Desperate Times Call for Calorie Count

I finally breached the 150 mark by a pound down. No small feat after struggling for more than six months since our December vacation that piled all the fats and the additional nine pounds. No regrets about those fudge and all the giant food servings but I just can’t carry them around all day anymore.

While seeing the magic number on the weighing scale calls for a personal celebration given the sacrifices and conscious efforts to limit food like my favorite pizza, it seems I reached the dreaded plateau again. My weight reduction progress have flatlined. Desperate times call for desperate measures then. Time to do something long overdue, time to count calories like I’ve never done before.

Resisting the initial idea of my wife to use an app that would monitor my calorie intake I eventually ended downloading it from Google Play and I got hooked on it since then.

I wish I’d have yogurt and almonds for breakfast but this isn’t mine. (Image from Google Play.)

MyFitnessPal seems like the perfect app I need. It made me realize I’ve been missing a lot on the opportunities to see the numbers behind each food I take. Grams versus calories, fats versus protein, carbs versus fiber. It was overwhelming at first but I picked up on how to process the data in less than one day. 

Under Armour is the company that created this free app. Users can search and log from its database almost any food taken during any meal including snacks. Unlike the health books I once knew, this app includes almost anything. You ate isaw, monggo, or galunggong? MyFitnessPal recognizes these local foods and its corresponding nutrional values. Had buko pie or piyaya for dessert? Yup, this smart app knows them too. The key here is just to be honest and log everything to see if you are still within your calorie goal. And the good news is that this app considers exercises performed on the same day so you can exert extra effort if you just lost control and had extra rice for lunch because it was perfect with the leftover longganisa.

One cool trick I like. Our coffee creamer says I could only have one teaspoon per coffee. (Image from Google Play.)

Besides manual entry of exercises, this app likewise connects to several smart devices. I got a Garmin watch and its Connect app works with Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal app. Data is pretty straightforward. Calorie goal minus food intake plus exercises equals remaining calories for the day. It does the math so all you need to focus is if you are still allowed to pick that tempting smores in the fridge or not. Your call but be ready to face the consequences if you go over the required servings.

While this fitness app presents useful info, discipline falls on the hands of its user. Setting the right expectations is needed to avoid any frustration and blame game. Take one step at a time and see realistic results happen. Remember that whatever is measurable is controllable. MyFitnessPal also works for weight maintenance or weight gain goals.

***

My Timehops show that I usually go on a diet same time for the past years. Must be the subconscious working to prepare for December’s binge.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks (Aiming to run in a couple of hours.)

Short and Sweet and Sad

Sometimes the shortest discussions are both sweet and sad. Like this one with Marcus yesterday.

“How old would I be in 2025?”

“17”

“Are you still alive by then? How about mommy?” 

#run4Marcus

***

He has funny moments as well. Last night he drew something he plans to sell for 200 pesos on OLX.

He calls this the best drawing ever. I did the body and right arm, FYI.

Any takers.

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Just ran. Thank God for the recovery.)

Tour of Call of Duty

He loves to shoot, in fact, he shoots well. He’s a fan of the game. Call it bad parenting if you want but that’s life for Marcus. We allow him to play this popular first person shooting game called Call of Duty. Call of Duty makes him duck, shoot, jump, and run. All of which he can’t accomplish in real life, not even in actual play soldier with other kids. Sucks but we deal with it. So after that premature check-in at Red Planet, the show we’ve been waiting for finally happened and we were there. This time he gets to see real guns, lots of it.

Old and young. Marcus in front of a vintage Gatling gun displayed at the PNP booth.
He was able to hold small but heavy guns.
Then there are lightweight polymer pistols.
More guns.
The booths were packed but a good soldier gave him a chance to take a picture with this serious stuff.

He’s been wishing to shoot the real deal but since his tiny hands can’t yet, the Shoot for Marawi BB shooting range by Strong hand was the closest he can get. He downed a couple of targets.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Weekend is bliss.)

First Time in Palawan

A very rare opportunity happened this last weekend. Thanks to family coming from San Francisco, our party of nine once again reunited in Palawan for a weekend experience that would likely remain in our memories forever. It was three days of ups and downs, of uncertain weather, of adventures we didn’t know what to expect but ended enjoying it nevertheless.

Munting Paraiso

Day one. The three of us– wifey, Marcus, and I–arrived ahead of everyone in Puerto Princesa and were picked up by Munting Paraiso‘s shuttle for an early check in. We stayed in room number nine and sis and family would take eight. My mother, father, and elder sister stayed somewhere nearby, Paboreal, where we all converged for lunch before our first Palawan vacation activity.

Clockwise from lower right: Paboreal’ room is big; Beer is life; Meeting my mother again after 3 years; At the crocodile farm; Croc stuffed toy.
Clockwise from middle left: Baker’s Hill has stuff for kids; Other than its hopia, the place itself is an attraction; Dinner at Kahlui; Get reserved please; Mini gallery; Kahlui’s entrance.

Friday afternoon was spent on a subtle city tour. It was our first feel of the dizzying Puerto Princesa City’s streets. We passed by their baywalk, the crocodile and Mitra farms, Baker’s Hill, and a souvenir market. All these getting in and out of the van plus the unusually humid weather worked up our appetite for dinner. Our elder sister who previously visited  Puerto Princesa reserved accommodation for us in one of the city’s popular resto called KaLui but since the place sticks to its 6 PM opening so we waited for an hour in their garden. It felt like an eternity. Good thing that the long wait was worth it.

KaLui is a Filipino-themed restaurant. Its structure, wooden furnitures, menu, and yes, its observance of an old-fashioned practice of removing footwear upon stepping inside the place made us feel like visiting a home rather than a commercial establishment. Our low-seating arrangement complemented the native dining experience. KaLui has interesting artifacts and even has a mini art gallery, and a restroom so clean that walking in barefoot didn’t matter. Too bad I didn’t return to take a picture of the restroom as I got busy tasting everything that was served on our table. Its local brew was nice as well but I soon learned it was pricey than San Miguel.

The sky opened up early Saturday morning and it felt like nothing could be accomplished that day. We all left for the Underground River tour anyway in spite of heavy downpour but without wifey and Marcus. Good thing our tour guide kept the rainy drive interesting for everyone including our foreign guests as he speaks good English and provides insights about the place. We reached the port after about an hour and 30 minutes.

Weather improved when we reached the ferry port. Only challenge left was to have our 82-year old father get on the ferry and deal with some slight bumpy ferry trip to the Underground River. All efforts paid off when we started getting a glimpse of the rock formations along the coastline. The main attraction would be more striking.

Underground River day.
The tour is only a short segment of the Underground River. Special permits are required to enter the entire length of the cave.

While the briefing on our way gave us some idea on what to expect, our senses were overwhelmed the moment we entered the cave. The Underground River is a spectacle and it is hypnotic. I find it also a blessing that my automated voice module didn’t work because all I heard were natural noises. The rhythmic splash of the paddle, the echo of the boatman’s voice, the sounds of bats flying all over the cave, and the water dripping from the cracks above with some of it hitting our hard hats every now and then. Darkness during the entire trip cut only by the lights from our and other boatmen’s helmet added to the sense of mystery and awe. Then there’s that distinct stink of guano. All elements combined beat any movie visual and sound effects. No question that the Underground River is among the seven natural wonders of the world.

Surely deserves the spot.
Nice beach but seems like they don’t allow swimming here as this is only for ferry boats. 

Part of the tour package is a buffet lunch at Gusto Grill and Resto where the highlight would be the chance to try their exotic offer, the Tamilok. I learned that this local delicacy is a mollusk rather than a worm which explains why despite its intimidating length and texture it actually tastes like oyster. My father and I had one serving each and we could’ve taken more. Too bad our American guest didn’t dare touch it.

Our last dinner together at Munting Paraiso’s dining area.

Sunday started just like the day before. Peaking out of our room’s native Zebra blinds reveals that we’re in for another soaky day. It’s a make or break day especially for wifey and Marcus who got left behind yesterday. I don’t want them to remember their Palawan vacation as just staying in the room and swimming in the pool so we braved the rains. Marcus was excited to do some driving adventure on our last day.

MAX Palawan adventure.

 

We headed to MAX Palawan with anxiety if the rain would let up. With Marcus in mind, quitting was an option if rain continues to pour hard. Fortunately, luck was on our side and it was like heavens just readied our day’s playground. After few minutes spent putting on our safety gears and a quick orientation, we got ourselves strapped in the dune buggy. My sister partnered with my wife in the other car while my in-law and their son got on their respective ATVs.

The track was rocky, twisting, undulating, and muddy. And we enjoyed it. It was wet and wild and exhilarating. MAX Palawan’s dune buggy allowed me to drive with ‘controlled recklessness.’ Marcus enjoyed his role as navigator and never cared if mud and puddle water came splashing in. That’s my boy, willing to get dirty to save the day.  We definitely didn’t regret picking this forty-five minute adventure over snorkeling or scuba diving. MAX Palawan is on Facebook , check them out.

I wish they offered this. This a display at Blue Palawan Hotel where my in-law swiped his plastic bandit for our muddy adventure.

We beat the clock on our way back to the hotel. Barely clean after a quick pressure hosing just to remove the clumps of dirt, we settled in MAX Palawan’s van with most of us still wearing our clay-stained clothes. Thanks to the preparation wifey did in the morning, we were able to accomplish the fastest check out we’ve ever done. We transferred to a cheap hotel as we wait for our flight to Manila.

Our Palawan weekend was  short and sweet. We didn’t really get to see the other popular attractions but the fact the we spent the weekend with family in a place we’ve visited for the very first time makes the experience irreplaceable. I also like that we were able to prove the advisories wrong. Philippines is still generally peaceful and its people and places could still create an experience that we could be proud of especially to our foreign guests. There will be a next time, we will be back.

New Palawan Airport’s departure area. 

***

Munting Paraiso is good place for groups or individuals who prefer quiet accommodation as it has only less than 12 rooms and it is located 1-2 kilometers from the city proper.  The way the streets going to the hotel are setup also made it appear farther.

Their rooms’ interior and exterior designs are good and I think each of it has a veranda with a native hammock where one could lazily hang out while waiting for their next adventure.

Lighting though is dim so reading books could be a challenge at night. We had a hard time assembling Marcus’ new Lego as we had to use cellphone lights to follow the instructions.

I also learned later that my sis family’s room has a foul smell which my in-law said could be a backed up drain which prompted them to transfer to another hotel the day we parted ways. So it seems like it wasn’t me smelling guano when I entered our room’s restroom coming from the Underground River trip. My clogged nose that weekend was a blessing in disguise.

***

Is Palawan PWD-friendly?

Trips are always a challenge with someone in a wheelchair. So strangers who offer help are always appreciated. One offered to carry my son’s wheelchair so we can see the bigger crocs at the crocodile farm’s elevated walkway but since I can still carry him I politely declined it.

The tour guide also assured that they could accommodate Marcus and his wheelchair had we decided to bring him along. The wheelchair may be left somewhere at the finish area of the Underground River tour.

MAX Palawan was also PWD-friendly. They picked us up and the wheelchair fit just fine inside their van. The buggy’s four-point harness also ensured a safe ride for a 9-year old boy.

***

I received a call from an unknown number while taking a siesta in D’ Lucky Garden Inn. It was from the airport clinic in Cebu. The caller advised that my mother got sick coming from Palawan and while waiting for their transfer flight to Bacolod. Good thing the doctor soon allowed her to be transferred to Mactan Doctors Hospital with my father in a wheelchair tagging along. I felt helpless that we can’t be there for them at that moment. My elder sister who got another airline eventually arrived there and took charge. They all missed their flights but were out of the hospital the next day with the doctor allowing my mother to fly back to Bacolod. Whew. Definitely a weekend to remember.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (We’re almost back in shape. Marcus and I were nursing a cough while in Palawan.)

Vacation season

Tis the season to be jolly. Not yet the right song but I’m singing it anyway. In less than an hour we fly somewhere within the country, some place we would be at for the very first time. In Marcus’ list, another hotel, another bathroom to discover.

From one hotel comes next and then another. It does look like when it rains it pours. A week after our premature Red Planet staycation, we found ourselves celebrating our wedding anniversary in another hotel in Alabang. We were in Somerset Alabang Manila and it was the best so far based on budget range we–specifically, my wife–have paid for.

Our Somerset Hotel’s accommodation was a studio-type room and it was roomy and it could have been home away from home had we stayed longer like what we did in A Venue Makati. It took some long years before that hotel in Makati would find its match in terms of room amenities. 

Took us time to figure it out but we had our clothes washed and dried with that machine in the corner.

The Somerset hotel room has everything set for a week-long stay. There’s microwave, two-door fridge, spacious closet, couch, circular table, utensils, flat-sceen HD TV, and (drum rolls please), a modern washing machine. I can’t recall we’ve ever been in a room with its own laundry machine. Bathroom has the usual stuffs like bathtub and the basic but luxurious fixtures. Don’t panic, room has internet.

A table for dinner and Uno games.
We arrived with this on the table. It’s wine and it’s for free.

Parking was also worth mentioning. Somerset Alabang Manila must be one of those with well-lit basement parking space I’ve ever seen. Make sure to ask for your parking assignment though as there are double parking spaces and you don’t want to be paged or called while your doing your own laundry in your room. 

Marcus loves visiting gyms.

Then there’s the nice gym located close to the pool area. Somerset’s workout haven has the latest equipment for cardio and strength training. It would have been more challenging had there been more free breakfast buffet choices.

Seafoods would have made us smile more.

This hotel is definitely a must try. Can’t wait to see what awaits in Palawan.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Sun’s out so it must be a good sign.)

Father’s Day Weekend

Once in a while it pays to get out of our comfort zone and face the world out there. In my terms, the world outside my boring driving route.

I spared Friday for wifey, to meet up with her former work colleagues. It was a trip to Vikings Luxury Buffet somewhere close to MOA which we had to time right due to the UVVRP. Although hours late for dinner, we ended the night full of reminisced memories, free buffet, and free Starbucks. Thanks guys, especially to the couple who brought stuffs from their 10-year stay in the US.

We left wifey with her friends so we tried the MOA Eye. My first time here but this is Marcus’ first ferris wheel ride.
Red Planet’s lobby has teddy bears. Not free though.
Midnight check in.

Next day, was for Marcus and me. Saturday was supposed to be gun show day but no thanks to my disorganized calendar, we got ourselves booked in Red Planet Hotel Shaw a month earlier than AFAD’s event at SM Megamall.

Not wanting to waste opportunity and gas, we skipped the bigger mall and dropped by Greenhills Shopping Center to get Marcus’ Xbox One controller checked and fixed. 800 pesos later we have a working unit. Seemed worth it.

Still with time to kill on a Father’s Day weekend, we tried finding our way back to Megamall. This is when our luck, or more so mine, would run out. My lack of familiarity with the streets got me entering a one-way zone and got flagged for a traffic violation. It would have been a more costly mistake had it not been for any or all of the following: a really considerate officer, Marcus playing along with my alibi that he’s starving, or my dashcam’s presence that made the officer realize it records whatever he says. Whatever it was, I got away with a lesser fine. We ditched Megamall plans that afternoon.

None today, so must be Tuesday as advised by the officer.

All is not lost however. Thanks to the new Shakey’s as well as Starbucks stores at Caltex SLEX we were able to cap our adventure right. Pizza and Java Chip Frappucino always work for me.

Pizza saved the day.

***

Shorties:

Vikings Luxury Buffet wasn’t what I expected. Located outside of a mall, parking was difficult, coming in on a Friday night made it worse. We lined up for more than 30 minutes before we got our slot. Food wasn’t that remarkable either. It didn’t even matter if I got mine for free. Normally I wouldn’t make a fuss out of it if I’m not paying but I just wouldn’t add this place to my must-visit-again list.

Red Planet Hotel’s experience was much better. Accommodation was worth the price we paid for. At P1500 we got comfy rooms, better ambiance, and friendly staff–from reception to maintenance. It also has parking secured with automated entrance and CCTV. And it has a brand that’s family-friendly than motels that has a logo of a female behind a yellow fan or one that sounds like a female lingerie line that ends with the word secret. If there’s a Red Planet among your options, pick it.

***

Sunday was plain and simple. Despite our close proximity to my parent-in-law’s place, I and Marcus seldom visit them due to not-so-wheelchair friendly route. But this Father’s day I made sure we dropped by. I had to pry Marcus away from his newly bought Spider-Man Xbox 360 game (pre-owned game we bought from Greenhills) and celebrate with everyone else. Did cold turkey on the urge to drink with anyone this year so that I could make myself available to Marcus anytime but this Sunday I asked his permission to have some just for Father’s day. I had two bottles of lights and bananas for finger food which makes me still on track on my sobriety and weight loss goal.

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (My second holiday Monday this June.)

Cats in the Backseat

This independence day I broke records. This would be the day I function as Uber for our resident cats. Not one, not two, not three. And not even four. Yes, I had five cats in the backseat today. Sedated but five cats in the backseat nevertheless.

Now they invaded the interior.

Thanks to the local government’s initiative, we finally got a break after several attempts to contact other clinics and avail of free spay and neuter services. It was quite late as the two females have once again given birth to six kittens but at least we’re making progress to control their number and in the process prevent further scratches on our car among the many pet peeves of having cats around.  Now there would be less three mollies and two toms. 

Not yet Halloween but such scary sight.

I might as well have gotten the record for the most number of pets brought by a single owner. The venue was packed with dogs and cats alike but operation was efficient. Made me wonder where funding comes from but I am just thankful that they made this happen. Happy independence day cats lover!

The sponsors.

***

The day required preparation so I ran in the morning. I did 38 minutes for a 5K. Finally losing those Christmas cheesecake fats.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Got the car cleaned. Backseat smells antiseptic and cat fur were all over.)