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Archive for the ‘Shopping’

A chastity belt for the brain

March 31, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Clothing, History, Places, Shopping No Comments →

gargantilla

Noel’s latest find from the Legazpi Sunday Market: “One-of-a-kind Cleopatra-inspired Gargantilla. Pieces of Spanish brass, turquoise, mosaic sapphire,” a.k.a. a choker. The stones give it a medieval look, but the circlet makes it science-fiction. It’s beautiful. The artist’s name is Uan, and we’re going to drop by the market next weekend to find out more.

gargantilla detail

The keyhole pendant brings to mind a chastity belt, except that you wear it around your neck. Aha, a chastity belt for the head. To keep people from thinking about sex. Of course, wearing it guarantees that you will think of nothing else.

The Legazpi Sunday Market is open Sundays from 0730 to 1400 at the corner of Rufino and Legazpi Streets in Legazpi Village, Makati near Greenbelt.

Boating in the Batcave, Puerto Princesa

March 18, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places, Shopping, Traveling 8 Comments →

Being complete idiots about geography, we thought we could visit Calauit island and feed the giraffes on this trip. Wrong! Palawan is huge. As Cookie discovered while overthinking our trip, travel time from Puerto Princesa to Calauit is about ten hours. To do the safari thing, we’d have to fly direct from Manila to Coron or El Nido. We decided to stick to Puerto Princesa and its environs—fine by us, because we’re not a beach person. Mountains, caves, dungeons, troll holes, labyrinths: we’re there.

1. wharf

Cookie booked us a tour of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a.k.a. the underground river, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s most important biodiversity conservation habitats. We expected there would be wading involved, so we wore flip-flops. Fortunately we had gotten a pedicure recently so we would not be mistaken for a gorilla escaping the forest. Also, being maniacally prepared, we put all our stuff in zip-loc bags inside our waterproof bags. At the last minute we decided not to bring a flare gun (It would have to be checked baggage).

2. karst

By the second day we were in total vacation mode, and by total we mean “No Internet”. The wifi in our room could only achieve dial-up modem speed, so we decided to take a break from blogging. And down the slippery slope to sloth and idleness we rolled. It was great.

Pick-up for the underground river tour was set for 0630, so imagine our discomposure when the van turned up at 0600. Getting up at 0530 when your regular sleeping time is 0300 is one thing, but traipsing off to the limestone forest before you’ve had two coffees is another. But Hernan the preternaturally chatty guide did not seem to mind that Grungella the Grouch auditioning for The Exorcist was in the van, and he kept up a steady stream of patter that could not be stopped by our iPod wall of sound.

We learned many things, such as the length of Palawan, the differences between north and south (Primary economic activity in the north, fishing; in the south, farming. Preferred alcoholic beverage north, rum; south, gin), the ratio of males to females in Palawan, and signs of economic development in the area (great leaps in the last decade or so). The ride to the wharf in Sabang took two hours, some of it over rough terrain (“By the way, this is what we call a massage!”). We stopped at the karst (limestone mountain) where part of The Amazing Race was shot; beneath those caves was Smaug the dragon with his hoard of gold. No, the subterranean river.

3. trail

As we queued up for the outrigger boats that would take us to the caves, Hernan the very knowledgeable pointed out improvements to the tour in the last few years. A system has been put in place so there’s no jostling or fighting for places (or passengers), standards have been set for the boats (the wooden ones used to get scraped on stalagmites and start taking in water), and the orange life vests have to be laundered regularly (the alternative would be gross). A 15-minute boat ride takes you to the trail through the forest, which is populated by monkeys. Visitors are asked not to feed them or open plastic bags, which they associate with snacks.

4. cave mouth

At the end of the trail we put on hard hats—stuff falls from the roofs of the caves, including bits of rock and bat droppings—and boarded another boat, manned by the effusive guide Piolo. “Not Pascual!” he announced, in case anyone was confused.

5. rocks1

Into the bat cave we rode—”The mines of Moria!” Cookie whispered—the pitch black relieved only by the beam of light from the boat’s lantern. Despite our ignorance of geology, we were fascinated by the rock formations. And entertained by Piolo’s running spiel. “Look over there…it’s a T-Rex! Doesn’t that rock look like a T-Rex? And there, see the hair and the beard? It’s the face of Jesus! And there…an angel without wings. Up on the ceiling: bats! To your left, Balin, son of Durin! Next to him, Kit Harington’s abs…” Okay, we made that up. Periodically our boat would meet a boat carrying foreign tourists and Piolo would interrupt his humming of the theme from Titanic to cry, “Annyeonghaseyo! Opa gangnam style!”

6. rocks2

The caves stretch for miles, and large sections have not been fully explored. Who knows what we may find in there: hominids, mermaids, dragons, Nessie’s relatives, mithril, Smeagol and the Precious. The Subterranean River cruise alone is worth a trip to Puerto Princesa.

7. beach

Forty-five minutes later we emerged in dazzling sunlight and pale, powdery sands. Swimming is forbidden on this strip of beach.

8. tiangge

Back in the bayan, we stopped at the mall to pay our phone bill. The shopping mall is new; another one is being built. We practically live in the mall, and it’s a great convenience, but we hope Puerto Princesa doesn’t become another Mallville. The laid-back, rustic, stress-free ambience is one of its main charms, and the profusion of small businesses ranging from family-owned restaurants to handicraft stores is another. Most restaurants don’t have air-conditioning, and they don’t need it—the air is clean, the breezes are cool, and motor traffic is light so dust and grime are minimized. Fine, there are too many renditions of the greatest hits of Bread, but they fit the relaxed atmosphere.

9. chichirya

We found the Tiangge, a souvenir market crammed with every conceivable type of pasalubong. The cashews and other nuts are excellent.

10. pearls

You can get cultured pearl earrings for ten pesos and mother of pearl charm bracelets for twenty. There are miniature tribal wooden fridge magnets, woven bags, T-shirts and caps, beads in various configurations, wind chimes, dream catchers, wood carvings, and so many accessories, we shut up and shopped. The most expensive items are strands of real pearls which go for Php3,000.

11. kinabuchs 2

Dinner was at one of PP’s best-known restaurants, Kinabuchs. Go early because by 7pm there’s a queue.

12. crocodile sisig

We had the crocodile sisig. It tastes exactly like regular sisig, though the very concept of eating (farmed) crocodile is badass.

13. struklji

Puerto Princesa reminds us of Bali, and like Bali it’s not very big on dessert. We wandered along the main thoroughfare, Rizal Avenue, until we spotted a restaurant called Euro Chef. They serve a Slovenian dessert called struklji—rolls of dough filled with cottage cheese, apple, nuts, raisins. It’s not too sweet, and it goes very well with coffee.

Back to the hotel, where we did absolutely nothing and then slept for nine hours. Vacations are dangerous.

96 hours in Puerto Princesa: Day 1

March 17, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places, Shopping, Traveling 6 Comments →

1. floor
We’d been feeling a little antsy so we decided to go on a trip. Our sister Cookie had vacation time amassed, and after we had agreed on a definition of “vacation time amassed” (“Not exactly, I just have leaves I haven’t used”—Cookie) we convinced her to take a long weekend. Neither of us had been to Palawan, which is always a good reason to go. (Though it must be noted that we’ve never been to the Crimea, either.)

We booked a flight to Puerto Princesa on Tigerair (two round-trip tickets, no checked baggage, total Php6,920). Our flight was at 1010; by 0715 we were at NAIA Terminal 4. Because Cookie is at least three hours early for everything. By 0730 we were sitting on the floor with our coffees, waiting for the counter to open. Fortunately we had trained for sitting on floors by attending UP Diliman.

The counter opened exactly on time, and the whole check-in process was done in 30 seconds. By 0825 we were at the boarding gate. With chairs!

2. plane
The minute we buckled up we fell asleep. After the most efficient, stress-free flight we’ve ever been on, we landed at Puerto Princesa ten minutes ahead of schedule.

3. acacia
Cookie had booked us at a newish hotel called Acacia Tree, on a leafy street just five minutes from the airport. Immediately after we said “You choose the hotel,” we realized our mistake. The sister is maniacal about cost-efficiency and would happily book us in a lunatic asylum (“It’s been converted,” she assured us). Which she tried to do the last time we took a vacation together, in Prague. Luckily, the asylum had no vacancies.

Our room at Acacia Tree wasn’t ready yet, so we left our bags and went out to explore the terrain.

4. tricycle
There are no taxis in Puerto Princesa. You could rent a van, or go around on a tricycle (or as we say in English subtitles, “motorcycle with sidecar”). Rates are negotiated with the driver. Puerto Princesa has clean air and clean streets, so you can take a tricycle without getting exfoliated by grit, dust and wind shear.

5. baker's hill
Our first stop was Baker’s Hill, which was recommended by various travel sites. It’s a sort of theme park devoted to baked goods and landscaping.

6. theme parkish
Baker’s Hill is designed for entertaining children and taking selfies next to life-size statues of cartoon characters. They also offer baking classes. At the restaurant we had lunch: grilled lapu-lapu and laing. It was okay. Metro Manila prices.

hopia
At the store we found all manner of breads and pastries, and stacks of hopia. We’re a bit of a hopia snob and require the crust to be of a certain texture. So this is not purist hopia, but it’s quite delicious. And at Php45 for a box of ten, it’s a steal.

7. butterfly garden
Then we popped into the Butterfly Garden so we could report to butterfly enthusiast Noel. Noel had given us tips for getting photographed with butterflies: Wear bright colors like pink or orange, wear sweet floral perfumes, and stand still. Obviously we were not going to get photographed with butterflies. We did see a lot of them, and

8. pupae
these chrysalids or pupae, collected from the forest.

9. palaw'an
The Php50 ticket to the Butterfly Garden included admission to the Tribal Village, an indigenous Pala’wan forest house. A living exhibit. Made us uncomfortable, to tell the truth.

10. binuatan
Down the street is Binuatan Creations, a traditional weaving center. The weavers use fibers made of local grass. They urged us to try operating the loom, but we declined in the interest of public safety.

11. binuatan store
The souvenir shop carries colorful bags, hats, placemats, home decor and other items produced on the premises. Cookie bought table runners and placemats. One can never have too many placemats.

12. baywalk
Dinner was at Baywalk, a collection of open-air seafront restaurants. The tricycle driver recommended Kinaboyet, where the seafood is very fresh and amazingly cheap.

13. kinaboyet
Our dinner of squid and barbecued pork, plus soft drinks, cost Php100 each. In Puerto Princesa, one should always listen to tricycle drivers’ recommendations.

If you want to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse, shop at S&R

March 05, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Shopping No Comments →

vast

For a long time we resisted shopping at S&R because we thought we didn’t need to. We’re the only human in the house so we don’t really need to buy 24 rolls of toilet paper at a time, and anyway our cabinets have no space for a 24-roll pack of toilet paper. Also, we must have the Cookie Monster nom-nom-nom gene, because if there is a box of 24 bars of chocolate in the house, we will eat it all in a couple of days. To avoid this, we don’t shop in bulk. Extreme self-control is the way to go: We cannot stop, so we just don’t start. (This is also why we don’t gamble.)

stacks
However, the unreliable supply of kitty litter and cat food in supermarkets changed our mind. Friends told us that there was plenty of cat food and litter in stock at S&R, so we got our membership card and went to their Bonifacio Global branch last Sunday. Our sister tagged along because she has eight to ten people living in her house at any given time and she does need the 24-roll bag of toilet paper.

If you’ve read Twisted Travels, you may recall that our sister is maniacally practical and will stick to her budget whatever happens. When we travel she is the wallet, and good luck getting her to spring for extras. In Prague we were early for the opera and she insisted that we sit in the park in the falling snow. Only when she became convinced that we were freezing our faces off did she agree to take refuge in a bar.

cheese*
As expected, S&R is vast. The place sells not just food in mass quantities, but refrigerators and flatscreen TVs as well. Think of a large warehouse stacked from the floor to the high ceiling with consumer goods. Our plan was to reconnoitre first, mark the positions of target merchandise, then go back for them. However, the sheer amount of food in bulk quantities at wholesale prices did something to Cookie’s wiring. This is what she sounded like.

“Look! Five dozen madeleines!”
“Two dozen bottles of dog shampoo it’s so cheap!”
“Omigod a drum of marshmallows!”
“A whole cow on sale!”

Yes, our impulse-invulnerable sister had met her kryptonite.

bagels
Seriously, do we need a dozen bagels? At these prices, yes. The array of baked goods was staggering.

liquor
If you’re drinking to forget, this should wipe out several lifetimes’ worth of memories cost-effectively.

pizza
Apparently their pizza is famous because the long queue never got shorter.

cat supplies
And we found the grail of humans who live with cats: 50-pound sacks of kitty litter at Php599. A good brand of non-clumping, at a price lower than the cheapest litter we can find in Metro Manila. Our membership card was perfectly justified.

There was no kibble in stock—Why? Why??—but they had Friskies Classic Paté, which we can never find in regular supermarkets. Good thing, too, because Saffy has gotten tired of Fancy Feast and taken to glaring at us whenever we serve it at her mealtimes. Yes, she is always glaring, but we can tell what she means exactly.

dog supplies
There were three times as many types of dog food as cat food, tsk tsk.

This is what we ended up buying at S&R: 100 pounds of kitty litter, a dozen large cans of cat food, two whole-wheat baguettes (great when toasted), 200 grams of blue cheese at a third of what it costs in delis, and a large bookshelf. Yes, a bookshelf, five feet high and six feet wide. Fake wood, but our books will be happy just to be in an upright position and not stacked on the floor. We took the bookshelf home in a box that requires assembly (and two people to carry), but we love erector sets (Uh-hhuh) and stuff that comes with diagrams.

This is what our sister ended up buying at S&R: Enough food and supplies for the crucial first month of any zombie apocalypse.

For information on S&R Warehouse Clubs, visit their website.

Things to get yourself for Valentine’s Day, part 2

February 12, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Notebooks, Shopping, Television 4 Comments →

Our Philippine Eagle toy arrived yesterday in its own drawstring bag. It’s a good-looking bird.

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– Hello, I am Jeffrey, short for Pithecophaga jefferyi.

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– I’m Drogon! You’re a funny-looking creature. What are you?
– I’m a Philippine Eagle!

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– What’s a Philippine Eagle?
– A giant forest raptor endemic to the Philippines.

5

– A raptor? Like in Jurassic Park?
– Well we are descended from dinosaurs.
– But you look like a bird.
– I am a bird. Did you know some dinosaurs had feathers?

4

– Do you taste like chicken? I love chicken! Can I eat you?
– No. You may not eat me. I am rare and critically endangered.
– Oh. Wanna play?
– Okay!

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– When I grow up I’ll kick your ass.
– When I grow up I’ll have dragonfire.
– Eagles eat small mammals in the wild.
– We’re not in the wild.

Get your adorable Philippine Eagle stuffed toy at The Library of Babel today. Retail price: Php699 plus shipping to the known world. Your purchase helps fund the Philippine Eagle Foundation, which is dedicated to saving this endangered species and its rainforest habitat.

* * * * *

Dove
8. Dove yourself. Good skin and hair care doesn’t require huge expense; the trusted brand is available in supermarkets everywhere. We especially recommend it to people who get headaches or break out from strong (masangsang) scents. Go buy yourself a whole lot of Dove products—they’ll still fall under Basic Necessities.

watson
9. Cheap date with yourself! Note: Cheap is bad only if your date is paying. If you’re paying, it’s great.

Oishi products in the giant pack
First, buy your favorite Oishi snacks.

holmes
Then curl up with Season 3 of BBC’s Sherlock. It’s not just a show, it’s leverage in negotiations with China. (Read Chinese Sherlock Fans Asked David Cameron to Make Producers Hurry Up.)

Baked Porky Popps, Holmes and Watson. Happy.

DSC_1115
10. Write.

You can never have too many beautiful notebooks. To justify acquiring them, you’ll just have to write more. The Pantone Artist and Writer’s Notebook from Chronicle Books features a Pantone color chip on every page. Thick cardboard covers, perfect binding, smooth white paper. The notebook measures 7 x 9 inches and retails at Php897 at National Bookstores. (We have a book moratorium; we didn’t say anything about stationery hahahaha.)

DSC_1117

Things to get yourself for Valentine’s Day

February 10, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Cats, Shopping 1 Comment →

1
Of course we should not reject gifts from lovers, but the only way to ensure that you get the really good stuff is to buy them for yourself.

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1. Wear World Domination.

The World Domination shirt declares that you have little patience for dithering. It is especially good for hanging out with friends. Available in three colors and sizes, only at The Library of Babel. Payments are accepted via bank deposit, credit card, and PayPal. Freight charges apply. Deliveries in Metro Manila take 3 working days, elsewhere in the Philippines and overseas in 5.

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2. There must be chocolate.

Serious chocolate. Artisanal chocolate made by generations of cioccolato-makers in Padua, where Galileo taught. Have you noticed that with really good chocolate, each bite is so intense that you only need a few pieces? Seems almost disrespectful to eat everything at once.

5
The Villa del Conte menu should be set to music:

Praline balls in dark chocolate with hazelnut cream and cereals
Praline sticks in dark chocolate with orange cream filling
Dark chocolate domes with cocoa cream and salted toffee chips
Fig fillet truffles covered in extra-dark chocolate
Marron glace truffles covered in dark chocolate and cocoa powder…

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Villa Del Conte has stores at Greenbelt 5, Shangri-la Mall, Resorts World, Alabang Town Center, and Robinson’s Magnolia. For bulk orders of Villa del Conte chocolates, contact 893-2575 or 621-6101.

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3. Glow from the inside.

Borage oil, the main ingredient of Blooming-G capsules, contains omega-6, essential in the development of skin cells. It helps protect skin cells from damage and maintain adequate moisture levels.

For more information on Blooming-G and Omega-6, go to http://bauchlab.com.

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4. Read a fake book that offers real pleasures. S, a collaboration of filmmaker J.J. Abrams and writer Doug Durst, is a fiction about fiction.

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The cardboard case contains what looks like an old hardcover library book that’s been borrowed many times. It’s called Ship of Theseus, purportedly the final novel by one V.M. Straka, translated and annotated by an F.X. Caldeira. According to the preface by Caldeira, nobody knows who Straka really was, and there is a raging debate in the academe over who really wrote his books.

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Tucked among the pages are old letters, photos, telegrams, postcards, notes—a reminder that before you lend your books to anyone, you should inspect the pages for any damning evidence you may have stashed in them.

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In the margins are scribbled notes from Jenny, a college senior, and Eric, a graduate student. Jenny and Eric have not met; they communicate by writing notes in the margins of the Straka, which they borrow and return to the library.

Which obviously has the laziest librarians in the world, because they don’t notice how the book has been defaced.

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That’s how you know this is a work of fiction: the margins are large enough to leave notes on, the notes are neatly arranged, and the correspondence can be understood by any random borrower.

A clever idea, and a good-looking book.
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S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Durst, Php1399 at National Bookstores.

7. eagle
5. Get yourself a ten-inch bird for Valentine’s.

Everyone hopes for everlasting love; the Philippine Eagle just hopes to avoid extinction. The Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is a giant forest raptor endemic to the Philippines and one of the world’s rarest and most critically-endangered species.

The de luxe Philippine Eagle stuffed toy is packed in a cloth pouch and comes with a specially printed information tag. Proceeds will go to the Philippine Eagle Foundation, dedicated to saving the endangered Philippine Eagle and its rainforest habitat.

Buy the Philippine Eagle stuffed toy at library-of-babel.com. Payments are accepted via bank deposit, credit card, and PayPal. Freight charges apply. Deliveries in Metro Manila take 3 working days, elsewhere in the Philippines and overseas in 5.

jazz in love
6. Bring your best friend to see Jazz in Love at UP Cine Adarna.

Jazz in Love, the acclaimed documentary by Baby Ruth Villarama, is the story of Jazz, a young man from Davao whose German boyfriend has just proposed marriage. Obviously they can’t marry in the Philippines, so he must fly to Germany for the wedding. But Jazz speaks no German, and must temporarily relocate to Manila for language lessons. Meanwhile, his parents in Davao have absolutely no idea of their son’s plans.

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7. Why not adopt a stray cat or dog? This one adopted us.

CARA (Compassion and Responsibility for Animals) and PAWS (Philippine Animal Welfare Society) match homeless cats and dogs with humans who have large reserves of love for their fellow earthlings. Contact CARA or PAWS today. If you’re not ready to commit to a non-human housemate, consider making a donation.