Machiavelli is Filipino! (Machiavelli Chocolatier)

I love the rain.  The weather gets a little bit cooler.  Streets and buildings get a much needed wash down.  The leaves on trees and plants glisten with their coat of water.  The sound of raindrops hitting the pavement muffles the otherwise deafening sound of daily life and, for a few hours or so, we are forced to slow ourselves down.

And slow ourselves down we did one stormy afternoon when classes were cancelled and work was called-off early.  Knowing that traffic would be going in the opposite direction, I swept my wife from bed, got into the car and hied off to Makati for a relaxing, mid-afternoon date.

Soon enough, we found ourselves in the immaculate and familiar confines of Rustan’s flagship store in Ayala Center (Let’s face it…  Most of us grew up borrowing our mother’s frequent shopper card).  We had a leisurely stroll among the beautifully laid-out displays with my wife taking note of the “X” items (my knees are quivering as I write this), while I was subtly directing her toward the men’s department.

I thought my efforts were succesfull when something caught her eye (*face palm*).  She immediately made a bee-line for some well-lit refrigerated display cases set against a purple background.  With no other choice but to follow, I scampered off after her.

She was already choosing what to buy when I made it to her side.  I don’t blame her.  We were staring into the display case of Machiavelli Chocolatier and the chocolates on offer were bite-sized works of art.  We bought a couple of pieces (the Grand Marnier and Coconut Screw) and relished the smooth, buttery chocolate that could have only come from the best chocolatiers in the world.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that most of the chocolates on offer had Filipino names.  There was Yema de Manila, Dusty Negros and Batangas Star.  There were even chocolate bars dedicated to prominent Filipino personalities such as Benny’s Morrocan Bar (dedicated to Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco) and the Cory Aquino Bar wrapped in yellow.  I asked the proprietor, Raul Matias about the store and he confirmed that the store is his original concept and that he made the chocolates himself!  Amazing, really.  It just goes to show that Filipinos can stand as equals on the world stage.

I’ll have this over Belgian chocolate any day.

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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Hi-Fi Pinoy (A-Audio Research)

 Saturdays are the bomb!  I’m sure this applies to most people.  Of course, there are those that have to work on a Saturday and will automatically dislike this post, but, hey, I’m just saying…

Hmmm…  Where was I…  Oh, yes.  Saturdays are quite special for us regular guys because it is the day we do NOTHING.  Yep.  NOTHING.  Yes, there are those who take the time to do some physical exertions, but, really, why would anyone want to do that?

There was this one recent Saturday, I was browsing through some interesting sites (not the pornographic kind) when a friend of mine sends me an invite over to his house to hang out and listen to some new speakers he had in stock.  Not having anything on my schedule (hehehe) I said, “Yeah, why not?”  Since it was raining cats and dogs at the time and I was thinking of stretching my truck’s legs, I thought that I might as well have some free food and brewskies to go with it.

I was dumbstruck when I entered my friend’s “cave”.  He had an array of speakers beneath his 100-inch projector screen that would put any showroom to shame.  I chose a spot on the couch and wasted no time in ordering him to put on some tunes.  As the first few notes of Hall & Oate’s “Sarah Smile” filled the room (Yes, Hall & Oates.  Some of the readers may be laughing, but you know, I know, you like it) I was struck by how clear and honest the music sounded.  It was as if the band were playing right in front of me.  After the CD played its last track we switched to some Karen Carpenter and hearing her sing made me feel like I was in the embrace of this warm, haunting, amazing voice.

Being that I didn’t live there, I had to bid goodbye after a couple of hours.  But before leaving, I asked my friend what speakers we were using.  His answer floored me because it turns out that we were listening to his new bookshelf speakers from the Genesis collection of A-Audio Research the entire time.  Bookshelf speakers!  Even more amazing is that A-Audio Research is a Filipino company!  Its bookshelf speakers from the Genesis collection, which is the one in the photo, with a tweeter and a 5-inch mid-bass puts out sound that would compare to the likes of Marantz or Bowers & Wilkins.  It’s even bi-wired so that audiophiles could power the tweeter and woofer separately to get better sound separation and clarity.

It looks like that new wi-fi router will have to wait.

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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Well, My Wife Liked It (Kate Middleton)

My wife and I are in Fully Booked quite often.  It’s kind of a default destination for us whenever we have nothing specific to do and we just need to get out of the house.  We browse around for an hour or so, taking note of the books we like before finally choosing from among them and heading for the counter.

During one such trip a couple of weeks ago, my wife came up to the counter with a basketfull of chick lit.  I, on the other hand, just had two or three books cradled in my arm.  I told her that it was a bit too much since we’d be back in a couple of days anyway.  But, no, she said that she chose all of the books so that she doesn’t have to buy any book for a few weeks.  I relented, but it was too late.  My wife’s credit card had already been swiped by the evil saleslady.  (Note to self:  cancel wife’s extension cards)

It’s been a couple of weeks.  I’ve already burned through the books I bought and have begun re-reading back issues of my car magazines.  I was getting bored and all I could see was this pile of chick lit on my wife’s bedside table.  It was too late in the evening to get a snack and the iPad was taken hostage by the kids.  So, without really thinking about it, I rolled over to the other side of the bed and got the book on top of the pile.

Big Mistake.

It was a book entitled “Kate”, subtitled “Kate Middleton: Princess in Waiting”, written by Claudia Joseph and it was an excruciating read.  The first eleven chapters were about Kate Middleton’s paternal and maternal ancestors and how most of them lived and died as mine workers.  It was sad…  Really…  And boring.  The chapters about Kate Middleton herself began in primary school and there was nothing there.

So, I muddled through a few more chapters until I got to the point where she became the flat mate of the prince.  At this point you’d think, “Ah!  Now for the good part.”  You’d expect sex, drugs and other unspeakable acts, but, like the rest of the book, there was nothing.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Nothing.

It would have been nice if the author wrote about how the Middletons built their party planning business called Party Pieces or included more photographs of the other people mentioned so often in this book, but, I guess Claudia Joseph wrote the book for a very specific audience and never really expected it to sell beyond the shores of England.

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Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Analog Down Time (Ion Audio)

It’s 9pm on a tuesday and my mind is still racing from all the sensory inputs the day had to throw at me.  I’m trying to relax, but I still have one last thing on my to-do list.  With wife in tow, I drive over to my sister-in-law’s pad to brainstorm for creative ideas.

After about half an hour, we’ve gone nowhere.  In fact, I’ve resorted to scrounging around her half-empty refrigerator just to have something else to think about.  With no new ideas and a fruit roll-up in hand, I plop down on the couch and decided to put on some tunes.

Walking over to her audio cabinet, I am greeted by this non-descript TTUSB10 Turntable from Ion Audio.  Its actually a hybrid since it comes with software that allows the owner to record the analog audio output into an Mp3 file.  The result?  Analog sound from a digital player.  Cool.  I flip through her collection of vintage vinyl, little by little getting hypnotized by the slapping of each record against the other.  Choice made, I gingerly slip out the vinyl record from its protective cover.  It’s been 25 years or so since I’ve actually touched a record so I take my time to appreciate the weight of the vinyl and the grooves carved into it.  At this point, I’m already smiling.

WARNING!  What comes next is a ritual known only to audiophiles and may not be suitable for those born in the digital age.

I flick the power switch to on.  Carefully lay the record on the platter.  Set the speed to 33rpm.  Press the start button to begin the rotation of the platter then move the arm to ever so delicately place the stylus on the vinyl.  For a moment or two, nothing except a barely audible hiss comes out from the speakers.  Then, the stylus is caught in the groove and the sweet, smooth, mellow sound of an analog recording wafts around the room and slowly envelops me in its warm tones.

Just the memory of the experience makes me want to sit back on the couch, prop my feet up on some pillows and ride the feeling.  Good Vibes.


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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Convention Loot (VMV Hypoallergenics)

Medical conventions are usually staid affairs teeming with stuck-up old men or crusty old women.  If there are any young doctors, you’d see them shifting in their seats, thinking of heading out to the hotel pool or the adjacent golf course.

It’s not a vacation for their family members either as those who are brought along find themselves hanging out in the room or in the pool area waiting for hours for their respective spouses/parents.

Not this guy.  No, sir.  I’ve had my share of conventions and I’ve loved every single one of them.

You see, my wife is a dermatologist and the way conventions go, their annual medical convention is husband nirvana.  While my wife is dutifully listening to the latest scientific updates from speakers who come from all over the world, I am sitting amidst the numerous corporate displays taking advantage of the excellent foot massage while enjoying my chai tea latte and keeping an eye out for freebies.  Yes, freebies.  And I’m not talking about boxes of anti-biotics.

Walking around the vendors’ area where the corporate displays are is like walking around the cosmetics and skin/body care floor of a high-end retailer.  They have the latest and about to be launched products on display.  The best part is…  You guessed it.  Freebies!  Most, if not all, of these companies give out samples of their best-selling or most expensive products.  And, they’re quite generous about it.  There was one year where we were able to get enough free soap that we didn’t have to shop for that item for six months!  This year, I hit pay-dirt again with a number of freebies from VMV Hypoallergenics called Grandma Minnie’s The Big, Brave Boo Boo Balm; Grandma Minnie’s Coo & Clean Baby Wash and their Armada Baby 50+.

My kids love the water which means we’re at the beach club every month.  It’s a lot of fun, but being kids, it also means that they are out playing in the sun for hours, their skin gets the occasional scratch and it takes a lot of soap to clean away the salt water residue.  With a formulation specially made for ultra-sensitive skin, this trio of skin care products is the answer to our concerns.  The sun block is protective enough but not as sticky as other brands, the balm helped soothe a couple of scratches (mine included), and the baby wash made my kids smell clean and fresh without any powerful odors.

I’m definitely looking forward to what they have to offer during the next convention.

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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Hooligan (BMW)

It was a rainy saturday morning.  I had just dropped-off my wife at her appointment and told her that I would take a quick trip to the local car show.  Of course, knowing how obsessed I am with cars, she thought I was making a joke, gave a gentle laugh, and waved me off.

As I merrily drove along the wet roads, I thought about how the timing could not be better.  Because of the monsoon rains and the fact that I would be arriving at such an odd hour, it meant that parking would not be a problem, the crowd would be thin and I could linger around each display as long as I like.  When I got there, it was as I thought it would be…  A slice of motoring heaven.

Inside the exhibition hall the automotive works of art were gleaming in the light.  It was an amazing sight.  Standing by the entrance, I surveyed the layout of the show and decided that the best route was to go in a counter-clockwise direction before slicing across each of the aisles (there is a method to fully appreciate these annual exhibits).

My decision to take the route was immediately rewarded by the presence of this silver 1974 BMW 2002 Turbo (Please pardon the electrical cables.  There was a bikini clad model standing there but she was blocking the car so I asked her to move).  It is beautiful.  Yes, there were more exotic and rarer cars on display such as an angry 1976 Lancia Stratos, a very sublime 1956 Mercedes Benz 300 SL “Gullwing”, an extremely elegant 1966 Ferrari 330 GT, a rare 1967 Toyota 2000 GT, and a playful Porsche 356C.  But, for some reason, it was the BMW that I was drawn to.

This car is cool.  The silver paintwork is immaculate.  The BBS wheel and tire combo nestled inside the fender flares gives off such a macho vibe.  The black leather interior is well-made and the livery gives the car that extra dash of color.  It is like a bespoke, slim cut, Paul Smith suit.  I imagine myself in the car, driving at a reasonably quick clip, up and down the winding back roads of Subic.  Or, if I want to be a hooligan about it, blasting full-throttle down McKinley Road at 2am and having so much fun that I turn around and have a go in the other direction.

I want to own this car so much that it makes my insides hurt.

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Posted by on June 4, 2011 in Uncategorized


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For The Love of Suede (Cole Haan)

Some might think it as odd, but I like going down to my shoe closet just to take a peek inside and to make sure that my “investments” are well-preserved.  Every so often, I take them out for a cleaning (yes, even those that I have not used in a while).  One by one, I unwrap their protective cloth or paper cover, give them a once-over to make sure that no molds have grown (in Manila weather this is a must), and, depending on the material used for their construction, proceed to wipe, dust, buff or brush them.  They are then lovingly and securely re-wrapped for storage.

It might seem a bit on the anal side, but when dealing with shoes that cost more than a month’s salary for most people this kind of care is needed.  Indeed, it has been worth the effort.  Take these brown suede Cole Haan lace-ups as an example.  I bought this pair on a trip to Carmel, California back in 1999.  Yes, that was 12 years ago.  Yet, they look like they’ve been out of the box for only a couple of weeks.

The design is eye catching as it is slim and very contemporary.  Wearing it is a pleasure as the leather is soft and pliable.  The best part of the entire experience is when I run my hand softly against it to feel the luxurious suede nap.  I imagine a cobbler carefully selecting only the best hides for this handmade shoe and hoping that its future owner will have as much pride in wearing it as he had in making it.

Quality really is timeless.

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Posted by on May 30, 2011 in Uncategorized


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