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.

that's hot

While walking down Queen Street West today en route to a tempura fix at Sushi Time, I found Much Music's (Canada's version of MTV) parking lot in a flurry of construction activity.

The good? They're holding the Much Music Video Awards this Sunday night... so I do get to see one of those summer street parties everyone's been telling me about after all!

The better? Much Music is right next to our condo. No need to camp out on the street waiting for the stars to show up -- I can just saunter over in my pambahay and slippers and shout, "Hey, <insert name of movie star here>, I live right next door! Wanna come up for drinks?"

The best? Elisha Cuthbert and Paris Hilton are gonna be there. Yeaaaaaaahhhh! Eat your hearts out, boys! (Sorry, my lesbian sides showing. :P) As I've always said, if I could be anyone for a day, I'd be Paris Hilton.

Oh yeah.

That's hot.

13 June 2006


Four months ago, I left for Toronto unsure of what the next few months would bring. I came with the knowledge that this trip would be different from the rest, but I never expected it to be this different.

I couldn't have possibly imagined how life-altering this experience would be.

I couldn't have possibly known how difficult it would be for me to leave. I thought I would just feel a twinge of sadness, then hop on a plane and everything would be alright again.

But it won't be.

I couldn't have possibly known I would fall head over heels in love.

12 June 2006

woof! woof! bark! bark! bark!

Or, as a Pinoy dog would say, "Aw! Aw!"


The St. Lawrence Market neighborhood was filled with shoppers today, of both the two-legged and four-legged varieties. It was the annual Woofstock Festival for dogs.

There were dogs of all shapes and sizes shopping at the festival, from the matapakan-mo-lang-patay-na variety to the ano yan, horse?!? giants. Some were even clad in the latest dog fashion -- red booties, straw hats, and sunglasses included. And, for a change, it was the dogs lining up for free food samples -- free doggie ice cream, anyone? These dogs are spoiled! I suppose they'd be horrified if they see the askals back home.

Then, it was off to Queen's Park to check out Ontario's Parliament building and my future school (riiiiiiight), University of Toronto.

I've passed U of T's St. George campus countless times, but it wasn't until I dared to venture into its inner streets (Hart House Circle and King's College Circle), that I realized how picturesque the campus was. Most of the English-style buildings, complete with ivy creeping up their walls, were built in the 19th century -- they look so majestic and unreal (think Hogwarts) that I half expected Harry Potter to come flying out from the corner any minute.

I love the campus so much, I'm actually thinking of pursuing graduate studies here. Never mind if I don't actually know what I want to study. Teehee. Maybe something related to Aeronautical Engineering, because the Engineering building is so pretty, plus I've always wanted to be an astronaut. Oh, and did I mention the low female-to-male ratio in Engineering courses? :P

10 June 2006

somersault in the sand

I live on Queen Street West, which is touted as the hip and alternative part of town given its proximity to Toronto's clubbing scene and fashion district.

A thirty-minute streetcar ride away, marked by the intersection of Queen Street East and Woodbine Ave., are the Beaches.

It's the same street, but the tempo of life couldn't be more different.


kew beach

the historic leuty lifesaving station

from ice cream to infinity

because the night belongs to us

we're not leaving without a bang
[clubbing at distrikt]

08 June 2006

07 June 2006

the light at the end of the tunnel

Forgive me if most of the entries I'll be posting for the next few days are photographs instead of actual essays. I have two weeks left, and I want to spend it living the Toronto dream -- not typing in front of a laptop reminscing about the life that lay outside.

In any case, I've always liked how photographs can tell stories far better than any words I can put together. I've been taking more pictures than usual, trying to capture every little detail of my life here.

So that I will never forget.

the daily commute: the sheppard-yonge subway station

06 June 2006

that's the way it is

yonge street in a blur

You’re walking down the street
You see faces you’ve never seen before
You realize
That most of them you’ll never know
And that’s the way it is

The process of saying good-bye is a long one.

I've been wandering the streets of Toronto aimlessly, without any destination. I walked simply to surround myself with the city, as if assailing my senses with its sights and sounds would somehow make this moment last forever.

Each place I pass, and each thing I do, almost breaks my heart with the knowledge that in two weeks I will never do this again. Even the everyday task of running down the subway steps feels heavy, because I know that once I reach the bottom of the stairs, another minute will have passed. Another minute of this experience gone by.

Another minute towards the end.

If it's possible for my heart to crumble into pieces at the amount of sadness I feel, it would probably be fine dust right now. Until now, I never knew it was possible to feel this much sadness. Every time the reality of leaving hits me, I feel like bawling and begging the heavens to freeze time.

The funny thing is, I don't even understand why it's this hard for me to say goodbye. It's been an extraordinary experience, but there are even more things and more people waiting for me back home. So why do I feel like this is the end?

Maybe Chasky was right in saying that just when I have everything happening the way I want it to be, I'm going to lose control again. I'm going to lose this place. I'm going to lose the people I've grown to love. I'm going to lose the person I was when I was here.


Perhaps that's what makes it so hard. I know that when I say goodbye to this place and these people, it may be forever. The finality of it cuts sharp and deep.

But forever is a strong word, you say.

If not forever, for a long time. Even if I am lucky enough to be able to go back here, I will never regain what I have lost. The place will have changed. I will have changed. And the people who made this experience what it was may no longer be here.

Things will forever be different.

Do you believe
That with just one little smile
This whole world
Has changed a thousand times
Yet in a breeze
This whole world can be gone...
I believe that’s the way it is
--You'll Never Know, Richie Havens

05 June 2006

gone fishing

a grandfather takes his grandchildren out fishing
[grenadier pond,
high park]