Monday, December 12, 2011

what's in your wishlist?

I thought about making a vain post about what I wish to receive this Christmas as I usually do every December, but I found this thought-provoking image floating around cyberspace:

I know don't really need a new android phone, or  that DVD player with the USB port, or a whole new wardrobe.  I don't really need to spend money on gifts, on thingamabobs and space-eaters to give to friends who may or may not be my friends after five years.  I really don't.

Dear loved ones of mine: instead of buying me something I may or may not like, please give something to someone who really needs it.

If you truly believe that it's better to give than to receive, go extreme this Holiday season.  Instead of spending on stuff that people will probably forget about after January, how about giving to people who are really in need?

You don't have to go far to show kindness to the needy.  Every city has homeless people, orphans, widows.  And no matter how broke you feel, remember that there will always be someone poorer than you - your house helper, the manong vendor, the security guard at your office building.  Go beyond relief goods give them brand new, high-quality food and items you would be glad to receive yourself. Why not, right?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

red wine spaghetti meat sauce

I'm so not a fan of sweet, Filipino style spaghetti (the kind with hotdogs, sugar and cheddar cheese - blech!  >_< ).  I like it tangy and rich and thick - not the usual children's party fare.

Just last weekend I made a batch of red wine meat sauce for a family Christmas party, and I was so gladdened when others said they liked it.  The special, flavor-enhancing ingredient is the red wine.  Here's how I made it:

Photo not mine
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 to 5 large plum tomatoes
  • basil leaves (preferably fresh and finely chopped, but dried and pulverized works too)
  • two 200g packs of tomato sauce
  • half a kilo of ground beef
  • 1 cup of red wine

  • a can of sliced mushrooms 
  • sliced black olives
  • beef cubes or beef stock for flavor
  • oregano 
  • rosemary
  • pepper, to taste

  • Sautee the onions ang garlic.  I prefer to do the onions first because they take longer.  Once the onions turn transparent, fry the ground beef.  Set aside.
  • Boil the tomatoes until soft.  Remove from heat and mash them with a fork.
  • Over heat, combine the cooked ground beef-and-onions, smashed tomatoes and tomato sauce.  This would be the time to add your beef cubes.  If you want mushrooms and olives in your sauce, you can add them at this point.  Stir constantly to avoid burning the beef.
  • Sprinkle the basil (and if you wish, oregano and rosemary) and pour in the red wine.  Lower the heat, cover and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve over spaghetti noodles and top with more basil and Parmesan cheese. 
    Makes 4-6 servings

  • Meat-lover
    Throw in some meatballs.
  • Heart-healthy
    Instead of ground beef, use tuna flakes.  Use no oil, just water.  Mix in one cup of oatmeal into the tomato sauce. Don't add any beef cubes or flavorings.
    * Oatmeal and garlic help to lower cholesterol, red wine has antioxidants, tuna has omega-3 and tomato sauce has lycopene - all heart-friendly.
  • No Parmesan cheese? 
    Don't use cheddar!
      (I beseech thee! Please!) Instead, use Edam - that's the kind of cheese in Queso de Bola (marami tayo niyan 'pag Disyembre!). Local cheddar is too sweet, and i.m.h.o. ruins the flavor.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

oceanarium outing and thoughts on extended family

On my Papa's 66th birthday, we spent the afternoon at Manila Ocean Park with the cute little Nephew and the cute little Niece.

This here is my brother with his boy.

It was the most outrageously tiring of outings (the lines were suuuuuuuper long and inconvenient), but it was so nice to see the pamangkins smile at the sight of multicolored fishies, sharkies and friendly penguins. 

Photos mine.

The best sight of all was Papa having fun with his grandkids. It's not that often that we see my brother and his family, so a day with them is a special treat of sorts.

Family is a blessing.  That includes the extended part - aunts and uncles, cousins, in-laws and so on.   Mine is far from the warm, fuzzy Disney-movie kind of family, and there could be unnecessary drama sometimes (or a lot of times), but the bottom line is that there's a lot to be thankful for.  I kinda think we prefer not to see each other so much (hahaha, it works for us that way), but we make sure to make time every now and then.  Things don't have to be perfectly hunky-dory always, but you just gotta create happy moments and revel in them - realistically, you'll never know for sure if it's the last time you'll see each other, right?  Might as well make things golden when you can.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Images mine.
Nab if you like  ^_^

I can't imagine how life would be if the Aztecs hadn't discovered the wonders of the cacao bean, and if the conquistadores hadn't decided to bring it home to Europe and enrich it.

I've got chocolate, chocolate, chocolate on my mind today.  The Hubby and I received a love-filled goodie bag from some of his cousins who flew in for the holidays, and in it were some of my favorite things ^_^  (Thank you po sa mga Ate at kay F!) .There are certain times of the month when I crave chocolate more than ever, and this stash came at the most perfect time, so I'm really appreciating.  I'm commemorating today's bliss with this bit of graphic.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

more blog backgrounds

Sharing some more backgrounds.
Click the image to view, and then right click and zoom in to download the full size.

Right-click and Copy Image Location; insert URL into the HTML code.  OR - install it the easier way:

Easy Installment:

  1. Save the full-sized image to your computer.
  2. From your Blogger dashboard, go to Template (or Template Designer, if you are using the old interface).  Click Customize to go tho the Template Designer.
  3. Click Background.  You will see a box that says Background Image and shows a thumbnail of the background you are currently using.  Click the tiny downward arrow at the right of the thumbnail.
  4. In the window that appears, select Upload Image.  Click Browse to upload from your computer.  Don't forget to Save.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

(improvised) tomato-pesto soup

I'm a fan of tomato - tomato soup, tomato juice, sun-dried tomatoes.  <3<3<3  There's a tomato-pesto soup I enjoyed at this Mediterranean restaurant, and I told myself I could figure out how to make something like it.   Now I'm not at all a great cook and most of my recipes are formed by improvisation an estimation, so you might not want to trust me completely with this one. ;)   I just know I like how it turned out.

 Not an amazing photo, but it brightens up the entry, more or less.  :p 


  • Chicken stock (or chicken cubes)
  • Tomato paste
  • Various vegetables, diced
    • Carrot
    • Potato
    • Celery
    • Zucchini
    • Onion
    • Red beans or lentils
    • Tomato
  • Pesto sauce - you can find my recipe for pesto here
  • Chicken flakes - you can use the leftover chicken from last night's dinner.


  1. Boil the veggies and beans until soft - not mushy, but just sufficiently soft as to be edible.  Of course it shouldn't take a genius to know that harder ingredients like beans and carrots take much longer.  Set aside.
  2. Combine water and chicken stock / chicken cubes, stir in the tomato paste and bring to a boil.  You would like to put enough tomato paste to make it slightly opaque (not transparent).
  3. Throw in the veggies and chicken flakes.  Cover and simmer.
  4. Serve in bowls.  Swirl each bowlful with a teaspoon or two of pesto.
  5. Top with black pepper, additional olive oil or cream if desired.  You can float a few pieces of penne (like I did), potato chips or a sprig of parsley or basil.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

girls talk: style icons

I was a bit excited about this week's Girls Talk topic because I think it's cute and easy enough to answer, but then I found myself stymied -- I don't really have a style icon pala, haha.   '.'   I can appreciate other ladies' fashion sense, but I don't really have someone that I look up to or emulate in terms of style.

I'm not much of a fan of sleek-and-streamlined garb that makes people appear like they're trying too hard to be celebrity-like.  I like how these gals dress (sometimes): 

Rachel Bilson often gets it right. Even when she's not dressed up for a shoot, she looks so effortlessly well-composed. She manages to look laid-back but still feminine and pretty.  The way she layers her clothes makes me wish it wasn't so hot here in the Philippines. 

Unlike Rachel, Victoria Beckham is more on the edgy side, but I like that too.  I love most of her hairstyles.  She often wears stuff that would only look good on her though.

And that's my contribution for this week's GT. :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

freebies: blog backgrounds

For today's happy thawt, I want to share some of the blog backgrounds I've made in the past.  This is only the first installment.  :)  Feel free to download and use them. 

Right Click the image to view it, and then zoom in to download the full size.

White Stargazers




Swirly Lilies

Right-click and Copy Image Location; insert URL into the HTML code.  OR - install it the easier way:

Easy Installment:
  1. Save the full-sized image to your computer.
  2. From your Blogger dashboard, go to Template (or Template Designer, if you are using the old interface).  Click Customize to go tho the Template Designer.
  3. Click Background.  You will see a box that says Background Image and shows a thumbnail of the background you are currently using.  Click the tiny downward arrow at the right of the thumbnail.
  4. In the window that appears, select Upload Image.  Click Browse to upload from your computer.  Don't forget to Save.

I would really appreciate it if you could also pin my button to your sidebar:

More buttons here

Keep thinking happy thawts! :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

paper and pencils for a cause

Paper and Pencils for a Cause is an advocacy project started by mommy blogger PinayJade. She is giving back to her hometome in Narra, Palawan by doing something extra nice for the kids of the Estrella Village Elementary School. She hopes to give them gifts that they can use for school. There are 186 students in this school.

Here are the items they need:
  • Paper/ Notebooks
  • Pencils/ Pens
  • Picture books for Pre-schoolers
  • Elementary books
  • School bags / any bags that can be used for this purpose (doesn’t need to be new as long as it’s usable)
  • Chalk
  • Blackboard Eraser
  • Crayons
  • Children's  scissors
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Markers
  • Working Computers

You can help Paper and Pencils for a Cause by:

1. Sending paper, pencils, pens and other school supplies. You can also send your unwanted but usable supplies like bags, pens, notepads etc. Your not only helping the children but you are also helping the planet by letting somebody else use what you cannot use.

2. Spreading the word about this cause. You can blog about this, share it on your Facebook wall/ page. and/or twitter. You can also add the banner above to your blog sidebar.

3. Send financial donations. Your donation would make a huge difference in their education and their lives. The money that we will receive will be used to buy new supplies and to cover the shipping cost of the supplies to the schools. If there is some extra money left, we will do a feeding program as well for the little ones.

Just a few dollars will go a long way in helping these children. You can send your donation to paypal id jade.samson (at) ymail (dot) com. For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

one less bunny at home :(

Yesterday I said farewell to my beloved Pepper.  He became very sick and his health decreased very rapidly in the past few days.  We did what we could to save him, but in the end he had to go.  I had wished that he would live a long, healthy and happy life with us, but I accept that that isn't in my power to fulfill.  :(

I knew even then that he wasn't mine to keep permanently, that I would eventually have to say goodbye.  In the three years he was with us, I endeavored to be the best bunny-mom I could be, so that I could collect many happy memories.  Now that he has been taken from me, I choose not to focus on the sadness of loss but on all the good he has brought into our lives.

God gave him (and his brother Davey, who is still alive and well) to me when I was going through an arduous and trying time. He was unexpected but very warmly welcomed.  He was just a tiny ball of fur that could sit in one of my hands back then. He brought me joy and helped me to stay positive; whenever I got depressed, he never failed to cheer me up, simply by being cute and fluffy.

He taught me a lot about love, grace and faith.  He even taught me much theology - the character of God, how God connects, how the Lord can be so forgiving to those who fail him over and over.  Even after his last nose-wiggle, I learned something from my dear Pepper.  His passing solidified my conviction that Jesus truly loves me, and cares about what I care about.

He was a good and beautiful rabbit, and I will remember him that way.  I will remember how he would hop onto the bed and nuzzle my face, how he would give me nose-bonks to ask for a raisin, how he followed me around and huddled next to me.  He was really sweet and loving. He wasn't the most energetic of bunnies, but he was very curious, poking here and there - it was at times bit annoying, but always thoroughly endearing.   I recall how people who saw him would say he was a gorgeous little animal; indeed, he was - he had soft, cushy fur with Dutch markings.  In his prissiness, he managed to keep his white coat gleaming clean.  He had bigger-than-usual round eyes, thick, long "eyelashes" and velvety ears.  He was instantly loveable.

The past 24 hours have been terribly sad for me, but I'm no victim of regret. I know I gave him a comfortable, happy home and he was as blissful as a bunny can be. He has affected and enriched me in many ways, and I'm grateful and honored to have welcomed him in my life.  Little as he was, he was an enormous blessing from God, and I will always be thankful for him, even long after he is gone.

You will be missed and always loved, Bunny Bun Bun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ang buko (bow)

Today's thoughtful thought is inspired by a photo I took in 2006.

To be of greater use, you will have to be broken. 

The Others may not understand you, and you would cease to appear beautiful to them, but you will have fulfilled your destiny. ;)

And speaking of destiny - ang ibang buko ginagawang buko juice, o cocunut oil; ang iba ginagawang kopra, kendi o pangsahog sa fruit salad.  Ang iba naman nagiging bunot.  Kung anuman, destiny pa rin 'yon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

i got me a few new books! ^_^

As some of you may already know, there was a book fair at the SMX last week.  And I almost forgot about it! Good thing the Hubby and I were able to make time to go on Sunday, the last day.

The last day of course means a lot of people.

For non-literature lovers, it must be confounding as to why there was such a fuss about a books (a friend of ours for example, asked, What are you going to do at a book fair?).  This annual event gathers various publishers and distributors together all in one place, and books are sold at much lower prices than they go for at bookstores.  There's a good chance of finding titles that aren't usually sold at National or Fully Booked, even hardbound copies.

Well I love books.  I don't exactly enjoy the process of reading, but I enjoy taking in what a good book has to offer.  I have therefore made visiting the Book Fair a yearly tradition.

I was hoping to buy a biography of Sir Winston Churchill and of Teddy Roosevelt, but I didn't find any.  The bio sections were full of tomes of William and Catherine, and various volumes on Obama ( 9_9 tsssss) but I didn't care for any of those.

I proceeded to look around and found other titles I was interested in:

They were all titles I intended to buy years ago, but I thought the bookstore prices were too expensive.  Book Fair discounts are much more budget-friendly.  And oh, I got a free sampler from Penguin Books too - WHAT THE WORLD IS READING is a compilation of  the first chapters of hot new novels; if I like any of them I'll know what to look for in the future.

I prefer hardbound versions to paperbacks, especially for bestselling novels, but  I decided on saving a few pesos by settling for the paperbacks. They have the same contents anyway.  They don't look as lovely and they have smaller type, but it's a tiny inconvenience I'm willing to put myself through. Besides, most of the hardbound copies were already sold out by this time.

Hubby and I wanted to look around some more, but I - in a lack of foresight - was wearing four-inch wedges and I'd already twisted my ankle several times.  Plus the crowd was getting thicker and more impatient by the minute, we had to bail before things got too uncomfy.  Anyway we acquired five new titles, and we're really happy about that.  ^_^

I'm excited to start devouring our new books, but I still have an old one to finish...  Maybe I'll start on a new one anyway.  ^_^

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

tarragon tea

I noticed how the row of tarragon in my dad's garden has been looking lively lately, and I got tickled by the thought doing something with the fragrant herb.  I don't know much about tarragon and what sort of dishes call for it; I do remember sipping a cup of tarragon tea at Sonya's in Tagaytay some time ago.

Tarragon is slightly sweet, and I imagine it would go nicely with mangoes. My rabbits love eating it.
To my nostrils, a whole bunch of it smells slightly of Mighty Bond superglue, but not at all in an offensive way.

It is said to have relaxing and stress-relieving properties.  I decided to test that by making myself some tea before bedtime.

Image mine.

* Since tarragon is on the sweet side, there's no need for sugar. But if you need a bit more sweetening, I suggest you use honey - it goes nicely with the flavor.  Besides, it makes sense not to use sugar if your intent for drinking is relaxation.

I've always been the type to have trouble sleeping at night (sleeping in the daytime however, often proves to be much easier) and it looks like the tea is already working its power on me.  Either that or the Heroes marathon the Hubby and I did today lulled me to ennui.

Friday, September 2, 2011

girls talk: black leather boots

For the first Thurdsay of September, we're Girls Talk-ing about something black.  Luckily I have a whole lot of black stuff (No, its not my favorite color, but I like buying things in black, white or cream so they'd be easy to mix and match).

I decided to show-and-tell about one of my current favorite items, a pair of black boots.  See poor-quality photo below:

I acquired them when I visited the U.S. a few months back; they're hand-me-downs from a family friend, but they're still good as new.  I hadn't dreamt of getting boots while I was there, but I seriously needed them because my feet were freezing from the cold.  Good thing these were just my size.  ^_^

I just love the way they look, they're perfect for covering up my unsightly feet.  It's a pity they stop being comfortable after about half an hour or so - they are strictly for porma purposes only, not for walking around.  :p

 Girls Talk is hosted by Beauty Queen Gene.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

girls talk: latest word learned

This warm-weathered week, we Girls Talk about a word we recently learned. I agree with Ms. Kaye's former professor's advice - it's good to learn at least one word a day. Although I must admit, my memory is no longer as sharp as it was when I was a student. :p

Here is my new word:

macarism (n.)
taking pleasure or praising another's joy;
a beatitude or blessing;
the act of making another happy

Ain't it a lovely word with an unselfish meaning?

Its verb form is macarize which means to congratulate; to declare as happy or blessed.

As we go through Girls Talk, let's macarize one another for stretching our noodles a bit to learn new words. ;p

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

today's current faves

Every now and then I post a random list of my current favorite things (I need to put the word "current" in there because my preferences change over time). I haven't done that in a while, so I suppose I could do it now.

1. Starbucks cake pops

They're portable, bite-sized cakes on a stick! Absolutely brilliant! I can have a quick cure for my sweet tooth without feeling like I overstuffed myself.

2. Coconut oil
I raved a bit about it here.

3. Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer

I stumbled onto this while passing time at a Pharmacy in Las Vegas, waiting while my Mama had a medical check-up. Am I glad I found it. ^_^

Its main ingredient is beeswax - natural, organic, and chemical-free, it has moisturizing and healing properties. I was told by avid users that even uncolored beeswax could give lips a healthy glow since it combats discoloration. As an added plus, this product is tinted in several different shades and is shimmery for a prettier pout.

4. Cover Girl Clean Liquid Make-Up

Another acquisition on the trip to the U.S. (I must note how happy it made me see how much cheaper branded American products are there compared to here ^_^). Cover Girl Clean is aptly named for the mess-free way you apply it onto your face. I love the superior coverage without the greasy feel or the cakey look. I kinda think it's good enough on its own for daytime wear, I mean even without blush or eye make-up.

5. Careline eyeshadow powder in a shimmery shade of off-white /cream

I forget what the specific shade is called because I have this habit of peeling labels off from stuff :p I'm not in the habit of sweeping a sparkly shadow over my entire eyelid, but I dab a bit of this to highlight (such as, at the center of the lid for more depth, or at the corners for a weird, artsy look). Since it's in powder form, a very light dusting is suitable for highlighting other parts of my face - like my cheekbones when I don't intend to put on too much blush.

I also found that it can be incorporated into a home-made lip balm mixture for added shimmer, as was used by this lady in her recipe.

6. Wedge sandals

Wedge sandals are a fab cheat for casual wear. They not only create the illusion of added height, but also of less width (hee hee hee). Their moderate chunkiness makes me look a bit more proportioned by balancing out the extra ham that I carry around in my legs. Not too hefty though, so as not to look too Spice-Girlsy.

7. Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Lotion

I discovered this at my Ma's home in Vegas and found that it quickly and effectively treated dry, cracked skin. I'd used it for but a few days when I decided I ought to buy my own tube. It smells really nice too.

8. My new "business card" home page

I found a template that perfectly houses links to all my blogs and other sites in one compact layout, without the unnecessary items. With it, I don't need to put a huge number of links when I want to promote myself; I could just put the one. On top of a short profile, it contains buttons to: all four of my active blogs, my FB page, my Twitter account, my Tumblr log, my 360 Project, my Multiply shop and the site where I upload my art and photos. See what I mean here.

I grabbed this idea from one of those how-to blogs, and I think it's neat and nifty. I highly recommend it for people with several blogs, sites and/or web stores.

And that's it for now. ^_^

Thursday, August 4, 2011

girls talk: favorite word

Glad to be back at Girls Talk after a long absence from the blogosphere!

Today is all about our favorite words. I had a bit of difficulty choosing because I have quite a few. Still I think today's topic is such a pleasant coincidence, because I recently met a word that quickly became my new favorite:

a brief moment of emotional excitement; shudder, thrill
Definition from

Ain't it cute? ^_^ I mean it sounds cute out loud, and it means something cute. I stumbled upon it while making my own crossword puzzle; I needed something that had an R, an I and double S, I asked Google and it gave me this. I fell in love with it and decided it will feature in my next poem.

I can't end this entry without mentioning my all-time favorite word: butterscotch! =D

It's one of those words that are delicious to pronounce. And it means a yummy thing too! Check out my easy butterscotch syrup recipe here.

Like words? Read about the other Girls' Talkers choices at Beauty Queen Gene. Thursdays in the month of August are reserved for discussing words, words words! ^_^

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

still crazy over coconut oil ^_^

It wasn't very long ago when I discovered the many good things about coconut oil, but it's now one of my favorite things ever. It's very affordable (especially here in the Philippines), all-natural and loaded with benefits.

I've been using virgin coconut oil as make-up remover and as skin moisturizer, and I quite prefer it over chemical-laden products (My skin is super dooper sensitive and it often breaks out when I use certain lab-concocted substances). Since I started using coco oil there's been a visible improvement on my skin.

I've also been making an all-natural body scrub with it. Previously shared the recipes here.

Speaking on homemade beauty products, someone recently tweeted this link to a recipe for body butter using coconut oil. I think I'll be trying that sometime.

It is said its subtle scent has a calming effect. Using it thus doubles into an aromatherapy session. ^_^

I've already tried cooking with it - it not only smells better than the usual store-bought cooking oils, but it also lowers the bad cholesterol. And it tastes yummy too.

The other day, I stumbled upon this lady's blog entry on 80 Uses for Coconut Oil. Intriguing. I'm a bit cynical about some of the claims, but I'm willing to test a few. ^_^

Photo from here.

Friday, July 29, 2011


"If one man can express so much hate, think about how much love we all can express together."

From here.

constructing cruciverbs

It may not seem like fun to many, but I enjoy solving crosswords. The past few days were huge, satisfying servings of left-brain candy as I kept myself busy composing my own puzzles.

My screen shot of Puzzle #1.

Yup, I made my own cruciverbs. I'm not aware of what software to use for this sort of thing, so I drafted them in Excel.

I got my cue from Sandra Bullock's character in All About Steve. I wasn't able to see it at the cinema when it was released last year, but I lately managed to stumble onto it while flipping channels.

Image from here.

Sandy plays the quirky, goofy, hyper-intelligent Mary, who falls obsessively in love with Steve (played by the gorgeous Bradley Cooper). She follows him around and pursues a chain of unfortunate but humorous events that make up a romantic comedy.

Cute storyline aside, Mary is the local paper's cruciverbalist. I watched her manually pen her words into a grid and thought, "Hey, I can do that!" I recalled that I'd previously took a shot at construction using shorter words, and that I had a good, geeky time of it; I then became pretty confident I could make semi-professional / print-worthy puzzles.

Now I don't really need to get a job at the local paper, but I could do it for my own personal fun. ^_^

I've come up with two 15 x 15 themed ones so far; maybe I should get someone to test them. If they turn out to be as good as I think they are, I could perhaps share them with other puzzlers and/or send them to some publication.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

a trip to the cirque

The Varekai tent. Photos mine.

Cirque du Soleil isn't a typical circus, me thinks.

I first caught a glimpse over a decade ago on television; I don't really recall what program that was, it must have been an awards night like the Grammys or something. There was this segment in which some big-shot artists (I forgot who) performed on stage against a spectacular backdrop of Cirque du Solieil acrobats in action. What was remarkable about the said acrobats was that they were nothing like the usual circus acts - in unbelievable feats of upper body strength, they performed areal gymnastics, each holding on to a length of fabric suspended from the roof. No safety harnesses, no nets, no nothing. Wow. And they did it in slow, graceful motion too, like they were able to defy gravity.

I mused about how enthralling it would be to watch that live. Cirque du Soleil. Literally, "Circus of the Sun", I noted, and never forgot.

Every now and then I'd been able to catch other similar awards-night-background-acts on television and I concluded they must be known for their areal ballet. Ladies in dangling hula hoops, girls in hanging basket-like structures, pairs swinging on cables with long, flowing fabric trailing behind them. Utter wonder-spell. I saw posters of their shows all over hotels when I visited Vegas, but I never bothered to inquire about details since the pragmatist in me decided to save my dollars for shopping instead of spend them on a two-hour circus show.

I therefore count it as an enormous treat when my mother-in-law invited me to watch Cirque du Soliel's Varekai with her. Ticking one more item from my list of 101 Things To Do Before I Die.

The entrance tent interior. Photos mine.

Like I said earlier, it isn't a typical circus. There were no sideshow freaks, no animals, and no multicolored clowns (there were a few clown segments, but none of them wore the usual garb of brightly-colored overalls, fluffy wig et al). Most of the acts were the suspended ballet types that Cirque is known for. The costumes were wild and radiant, said to be designed to accentuate movement.

Varekai means "wherever" in Romani. With reference to the Greek myth The Flight of Icarus, it's basically an imagining of what happens to Icarus after his fall. Icarus (or Icare) supposedly lands in an enchanted forest and meets whimsical creatures who help him fly again. He falls in love with a beauty simply called The Guiding Light, and they eventually marry. Of course, since it's primarily a circus and not theater, viewer's can't expect a coherent, logical plot throughout; it's more like a string of acts put together in such a way that conveys some sort of story.

Since photography was not allowed inside the Grand Chapiteau (Big Top Tent), and since I like pretending to be an obedient, well-behaved citizen sometimes, I took no pictures of the show. But just to make this entry a bit more visual, I nicked the following photos from

These were my favorite bits in Varekai:

The Flight of Icarus. Absolute Wow. A single artist dances a suspended ballet, using a mesh as an accessory. No safety harness, nets or anything to cushion a possible fall. Icarus contorted with impeccable grace and extreme muscular power.

This guy must be hyper-strong to be able to do something like that, despite his delicate-looking frame. I bet his abs are super tight too.

I also loved the way Icarus entered the stage for this scene. He floated in supine from the ceiling as if he were falling, but very slowly and fluidly like a feather, until he landed softly on his back. The diffused spotlight and the beautiful white wings he wore made him look angelic. No wonder some people (including the promoters, who are apparently unfamiliar with the Greek myth) thought the son of Daedalus the artisan was a fallen angel.

Moving on.

Icarian Games. Seemingly impossible sequences of somersaults and catches, feats of strength and perfect timing.

Areal Straps. A pair of bulgy-muscled men perform complicated choreography in the air. They made it look so easy.

The last act drew the most gasps and applause from the crowd. Russian Swings. Ho-oh-ly crap. Literally breathtaking, and insanely tense. Makes me wonder how many years these flyers took to train just to perfect something like that, and how many bones have been broken.

The chances of me seeing another Cirque du Soleil show are slim, so I'm really glad I caught them when they came to Manila for the first time. But then I wonder ... would they have a show the next time we visit Vegas? We'll see.