What’s your Holy Week Tradition? 


How do you celebrate Holy Week in your neck of the woods? 

Here in the Philippines, Holy Week is a pretty big deal. Schedules stop, penance lined up, vacations filed, tickets purchased, churches visited and a marathon of “religious films” gets shown on television. 

In the old days, time stops for all kinds of penance and its up to you to pick your poison: Visita Iglesia (visit to the 7 churches), participate in Pabasa (like our family), while some go on a more extreme route like participate in self flagellation, crucifixion while others participate in Cenaculo. The Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday where Catholics commemorate the entrance of Christ to Jerusalem, leading to work stoppage on Maundy Thursday, reaching its highlight on Friday, usually at 3pm which is the time of death of Christ. Holy Week finally ends on the early hours of Easter Sunday with the mass and the “salubong” or the meeting of the Virgin Mary and the Risen Christ.

As we get older, the old traditions started giving way to modern habits. People book vacations, spending their Holy Week at beaches and resorts as means of “self reflection.” My siblings and I had the gall of doing this a few years ago. We booked a beach get away right smack during the Holy Week which meant we missed the yearly “Pabasa.” Our mother didn’t speak to us for days for this transgression. 


The family Pabasa tradition has been going on for more than 50 years now, right to the time of my mom’s grand father who started the tradition.  I only wish someone from my generation will be willing to take on the Pabasa after my mom. I am not sure if I will be up to the task. 

With the changing of times, sometimes I wish that the outlook of Filipinos when it comes to Holy Week will not change. More than the pomp, the pageantry, the activities that reek of tradition — it’s the deep faith of this nation that is worth celebrating. 

Always Stellar: Incubus in Manila (2015)

Easily one of the highlights of my year is the recent concert of Incubus, whom I have been an avid fan of since 1999. The release of their critically-acclaimed third album in 1999 “Make Yourself” was also a turning point for me. It was also the moment when I first saw the video for “Drive” and was immediately sucked into the world of Brandon Boyd, Mike Eizenger, Jose Pasillas, Ben Kenney (who replaced Dirk Lance) and DJ Chris Kilmore (who replaced DJ Lyfe).

Make Yourself Incubus

The guys were so young back then. Plus, it was still Dirk who was playing the bass.

But arguably, my favorite out of the whole album (which is saying a lot, considering most of the songs are good) are “Stellar” and “I Miss You” — first, because I am such a sappy, weird romantic and second, because the lyrics were just insanely good. These are the kind of love songs that tugs deep into your heart but are never melodramatic or sappy.

Oh yes–like a lot of girls who first met Incubus with “Drive”, I was also badly smitten with Brandon Boyd, but as I grew older I have started to go beyond the “cute vocalist” to truly loving the band and its unique brand of music as a whole. But it was 1999, as a girl formerly and hopelessly stuck in her sea of boybands, Incubus served as a much-needed beacon of light, its music–angry, profound, emo, sarcastic and everything in between–served as the automatic sound track as I get to experience this crazy thing called life.

Fifteen years later, upon hearing my favorite band is going back to Manila, I had to immediately cover my bases. The band was scheduled to play in March but I filed for leave in January. Yes, I always take a leave from work when Incubus in playing in Manila. This has been a very consistent practice since the first time I saw them in Manila back in March 2004. No matter what the task I may have, I will be away from work whenever they have a concert scheduled.

But this time, life threw me a curved ball. After filing for leave three months before the concert, I procrastinated till the last minute before I bought my tickets. F, a very good friend and a fellow Incubus fan saved me from misery when her company gave her two Suite tickets for the MOA concert and she kindly and generously offered them to me.

So, with the excited husband in tow and with my 2 good friends (F and A), we met at the SMX MOA at 5PM for early dinner and to catch up a bit before we fan girl to Incubus. At 5PM, it was obvious that their Manila fans were all excited for the visit. The restaurant where we had our dinner held groups of fans, wearing concert shirts of varying Incubus albums and art rendering. It was pretty obvious that what was about to happen is a gathering of my generation to sing and to celebrate with probably the band that defined their youth.

We came inside the concert hall and immediately found the nifty premiere suite reserved for corporate sponsors. Our view was perfect, a perfect angle to see all the action on-stage. As the guests started trickling in and the opening act, Lindsey Stirling started making magic with her violin, you can feel the excitement building up. I scanned the venue, MOA Arena was about 80% full — not bad for a band who took a hiatus to work on their personal projects and yet remained relevant as soon as they returned to the spotlight.

Incubus in Manila - picture property of Ovation Productions

Incubus in Manila – picture property of Ovation Productions

Incubus in Manila - photo property of Ovation Productions/Magic Liwanag Photography

Incubus in Manila – photo property of Ovation Productions/Magic Liwanag Photography

The concert was a good mix of old and new songs, with the Manila crowd showing its appreciation by singing to every song they knew by heart. These are the songs of our youth. When the band introduced new songs like “Absolution Calling” and “Trust Fall” — response was a bit muted but the crowd continued to sway in the mosh pit.

Stage set-up was simple and no frills: three carpet, indicating places for Ben, Brandon and Mike plus a raised drum and turn table set at the back for Jose and DJ Kilmore. Brandon Boyd did not speak as much, except for a melodious repeat of “Manila” (rhymes with Vanilla). Obviously, the band has been very familiar and warm with the audience who always welcomed them as if its the first time they are in Manila (for the record, it’s their fourth time).

Here's my view from the Balcony. It was more than enough for me.

Here’s my view from the Balcony. It was more than enough for me.

Brandon Boyd in Manila - picture property of Ovation Productions

Brandon Boyd in Manila – picture property of Ovation Productions

Like any Incubus concert, the shrieks (from the ladies) started to grow as Brandon started losing his clothes — first, it was the button-down shirt, then after a while, off comes the loose undershirt and yes, it was unanimously and unabashedly met with shrieking from the ladies. Myself included, while the hubby tried to cover his ears to salvage whatever was left of his eardrums.

It was a straight-forward yet really good set, including favorites like the opener “Wish You Were Here”, “Anna Molly”, “Vitamin”, “Dig”, “Made for TV Movie” which included snippets from Lionel Richie’s “Hello”, “Nice to Know You”, “Pardon Me”, “Megalomaniac”, among others. For the encore, they gifted the Manila crowd with three songs, “The Warmth”, “I Miss You” which made all the ladies sigh and “A Crow Left of the Murder.”

After the concert, my generation — a good mix of GenXers, GenYers and a few Millennials — staggered out of MOA a bit dazed while others, obviously satiated. Some reached to their pockets for a quick smoke, others started rambling off observations while others was smiling, milling around with friends. It was like a big communion of people who all grew with listening to the band.

Again, it was already Incubus’ fourth time in Manila. But man, it always felt like the first time–and it couldn’t be more Stellar than that.

All photos are property of Ovation Productions and Magic Liwanag photography, unless otherwise stated

She loves you, YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! – Or how we treated Mom to a Beatles-themed party

We are a family of die-hard Beatles fanatics. Credit goes to our mom and dad who made sure we grew up appreciating really good music. One of our fondest memories is singing one Beatles song after another in a mean round of Videoke with my paternal uncles. Two of these favorite uncles and Beatles song partner has already passed on and no doubt, already stalking John Lennon and George Harrison in the Big Concert in the Sky.


So, when our mom turned 60 a few months back, it is only natural that we celebrated the momentous occasion with a party — and what can be cooler than a Beatles-themed party?

To set the theme, the first to be developed was her invites. Since she can’t choose between two colors, we printed both and distributed it to her friends:



Yup, our mum’s name is “Baby” — she’s one of the oldest “Babys” in the world. What can I do? Us Filipinos and our weird first names :)

Because we don’t want to give out the usual party souvenirs like figurines or the usual perfumed candles, a quick check in Pinterest immediately gave me an idea. This was the original concept:


Which, I am sure are machine printed. Because we do not have a printing machine and because we do not want to spend for printing, since we are confident that we can wing it by painting it ourselves (we are a family of artists, after all!) — we decided to paint every glass–piece by piece, by free hand! Here is the final outcome:

Beatles Party 3

The glasses were sourced in Divisoria, bought for PHP8 a piece, paint used was non-toxic acrylic and all done by hand. I started painting George Harrison then Paul McCartney, the Ringo Starr finally ending with John Lennon. Took me 4 days to finish everything. I was basically printing 15 pieces of glass per night, all by hand! The night before the party, the glasses were filled up with chocolates, wrapped in cellophane then finished with a ribbon and gift tag also designed by myself.

mama tag

This was the final outcome of the giveaways, as displayed on the sweets table, with Beatles-themed candies and a cake especially commissioned for her party:

Beatles Party 5

Beatles Party 6

Beatles Party 7

Beatles Party 1

Of course, there was also a photo booth as additional give-aways. Because we wanted to add to the usual funny hats and glasses used as props, I made cut-outs featuring the Beatles, of course!

Beatles Party 2

Complementing the theme was the music played through out the four-hour party. We were playing the Beatles, of course! What we did was download their whole discography to our iPods and then brought a portable speaker to venue. We pressed “play” and left the iPod alone.

My sister, my dad and I (the most avid Beatles fanatics of the bunch) made sure to wear our Fab Four shirts!

Beatles Party 4


Planning everything, with barely a month to go, was tiring but was so worth it when we saw how happy our mum was. She received a lot of gifts from her friends and her party was the talk of their “church group” for about two weeks after it happened. Just seeing her happy, it was worth all the trouble.

In reality, we didn’t find it hard planning the party — even if most of the task was done manually and without the benefit of an events crew. Quite honestly, planning the party was one of the best things we did in 2014 — it was fulfilling and something we see ourselves doing for a very long time.

Tales of Sayuri: Have you ever tried to bathe a cat?

I didn’t know when I started to be a cat person. For as long as I can remember, I have always been in love with dogs. I owned a good number of dogs growing up — the oldest was Nick who lived to 70plus in human years. Nick’s whole name was Nicholas Carter-Mesias, yes — he was named after the youngest member of Backstreet Boys by my obnoxious college friends.

It’s only when I got married when I started being the equivalent of a human slave to my lovable (but bratty) cat, Sayuri. Sayuri was picked straight out of the middle of the road, after I chanced upon her — then just a tiny kitten — picking a fight with a neighborhood dog. Sayuri, about a month or two old then, was determined to hold her ground against the large dog which was known throughout the neighborhood as a bully to cats and smaller breed. With one swipe of her tiny paws, I was immediately fell in love with the little devil who has a wild shock of black fur. From hanging laundry to dry, I ended up plucking the kitten from the street and bringing it to our home.


Sayuri is now six years old, no longer the cute, little kitten battling the dog ten times her size. But I guess it’s true when they say that cats have their own personality — because, this cat, has tons. Sayuri knows how to push our buttons (do cute things, get treats in return), and has assimilated herself in our little unit that it is now impossible to think of life without this “bundle of misery” (that’s my term of endearment for her).

Maybe, because we don’t have kids yet that we tend to spoil Sayuri so much. Deep inside, we knew that Sayuri can never replace having children or that she is a manifestation of another person whom our two-person family is lacking. However, having Sayuri with us given us insight on what real responsible pet ownership means.



We have a very limited grocery budget, a part of that goes to Sayuri’s food. She is partial to kibble from Friskies, but preferred the Ocean Fish soft food from Whiskas. Imagine calculating the number of cans of soft food and pouches of kibble she needs for a month. Imagine the dent it makes on our budget! I can assure you, that cat is more well-fed that I am!

When she was younger, she used to catch rats. Actually, she is well-known for being a mean little rat-killing machine and the neighborhood loved her for that. But we all know that rats are dirty like hell. So, we had to have her treated due to the gum disease she developed due to trapping and killing all those pesky rodents. She smelled really bad and suffered from gum sores — the vet recommended that we make sure she stopped from hunting rodents and quarantine her along with a steady intake of vitamin C, antibiotic and brushing of her gums to rid of the bacteria.


Imagine trying to brush your cat’s teeth and gums! Suffice to say, I emerged unscathed, save for a few scratch marks on my hand. This was nothing. When she was younger, we attempted to bathe her. The bathing experiment ended to a quick trip to the City’s Veterinary Office to get rabies shots after Sayuri freaked and made a hotdog sandwich out of my right hand after I attempted to shampoo her hind legs. For close to three months, I was known as “the stupid girl who tried to bathe a cat.” (FYI — In the Philippines, there is an old superstition that it is bad luck to bathe a cat. Will lead to seven days of rain). More like, it’s bad luck to bathe a cat because it leads to rabies shots.

Another problem with having a cat on “house arrest”is addressing the cat’s need to poop and pee – two things that both carried the smell of instant death. If you are a cat owner, you know what I meant. The stink of cat poop and pee is second to none. It will make your house smelly and will drive you mad with the stench.

For this, we had a kitty litter. We were using the store bought kitty litter brands which is also hell when it comes to maintaining the cleanliness of the house. It’s a constant cycle of scooping, cleaning, vacuuming and scrubbing. After running out of kitty litter tonight and being informed that kitty litters in 2 of the nearest grocery stores are out-of-stock, I was forced to improvise.

For a more environment friendly kitty litter, I took some old newspapers and tore them into tiny pieces, placed it in the litter box and sprinkled it generously with baking soda to counter the smell. Saw Sayu did the number 1 and 2 and it was a success! And no smell at all!

Ideally, the shredded/torn up newspaper should be washed with water, mixed with a bit of fabric conditioner, drained of water, mixed with baking soda before being turned into small pellet-shaped “nuts” which can serve as a more environment-friendly and organic kitty litter. Read instructions here:

1. Shred newspaper in a paper shredder and collect it in an unused litter box.

2. Soak the paper in warm water mixed with a few squirts gentle, biodegradable dish soap. The shredded paper takes on a cooked oatmeal consistency. The paper won’t come completely clean, but the water will turn grey.

3. Drain the water (an old colander works wonders) and repeat the soaking process minus the soap.

4. Sprinkle baking soda liberally on the wet paper. Knead it in to the mixture (you might want to wear gloves to avoid getting ink on your hands).

5. Squeeze the remaining moisture out until it’s as dry as you can get it.

6. Crumble over a screen and leave to dry for a few days.

7. Once it’s dry, put about an inch and a half to two inches of the paper crumbles in the litter box. Scoop solids daily and change it once a week. It takes about a half an hour to 45 minutes to make a 2-3 week supply of litter

Source: http://www.treehugger.com/culture/pet-topic-make-your-own-newspaper-cat-litter.html

Unfortunately, I really don’t have time right now so I resorted instead to newspapers shredded into small pieces and sprinked with baking soda. Worked really well.

There are days when I get really lazy and I am tempted not to deal with Sayuri’s food, litter and even her gum-brushing. For times like these, I always think of the fact that having a pet (like having a child) is a big responsibility and it doesn’t end the moment the cat stopped being a little ball of fur and cute. I do not regret any minute of taking care of Sayuri. Her loyalty and love is enough payment for me.

#LLAP, Leonard Nimoy

The Geekdom is currently in mourning following the passing of Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy.


“In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character.”

– From “Leonard Nimoy, Spock of Star Trek Dies at 83″, The New York Times

Perhaps, our collective anguish can be best summed by another Trekkie, President Obama, who said: “Long before being a nerd was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy.”

You couldn’t have put it better, Mr. President.

New coffee and hang-out experience at St. Marc Cafe – Greenbelt

I love coffee. I love it so much that it has come to a point that I can consume more than five cups a day, and that a doctor had to tell me to limit the intake or else…

So, imagine my surprise when I saw a branch of St. Marc Cafe while window shopping at Greenbelt 3. Already an institution in Japan, St. Marc Cafe is well loved and famous in Japan for its Chococro (a croissant-type pastry filled with chocolate in the middle), its kakigori (shaved ice dessert) selections and premium coffee.

st marc
St. Marc in Ebisu Station, Shibuya (photo from Yelp)

Apparently, this is already the second branch of the coffee shop in Manila. Under the management of Suyen Corp., the parent company of retail giant Bench, the first St. Marc branch can be found at the Mega Fashion Hall of Megamall. The Greenbelt branch opened in mid-February and currently enjoys brisk crowd especially during after-office hours.


This is the first thing that caught my attention while the Hub and I were fixated on going to Chili’s. These plastic food displays are an art form in itself, and takes long hours while they are made by hand. In Tokyo, the streets of Kappabashi-dori, located near Asakusa is a go-to place to buy “sampurru” (from the english word, “sample”). Many tourists actually buy them as souvenirs.

It’s not easy getting a table because most of the tables are already occupied when we came in at 6PM. The Hub ordered the Almond Sugar Pie (P75) and a medium cup of Cafe Americano (P110), while I was set on one of the Matcha Milk kakigori (P230), being addicted to anything matcha flavored.


We didn’t get the Chococron, the flaky croissant variant that St. Marc is famous for, but we enjoyed the Almond Sugar Pie with its buttery, sugary crust. We loved the fact that the crust was not too dry and their are bits and pieces of the butter flavor in every bite. The Americano, meanwhile, is a let-down for me. One, Japan is known for its strong, kick-ass coffee and I found the America a bit too mild for my taste. There was no distinct coffee taste and I can’t help but compare it to the Americano we always order in our favorite coffee shop (the one with the words “coffee” and “tea” on its name). For a medium-sized coffee cup, the serving at St. Marc is also smaller.



My Matcha Milk was one big pile of finely-shaven ice, matcha and milk syrup, vanilla ice cream and a scoop of the red aduzki beans. In spite being tightly packed, the ice was not packed too tight. While the vanilla soft ice cream was not too sweet and just had enough of its flavoring, the matcha flavoring was too mild, there are instances when I can barely taste the flavor of green tea.


We loved the interiors, which was painted deep shade of grey. The lighting was also a clever play on the cup and saucer combo we usually find in coffee shops. The cozy feel of the interiors, which was a far cry on the usual look of coffee shops in Manila, encouraged patrons to enjoy their coffee while catching up with friends or loved-ones. Somehow, this is a coffee shop that feels more intimate and personal.

Creativity and the search for the familiar feels

how to be a creative person
Image from Buzzfeed

After working for ten years in corporate, I can feel that my creativity level has greatly diminished. I used to find inspiration in everything. But now, writing and trying to create something is like pulling teeth.

I have written about wanting to go back to writing in so many posts in this blog, not just writing blog posts — but really writing for a living again. This year, I have never been more determined to say goodbye to the corporate world than before. I just don’t feel as excited and as motivated with my current corporate job — maybe it’s the hunger to write again or at least learn something, instead of slaving in front of a computer for 8 hours per day. That’s really not harmless, but what’s more draining for me is the people — dealing with them, making them happy with their endless demands and insane requests; the need to compete; the need to write long and rambling self- evaluation on your performance appraisal sheet — honestly, I am just not feeling it anymore.

This realization was made more palpable when I was invited by a good friend to cover their tourism-related event recently. I was there in my capacity as a newbie travel blogger, eager to be of help to promote the local tourism. Upon arrival at the venue, I was seated in a table occupied by print journalists and more established bloggers. When the guest of honor arrived, I overheard the print journalists discussing among themselves if they should make a go at it and do the interview with the DOT secretary while the program has yet to start. They were discussing possible questions and debating if they should abandon dinner and just go ahead with the face-to-face interview. I actually felt jealous.

The problem with doing an about-face and starting a new career (even if you are a returnee) is getting your foot at the door, trying to get an opening or an opportunity. Once I have this covered, I know I’ll be on my way.