5. The awesome panels
Most cons here are about the merchandise, cosplay and stage events. It’s only in book or comic related cons do I get to see any panels. NexCon had three of them, and each one was something worth attending. I managed to go to the Komiks Reborn and Cinema Fantastica. I know a lot of people were hoping to see foreign guests (actors particularly), but the NexCon panels were jampacked with Filipino greats in the field of comics, movies, and literature.
Geek trivia game amped to the higher level! Fellow Whovians made a group of six and named it “Gallifrey Stands” (represent, Torchwood Manila as well). We didn’t win, but it was a respectable finish all the same. It was also their 5th anniversary, so the game was pretty intense. Lots of laughter and shenanigans, and thankfully I don’t have to turn in my geek card.
It’s been a while since there has been an event dedicated specifically to sci-fi and fantasy. There are a lot of cons happening yearly around the Metro, but anime usually dominates over other fandoms. There was New Worlds a few years back, but nothing in recent history.
That is, until NexCon. Held last Saturday, May 31 and Sunday, June 1, it was a gathering of fans of sci-fi and fantasy, be it a TV show, books, video games, name it and they were there. The Bayanihan Center was home to these geeks for the weekend, and boy, was it ever crazy.
10. No crowds
I’ve long stopped attending local cons on a regular basis because of the crowds that overwhelm me every time. I usually go there to look for merchandise, but leave as soon as I got what I wanted. Most cons here are anime-centric, and while I was an anime geek from waaaaay back, I haven’t been keeping up with the new stuff these days.
NexCon was a refreshing change of pace. Aside from being able to recognize plenty of characters, it was a place where my favorite TV series was able to make an impact. There were a lot of people, but there’s still plenty of space to move around. The numbers may not have been the same as that of past cons, but still very respectable.
9. A place for everything
I like that the Bayanihan center has different halls and rooms. Merchandise and exhibitors were located in one hall, while panels and other events were located in their respective rooms. There was even space for cosplayers to place their baggage (a fact that was made known to us after the event haha).
8. NexCon Rocks
Did you stay til the end of day 2 and went to the concert featuring Stereodeal, Peso Movement and Paranoid City? We partied to amazing music, danced and pretty much celebrated our geekdom.
No matter how many times you come back to Binondo, there is always something different. Everyone can go on a food tour, but with the sheer number of places to eat along Ongpin and its side streets, each visit is always new.
Last Sunday, I joined my new friends Nalani, Jonats and Marjorie for a food exploration in Binondo. Costs were divided among the four of us and we added P5 each for tips.
Stop 1: Dong Bei
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Dong Bei’s one of my favorite places to go to when I’m in Binondo. It’s a small dumpling place off Ongpin. Here you can see the attendants make the dumplings and cook them in a pot of boiling water. You can be sure that what you are eating is freshly made. We shared a plate of the mixed dumplings, popped open a can of Wai Long Kat and got to know each other better.
Cost: PHP 65
Side trip: A bakery along Carvajal
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We were going to Quick Snack along Carvajal but it was closed (along with most of the establishment along the esquinita). We passed by this bakery where I bought some tikoy bread from during the Chinese New Year. I didn’t buy anything, but everyone else did. Everything was freshly baked, which added to its appeal.
Carlos Celdran shouldn’t be a stranger to any Filipino these days, thanks to his infamous protest at San Agustin Church a while back. It earned him the nickname “Damaso”, which people would shout to him when they seem him on the streets.
However, long before that, Carlos has gained a reputation for himself through his Old Manila Walk tours. A performer at heart, Carlos conducts walking tours around Intramuros, providing a crash course in Philippine history. His tours are among the first thing foreigners and balikbayans would go to upon arriving in Manila. His unique, no-holds-barred way of telling the story attracts people to listen, providing an insight to the often misunderstood Manila and its people.
I have long wanted to go on a Carlos Celdran tour (naks, parang brand name lang siya), but time and money constraints made it a little difficult. I was fortunate enough to be able to join a quick tour he hosted in part with Samsung. While interesting, it still didn’t have the full Carlos Celdran touch of theatrics and whimsey that I wanted to experience.
He occasionally throws out barter tours, where you can give anything you think is worth something in exchange. However, it is mostly held during the weekdays which automatically made it a no go for me. When he posted a call for another barter tour and I figured it was my chance.
A Crash Course in Philippine History
I expected the tour to be mostly barter attendees, but it turns out we were going with regular tourists as well. There were quite a number of Filipinos among the foreigners, many of whom were balikbayans on vacation. One was a man who thought it would be a nice way to pass time while waiting for his friends. Another was a group of women who had roots in Manila but hadn’t been back in decades.
I’ve been a member of Couchsurfing since February 2010 but have yet to participate in anything the local group would organize. With all this free time in my hands, I’m eager to join in activities that sound like fun and do not cost much. When an invitation to join the group in Binondo to celebrate the Chinese New Year appeared on my dashboard, well, I couldn’t pass it up. I dragged Anne, my usual partner-in-crime for such adventures and off we go.
Getting lost, sort of
I’ve been to Binondo many times, and I was confident that I knew how to get there. However, I would normally come from the Sta. Cruz church side and walk up to Ongpin. I forgot what jeep I should ride if I wanted to arrive in front of Binondo Church. In the end, I walked a long way just to get where I was supposed to meet Anne.
The Philippines has a long and rich history with the Chinese. Business relations had been on going long before the Spanish set foot in the country. The establishment of the Chinatown here was in the 1500s, making the the oldest recorded Chinatown in the world — outside of China, of course. An interesting read about Binondo can be found here.
Meeting the Couchsurfers
Anne and I have the shyness gene so it took us quite a bit before either one of us had the gumption to ask the group of mostly red-shirted people in front if they were the CS group. Thankfully, we got it right the first time and a flurry of introductions began.
The festivities had already started by the time our group of (my estimate) 40-plus people made our way through Ongpin. The street was clogged with people (tourists and locals alike) watching the dragon and lion dances. Hawkers lined the street selling lucky charms. Some shops were closed but many were open like a regular working day. It was easy to get separated from the rest of the group, which was what happened to me several times during the day.
After the fireworks and dance, the proprietors of a grocery store threw candy and other giveaways to the crowd. It was scary as people clamored to get something. To avoid getting crushed, I immediately left the area.
Here’s another one for you Lego fans: Sculptor Michael Cacnio collaborates with Lego to recreate his iconic work to integrate pieces of the childhood toy we all know and love.
My first encouter with a Michael Cacnio work was at my aunt’s house. It’s a brass sculpture of a young boy flying a kite. I was fascinated by this piece because despite being static, it gave a feeling of movement and freedom. Quite like the feeling you have when you’re doing something you love. This impression is punctuated by the kite itself, extending a feet or so from the main piece and supported by a thin brass wire. A light touch will make the wire move, giving the impression that the brass kite is really flying.
Cacnio is a self-professed Lego fan, and with his latest showing, “Inspire”, he recreates several of his works by incorporating Lego with his usual medium brass. Here are a few photos of the pieces that are on display at Greenbelt 5.
Finally, our plans of going to Binondo pushed through. Aldekari has been planning on this trip for a long time, but for some reason or the other, we never really got to doing it. Sunday was our day, and despite a few setbacks, we were off.
Our transportation of choice was the jeepney. We met up early at Edsa/Shaw and took the jeepneys going to Quiapo. The driver mistook our destination for some other church and tried to drop us off at San Sebastian. “Sabi namin Quiapo!” we said, and he charged us an additional P3.00 each. Oh well.
Quiapo was bustling. There was a mass going on, and there were people doing their business along the streets and in Plaza Miranda. I am truly amused at how Quiapo has a big Catholic structure there, at the same time around it are people who offer the non-Christian services like card reading and fortune telling. Such a lovely study of contrasts.
Also, that day, people were selling fresh produce at Baguio prices. Den, Ching and I were all agog, wanting to buy whatever we can carry. Then again, it wasn’t advisable since we were going for a long walk after all.
And walk we did. From Quiapo down to Hidalgo then to Carriedo, crossing from Sta. Cruz Church, past the fountain, to the archway saying “Welcome to Binondo.” I acted as a tour guide, having gone to Binondo before.
Den gleefully asked for a picture with this statue
First stop was lunch at Waiying. I ordered roast duck with soy chicken and had a glass of lemon Coca-Cola to go with it. Sarap! Busog!
Last Thursday turned out to be food trip day. The guys decided that they wanted to try out that new smokeless grill place above Something Fishy in Eastwood called Sambokojin Yakiniku Smokeless Grill. We’ve been seeing the ads about it for quite some time now, and we thought it would be nice to give it a try. The day before, Arpee passed by and inquired about their prices and service, so he was raring to go, as was Gio. At first, I didn’t want to because I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry, but then again, I’m glad I gave in.
“Sambokojin”, as the waiter told us, is the Japanese god of the kitchen, which should be very apt for the restaurant since in essense it’s one big kitchen, since you cook your own food at the grill on your table. Sambokojin (the restaurant, not the god) has several sections of food that’s already prepared, like the wide selection of Japanese sushi and sashimi, as well as choices of other Japanese and Korean dishes.
The restaurant also has a wide array of meat for grilling. The clever thing they did was to arrange it by sauce, so you can take your pick of different sorts of meat marinated in teriyaki, kimchi or the special Sambokojin sauce. Seafood is also available and there was also choices of bacon-wrapped goodies. I’m a big fan of the Shitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms and asparagus.
Sauces are also available on your table. The Sambokojin sauce is a favorite.
There’s also a good selection of desserts and salads, which I unfortunately didn’t get to taste. I tried their ice cream and some pastries, but I feel that I wasn’t able to really taste them because I was so full. It’s enough reason to go back.
Buffet prices vary. Lunch during Mondays to Fridays are P495, while dinner is P595. Lunch and dinner on weekends are both P595. Not a bad deal right?
I waddled out of Sambokojin a very happy customer. Not only was the food good, but the service top notch. No sooner than I finished the contents of one plate, a service crew is right there to whisk it away. They also call you by your name, which is really nice, making the dining experience more personal. You also won’t have to run back and forth if you need an extra plate while getting your food because the entire shelf below the choices are full of plates.
My only complaint? An hour’s lunch break isn’t enough.
Update: Sambokojin will open a branch along EDSA! I saw a sign next to Dad’s/Saisaki. That’s great news for those who find Eastwood far away! More updates! I think the EDSA branch is now open! I passed by it the other day (I was on the MRT hehe). If anyone can confirm, I’d appreciate it! 🙂
It was another eventful weekend, a combination of the bad and the very good.
First off, the bad. I was on my way to MoA on Saturday for the yukata workshop hosted by magnetic_rose (as part of Cosplay Mania X). I took the MRT to Ayala, then got down to catch a bus to MoA. Somewhere between going down the station and getting on the bus, my wallet got stolen. I realized this as soon as I sat down and saw that the pocket of my bag was open. I didn’t think about it at first, since my phone, my perfume and the various things I placed there was still present. It wasn’t until I checked the inside of the bag did I realize, “Holy crap, my wallet’s gone!”
Strictly speaking, it isn’t a wallet with money. It’s more of a wallet with ALL of my IDs and ATM cards. What hurts most is that it includes my college ID, my mom’s SM Advantage and some calling cards, receipts and notes. I think I had a thousand bucks there but it was the least of my concern. My IDs! My UP ID!!!
My next thought was, “Aww, my Sony Ericsson P800 and I were meant to be.” There it was, this dinosaur phone, sitting happily in the front pocket. I love you hehe.
What’s irritating is I never put that wallet in the pocket, especially when I use this particular bag. I even hold the bag to the side, rather than wear it like a normal backpack. I’m not stupid, but unfortunately, that small instance of carelessness was the dealbreaker. I’m just grateful that the thief only got away with a small amount. I had two cameras, two cellphones and a yukata set that definitely costs more than one thousand pesos. Even the P800 can still be sold for P3k (I asked around in tiangges hehe). It’s just a hassle to get all the cards replaced, one of which can’t at all.
I immediately asked my sister to transfer my money to the Save Up account, which can’t be accessed except online. The other ATM and bank accounts were pretty much empty, so I didn’t really worry about them.
So there I was, at MoA with less than P300 in my pocket. I still had to pay for the yukata workshop, so I was deciding if I should push through. In the end, I went ahead and signed up. No regrets there.
This is the start of the great part of my day.
Yukata Workshop Rochelle (magnetic_rose)’s yukata workshop was definitely worth it. I know I could’ve gone through tutorials online (which I did before) to figure out how wearing a yukata works, but I usually prefer it if someone actually stands in front of me to teach me. It allows me to ask questions and get the answers I want.
The ladies of the yukata workshop. It’s blurred, sorry.
It was a small group of girls, with hands-on instructions. I enjoyed the little bits of trivia Rochelle told about yukatas. The fun part was when we tried tying the obi. That long (roughly about ten feet) belt is intimidating, but it’s actually quite fun to put on (or it’s just me?). Many thanks to Rochelle for this workshop! I can finally wear the yukata my best friend Carmenez got for me when she went to Osaka.
I took a few pictures of the cosplayers hanging out around SMX. There were a lot of people, the management opened up one of the halls to accommodate the long lines for tickets. There were a lot of pretty interesting cosplayers, but I guess most of the better ones were inside.
Amazing Race to Makati Left MoA immediately after the workshop and headed for Ayala (the scene of the crime!) to meet Drew. He gave me his hard drive, and went with me to meet Fristine and Lornadahl. But first, DQ treat! Green tea Moolatte, which was surprisingly good (thanks ulit!). Then for a bit of walk around Ayala in the drizzing rain to the Filipinas Heritage Library.
I loved walking along Ayala on weekends. When I still worked around there, it was one of the things I liked doing after my shift. It’s quiet, somewhat like a ghost town, which is a very sharp contrast to weekdays, when it’s so crowded and full of life. FML is located in a pretty nice place too. I wouldn’t mind hanging out in the Tower Room if it was allowed.
I didn’t have much time to look around but I did get an idea while we were walking back to Greenbelt/Glorietta. By that time, I was already hyper from the sugar. Fristine and Lorna went to watch a Spanish film, Drew went to eat and I went home. Oh, I also ran into my blockmate Thet! Now how’s that for a great day? I have pics of these folks but they’re so bad, I’d rather not show them hehe.
Sunday afternoon, I went to the “Plurk grand fans day of Ria Jose” (aka Diyosa Blogger). It was great to meet people who I only know through their online usernames. Of course, the usual suspects were there so it was more fun. Present: rastapopolous (who left early), gilbz, riajose, chocolatehappiness, suburbandude, hyukta, saber_kite (me), eloisa, sachur8, p0yt, dongho, marocharim and raincontreras. Too lazy to link 🙂
I went to Manila today with my friend Den. We took the LRT 2 from Cubao to Recto, where we proceeded to walk, walk and walk.
We went to our favorite stores along Recto to check for any books we wanted. I found some interesting ones but none that I wanted to really get. In one of the stores I found Chuck Palahniuk’s “Pigmy” for P150. Nunik likes his works so I decided to get it (It was either that or some Ernest Hemmingway, which is one of the author’s he’s reading now).
We also hit the National Bookstore along Recto. They were having a sale too and there was a section where hardbacks were selling for P99. On the second floor (or third? There’s a mezzanine y’see) there’s more bargain books. I wasn’t even looking when I saw Cameron Dokey’s “The Storyteller’s Daughter” (another book in the Once Upon A Time series. I wanted to get Gail Carson Levine’s “Ever” as well, but it was still P300+, so I had to pass it up. There were some nice hardback books, one of which was a compilation of fantasy short stories where Neil Gaiman’s “Chivalry” first appeared. Only for P100 but I passed that up too.
We headed to Quiapo afterwards (we walked! Wohoo!), where we hit the DVD stalls. Den bought NCIS Seasons 2 to 7, while I got “You’re So Beautiful”. I didn’t know it was being shown on local TV but I don’t care. 😛 The seller gave us a discount of P50 for 7 DVDs. Not bad.
View from Chowking’s second floor (click to see a bigger photo)
We had merienda (or early dinner) at Chowking, then crossed the street to Quiapo Church. The underpass was crowded as always, mostly with vendors hawking their wares. Clicking sounds permeated the air, because of the vendors selling those electric insect killers. A lot of faux “Power bands” were also for sale, as well as various clothes, footware and whatever.
I took some photos of the church (mostly on film) and headed to the camera shops along Hidalgo to buy more film. I have to finish the roll first though. I have a picture of Quiapo Church but there’s a woman right smack in the middle of it looking at my camera haha.
We crossed back to the opposite side of Hidalgo where the DVDs were and rode a jeep to get to San Sebastian. It was my first time to go there, which is pretty funny considering I worked in the area for nearly four years and passed by Baste often, but never really went in. By this time, it was drizzling.
We headed our own ways shortly after that. I took my old route home, and for the first time I realized that it’s a pretty long ride.
Hopefully next time, we’ll be able to bring more friends and hit more shops.