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.)

Chasing sushis and balloon

Just this afternoon, I finally finished another monthly task that I’ve been doing for more than half a year already – family expenses accounting. After learning how to do it from a personal financial planning training, I’ve never ignored a single receipt and have always tried my best to account each expense somewhere around the end of each month – some month’s result were shocking, some were fulfilling, while others (if not most) were challenging. July however was somewhat amusing.

As much as I now value more each penny we’ve got, I still believe that there are things that need to be discovered and that holding back from doing so might come as a regret later. And as much as I’d like to be as thrifty as possible, sometimes the call to experience things is just hard to hold back – like eating conveyorized sushi and buying the first ever balloon.

Last week, after months of eyeing this Japanese resto in the SM’s Mall of Asia, we arrived at the mall just in time for Sakae Sushi’s buffet meal – 2pm. The juice and biscuits we ate for lunch (somewhere nearby) were just enough to keep us full during the drive and well enough to keep us excited about the thought of chasing sushis as it pass by our table.

It is fast...

It is fast...

...but were faster - our emptied plates : )

...but we're faster - our emptied plates : )

A couple of plates later, surprisingly or not, I mastered how to spot the perfect sushi caring less if it’s colored yellow, green or red – If it weren’t for the buffet time, each color has its corresponding prize and one has to be picky if he’s dining on a budget. Needless to say, I enjoyed each time even if my wife and I had to take turns between watching our little boy and “ambushing” the sushis. And it’s either we’re that fast or there’s just a few sushi variety available, but it must have just taken less than an hour for us to taste every sushi Sakae can offer. Well, how can I complain, it must be what’s Php 399/pax is worth. Not bad considering that I get to eat in a place where my familiarity with it was once just because of MTV videos or Hollywood movies.

Another first that day, was buying our little boy his balloon. After coming out of Sakae Sushi resto, my wife, having mother instinct was able to easily locate one stall that sells a dizzying selection of floating balloons that our kid was pointing aimlessly (and screaming like one crazy Beatles fan) until he steadied his tiny index finger to a recognizable square yellow figure that even I was suddenly attracted to its bucktooth-smile the moment I saw it. A few seconds of exchanging Php 105 with the seemingly irresistible Sponge Bob, I saw our kid beaming with satisfaction of having his first ever cartoon character balloon.

The selection, the pick, the moments.

Soon, he was running around in one part of the crowded mall as if he’s the only one who has it (but I’m quite sure that one kid somewhere nearby was feeling the same thing). Sponge Bob, though still smiling, got all the abuse from his tiny fan. It was pinched, pulled down, yanked, at one point trampled over and was blamed for a couple of stumbles. And just as his tiny fan decided to bring him home, he somehow was able to cut himself loose.

I was walking ahead of my wife and kid when I heard the desperate call. I knew I froze for a sec when I look back and saw Sponge Bob bobbing up and down the mall’s ceiling. I couldn’t believe smiling down on us is a hundred-peso balloon which immediately reminded of the Filipino nursery rhyme: Ako ay may lobo, lumipad sa langit…sayang ang pera ko, binili ng lobo. Kung pagkain sana, nabusog pa ako.(I had a balloon, it flew to the heavens…it was a waste of my money. If only I could’ve spent it for food…).

So even if I was surprised after diligently typing expense details and to see that we’re “in the greens” , next month, I hope to see improvements in our spending. In fact, I have already told my wife one clear instruction: no more balloons for Marcus. Hopefully, he won’t hate me for this. Ti abi.


ref: lobo lyrics


Mood: 3/10 Honks!

Baby parking

I was browsing through my pictures and saw this. Taken on the day Marcus visited SM Mall Of Asia for the first time. “He” parked his stroller here. It’s funny that the parking sensor indicator turned red. If there’s any mall that’s baby-friendly, this is it. *LOL*



(originally posted on my blogger site)

A Week of Interviews (Part 1)


I’ve said it several times either to myself or to someone – 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 waited 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 of which probably enjoying at least a couple of Christmassy tunes in the process.

In spite of having lost track of my activities, the freshest memory that still lingers in my mind is 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 having 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 nicely presented (lovely shape and plate decoration) and were fairly priced. I recommend this place as an alternative to Starbucks.

After satisfying our sweet tooth, we headed to the cinemas just in time to catch the movie Wall-E – this time to feed our craving for comic relief. And 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. Do garbage problem and obesity sounds 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…)





A Gold Fish and An Iron Man

The recent gas price hike didn’t keep us inside our house on a weekend.  It’s not that we’re rich (but I WISH we really are) or never really cared if a liter will cost us around Php 50.00 (>USD 1.00), it’s just that we craved for Indian foods since the start of last week. And Sunday was like a much awaited day and when it finally arrived, we were so raring to go.  In fact, I was so excited that I once again met up with Hana and had my red collared shirt pressed.

Originally we were headed for Bollywood restaurant in Greenbelt 3 Makati. After attending mass however in the Shrine of Jesus church, we decided that maybe the giant Mall of Asia (MOA) will have some Indian foods to offer. And after less than 10 minutes (which most of it was from cueing at the exit and letting some pedestrians pass) of driving from one parking lot to another, we were already inside the mall.

Just like any visit we had in MOA, the mixed feeling of excitement and confusion enters my mind as soon as we came in. The mall is so huge that it has a dizzying effect especially if you don’t exactly have a plan in mind to where your destination may be. Or maybe I’m just not the window shopping expert yet that relaxes at the sight and thought of the numerous stores ahead.

And since it was already lunch time then, we immediately checked the stores locator. Bingo! We spotted an obvious Bollywood replacement . The name itself shouts I’m an Indian food restaurant. The place is Prince of Jaipur. I likewise noted Fish & Co.’s location. I got hungrier with anticipation.

Disappointingly, when we reached our first choice, the place was deserted.  It was as if a police caution tape has been placed around it that only the surrounding restaurants had flocks of patrons whom some are even eating al fresco (by choice or not). For whatever reasons, none were inside Jaipur’s and in the food business the mutual rule, “eat where there is a long queue” is a surefire rule of getting good food. Although my wife and I are the type who willingly try any food around, the emptiness inside the Indian restaurant on a lunch time is not a good sign. Maybe our second choice is good.

Fish & Co.’s place was enticing. Once we got inside the restaurant, the smell of the place tells me, this one is a hit. The place is almost packed and by the look at the tables, it looks like everyone is enjoying their meal. Happy customers mean good food. And just as we got seated the menu was promptly laid in front of us. And that’s when I smell something fishy when I glanced on the price list. But since my mind was conditioned to have anything Indian, the word curry convinced me to order the Seafood curry. My wife picked the Prawn Fettuccini.  


Gladly, the foods were served in no time. The presentation was just like in the menu book. So far my two senses – smell and sight – agree that I got the right stuff. But just as the two are feasting on what’s on the table, my taste buds tell me that I’ve been robbed. So as not to be judgmental on the first bite, I kept on eating. I even tried if my wife got better pasta than she ever had. Unfortunately, the ummmhs and the ahhhs never came. Both foods didn’t deserve a round of applause. And by the way, the clam chowder is a shame compared to Don Henrico’s (theirs is the best so far). We’ve been robbed indeed. I can’t say, “Curry $14, Pasta $10, having Sunday lunch at Fish & Co. priceless”. This commercial tagline just doesn’t fit in.  The food is overpriced, period.

Next time, we’re eyeing MOA’s Sakae Sushi. Doesn’t buffet ring a bell?





Good thing we got our ticket for the 1:20 PM showing of the Iron Man at Centerstage – at least we got a reason to scram out of Fish & Co. (and I’m never buying anything from there, if you ask me).

As I’m never an avid reader of marvel comics, I’m just going to give my pros and cons of this movie just the way I see it.


·         I dozed off at the first part of the movie…errr, this must be in Cons.

·         Setting aside Mythbusters , I find the effects such as the transformation and Iron Man’s flight great (I’m a sucker for anything that flies – except flies).  We never knew if such technology will someday come to reality and to quote “it’s all funded by the military”. Amen.

·         The sound effects are overwhelming. Hearing the Jericho blast out of the missile pod made me smile. The sonic boom Iron Man created is just as remarkable.

·         Gadget’s and cars galore!

·         The humor lines are perfectly delivered.


·         Story is a bit dragging at first plus the fact that someone invited something sophisticated inside the cave is just lame.

·         Surgery and implants inside a crude environment – cave. I just wonder if anyone will survive for days. I could be wrong though, I’m no medical expert.

·         Stupid villains are a thing of the past. And by the way, somewhere in the Middle East, an anti-Iron Man movie sentiments is brewing, I’m sure.

·         Gwyneth Paltrow’s character is pathetic…hmmm, must be the talent fee that convinced her to still do it.

Overall, this movie is great if watched with a couple of friends over a bottle of beer (paging cinema owners) just to kill time. And remember, always forget about the Mythbusters prior to watching the movie.


Photo credits:

Fish & Co website

Iron Man – Yahoo movie site

Amazing Pampanga…

They say that watching TV has its subliminal effect.  I may have to agree this time as what we’ve done a day after the Balloon fest is somewhat similar to the recently concluded Amazing Race Asia Season 2. No, there’s no running involved, no Henry-Trinidad-arguments and definitely no clues nor roadblock to beat. But of course there’s money to be budgeted (I always imagine myself saying, “Money is no issue!” kelan kaya?). I can somehow relate to the show though as my 2-weeks of “re-gym” made me somewhat near Marc Nelson’s six-pack abs. I wish.

Swagman ResortFlashback. Waking up at Swagman hotel still with the after taste of San Mig lights beer and the flavorful chicken curry my wife shared with me during last night’s dinner, we just did some stretch, a shower of course, then we packed our things immediately. We avoided having breakfast at the resort thinking that the breakfast menu is quite stiff.  Instead, we opted for the nearby McDonald’s and had our hearty late morning meal for just more than P100.

Actually, the reason why I’m trying to control our first meal, both budget and volume, is because we’ve been planning on checking out Everybody’s Café. So after Angeles, we were on our way to San Fernando, where the main restaurant is located.  We got the idea of going to this famous Pampanga restaurant from a TV (see, TV again) show which if I’m not mistaken is from the Food Network channel. The host of the show ate frog legs in this resto and that perk up my appetite to try this exotic food.

menwifeyeverybody's cafeWe arrived in San Fernando about an hour later. The city is surprisingly good and looks more developed than I expected. The presence of several major car dealerships reaffirms this observation. A couple of minutes after entering the city and spending a few more time asking for directions we eventually located our objective. To my dismay, it’s not the one that we saw on TV. My wife later mentioned that what we’re expecting is actually in Angeles – it’s their branch store. Ti abi. To save the day, and our grumbling stomach we proceeded still.

From the outside, the place looks just like any old residential house. And with only one SUV parked that day, a newcomer wouldn’t even think that inside is a restaurant if not for the large sign just at the right of the entrance. But just after stepping inside, the sight of the food display gave me a hint that we are in the right place. At this point I was already starting to check every food tray for something looking weird, with long legs and webbed feet, and that resembles those we see in ponds – frogs. Unfortunately, there were none. Good thing the old lady at the counter sensed my craving for kapampangan delicacies. She politely offered buro with mustard leaves, fried hito (catfish) and of course to my delight,  fried camaro (crickets).  We also ordered Tapang Kalabaw – this became my instant favorite since I had one in SM Clark’s Cabalen.

tapang kalabaw  Tapang Kalabaw    

 camaro Camaro!

Once the foods were served, I was a bit surprised that there was little hesitation (esp. from my wife) to dig the foods in front of us. The camaro tasted just like small shrimps if not for the hollow stomach and dark brown color that reminds you otherwise. And the buro and mustard leaf combination reminded me of my late lola’s preparation when taking the nganga (leaves and lime chewed usually by elders). Overall, we enjoyed the weird lunch. Burp. Spent: P500+

cricket look Too much cricket!

sleepy malls







Upon finishing our kapampangan meal we still had time to check out San Fernando’s malls which we unintentionally discovered when we took the wrong turn while looking for the resto. So with full stomach we find window shopping a good way to burn calories – I’m still wondering if how much calories did the fried crickets deposited in me. I observed that unlike the malls in Manila and Cavite, Robinson Starmills and SM San Fernando are a bit deserted (and sleepy) when we came in.  So after grabbing some items, we decided it’s time we head back to Manila. Spent: P1000+

It was just around 1:30PM when we left San Fernando. Traffic at NLEX was smooth and we only got stuck starting in Cubao and the area before Ayala. We realize we still had time to kill; To the delight of my wife, I agree to drop by Glorietta Center in Makati. And besides, our car badly needs a wash.

Inside the mall, the temporary stalls located at one part of the mall reminded us that a renovation is still on-going to repair the site affected by the December 07 blast. Suddenly I felt like going back outside. However, that feeling was soon forgotten once we got in Glorietta 4. And as if to continue my quest for local foods I decided to take my snack from Taco Ilocano – Ilocano style empanada. My wife got something different too.  Right after the calorie pile-up, we went to watch the movie “The Eye” in one of G4’s cinema. It’s been quite some time since we last watched a film in this mall. Spent: P1500+

By around 6pm we were already on our way back home. And then the thickening traffic flow gave us another reason to make our final stop – we dropped by SM Mall of Asia (MOA).

Once we got out of the elevator from the parking lot, all the food we took a couple of hours ago seemed to just disappear out of our bellies – we are hungry once more. So we combed the area and found ourselves facing the Manila bay at the rear portion of the mall. And there in front of us we saw that something new has been recently built in that vicinity – SM by the Bay.

We excitedly crossed the bridge to check the area; and it was as if all of a sudden we were transported into another place. We kept on reminding ourselves that we are still in the Philippines. Whoever thought of doing this place deserves more than just a pat at the back. It was packed with people, it is clean, it’s enticing, romantic and more importantly, the choice of places to eat is overwhelming.  Almost an hour later of picking which is which, we eventually settled in Aling Tonya’s restaurant. We ordered calamares, sinigang na isda and of course, last but never the least, San Mig lights beer. What a wonderful way to cap the Balloonfest. Spent: P800+.

There goes another trip with my lovely wife, another well deserved outing for the two of us. Until the next road trip, and good food to deal with. And by the way, I need another set of coin banks.