Monday, April 30, 2007

Workout Progress - April '07

As clearly apparent in the number of entries I wrote for April, this month has been a really hectic one for me. Between the increased workload, increased TV time thanks to the latest season of my favorite TV shows and a not unwelcome distraction in my personal life, my workout progress hit a snag this month. I found myself skipping more workout sessions and packing in more food than I should. I haven’t really gone and measured the damage but I just know that I’ve practically erased whatever gains I’ve made in the past months.

After accepting the fact that I’ve brought this on by myself, I’ve now got to regroup and realign myself to get back on track. I still have to look at least somewhat acceptable for my Perhentian trip at the end of the month so that’s my current goal for this April. With that in mind, I’ve increased the intensity of my workout sessions by doubling the resistance levels on my body lift machine. I could only do half the number of sets that I did before with the lower resistance level but I think I’m getting the same level of workout that I did before.

Diet plan in April :
- 2 piece of lightly buttered Gardenia Breakthru bread
- 2 Bananas
- 1 serving of plan fried rice with tempeh goreng or greens
- 1 hardboiled egg (alternate working days – 2 whole eggs total per week)
- 1 Spirulina cereal 3 in 1 mix.
- skip dinner on alternate days or get/make something roughly less than 300kcal
- 1 Nature Valley Roasted Almond Granola bar
- Japanese Green Tea
Workout Days
- diluted tomato juice during workout
- protein shake 2 hrs after workout

Supplements :
Balance Liquid L-Carnitine – 10ml per day + 10ml pre workout
EAS Creatine Powder – 10mg x per day + 10mg pre workout
EAS Myoplex Deluxe Protein Shake – ½ serving post workout
21st Century’s HerbalLipo Tea – 1 serving per week day
GNC L-Lysine – 1 tablet per day
GNC MegaMen Dietary Supplement – 1 tablet per day

I’ve added 2 more GNC product to my supplementary product list to replace the more generic ones that I have been using all this while. They do cost slightly more than what I’m used to paying but with the extra discount that I will be getting at GNC with my gym membership, the cost would actually be lower in the long run. Speaking of the gym, it seemed that construction of their facilities at Sunway Pyramid was according to schedule and should be opening sometime in August. I saw that they boarded up the area next to the ice skating rink there so I guess that’s where my gym will be instead of at the new wing as I had initially thought.

Looking forward to May, I have to definitely step up on my game and get back to my previous workout routine. I still have a few weeks to tone up so I won’t really embarrass myself on the beach at Perhentian later this month. It’s either that or stayed covered up for the duration! I’ve also need to start to gradually increase the number of set that I am currently doing with the higher intensity level. I’ve given myself a whole month to get used to the higher resistance so it’s natural for me to go for the next level at the start of the new month.

It’s crunch time and I’m ready for it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Manila Trip '07 - Day 3 (Part 1) Photo Entry

More photos from Rizal's Execution Site Memorial till the next update

(Sign at the Entrance of the Memorial)

(From what I can tell, the 6 depictions above tells the story of Rizal's capture and eventual execution. Without any text descriptions on site, I had to make my own assumptions of what was happening here)

(Close- up of the execution squad. There was quite a number of variations between the statues that made them unique individuals)

(Marker at the Rizal Execution Site)

(They repoduced these statues from an oil painting that I would see later that day. The level of details in these reproduction was quite high)

(Wide shot of the Execution Site. Compare the size of the people relative to the statues and you will get an image of how tall these statues were)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Manila Trip '07 - Day 3 (Part 1)

Dateline : 4th Feb 2007.
To read the previous entry, click here.

After the less than thrilling night, I woke up fairly early on the 3rd day. I was actually looking forward for this particular day since we will get to go to places that I was really looking forward to see. The plan for the day that we had set up yesterday was to have a brunch picnic at Rizal Park then a walkabout through the Intramuros which was the old part of Manila. Since I had woken up so much early before the rest of the group, I had time that morning to do some chores before we went for brunch.

First thing was to repack my bag with everything that I bought from Ilalim ng Tulay Market to see if I need to buy another bag for my other stuff. I normally like to travel light so I have extra space in my luggage for anything that I buy on these trips. On the very rare occasion, I have found myself having to buy another bag to fit everything that I bought on the trip. Those trips would be the ones that I would bemoan later for breaking the bank. Thankfully this Manila trip was not one of those. I was able to fit everything in the bag that I brought with me with some space to spare for more things to buy.

First thing on the agenda for me that morning was finding somewhere to have a proper breakfast. I have not had a proper cup of coffee since the day I landed in Manila due to the fact that they didn’t have coffee making facilities in the hotel room. After taking another lukewarm shower, I’ve stopped hoping that the hotel would fix the water heater, I went out to see if there was anything good to get for breakfast around the hotel. There were few places that looked like they may have some breakfast potential along the street but I was in the mood for something more familiar. Which was exactly what I found when I turned the corner to the Robinson’s Place Mall.

(Caramel Macchiato & Ensaymada at Starbucks)

It may be superficial to some but it was quite a relief when I stumbled into the Starbucks at Robinson’s Place Mall that morning. I have been craving somewhat fierce for a good cup of coffee and there I was at my favorite place for a coffee drinks. It was somewhat comforting to find something that I was familiar with and more comfortable to order knowing what I can expect to get. Getting my customary Grande Caramel Macchiato, I also decided to get an ensaymada in honor of me being in Manila. Ensaymada (recipe at CookbookWiki) was a local type of soft bread/muffin that had a buttery filling and a cheese crust baked on top. I was told about this local delicacy by another from our group and finding it in that Starbucks was an added reason for me to have breakfast there. The drink and the ensaymada only put me back 185 pesos which was more than half of the cost of the same in Malaysia.

(Interior of Robinson's Place Mall)

Since I still had time to kill after breakfast, I decided to walk around the Robinson’s Place Mall to see if there was any bargains to be bought. The mall looked pretty much like the malls in KL with the exception that it was not as busy as the malls back home for a Sunday morning. It was later that I realized that the reason that the mall was not as crowded was that most people there was still in church for Sunday services when I was at the mall. While there were some bargains for the locally made items, imported items on sale were priced comparable to the same items in Malaysia. I was hoping that they might be cheaper but it was not the case in Manila. The Levi jeans that I have been eyeing hungrily in KL was the almost the same price in the Levi shop at Manila.

I was about to give up on buying anything at the mall when I stumbled into a local comic shop. The Comic Odyssey in Robinson's Place was quite spacious and well stocked with both new releases and back issue comics. They also had quite a large selection of figurines and action figures for sale as well. What really made my day was the prices of the back issue comics which was much cheaper from the ones in Malaysia. I don’t know if they bought their collection from private collectors or if they were just simply surplus shipments but I could not believe my eyes when I saw the prices for the comics that I have been searching for years to complete my collection. It took all the willpower I had not to blow my whole travel budget in that one shop! In the end I decided only to get a copy of “Powers vol. 1 #6” and a first print copy of “Rising Stars #1” which has been on my to buy list for the longest time as well as the only one that I still needed to complete my “Rising Stars” series collection. Both were priced as 500 pesos each which as way cheaper than the asking price for the same issues in KL. This shop would definitely be on my visit list if I ever go back to Manila.

(Interior of Comic Odyssey at Robinson's Place Mall)

After spending almost 2 hours in the comic shop and leaving it as giddy as a school girl for having found it, I rushed back to the hotel since we were suppose to go to Rizal park at 11am. Stopped at the Korean grocery store next to the hotel because I totally forgot to get the paper plates that I was suppose to get for the brunch that day. Once I reached the hotel lobby, I saw that the other guys hadn’t come down from their rooms yet so that gave me time to hustle up to my room and stow away the items I recently purchased before coming down again to find the rest of the group already waiting for me. After checking that we had everything we need for brunch, we left the hotel and proceeded to the Mabini St corner to get a jeepney to go to Rizal Park. By this time, we were almost seasoned jeepney veterans and finding the right jeepney to the park was quite easy.

Getting off near the intersection of a busy road quite close to the park was a challenge since we were right in the middle of the road and had to deal with jeepneys whizzing by us to get to the other side. Thankfully we were able to get past them safely and go to one of the side entrances of Rizal Park. The park itself was a large rectangular grassy clearing with leafy trees on each side. It was lucky for us that it was slightly overcast the day that we went there since there was actually little shade to go there if the sun got too much. Much like the rest of Manila, the park could have used a bit of sprucing up since everything there, including the grass, looked a bit worn down. We saw more bronze bust of notable Filipino historical figures by the pathway that ran along the field but without English descriptions, I could not tell what their contributions were.

(Rizal's “Mi Ășltimo adios" poem on marble)

Off to the side of the pathway, we found the area where Dr. Jose Rizal was executed by the Spanish troops back in Dec 30th, 1896. They had put up a beautiful stone carved diorama on one of the walls outside the entrance to the area that told of the story of Dr. Jose Rizal. On the other side of the entrance was an impressive gleaming block of reflective marble that had Rizal’s last poem “Mi Ășltimo adios (My Last Farewell)” etched on it. It was quite moving to be standing there reading this poem and thinking about how it would impact other people who stood where I stood reading it. I initially thought that the place that I stood was the location of the execution but it was a bit later when one of the caretakers of the area called down to me from the top of the wall to tell me that the actual execution spot was inside. Paying the 10 pesos entry fee, we found ourselves in an area set up for what seemed to be a light and sound show if we had came here at night. They had auditorium style stone seats that all faced into the area where at least 7 feet bronze statues stood arranged in scenes from Dr. Jose Rizal’s life and death.

(Wall to Rizal's execution spot site)

Since I think it was setup to be a night show with live commentary, there was almost no descriptions that explained the scenes that were there in front of us. By that time, I really wished that I had studied up on Dr. Jose Rizal’s life and times so I can make sense of what I was seeing around me. The only plaque that they had there was the one marking the exact spot where Rizal fell after being executed by firing squad which was replicated with the bronze statues in the main clearing. Walking around the statues and taking pictures of them was a bit surreal as they were so big and the area felt as it I was on holy ground. I had to take a breather to let it all sink in that I was actually standing on the same place where such an important figure in Philippine history breathed his last breath. It was quite the overwhelming experience for me.

(The firing squad)

(Death of a hero)

Next installment : Lunch at the Park & Intramuros

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Manila Trip '07 - Day 2 (Part 4)

Dateline : 3rd Feb 2007.
To read the previous entry, click here.

After crashing out in my hotel room after the long day, I woke up at 7 pm feeling rested and quite hungry. Turned out everyone in the group was feeling the same as my doorbell rang almost moments after I woke up. The guys decided to all gather in my room bearing the food that they brought with them from home. The 4 of us had dinner of instant noodles, serunding, bread and fruits all washed down with enough soft drinks to make a dentist cringe. Dinner aside, the other reason for the impromptu gathering was to discuss what we all wanted to do that night.

We were all for going out to see what was available in terms of nightlife in the area surrounding the hotel. Since we only had one person in the group who has been in Manila before, the 3 of us left the decision of where to go up to his discretions. I was actually hoping to go on a pub crawl to sample as much of the Manila scene as I could given the short time I was there but it seems that the others were more inclined to go see a strip show instead. I have to say that I have had expected this given that the rest of the group were married men and that they have hinted to me of their plans even before we got on the plane to Manila. While it was not really what I was looking forward to be spending the night doing, being outnumbered 3 to 1 meant that I had to tag along with the group. Going off on my own would be too dangerous and I wouldn’t want to be the anti-social one of the group by staying in. At the time I was hoping that the strip joint would not be the only place that we hit that night.

After our dinner, everyone adjourned to their respective rooms to rest again before getting ready to go out at 9pm. After a lukewarm shower and finding the courage to finally wear the black little shirt that I brought with me on this trip, I went down to the lobby to wait for the rest of the group. Shortly after the whole team was there and raring to go an have fun for the night. We took a cab from hotel to the East Asia Club, Theatre & Restaurant located at Roxas Blvd. It didn’t seem to be that far away from the hotel and the ride cost about 200 pesos. Once we arrived we were greeted by the customary security people who did a cursory body pat-down and run us once over with a metal detector. Like most other places in Manila, they really take security seriously here.

Once we passed the security check point, the guys at the door asked us if we have been there before and if we knew any of the guest relation officers from out previous visit. Not savvy to what usually happens in one of these places, I guess that if it was your first visit then they will assign an employee to set you up and get your first round of order of drinks. Since one of our group knew one from his previous visit, we ended up asking for her by name. She appeared a few minutes later and greeted us enthusiastically, much more that I would expect from just a casual visitor. I’m guessing that the guy from our group who knew her must have came here quite often in the past. Once all the introductions were made, with a special welcome hug given to the only bachelor in the group i.e. this taken unawares writer, we were all ushered into the main hall where they gave us seats next to the stage where the singular pole in the place was located.

I have to be frank and explain here that the only other time that I have been inside a strip bar was back when I was in college on my semester break road trip to Las Vegas during my senior year. Spent most of that particular road trip under the influence of various alcohol beverages and as a result I can hardly remember what the experience was like. Unlike that previous experience, I vowed to stay sober the whole night and at least remember part of what I was expecting to experience in Manila. In hindsight, I wonder now if it would not have been better for me if I was already three sheets to the wind when we ended in our seats. It wasn’t that the whole experience was bad but it just bored me out of my skull. It didn’t start that way since the first performer on stage was not half way bad looking. In fact she reminded me of Rosario Dawson’s Mimi character from the movie “Rent” when I first saw her. However the comparison stopped there as there was nothing from her that would “light my candle” so to speak.

As the show dragged on and one after another performer took the stage, I found myself thinking about the girls who do this for a living and the guys who go to these places for entertainment. Trust a basket-case like me to get all philosophical in a place like that in the middle of a strip show! The thing was that very few of the girls that I saw on stage that night did anything to engage the audience. Most of them looked as bored as I am when they come on stage. I guess that it is fair to say that they might not want to be there anymore than I did and they were doing it only for the money. I have to admit that I had a romanticized image of striptease where the emphasis was more on the tease rather than on the stripping. The art of seduction was truly absent on stage that night only to be replaced by repetitive acrobatics that looked that it would hurt more than it would feel good doing it. Seriously … who in their right mind would think that doing full leg splits and slamming your groin area repeatedly on the stage floor anywhere remotely sexy? Could it be that the fact that seeing that on stage totally does nothing for me is quite telling of how I’m wired?

To ease the boredom, I tried to discreetly observe the other people in the establishment that night. I must say that I was surprised that the club was not as busy as I would thought it would be on a weekend. Other than our group, there was only 5 other tables occupied with groups of not more than 4 people a piece. Of course the table with the drunk white guys with the free flowing drinks was the most popular one with the girls that night. They got rowdier as the night progressed and it was funny watching them getting more and more shitfaced as the night dragged on. Watching drunk people stumble around is always funny as long as you’re not the one getting drunk. The other people there were a fair mix of locals and tourists. It was actually quite fun watching them and trying to conjure their life stories in my head as a way of relieving my boredom at being stuck watching really bored girls going through the motions on stage.

At one point in the night, they had some male staff offer shoulder messages for us. I guess that after sitting on the sofa watching the girls performed on stage, some people may need to have their shoulders messaged so at least some blood will circulate to the other areas in the body. Since I had nothing else to do, I decided to accept the offer and got one of them to message my neck and shoulders. It wasn’t really that bad and the guy did know how to message the area correctly so it doesn’t hurt so it was quite worth the 100 pesos tip that they were expecting from me afterwards. They would come around to offer it again later in the night but by then I was not really keen for another neck rub by then. They even offered me neck messages after I was done with my toilet break but the thought of getting a neck rub in the toilet freaked me out too much.

Back in my seat nursing my diet coke and lime, I noticed that they continue to have the same people up again and again that night. What was worse was the music that they used to accompany the girls as they performed. Never again will I be able to listen to Celine Dion “Because You Love Me” without having flashback of that boring night. Most of the girls would perform solo but they were a few group acts. In between the sets they would have the girls wear skimpy revealing clothes and put on a fashion show for the crowd. Most would have the same poses and when they performed their clothes-less acts they would indubitably reuse the same moves that they had been using the whole night in every set. Very few of them even walked up to the podium where the pole was and those who did only walked around it once before going back to center stage. The absence of anyone working the pole that night further shattered my romanticized view of a strip club.

We stayed there for almost 4 hours that night. I was bored out of my mind but the other guys I came with were not budging from their seats. The only consolation for me was being able to watch the antics of a group of young-ish local boys who came in much later after us that night. From their clothes, I assumed that they were well off college students who were there to have a good time. Some of them didn’t look that bad to the eyes so I just sat there trying to watch them discreetly from where I was. It was either that or just get more bored as I finished nursing my coke & lime. Once the other guys had the their fill of the surroundings, we decided to settle our bill and get a taxi back to the hotel. The whole bill for us came up to 1200 pesos for the four of us. Given that we all didn’t drink much that night, it was quite a cheap tab to pay compared to what a night out in KL might cost us.

Reaching the hotel at 2 am, I already had my share of the long day and was looking forward for some shut eye. The experience left me with a whole new view of a strip club, terrible ringing in my ear and intense flashbacks when I hear a Celine Dion song but not much else. It was not the best way that I would liked to have spent the evening but I didn’t really have much choice in the matter. With only one more night in Manila left the following day, I went to bed hoping that it would be much better than the one I just wasted.

PS: For obvious reasons, I did not take any photos at the club. I didn’t have that big of a death wish.

More pictures from Manila Trip '07 - Day 2 are uploaded here. Warning - I have not had a chance to put in captions for these pics.

Next installment : Day 03 in Manila