Sunday, July 14, 2013

Razon's scrumptious halo-halo and sizzling bulalo

I am not choosy when it comes to food it’s one of my stress relievers in life, food provides me comfort and thrill. Back in Davao, I and my good friend, Kathy Dacanay, used to go cafe hopping and we already visited quite a number of cafe houses in Davao City,  Chicco de Caffe, Cafe France, Cafe Demitasse, Annie Pie, Kangaroo to name a few, and the night before I left for Manila, Kathy and I once again spent few hours at Chicco.

My favorites include Carbonara,  Blueberry Cheesecake and Brazo de mercedes, Japanese food is another special craving, Maki for instance :-) The best California Maki I tried was at Sangkai Restaurant, an authentic Japanese resto in front of Central Bank in Davao.

But when I left Davao and relocated here in Metro Manila, this weekly food adventure halted, I've not yet visited a cafe house here so my craving for pasta and all sorts of yummy desserts was put on hold, not sure also where to go, I am not yet familiar with the place.

Until one day, Jerome Abendan brought us to Razon's, a fine food chain along McKinley Hill in Taguig offering delectable dishes including yummy desserts. He told us about the scrumptious halo-halo that is so utterly different from other varieties, so I was thrilled to try this refreshment. According to him, there are lots of branches of Razon's in the metropolis but the one that offers the best halo-halo is the outlet along McKinley Hill.

Ultra delectable Halo-halo at Razon's!
Razon's along McKinley Hill, Taguig City

True enough, when we had lunch there and had halo-halo as our dessert I felt the hype of the taste perfectly authentic! So yummy and smooth, very gratifying, I did not feel any roughness effect on my tongue, you know the usual stuff in halo-halo that is so annoying sometimes -- the coarse ice granules. At Razon's that was so different, the sweetener was just right too and there were no excessive beans mixed in the ingredients.

Razons is a quiet place to hang out with friends, very relaxing with a cool atmosphere, perfect to enjoy the food and the refreshment! Jerome introduced us to another unique cuisine: Sizzling Bulalo. My God totally appetizing!!Something that should never missed out!I was used to the idea of bulalo in stew but at Razon's it was completely different, an extraordinary lip-smacking recipe.

 Luscious lunch treats from Anelyn and Jerome, thank you guys!
Sizzling bulalo, sisig and boneless bangus, soooooo delightful!
Halo-halo at Razon's along McKinley Hill utterly refreshing with a finely crashed ice that almost feel like powdery granules in your tongue, no extra effort of pounding to make, a little stir is enough. This halo-halo however has no blob of ice cream topping only Leche flan. Don't miss this out when you come to Taguig. Other food offerings are equally delightful, love to go back there some other time! 

More stories in my MY CUP OF TEA blog

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Delta Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon Hongkong

Two months ago when I was looking for a hotel to stay in Hongkong for our leisure trip, I first made a thorough research about the most affordable tourist inns in Hongkong that have high customer’s satisfaction rating/review. I’d got several suggestions in the net but the one that really caught my attention was Delta Hotel because aside from its very affordable rate per night, it earned a very good rating from satisfied customers, so I went on to book our 3 night stay there.

 Bedroom at Delta Hotel

Delta hotel is more like a transient inn where travellers can just spend the night with a bed to sleep on, it is far from the traditional hotel that everyone is thinking, it is like you are just renting a room in a small apartment. But its services and basic amenities are very good. This is ideal for people who are embarking into a short vacation trip abroad under a tight budget and for backpackers.

Delta hotel is located on the 16th floor of Chungking Mansion, Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hongkong, just across the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station. The rooms are clean and conducive for sleeping and resting. Each room has a private bathroom with shower. The room provides telephone and free wifi with a choice of electric fan or aircon, there's a refrigerator and water dispenser posted outside the rooms.

Each guest is provided with bath towel, freebies like shampoo, bath soap and toothbrush kit. Guests are safe because the main door of the hotel has an electronic automatic lock and outsiders cannot easily enter the vicinity. It is equipped with a 24-hour security camera.

Comfort Room 

When we arrived at Chungking Mansion, I was worried and anxious because the ground floor was full of vendors and the elevator was packed with people of different nationalities, at first I thought it was not a safe place, I was also concerned with the mansion’s appearance, but the moment we got there and entered the room my apprehension was replaced with contentment. It was worth the money.

The rate is per room. We chose the room with four occupants which has a rate of Php630.00 per night or HK$119. Please be aware that all the rooms have no extra bed.

Chungking Mansion is located at the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui just beside CKE department store, the location is just a walking distance from Victoria Harbour and Avenue of Stars. It is also closer to China Ferry Terminal where Cotai Jet travelling to Macau is located.

From the airport, you can get a ride via A21 bus of City Flier, then disembark at bus stop no.14. From there, you have to turn left and walk just few steps to arrive at Chungking Mansion. There are two elevators serving the building, you may ask for assistance from the security guard on duty if you are not sure what elevator to take.

Here’s how I rate Delta Hotel:

                1              -              Very Poor
                2              -              Poor
                3              -              Average
                4              -              Satisfactory
                5              -              Excellent

Cleanliness                -              4
Friendly Staff            -              5
Safety                      -               4

Value of money         -              5
Location                   -               4

Thursday, June 06, 2013

AirAsia Airline

Just got home from my first travel abroad! Glad I was able to make it before the expiration of my passport  :-) and because I was living under a scanty budget, I joined friends in the University embarking into the nearest foreign route -- Hongkong. We chose the cheapest round trip promo rates available online at Airasia, there was no direct flight from Davao to Hongkong so we had to go to Clark to catch the Hongkong route.

At first, I had a slight reservation about this airline because aside from being new, its reputation is not yet established due to its very fresh operation in the Philippines, but I did not stress out my brain analyzing what might happen when we're up on air, I just trusted God that He will guide us for this adventure.

So finally, on May 31, 2013, on a sunny Friday afternoon, we left Davao International Airport with Airasia. I was closely observing the movement of the plane hehehe! I kept my senses alive, I did not take a nap like other passengers.

Oh well, it was great, the aircraft did not sway up on air, no rattling above the clouds, or maybe because the weather was fine during our travel so we never experience any abnormalities. We safely landed at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at the Clark airbase at 4:20.

On the following day, we left Clark for Hongkong at 6:25 in the evening, the sky was so calm and quiet and the clouds rested like lovely cotton balls in the atmosphere while Airasia peacefully navigated the skyline of Luzon. I did not feel any bumpy stuff up there, the travel was peaceful and steady, no unnecessary movement of the aircraft and before I could finish the biscuit I was eating, the crew announced the preparation for landing at Hongkong international airport, wow! That was so fast and relax! Hongkong air travel from Clark took only one hour and forty minutes.  

Airasia's international pilots and even their domestic pilots are really well-trained because the aircraft did not bang when it touches the airport ground, it was a very smooth landing, felt like we just glided. They knew exactly how to maneuver an aircraft, very safe and sound.

I memorized the names of Airasia's pilots so that I can thanked them here for keeping us very safe during the flight. On our way to Hongkong, the pilot was Captain Kintanar and on our way back to Clark, Air asia's pilot was Captain Francisco. The flight attendants were also nice, very accommodating and approachable. They have a very good service too, both on board and at the ground.

It was a very relaxing air travel. I have a full trust with Airasia now, it's a beautiful plane to travel internationally. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Hobbit - unexpectedly boring

I must admit, I was extremely disappointed last year (December 2012 to be exact) when I was not able to catch up "The Hobbit" in cinema. I've been waiting it for years to arrive in the big screen so just imagine the exasperation I felt when it was finally shown and no one to go with.

Fast forward April 2013, after doing some DVD marathon and became greatly enchanted with Legend of the Seeker series, I tried to go back to the Lord of the Rings finest days by re-watching the three installments because it has something to do with my fascination towards Legend.

Legend and Lord have so many things in common. They shared the same genre - fantasy adventure. Both were filmed in the breathtaking valleys and wilderness of New Zealand, in fact when you watched it successively, you will notice the identical location of each scene. They had almost the same concept --- quest and wizardry. But the similarities ended up there.

While Lord of the Rings executed some of the finest sound and visual effects the world cinema had ever known, there's one important ingredient missing -- the magical quest of romance. Everyone loves fantasy but it is more appealing and spellbinding if two people moving on the big screen, fighting enemies, riding the thrill of spell and magic have at least some personal issues to battle on --- affairs of the heart.

You know amidst the terrible hurdles of saving the world and mankind in the fantasy world, fulfilling the mission, defeating evils and tyrants, viewers are still looking for that pang of magic sprung from the human heart -- that is to see the heroes and heroines fall in love. It makes the movie experience more exciting and memorable. 

It is what makes us relate. We cannot be like Frodo or Gandalf or Arwen or Legolas but we can at least felt love amidst the chaos in our surroundings. This important ingredient of romance in an epic adventure is what makes Legend of the Seeker different. We cannot be like Richard the seeker or Kahlan Amnell the confessor or Darken Rahl the tyrant or Cara Mason the Mord-Sith but we can at least felt love, fall in love just like them.

So after doing marathon on both shows, I remember what I had missed last December 2012 and since I am currently in the spell of magic and could not get over with the fantasy and tricks, I've decided to finally buy a copy of "The Hobbit". Its significance to my latest obsession is massive, aside from being the prequel of Lord of the Rings, the film is also shot in New Zealand.

So one lazy evening, I started watching it.

I don't know if it's for my senses, my mood at the moment, the DVD copy I bought or my obsession towards Legend of the Seeker, but after one hour I began to take a deep long breath, releasing fits of sigh and yawn, clear signal that I am slowly entering the parameter of extreme boredom.

Thirty minutes later I began hitting the "forward" button of my laptop. At first, I thought the trouble was in the DVD copy I bought so I stopped forwarding and patiently followed each scene, I even went back to the beginning of the film. But I could not really take it, not that I didn't understand the sequences of the film or scarcely grasped the adventure-of-the-elves plot but the entire thing is really tedious and awfully exasperating. 

I just can't believe it! The Hobbit, with all its glory and fantasy, is painfully boring and dull! Now I am very thankful I did not waste my money catching it in cinema.

what the story is trying to prove? It was just a simple journey of a wizard and elves in the barren mountain to reclaim a Dwarf Kingdom with dragons and goblins as nemeses, a story that can only be told in 30 minutes but stretched to almost three hours. If I am the student of that storytelling class I would be scrambling at my feet and left the room instantly.

The point of the story is just to lay a framework for Lord of the Rings so Bilbo Baggins was put into the center of the story and thrust to the scene where he must fell into the dark cave and encounter this ghastly creature named Gollum and take the ring and plunged the world into darkness, that's it no more no less.

And as if to add a little spike of history, the plot incorporated the concept where Bilbo prepared a book that chronicled his journey with the elves and obviously in finding the ring of power. His intention is to leave the book to Frodo, his nephew, so that well, maybe, when he is gone, his quest will be remembered sort of thing.

But I don't know, maybe I am too idealistic when it comes to fantasy adventure genre and I am looking for some elements which could not be provided with The Hobbit. But personally, well, I just realized there's no need to film The Hobbit to understand Lord of the Rings.

And to my shocking glory I read that the unexpected journey is just the first installment of the three film series of The Hobbit, oh my God! Please do not make it a series! What a catastrophe. One installment is enough! 

Reviews from film critics are unflattering and it scored 66% in rotten tomatoes which means The Hobbit did not live to the hype of fantasy, it did not meet expectations of a memorable film.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Legend of the Seeker

This TV series was cancelled in 2010 after only two seasons and 46 episodes, reports had it that the company that produced the show went bankrupt and no network was able to pick up the series when it ended.

I just got a DVD copy of Legend of the Seeker so I am quite late joining the "Save Our Seeker" campaign in the web organized by fans all over the world calling for the series renewal. As of April 2013, no words heard from the production whether Legend of the Seeker will come to life again.

But as a fantasy adventure genre fanatic, I am hoping the series will be renewed soon and relived the magic and fun once more, it is the only extreme adventure series I ever got interested with maybe because I find the story very enchanting and beautiful.

I did not read the book of Terry Goodkind (to which Legend of the Seeker was based) before watching the series  so I'm kinda enjoying it because if I did maybe I will be disappointed too just like other people who had read the book long before the series started.

When I watched the two seasons of Legend on DVD I was so captivated with its enormous production value, the magic, the spell, the fighting sequences and the fascinating love story of Richard and Kahlan, the seeker and the confessor respectively destined to join forces to undertake the delicate mission of seeking the truth, but in order for the seeker to be triumphant in his quest, he must pay a high prize of not falling inlove with his confessor.

According to an ancient belief, the seeker and the confessor could never consummate their romance because it would enslave the seeker and become dependent to the confessor making him ineffective in his quest. In the series, Richard and Kahlan fought hard to resist their feelings. But to my surprise when I read the synopsis of Sword of Truth of Goodkind in the net, I found out Richard and Kahlan got married!Ohh how it happened??

So now, I am more excited and eager than ever to see the series renewed to find out other big surprises unfolded in the book. In the season two finale, there was an interesting hint mentioned that after the seeker  successfully sealed the rift that divided the underworld and the world of the living, he will face another powerful enemy. The "hint" sounds very interesting.

For the meantime while waiting for its "resurrection", here are some interesting "look-back" of the series:

Legend of the Seeker, produced by Sam Raimi (Spiderman fame) is a fantasy adventure series in the tradition of Lord of the Rings with breathtaking fight scenes, visual effects, stunning production design and shot against the backdrop of New Zealand's natural wonders of rolling hills, picturesque mountain, scenic streams and valleys. It is loosely based on the book written by Terry Goodkind "Sword of Truth" and just like Lord of the Rings, Legend is entirely shot in New Zealand.

The story  follows a young and hunky woodsman, Richard Cypher, who was bound to fulfill the ancient prophecy to become the seeker of truth and restore peace and harmony in the new world. His quest brought him to many places and villages conquering obstacles and wars along the way. His mission was guided by the beautiful confessor, Kahlan Amnell and the Wizard of the First Order, Zed Zorander, who was also his grandfather.

Craig Horner and Bridget Regan played Richer Cypher, the seeker, and Kahlan Amnell, the mother confessor respectively in the Legend of the Seeker series. 

Main Characters:

Richard Cypher - played by Australian actor, Craig Horner. A simple woodsman and expert tracker of the trail, his life revolved around his father, George Cypher and brother, Michael Cypher, the head of the Hartland until one day a mysterious beautiful woman, Kahlan Amnell, came to their place in search of a seeker. One accident prompted him to go to Zed Zorander uncovering the truth of his existence that he is the child of prophecy destined to carry the sword of truth and defeat the evil tyrant, Darken Rahl. Richard traveled with Kahlan and Zed to the Midlands to fulfill this prophecy.

Kahlan Amnell - played by Bridget Regan. She belongs to an ancient order of gifted women known as confessors sworn to find the truth by unleashing magical powers through confession. Her mission was to find the seeker and protect him  to fulfill the quest, the journey brought her to Hartland. Unfortunately, her confession gift made her unable to fall in love with the seeker because this will enslave him.

Zed Zu'l Zorander - played by Bruce Spence. One of the much-loved characters in the series, Zed is the wizard of the first order who is bound to protect the seeker of truth. He often unleashed his magical power through a wizard's blaze of fire and transforming things into another. He is also a grandfather of Richard Cypher.

Cara Mason - played by Tabrett Bethell. She is a mord-sith, a deadly order of women trained to protect Darken Rahl, therefore sworn to kill the seeker, the wizard and the confessor but when the boxes of orden exploded she traveled to the future with Richard and the sorceress, Shota, told her to cooperate with Richard in defeating the master Rahl to return to the present day. Cara then joined Richard, Zed and Kahlan in their journey to find the stone of tears. As a mord-sith she is immune to magic, she can also give a breath of life to a dead person. She appeared on the last episode of the first season and went on to join the team of Richard in the second season.

Darken Lord Rahl - played by New Zealander actor, Craig Parker who also appeared in the Lord of the Rings as Haldir of Lorien (Fellowship of the Rings and Two Towers). He performed dark magic and tricked people to bend on his will, an evil leader of the House of Rahl who killed his father, he raised powerful soldiers to capture villages and vanished enemies. A prophecy was told that he will be defeated by his half-brother, Richard the seeker, his ultimate hope to conquer the whole world and enslave people is to get the three boxes of orden.

The first and second seasons were based from the first two series of Sword of Truth book: Wizard's First Rule and Stone of Tears. In season one, Richard's mission was to defeat Darken Rahl and in season two, he will have to find the stone of tears to close the rift that suddenly opened when the box of orden exploded. The rift threatened to conquer the world of the living by the keeper of the underworld sending lost souls called banelings to the earth to kill mankind.

Lots of surprises revealed and more exciting and gripping episodes were shown but when I read the synopsis of the Sword of Truth book of Terry Goodkind I was a little bit surprise with some of the diversions of the story.

In the book, Darken Rahl was the father of Richard but in the series he was Richard's half brother. In the book, Panis Rahl was the father of Darken Rahl who was killed by Zed's blaze of wizard's fire but in the series he was the father of both Darken Rahl and Richard and was killed first by Darken Rahl and second by the sisters of the dark. In the book, Cara Mason, a mord-sith who joined Richard in his quest, was a straight woman who eventually falls in love with a general in the D'Haran army and married but in the series, she was a lesbian and had a relationship with her fellow mord-sith, Dahlia and seemed stoic with emotions. In the book, Richard and Kahlan got married but in the series, it seemed they could not, due to Kahlan's power that would be unleashed the moment they will consummate their feelings.

But despite these differences, I still love to continue the series and still hoping for its renewal soon, I am not really particular of the story diversion as long as it is beautifully made into a motion picture with lots of entertainment value, surprises and magical scenes, the "unfaithfulness" of the series would be quickly forgiven. 

Well, Legend of the Seeker is a kind of series I would love to waste my precious two hours in a day because there's no boring moment! The splendid scenes are just so gratifying, in fact I could not postpone watching the succeeding episodes due to its thrilling sequences. Lots of efforts were put in every episode and I could see how the stars labored hard to do their part to make the scenes very real and convincing. The boy listener  was so cute and adorable!Bruce Spence was so perfect in his role as a wizard of the first order, Zed.

Though I was fed up with the series' inconsistency and immaterial script in the second season (for example why Richard had to be killed only to revive later? It has no significant connection to the whole episode and why they named a new seeker when the story itself revealed that Richard is the only true seeker born in over a thousand years? Totally unnecessary script) but in general it was really enchanting worthy of my time. When you watched it, you could not believe it's just a TV series due to its enormous production cost on costumes and visual effects. It was really beautiful and stunning, it's like watching a full length movie in a theater.

What I love about this series is its ability to offer total entertainment, fascination and thrills to the viewers, every scene is very exciting you could never guess what's next. It is a mix of humor, drama, surprises, displays of magic and sorcery, wisdom and discoveries about the wonders of fairytale and fantasy and of course romance.
The Legend of the Seeker team. From left, Kahlan Amnell the confessor (Bridget Regan), Richard Cypher the seeker (Craig Horner), Cara Mason (Tabett the mord-sith who sided with the seeker after she was betrayed by her fellow 
mord-sith sisters and Zed Zorander the Wizard of the First Order and Richard's grandfather 

Unlike Lord of the Rings, Legend of the Seeker presented the human side not only magic and wizardry things. A dash of romance, humor and compassion made Legend more interesting and fun, it has a balance of both worlds.

Although there were noticeable loopholes (I don't understand why a new seeker will be named and why Darken Rahl must be resurrected) and other critics said the show was not faithful to the book of Goodkind, it was nevertheless spellbinding and mesmerizing and yes, the wisdom I gained was enormous.

Wizard's first rule as mentioned by Zed Zorander: 
"People are stupid. They will believe a lie because they are afraid it might be true"

"Sometimes making the wrong choice is better than making no choice. You have the courage to go forward, that is rare. A person who stands at the fork, unable to pick, will never get anywhere".

Wizard's second rule as mentioned by Richard when he was trapped in the Palace of the Prophets: 
"The greatest harm can result from the best intentions"

I am hoping this series will be renewed soon or at least made into a movie. For the mean time while waiting for a "miracle", I'll keep my self busy re-watching the 46 episodes on DVD hehe!