Repost: The Phantom of the Opera haunts Manila in August

The world’s most popular musical and the longest-running show on Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera—comes to Manila this August 25 to September 30, 2012 at the CCP Main Theatre.


A disfigured musical genius known only as ‘The Phantom’ haunts the depths of the Paris Opera House.
Mesmerized by the talents and beauty of a young soprano—Christine—the Phantom lures her as his protégé and falls fiercely in love with her.
Unaware of Christine’s love for the young Raoul, Viscount of Chagny, The Phantom’s obsession sets the scene for a dramatic turn of events where jealousy, madness and passions collide.

Phantom of the Opera

With 130 cast, crew and orchestra members, jaw-dropping scenery, breathtaking special effects, and more than 230 costumes by the late Maria Björnson, the musical contains some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most famous and stirring music, including The Phantom of the Opera and Music of the Night.

Phantom of the Opera

“This touring production of The Phantom of the Opera is as fine as any version you might see on the West End or Broadway. It is the same superb design, and we invest a great deal to ensure it is of the highest standards,” said producer Tim McFarlane, Managing Director of The Really Useful Company Asia Pacific.
“Our stellar cast assembles the industry’s best performers, coming from the UK, USA, Australia and South Africa to join forces. The Phantom of the Opera has enjoyed huge success throughout the Asia-Pacific region, having experienced sold-out seasons in Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai and Seoul, and I am confident that audiences in Manila will welcome the production with equal enthusiasm.”

Phantom of the Opera

Presented in Manila by Smart Infinity & Citibank, The Phantom of the Opera is produced in Manila by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, David Atkins Enterprises, Hi-Definition Radio Inc. and Concertus in association with The Really Useful Group.
For more information, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or go to

Why Tagaytay?

It’s near. I don’t have to buy plane tickets. Unfortunately, no place to stay. Hoping my parents’ very busy designer will find time to renovate the old house.
I love the snuggly weather. I love it when it rains and gets foggy. Because I love the food!
Everyone loves Antonio’s Garden

Antonio's Garden
Fresh mango juice
My steak

But you know what I love more than Antonio’s Garden? Antonio’s Grill.
They have sinigang

Sinigang na baboy at Antonio's Grill, Tagaytay

The best liempo

Inihaw na liempo at Antonio's Grill, Tagaytay

And for the first time ever yesterday, I had the famous sizzling bulalo.


It’s seriously haunting me. I want to go back with my friends. And I want it to be foggy so I can wear a jacket.
Now if only Antonio would open a nice boutique hotel with modern bathrooms, that would be perfect.
The Department of Tourism should seriously give him an award.

Who’s afraid of Redwood 9?

“If you build it, they will come.” —Field of Dreams

A classy tourist needs classy accommodations. Don’t you wish the Philippines had quality tourists (think Singapore)—like families, women, spending tourists—instead of pedophiles and sex tourists?
Because our accommodations, our airport, our toilets are crap.
There are probably one or two decent hotels in Metro Manila. And I say decent only. Not even high class. I have been to the Presidential Suite of one of the top hotels here and the bathroom fixtures were ancient.

It’s been a year since I attempted to take my family to Tagaytay, as our last experience was a disaster.
We were excited to go because someone told me about Redwood 9 at Tagaytay Highlands which is a three-bedroom log cabin for rent for about Php 21,000/night.
I told my dad’s secretary to book for Friday and Saturday. I really meant two nights, but she apparently thought it was one night. The pictures looked promising.


But as Tripadvisor will tell you, pictures lie.
This upright aircon in the living room has seen better days.


How much are upright aircons? Surely a few nights rented could’ve paid for a new one all these years.


In our bedroom upstairs the aircon was leaking, hence the towel on the table—one less towel we could’ve used. Not enough towels in this place if you ask me.


This improvised remote control wasn’t working so our aircon wasn’t cooling. After tossing and turning at night, I decided to go down to the kids’ room to “borrow” their remote control.


This flower arrangement needs to meet the trash can.


It kept shedding inside the bathtub, whose handshower is clogged by the way.


Why put an empty candle holder there?


The shower door was falling apart. I didn’t dare use this. Bathtub na lang.


But never mind all of that. Truly, I had to close my eyes while brushing my teeth as I cannot take this grime.


This morning, I was having a dream about Jeroen and his friends putting up a play in the cellar, wearing wigs and mustaches, when I received a text that we had to check out at noon. I was truly surprised we were being kicked out as I thought we were booked for two nights.
I had to shower quickly and pack like the Birkin scammer leaving for Texas.
I was kind of upset as they were making us kulit to leave the premises, but honestly happy to go back to Manila.

P.S. We get that Tagaytay Highlands isn’t making money. The facilities like the playground are in dire need of repair. The cable car isn’t working. The gym and the bowling area were dark, like they were not expecting anybody.
The Spa & Lodge looks lovely from outside, but I wonder if the carpets on the first floor have been changed last time I checked?


Bottomline: these people need to renovate first instead of developing new residences while letting the older facilities rot.

Kotong: More scary in Manila

Dutch animal activist and artist Katinka Simonse (a.k.a. Tinkebell) arrived in Manila last Saturday night and will be here for 3.5 weeks to work on an mission to save the world.
We met through Brazilian artist Bea Correa who made this art project, the Fake Louis Vuitton bag I wrote about in 2006.
Should I get this?
Not wanting to experience Manila through a tourist’s eyes, Katinka booked herself in an out-of-the way hotel.
That’s where Jeroen, Mich, and I picked her up last Tuesday night.
My driver isn’t familiar with the area, so I used the GPS on my Samsung Galaxy Note to find our way.


Traffic was bad, but moving. Somewhere along Recto, our driver felt lost and rolled down the window to ask directions from a traffic enforcer. Instead of helping us, the traffic enforcer told him to pull over and started to scold him about some traffic violation we were not aware of.
Our driver tried to reason calmly as the traffic enforcer continued to yell and power trip.
Of course we are well aware he could be calmed down by some kind of bribe money, which I hate.
So I pulled out my Press ID and told him I was covering an event at this place and I was going to be late.
Upon seeing my Press ID, the traffic enforcer changed his voice, gave us directions and let us go.

A few minutes later, the same thing happened on Rizal Avenue. Our driver felt lost, rolled down the window to ask help from a traffic enforcer. I was shocked when instead of helping us, he told us to pull over again.
He started to scold my driver in a way that made me angry. So I pulled out my Press ID and told him the same thing, that we were going to be late for an event. But seeing my ID only made his voice louder, and I lost it.
I told him we had not violated any traffic law, and I can’t believe he is the second guy doing this to us in the same area. I told him I would take his picture and told him, “Huwag kang rumaket.”

I was kind of scared but more angry about the bribe situation. I just find it ridiculous that these people are supposed to help us, and making us pull over to scream at us really just worsens the traffic.
As our voices got louder, I think he realized he wasn’t gonna get any bribe money from me. Finally I said good bye to him, and he said the same thing! Thank God it was over, and we left.

I really wonder who is in charge of these traffic enforcers in Manila, and if he cares enough to do something about it? Because I am now scared shitless of that area. We need protection from the people who should be protecting us? Who is in charge??
We finally arrived at Katinka’s hotel at 7:15 PM.
She reminds me of some American actress in the early ’80s, while Carlos Celdran said she had an Amparo Muñoz ’70s vibe.

Katinka and Jeroen
Katinka and Jeroen

1974 Miss Universe Amparo Muñoz

We had a lovely dinner at Café Adriatico—with Mich Dulce, Carlos Celdran, Jeroen, Rita Nazareno, Mikee Carrion, Nikki Luna and Katinka, where she told us about her mission in Manila (no animals involved).


We ended up at Carlos Celdran’s Living Room, where his two dogs fell asleep in the middle of our noise.
They are so adorable!


I couldn’t resist Carlos Celdran’s hat

Cecile van Straten

Minus the two stressful “kotong”/bribery incidents, I thought we had a great, productive evening.
For me, Malate will always be magical.

11:00 PM: Jeroen, Mikee, Nikki, Mich, Katinka, Rita, Carlos

The best sushi in the world

“You have to love your job. You must fall in love with your work.”

Before Jeroen and I got married, we spent our spare time watching rented laser discs and VHS tapes at home (yes, this was the late ’90s).
To this day I look forward to our movie dates at home, though renting movies outside is no longer necessary.
I enjoy watching movies on my Mac, with the lights out, the freezing aircon, and hiding under a blanket.
Yesterday my dad gave us a copy of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about an 85 year-old sushi chef, Jiro Ono, considered by many as the world’s greatest sushi chef.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi SG poster

Ten minutes into the film, Jeroen and I felt very much moved by documentary, which also made me seriously crave for sushi. Watching it reminded me of eating sushi in Ginza, where tears rolled down my cheeks when the chef put too much wasabi on my food.
Such a thing would never happen in Sukiyabashi Jiro, where sushi is prepared to perfection.

Sukiyabashi Jiro

The 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant is located in a Ginza subway station. But despite its humble appearance, it is the first sushi restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars. A three-star Michelin rating means it is worth traveling to that country to eat in that restaurant.


A typical meal here costs 30,000 yen (or Php 16,000) for 20 pieces of sushi—all served within 15 minutes. But despite its top-dollar price, the restaurant is always booked—you need to reserve at least one month in advance.

Jiro dreams of sushi
Jiro dreams of sushi

Watching the film made me think of all the humble Japanese workers I’ve seen around Tokyo doing their day-to-day jobs, where even the simplest of tasks—such as gift wrapping in a department store—is performed with utmost care and skill—something us Filipinos could learn from.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is director David Gelb’s first feature film. It teaches the importance of work and repetition, family, and the art of perfection, while chronicling Jiro’s life as an unparalleled success in the culinary world.

Jiro dreams of sushi

Jiro’s life wasn’t easy. He practically raised himself when his parents left him alone at age 7. In order to survive, he started working very young and very hard.
Though he admits having been absent during his two sons’ growing up years, he made up for lost time by training them, pushing them out the door, and making sure to leave them a legacy of hard work, pride and very high standards.
If you love sushi, Japan, and its lovely people, don’t miss this.

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