Tuesday, February 26, 2013

First Love! (Bokura ga ita)

Bokura Ga Ita ( We Were Here) is another Japanese melodramatic movie about first love. It's based on a manga with the same name which later had an anime adaptation. I have watched this anime in college but stopped at episode 10 out of 26 episodes. At that time, I was really busy with my studies and I thought the progress of the story was just too slow even if the plot was going somewhere. I took a break from it and never re-watched it. Five years later, I came across it again, only this time it has turned into a live action movie.  I got excited so I had to stream the movie right away.

"We Were Here" follows the 10 year romance between Yano Motoharu (Ikuta Toma) & Takahashi Nanami (Yoshitaka Yuriko). During their high school days, Yano Motoharu was the most popular boy in school, but can't get over the death of his girlfriend from a car crash. Takahashi Nanami falls in love with Yano Motoharu and must deal with his inability to let go of the past.

The plot falls into the stereotype where popular boy falls for the ordinary girl. If your sick of this type of films, I suggest you watch this one. The reason behind it is that, even if it falls under that category, it has an endearing quality to it. It feels realistic and somehow, it makes you reminisce  about your first love. For those who have seen the anime or read the manga, you may think the development of the movie just went too fast. But I think that's what usually happens when you turn a book/manga/anime into a movie . We just have to deal with it as long as they don't lose the good parts and they stay true to the main elements of the story. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie. So if you're in the mood for a good high school romantic movie to watch, give this one a try and tell me your opinion about it. By the way it's divided into two parts, links are provided below. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Don't forget to leave comments and suggestions! ;)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Scallops and Mangoes! (Lantaw Native Restaurant)

The gang was in the mood for native cuisine this time. So when Jed's work friends suggested a new dining place, we were up for it, not just for the food but because we heard that this new place has a wonderful view of Cebu.

Ever heard of the floating restaurant in Cordova, Mactan? Well, that's not it. What I mean by "it" is that it's not the floating one but this new dining haven is the product of the previous one's success. Apparently, Lantaw Native Restaurant have expanded business and now they just recently opened one more branch on the hillside of Busay, Cebu City. It was last February 8, 2013 when the Busay Branch first catered to the public.

Lantaw Native Restaurant

We went there for dinner so we had a chance to see how it is during the night. Lantaw is located near the popular Mountain view resort. The restaurant was overlooking the city so we had a spectacular view of the sparkling city lights coming from Cebu itself. When we got there, the place was packed so always remember to call for a reservation ahead if you don't want to be on a waiting list.

Meeting new friends!

It didn't take long before we had a table. The staff was very accommodating even if they were busy for the night. After checking the menu on our hands, we were glad to see that the price was exactly what we've heard before we came. We ordered baked scallops, spicy scallops, grilled pork belly, mangoes with shrimp paste, grilled chicken and Cordova express. 

native filipino cuisine


The food preparation consumed around 15-20 minutes so when the food was served the hunger had set in and we started pigging out right away. This explains the limited decent photos that were taken. The food was delicious. Our taste buds celebrated it's goodness and we had happy tummies after the meal. We billed out and was satisfied with it.

People began finishing their meals too and soon they left. This was the best time for us to capture some photos! Here are some of it:

Cebu City

I bet they had many customers during Vday! The place is romantic!

Group shot taken by "Papa Chen aka Sir chief" look-a-like. It doesn't hurt too that they have good-looking servers. ;)

A little later, they began to clean up the place. Their operating hours starts at 11 a.m. and ends at 11 p.m. It was time for us set out. It was a beautiful night and we had a delicious dinner with an amazing view. This is certainly one of the places we'll keep coming back to. We're also curious on how Lantaw would look during the day, so the next time we'll be going there it would be definitely be for lunch.

Just look at that view! It's even better when you're there.

You no longer have to drive yourself all the way to Cordova to experience Lantaw's native cuisine. Their new location is now closer to the heart of Cebu. It'll only take you a few minutes to reach Busay from JY Square. But I would still recommend you to check out their floating restaurant, the place where it all started. Happy Bellies to everyone!

Don't forget to leave comments and suggestions. ;)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why I watch Downton Abbey!

It hasn't been long since we started this blog. So far our features have been mostly about our island travels, but for this particular day, I will share my thoughts on my latest favorite series. We are like the usual couch potatoes who enjoys the weekend watching movies and seasons of our favorite shows from Korean to British productions. Each class has it's own character and entertainment factor that keeps you hooked up, but nothing compares to the thrill of watching period dramas unfold classic scenes with great attention to fine details.

I am a huge fan of period dramas; be it a movie or a TV series. The idea of having a glimpse of life in the past has always been alluring to my taste. I often feel that I belonged to that world someplace sometime. Although not crazy about it, I do believe in reincarnation and that some of our memories still retain those which came from our past life. Not to be biased or anything, I have a feeling my past self lived in the 1920's.

Currently, I have been feasting my eyes on this lavish English drama series, Downton Abbey, which was set on the post-Edwardian era. I bumped into this series after watching Anna Karenina, a period film set in Russia starring my favorite Brit actress Keira Knightley. I just couldn't get enough dose of petticoats, fabulous hairstyles and scenic sets  so I Googled the net in the hope of finding a similar critically acclaimed production. It wasn't difficult to find Downton as it was on every link that came up with my search. I've heard of it before but never watched it. Well, better late than never.

This show is considered a mini-series with only eight episodes every season running for 50-60 min each. Please, believe me when I say 60 min of watching Downton passes like a blink. You'll never notice how long and how unproductive you are seating in front of your screen breaking every one-last-episode promise, and before you know it, you're done with the season.

This is no ordinary drama, I tell you. It has been highly acclaimed winning numerous awards from the Emmys, Golden Globes and other award-giving bodies in Britain. The story revolves around the lives of the people who live in the country estate named Downton Abbey. This has the classic plot where a rich Lord needs to find an heir by marrying his eldest daughter to a deserving candidate. But that's just not it. The classic tale is made more intriguing in the presence of a century-old entail contained in the estate's will, that only allows a male heir to acquire the family's wealth. It is interesting to note that Lord Grantham is blessed with three daughters, and is now faced with the potential loss of the estate to a distant unknown relative, not because he deserves it, but because he was born a male. The eldest daughter, Lady Mary now struggles to fight the pressure of being forced in a marriage not meant to make her happy, but to keep the family's wealth within their bloodline.

The main meat of the story that keeps the viewers entertained does not lie on the  story and the plot alone. Here are some of the other reasons why you should watch it :

  • The great attention the producers had for the finest details portraying the lifestyle during that time with great precision and accuracy and that includes the fashion as well which was on the spot and fabulous. Corsets are out, loose and empire waist dresses are in. You'll also notice that people use matching hats not only for functionality but because it's part of the proper wardrobe, moreover, proper dressing wasn't a task for the women alone but also for the men. 
Who doesn't like beautifully adorned wide-brimmed hats?

  • The links to historical events are accurately weaved along with the plot as the season opens with the sinking of Titanic in 1912 and gradually finds its way to the dawn of the first world war in 1918. You'll find that these events realistically affect the lives of the great Lords and how most of their major decisions are influenced by their lowly servants. You'll be surprised to find that the maids and footmen have more stories to tell than their masters, and their involvement in major events are indispensable. 

So every ship is "unsinkable" until it sinks.- Lord Grantham
  • It depicts the now forgotten values, ideal of a gentlemen such as chivalry and fine manners. Seeing these values portrayed in character is quite rare in modern-day productions, so one can never help but wish that men with such attributes would come right around the corner once again. 
Oh Matthew! How I wish you exist!.. T.T
  • Maggie Smith, who used to play Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies, spices up the story with her character as the Dowager Countess, adding humor, witty idioms, and fun as she brings the characters to countless awkward circumstances. Her character in Downton will make you forget the fact that she used to be a witch teaching transfiguration in Hogwarts. 
Don't mess with the Dowager! haha

  • Who wouldn't love to hear the sensuality, taste, and feel of the old British accent. In the first few episodes you'll probably need the help of subtitles but eventually you'll find yourself communicating with the characters in the same way. 

I just can't resist the accent!

  • As a lady, it is typical for me to be on the lookout for hot chaps in sophisticated clothing. You'll definitely find a lot of them in Downton, from the foreign guests, to the Admirals, and even the footmen and chauffeurs. This series will surely offer a visual buffet to the rest of ladies out there.
Even with dirt, he still looks hot! hihi

The list could go on, but the main point is, Downton Abbey is rich story-telling at its best. Kudos to Julian Fellows for conceptualizing this, and to the amazing team who brought it to life. If you're a fan of the show like me, I bet you know exactly what I mean. But for those who hasn't catch a glimpse of a single episode yet, I'm encouraging you to give episode 1 a try, continuing to watch the rest of the show will solely be based on your discretion. But one thing is for sure, this series must not be missed in anyone's watch-list. By the way, season 3 has just ended. They just started shooting for season 4. So now, it's time for you to do some catching up. I hope you'll like it as much as I do.

Highclere Castle

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Extravagance from the Cheap Seats

The music industry is still a mystery to a music enthusiast like me. There are endless questions on why this works and why  that doesn't. Well at least if you stop focusing on  billboard charts and Music countdowns, everything is easily understood. A good song will always be enjoyed in one way or another. So let's get to the meat of this post. A lot of artists don't make it to the mainstream Hot 100 list but they make music worthy of appreciation and listening. So let's take a look at Regina Spektor's 2012 album What we Saw from the Cheap Seats.

Regina Spektor

I am not a very critical music fan in terms of notes, melody and accompaniment but I am very much focused on a song or an album's entire impact when those notes start echoing in my earphones. This album exudes a kind of nostalgia that takes you to a dreamy world; that world that is so new to you yet it feels like you've been there somewhere sometime. The real magic that music does lies in the stories it creates in our minds.

Spektor's talents are in full bloom in this new album. It made me realize that not everything you see  from the "Cheap seats" are cheap at all. I am writing this in the hope of getting people to listen to this kind of music that digs deep in the mind. In the midst of the noisy auto-tune songs (which I have nothing against), I hope you'll give it a chance.

The album opens up with a song titled "Small Town Moon" which opens with a piano accompanied by a soft beat that gradually progresses to a an uproar as the lyrics tells you to be younger than you'll ever be. My favorite part of the song that kept me pressing the replay button is a ticklish line just narrating "baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby". It's ticklish to the heart as it sends smiles down my lips. Listen to it  and you'll understand what I mean.

The whole album makes you feel like you are seated on a theater and watching a musical. Sometimes I feel like a broadway actress is singing and acting nearby as the track "Open" plays in the background. Deep lines as " potentially lovely, perpetually human, suspended in open " adds depth to the already compelling melody and arrangement. The song ends with a soft breath and the background fades to a distant lulllaby of an angel fading in the light. That's how I imagined it. Regina ventures into non-conventional musical styles as she tells a story of strength and vulnerability. Open is a top-class ballad that you must not fail to hear.

Tracks like All the Rowboats adds a visual theatrical feel to the album as it takes you to a museum that slowly comes to life. Spektor uses a style in this song that mimics the firing of a Russian roulette using only her lips. The amount of artistry injected in this album in the aspects of ,lyrical composition, musical arrangement, and vocal performance is almost overwhelming.

As theatrical as it sounds the album didn't fail to inject a vintage feel in its arsenal. The third official single released from the Album titled "How" delivers emotions that takes you back to time. It takes you to an era of World War One as a maiden dressed in mournful black, sings her worries beside a piano. It radiates an emotion of wondering and longing for someone you long to see so badly. Emotions are balanced out with songs that tackles undeniable segments of our society in the album's eighth offering, Ballad of a Politician. It opens ideas that you could not help but agree because it exists. It opens with an agreeable narration "a man inside a room is shaking hands with other men. This is how it happens, a carefully laid out plan". Well, don't get m wrong, I have nothing against politicians.

Firewood, is by far the best song in the album. It it is a song of empowerment to those who are physically week. It empowers the spirit of those who are weakened from illness. It was sung with so much conviction but you can still make out the trace of vulnerability in the singer's voice. the song suddenly makes me want to long for a fireplace and bathe in its warmth. The words of this song are so powerful that I would probably listen to it to survive when the doctor tells me I'm dying. Powerful words are carefully carved in a touching melody, "the heart beats on three, just like the waltz and no one can stop you from dancing. Rise from your cold hospital bed and tell you you're not dying. Everyone knows you're going to live, so you might as well start trying." At the end of the song it justifies its point "Everyone knows it's going to hurt, but at least we get hurt trying." Feel free to hit the play button below.

The other songs adds matter to the album's already rich artistry. Oh Marcello is a fun track that places Regina in character with the album. You'll find the diversity of her voice is limitless in this track. The album ends with a country-feel song Jessica. It fools you at first that it's a happy song, then you slowly figure out that the lyric "Jessica please wake up, it's February again, it's time to grow older" tells you that the character in the song has not moved on from  loved one's death, so every February she begs her to wake up and grow older. The change of emotions that you'll feel while listening to this song is amazing.

By far, the album is doing great. The only thing that disappointed me is it was short and appeared unfinished. Nevertheless these tracks I recommend will surely change the way you define literary value in Music. So get a rest from the Rihanna dominated charts and give this album chance.

Ramen and Chopsticks! (Mifune Japanese Food and Bar)

I love Japanese food! Living in Cebu City has given me a variety of places to explore the Japanese cuisine. So when I went home to Dumaguete City for a week, my gustatory system was already begging to be satisfied with Japanese goodness. In Dumaguete, there aren't many Japanese-inspired restaurants yet. I believe there are only two of them that I am aware of, Wakagi and Mifune. Oh yeah! I almost forgot about the the Japanese food chain Rai Rai Ken in the mall. I've always wanted to visit one of them. I knew that Mifune has only open not long ago. I've encouraged friends to go there but we were always distracted by some other things that we ended up going somewhere else. I actually had some friends who have been there without me. This made me want to go there myself. So last Valentine's Day, I went there with a friend. I was so  excited, only to  be disappointed. Not because I didn't like their food, we didn't even get to that part, but because we needed reservations and apparently it was already full. Oh well, I'm just glad that people from my hometown are already embracing  Japanese cooking. I'm hoping this would lead to more Japanese restaurants in the city.

So anyway, I didn't give up. I went back there with a friend on the weekend after Vday. Finally, we were entertained. Yey! Well, at that time no other customers were present. We had the place to ourselves. So the place was empty and it's my first time there. I had a good look on the how the place looks. It was alright, there was a little bit of a Japanese feel although the chairs didn't exactly exude the right ambiance I was looking for.

But we came there for the food so after one of the waitress handed the menu, I browsed their food and the corresponding prices right away. Surprisingly, it was easier in the pocket than I expected and they had a wide variety of dishes in their menu. We ordered three dishes. While waiting, they served an appetizer on our table. It tasted like coleslaw or maybe it was coleslaw.

Our first food was California Maki. I always order one of the basics. That's usually how I gauge whether most of the food in a Japanese restaurant will taste depending on their most basic sushi dish. Although this logic isn't applicable always, it works most of the time for me.

california maki

The presentation was pleasing and once I tasted one I was already hooked. What I like about their California Maki is that they used sesame seeds in the roll instead of the usual fish eggs. The roll was of generous size as well. We were almost full and we still had two dishes left. 

So the second dish was Ramen. It wasn't a cold rainy day unlike the day I'm writing this entry when we went there. But I wanted to taste one of their ramen dishes so we chose one among the many. They had  a variety but we tried their Chashu /Chiasu Ramen. Our verdict for their ramen was decided right away. It was not bad at all in other words, it was delicious, especially perfect for the cold weather. 


Unfortunately, we failed to take an image of the last dish we ordered. So let me just describe it you so that you can create the image yourself. It's a popular rice bowl dish also known as Donburi.  Ingredients such as meat, vegetables and eggs are simmered together on top of the rice and is place in a bowl. The Donburi we ate was I believe the Tempura Donburi, beaten egg and shrimp tempura along with a sweet sauce was mixed together over the warm rice. It sounds palatable, right? Well, because indeed, it was very palatable! So far so good, we ended up having a satisfying meal. I can't wait to try the rest of the food in their menu. This is definitely a place I'll come back to more often. 

So if you happen to be from Dumaguete or just a visitor in the city whose craving for Japanese cuisine, I recommend you to check out this place, Mifune Japanese Food and Bar. Don't limit yourself to the usual food chains you're used to, allow your taste buds to try something new. Who knows maybe one of these Japanese food might rank first on your favorite food list. 

Location: Sta. Catalina St. , Dumaguete City (only a short walk from the Boulevard and Lee Super Plaza)

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Coconuts and Bananas! (Mactan Island)

Our weekend adventure this time is a little bit closer to the heart of Cebu. Only a few kilometers away and still part of the Cebu province. The beaches are great so you can count on a number of resorts in the island. Yes, it's Mactan Island where the first Filipino hero Lapu-Lapu once reigned. The island was famous for the epic battle that once transpired there a long long time ago, wherein an also famous Portuguese explorer was defeated along with other Spanish soldiers.

Pado resort
Pado Resort!!! Entrance =P100

Enough about the short history lesson, let's get right back to business.So there was another opportunity for the gang to visit the island. Jed's teammates were going there for some group outing. He invited us and we agreed to tag along. We weren't staying for the night because, we can go home right away if we like to.  They had the outing planned in Pado Resort. The resort was alright, nothing fancy if that's what you expect. It was a bit secluded so you can get enough privacy. The place was more suited for diving, jet skiing, etc. Once there, we saw a lot of Korean tourists on a diving lesson with a couple of diver staffs from the resort. Although, it was so inviting to join them, we didn't because that was not what we came there for.

Pado resort

In this outing, we also brought a another close friend of ours who was only visiting for a job training. He is very well known as Ramz  and we were glad that to have him in spite of his busy schedule. Right Ramz?

Say hi to Ramz!

That's us figuring out what to do first on that beautiful day.

We wasted no time and soon enough we were on our snorkeling gears. It was our first time to do this kind of things with the exception of Jed,who did this during his trip to Malapascua island and Ramz,who basically had the sea for a backyard in his hometown in Neg. Or. It was a good thing that we have along good swimmers because Azi and I aren't exactly the best swimmers out there.

Life jackets to save us from drowning since Azi and I aren't too confident with the water especially  with the current.

Snorkeling Set with Life Jacket Rent = P200

Eager much?

It wasn't the best snorkeling spot either but being first timers, we were very excited when we saw a school of fish and a huge starfish. There was also a mild panic when Azi swore she spotted a jellyfish. Don't worry, nobody got stung or hurt in any way. We were not expecting an underwater paradise but this was a good start, we were saving one of the best diving and snorkeling spots on our April trip to Apo Island. We're looking forward to that and hopefully by then somebody would have purchase an underwater camera.

Lunch was served soon, thanks to Jed's workmates. The "kinilaw" was really good! So after brunch, we were off to our next activity there, which was the highlight of the day. We were to ride the banana boat! Hurray! Why so excited you ask? Again, this was our first time to indulge in this water sledding activity. Here are some "Before Banana Boat Ride" photos:

Pado resort
A fail attempt for a group shot.. tsk. Only Jed was on cue. Haha

Heading towards the Banana

Kuya giving us instructions in case the Banana will tumble: just let go!

Ready and  uncertain to what awaits during the ride... only hoping no one would fall from the Banana.

No photos were taken during the ride but I do hope maybe next time we can take some snapshots if it's not too dangerous. Well, now that I think of it, it would to take a lot of guts to get a self capture during the ride. We were sledding so fast, I thought the banana would tumble over. Thank God it didn't. We were shouting until we decided it was foolish to shout throughout the ride. The thrill was amazing and as we got far from the shore the waves got a little bigger so it was sort of a bumpy ride. We also saw other resorts alongside the beach including the famous Plantation Bay Resort. It was the most exhilarating 30-min ride I had.. ever. I bet it was the same for my friends too. Check out our "After Banana Boat Ride" pics:

By the way, Jed fell off during the ride.  We forgot to go get him back! 

Kidding!! Jed's actually the one taking the pictures. Or is he? Hahaha. Those are some of his workmates.

Azi wanting more Banana! Banana ride was P300/person.

Next on the agenda: Jet skiing!

Well.. more of Jet ski posing.. still too expensive for pocket.

After the banana boat ride, we went to explore the resort a bit. We found out that there were sharks in the perimeter, baby sharks for that matter. But still, seriously, SHARKS?!? Hey, we were snorkeling the beach awhile ago, those creatures aren't exactly hard to miss. But there was no need to fret. The baby sharks were actually enclosed in a lagoon in the resort so it was very safe. I'm not sure whether they are the killer ones. We failed to ask what type of shark they were. I wonder what they'll do to them once they got bigger. We only saw three of them at first but when we tossed food, the other two joined the feast.

Hello Babies! Baby Shark tat..da..ta..ra...ra

My favorite part of the resort was the boardwalk. I have a thing for boardwalks so when we discovered that they had one, I was so happy. It was located at the resort's bar and resto. We had to take loads of pictures there.

Hello coconut tree!

Mactan Island

Hangul on stairs.. I wonder what it means. Gosh, I need to get back in learning Korean.

The bar and resto.. and Ramz..

The beautiful boardwalk!! >.<


Can someone translate please?..  I have a hunch it means -- no jumping from here.

Let's emote!

There's a bridge here but it destroyed. Currently under construction.


The  few hours we had at the resort soon ended. Ramz still had to go to a birthday party. It was a short day trip to Mactan Island but one very memorable. It wasn't as exhausting as our previous trip. Half an  hour later, we were back at our pad. So if you're thinking of mini getaway from the hustle and bustle of Cebu City, the closest to sand and sun you can get is Mactan Island, a place where you can choose from a number of resorts. If you're from Luzon or from out of the country, this island is where you can also find Mactan International Airport so it's quite convenient for tourists. So look no further, visit Mactan Island now and have fun.

We welcome suggestions so please comment down below. ;)