Our first visit to a store that doesn’t exist

It’s been weeks since the monsoon rains have stopped Marcus from getting his regular Friday physical therapy. Opportunities to get him out of the house and away from his video games every weekend have been much harder. Yesterday weather permits but instead of going to the malls we frequent, we decided to go to SM Mall of Asia (MOA) instead with Marcus and I having our own secret goal: visit Ikea.

It was a two-hour drive slowed further by weekend traffic at the SLEX and Skyway expressways plus intermittent heavy rains. The sky cleared when we reached MOA via Entertainment City exit and it appeared then we could move around SM by the bay when the mall gets stuffy for Marcus.

Still clueless of what we’re about to discover, we pushed through finding Ikea. While having dinner at Pound by Todd English I checked online and read that Ikea is between MOA Arena and SMX. Next plan was getting there as soon as we have our tickets for Mission Impossible: Fallout and when drizzling has stopped.

I began to feel suspicious and stupid when I realized I must have skipped some details on the news about Ikea opening in the Philippines. Three security guards later, the last we asked said, “Yan malamang sir (That must be it.)” He was pointing to a still empty fenced block right outside of the mall. Sucks. It was a matter of will open versus is open. With only one short crane sticking out of that place, I don’t believe we’ll see an Ikea store this year.

Mainly to take note where we parked.

***

The latest Mission Impossible sequel was a disappointment. It’s overrated and hyped. It’s like one of those films with trailers that are a whole lot better than the movies. My wife and I were dozing on and off but Marcus said he enjoyed it although I know it would’ve been a better experience for him if we watched it in a cinema with stable reclining seats.

We should have just watched the free Okada fountain show.

***

Wheelchair access Bows and Boos

Bows:

Elmo at Pound by Todd English’s bar area.
  • Jollibee staffs at MOA Entertainment Hall who made sure Marcus and his wheelchair get a space.
  • Pound by Todd English staffs who accommodated us despite the tight setup of their restaurant. Burgers were surprisingly affordable and great too.
  • Restroom staffs who kept the PWD area clean.
  • Okada tour bus attendant who entertained our questions and promised to get Marcus prioritized.
Recreating how he looked like 10 years ago the first time he was in this mall.

Boo:

  • SM Mall of Asia south parking building elevators were already unavailable when we got out of the cinema past 12 midnight. Someone parked in the same area had to find security guards to get it back running. Not cool.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Weekend weight.)

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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.)

Warning: Unlimited Hotdog and Burger

This should serve as a warning to everyone out there on a diet. There is a restaurant somewhere at SM By The Bay that you should stay away from. It is called the Movie Stars Cafe which is a place that will put to shame a burger store’s “have it your way” promise. Last Friday we were there to have a simple celebration for our son’s birthday but it was only then when I learned that the place my wife has described to me as having hundred plus TV screens actually serves buffet. That very moment I heard the word buffet my focus shifted from counting the LCD TVs on the wall to finding the start of the buffet line.

As the resto’s name suggests, I soon discovered upon getting a clear view of food at the buffet area, the restaurant’s menu are moviegoers’ favorites. Set along the buffet table where a huge head of a seemingly hungry T-Rex hangs overhead, are dishes anyone will find hard to ignore. The queue starts strategically with hotdog rolls and burger buns followed by–to name a few–a variety of juicy sausages, hot off the pan burger patties, chunky fries, chicken teriyaki, and desserts. Everything’s just so irresistible that the glutton in me reared its ugly head and by the time I reached the end of the line, I had so much on my plate that I swear the sharp-toothed dinosaur would have considered me a real threat to his food chain if it were alive.

Diners in this place are also in for other treats. The place has lots of movie mementos including picture frames of Hollywood celebrities and life-size figures of movie characters like the Stormtrooper, Spider-Man, Batman, and Iron Man. Movie Stars’ waiters and waitresses likewise complete the cinematic details as they too are in character with their costumes identifiable with those we see in the big screen. But wait, there’s more! There are a couple of shows which include mask dancers with someone in Darth Vader costume but one who is rather graceful than intimidating. If someone plans a second trip to the buffet table, these shows are best ways to buy time to let that stuffed feeling go away.

(Clockwise) From top right: V for very naughty; Marcus’ shot of Iron Man; Trust me, this batmobile is to die for; Three of us.

Worry not, however. Despite its ambiance that will remind people of Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood and other similar movie-themed restos, patrons of Movie Stars Cafe won’t have a tragic ending to their movie dining experience.For the price of about P700/pax, everyone will leave with still enough budget to enjoy the other attractions along the the stretch of SM By The Bay. Expect though to walk out the door with the realization that you are far from fitting inside one of Iron Man’s armors. And so once again, you have been warned.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (On HBO…without the unlimited burger. Reality.)

Four-year-old Boy in the Backseat

I booked my sister’s family online for their flight to Bacolod and the mistake I made when I finalized the transaction with the wrong departure date requires me to go to PAL’s ticket office in NAIA Terminal 2 to get the revised ticket and pay for the additional fee in the process. But rather than fret about that costly mistake, which I did while sleepy thus missing the most important detail, I considered it as a blessing in disguise. What I initially plan to do by taking public transport alone and recovering my lack of sleep inside a cozy bus and taxi to the airport office, became a trip with me behind the wheel and wifey and Marcus tagging along. We haven’t been together in a mall for a leisurely visit so this one made a trip to MOA justifiable.

During the 30-kilometer trip, Marcus has been talking non-stop, asking repetitive questions. “Where’s the airport?”, “Are we near the airport?”, “Where is MOA?”, “Why are we turning here, not there?” had me and wifey exchange turns to give the same answer. However, other than these are-we-there-yet inquiries, there were those that we don’t know where to get the answers from and there was one that had both of us skipped a heartbeat. We’ve been preparing for the question and I really once thought that I will be ready when that time comes but yesterday I realized that I am not. What a four year-old boy can do. A special four year-old boy in the backseat.

***

The reason I got the idea of taking a side trip to MOA is because Marcus had told his mother that he wants to go biking again in MOA and the last time we did this was more than two years ago when we participated in a fun run for a cause. So despite doing it in the evening, and with me restraining myself not to grab something alcoholic from one of the nearby bars and restos and which I know that wifey has another idea of a night out, Marcus successfully got his wish and pedaled his way in the midst of the crowd enjoying the colorful night in SM by the Bay.

***

Marcus tweets

Starting today, I will use #4yointhebackseat to tweet about things (hopefully amusing ones) Marcus will say (or have said) while in the backseat. I once started #nurserylog which are about his school days but unfortunately I cannot retrieve the first ones. I am now wondering if there’s some application I can use to import a particular hash tag to my blog and to archive it as well.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks (Anxiety coming back.)

Running for Adoption Consciousness

Today is quite a significant day for me and my family. I have been thinking about this day since last year when I started doing my strategic management paper. The months I spent knowing about domestic adoption made me realize the importance of this week’s event. Eventually, the critical call did come—a sign that I have been waiting for. The call from our social worker asking if I can give a testimonial was unexpected and quick. Before I can think of last minute alibis, something in me made me say a crisp ‘yes.’ After the phone conversation, I already knew that today is going to be one of those killing-two-birds-with-one-stone moments.

So around 4 o’clock this morning, I woke up minutes ahead of my alarm clock. I was that excited. After quick preparations of breakfast-to-go –coffee, bananas, pan de sal – and placing Marcus’ bike in the trunk, we were on our way to SM Mall of Asia. The early morning traffic was smooth so we arrived at the venue just less than an hour later.

The annual DSWD event started with a fun run just along SMB’s strip facing the Manila Bay. Several groups of people led by DSWD employees gathered to join the 3K run. I was in the middle of the pack at the starting line and the different t-shirt prints—DSWD, ICAB, CWC, etc.—of most runners around made me recall how immersed I was for months in the field of social welfare, specifically adoption, wherein I got acquainted to these organizations and some of its key employees.

The fun run started past 6:30 AM. Although I started cold, I began to pick up the pace by the first quarter of the course. I finished the 3K route in just around 20 minutes, not bad considering that it’s my first running event. A month of regular treadmill runs at home paid off.

After every runner has finished, the adoption consciousness week program proper followed. This year’s theme is ”Bata ay Huwag Abandonahin! Legal na Pagpapa-ampon ang Gawin.” Different personalities coming from DSWD and its partner agencies joined the program with some children from different child-caring agencies are also present and are part of the intermission numbers. Among the highlights of the kick-off program are the testimonials from two adoptive families—we’re one of them.

Despite having a prepared speech–I spent several hours to prepare just the night before, I decided to do an impromptu speech. It was brief but I think that I was able to bring my message across. One key message I mentioned is that hopefully domestic adoption will soon be embraced by more Filipinos because the latest statistics isn’t enough: there are only about 5,000 children adopted locally and around 3,000 internationally since 2006. Something has to be done to improve the current figures since the number of children waiting adoption is just overwhelming.

The adoption consciousness week will be until February 11, 2011. DSWD and child-placement agencies (KBF and NORFIL) have setup help desks in some SM malls to cater to anyone who is interested in the legal domestic adoption process. According to DSWD, they will have booths in SM North, Fairview and MOA. Please come and visit them.

***

I was able to talk to the founder of the Adoptive Families Foundation and I learned that he had difficulty convincing other adoptive parents to give a testimonial. This is not surprising. One of the surveys I did in this group received only a 12% response. It just shows that most adoptive parents are  still not privy when it comes to talking about it in public (or even online) and this is also one of the reasons why there are still hesitation and resistance from most Filipinos towards legal adoption. Optimistically, the efforts of DSWD and related NGOs will keep on saving more innocent lives from being wasted and deprived of a permanent and loving family.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Glad to finally reach the decision.)

A Week of Interviews (Part 1)

It is a fact and a cliché that time flies so fast. And so today I was surprised to see that the last time I did a blog was on August 31 and fifteen days after that, I’m still wondering what I’ve been thru since then. Now I’m in the middle of the much awaited months for us Pinoys–the BER months. And being the 15th which is the payday for most employees, I can just imagine the throng of people in the mall, in the clubs, and those in the beer bars—all likely enjoying at least a couple of Christmassy tunes in the process.

In spite of losing track of my activities, the freshest memory that still lingers in my mind are the things that we did last week. In work terms, work week 37. Last week, my wife and I underwent a couple of separate exciting interviews amid my untimely colds that was made worse by the enduring rainy week. But having prepared for these interviews for so long, not to mention that the stakes are high, we proceeded undeterred.

The first one was in the US embassy in Manila. It was actually my wife’s idea to try our luck in getting a US Visa (tourist). Although, I’ve been thru this before for my week-long Wisconsin training trip, I was a bit pessimistic in acquiring a new one as I’ve seen a couple of times the disappointment it gave my parents upon every denial in their quest to visit my sister abroad. Lately though, according to wifey, a lot of her peers got theirs without much ado. And true indeed, after a couple of anxiety-filled hours inside the embassy, our visa application got approved as well. My wife went out of the hallway skipping like a kid promised with a weekend beach picnic. “I feel like I’ve just won the American Idol audition”, she quipped. Well, that probably puts me in William Hung’s shoes when he got the record deal. (What made it greater was that our Visa expires in 2018 but the news today regarding the end of validity of the green passport by 2010 looks trouble to me.)

One thing that my wife and I are totally in synch with is that both of us agree with rewarding ourselves with every success that we had; more often than not, we love food treats. And this time we dropped by MOA (Mall of Asia) looking for something new. Then we saw Cheesecake Etc. Inc. It is a small (approx. seats 10-15 person) restaurant but with cozy feel to it. Obviously, we ordered a couple of cheesecakes and coffee to match it. What we got were lovely shaped treats plus great plate decoration. Price was also fair. I recommend this place as an alternative to Starbucks.

Walle

After satisfying our sweet tooth, we headed to the cinemas just in time to catch the movie Wall-E. It was time to feed our craving for comic relief.

Like any other Disney movie we’ve seen, this movie didn’t fail us. The scenes in the movie despite being subtle and comical packs a serious message of what our (humans) future awaits if we lose the awareness on our environmental obligations. It also sends a strong warning to everyone who tends to entrust our lives to technology with the belief that it is there to give us convenience. Convenience that if not controlled will eventually produce more bad than good effects in the end. Does garbage problem and obesity sound familiar? If there’s an animated counterpart to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth movie, this is it. This is a must see movie for both young and old alike. (I love this one so much that I can’t wait to get its DVD.)

(to be contintued…)

 

Busy Eater

Just woke up. I’m now catching up on my emails; catching up on forum updates; staring blankly at the Badminton Olympic match on TV. At last I’m at home and I’m staying put, at least for today. For the past few days, I’ve been on the go and I’ve been longing for one good day of rest and I think today is the day.

The lull in activity gave me time to think of what kept me recently occupied. I can’t believe that I’ve been so busy that I miss my afternoon siestas so much. So what was it really? Work? Maybe. My new motorcycle? Maybe, but not quite. Now I remember. Surprisingly (or not), I’ve spent so much time lately on mall-hopping and food. Yes, you read it right…F O O D.

Last Wednesday, on a trip down memory lane with my wife to her alma mater in Taguig (I was surprised that it made me reminisce my own memo- ries of the place) we decided to have lunch at Shakey’s Magallanes while having a break from the school clearance process. The last time we were in Magallanes was more than 10 years ago when our manufacturing plant was still in Makati. The whole place has significantly improved; other restaurants are now available and several other establishments have opened up for business. Shakey’s pizza (and shakes) of course still continue to perk up my palate. One thing I miss though is having the real Tabasco to come with my pizza. Anyway, my wife pointed out that even other restaurants have changed their hot sauce to cheaper brands in the name of cost cutting.

Thursday last week was Saisaki day at the Glorietta Mall. I’m once again with the company of my wife and her colleagues. Despite working with another team (which requires me to file a leave), what makes me comfortable joining hers is the fact the most of these guys are also Japanese food lovers just like I do. Well, Saisaki day just doesn’t mean pure Japanese foods as the option to do a crossover is always picked, thus lechon, turkey, and ginataang kuhol (escargot) never fail to be on the plate–at least on my plate. And normal side trips with them always include San Mig lights beer and a coffee stopover to cap the night. (Note: 1 beer bottle per hour is always followed when I drive).

From Friday to Saturday, I reported to work on a night shift. Normally being on this shift gives me chance and excuses to go on a diet as the cafeteria food especially at night, pardon the word, sucks. Saturday however wasn’t the case this time. My colleagues got totally bored of canteen food that they decided to have rice, lechon manok and liempo for our meal. Desserts were chocolate rolls and a super sweet pastry. If I were to count calories I might need a calculator to do so.

Coming from the graveyard shift, Sunday was a day off that was supposed to be a rather light day for us. Instead, after a 5-hour sleep and a trip to the dentist, wifey and I decided to go to MOA (Mall of Asia) with the intent of either watching a movie or buying my helmet. But once we reached the mall, it seems like my teeth having come from the dentist wanted a test of their biting power. My wife suggested UCC Vienna Café. I eagerly concurred and I promised, “I’d take only coffee and a light food.” But the sight of Risotto in the menu changed all that as I’ve been so intrigued with this food every time I watch it featured in cooking shows on TV. I thought that it’s just lugaw cooked by an Italian chef. After tasting UCC’s chicken, cheese and curry risotto, however, made me a fan of this food. Their Sumiyaki coffee and mango crepe were remarkable as well. Prices in this restaurant are worth it.

Monday was no different. And I blame it on the absence of good movies. After we arrived at ATC, we learned that Wall-E and X-Files are still not showing. We decided instead to eat at North Park where once again I or- dered their lechon rice toppings. This food is good all the time and this is one of the restaurants where food is a bang for the buck. Now if only ei- ther of the two movies is available, then I could have had coffee and donuts only for lunch. In Festival Mall the movie titles haven’t changed as well. Good thing I was able to stand firmly that I’ll have only coffee and muf- fin in Kenny Rogers – although the call to have baby back ribs is almost inescapable.

I have now lost track of the calorie pile up – or scared of knowing the exact score. I’m also thinking how many liters of gas we’ve actually consumed the whole time.  It was indeed a busy week where we’ve been spending money, burning gas and piling up calories. And now I’m quite sure that my 3-hour badminton and gym session yesterday wasn’t enough to undo the calorie damage. But there’s still hope. But then again there’s activity in Batangas next Sunday – it’s someone’s birthday. Will there be food? Your guess is as good as mine. I think it’s about time I get my wife a helmet and a pair of riding boots. At least we’ll save on gas.

***