TV Shows I’ve Watched in 2018 (Part III)

Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia

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DreamWorks churned out its finest work for TV in this Guillermo del Toro animated fantasy. Composed of lovable characters and voiced by great actors like the late Anton Yelchin, Kelsey Grammer, Ron Perlman, and even a guest role by Mark Hamill, I got sad when it had to end. Del Toro was able to build a new medieval fantasy world for everyone to enjoy. The animation was superb for a TV show and the pop culture references are very up-to-date. The tragedy of Anton Yelchin’s passing didn’t hinder the production because according to news reports, he was able to record enough material to last through the third season. Del Toro was also able to find a way in the narrative for his voice to change (plot twist!), but it was a wistful moment to say goodbye for followers of the show.

Currently missing Jim, Toby, Blinky, AAARRRGGHH!!!, and Claire ūüė¶ It was a funny and heartwarming hero’s journey. It had great battle sequences on par with movies! They also have a great Funko collection and I want them all, huhu.

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Personal rating: GP

Aggretsuko

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Sanrio has gone to the dark side. Not only has it released a lazy egg as a new character, but this cutie red panda has a hilarious way of releasing her pent-up frustration in life: through karaoke in her death metal voice. It is both shocking and amusing at the same time! The Japanese corporate life must be stressful, teehee.

Seriously, though, it’s very insightful about office politics, social media life, and chauvinist bosses that you will not blame the nice Retsuko from having an alter ego as a death metal singer. Let’s just say we all have our own ways of coping. At this point, her’s is a unique trait!

Personal rating: PG for the method of singing that may shock kids, haha.

 

TV Shows I’ve Watched in 2018 (Part II)

Queer Eye

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Got super excited about this reboot because I liked the original before. Never knew that I’d FALL IN LOVE with them on the pilot episode that had all their audiences crying and cheering. Maybe it’s the timing, maybe it’s the more socially aware producers and writers, but this new cast just propelled the show to smash the glass ceilings.

First of all, they helped out a woman in season two. Then she’s black with a gay son, then she’s religious, and the makeover was for the church community. This episode with Momma Tammye just won the hearts of new fans and kept us crying episode after episode. There was no sugarcoating of faith, identity, and racial issues. These are the things that made this reboot better than the first (as Jonathan would say, sorry, henny).

They felt authentic. They felt like they were really good friends, maybe the best of friends. They genuinely cared about other people and that’s what made them social media superstars now, if not real celebrities in this world of inauthenticity and pretentiousness. They even care about their fans. Ugh, I love them so much.

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God bless these fab people who are making a breakthrough and changing the world by spreading encouragement and love throughout their show. On another important note, some of their “heroes,” as they would call their makeover recipients, even caught the news because there were some happy endings post the show. Oh, I was rooting for Tom and Abby (the ex-wife who became his wife again). William and Shannan’s proposal episode was lovely, too.

Personal rating: GP

Nailed It!

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If you want a good laugh about your baking failures at home (but laugh at others some more while they do it for the show), well, this is the perfect series for you. The episodes had me in stitches because the host, comedienne Nicole Byers, is a hoot, especially when she guffaws nonstop with chef Jacques Torres and his lovely French accent. Here’s one of the best episodes that is a ROFL moment.

They even guested the Fab Five for a crossover episode that was so much fun! Watch it with the family and have some fun times looking at the amateur baking contestants try their best to copy the experts.

Personal rating: GP

 

TV Shows I’ve Watched in 2018 (Part I)

What’s a better way to end the year than look back at all the TV shows that made me laugh and cry and get through some tough spots in 2018? In no particular order, these are my favorite marathons for the year.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Super late to the party, but I finally watched and finished Avatar. After days and nights of journeying with Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Appa, I’m a fan of Nickelodeon’s best creation for animated TV! Who would’ve thought that a TV show for kids would hold so much history, complexity, and depth? Even group dynamics and tension in friendships were expertly navigated in the stories.

I like them all, but I like¬†Uncle Iroh’s character the best. That scene where he was singing and crying under a tree? I cried along with him. He has also imparted so much wisdom throughout the show. Here are a few quotable quotes.

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One of my regrets this year was not buying the Appa stuffed toy I saw in the mall because they did not restock. I hope I come across one again someday. Anyways, definitely a must-see for young people and young at heart who have access to Netflix to see the amazing adventures of the hero who was awakened to save the world.

Personal rating: General Patronage

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma

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My love for food is at its peak this year because this is my heaviest weight so far in my lifetime (my weight story will be tackled in a more personal post). Of course, my interest is piqued by anything related to it, especially if it’s in anime form so I finally spent some time watching Food Wars. It was a mouthwatering and informative treat for me!

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Soma’s culinary adventures and failures take center stage beginning the pilot episode and there is no stopping him! All throughout the three seasons, his courage and integrity as a diner cook are tested relentlessly, even ruthlessly by the elite culinary students in Totsuki. It opened the doors to the literal and figurative fight of the low and the high-class cultures clashing in values and techniques, and Soma brilliantly merges the two cultures into unique dishes of his own.

Warning: the almost sexual reactions to his creations are enough to make you blush and laugh out loud, especially if you’re watching in public (so don’t). NSFW also, hahaha. Basically, they all get stripped to their naked glory (even in public arenas) because it’s THAT delicious. They also make orgasmic sounds so better for private viewing (plug in your earphones too).

Aside from THAT, it’s a brilliant show because the cooking techniques are well-researched up to the point of molecular chemistry of spices and how temperature affects the taste of food that it will blow anyone’s mind. It’s insane! My ignorance of French cuisine is disgusting, but anyone who knows nothing like Jon Snow will learn a lot from this show.

What I loved most about it is that it felt inspirational to me because Soma’s stubbornness to back out from any obstacle or challenge while working his way up the ranks is a trait we all should learn. He was used to failing that he kept tabs in his notebook (and his father reminds him of it), but getting used to failure made him great at adapting his skills and learning on the spot. He also foolishly uses his skills to save all of his friends, which is an admirable but almost stupid decision-making move, but you gotta credit it all to heart. His out-of-the-box thinking changed the way an elite school ran its course. Let’s just say I’m always rooting for the underdogs or rebels.

If what I’ve been saying has not enticed you enough, then here’s a clip of some of Soma’s dishes. Bon appetit!

Personal rating: PG-13 for the sexual innuendos and maybe radical thinking in school

 

 

 

 

 

 

Product Review: Miniso Powerpuff Girls Steam Eye Mask

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My job and hobbies expose me to electronic screens 24/7 so when I saw this product in the store, I had to try it out. Eye fatigue is the cause of my headaches/migraines, and what better way to relieve it than apply some warm stuff on my peepers, right? Well, of course, the packaging had lots to do with my being sold to the idea because this Japanese store holds the exclusive merchandise to Cartoon Network cuties Powerpuff Girls and We Bare Bears. I bought a whole box because it’s cheaper than per piece. For only 179 php, it’s really affordable.

So, how was it? It’s soft because it’s made up of cloth-like material. There were two bags in each eye that looked like flat tea bags. I don’t know how it activates heat, but it really does warm up! You can put it over your eyes for 10-15 minutes, but it remained hot even after an hour.

For those who need to rest their eyes to lessen eye fatigue, this is a non-medicinal way to soothe the eyes than pop a painkiller. The We Bare Bears have their own boxes, too! Don’t mind me if I start hoarding.

P.S.

Miniso products will add points to your SM Advantage Card. How cool is that, right?

 

 

The Year That Was

I greeted 2017 from Taiwan, then faced an eventual work layoff from my online editing work because the company’s content quality didn’t meet Google’s standards. I suffered from job application burnout mid-year so I took a break and went up Sagada¬†to clear my head. When I came down from the Mountain Province, I got accepted for a job that had a graveyard/night shift training for 9 weeks that I dreaded, but actually survived and enjoyed it. And then the toiling to meet the demanding metrics began when I was deployed to my real¬†shift in the morning. My commuting exhaustion going home from work tired me to the bone. The emotional issues were there on the side because I had to be the soundboard of my mother. I was scared I wasn’t going to make the cut for the job because of my unfounded anxieties of not making it like my friend who didn’t pass.

Thankfully, toward the end of the year, things turned out for the better.  Found new friends, I passed with flying colors and was endorsed for regularization at that. I finally felt that my new life had begun, and my family was complete for the Christmas holidays. Last but not the least, I finally introduced the guy that I love, and it seems he won my parents over.

I am grateful to the Lord that I survived all my meltdowns and thankful that the job that challenged me and liked doing was for me. I came out of 2017 stronger, humbler, and better as a person. I am blessed with the abundant fruits of my labor, and I could say that I am set for the next chapter of my life at this point.

I’m excited to go on new travel adventures this 2018 (maybe finish my travel entry backlogs when I have the time), and I have quite grand plans to celebrate my 40th. Well, we’ll see. I’ll work on that first.

For now, gratitude. Hello, 2018!

 

 

 

A Solo Sagada Adventure: Coffee Farm Tour

The hostel receptionist informed me the night before that my two co-house guests will go to Kiltepan peak and that a van will fetch them at 4:30 a.m. for 600 PHP. He thought that maybe I would like to join them. At that point, my body was so dead tired that I graciously declined. Since my room window showed promise of gorgeous views as it manifested during the previous day’s sunset, I figured I could just wake up early and look out my window than hike up a mountain at dawn. I was rewarded with this beautiful view the following morning.


My aching body did not want to leave the bed too but I was hungry. I had to.

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Since I only ate a cookie for dinner, I was excited to fill up my tummy again. This time, I ordered danggit (fish). Here’s their in-house menu, by the way.

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After taking a while to finish my filling breakfast, I inquired about the free coffee farm tour of the hostel. I arranged it at around 9 a.m. to freshen up and prepare for another walking trail that would take 30-45 minutes one way.

Nikki (I dunno the spelling of his name), whom I thought was the manager of the house, was actually my tour guide because he was a coffee specialist. I’ll try to list down all the important coffee and coffee farming facts he told me but first, photos of the trail behind the hostel.


Forgive me if I look like I’m just half-listening sometimes because I can’t help but stop to take in the wonderful red earth and the towering pine trees. I felt transported into a different country as I’ve never seen foliage as great as this. It’s my first time to trek on red soil and be surrounded by so much pine trees.

From what I gathered, Coffee Heritage House’s earnings is a means for its founders, a group of coffee enthusiasts, to help improve farming of Sagada coffee in the north. During planting days, the house closes to the public as the accommodation to volunteers and farmers during the wet season. Trivia time:

  • Coffee trees thrive during the rainy/wet season of the Philippines.
  • How good the harvested coffee berries are depend on the nutrients of the surrounding crops.
  • The original Sagada coffee type is typica arabica, not robusta beans.
  • Pure Sagada coffee has low acidity that you can drink as many cups as you like without experiencing palpitations.
  • Whatever roasting method you try on Sagada coffee beans, it still gives its best flavor even just by roasting it in a kettle over firewood method.
  • Aerating the Sagada coffee while drinking it (slurping while sipping) will bring out the flavor or notes of the brewed beans.

We were on our way to visit the scattered coffee farm plots or the area in collaboration with Manang Mary, their local partner. Unfortunately, most coffee cherries have been harvested already so there was nothing for me to handpick. This was the lone coffee cherry waiting for my arrival.

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As I learned more and more information about coffee farming, it made me appreciate REAL coffee more. Apparently, the coffee cherries don’t ripen all at the same time in the tree so this one was left because it was still a bit green. The hardships of coffee farmers and farmers, in general, are heightened by stories of pambabarat or cheap tactics of coffee traders who buy the beans in gantas.

What CHH people would do is continuously educate the workers on the worth and gains the latter could get if they have information on the proper selling prices for their harvest. Coffee beans are damn hard to grow! It needs the proper climate, soil nutrients, timing for harvest, etc. but all the greedy traders just want the profits for themselves. It made me angry, but it made me thankful for the CHH people for existing. They care. They care enough to want to make Sagada the new coffee capital of the Philippines (instead of Amadeo, Cavite), but they’re finding it hard to get support from the government.

Manang Mary was out on the plains but her husband, Manong Andrew, was the one whom I met.

 

We were treated to a freshly-boiled kettle of Sagada coffee that was roasted on firewood. It was so good and minty that it almost seemed like mountain tea! The family also grows vegetables and herbs in their yard, but the main feature is their 100-year-old coffee tree.

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We thanked Manong Andrew for his hospitality after exchanging stories and finishing the brewed Sagada coffee and made our way back to the hostel. By this time, I had grown such disgust for instant coffee which is only made of chemicals as explained by Nikki. Amadeo, Cavite is the coffee capital of the country which people barely know, I think. Sagada coffee production is catching up on the output where its reputation precedes itself.

I made a mental note to buy ground coffee from Bana’s Cafe at the town proper because they sell authentic Sagada coffee. I’m taking the expert’s word on it and will not buy from somewhere else. Back in the hostel yard, some coffee beans were already out for drying.

 

I’ve been taught some techniques on how to evaluate coffee beans if ever I see sacks of it in the metro. I can hardly remember all of them, but one that stuck with me is that if it’s too cold inside the sack of beans, there’s too much moisture. I forgot what relevance it is to roasting, but am sure there’s a connection, hehe.

Spot.ph has a more comprehensive background of the Coffee Science Center affiliate in Teacher’s Village, Quezon City. Its founder, Rich Watanabe, explains his vision for Sagada coffee farming that led to the Coffee Heritage House expansion. If you’re interested in taking classes and workshops, go to their Facebook page.

Let’s support locally-grown coffee especially Sagada coffee! For those who want to taste it and the cafe’s yummy food, you don’t have to go all the way to Sagada. Drop by SGD Coffee at no. 45 Maalalahanin St., Teacher’s Village, Diliman, Quezon City (street behind Pino and Breakfast and Pies).

Want to help plant coffee trees? Here’s a poster I saw online:

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A Solo Sagada Adventure: Echo Valley Hanging Coffins

After my¬†wonderful lunch at Coffee¬†Heritage House, I freshened up and loaded a smaller backpack with a raincoat just in case. I trekked down the hill on the way to the main road when I saw a local going uphill. She was a strong woman because she had a bundle of wooden sticks on her head. I said hello and as expected, she asked, “Ba’t nagiisa ka?”¬†(Why are you alone?) I just smiled and asked “Kaya niyo po?” (Can you do it?) referring to the load on her head. After her, there were no other breathing beings I met on the way to the main road except for a lot of stray dogs. Be warned, fellow backpackers. Sagada has MANY stray dogs. They’re not on leashes and they freely go around wherever they want. They poop wherever they want too also. ¬†

I love dogs, but then I start getting scared of them when they bark at me. The jeepney to the town center was taking too long so I had started walking down the road. I might have walked a kilometer already when two dogs started barking at me ūüė¶ There was no one around. This was one of those days when I felt that I’ve put myself at risk. On my right was the cliff with the view, on my left was the adobe¬†mountain that the highway was carved into, in front of me were two askals¬†who saw me as a threat. There was no other way to divert to so I froze in my tracks. I slowly walked toward them but they barked furiously. My micro insurance did NOT cover death by dogs, I hilariously thought, so I backed away and sadly decided it may be best to just go back to the CHH.¬†

The Lord heard my prayers because I saw an incoming jeep going to town. Hallelujah! Whew. I survived the first ordeal of the day. The second one was choosing to do the walking tour to the Echo Valley Hanging Coffins, a 20-30 minute trek from the Poblacion.

It required a guide for 200 PHP, so I was assigned Kuya Novi to accompany me (he joked that I could also call him YESvi). Of course, the inevitable question about my solitude is always the icebreaker in conversations so I had to patiently explain to him I needed to escape the city for a break. We passed by the St. Mary Episcopal Church, the only evident bastion of Western religion within the town proper.

In my head, the hanging coffins were located at a higher altitude than the town. The Echo Valley Hanging Coffins are much lower than the Poblacion, after the Calvary Hill Cemetery (also known as Mission Compound) for the families who opted for the modern burial.

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Trivia from my tour guide, Kuya Novi:

  • If your spouse dies, the widow/widower automatically gets a burial plot beside the departed. There are side by side tombstones that have an empty space beside it, meant for the partner (together forever? Hehe).
  • If I remember correctly, he mentioned that the cemetery/modern burial was introduced to the locals by Americans.
  • An SAF 44 soldier who’s a native of Sagada and who died in the Mamasapano clash was given a special tomb by the government. It was beautiful in an almost golden-colored marble but I wasn’t able to take a photo. It’s just sad that¬†the special “treatment” was in death, not in life.

The trail down to the coffins was beside a great view of the mountains, and the tourist attraction got its name because of the resounding echo you will hear if you shout out loud. I dare not disturb the silence so I didn’t. By the way, there’s a different set of hanging coffins much further than Echo Valley, so as not to make any confusion. The Sugong Hanging Coffins are beside the Lumiang Burial Cave and the Sumaging Big Cave which is a 40-minute to one hour hike.

I tried taking pictures of the view and attempted selfies of my already sunburnt and sweaty face.

I conquered my fear of downhill trails and with the gentlemanly assistance of kuya, I made it to the valley of the dead.

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The more traditional way of burial for Sagada locals means no embalming with chemicals, just herbs. The surnames are labels on the side of the coffin as seen in the picture. Tourists who wonder what the chairs are for are told that the corpses sit down on chairs during the wake until they hunch over and shrink to fit the smaller coffins. Eeeeep.

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Once the dead are buried in these hanging coffins, I was also informed that the families do not come back to visit ever again. Why? Because the families will just set up altars in their homes with offerings in the hopes of the spirit coming to the living instead of the other way around like what modern Filipinos do during All Souls and All Saints Day at the cemeteries. Very interesting.

We made our way back up the hill and I could already feel my fatigued leg muscles screaming. Kuya Novi was so nice and full of knowledge. Funny how even he got tired of the hiking tour that cost only 200 PHP. I kind of regretted not tipping him but I was in a hurry to get a seat in a Bangaan jeep because it had started to rain. It was around past 4:00 p.m. already and although the jeepney was almost full, it didn’t leave for another (maybe) 30 minutes.

Sagada commuting tip: I learned by observation that one doesn’t pay the jeepney driver in transit¬†and that it’s a Manila gesture to say “Para!” (Stop!) when reaching the destination. Some locals would just knock on the ceiling and then leave the fare to be passed on or for you to give directly to the driver after getting off.

When I got off at the CHH trail, it was already drizzling. I had a waterproof Columbia shell but only had one pair of shoes for the trip so I tried to brisk walk the 15-minute trail to the hostel to not get soaked. Boy, my legs were suuuuuuper tired.

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Prepared for the rain
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View from my room

It was a relief to rest my weary legs and during sunset, I was rewarded with a wonderful sky.

I took a long nap and since the meals at the hostel were too heavy, I just decided to grab an orange oatmeal cookie for dinner.

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Annddd this concludes my first-day adventure upon arrival. It’s the most exciting day, actually, for the next two are just mostly chilling out and eating. Stay tuned.