Sunday, September 16, 2012

FOOD - Giuseppe Pizzeria and Sicilian Roast

Giuseppe Pizzeria and Sicilian Roast

For some reason, after my trip to Jakarta a couple of months ago, I have been longing to eat Ravioli (yeah I know it's weird but this was the one I ate that I enjoyed the most).  Sharing this with my wife, she took the initiative of cooking one for me.  It was indeed a labor of love as she had to create the dough from scratch which involved mixing, mashing, wrestling and all other muscle building actions you can think of.

I had to help her thin out the flour using a hardwood rolling pin as her arm muscles are too tired already.  And man, I am now regretting why I didn't let her buy a pasta maker!  But after all the muscle aches, we were able to successfully create our home made ravioli.

Unfortunately, it was more of a rubber-ioli as the damn dough was still too thick.  We vowed to just eat/ buy a cooked dish when we wish to eat this.

Then I was introduced to Giuseppe Pizzera and Sicilian Roast which is situated along Maria Luisa Road.  It's an Italian restaurant which price points are in between the Casa Verde and Anzani type of restos.  

Parking is quite hard as there's only about 5 slots.  It was dinner time the first time I ate here and it was jam packed so we decided to have lunch here instead.  And I was right on as we arrived in time for their store opening which is 11:30am.

Our mind was already set to have their spinach Ravioli so it's just a choice of what dishes to complement it with.    We decided on a mushroom soup and a four-cheese pizza.  Juvvy was actually eyeing some fish or meat but after what we had for dinner the day before, I had to push that we go the vegetarian route.

Another reason I decided on a pizza was this is one of Giuseppe's specialties.  They are known to be the first (if not only) restaurant in Cebu that serves pizza cooked inside a brick oven.

While waiting for our orders, we were invited by their staff to look at their grocery at the 2nd floor.  Man!  It was more of a mini-warehouse of italian ingredients and pastas!

They offer champagnes, wines, frozen seafoods, etc.  Anything you need to cook up an Italian dish, they have it.  But as with their menu, prices are quite high.

Preparation of our food was fast with our soup being served first (obviously), followed by the four-cheese pizza and then my long awaited ravioli.  In terms of the taste, I have mixed emotions about it.  The mushroom soup is quite good and filling as it also has angel noodles mixed into it.

The pizza was a bit of a let down.  Our expectations were probably a little too high and with taste buds built for Shakey's and Pizza Hut, it really didn't deliver.  The dough was cooked nicely but then again, I was expecting more flavor for a brick oven cooked pizza.

For the ravioli, it was pretty much the same.  I was expecting a juicy/ rich filling of spinach and cheese but it was quite dry for my taste.  The sauce on the other hand was too rich but this is my fault as I didn't look closely and was expecting a cream sauce instead.

But despite our dissatisfaction, it is still a restaurant we would go back to dine-in again.  Staff are very courteous and the ambience perfect to enjoy a nice and quiet lunch/ dinner.  Next time we will probably forego the pasta/ pizza combo and order their famous Roast Pork with Risotto instead. 

Additional Photos:

Ravioli with Spinach and Cheese
Interior of Giuseppe
Stairs leading to the Italian grocery/ warehouse
Hanging banner design at the 2nd floor...just found it to be quite interesting
Name it...they should have it

GEAR INFO: All photos taken with an iPhone 4 and edited using Snapseed and/ or Instagram

Friday, September 14, 2012



Disclaimer:  I am not speaking in behalf or against my company/ HR Dept.  I am not an HR practitioner as well.  Below is a satirical, no frills personal view on HR people and employees having conflicts with each other.

I recently attended a talk organized by PMAP (Philippine Management Association of the Philippines) and the lone query, by an HR practitioner at that, was; "Our employees regard us as enemies...what should we do to change that?".

I looked around and saw a combination of troubled faces and evil smirks (no need for me to specify who's donning these facial expressions).  Deep inside, I don't know if I will laugh at her question or pity her for having to ask that.  If I'm the owner of a company and my HR person asked this, I would fire her on the spot.

It was a good thing the host of the event gave a very good response.  It was a long one but focused on the answer that change should come from within.  Employees should regard HR as a shoulder to cry on, a light among a dark and almost endless tunnel, and other responses with something of that effect.  It gained a huge round of applause and support.

I again looked around and saw a combination of sincere, guilty and "to hell with that" faces.  Oh man...this is one interesting topic to discuss.

This prompted me to share my thoughts about this topic.  Why is HR usually regarded as the enemy?  To better answer this, below are the reasons why I see HR being regarded as such and that of a friend as well...

Reason 1: You never get the response/ action you want to hear/ see
- If you have a problem against your colleague, boss or even the company, did your HR rep ever told you that yes you're correct?  If you say yes, don't ever consult with them again.  

Reason 2: They never provided you the right person for the job
- Despite not being an HR practitioner, I had my share of hiring/ finding employees and it is hard work...but this is not what I'm paid to do.
- Your requirements are tall, fair complexion, sexy, with modeling experience, has analytical skills better than you or a a minimum wage...go figure!

Reason 3: You can't trust them
- This is actually an after effect of reason no. 1. After a heart to heart talk, how come it feels that instead of feeling good, you end up having more questions.  
- Did you saying your boss, colleague, etc is an a** done you more harm than good?  
- Did you sharing all your feelings made you more susceptible/ easy to manipulate?

Reason 4: Poker face
- A follow-up to reason 3.  Is that eye contact a sign of sympathy or manipulation?

Reason 5: They don't give you all the details
- Them trying to control the information they relay to you is understandable.  Saying they know management has this planned out for you but can't say it because it is classified!?  People like this should be in the military instead!

Reason 6: What in the world do they do?
- If you're just in your desk doing your own thing without a care in the world, I don't blame you.  But do yourself a favor, learn more cause they do more than just hire and brainwash people.

Reason 7: You make the money...they spend it
- This is just nitpicking...concentrate on your marketing efforts instead.

Reason 8: No one's perfect
- There really are Evil HR people...but there are in other departments as well (this might even be you)!  But as my saying goes, people like this are what completes a society.  Can you imagine working in an environment where everyone are goody goody two shoes!?

Reason 1: They really are a shoulder you can cry on
- If you've made a lot of enemies within your office, they're always there to listen to you...even if they don't want to.

Reason 2: They will try to make you feel good
- Even if you don't get the response you want/ need, at least they won't say no you're the a**.  You will probably hear that you are a hard working individual and an ass-et to the company so work harder and everything will turn out ok.  
- And after a month you go through this again...and again...and again...and just like that, you're discussing this issue with another HR person...of a different company!

Reason 3: Exceptions
- Some are evil...but some you can really consider as friends...outside of work that is.

So, a 73:27 ratio leaning to HR being more of the enemy...

My Response to the Question

For the disgruntled employee who thinks the company/ world is against him/ her...YES.  

For the employee who works hard and and is reaping all the benefits...WHO CARES.

Should there be a general consensus that your HR Dept. is the enemy...then it probably is the case.  Stop promoting yourself as a friend of the employee because you are not.  You are paid to make sure that employees work their a** off for the good of the company...then making it look like it's for their own good.

Now for the employee, as mentioned, it all boils down for the good of the company.  The moment you think you are entitled to something, it will be the start of your downfall.  There is always a reason why someone is better/ more favored than you...and it boils down to you finding means in overcoming that...not HR.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

TRAVEL - From an Adventurer to a Bird Nut


Note:  This is actually a blog I posted last 2008.  A good way to reminisce one if not the most memorable adventure trip of me and my wife.

Bags are packed and ready to go...
It’s been the type of vacation we’ve been longing all year; a 6-day adventure that will take us around the best sights of Puerto Princesa.  Usually, our kind of activities for such a trip would be scaling the high peaks of the island or sea kayaking from one island to another.  But no, not this one…we went bird watching.

Bird watching!?  Yes I know naughty thoughts are starting to form in those twisted brain of yours but for the sake of playing along, it’s not that kind!  I’m talking about watching wild birds at their natural habitat and roaming around freely to their little hearts’ content.  Sounds boring eh?  I too had the same impression but boy did this trip change all that!

Our adventure started when me and Juvvy went on to meet Nicky, lead guide of Birding Adventure Philippines (BAP) and his colleagues Trinket, Adri, Arnel and Tere at the Terminal 3 airport.  We took the 1430 Cebu Pacific flight and in an hour arrived at Puerto Princesa airport.  

Mayor Hagedorn together us and the BAP team
Upon getting our baggages (13pcs all in all), we drove off to our first home Casalinda Inn which is located 15-20 mins away from the airport.  It’s a very nice and cozy rest house.  I had a good sign that this will be one good birding trip as we immediately saw a couple of Chestnut Munias in their garden.

It was a very relaxing day as no activity was scheduled.  We should have known better though that there’s a catch for it being so as nothing could have prepared us for our IT the next day.  We had to wake up 4am!  

I felt Juvvy pinching my legs as if saying, “Is this your idea of a leisure trip!?”.  Smiling at my predicament, we just proceeded with our dinner at one of Puerto Princesa’s famous bar/ restaurant Kabuch’s coupled with a courtesy visit (or gate crash for that matter) to Mayor Hagedorn’s private dinner at the same restaurant.  

Day 2 saw us wake up “really” early and go our way to Iwahig National Park.  We practically slept through the 2hr ride then upon waking up, were greeted by a strong downpour and a very cranky park guard.  "So I woke up 4am for this!?  Should we be allowed to enter the premises, how in the world will I see those birds with this kind of weather!?" are questions I started asking myself...and I'm pretty sure so did Juvvy...if she was awake.

With some sweet words and pleas from Nicky, we finally entered the park.  The rain slowed down a bit and a pair of Drongos was our first sighting.  Hmmm…ok…was my initial reaction.  People really get excited about this?

So upon seeing my first “lifers” (term for the bird specie you saw the first time), we proceeded for a short hike to look for the exotic ones.  Rain started to pour down again when all of a sudden something caught Nicky’s attention that caused excitement among the group.  Then something popped out…a squirrel.  Hmmm…ok…was again my reaction.

Walking further, heavy rains started to fall down again thus leaving us no choice but to abandon the trek.  So much for my first bird watching experience!  I’m soaking wet (stupid enough not to bring my Omni-Tech jacket with me), cold, and only saw a Drango and squirrel!  With heavy hearts, we waited in the park cottages for the rain to stop before making our way back to our inn.  And if this wasn’t disheartening enough, Nicky had an illness of some sort thus lowering further the morale of the group.

Scaly Breasted Munia
But this turned out to be the turning point of the trip.  With the rain making a complete stop, out of nowhere we saw a Stork Billed Kingfisher! All our frustration turned to excitement and I was just in awe!  Now this is bird watching! 

We left Iwahig with a sense of fulfillment and a big sigh of relief.  That sighting made my effort of waking up 4am in the morning now worthwhile.  Then just when I was about to take a nap, all of a sudden Nicky shouted “Malcoja!”  Everyone just jumped out of the van with their binoculars and there it was, a hundred meters away I saw what was probably the most beautiful bird I ever saw…at that time.  A Chestnut-Breasted Malcoja!  Sweeet!  And to top everything off,  Egrets, Barn Swallows, Wood Sand Piper, Palawan Ducks and a Scaly Breasted Munia to name a few greeted us on the way back.

Lesser Frigate Bird
So with all these sightings you’d think we’re done right?  Not a chance!  Next stop was Honda Bay and on an island hopping tour exploring Starfish Island, Snake Island and Pandan Island.  These sites provided a handful of birds namely Pied Fantail, Asian Glossy Starlings, Eurasian Tree Sparrows, Zebra Dove, Sunbirds and Collared Kingfishers.  

But the highlight of them all was the very rare Lesser Frigate Bird that flew just right beside our bangka during one of our transfers.  I was so in awe that instead of grabbing my camera taking shots, I grabbed my binoculars instead to marvel at this majestic bird.  I was still able to take a photo of it but it doesn’t do justice to how magnificent this bird was.

It was indeed an exciting and fulfilling day for everyone specially me and Juvvy.  Just imagine the lifers we had just on this day alone!  And we’re just starting!

Day 3 of our adventure allowed us to wake up at a much later time as our main IT was to go to Sabang and do some birding at the side in Garceliano. Leaving our tables after breakfast to do our last minute packing, an Olive Backed Sunbird just flew from nowhere causing a commotion between Nicky and me.  Grabbing our cameras, we fired away like crazy trying to get a good shot of this dynamic bird.  I took almost 50 shots but wasn’t able to get a keeper. Frustrated, I vowed that I would not leave Palawan without a good shot of this bird.

Stork Billed Kingfisher
Stacking all our stuff at the van, we proceeded to Garceliano where we saw a Common KingfisherWhimbrelsPacific Swallows, and as bonus a Water Guppy.  After Garceliano, we stopped by Balinsayaw to have lunch where I was advised by Nicky that an Olive Backed Sunbird usually drops by to feed on the flowers.  And he was spot on!  Again an Olive Backed Sunbirdflew from nowhere and I shot like an army soldier with an M16 rifle.  This time I managed to keep some keepers.  A shot of an Arctic Wobler was a bonus during our short lunch break.

The ride to Sabang takes about 2 hours but it took us an additional 45 mins as again, heavy rains fell thus making some parts of the road a struggle to drive through.  Not to mention Nicky saw another Stork Billed Kingfisher a hundred meters away from our vehicle! This, hands down, solidified Nicky’s statute for me as the premier birding guide in the country. 

So despite the hard raindrops, we got off our van to take a peak of this Palawan endemic.  I tried to get closer but was advised not to do so, which for now I’m still thinking why.  Being the good boy that I really am (yes it’s true!), I obliged with a heavy heart and just took photos of it from far away.  I’m not too happy with my photos but this gives me another reason to come back! 

Taraw Resort
We arrived in Sabang Island around 430pm and proceeded to check-in in Taraw Resort’s cozy huts.  It was just a picturesque site with all the huts surrounded by tall palm trees with waves pounding through the vast seashore.  Only downside?  Electricity is good only from 5am in the morning till 10pm in the evening.  Not to mention we only had one power outlet in our room while the rest had at least 2 (sorry BAP I just have to let this out hehehe)!

Come dinnertime, Nicky again broke the news we’ve all been dreading to hear from him.  We all have to wake up again early for our trip to Puerto Princesa Subterrenean River National Park (a mouthful ain't it)!  Our only solace is we don’t have to wake up at an ungodly time of 3am like our first day.

Palawan Peacock Pheasant

Day 4 saw us braving the waves and rain as we went our way to PPSRNP.  My concern for the day was not the rain but the lighting I have to contend with while taking my photos.  Gloomy, hazy, low light with fast moving subjects…it was a photographer’s nightmare!  I just have to psyche myself to say to hell with the photos!  I came here to enjoy and get a glimpse of rare and endemic birds!  And did I get more than my share of birds.

A few meters into our hike we were greeted by monitor lizards casually strolling the park.  Talk about wild life!  Then a commotion took place after seeing that lizard…it’s the star of PPSRNP!  The Palawan Peacock Pheasant!
Again we were greeted with rain showers as we continue our hike but we were still able to saw some interesting species like the Green Imperial Pigeon, Hill Myna, Palawan Tit and Juvvy’s favorite the Palawan Hornbill

Me and Juvvy at PPSRNP (obviously)
Nicky was kind enough to arrange a tour for us of the Underground River as well.  Given all of them already experienced it, only the first timers which was me, Juvvy and Arnel went through the tour.  I actually have hesitations to go as I’m more akin to taking photos of the Palawan Hornbill but what the heck!  I’m already there so I might as well experience the Philippine’s leading candidate for one of the new 7 Wonders of the World!

Our next IT for the day was to do some birding at the “The Last Frontier”.  I was a bit disappointed as I was expecting scenery close to that in Jurassic Park or the Discovery Channel special The Lost World.  Add to this that we only saw a handful of birds like the Green Imperial Pigeon and a Common Iora.   But all of it changed when out of nowhere a Blue Naped Parrot flew on top of one of the trees and just stayed there for us to marvel at.  

No Javan Frogmouth at 430am
As with Day 3, it was a very fruitful birding day for all of us.  But that evening, Nicky had to be again the bearer of bad news.  We had to wake up really early again for our birding trip!  But he gave us a valid reason to…to catch a glimpse of the Palawan Owl.

Day 5 saw us struggle to get up from our huts and drove 4am in the morning to a roadside 30mins away from our resort.  It was an eerie atmosphere as it was very silent and pitch black.  Nicky then proceeded calling the Palawan Owl using his iPod + speakers.  It took some time for him to get a response but when he did, it was not from our target bird…a Javan Frogmouth replied him instead.

It was a back and forth communication but unfortunately there was no sighting.  First strike for the group!  And fortunately proved to be the last.

Me and Juvs' favorite...Palawan Hornbills

Going back with an L in our forehead, we vowed to go search for the Javan Frogmouth in Lion’s Cave that evening.  Then the L on our forehead turned to W as on our way back, we passed by Balete Tree (a name the group came up with) that turned out to be a buffet for a diverse specie of birds like the Palawan Flowerpecker, Grey-Cheeked Bulbul, Asian Fairy Bluebird (Male and Female), Striped Tit Babler, Blue Eared Kingfisher and again Palawan Hornbills!  If not for our growling stomachs, we could’ve stayed there the whole day!

Eastern Reef Egret in flight

After a hearty breakfast, we proceeded to hike the Mangrove Trail.  Given that rain started to fall down again, we had to abandon the route and hike back to our vehicle.  But as always this adversity resulted to another good sighting by Nicky.  At the top of one of the dead branches a hundred meters away is a Crested Goshawk standing tall probably looking for a possible prey.

We sighted a pack of Whimbrels as well playing in the rain when I saw what I thought was a common Egret but turned out to be a rare Eastern Reef Egret!  And I caught a photo of it in flight!  So again we went back for lunch a happy group of birders.

After lunch, a couple of birders joined us to Lion’s Cave and we passed by again the buffet tree to give our new birder mates the opportunity to see the birds we saw earlier.  Again birds of different kinds flew here and there and fortunate for me, saw a new batch of lifers like the Slender-Billed Crow and Yellow-Throated Leafbird.  Oh…and I saw another batch of Palawan Hornbills!

Yellow Throated leafbird

We arrived at the Lion’s Cave around 530pm  It was a long wait for us searching for the Javan Frogmouth but the wait was well worth it.  In the middle of the trail, pitch black and the only noise you can hear is Nicky’s bird call.  Then out of nowhere it flew and landed on one of the branches.  I fleet footedly sneeked my way to take a photo of this endemic specie but it flew away prior to me getting a photo of it.  It was unfortunate that I missed a great shot but still deep inside I was fulfilled to have seen this rare bird.

Palawan Tit

Day 6 was the day we dreaded the most.  Not because we need to wake up early but it was the day that we get back to our real world that is Manila.  But of course Nicky made sure we go home with a bang.  On the way back we managed to see again a Chestnut-Breasted Malcoja and a Crested Goshawk.  We even stopped for a 10-minute birding activity that turned out to be a 40 minute birding spree!  Like the buffet tree in Sabang, this birding site was a home for Palawan Tits, Fiery Minivet, Nightjar, and a lot more.

Aint in the 6 or 7 digits type of a ring but it gets the job done!

So yes, me and Juvvy are now CERTIFIED BIRD-NUTS. 

And this trip adds another chapter to our adventures that we will cherish for a long time if not the rest of our lives.  And it's not just because of the lifers we saw, but gaining new friends in the likes of Nicky, Trinket, Adri, Tere, Alex and Arnel.  

Now you may ask, which was my best catch/ favorite during this birding adventure?  It’s actually not a matter of what but who. 

It’s Juvvy accepting my marriage proposal! 

Gear Info:  All bird photos taken with a Nikon D200 and Nikon AF VR 80-400 f4-5.6.  

More Photos from our Birding Adventure

Juvvy with Tere and a local guide.  This was her first try of digi-scoping.  We were looking at a Chestnut-Breasted Malcoja during this time.
Us and our birder friends on the way to Honda Bay and other islands of Puerto Prinsesa.  From left: Nicky, Trinket, Tere, Adri, me, Juvvy and Arnel.

Juvvy playing around with a starfish.  I was supposed to have the same pose but the little tentacles underneath it scared the bejeebers out of me.  

Still all smiles in our village hut within Taraw Resort.
Me and Nicky treading the rice fields after following a couple of  Palawan Hornbills.

Early morning view of the sea/ mountains from our resort.

Monday, September 3, 2012



This was something I thought I'd never be able to do until my son Liam turns 5 or if we're back in Manila already.  A major hike that requires 3 days of hiking and almost a full day of travel time.  This was the life I enjoyed back then but ever since I became a family man, this has been non-existent.

But this is different.  Or perhaps this is just a way I can justify being away from my family with no means of communication for almost 3 days?  Let me share how I went about making this decision...

I have been fortunate enough to be involved in a work that relates to my (previous) lifestyle.  This is something I can actually talk myself out of but this is also a key initiative that I have to be present and make sure that objectives are met.

One of my regrets was not being engaged in photography when I climbed this mountain years ago.  Amazing views, remote villages, local tribes, was an outdoor photographer's haven.  Being a family man, my field of photography has been very much limited to taking photos of my son (not that I'm complaining) so the chance to do what I have always wanted to do was just too good to pass up.

And the thought of having a porter carry my stuff?  Not too thrilled with his sweat all over my backpack but the back and shoulder ache I will be spared of should be worth it.

We have the opportunity to climb with an explorer extra-ordinaire from the US.  I'm really excited on the opportunity to personally sell and see his appreciation of what our country has to offer.  And hopefully, share it to the world.

I very much had zero outdoor adventures the past 4 years.  This provides the opportunity for me to unwind and relax, which has always been my reason for going outdoors.  I think the hair on my noggin thinning out is reason enough for me to do this.

I always use the excuse of not having much time for me to exercise.  This opportunity/ challenge is a perfect reason for me to go out of my shell and get things done.  Failure is not an option in this case and  I will make damn sure that I am 100% up to the challenge.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to lace up and run...