Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Return of Halloween!!!

Halloween is back this year! We received notice that trick-or-treating was planned again this year which was great for us as we love Halloween. Last year the trick-or-treating was canceled due to the typhoon so we just had a party at home. What I failed to mention was during the party, which was held in our garage, there was a small group of maybe 10 kids who were peaking over the wall which were from outside the village (and hence had no idea that the holiday was canceled). We felt bad because what sucks worse than being a kid and having to watch a party from the outside. Plus they had made an effort and had their faces painted a bit! Since the party was in the garage anyways, we had them come in and join the games. They did and fun was had by all. Until we realized the little boogers had taken a bunch of our Halloween decorations (these little rubber characters that hang from a string). Actually, fun was had by all still. I guess those kids just got extra party favors. So, we had to go and buy a bunch of decorations.

Halloween is gaining popularity here and so decorations are becoming easier to find with the major department stores and toy stores stocking many items. We have been going to UNTC every year because we love the selection of items they have. They have a REALLY good selection of Halloween items. If you go there, the building looks just like a house or factory--there is no signage. I remember the first time we went, we were unsure if we were even at the right place. They also have a slew of Christmas items but we just hit Divisoria for that. The head above we got a couple of years ago at SM and is hung above a body we make.

This is what we bought there for about $40. Worth noting that despite the fact that they are a "wholesaler" some of the prices compared to Toys r Us are the same or higher. Some were definitely way cheaper--you just have to know your prices. Also we are able to find weird items there like the skull in the first picture. The little pile of dolls in the top right of this picture is what we are replacing from last year that were liberated by the outside kids.

We will start decorating our house this week!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Online Shopping

Back when I lived in San Francisco I was a big fan of online shopping. I was working a billion hours and often did not have the time to go. Plus it seemed so easy--just go to and I could find just about anything I needed. Same with the stores where I already knew my size. Add sephora and zappos and I was pretty much set. Oh, and ebay. I was a big fan of Pottery Barn crap from ebay.

Since moving here, I do very little online shopping namely because the shipping/customs costs are insanely high. For example Banana Republic (gap, et al) partnered up with a shipping service that offered international delivery with customs fees included. For those who do not know, customs fees can be HUGE here. We once had a glass sculpture from Italy sent here, and despite the amount of the item already being lowered on the customs form from the company, customs here still wanted Php50,000+++ which is over $1000. It ended as life usually does with a few hundred being slipped into a pocket and our item being released. But anyways, back to the Banana Republic shipper. I placed items in my online cart amounting to about $150. Fees for shipping and customs via their partner was $120. Way too rich for my blood. At those prices I am better off waiting until I am home or shipping them to my sister and having her forward them. (It is worth noting that there is a Banana Republic locally which makes this a somewhat random example, but such is life).

I still buy most of my clothes in the US for one simple reason, I am too big for Philippines sizing. I am over 5'8". This means that even when a size goes up, it does not necessarily get longer, just wider. According to the Inquirer (one of the dailies here), the average height of a Filipino woman is 4'11" (although this does seem suspiciously petite) which is a lot smaller than me. Wearing a size 10 in the US equals size like 3XL here. And your bellybutton will still be showing. There are larger sizes here of course in the imported clothing and the inseams will be longer, but at that point, I would rather just buy from SF because the cost markup is high. And finally, it is worth noting that my wardrobe consists namely of jeans and cheap tops from H&M, so I am definitely not high fashion.

The moral of this drawn out, convoluted post is I fell in love with a company that allows me to do all my online shopping: Johnny Air. I order from whatever random online retailer I want, email Johnny Air with the shipping info, and they forward it here. Earlier this month I ordered from It arrived from Sephora to their US office in two days, and SIX days after that, I received a txt telling me my package was here!!!! The prices are preset based on weight or size (size is something is big I guess) and includes everything. Total cost for shipping: P1,750 for about 3 lbs. So, this is my new happiness. Their website is: and they have a facebook page as well.

Other fantastic delivery services that I have used recently include Fully Booked which was FAST. I ordered on a Monday and the books were here Wednesday. Not the cheapest shipping, but the convenience was fantastic.

Although everyone knows that all fast food (i.e., McDo) can be delivered, more and more restaurant delivery services are popping up. Main ones are: and I have used them both...quick delivery multiple times and city delivery just once. Both are awesome and perfect for rainy season when I do not really what to go out, yet do not feel compelled to cook. Plus there are no Indian Restaurants near me, so this satisfies that craving.

I guess I never need to leave the house again........

Monday, September 13, 2010


Well, a lot has happened and at the same time nothing has happened. But here goes:

1. We ended up not buying a dryer. We wanted to buy one for the rainy season but I only wanted LPG due to the extremely high cost of electricity here. The only model I could find was a Whirpool which ran on a 110V ignition. This means that I would still have to buy a large transformer for the dryer. Cost (not including transformer) was ~Php34,000 (about $755). Instead we decided to send our laundry out to a nearby laundry chain, Metropole. Cost Php30 (Wednesday promo) per kilo which means that we can was over 1000 kilos of laundry for the cost of the dryer. No washing, ironing, electricity costs and the laundry is done within 24 hours. Best move we could have made.

2. Have you ever wondered where items returned to stores in the US or damaged items end up? Well, we learned they end up at surplus stores here! I already knew that we were somewhat of a dumping ground for unwanted products (suspected when I saw cheddar (!!) triscuits at S&R and was further confirmed when a bevy of sheets with linens and things tags showed up there shorty after the US stores all closed) but yesterday we found a slew. We went to HMR which is this insane mix off overstocks, returned, and damaged goods. Appeared (from the labels) that most items came from Australia or the US. We were looking for one of those plastic box/shed things for outside that are made of plastic. Kinda a weird hyper specific item. While they did have them, the price for a fairly damaged item (missing handles, shelves, and off balance) was odd. Actually all the pricing was odd. As well as the items, including a newborn incubator for Php110,000 (I fear the medical clinic that buys secondhand incubators from a non medical supply store), smashed cans of green beans, and maybe 15 bottles of kirkland brand water.

3. Found Mexican heaven. Hermanos Taco Shop on Granada in QC. Sooooo good. My new happiness. Still not La Cumbre on Valencia in SF but at least enough to get me through.

4. Watched the Simpsons. Realized that when mean jokes are made about the Philippines on the Simpsons, they are bleeped out. And when I say mean, I mean funny and satirical. Satire is NOT understood here.

5. Went to IKEA in Singapore. I hope they open up here soon....where else can I find 1000 different ways to store junk and cheap tea lights? Manila needs an IKEA.

6. Finally, on same trip to Singapore, I realized just how high we price imported items here. General rule for shopping in Singapore, if it is imported, the price is cheaper in SG than here. This went for fruits, cheeses, makeup, kitchenware--actually pretty much everything. We brought back over 10 kilos of cherries and gave them to people as souvenirs. While cherries from Canada may seem to be a weird thing to bring people from SG, everybody loved them. Including me!!!!

S&R sale starts Sept 15! Woo Hoo! The sale is awesome and is (for me) always one of those sales where I come home with a bunch of items I do not need.

Monday, June 14, 2010


The other day at a party I was playing with one of the kids and noticed that his teeth had large black marks in between each tooth (not the picture above). I asked my brother-in-law about it and he told me the kid was, "Just at that age". So, we all know, there is no age where kids teeth should be rotting. It shouldn't happen at all. While it is true baby teeth will fall out, you have the same gums your whole life. Letting teeth rot on the assumption that they will fall out anyways can still affect your gums.

I see kids with dental neglect more frequently here then I did back home. This is not to say all kids have dental problems--it definitely runs along economic lines. I was talking to a 17year-old that had a full set of dentures. Her dental problems were so extreme that the dentist felt the only feasible (read remotely affordable) option was to take all the teeth out and put dentures in.

I have been hardcore with the kids in our extended family about dental care. How to brush one's teeth, how often, how many minutes one should brush, and how to floss.

Every Christmas is our annual toothbrush/toothpaste giveaway. I think we are up to 400-500 a year now. We give them to all the kids in the neighborhood as well as the street kids we see around Christmas. Randomly the other night we were driving down Roxas and I had a small bag of girls clothing to give away. We found a girl selling flowers that was the right size so we called her over. She got to our car and said, "Hey, you are the one's who give out the toothbrushes!". Bwah ha-ha. See! Six months later and she remembers! We are slowing giving the kids the tools they need to have good teeth always.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Aclimation Failure

I went into SM Appliance today to inquire about a clothes dryer since rainy season is starting and last year the clothes would sometimes get a funky odor to them. I asked the salesman if they had any "drying machines" which is how I have heard a bunch of people refer to them. I was trying to be cool and fit in. The salesman gave me a pitying smile and gave me a look like I was was an idiot, and politely asked, "M'am, do you mean a dryer". Blech! Massive failure on my part.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Did I Mention it is Hot???

It is summer. Morning to night, it is hot. Constant sweating. Two showers a day is no longer enough. I cannot wait for rainy season. We had fiesta last weekend in my in-laws neighborhood. Just remember when looking at the pictures that it is a million degrees.

There are always random fire dancers every fiesta.

The kids had a dance contest. This was the winning team.

This chicken just amused me because the head was held up with a mini flag.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Back from San Francisco

Every year we take a trip to San Francisco in April/May. The trip has three purposes: 1) file US taxes & check on properties, 2) my grandma's birthday, and 3) GET OUT OF THE HEAT OF MANILA. April and May are the hottest months here and although we just got back a few days ago, I am already dying. It is a hot summer. Right now at 6:30 am, I can already feel a little trickle of sweat behind my knees.

San Francisco is always fantastic for me. I love, love, love seeing my family and friends yet somehow we always fall way short of doing even half of what we want to. We also spend two weeks in a tiny Texas town where Ado impulse bought a property about five years ago. I realized on this trip there, I have more culture shock in small town Texas then I did when moving to Manila. Despite Manila being in a foreign country, it is way more similar to SF than small town Texas. I guess I will always feel more comfortable in a major metropolitan than I will in a country town.

My best friend from college who is in SF has still not been out here to see me yet. I finally pinned him down and determined that his coworkers have told him such horrific stories about the Philippines that he is hesitant to come. Although I have heard the theory that people do not come to the Philippines because of the news stories (it is true, most of the news that makes it worldwide makes it sound like one will get killed walking out of their home), I think it could have more to do with Pinoys in the US that left here 20+ years ago. Even some of my dad's neighbors who left the Philippines a billion years ago were questioning me about my safety here. Was the Philippines a really scary place 20 years ago? I doubt that it is random luck that after close to four years here, I have yet to be robbed, kidnapped, murdered, burglarized, or involved in a jeepney holdup.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


We drag a lot of family and friends out here to visit us. When people come from abroad, there are always a few places we are sure to visit.

The first, and most obvious, is Intramuros. We almost always go there with visitors. It is gorgeous and there is a lot of history there. The most recent time we (for the first time) took a calesa which was fun. Horse's name was Rambo which was awesome, especially for a kinda scrawny looking horse. We also went to Casa Manila which we had not done before and is now my favorite place there. It was a house set up to look like a 19th century home and was just awesome. The guides they had inside were able to answer all of our weird questions.

Second place we always stop by is Tondo. This is where we have family, so it is the neighborhood we go to for a more "authentic" Manila feel. Visitors have commented that inside our village, you could almost be anywhere in the world. There is nothing about it that screams Manila (well except for the occasional taho seller). We always spend an afternoon there, eating lunch and then walking around a bit.Our old neighborhood store in Tondo. Little stores like this do not really exist in the states, so it is always a cool thing to see. When I first moved here, I was impressed that is most neighborhoods, one only needs to walk 30 seconds to find some sort of store.

We always make sure to stop at least one Palengke. This is one of my mother's favorite things to do here. All of our visitors get a kick out of it. When we go to Tagaytay, the market there is a favorite. If we don't make it to Tagaytay, Suki Market is our go to market in the metro. The above picture was actually taken at the market in Tondo.

We always feed our visitors some of the local specialties. Bibingka was a big hit. My sister wanted to bring one back to France with her. One this she pointed out was that she never really saw lumpia many places here which is the opposite of San Francisco. When you go to a party there, lumpia is served at every Filipino party you go to. It is as ubiquitous as rice. It is not served nearly as much here. We finally fed her some from Aristocrat which was very blah.

Since summer has started, tons of halo-halo stands were set up. I am actually not sure if we have ever actually bought any to feed our visitors.

We always try to hit at least one beach destination. We have done Boracay, Bohol, and Subic. We have actually been to Boracay three times in the past six months so I don't think we will be there again anytime soon. Boracay is awesome though. Loved Puka Beach, loved sailing, loved lying around playing cards on the beach. We ate some good Mexican food there. Word to the wise--do not break anything. At lunch, I broke a glass and at the end was promptly presented with a receipt for P200 for one glass. Mind you, the glass broke by accident--we were not drinking alcohol or inebriated or anything. Took a bit of arguing and a call to the owner to get the cost of the class removed. Pretty annoying because this is the first time I have ever encountered this ANYWHERE, here or abroad. While I have not broken a lot of restaurant dishware in my life, I was still stunned that they wanted the glass paid for. Unfortunately to a certain extent, that is the cost of doing business. A good friend of mine owns a small restaurant in San Francisco and he built into his costs breakage, pilferage (people were constantly stealing the Peugeot pepper grinders which is psycho), returned food, etc. Alls well that ends well. The owner told us via the phone to get out of her restaurant and we complied. Still yummy food though.
Greenhills is always a stop for souvenirs and the like. It is nice because it is not as crazy as Divisoria and also it is really close to our house. Greenhills is nice because it does not look like a mall one is used to seeing overseas and it is a GREAT place to get items to bring back to people. With one group of friends visiting, we went five or six times during their three week visit.

We also tend to always hit a lot of the same restaurants with guests. Bacolod Chicken Parilla is one of our neighborhood places that we eat at all the time and also always bring visitor to at least once. Best chicken inasal in the metro by far. Love, love, love it. It is really good, and if you haven't been, you MUST GO NOW. I am getting hungry just thinking about how good it is. We also usually make sure to go to Legend for shabu-shabu, Aristocrat for chicken barbeque, and Circles at Sofitel.

It is only March and we have already had visitors for three weeks in January, all of February, and the first week of March. We are (hopefully) getting good at hosting people in the Philippines.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Think I Finally Figured Out the Food

One can generally categorize foreigners living here into three categories in regards to their food. Firstly the rarest are the people that eat only foods familiar to them from home. This is not limited to ingredients and recipes only but even brands. The second group are people who eat exclusively local. Never will they buy an imported item, eat at some place like McDo when there is Jollibee, and will be the first to give you a dirty look when buying a 60-pack of frozen jalapeno poppers (blech--never again--no one else likes them but me so it took me MONTHS to finish them all). The third and obviously more common group are the ones that eat from both. Appreciate the familiarity of some items from home, but buy local whenever it is better or less expensive.

I, like most, fall into the third, but probably even less than many. I do tend to lean towards imported when it comes to most dairy as well as snack food. Once I moved here, certain foods from home turned into major comfort foods. My mother's macaroni and cheese was a favorite when I first moved here although I realized quickly that the price of cheese made an inexpensive meal in San Francisco turn quite pricey here. And like many things, I was the only one who thought it was delicious.

My biggest food thing for me is still milk. I drink it. A lot. If I had it my way, I would drink it with almost every meal. While many claim the UHT milk tastes the same, as a beverage it does not. I have started to stockpile the California Sunshine milk from S&R. While it is still psycho pasteurized (I think the shelf life is something like two months) there is none of the funny aftertaste. Plus, it goes well with cereal. While cereal is not the most popular food here, I can eat it almost any time of the day. Also, randomly, Grape Nuts are sold here. Best cereal in the world and kinda random to be sold here. Corn Flakes and Cheerios, I understand. But who knew there was a market here for Grape Nuts? My sister & her husband visited a couple of weeks ago and they even brought a box back with them (they cannot buy Grape Nuts in France). Best cereal ever.

We do not ever buy meat in the supermarket. This is some weird issue of Ado's. She thinks the meat is not fresh in a grocery. Same for most produce. And on the subject of produce, it is almost avocado season!! Starting about May there will be tons! I can make guacamole! Burritos! Off season, one can find the occasional Haas, but if one avocado is the same price as a dinner out for two, I am not buying it. Same with off season strawberries. And cherries.

I can find bagels now. Either at the bakery inside Mickey's or French Bakery does a surprisingly good prepackaged bagel. Not gross mushy like most prepackaged but has a bit of a chewy crust. It is not the best bagel in the world but a really, really, really good substitute.

Blech. According to Meralco, we have rolling blackouts starting again this evening in our neighborhood for an hour. At least it will still be light out. Maybe a good time to go for a swim.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Foreign has become Normal

I rarely post anymore and it is namely because what used to be so different to me, now seems somewhat normal. The oddest thing that happened today is we saw a naked man walking down E. Rodriguez. I am not sure why he was naked, and while it is the first time I have seen this, it didn't seem to stand out as much as it might once have.

I noticed this more when I had family visiting here last month. We did Manila, Boracay, and then a few more days in Manila. They seemed to appreciate some things that I no longer notice. It is like when I lived in SF. Going over the Golden Gate Bridge, while beautiful, was not really appreciated, just a means to get to Marin. When I go back to visit, I notice the view there a lot more. I have gotten a little like that here.

There is still TONS here I do not know. I still cannot figure out how a FX (shared taxi) works, where 99.9% of jeepneys go, the names of many local vegetables, why U-turn slots were invented, what the platforms are of most of the presidential candidates, how to find out about summer courses for teens, why no one here seems to notice the lack of sour cream available, or where all the toilet seats in public restrooms went. But I think I am doing better.

I can still be surprised though. The picture above I took last week. It is a stuffed baboon wearing a Santa Cap and a life tied to a light post in some neighborhood in Makati . That I definitely took notice of.