), but I am also thankful that we were not inside when it happened. 

We hope that they can release the results of the investigation soon."

My Tita Ces, who is a journalist on ABS-CBN, saw this status and asked if she could interview me & my sister about the experience. The video is shown below:

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

How El Chupacabra converted me into a Mexican food lover

With the number of Mexican restaurants I review on looloo, one would never guess that I used to NOT LIKE Mexican food. If I were to make a list of cuisines to avoid, Mexican would probably at the top because (1) I don't like beans, and (2) I don't like cilantro (some say it tastes like "surot." Hahaha! I read on Wikipedia that the flavor is compared to that of the stink bug). These ingredients are usually found in Mexican cuisine, and that is why I used to steer clear of it.

But for some reason (Maybe I've matured. Maybe my taste buds have undergone a transformation. Maybe my food needs have changed), I've grown to LOVE Mexican food. I've even gone as far as to crave for it.

I attribute the start of this change to the Ristras burrito.

My first visit to Ristras (yes, it doesn't have an apostrophe, so it's not a possessive noun; "ristra" means "a rope or chord where you string your chiles, onions and garlic in, for storage!") was 3 years ago. Prior to this visit, I avoided Mexican food like the plague. I didn't want to be a killjoy to my companions then, as they were excitedly telling me about this hole-in-the-wall in San Juan, so I begrudlingly tagged along with them, but with one condition: no beans in my food, please.

What I liked about Ristra's is that you choose the ingredients you put into your food.

We ordered a burrito to share. I forget what exactly was in it (I think steak carne asada and chorizo brown rice), but I know what wasn't in it: BEANS! :D We also ordered it "wet," which is their terminology for "put some cheese on there and melt it with a blow torch!"

The big, bad burrito by Ristras: what convinced me to give Mexican food a chance

Fast forward 3 years later, with more burrito trials at Ristras (their Bonifacio Global City branch) and Army Navy, my transition into Mexican food was further strengthened by another hole-in-the-wall Mexican place: El Chupacabra.
The sign says it all: people come here for the cheap beer, bbq and street tacos!
It's "Mexicali by day, El Chupacabra by night." El Chupacabra is located at Mexicali's main branch (and head office) along Felipe street in Bel-Air, Makati City, and it opens from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. If you are not a Bel-Air resident, this place is very easy to miss. The location is terrible, sandwiched between small apartment buildings, along a very narrow road. Street parking is a hassle, as nearby establishments such as Handle Bar (along Polaris Street) and the newly relocated Heckle and Jeckle (right across from El Chupacabra) also has its share of patrons.

The place is so "cheerful"-looking, with the colorful chairs and tables, art on the walls, yellow lights, and of course, the merry patrons. :D

We were able to chat up the General Manager, Carlos, during our first visit there, and we asked him about the place. He brags that this is the first "Chupacabra Bar" in the Philippines. It's named as such as a novelty: so the people who know its meaning will have an affinity to it, and so it will generate curiosity to others. For those who don't know, the "chupacabra" is a mythical creature in Mexican culture; it is a creature that sucks the blood out of goats. Kinda strange to name your bar after something scary (and a bit gross), but I guess they're trying to gain "astig" points to differentiate themselves from the wholesome, family-friendly image of Mexicali. Hehe.

El Chupacabra and Mexicali are one, but they are not entirely the same. This Mexicali branch is one of their oldest ones, and they have maintained a steady pool of loyal customers from the international community nearby. They "launched" El Chupacabra late 2012. The  well-loved San Francisco-Mexican food of Mexicali is still available at night, but the El Chupacabra menu contributes other items such as dimsims (jumbo fried dumplings), San Francisco-style lean pork sisig, classic sisig, spicy wings, super pork barbecue, rum, and dirt-cheap beer! 

Jumbo fried dumplings!

Their super pork BBQ is super because it has no fat!

So why have I grown to love Mexican food because of El Chupacabra? 2 words: STREET TACOS.

I cannot rave enough about street tacos. They are the bomb. Soft and chewy toasted soft flour tortilla with a generous filling of meat, onions and cilantro. I think the reason why I can now tolerate the cilantro is because its flavor is beautifully masked by the generous serving of sour cream I put into my taco. Hahaha! I know that street tacos aren't exactly a new food discovery (it is also offered in the Mexicali menu), but El Chupacabra serves it in such a grungy, unpretentious way that you feel as if you're thrown right into an authentic Mexican cantina. Just try to ignore the tricyles parked nearby and the balut vendors patrolling outside. Hehe.

They serve their street tacos on colorful plates!

For the soft tacos, the pricing is a bit cheaper at El Chupacabra compared to Mexicali (maybe around 5-10 bucks cheaper) and El Chupacabra allows you to order just one soft taco. In other Mexicali branches, soft tacos are ordered by twos. You can still mix and match, but you will have to pay the price of the more expensive soft taco. For example, you order 1 chicken and 1 carne asado, you have to pay Php 208 for it, since 2 carne asados cost Php 208, while 2 chicken soft tacos only cost Php 176. In El Chupacabra, this will only cost you Php 160 (plus tax) for both.

They are very generous with their meat filling!

There are several street taco fillings for you to try: steak, chicken, carne asada (roasted beef), carnitas (roasted pork), camaron a la diabla (super spicy!!!!), lengua and sisig. I recommend the lengua street tacos. So tender and juicy! It's my favorite street taco filling, so far. The sisig is pretty good, too. Order the SF all-lean fat!

To-die-for SF style all-lean pork sisig! Perfect pulutan!

We visited this place for the first time back in January, and we would frequent it at least 2 or 3 times a week. At that time, we almost had the whole place to ourselves, save for a couple of other tables occupied by foreigners who lived nearby. Now, the word has spread, and the place is ALWAYS packed. The parking situation has gotten worse. If you are unable to find parking along the street, try to find parking near Handle Bar, or along Kalayaan Avenue, then just walk to El Chupacabra. Some of the street children or tambays have decided to cash in on this new-found popularity of Felipe Street, so they are now charging 40-50 pesos when they help you find parking. Geez.

It's kinda sad when a former hole-in-the-wall that you thought you discovered gets too crowded. It's like a secret of yours got divulged to the world and it's not special anymore. Haha! But it doesn't pay to be selfish, so I guess I'm glad that a lot of people are also enjoying El Chupacabra's food, like I have.

El Chupacabra is not the most ideal restaurant: it has no air-conditioning, most of the tables are situated on the street (cars pass within an inch of you), and their food is prepared in open air (the same air where the cars passing by emit their fumes); but their street tacos, BBQ and cheap beer have captured the hearts of many the foodie in search of simple and straight-forward food.

I wasn't originally a Mexican food lover, but what Ristras has started, El Chupacabra has sealed: Mexican foodie convert right here! Although I still can't stomach beans and cilantro, I have learned to appreciate the other flavors that make Mexican food so unique. There are still a lot of other Mexican / Mexican fusion joints that I have yet to try (highly recommended on looloo is Orale and Madeca), and I am looking forward to testing them out! If you have any other recommendations, please point them out to me! :)

To El Chupacabra! VĂ¡monos!

Please check out my reviews on this place on, under Mexicali and El Chupacabra. :)
 * Ristras San Juan branch is located at Unit 106 J Abad Santos cor Lopez Jaena Little Baguio, San Juan, Metro Manila
** Ristras BGC branch is located at G/F Fairways Tower 5th Avenue Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila

*** El Chupacabra is located at G/F JVR Building, 5782 Felipe Street, Bel-Air, Makati City, Metro Manila

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Get 360 Fit, the 30-Day Challenge: WEEK 4

It's the last stretch! The last 9 days of this 30-day challenge! This week's special (for me), because I will be spending 5 out of 9 days of this last week out of Boracay! I made sure to bring a couple of work-out clothes with me, and my cross trainers, so that I won't miss an exercise challenge. Dedicated or obssessive? Haha!

I'm in too deep now, it would be foolish to back down at this point.

* * * *
Day 22: Try something new today!
It is a quite a busy day for me today, so I didn't have time to go to the gym after work. When I received the text / email message for the challenge, it read: "Try a workout you've never tried before whether it be a class, a level in the circuit, or a WOW (workout of the week). Just try something different today! Enjoy!" I thought: why not squeeze in a quick work-out here at work? That's something new. I work in a construction site, and I have access to stairs and driveway ramps leading up to the top floor of this 9-storey building + roof deck. Our site is also very large, with a total perimeter of 1,230 meters.

So I took to the stairs and marched up to the top floor, and then went back down via the ramp. Did this for a couple rounds before going outside to go around the vast site. It was really hot that day so aside from breaking a sweat during this exercise, I also developed a tan. Haha.
My safety shoes are very heavy, so they were like additional weights. Haha!

I know that it's technically not a gym work-out, but it just proves that you can use whatever is available to squeeze in a daily exercise into your routine. If I can do this everyday, I can probably develop my glutes! Hehe.
Day 23: Advanced Core Training
Another core day.
These are really handy exercises which you can do at home. After just one round you already feel the BURN. I could probably do this everyday! Rock hard abs, here I come!
Plank  circuit:

- Plank push-aways / plank to push-up, 30 seconds (Go on on plank position with elbows to the floor, then move up to push-up position with hands to the floor, then move down to plank position. Repeat within the time required).
- Side planks with leg lifts, 30 seconds per side
- Marching Glute Bridge, 40 seconds (Lie down on a hook lying position (with knees bent and feet on the floor). Bring your hips up and keep it there. Then alternately bring your knees towards your chest while keeping the hips up the whole time).

Ang muskulado na ng legs ko...

Core integration circuit:

- 10 sprinter's lunge, per side (Stand with feet together holding a weight if you can. Lift the right knee up towards the chest then step forward with the right foot and perform a lunge by bending both knees. Make sure the right knee doesn't go beyond the toes. Bring your right knee back up towards your chest. Then repeat the sequence for the required number of reps without putting the right foot down beside the left. After the right let is done, perform the same to the left leg).- 10 Spiderman Push ups (From plank position, bend your arms and lower your body, at the same time try to touch left knee to left elbow / right knee to right elbow.)
- 15 pairs speed skaters.
- 7 pull ups or 15 body rows
- 15 full burpees (with push ups)

I found the Spiderman push-ups to be the hardest. I mean, regular push-ups are already hard, but then you activate your legs too and your core is like: "What the heck are you trying to do to me, squish me from all sides?" I know that in the picture it doesn't look like I'm lowering my upper body's difficult OKAY? I'm working on my form on each rep, so it really look me awhile to finish all 10.

Day 24: Group Class Day

One of my favorite days because I get to attend Body Jam / Zumba / Body Balance. Unfortunately, today is also the day of my flight to Boracay, so it's impossible to attend a group class. :( However, they gave us the option to follow any of the work-out videos here. I decided to do the Episode 7 of the "Earn Your Beach Body" series, the Density Training work-out.

It says on the video description that "Density work-outs help you build a higher resistance to fatigue, and it helps you develop power. It is also a conditioning work-out that burns more calories in less time."

There are 5 exercises in the work-out:

- Sumo Squat Thrusts: They're just like burpees except that you start with your feet shoulder-width apart, in preparation for the squat position. And there's no power jump at the end!
- Prisoner Squats: You do squats with your hands behind your head.
- Push-Ups
- Body Weight Renegade Rows: Start in push-up position, then alternately lift your hands to elbow-height.
- Jumping Jacks

They didn't say how many repetitions to do of each exercise, so I just did 10 reps of each, and then 3 rounds of the whole set. Did the exercises in my hotel room right after a trip to Jonah's Fruit Shakes. Haha. Felt good to burn off all of that excess sugar. Then right after, my friends and I hung out by the beach front and played frisbee! Cardio!

Day 25: Meat Strike!

As a carnivore, this challenge did not sit well with me. I had a really difficult time doing this because I was on vacation with friends! I can't be a spoil sport and go solo during lunch or dinner, so I had to order vegetables from the restaurant they chose to eat, while they happily munched on their porkchops or chicken. Waaah. Also, if you know me well, you'll know that I absolutely HATE vegetables. I do not like eating leaves, thank you very much. I hate cucumbers most of all, followed closely by okra, carrots, asparagus and beans. *shudder*

So, yeah, this challenge was the MOST DIFFICULT CHALLENGE IN THE WORLD for me. But I'm already at Day 25, so I have no choice but to soldier on! Let's do this!

For breakfast, the only non-meat choice on the menu was a mushroom and cheese omelette. For lunch at Aria, I ordered the Gran Misto Aria, which is a vegetarian platter with eggplant mash, tomatoes and mozzarella, grilled bell peppers and deep fried zucchini; I also ordered a garden salad with vinaigrette. I was surprised at how much I liked the zucchini; it was the ugliest of all, very green and very slimy looking, but it was delicious!

See that green blob in the middle? I ate that and I loved it.

For dinner, guess where the group decided to eat? Andok's! *insert internal conflict of emotions here* I ordered the chop suey (without eating the pork), and I had to endure the agony of seeing and smelling my friends' orders of chicken, breaded porkchop and liempo, while I ate my plate of healthy stuff. Sigh.

Day 26: Run!

We were tasked to take a 30-minute run today, so after breakfast, I changed into my work-out clothes, padded barefoot onto the sand, and ran along the beach! It's more difficult to run on sand because it's soft and uneven, so you exert more effort trying to keep your balance. You also have to constantly adjust to the ever-changing surface, so you are more prone to injuries if you do not have presence of mind.

According to an article by Jen A. Miller about the challenges of beach running, running on sand is like running with weights on your ankles and it requires 1.6 times the energy that running on a hard surface requires; Dr. R. Amadeus Mason, a team physician for USA Track and Field and an assistant professor of orthopedics and family medicine at Emory University, said that "With or without shoes, “it’s harder to get your foot planted into the ground, and it’s harder to get your foot up off the ground."

Too bad there are no beaches near Metro Manila.This could be an intense yet fun daily work-out! No wonder I  see so many runners on the beach in Boracay. :)

Day 27: Push it! (again and again)

150 full push-ups!

From Week 1's 100, to Week 3's 120, I guess I was expecting this.

Suntanned. :)

My form has improved, don't you think so? :)

Day 28: Final Pit-Stop

No exercises for today! We were just asked to rest, relax, and recharge for the last 2 challenges! It was also our final day in Boracay, so it felt good to just lounge around and relax. :) No picture for today, except for this one with my boyfriend on the trike to the airport:

Relaxing day on the island of Boracay! Recharged for the work week ahead!

Day 29: Last Advanced Core Training

It's the 5th core training day!

Plank circuit:

- 3-point planks, 45 seconds (plank position, elbows on the ground; raise one leg up).
- Side planks with knee to chest, 40 seconds per side.
- Marching Glute Bridge, 1 minute.

Core integration circuit:

- 8 pairs split jumps.
- 12 Spiderman push-ups.
- 12 pairs speed skaters.
- 8 pull-ups or 15 body rows.
- 15 full burpees with push-ups.

The instructions said: "Do complete or full repetitions of each exercise. Rest for a full minute and continue on to the kettle bell routines below, for those of you who have access to kettle bells. If not, you may skip the routines."

I did not have access to kettlebells at that time because I didn't go to the gym, but I am posting the exercises here for those of you who want to try it:

Complete the 3 sets of the following kettle bell routines below (Swing It 1 to 3). Use 8 to 12kg for ladies and 12 to 20kg for the men.

Swing It 1
20 hand to hand swings
10 clean and press per side
12 snatches per side

Swing It 2
24 hand to hand swings
12 clean and press per side
15 snatches per side

Swing It 3
30 hand to hand swings
15 clean and press per side
18 snatches per side

Day 30: Check your fitness progress!

Yay! The last day! We were asked to check our progress by doing the same set of exercises from Day 1's Fitness Test.

- 1-minute push-ups (do as many push-ups as you can in 1 minute)
- the 90 second plank (hold the plank position for as long as 90 seconds)
- 1-minute burpees (do as many FULL burpees as you can in 1 minute)
- the vertical jump test (jump as high as you can)

The result?

DAY 1: 18 modified push-ups, 90-second plank, 12 full burpees.
DAY 30: 25 FULL push-ups, 90-second plank, 15 full burpees.

I'm so proud of myself, especially on the push-ups part. Before, I could only do sissy modified push-ups, and now I can do full versions! Tigas! Haha!


* * * *

I think my body has considerably improved in the past 30 days. I wasn't able to take before and after pictures, but I feel stronger and leaner. Still haven't gotten rid of the extra layer of protection around my abs, but I can feel the muscles coiling somewhere in there. Haha! My legs are more muscle-y now, too. That's a good thing because I have really spindly chicken legs. :(

Now that the challenge is over, I definitely will not stop with the good habits I acquired over the past few weeks. Being busy at work is not an excuse to miss a day of exercise; I just have to keep my goal in focus so that I will not be tempted to be lazy!

Overall, I think this is a good program to follow. It made me realize the importance of doing something active everyday. It doesn't matter if it's just 10 or 30 minutes of your day, if you consciously do something that will benefit your body, then you will see the results.

Thank you, 360 Fitness Club for initiating this challenge! I discovered that I am able to push my body to do things I thought were difficult before. The next 30 days will be the real challenge: will I be able to sustain this habit even without someone to dictate what exercises I should do?

Challenge accepted! Commit to be fit! :)

Get 360 Fit, the 30-Day Challenge: WEEK 3
Get 360 Fit, the 30-Day Challenge: WEEK 2
Get 360 Fit, the 30-Day Challenge: WEEK 1

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Take Your Date For a Walk

Who says that dates have to be fancy and elaborate? Do they always have to be in restaurants, or in movie theaters? Of course not!

Last night, I had one of the best date nights with my boyfriend, and it didn't include a candelit dinner or a blockbuster movie. We were both in shorts, t-shirts and slippers; we had burgers and tacos at Army Navy (not exactly the most romantic restaurant out there); and we didn't use a car to go around, we WALKED. Yup, you read that right: we walked 2 kilometers (in a leisurely pace) around Fort Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

From where we stood

Call me easy to please / mababaw ang kaligayahan, but I thought that was one of the most romantic nights we've had yet. :)

We started off with a late night dinner at Army Navy. Ton just came from the gym, and I came from shopping (hehe), so we were both pretty hungry. After devouring our burger, soft tacos and Freedom fries, Ton suggested that we go for a 20-minute walk around the area, to at least burn off some of the sinful calories we just ate.


It's interesting to walk around BGC. This "district" has so much to offer for everyone: parks for fitness, parks for games, open spaces, and art installations. It's a very pedestrian friendly place: they put in a lot of pedestrian walks, the sidewalks are wide, there are pedestrian signal buttons, and there are parks and commercial spaces at every block or so, to keep the walk interesting.

Press to cross

During our walk, we passed by Turf BGC where there were 2 football practices / games on-going. The field was well-lit, and there were a lot of spectators sitting on the grass inside the fence, or on the curbs outside.

However, while others were watching the football games, Ton and I were facing the other direction: we were facing the street where some adolescents (ok, maybe there were some adults there, too) were gathered in 3 groups: the bikers, the skaters, and the longboarders. I think we spied one or two rollerblader on the streets last night, too. :) 

BGC's informal "skate park"

The spectators
We were in for a treat because there were some exhibitionists present that night. Some were jumping and sliding the underside of their boards on a long steel pole. Then there was this shirtless guy (he had a right to be shirtless, those abs were DE-FINED) who was longboarding in front of us and doing stunts.


Check out the video below, and wait for our reactions to this guy's stunts! Haha!

Aside from watching and cheering on the "youth on wheels," we were also able to enjoy the cool night breeze and the lights from the new skyscrapers in the vicinity.

Looking up

We also passed by IHOP, and at past 10 p.m., it was almost empty! It was too bad that we were already full from our Army Navy dinner, or else we would have jumped at the chance to finally sample IHOP's food! Me want some pancakes in mah belly! :(

Oh well.

I think we were able to burn 90 out of the 300++ calories we consumed that night. LOL. But although the initial purpose of that stroll was to burn off what we ate, we ended up just enjoying the sights and sounds of BGC. It also allowed us to talk about light and random things, like fashion (haha!), core strength (we tested it), Kevin Ware's bones (shudder), and career plans. Ok, so maybe some of the topics aren't so "light" or "random" after all, but it made for a pretty interesting conversation. Haha!

It's great to relax, let your hair down, let loose, and let your feet take you forward towards somewhere unplanned. You'll never know what you might encounter, what you might see, what you might experience! BGC is familiar ground for me already, since I live and work here, but I allowed myself to "rediscover" it last night.

Sometimes, all it takes to make an experience special is a new pair of eyes to see what you deem familiar, and another pair of wandering feet, to walk alongside you, and to take you to places you've never been to before. :)

BGC, check! Maybe let's explore Makati on foot, next?

Get 360 Fit, the 30-Day Challenge: WEEK 3

Before I start with the narrative of week 3, I just want to reiterate to my blog readers (if there are any), that I am not a fitness expert, nor am I a narcissist. Haha. I am just trying to document my progress through this challenge, for future reference (either mine or yours). The pictures are also a requirement in the 30 day challenge, as proof that I actually did the exercises. Hehe. :) Maybe this can serve as a reference for couch potatoes (like me, formerly), who want to start a simple fitness regimen. Believe me, starting is the hardest part; once you're in the fray, it will be easy peasy. :)

And so we start with week 3. :) To be conscious of your health and fitness every single day is a daunting task, but if you're up for it, the benefits outweigh the hassle. :)

* * * *

DAY 15: Long and strong, calm and centered

We we required to attend a Body Balance class today. I love Body Balance. It's a combination of Tai Chi, Pilates and Yoga, so they cover stretching, flexibility and core strength!

Time to get my "downward facing dog" on.

DAY 16: Advanced Core Training

There is always an exercise day to focus on the core. Why are people so intent on strengthening this part of our body? The core muscles are the muscles around your trunk and pelvis. According to an article I found from the Mayo clinic, core exercises improve your balance and stability: "Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony." This is important, because we use this muscle group in everyday tasks, as well as in sports. Also as an addition, "Weak core muscles make you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain, and muscle injuries."

So, aside from developing your abdominal muscles, focusing on the core builds up your overall strength and improves your posture. Win-win! :)

This week, we were tasked to do 3 rounds of the series of exercises below:

Plank circuit:

- Low planks, 45 seconds
- Side planks, 40 seconds per side
- Glute Bridge, 45 seconds

Hala, they keep on increasing the time! Maybe by next week we will be up to 1 minute already!

Core integration circuit:

- 10 overhead squats (Start in squat position fingertips to the floor. Then raise both arms overhead and don't bend them and stand up. Then squat again and repeat.)
- 10 T-Push ups (Start with a push-up then open to the side with one arm extended to ceiling; it almost looks like a side plank. Come back and push-up and open to the other side.)
- 10 pairs speed skaters or mountain climbers
- 7 pull ups or 15 body rows
- 15 full burpees (with push ups)

I just came from yoga practice here, so I was already warmed up. Still wasn't enough to prepare me for the 15+15+15 burpees, though. Man, those burpees always kill me.

DAY 17: Pre-vacation workout!

Last day before Holy Week vacation! Hurray! But this is no time to rest, YET, because we were tasked to squeeze in one last work-out by attending any of the group classes that day. If we couldn't make it to the gym, we could also do any of the exercises in the "Earn Your Beach Body" video series, found here.

I was at the gym that day, not for any of the group classes, but for my long-awaited PT session with Coach Mapi. It would always get postponed because I would usually do a group class first, and then be too tired for more exercises after. Haha! So this time, I made sure that I would be at the gym exclusively for my PT session. Hah! I checked the "Earn Your Beach Body" video series, and I saw that most of the exercises there were the same ones that coach made me do:

1st series (3 rounds):

- 20 16-lb kettlebell full swings
- 10 step and lift (10 per leg) with 15-lb dumbbells.

1st series
2nd series (3 rounds):
- 10 full push-ups
- 20 mountain climbers

2nd series

3rd series (3 rounds):

- 20 rope slams

My manicure was ruined!

Those kettlebells were the death of me, and to think that was the first exercise I had to do. >:( I guess I should be thankful that coach only made me do 3 rounds of 3 exercise series. One of 360 Fitness Club's brand ambassadors, Rachel, was training nearby, and Coach Dexter made her do 8 rounds! I'm not sure what her series of exercises were, but I saw that she had some burpees thrown in. Intense! But then, I guess she's not brand ambassador for nothing. Hehe. :)

DAY 18: Eat right!

Exercise will be for nothing if you don't pair it with a healthy diet. Today, we were tasked to eat right: to eat one serving of fruits and vegetables in every meal, and to replace white rice or bread with brown rice or wheat bread.

Today was also Holy Thursday, and my family and I went on a Visita Iglesia to churches around Marikina and Rizal. For lunch, we ate at Kainan sa Tabing Lawa, a "lutong bahay" restaurant that specializes in Filipino food. Eating healthy wasn't too hard a task because we mostly ordered fish and vegetables.

Lutong Pinoy!

DAY 19: Push it (again)!

120 full push-ups!

It was "family fitness day" at our house that day, too, meaning, my siblings and I were at the gym all at the same time. Haha! My baby brother did the 120 push ups with me; he was already done when I was still at #80, I think. After the push ups, we all did some abdominal exercises together.

Showing off our muscles. Haha!

DAY 20: Active playday!

I guess 360 assumed that most of us will be on vacation this week, so we were tasked to do something fun and active, like swimming, playing frisbee, or brisk walking. My family didn't go out of town this weekend, though, and we attended the Easter Vigil mass that night, so I didn't have time to go outdoors to "play." Once we got back to the house, my sister and I did the following exercises:

6-12-18-24-18-12-6 reps of the following series:

- Squats
- Leg raises
- Push-ups
- Lunges

Sisterly bonding

I was already dying after doing 24 reps, and we were supposed to quit then. It was good that we decided to forge on. Haha. I mean, what is a work-out if you are not challenged?

DAY 21: Do the Men's Health Weekend Challenges!
Easter Sunday! A day of hope and new beginnings! I woke up to the message of 360 Fitness Club, asking us to do an intense work-out for that lovely, sunny, Easter morning. Great. My body has not yet recovered from the midnight work-out my sister and I did the night before. For today, we were supposed to choose one of these work-outs and see which coach we can beat:

Of course, I got the instructions wrong: I didn't pick just ONE, I did BOTH! >:( I did horribly in both, too. Coach Chappy's time (the time to beat) was 1:59. Mine was more than twice that number. Coach Jose's time was around 2:30, I think, and mine was more than thrice! Fail! :(
* * * *
Week 3 is done. 1 more week to go!!! During the 4th and final week, I will be in Boracay, so let's see how I can do the challenges on the beach! Haha! :)

Get 360 Fit, the 30-Day Challenge: WEEK 2
Get 360 Fit, the 30-Day Challenge: WEEK 1