29 November 2006

cupcakes and aloha

If you've been out and about the metro, then you've probably heard about the flock of new restaurants at the newly-opened Piazza @ Serendra. Being exiled to the Ortigas office has slowed down my attendance rate for new hotspots in the metro, so it took a workday in Makati for me to finally make my way to Serendra.

Being the sugarholic that I am, I immediately made a beeline for Cupcakes by Sonja. My previous experience with cupcakes being Pan-A-Cup cupcakes you could get at your nearest suking tindahan, I was curious about what these much-hyped cupcakes would taste like. The tiny shop looked like those candy shops I'd fantasized about as a child-- pink striped walls, giant peppermints hanging from the ceiling, and a display case filled with the prettiest cupcakes I'd ever seen. They have 27 kinds of cupcakes, with prices ranging from PhP48.00 for the Vanilla Sunshine to a whopping PhP130.00 for the Heavenly Pistachio and Sweet Pleasures cupcakes. I picked the prettiest cakes out of the bunch and happily walked out with six cupcakes in their dainty powder blue box.

Undeniably, all of the cupcakes looked gorgeous... but how did they taste? It was really a case of hit-and-miss. The Melt-In-Your-Mouth Flourless Chocolate Cupcake (described as "a dense Valrhona flourless chocolate with rich, velvety texture") was absolutely divine, but the rest of the cupcakes were nothing out of the ordinary. Yes, they were indeed different from the cupcakes we're used to, but then again, at PhP50-130 you could also get an equally delicious (and larger) slice of cake. Cupcakes by Sonja is worth a try, but in the end you're just paying extra to get your cake in a cup.

Up next was dinner at the Hawaiian-inspired Polu Kai Grill. I came in hoping to learn what Hawaiian food was all about, but Polu Kai's menu leaves much doubt as to whether they serve authentic Hawaiian cuisine. The menu seemed more like a fusion of American and Asian dishes than anything particularly Hawaiian, but... I've never been to Hawaii anyway so I can't really tell. :P

We had the baked oysters, the Giant Squid Steak, and the Loco Moco (basically a Salisbury Steak topped with a fried egg). I liked how tender the squid was despite how thick it was, and the grilled flavor of the Loco Moco's burger reminded me of my favorite burgers from the Utopia Cafe in Toronto.

The menu isn't as fresh and adventurous as I'd hoped it would be -- in fact, it's very simple fare, but I found it quite tasty. Prices are a bit hefty at PhP350 up for the main courses, but if you have carnivorous fantasies of sinking your teeth into inch-thick burgers and squid steaks (roar!), The Polu Kai Grill is a mighty contender.

*Cupcakes by Sonja and The Polu Kai Grill are located at the Serendra Piazza, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

27 November 2006

winter wonderlands and sunsets

The rink glows a magical, icy blue. People glide through the mist, bundled up in sweaters. Suddenly, a collective murmur of excitement ripples through the crowd as snowflakes start drifting gently from the sky.

Yes, I'm still in Manila.

SM Mall of Asia's International Ice Skating Rink, to be exact.

After the bout of warm weather we'd been having recently, the cloud of fog rising from the ice was impossible to resist. I soon found myself lacing on a pair of skates, raring to join the beautiful, romantic, and otherworldly melange of people twirling on the ice. Of course, the moment I stepped on the ice, it was neither beautiful nor romantic. Otherwordly, perhaps -- I must have looked like some freak show clanging across the rink.

An hour of 'winter' and an immeasurable amount of public humiliation later, I realized I wouldn't be having any Serendipity-esque moments anytime soon (at least not until I continued to skate like a clown)... so I threw in my skates and headed over to the esplanade to watch the sun set instead. There's nothing quite like sitting on the seawall and watching the waves break across the rocks, letting the salty sea breeze run through your hair. I've always loved places where the metropolis meets nature, because of how it allows me to be near the addicting hustle and bustle of the big city, yet feel so grounded at the same time -- and the esplanade behind the Mall of Asia is a wonderful example of such a place.

I remember the last time I felt this calm and at peace with myself. I was sitting on the shores of Lake Ontario, wondering what would happen to me after I left Toronto.

I thought, then, that the end had come.

Now I know it was only the beginning.

19 November 2006

galileo enoteca - not another italian restaurant

Not another Italian restaurant.

That was my first thought when I heard about Galileo Enoteca. I mean, there can only be so much Italian restaurants in Metro Manila -- it was starting to get too cumbersome to weed out the good places from the multitude of mediocre ones.

Galileo Enoteca, however, proved to be quite a gem.

Tucked on small side street just past the Edsa & Shaw Boulevard intersection, the enoteca looks tiny when viewed from outside. Primarily a delicatessen, you will be greeted with a chiller stocked with an exquisite assortment of meats and cheeses as you step in. It's a bit cramped in the foyer, but deeper into this brick-walled cellar are more shelves of Italian fine foods (and Baci chocolates!) and wine. Candlelight, frescos on the wall, wooden tables & benches complete the quiet, romantic atmosphere.

The menu contains the usual Italian fare, but Galileo Enoteca is set apart from most Italian restaurants in Metro Manila by their use of items sold in the deli (vs. locally sourced ingredients) for some of the dishes in the menu. I opted for a prix fixe meal for PhP400 a person. These meals change daily depending on whatever ingredients are on hand. Today, it consisted of fresh anchovies & focaccia, fresh olives, a cold cuts (prosciutto, salami, and mortadella) & cheese platter, salad drizzled with vinnaigrette (which was delicious considering I don't normally like vinaigrette), a plate of Penne Con Porcini (a cream-based pasta with Shiitake mushrooms), a glass of wine (your choice of house red, white, or sweet wine) and a cup of Molinari coffee (you can opt for tea instead) to complete your meal.

Needless to say, I was completely bowled over.


*Galileo Enoteca is located at Calbayog corner Malinao St., Mandaluyong City. Reservations are recommended.

the emperor's new shoes

Ladies and gentlemen, I have discovered the cure for shopaholicism... drum roll, please... gain 10lbs!

Okay -- so weight gain isn't exactly a good thing, especially since I really should be watching out for my blood sugar. But instead of bemoaning the ten pounds I was supposed to lose but instead gained in Toronto, I'll look at the bright side and just be glad it's curbed my urge to shop.

Except for shoes, that is.

Shoes always fit, even on your fat days. Of course, it helped that they recently instituted a dress code at work, which meant 90% of my shoe rack was inappropriate, save for my tweed ballet flats, my brown boots, a pair of batterred black heels, and an even more battered pair of black boots. It was the perfect excuse to go on an obsessive hunt for the perfect pair of comfy-but-not-as-fugly-as-the-black-loafers-your-tita-wears, dress-code-worthy shoes! ;) After two failed purchases (boots + sandals that seemed to be on a quest to murder my feet), I finally found these: Lacoste's uber-comfy white loafers with papansin blue soles (otherwise known as choy shoes*). Yay! They're so preppy, I feel like I should be sailing a yacht somewhere! And for once my feet don't feel like they're being tortured! I llaaaahhhv it! I will use them forever and ever and ever!

*choy shoes (choy-shus) 1. n shoes na binurdahan ng lola ni choy 2. adj. shoes that look normal but really aren't. To illustrate:
   sheila: Choy, bakit mukhang normal ata sapatos mo ngayon?
   choy: (tips foot to display the purple sole of his shoes) Hindi a!

Ehehehe. Peace, Choy!

14 November 2006

in search of the next big thing

the nearest we get to heaven today
is in seeing a distant osprey
lift its wings, prepare for passage
bear all the weight of our imagining.
- "flight" by charmaine cadeau,
off the Toronto subway in spring 2006

Hello, stranger.

It's been a while.

Two months, to be exact, since I last wrote an entry. Four months since I last felt normal. It's strange, really, how a few months ago, time seemed to be on fast forward. So much life, so little time.

Now, there is only time.

23 October 2006

the casanova that failed to live up to his name

I had heard some buzz about the Gran Caffe Casanova Ristorante Italiano, which promised fine dining under the stars and a breathtaking view of the metropolis. It sounded lovely enough, so I jumped at the chance for al fresco dining at a spot that wasn't as crowded and noisy as most restaurants.

The disappointment started to sink in the moment I got there. The pictures I had seen of the restaurant showed what looked like a small, romantic garden with a charming little fountain. Apparently. that picture was the best part -- the rest of the garden was just an area enclosed and separated from the Starbucks next door by some potted plants with christmas lights.

There was no one waiting at the entrance to seat customers, so we wandered into the restaurant and stood awkwardly in the middle before a waiter took notice. He then proceeded to hand us worn-out menus with water stains on them. The choices looked impressive enough, offering freshly-made pasta and pizza dough, although it was a bit on the expensive side at PhP350 up for the dishes. Perhaps the poor service and shabby menus would be redeemed by the food.

We ordered pasta (I forgot which, since the first two I ordered were not available and I finally had to settle for what the waiter recommended) and the Quattro Stagioni pizza, which combines four of their pizzas in one. The pasta is okay, although I've tasted better. The pizza disappointed me completely -- the crust was slightly rubbery and suspiciously tasted like the frozen pizza crusts you can buy from supermarkets, and there were so few toppings I might as well have ordered a plain cheese pizza.

Call me fussy, but there really was nothing fine dining about the place except for the price. Even the table setting -- for a self-proclaimed fine dining place -- was a fork, a knife, and a single paper towel. Mas madami pang tissue sa Jollibee. I guess I would have been more forgiving if they hadn't actually promised "fine dining under the stars" on those tacky paper placemats -- they aimed for the stars, but fell short of expectations.

If you're up for real Italian cuisine, there are so many places that serve waaaaaay better pastas and pizzas at waaaaaay lower prices. Greenwich Pizza, for example. (Okay, I'm being mean here. :P I'm just pissed I had to pay PhP600.00 for a lousy dinner.)

*The Gran Caffè Casanova Ristorante Italiano is located at The Clubhouse, Corinthian Hills, Temple Drive, Quezon City. Open from 11 am – 12 midnight (Monday-Sunday). (632) 638-2989 / 632- 7617

23 September 2006

peri-peri good

What is a Peri-Peri Chicken?

That was the question on my mind as I walked into the restaurant. I initially suspected it was just chicken inasal with a gimmick, since peri-peri sounded like an Ilonggo word. Or maybe inihaw na manok that was trying to be more wordly, hence the interiors that somehow reminded me of Brazil Brazil.

Obviously, I'm not very cultured.

After perusing the menu and not finding anything to explain what a peri-peri chicken was (except for the phrase "spit-fire grilled chicken", which didn't help much since I had no idea what a spit-fire was), I decided to let my stomach do the thinking.

The menu centers on the chicken, which comes in Lemon Garlic, Peri Mild, and Peri Hot flavors. There's an array of side dishes to complement your chicken (tortilla chips, java garlic rice, tortillas, corn kernels, macaroni & cheese, potato salad, and coleslaw), other chicken dishes like chicken wraps and chicken strips, and some other ulams for those who don't like poultry. Prices are reasonable, ranging from PhP100-300.

I'm starving from all that mental effort by this time, so I decide to load up on the carbs and order the the lemon garlic chicken, the potato salad, and the java garlic rice. Service is quick and friendly; the meal comes in no time at all, and with it... peri-peri heaven. The chicken is perfectly moist and juicy, and comes with a special dipping sauce which seems to be made out of oil, but who cares? It's tasty! If you want to up the heat factor, douse your chicken with the bottles of Peri Mild and Peri Hot sauce on the table.

Thirty minutes later I am leaning back on my chair, rubbing my stomach. I still had no idea what a peri-peri chicken was -- it's not chicken inasal, nor is it inihaw na manok, but it definitely was peri-peri good.

*After doing my homework, I discovered that peri-peri is actually the name used for the African Bird's Eye chili in Portuguese and some African languages. It is often used in Portuguese cuisine to prepare sauces and marinades for roasted and grilled dishes... and so, peri-peri chicken!

*Peri Peri Chicken is located at the Promenade, Greenhills.

13 September 2006

the cream puffs that went through a snowstorm

The golden brown, crusty shells caught my eye before I even noticed the sign above it.

Beard Papa's Fresh 'n Natural Cream Puffs.

I thought it was a rather odd name for a shop. Beard Papa? And weren't all cream puffs fresh and natural anyway? I chalked it up to Engrish -- something must have gotten lost in translation. Besides, the sight of those cream puffs were too tantalizing to ignore. I had a temporary moment of paralysis as I imagined sinking my teeth into that crusty, flaky pastry as the cream oozed out of the shell.

I cream puffs.

So I begrudgingly shelled over fifty pesos for one, even if I thought it was a bit outrageous for a single cream puff. I figured, there must be something special about those cream puffs if that's the only thing they sold.

The Taste Test? I was disappointed. I found the cream filling rather bland; and it lacked that caramelized sugar on top that made cream puffs so deliciously gooey. Maybe I was just expecting the Filipino version of the cream puff (think Puffs & Stuff along Commonwealth), because apparently Beard Papa's is setting off cream puff crazes everywhere.

Anyway, I was a bit miffed at having had to shell out fifty pesos for a cream puff, so I decided to make my own. And voila...

Sheila's Papa's Fresh n' Natural and Cheap Cream Puffs! ;)

*Beard Papa's Fresh 'n Natural Cream Puffs are available at Food Choices Glorietta, SM Megamall Building A, and at the Greenhills Promenade.

22 August 2006

the outsider

sometimes, the world can make you feel like an outsider.
and sometimes, the outside isn't so bad after all.
[museum cafe, greenbelt 4]

05 August 2006

out on the town

the city against the stillness of manila bay
[taken from the harbour square complex, ccp, manila]

ice cream & candlelight
[at the manila peninsula. brownout kaya may candle. ;)]

03 August 2006

do one thing everyday that scares you

"...the blues are because you're getting fat or maybe it's been raining too long.
You're sad, that's all. But the mean reds are horrible.
You're afraid and you
sweat like hell, but you don't know what you're afraid of..."
--"Breakfast at Tiffany's", Truman Capote

It's been three weeks since I got back, and I'm still lost in the madness of getting my life back to normal. Wake. Eat. Work. Sleep. Wake. Eat. Work. Sleep. The routine is madness; yet I find myself thrown into it by forces of expectation & feigned responsibility. This is normal because this is what everybody expects of me. This is normal because this is what a mature, responsible adult would do.

I swallow this like a bitter pill.

It rained miserably the first week; the dark clouds settled over Manila the way they had over me. In the midst of warm hellos and welcome backs, my smile quivered at the edges. It terrified me. Here I was with the people I called my life, yet the thing I wanted to do most was to bolt and run away.

I was home, but this was no longer home. Nor is Toronto, nor New York, nor anywhere else in the world.

I no longer had a home.


But I am okay.

It's nice to say that, even if only to myself. I am okay. It hasn't been stellar, but life goes on. There are still days when I wake up and feel that emptiness; where that part of me I lost when I left used to be. But if people can survive wars and deaths and nature's catastrophes, surely I am strong enough to survive this.

Toronto. That life seems so far away now, I wonder if it had only been a dream. Sometimes, in the middle of my daily rush, I catch myself standing, transfixed, before the poster of Toronto on my closet door. It's an aerial shot of the city, something I had tacked there years back not knowing how much the city would mean to me one day. My finger traces the outlines of the buildings, until I end up on Queen Street West. And, for a moment, I almost see myself walking down the street again.

I remember what it was like to be happy.


Do one thing everyday that scares you.

I am scared as hell, but I promise to go on, because I know it will be worth it.

Life doesn't have to be this way.

16 July 2006

the wanderer

Five months.

That's how long I've been gone.

It could have been a lifetime.

I've spent the last 24 hours in airports and airplanes, drifting in and out of a restless sleep. It's all a blur now, like some drug-induced haze, except the only thing I am on is pain. I've had to say goodbye so many times in the past few weeks that I am no longer capable of feeling anything except for that dull ache of a broken heart.

What bothered me most was I didn't know if I was going home, or leaving home.

In my brief states of consciousness, I could not even concentrate long enough to finish a page of the novel I had brought, or listen to the inflight radio before the music turned to garish noises pounding in my head. I could only stare out the windows, watching clouds roll by and icecaps floating on a boundless sea.

Then I saw myself, slipping away.

the day is breaking and time is taking
the love we're making away
this life can only leave us lonely
there's no tommorow,
just another little hole in her heart
- another little hole, aqualung

14 July 2006

this is the only hiking i do

I climb... erm... rocks in Central Park. Teehee.

12 July 2006

10 July 2006

it's not ice cream...

gone are the days when i thought coney island was an ice cream brand...
on another note, this was the first time i saw the atlantic ocean! cool!

08 July 2006

art and pop art

admiring the guggenheim's architecture is fun...

but watching this real-life version of scooby doo & scrappy doo is much more fun!

[pictures taken at the solomon r. guggenheim museum, fifth ave., new york]

07 July 2006

sister, sister

my sister and i on the banks of the east river

when dusk falls

top: sailing into the sunset [liberty island, as seen from the staten island ferry]
bottom: manhattan & the brooklyn bridge [taken from the subway as it crossed manhattan bridge]

05 July 2006

riding on the Q train

on the Q subway line
[somewhere between canal st. & 14th st-union square stations]

02 July 2006

an insane quest for sunlight

I headed over to Central Park today to watch Jose Gonzalez (he sang the song from this awesome Sony Bravia commercial) perform at the annual Central Park SummerStage.

So did a thousand other people.

I must say, New York summers are insane. All patches of grass around the city, from the rolling greens of Central Park to pseudo-parks like Union Square, are packed with people trying to bake themselves in the sun. Some people were even decked in complete beach attire, beach balls included.

Bikinis. In the middle of the screeching sounds of New York taxis a few feet away. With no body of water in sight. This isn't even gentle sun -- this is hot, humid, Manila-like sun.

Yep, this is seriously insane. When I get home, I am going to get a proper sunburn near the beach, like someone from a tropical country should.

So, you see, there are still some things Filipinos have better.

Yun lang.

canyons of steel

the chrysler building towers over 42nd st.
[42nd st, manhattan, new york city]

01 July 2006

i want to go home...

Except I don't know where home is.

channelling andy warhol

Spent the day at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which is my favorite museum (and I don't even like museums!) for three reasons:
  1. They have Van Gogh's The Starry Night (my most favorite painting) + Picassos, Cezannes, Seurats, and other big names I remember from my art history class.
  2. I'm fascinated by the design gallery where they have everyday things on display -- subway signs, old PCs, the iPod, Umbra trash cans... even bath poufs!
  3. The MoMA Store rocks! They carry all sorts of artsy-fartsy/hi-tech/kitschy items like this calendar and clock made from magnets. So I usually spend one hour in the museum and another hour in the store. Teehee.

30 June 2006

shopping, star sightings, and a mysterious place between heaven and earth

♠ Someone is probably bound to kill me for having such a bad case of tourist tamaditis in New York (of all places), but I haven't really done anything here except shopping. There I was next to Ground Zero (the World Trade Center site) and the New York City Hall, but I bypassed those and somehow ended up buying a new digicam at J&R (my favorite geek store in NY -- just imagine, a whole block of gadgets and gizmos!) and a new pair of shoes at Century 21 instead. I am officially bankrupt.

♠ In other news, I saw Keri Russell! My sister and I were exploring SoHo, and she had just pointed out the Dean & DeLuca where Felicity (from the defunct TV show of the same name) worked... when fifteen minutes later, Keri Russell saunters past us doing some shopping of her own. Cool. I shop where Felicity does! I'm cono! :P

♠ I had been a bit disappointed about missing Cirque du Soleil's Delirium in Toronto (they were touring Toronto the day I left), but as luck would have it, I was in town to catch the last few days of Corteo in New York... and my sister had tickets! Hooray! The show's synopsis says it takes place in "a mysterious space between heaven and earth", and that was exactly what it felt like. It was surreal.

28 June 2006

oh, manhattan!

Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge Park, in the DUMBO
(Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood in Brooklyn

26 June 2006

the travelling gnome

I'll be honest. I'm in New York, but I've been too bummed out to venture outdoors.
So, like that gnome in Amelie, I'll let my avatar do the travelling instead...

From Toronto to New York City!

a new york state of mind

I woke up this morning to the sounds of birds chirping, and a car idling next door. I had tossed and turned last night, and every time I woke up in the middle of the night, I kept expecting to see the calming city lights of downtown Toronto through my windows.

But there was only darkness and the wind rustling through the trees.


The rain was pouring when I got into New York last night; it seemed the skies mirrored the way I felt inside. It's funny. I’ve always said New York was my most favorite place in the world, but as I sat there in the taxi watching New York in all its big city frenzy, all I could think about was how much I missed Toronto.

And suddenly, New York no longer held that surreal magic I thought it had. I was disillusioned, like the way you would feel when you realize a love affair had gone bad.

I had fallen in love with Toronto without meaning to.


The sinking feeling is gone, but in its place is an immeasurable sadness. It came with the reluctant acceptance that I will never see Toronto that way again, through my bedroom windows. I will never have a chance to relive those memories, for even the places that could bring those memories back have started to turn fuzzy.

Someone told me that I still have three weeks -- New York will still have a chance to work its magic with me.


Right now, all I’m praying for is just to have the courage to move on.

25 June 2006

epilogue: suite 506

There is an apartment, on a corner of a nondescript building in downtown Toronto, that lies dark and empty.

It's on a quiet corner of the fifth floor. If you look out the windows from the master's bedroom, you will see the lights of the Toronto Hilton elevators as they climb up and down the building. South on Simcoe Street, you will see the boarded up windows of Toronto's oldest hotel, as it lies waiting to know if it will be demolished or restored to its old grandeur.

If you lie awake at night, you will hear the constant hum of the city cleaners as they make their way through the streets of downtown -- an invisible army washing away all the dust and grime of the day to prepare Toronto for another sparkling day. Sometimes you can even watch them from the windows, as the water cannons blast away all the posters plastered to the lampposts and street signs. The water archs gracefully in the air, and, just as it hits the lampposts, bits and pieces of poster paper are obliterated into tiny specks of fiber floating in the night air.

On weekends, this sound is replaced by the excited drone of people on the way to parties, ready to dance and drink the stress of the week away. The streets bustle with people walking briskly in the cool night air, while long white limousines and police cars dot the traffic snaking through the city streets. In the dark, the police car's lights dance on the apartment's ceilings, a reminder that the world goes on even when your own life seems to be on pause.

The apartment lies silent now.

It has been scrubbed and cleaned and stripped of all its character, ready for its next occupants.

But, for four months in the year 2006, it bore the color and character of two people who lived within its walls and called it home. It watched as they grew and evolved, bearing witness as they ran through a gamut of emotions, from the awe and wonder of two strangers arriving in a foreign land, to falling in love, to the heartbreak of letting go.

It shared the joy of the countless people who shared those four months with them: of zinfandels and wine glasses clinking against each other in celebration; of late nights working and bemoaning the headaches of the job; of the warmth of visitors from home; of dinners and desserts and new concoctions in the kitchen; of laughs and screams and wine bottles slammed against the glass table; of kisses exchanged in blurry moments; of conversations that felt like nothing but meant everything.

It lies silent now.

In a few days, this apartment will become someone else's home. It will bear the character of someone else's life; of someone else's hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

It will forget the memory of the people who once lived here.

But I will never forget. It will always remain in my memory as it once was, in the four months I called it home.

24 June 2006


Hello, Toronto.

This is Sheila.

Signing off.

23 June 2006


I woke up with a start.

Then I remembered today was my last full day here, and I felt my heart sinking again. I hate having to wake up every day feeling like this; yet the thought that I will no longer have to feel this soon does not bring any relief.

Today, I will ride the subway to Sheppard and back one last time. I will look at those subway stops we pass and wonder why each stop looked the way it was, and realize my question will never be answered. I will go to the office, attempt to work, grab some lunch at Sheppard Centre, and pack up my things for the last time.

Tonight, I will walk around Toronto for the last time. I will walk down Yonge Street looking into the colorful store windows one last time. I will walk around Queen Street West, which I have come to know as my village, one last time. I will sit by Nathan Phillips Square and allow the place to calm me one last time.

Then, I will go home and watch the street from my bedroom windows.

I will try not to sleep. If I don't, maybe tomorrow will never come.


Sometimes, I wonder how my life would have gone had I decided not to go on this trip. A few months back, I almost gave this up, but for some reason even I could not understand then, I chose this.

I understand now.

I was supposed to do this.


In ten years, I promise to return to Toronto.

A lot can happen in ten years. Who knows? Maybe I would be living in Toronto by then. But, if not, I promise to return here, so I can remember who I once was.

And, maybe in ten years, I will understand why this happened. Maybe my future self would be able to tell me now, "See? That wasn't so bad, was it? Now, do you understand why you still had to leave?"

In time.

22 June 2006


7 am. The early morning sun reflects on the cars and the buildings of downtown Toronto, sparkling as the rays hit the shiny surfaces.

I watch all this from my room. It is cold and dim and cozy inside, and I feel like snuggling back under the covers.

I am still sinking.


I wish someone from the future would come back here and tell me what lies ahead.

Tell me everything will be okay. Tell me I will be okay.

Because right now I can only see darkness.


And on the last Thursday of my last week in Toronto, we hold our final meeting for the project that brought me here. It was the last time I would work with some people on the team.

Everyone is saying goodbye.


Someone placed a flyer on my desk today. At the top, it read: What are you doing this weekend?

I am leaving Toronto.

I am flying to New York, but strangely, I cannot muster an ounce of excitement. All I can think about is leaving.

Damn, damn, damn. Deep breaths to keep the panic from rising.


At lunchtime, the tears threaten to well up, so I got up and walked out of the office. I ended up on a swing at Avondale Park, near the area where I spent the first two weeks of this trip. I still remember that day clearly. The world was whirling in the blustery winds.

This was where it all started, perhaps this is where it has to end.


Just when the catterpillar thought her life had ended, she became a butterfly.

I wish I was a catterpillar.


If there is one word to sum up my Torontonian experience, it is this:


Teehee. Seriously, most of the sightseeing I've done here in Toronto has taken place in restaurants, pubs, and eateries across the city. Toronto has a very diverse community, and it's evident in the endless array of cuisines to try. I found myself checking off a long list of places to dine in, from those recommended in my trusty Ulysses guidebook, to those reviewed in Eye Weekly & Now Toronto (those free publications you find on street corners), to those sporting a Toronto Life/Cheap Eats/Zagat Rated sticker.

Come to think of it, it shouldn't be called sightseeing, but... tasteseeing? tastetasting? Whatever. Let's just call it good, excellent food.

So, I'm no chef or discerning food critic, but here is a list of some of my favorite places:

Best burgers. The charbroiled burgers at Utopia Cafe (586 College St.) are thick, juicy, and meaty. One of the best burgers I've tried. Believe me -- I starved for an hour just to get a seat here. Roar.

Best cheap eats. If you've got less than $10 and you want a mighty meal -- try the shish taouk at Laila (533 Bloor, near Bathurst). The Korean Grill House (214 Queen St. W) also has an eat-all-you-can night-owl special from 10pm onwards.

Best fine dining. (And best French cuisine, too.) I first tried French cuisine at Sassafraz (100 Cumberland St.), because I was hoping to get the chance to see some movie stars. Alas, I only found a Donald Trump lookalike, but French cuisine has been one of my favorites ever since. I had the duo of seared western veal striploin and veal braised pork belly, with vanilla scented sweet potato and pommery mustard glace. Doesn't it sound absolutely divine? It is.

Best desserts. I like the hazelnut gelati at Bar Italia (582 College St.), the tartufo at Epicure Cafe (512 Queen St. W), the brownie cheesecake at Tequila Bookworm (490 Queen St. W), and the cheesecakes at Future's Bakery & Cafe (483 Bloor St. W, near Spadina). Obviously, I have a sweet tooth. :P

Best grocery item. Okay, so why am I suddenly talking about a grocery? Because I am addicted to Two-Bite Brownies... I've been eating my recommended daily allowance of one bag a day! Teehee. (Sym, now I know why you love these!)

Best service. Our meal at Spiaggia Trattoria (2318 Queen St. E) was truly splendid. The servers were attentive, but non-obtrusive -- they don't hover around you like waiters in some restaurants do. Plus, the owner is so friendly you'll want to come back. (See my previous entry about this restaurant.)

Best ribs. I wouldn't normally cite a restaurant chain as a favorite, simply because I feel like the bigger restaurants don't put as much effort into their meals, but I really like Swiss Chalet's ribs (preferably the one at their King St. W branch). The meat just falls off the bone. Mmmm.

Best ambiance (And best Patio, too). Pear Tree (507 Parliament) has an intimate, artsy-fartsy feel to the place, with splendid jazz music playing in the background. Their garden patio out back is so pretty, you'll wish you went there with a date. ;)

Best chicken fingers. The Voodoo Chicken Fingers at Madison Avenue Pub (14 Madison Ave.). The place is packed with UofT kids (Connor told me this was a frat hangout... so I don't know what we were doing there. :P), and the service is virtually non-existent (including one weird waiter who kept checking out our table)... but chicken fingers are good, nonetheless.

Best coffee shop. I love coffee shops, even if I don't like coffee, simply for the fact that I can sit and watch people and pretend I'm some writer/artist/pained soul working on my next creative endeavour. I have two favorites here: Balzac's Coffee (55 Mill St.) is tucked away on a corner of the Distillery District, giving you a feel of old-world grandeur. Tequila Bookworm (490 Queen St. W), on the other hand, gives you a feel of a bohemian neighbourhood coffee shop, where you can leaf through the books and magazines on their shelves and act like an intellectual. Brilliant.

So, if ever you find your way to Toronto, check out these places, and maybe get me some take-out, too. ;)

21 June 2006


I'm exhausted.

I'm so tired, but I don't sleep at night because I dread the feeling of waking up and knowing that another day has passed.

I feel like I'm sinking.

I came to the realization today, in the middle of a Polish sausage and poutine (the Torontonian equivalent of fishballs and isaw :P), that Nathan Phillips Square was my most favorite spot in Toronto.

I love sitting there, watching people pass me by. The Freedom Arches. The skating rink in the winter. The fountains and birds in the summer. The New City Hall reflecting on the pool. The clocktower of the Old City Hall chiming.

It's where I feel the most like I'm in Toronto.

That this isn't a dream, no matter how surreal it may seem.


She stared out the window as fluorescent lights rushed past her in a blur.

He sat across her, watching her. "What are you so angry about?"

She snaps her head towards him.

Yes, that was it, she thought. She was angry. The red lining of the train's seats reflected in her eyes, a dark, deep crimson that seemed to hold all the fury she felt inside. A jumble of thoughts were running through her head, as fast as the train sped through the dark tunnels.

Finally, she picks one coherent thought out of that jumble, and says it aloud. Not to answer his question, but to hear her own voice.

"Because I always ruin my chances at happiness."

"You deserve happiness. Take the risk. Sometimes, if you don't jump, you'll never find happiness." He pauses, thinking. "It's a choice, you know," he adds quietly.

"I know. And I choose this."

He sits there, absorbing the weight of her words.

The train slows down to a stop.

The familiar ding of the bell as the doors slide open.

He gets up quietly, and walks out of the train without a word.

She watches as he stands on the platform, turns, and watches her through the windows.

She could still call out, run after him if she wanted to.

Ding ding dong. The doors close, and the train jerks into motion again.

She sits there, watching as he disappeared in a blur.

And then she is there on the train, alone again.

Like how it had all started.

...i see you
hiding your face in your hands
flying so you wont land
you think no one understands
no one understands

so you hunch your shoulders and you shake your head
and your throat is aching but you swear
no one hurts you, nothing could be sad
anyway youre not here enough to care
- song for you, alexi murdoch

19 June 2006

paparazzi post


Oh yeah! *does happy dance* Oh yeah!

Ooops, sorry, that was my lesbian side showing.

GM & Cheng, PANIS yung nakikita niyong starlets sa gym! :P

Ooops, sorry again, I just couldn't resist.


Queen Street West was teeming with screaming crowds this evening for the 2006 Much Music Video Awards. I wasn't about to let the opportunity for some star sightings pass me by, so splitting headache and painful left foot aside, I moshed myself into the crowd gathered in front of Chum City. (Besides, we live right next door -- it would be a crime not to join in when there was such a huge party downstairs!)

So, speaking of star sightings, I got a chance to see Nick Lachey, Nelly Furtado (what the hey? she raps now?!?), Rihanna, Tori Spelling, Jesse Metcalfe (that gardener Eva Longoria had an affair with in Desperate Housewives -- so many girls were screaming to take off his shirt!), and of course, Paris! (Ryanboy, I didnt get to see Elisha Cuthbert because she presented on the other stage. Boo!)

Unfortunately, my camera just has 3x zoom, so no paparazzi shots for you guys.

But Paris Hilton-sighting is enough for me.

Oh yeah! *does happy dance again* Oh yeah!

it's so hot here...

that people have started taking showers in fountains to cool off...

look at this kid. he's doing his happy dance!
[yonge-dundas square]

18 June 2006


The words scrawled across this ad at a streetcar stop along College cracked me up:

you're right. why is she orange?

Funny how people are turning themselves orange here when everyone back in the Philippines is trying to bleach themselves Michael Jackson white. Can you believe I cannot find a single whitening product on drugstore shelves here? Don't Canadians get BU (black underarms)?

As for me, I'm gonna love the skin color I have and continue basking in the sun until I'm as dark as Hernie the Nognog. (Hernaaaaaan! Miss na kita!!!!!!)

exhibit a: hernan and his mini-me
(hehe, hindi na halos makita sa camera)

17 June 2006

tasting italy

That busy stretch of College Street called Little Italy was even livelier this weekend, as the neighborhood celebrated the annual Taste of Little Italy. The street was closed from Bathurst to Shaw, the usual traffic replaced by stalls offering food tastings for below $5, street performers playing world music, to traditional Italian choirs, to cool Puma-clad streetdancers showing off some soccer stunts, and pedestrians (including some hotties who were walking around shirtless :P) enjoying the warm summery day.

I got there right in time to see Italy playing the USA in the World Cup, and naturally, patios were overflowing with people watching the game. (Guess who they were rooting for. :P)

Here's the streetdancers I caught at the festival. (Click on this link to get the video.) Coolness.


15 June 2006

union station

is this forever this feeling i got
not enough and too much
so free and so caught up
in something and nothing both at the same time
i'm either out of my head or i'm out of my mind.

when I find out who I am
i'm going to know just what to do
when I pull myself together again
-give myself to you, train

14 June 2006

thoughts on the shore

The lake was still and peaceful, like I had always imagined a lake should be. I sat there on the beach, running my hands through the sand as I watched the water lap gently against the shore.

In the silence, I found myself straining to hear the familiar sound of waves crashing against the shore. Suddenly, I realized that I missed the ocean.

And the Philippines.

If it is true that all the waters of the world will converge at one point, then perhaps these waters had come from home, bringing with it a reminder that there was indeed something I had left behind.

I don’t know why I am here, or what comes next.

But I know this: I am supposed to come back.


Someday, I will find myself sitting somewhere on the shores of the Philippines, watching waves rolling on the shore. Perhaps these same waves will be there then, bringing with them a memory of Toronto. Of a time in my life when I knew peace.

And perhaps one day, like these waters, these two lives will converge, too.