Friday, July 24, 2015

Uber x Merry Moo = #UberIceCream

I've had nothing but good experiences with Uber so far, and as it turns out, it's not just your ride for the day the app can bring to wherever you are, but ice cream too!

From 12 to 6 in the afternoon today (yes, the promo's still ongoing), you can log on to Uber, select "Ice Cream" from the usual ride options (that sliding bar at the bottom), and have Merry Moo's best-selling Sea Salt Caramel ice cream delivered to your doorstep.

The steps are simple but getting a hit requires patience. It took me 50 minutes of seeing that "NO ICE CREAM AVAILABLE" balloon (which I took as the universe's way of saying "STOP STUFFING YOUR FACE WITH FOOD ALREADY!") before I finally connected with PJay, an #UberIceCream guy. PJay met me outside our office building, gave me my Merry Moo ice cream, pulled out a white Uber cap and two buttons from his backpack to hand to me (freebies), and snapped a photo of me ("for personal use," he said after I asked if I was going to see my photo anywhere online, which must mean he's keeping a record of everyone he's delivered to...I hope).

Uber limited-edition freebies.

As of the moment, you can get Merry Moo only at SM Aura Premier, SM City North EDSA, SM Megamall, Salcedo Saturday Market, Legazpi Sunday Market and Mercato Centrale. Their artisan ice cream attracts long lines, and for good reason because each spoonful of ice cream is rich, delicious and not overly sweet. So P199 for a pint via Uber is a steal, considering the original price is P320, and you get to skip the lines. Unfortunately, Sea Salt Caramel is the only flavor available for the #UberIceCream promo and you can order just one pint per app, so if you're like me, you'll convince your Uber-using friends to stay glued to their Uber screens to catch that elusive "Set Pick-up Location" balloon for the ice cream...if they aren't already on the lookout for it themselves.

Don't let this stop you.

The promo is only open to Makati, The Fort, Ortigas, Greenhills and Eastwood. Less than an hour to go for the promo! Don't give up on it now!

"You want me."

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

I Love You. Thank You.

I dislike most local films but delight in the fact that once in a while, after the release of the nth Shake, Rattle and Roll, Wattpad novel adaptation and kabit-themed flick, the masses get treated to a quality film or two that we as Filipinos can be proud of. Most of the time they're independent productions developed and promoted by film festivals like the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival. This year, such indie films are featured in the Filipino New Cinema category of the first-ever World Premieres Film Festival, and one of them is the Charliebebs Gohetia-written and -directed movie titled I Love You. Thank You.

The movie begins beautifully, with Joross Gamboa roaming the streets of Bangkok, taking pictures of the sights as he goes. In the background, Edgar Allan Guzman's slower, softer rendition of Silent Sanctuary's "Sa'Yo" immediately tugs at the viewer's heartstrings and sets the tone of the movie. This is going to be emotional. The title, after all, is I Love You. Thank You, and few things are more heart-wrenching than a love that isn't returned.

But is it really a matter of unrequited love, or is there, to a small degree, an exchange of it, only not in equal proportions? Or maybe it's a matter of timing. You get to ponder on these things a lot as the story progresses. Joross Gamboa's character Paul has feelings for Red (Prince Stefan) but Red is in a long-term relationship with Paul's best friend Ivan (CJ Reyes). Red is pretty serious about Ivan, preparing surprises for his birthday and their upcoming fourth anniversary, but Ivan isn't as invested in the relationship as Red is...or at least not anymore. While still very much in love with Red, Paul sojourns to Siem Reap where he meets Tang (Thai actor Ae Pattawan) who has already become besotted with him even before they've officially met. Eventually, back in Bangkok, Paul gets the opportunity to be with his love interest but not before he has already said yes to taking chances with Tang.

Tang (Ae Pattawan) and Paul (Joross Gamboa) biking around Siem Reap.

Joross Gamboa has done gay roles before but it just might be in I Love You. Thank You. where he shines best. He doesn't need to do drag or take off his shirt to reveal a gym-going closeted gay guy's physique, because he isn't playing any gay stereotype. He's playing a gay man in love. The inflections, gay lingo and gesticulations are merely supporting details to his character. He switches with ease from being effeminate to slightly more masculine depending on the situation, sans the redundant waxing-poetic that the other leads seem to need to make sure we sympathize with them. I couldn't fully sympathize with Red being heartbroken over Ivan even after he (spoiler alert!) tries to take his own life by slashing his wrist. And despite Tang's habit of jotting down his sentiments on a journal, I still couldn't wrap my head around how he is supposedly a writer, much less a porn writer by profession. But when Paul stares longingly at Red without saying anything, I feel the weight of Paul's pain and believe he is truly, madly, deeply in love with him. Joross is that convincing.

143TY, as the film's title is stylized on social media sites, is a gay film that doesn't bank on steamy scenes to lure in members of the gay community. It's a story about love and heartbreak that anyone, gay and straight alike, can relate to, with the added bonus of four attractive male actors playing the lead characters in beautiful locations such as the streets of Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh and the temples of Siem Reap. You wouldn't believe it's a low-budget movie because it's an achievement in guerrilla filmmaking, and it's in independent films such as this where we may find that perhaps there's hope for Philippine cinema yet.

Though the other entries under the World Premieres Film Festival's Filipino New Cinema category will still be screened in SM Cinemas until July 27, I Love You. Thank You. will have one last screening on July 17 (Friday), 8 PM at UP Cine Adarna. Catch it then because you might not get another chance.


UPDATE (from the movie's Facebook page): 143TY will have a UPLB screening this September. More details to follow.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Another reason to put off driving lessons

I know very little about driving and traffic regulations, because I neither own a car nor know how to drive. But I know when someone's being an asshole on the road simply because they can.

It was around 11 last Friday night and my friends and I had just come from Mad Mark's in Kapitolyo. We were passing through Lanuza Ave. on our way to Manggahan and were only a few meters away from E. Rodriguez Ave. when we came across a gray Mercedes Benz headed straight in our direction. Lanuza Ave.'s two lanes had become three that night, with two exiting to E. Rodriguez, and we had been in the middle lane for quite a ways already so naturally there was a long trail of cars behind us. The Benz had only entered Lanuza with not even one car following him, because anyone approaching him from behind could see the opening to their right (our left) and just take it. Whether it was to protest the existence of a third lane or defend his supposed route going opposite us, the Benz stayed in its place facing us, leaving no space for us to maneuver out of our spot.

You can see how the Benz could easily just back up and take the opening to its right.

The Mercedes Benz's windows were not tinted so we could see the driver clearly despite the drizzle. He had short hair, a fair complexion and bespectacled Chinese eyes. When he got out of the car to take a photo of my friend Jam's car on his iPhone, we noticed how tall and portly he was. He was wearing a white golf shirt that had "Sonex" printed on it. He had time to waste, and he showed it by feigning drowsiness and pretending to nap for several seconds. The few cabs and private cars that passed us by and eyed him were met with a confident "the-nerve-of-these-kids-they-made-a-mistake-and-should-be-taught-a-lesson" raise of his eyebrows and cock of his head. The only mistake I knew we had made was being at the wrong place at the wrong time. And maybe not having a Taser handy.

We were all hesitant to get out of the car to confront the Benz driver or even check his license plate which was hidden from our view. Trapped as we were and there being no traffic enforcers nearby, even at the security outpost a few meters to our left, we only had one thing we could do: call the police. Jam did so and despite not being able to provide the Benz's license plate number, the police agreed to send a patrol vehicle to our location. One green light later, Jam got a call back from them, urging us to take a quick peek at the Benz's license plate, but we knew better than to make a move which may be interpreted by a possibly deranged person as an act of aggression.

The police told us to stay put and while waiting we devised theories as to what the Benz driver's deal could be. The most logical was that he simply wanted to prove a point, not caring if he inconvenienced a lot of motorists in the process. We also thought he might have gotten drunk or high after squandering his inheritance at the casino, or he could have gotten fired from his job or dumped by his girlfriend and he was merely projecting his anger at us. The whole situation could have been a new criminal MO, the Benz driver in cahoots with the driver of the car behind us, though we quickly dismissed that theory after noticing the white van behind us back up and overtake us on our left. The next car in line didn't follow its lead, unfortunately, so we were still trapped.

FER818, with an MD emblem. You give Benz-driving doctors a bad name.

Several more theories and green lights later, we finally had enough space at the rear to back up and move past the Benz, allowing us a look at its license plate. The Benz didn't advance to prevent us from going anywhere, as we had feared, but it found its next victim in the car immediately behind us. At this point, Jam placed a follow-up call to the police who encouraged us to file a report against the Benz driver now that we had his license plate number. She passed the phone to Niña who was basically told that that call meant zilch, and that to make a formal complaint we still had to go to the Pasig police precinct. We gave up on that plan of action and decided to investigate the identity of the Benz driver on our own (sleuthing still in progress).

A story had just gone viral also last Friday about how an Atenean doctor, whose name on Facebook is Jay Bee, had gotten a P200 discount from Jollibee by intentionally delaying the arrival of the delivery guy to his place. I remembered the MD emblem above the Benz's license plate and decided to check if both doctors are one and the same person. Sadly, they are not. I found something else on the Jay Bee guy's Facebook timeline, though, that made me cringe even more.

The Atenean doctor seems to be reveling in the 15 seconds of fame Filipino netizens are giving him by circulating his Facebook post and its comments online. As of this writing, he has updated his Facebook timeline thrice, expressing his hopes to be featured by Ellen Degeneres on her show, thanking his "fans" and "bashers" and inviting them to meet with him in person, even quoting a message from a supposed friend who says they understand Jay Bee because they have known him for his "kamalditahan" (bitchiness) all along. To top it off, all three posts have a photo of him giving the reader the dirty finger. Part of me is hoping that this is all just a social experiment, but if this guy is real, he deserves to be in the hole he doesn't seem to want to stop digging.



UPDATE: Got the feeling that the Jay Bee guy couldn't possibly be a medical professional, from Ateneo or otherwise, by his Facebook photos and posts. And apparently, he's a professional swindler, not a doctor.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Go mad for sausages at Mad Mustard

If we were, say, in New York City, there would be a hotdog stand or a food truck serving grilled sausages at almost every street corner. But this is Manila. I live in Pasig, specifically, and aside from 7-Eleven and perhaps the ubiquitous Angel's Burger (which, despite their kiosks' questionable sanitary conditions, serves a mean Hungarian sausage sandwich for just a little over P70), there are very few places one can easily get good sausages at for a reasonable price. Lucky for Marikeños and those living/working nearby, there's Mad Mustard, a recently-opened hotdogs and fries joint located near what is quickly becoming the next foodie haven, Lilac Street.

What I ordered when I went to Mad Mustard with my friends: all-meat sausage (add-on: bacon), fries and moringa (malunggay) juice

Mad Mustard serves many different kinds of tasty sausages at very affordable prices, from their most basic offering, the All-Meat Sausage (P98) to their most expensive, such as Bratwurst, Kolbaz (or Kolbasz), Kielbasa and Italian Fennel (all P160). They also have other unique sausages like Beer Sausage and Chorizo de Cataluna (both P150). You get your order in a hotdog bun, with a smattering of ketchup, mayo and, naturally, mustard on top, plus a spoonful of pickle relish (they pile 'em all on by default, so tell your waiter if you don't want any). You can customize your sandwich with add-ons such as Swiss cheese, jalapeño, caramelized onions, sauerkraut and bacon (P20 to P30 per add-on). No need to worry about overdoing it because they give you plastic gloves to eat with, in case you make a mess. You can even make your order a combo for an additional P50 and they throw in some crispy fries and a cold drink—your choice of either iced tea or moringa citrus, which is surprisingly good considering it is malunggay (but don't take my word for it; you may ask your waiter for a taste of it in a tiny tea cup first).

The place is beautifully painted bright yellow and orange, with sausage cartoons which might make you take pity on your food (not me, I was pretty hungry). If you're with friends and are staying for a while, you can order beer. Mad Mustard carries imported brands like Corona and Stella Artois, and they go really well with sausages. Just don't stay too long or be too loud when you get drunk, because the place seats only about 20 persons, inside and out, and the place can get a bit warm especially when packed.

Mad Mustard Hotdogs & Fries Joint is a stone's throw away from the infamous Lilac Street, at 60 Sapphire Street, SSS Village, Concepcion II, Marikina. Despite having been featured on local TV at least once, the place has no long lines outside and almost no reviews on the Internet (though there is a somewhat disturbing-slash-hilarious search result that links to the Urban Dictionary "mad mustard" entry). Go visit while demand hasn't yet made their prices shoot up.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Jurassic World Megamall IMAX experience

Anyone who was early for the 8:10 PM screening of Jurassic World at SM Megamall's IMAX Cinema last Saturday would remember this Ant-Man trailer moment very clearly:

The trailer had stopped at this exact frame, and at first I thought it was either a glitch or the film projectionist's way of allowing everyone to appreciate the ruggedness of Paul Rudd's face. But then I realized the pause was so the cinema's management team could sort out the seating issue which was then ongoing for those who had booked their tickets online.

Apparently, only three rows in the middle of the theater were dedicated for online reservations, so regardless of your chosen seat number you can only sit in rows G to I. My date's company and I were part of that group, but we got to the cinema early so we still had acceptable center seats. Others weren't as lucky nor were they as forgiving of the seating blunder.

The first commotion we heard, even before the trailers were paused, came from behind us. A newly-arrived woman, a foreigner by the sound of her accent, was arguing with someone already seated. "So what was the point of my booking last June 19 if I couldn't get my reserved seat?" she said with indignation—mistaken with the date, I assume, unless she had come from the future. "We were told these seats are on a 'first come, first served' basis," said the walk-in moviegoer she was addressing. "And we got here first." The foreign woman repeated her argument thrice more, but met with the same response she finally gave up and headed toward a side seat. Several minutes after the trailers were paused, some guys tried to make sarcastic applause catch on inside the theater, successful only the first time out of two attempts. A long silence later, a woman at the back row asked aloud what was going on and if the issue could be resolved quickly because "kawawa naman 'yung mga nakatayo" ("I feel bad for those standing up").

I didn't care much for it then—the break in the trailers allowed me some time to check on my SimCity BuildIt metropolis on my phone—but I was curious so I investigated by trying to book Jurassic World tickets via SM Cinema's website today.

The blue cells are the ones I selected.

The root of the problem seems to be this page that allows one to select any seat in the IMAX Theater when booking a ticket. If row allotment for online reservations was indeed just from G to I, then I shouldn't be allowed to select, say, row M seats, like I did (highlighted blue in the screenshot above). There wasn't even a pop-up message about it when I proceeded to the next page, and nowhere else on the SM Cinema website, not even the FAQs section, does it say only certain rows are allotted for online reservations. I didn't try to go further because that would entail actually paying for the tickets, but if SM Cinema is still allowing their site visitors to reserve any seat in the IMAX Theater only to be told come movie time that their reservations are moot, then I can only imagine how stressful it has been for their managers-on-duty (which might explain why there apparently has been rapid career movement for their theater staff, as my date's friends have noticed since they last came to the Megamall IMAX).

About ten minutes since the Ant-Man trailer was paused back at the cinema, Paul Rudd returned in motion and we all had to wear our 3D glasses again, so the seating issue must have eventually been sorted out, at least for that screening time. As for the film, Jurassic World is visually stunning in 3D and thrilling enough to make us forget about everything that recently happened. I just felt like it was lacking in new dinosaur species to introduce to its audience. Over a decade since Jurassic Park III and all they could add to the roster are the winged Dimorphodon, aquatic Mosasaurus and genetically-modified Indominus rex. As magnificent as those creatures were, however, they paled in comparison to Claire Dearing, the dinosaur theme park's operations manager played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Even in heels she had been wearing for more than a day she can outrun a full-grown Tyrannosaurus rex. That's certainly more impressive than a hybrid dinosaur who can camouflage and evade thermal imaging.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

S&R in Eastwood must mean "Slow & Regrettable"

My first taste of S&R's pizza, courtesy of my friend Jam, was of the garlic and shrimp variant, still delectable despite having spent a couple of hours in her car. That was about a year ago when the closest someone in Eastwood City could get to having a bite of the New York-style pizza was a drive to S&R's Shaw warehouse or their stand-alone joint in Puregold Cubao. But not anymore, thanks to the branch they opened in February at the ground level of Le Grand Tower 2.

I've only visited the newly-opened restaurant twice. The first time was one weeknight in March when Claire treated Cams and me (nakantsyawan) to an entire 18-inch pizza of mixed flavors. Not surprisingly, the lines in front of their counters were long. Probably terrified that the indecisive girls in front of us might become double homicide victims in my hands, Claire suggested that Cams and I go ahead to Cams' place while she queued. We added some churros to our order, because I figured if we were going to wait long for our pizza, then we might as well have dessert too. We left Claire still in line at around 7:45 PM. We got to eat our pizzas and churros, thankfully still hot, at 10.

"They just opened!" you might say. "Give them a break!" We knew we couldn't hope to get a table that night, but we had hoped to at least be able to order in less than 30 minutes. The lines being long was excusable. The excruciatingly slow service was not. Sure, we have what we call a learning curve, but I was patient with them until I noticed that the crew member going around taking orders was not relaying our choices to the kitchen staff. She may have saved a few seconds of our time in front of the register, but customers were waiting longer to claim their pizzas and she could have greatly helped with that by getting our orders across in advance.

I had left this blog entry sitting silently in my drafts since. Until last Saturday, that is, when after many nights of passing by the restaurant post-workout I finally gave in to my pizza craving. It was noon and my date and I were getting two boxes of pizza for our Jurassic Park movie marathon at home (in preparation for Jurassic World). It should have been easy enough. The lines were short and two crew members were assisting the one dude in front of us at order counter 1. Three customers later at counter 2, however, and we were still waiting, because Marielle and the other girl behind counter 1 essentially made us wait with the dude before us to get his pizzas when they could have asked him to do that at the claim counter.

Then came our turn and it was one of those rare instances I thought I couldn't have possibly become peeved when the cashier interrupts me with a question mid-order. Ours was short and simple. "Two boxes. One garlic and shrimp. One pepperoni," I told Marielle. But she and her assistant only got one thing right from what I said. "Two." They thought I was ordering two pizza slices, not boxes, and the flavor she apparently heard was "combo." Peeved I still became.

We got our pizzas ten minutes after their promise of only a twenty-minute wait, without a raffia ribbon tied around the boxes to carry them easily. Lugging them awkwardly, we hailed a cab, hurried home and wolfed a few slices even before we could play Jurassic Park on my laptop. I might have just been famished, because their pizza seemed to taste good only for the first dozen square-cut slices. Or maybe it was umay—there were only two of us, after all, sharing two 18-inch pizzas for all our meals within a span of twenty-four hours. I remember enjoying our pizza and churros from that night in March, though, so maybe it was psychological, the quality of service rendered by the restaurant influencing my perception of the taste.

Bavarian churros. Can't decide if they're better than the cinnamon ones, because both flavors are good.

I've heard of better service at other S&R restos like in Puregold Cubao, but if you can, just go to their actual warehouses to enjoy their pizza (though of course you'd have to be a card-carrying member or bring along someone who is). You can even buy their roast chicken, which I've heard is delicious too. I'm looking forward to trying that soon along with their clam chowder and burger. But not at their Eastwood joint anymore.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Boyhood: life as it happens NOT in an in-between state

In what seems to me to be the best film nominated in this year's Academy Awards (but which sadly won only one Oscar—that for Best Supporting Actress), life is depicted beautifully in twelve years' worth of video footage, and summed up perfectly, in my opinion, in two scenes. The first scene comes two hours into Boyhood, with Mason talking to his girlfriend Sheena in the car, in Richard Linklater's trademark stream-of-consciousness style of conversation.

Sheena: "That sounds to me like just another extreme Mason view of everything."

Mason: "Not at all! I finally figured it out. It's like when they realized it was gonna be too expensive to actually build cyborgs and robots. I mean, the costs of that were impossible. They decided to just let humans turn themselves into robots. That's what's going on right now."

S: "Oh, right now?"

M: "Yeah! I mean, why not? There are billions of us just laying around, not really doing anything. We don't cost anything. I mean, we're even pretty good at self-maintenance and reproducing constantly. And as it turns out, we're already biologically programmed for our little cyborg upgrades."

S: "How?"

M: "Seriously! I read this thing the other day about how when you hear that ding on your inbox, you get like a dopamine rush in your brain. It's like we're being chemically rewarded for allowing ourselves to be brainwashed. How evil is that? We're fucked."

S: "So you deleting your Facebook page is gonna change all that? Remember when Trevor deleted his Facebook page last year and everyone just hated him? You made more fun of him than anyone."

M: "I still make fun of Trevor though."

S: "It was like he was so pathetically desperate for attention. Or to be different, or something."

M: "That's just 'cause they did that lame story about it in the school paper."

S: "And then he had to make a big announcement about it when he came back a month later."

M: "That's the thing, though. I'm not doing it for attention. I just wanna try and not live my life through a screen. I want some kind of actual interaction. A real person, not just the profile they put up."

S (looking at her phone): "I'm sorry. Were you saying something?"

M: "Yeah, okay, I know you're joking. But, I mean, it's kind of true. You have been, you know, checking your phone this whole time... So, what are you really doing? You don't care what your friends are up to on a Saturday afternoon, but you're also obviously not fully experiencing my profound bitching. So, yeah, it's like everyone's just stuck in like an in-between state. Not really experiencing anything."

S: "It's not an experience, it's just information. Look, for example, I just got the address of the club where we're meeting them later, so we won't be wandering the streets of Austin lost for an hour tonight. Thank you very much, Facebook... And then I just texted my mom back."

M: "That's groundbreaking. She hasn't seen you in, like, 55 minutes?"

S: "My God, most importantly, Meg's family just got a miniature pet pig."

M (looking at Sheena's phone): "Okay, you're right. That is a really cute, tiny pig. Our lives can go on."

S: "I want one."

And then right at the very end of the film, Mason and a new college acquaintance Nicole tie that thought up with the idea that we can't really seize the moment because the moment, being constant, is the one that seizes us, as if to ask, "Will we just be on our phones checking our Facebook news feeds the next time the moment tries to seize us?"

Will we?