Tag Archives: makati

Kitten Update!

Remember this little guy?

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In July, he was adopted by our friends, Cath and Bill, who live downstairs in our building.  Since then, he was renamed Lito and has been a source of laughs for the two!

I hadn’t been at their place for a while, but last week I had a chance to stop by and Cath took a couple of pictures.  Can you believe it’s even the same cat?

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(And yes, he’s showing off some chub there!)

Even Karl who thought I was crazy bringing that tiny kitten home back in May, on the day we moved into our apartment, agrees that it was the right thing to do (probably because I haven’t encountered other kittens since then). 

I can’t believe that the little kitty who fit into the palm of my hand, could only drink kitten replacement milk from a bottle (in feedings that took over 40 minutes each time!), had to be “stimulated” in order to poop (thanks youtube for showing me how to do that!) and had a huge fungal infection in over 50% of his body, made it through to be such a big healthy cat! 

When I was caring for him there was loads of tears when I thought he wouldn’t make it (the fungus thing was scary!), but not once I gave up.  He is so lucky that we were able to find him such a wonderful family – and Cath and Bill find themselves lucky as well to have such a little rascal roaming around their place!

The one bad news?  He doesn’t remember me at all!  (Or maybe he does, and is still has nightmares when I had to scrub him with gel a few times a day to get the fungus scabs off…  Or when I held him over the toilet to massage his stomach so he would poop…  Or that I kept him locked up in his own room/bathroom instead of giving him free roam of the house, so our pets wouldn’t destroy him).  Ok, so he may only remember the bad parts, since the life of a sick kitten was not very glamorous, but did he completely forget the hours a day I played with him, the bottle feedings, the naps we took together?  Or is he afraid I’m going to take him away from his new family, where he is certainly king of the place?

Sometimes doing the “crazy” thing like bringing an abandoned and malnourished kitten home, when you already have a cat and a puppy, on your first day in your new place, is not so crazy after all.  I don’t regret it one bit.

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What makes me happy in Manila

Jill, over at the Perlman Update, is hosting a foreign service blog round up, and this week’s question is what makes me happy at our current post (which is good timing too, as the winter bidlist just came out, so if you’re researching Manila, here is my advice!).

I admit, that there are days that living in Manila gets the best of me:  the traffic; men peeing against walls while their pee trickle goes down the sidewalk I’m walking on (or seeing the construction workers at the roof of the building next door just pull it out and pee right there – hope whoever lives in the penthouse never has an infiltration problem on their ceiling, ick!); never getting our food at the same time when we’re out to eat (it’s not uncommon now for whoever gets their food first to start eating right away and not doing the polite thing and waiting – unless you want to eat your food cold); rarely getting our drinks before our food order (even if I just ordered house water!); the lack of green space and not having anywhere nice to walk my dog, and wondering if all her skin issues are due to the bad air; etc…

But, if you’ve been reading along you KNOW all the good here overshadows the bad!  And the good?  Oh there’s just soooo much!

-The TRAVEL!  I know, I know, I shouldn’t start a post on the wonderful things about Manila with how easy it is to get out of it!  But chances are, if you’re an expat in the Philippines, you like traveling and exploring and Manila is a great hub for it.  There are the wonderful islands of the Philippines with their clear blue waters…

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And all the amazing Asian countries all around you waiting to be explored.

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I find that the expats who tend to hate Manila (there’s quite a handful of them, unfortunately), are the ones that don’t travel enough – it’s a great resource, it’s affordable if you take advantage of flight promos (which we do every time we travel), and it really makes you appreciate living in Asia!

-And the best way to recuperate from traveling (or working?).  MASSAGES!  It’s no secret I’m addicted to them.  I like that I can go to the fancy place across the street and get a 1.5 hour massage for $25.  I love that for about $8 I can get an hour-long foot massage.  Some people here that don’t have a crazy dog and cat roaming their apartment actually get a one hour home massage service for $6.

-Since we’re talking about PAMPERING, let’s keep up the theme and add how your mani/pedi here should come out to about 10 bucks, your expensive haircut costs less than 20 dollars, an hour-long facial is also 10 bucks…  You can definitely get used to this life!

DIVING! That’s our new passion since arriving here!  Learning how to dive it’s still not cheap, but much more affordable than most places!  And when each dive costs from $20-$30 (including equipment rental, as we don’t have our stuff), it is also one of the most affordable places to dive in the world.  And you get to see some amazing things!

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It’s also one of the reasons why we keep delaying the having a baby things.  Women can’t dive while pregnant, and I’d hate to waste a year living here and not being able to dive…

AFFORDABILITY:  it’s true, things here are affordable if you compare to the US and European prices (heck, at this point even compared to Brazil!), but not necessarily to other Southeast Asian countries, but that doesn’t make things here expensive.  You can have a nice meal including drinks and tips for less than $20/person.  Most often, it comes out to about $15/person.  And though Filipino food doesn’t make my mouth water, there’s some great restaurants in this area…  You can find Thai, Spanish, Korean, Italian…  And if you’re hankering for a burger, yep, we have Chili’s here too (funnily enough, it’s more expensive than most restaurants!).

HOUSEHOLD HELP:  Since moving to our permanent housing, I have done zero laundry, zero toilet scrubbing, zero dishes (ok, maybe a couple of dishes here and there if things on the weekend got out of control, but it could average it out to almost zero).  Yep, being able to afford GOOD household help has been wonderful!  My bed is made every morning, my floors are always shining, my pots and pans scrubbed, and most nights I have dinner made for me.  You can even skip grocery shopping if you’d like! 

Ah, and we also have a driver, which is perfect for our one-car household – Karl can go to and from work with our car, and I still have the car to use at the other times of day, plus I’m not the one dodging jeepneys on the road.  Sweet, no?

PET SITTER!  Another bonus of having full-time household help?  For a couple of bucks more, she stays with our pets when we travel.  They LOVE her, she LOVES them (which is super important to us), and we can take advantage of all the traveling I mentioned above without the least bit of worry.  Our babies are well taken care of!

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-Which brings me to another advantage:  VET CARE!  Some things will not compare to the US, it’s true.  But our most expensive vet bill to date was when Lily ate my flipflops, could not stop throwing up (which quickly became all blood) and spent 2 nights at the vet under observation while they made the vomiting stop and x-rayed her stomach multiple times to make sure there was no blockage.  The total bill?  $150.  I spend that easily in the US with just a simple consultation and check up.  Plus for the total sum of $12, the vet will come to your house for any consultation/vaccines/etc.  He won’t do surgery on your dining table, no worries, there’s the vet office for that, but for anything else, it’s a quick text to the vet and he comes right over!  (My friend who lived in Rwanda did have the vet neuter her cat on the dining table – so yes, it is an advantage that here there’s no need for that!)

TEXTING!  Some people might hate texting, I love it!  Do you need to ask the vet a question or schedule an appointment, even if it’s off hours?  Text him!  Do you need to schedule a doctor’s appointment?  Text the office!  How about to schedule that massage/facial/pedicure/haircut?  Text!  (I heard people with children can even text their pediatrician at any time!)  I really love it.  No need to have a pen nearby, as I have all confirmed on my phone.  No need to worry about busy signals, leaving a message, no one picking up, as again, you just text what you need!  It’s perfect!

-Our AMAZING APARTMENT!  It’s rare that any Embassy people get less than 3 bedrooms when they get their housing assigned in Manila.  And though apartments at the Seafront Compound are a bit smaller and older, you win on the nice lap pool and green space.  But for those of us living in Makati and the Fort?  We are lucky enough to live in some spectacular apartments, with ton of things walking distance from us (meaning we don’t need to use the car for the most part and can walk to dinner, massages, hospital, park, to grab a beer or coffee, etc).  I posted pics of our place before, but here’s a 360 of my living/dining room…  (Click to enlarge)

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And if you’re wondering, yes, I did find myself yet a new iPhone app, this one totally free called Photosynth and it makes panoramas of anything you want – including 360 pictures like above.

-Lastly:  THE FILIPINOS!  Yes, that’s another great thing about living in Manila!  Sure, I hate them all when I’m trying to drive and have to deal with crazy  pedestrians, Jeepney drivers that really shouldn’t be driving a thing, suicidal motorcycle riders, and no traffic enforcement.  And sure, they lack the ability to say “no” when it means “no” like,
“Can I order the shrimp pasta?” 
“yes”
“perfect, I’ll have that!”
“Sold out, mam”

And the inability to even say things like “what?  I don’t understand” so when you ask them a question you often get a yes – for a question that was NOT a yes/no question such as
“how do I get from here to the mall?” 
“Yes”
or “Do you think it’s better if I go there in the morning or the afternoon to avoid traffic?”
“yes”

But, but, but, with very rare exceptions (and outside of the roads, because on the roads they’re all maniacs), they’re one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  They might be bringing your drinks and food late, forget you ordered a water, and might not be answering your questions at all but they’ll be doing it all with a smile on their face.  Service people don’t act like they’re doing you a favor, as you often see in the US.  They’re truly happy to be there, even if that’s not their dream job.  Never have I asked my helper or my driver for something and seen an eye roll or a reply that’s less than friendly.  They’re never in a bad mood, or not forthcoming with a smile (I really should learn how to be more like them, to be honest).

When I walk in our neighborhood, all the guards (there are guards in every building) say “Good morning” (etc).  And not in the “I’m trying to come on to you way” but in a genuinely nice way (and yes, I ALWAYS reply, because why not be nice to people that are being nice to me?).

And a tip?  Always return a smile with a smile.  I see many people not being nice to service people here, whether they’re expat or Filipino, but there’s no reason to be rude.  Even when things are not done how you like them to be done, it’s not on purpose or to be spiteful, so just smile back and don’t let the little things stress you out.  You won’t enjoy Manila at all if you get caught up into the little things, trust me!

I’m sure I’m forgetting 233,354 things more on this list, but these were the first things that popped in my head.  2 years here will be plenty for us, but we know how much we’ll miss this place when we’re gone, so maybe one day we’ll be back!

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Filed under Asia, Foreign Service, Manila, Philippines, Pictures

Manila Favorites!

I know, I know, how presumptuous of me to blog about my Manila favorites when we’ve only been here 7.5 months (OMG, we’ve already been here that long??).  And this list might change in a year for all I know, but since I’m always giving advice to newcomers and even seasoned Manila folks (I have a big mouth, what can I say?), I figured it’s time to write some things down…  Since we live in Makati, my recommendations are concentrated mostly there, so it’s also a good Makati guide.  And by all means, add in the comments your favorites – I don’t know everything here yet, and I can always use more recommendations!

FAVORITE MASSAGES:

Blog 1QiWellness (pronounced “chi”) Hands down the best massage I’ve had.  I’ve tried The Spa and a lot of other local places and I never get a massage quite consistently good as in Qi (though I admit The Spa’s atmosphere cannot be beat!).  My favorite massages are both 90 minutes long, and cost P1080 ($25):  QiVitality massage, is a bit deeper pressure with some stretches (perfect after a workout!), and QiTranquility is a combination of lymphatic drainage and a bunch of other things to relax the hell out of you…  Once in a while I go for the Hot Stone massage, just for variety.  QiWellness is located at: 119 L.P. Leviste St, Salcedo Village, Makati.

 

FAVORITE FOOT MASSAGE: 

Blog 2QiWellness does a great foot massage, but I’m cheap, so 99% of the time, you’ll see me going to Lotus My Massage Place for a one hour foot massage for only P350 ($8).  I always go for the reflexology one:  it’s super relaxing and even includes a great lower leg massage – awesome after a run!

 

FAVORITE MANICURE/PEDICURE: 

Blog 3NailTropics, Greenbelt 5.   Great prices and you can splurge for the foot/hand treatment if you’re feeling fancy (or want to relax).  It includes a foot/hand massage and scrub, and it’s awesome.

 

FAVORITE THAI RESTAURANTS: 

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This is a tough one…  People’s Palace in Greenbelt 3 is an all-time favorite, and their Pomelo Salad cannot be beat. 

But I have had equally amazing meals at Simply Thai in Greenbelt 5 (they’re 3 Sauce Softshell Crabs are yummy), and Mango Tree, also in Greenbelt 5, has impressed as well!

 

FAVORITE SPANISH PLACE: 

Blog 7Alba, in Polaris St, Makati.  The ham croquettes are fried to perfection, and the paellas are amazing.  I love their paella negra with squid ink, while Karl is a big fan of the peppered steak.  The pitcher of sangria is only P600 ($14), and if that wasn’t enough, they have the cutest band there, serenading you with Spanish and English songs as you eat.

 

FAVORITE MILKSHAKE: 

Blog 9Have you heard of a cake being blended in with ice cream?  That’s exactly what CBD, on Ayala Triangle in Makati, does.  Though their burgers and cheesesteaks are nothing to write home about, their milkshake is to die for (and really, eating a burger before a milkshake is not the way you want to go about this!).  If you’re a peanut butter fan, I highly recommend their peanut butter vanilla toffee.  There are chunks of peanut butter!  Karl’s favorite is the chocolate cake one – and you guessed it, chocolate ice cream blended with chocolate cake.

 

FAVORITE FROZEN MARGARITA: 

Blog 8I know the local favorite tend to be Chili’s (yes, that Chili’s), but it’s always crowded and you wait forever for a refill.  I recently found Mr. Jones, and aside from great American food (their macaroni and cheese with mushrooms is to die for), they have great frozen margarita.  At P225 ($5.25), it’s not cheap, but it’s at least twice the size of the one at Chili’s making this a great deal!  If you prefer a margarita on the rocks, I have yet to find a place that does them better than Chili’s so go for it.

 

FAVORITE SUSHI: 

Blog 16Seryna, in Little Tokyo, right across from Makati Cinema Square.  When you’re eating sushi and listening to Japanese being spoken around you (not that I can understand a thing), you know you’re in the right place!  I go there for lunch a lot, since their bento box is only P350($8).  If you want to try the bento box, they’re open every day for lunch until 1:30pm, including weekends.

 

FAVORITE INDIAN: 

Blog 10Swagat Indian Cuisine in Rada St, Makati — it was recommended by my friend Irida (who is the true expert of Manila, seriously, but to my despair she has now moved back to Italy), and I’ve been there with her and it was delish!  We liked it way better than the famous Queens of Bollywood in Greenbelt, even though Bollywood does have a better atmosphere.

 

FAVORITE VEGETARIAN SPOT: 

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Corner Tree Cafe, on Jupiter Avenue, Makati.  I know, I know, I’m far from a vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy dishes lacking meat.  Corner Tree Cafe has great food (even very-carnivore Karl agrees!) and there’s enough variety that you won’t even be missing meat, I promise!

 

FAVORITE PERSIAN RESTAURANT: 

Blog 12 (2)Arya Persian Restaurant, in Greenhills.  This was another one of Irida’s recommendations, and though I hit Persia Grill more often than not (it’s cheap, and it’s a couple of blocks from our place, perfect for rainy days!), Arya definitely has better quality food.

 

FAVORITE SUNDAY BRUNCH: 

Blog 12The champagne brunch at the Spiral at Sofitel.  They’re closed until the spring, due to damage from the typhoon, but the brunch is being served at the bar and it was just as nice.  I recommend making a reservation, skipping breakfast that morning, and if you call they’ll tell you the brunch opens at 11:30am, but keep in mind they only start serving champagne at noon, so make your plans accordingly.  I totally ate my weight in cheese when we went there for our anniversary, and though it’s expensive (I think P1,800/person?) it was worth it, so worth it.

 

FAVORITE DRINK:  If you like lychee, the best drink I’ve had in Manila so far is “A Long White Cloud” from People’s Palace (linked above).  Lychee, elderflower, citron vodka, lemongrass, rosewater.  YUM!

 

FAVORITE PLACE TO SHOP: 

blog13Uh, I have already talked about this one:  Greenhills!  I’ve been to Divisoria too and wasn’t as impressed, Greenhills on the other hand, tugs at my heart each time!  It’s overwhelming at first, but every time I go back I feel more and more at home.

 

FAVORITE GYM:  Blog 14

Of course, I’m totally biased because that’s the only gym I’ve been to here, but I did tour Gold’s and Fitness First (both were PACKED when we went).  FTX might not be best if you like to just hit the weights or the cardio machines, but if you want to do something different, like circuit training or take classes, I highly recommend them!

 

FAVORITE FACIAL:

Blog 14Coras Derm Centre (they don’t have a website, but this is the best place to link them to).  I really should go more often, I know…  It’s the only place where I’ve been so far where they actually take my face seriously and give me a facial (I went to a place in Salcedo, and I got a 5 minute facial and a 55 minute head massage, I was livid – I don’t even like head massages!).  I also get a “hydra-diamond peel” there as well (basically a microdermabrasion with serum).

 

To see another perspective on Manila recommendations, check out Sarah’s post from earlier this year.  And the facials was totally her recommendation too!  (I go to the same threading place as well, but I have mixed reviews of it, so not recommending just yet…)

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I ventured outdoors!

Remember when ALL my runs were outdoors?  A year would pass by in between treadmill runs!  Even the snow didn’t stop me from going outside or the massive heat in DC.

Nowadays, I can go outside, battle traffic, crowded sidewalks and stoplights, or I can hop on the treadmill the next room over.  Well, if you’ve been following along, you know the treadmill has been winning.

Though I still prefer running outside any day over the treadmill, I love running with company, and alone the treadmill is just more convenient (I miss those DC trails.  Am I getting too repetitive?  I bet I am).

So when recently-moved-just-had-a-baby-but-is-still-in-super-shape Jenny asked if I wanted to run with her, of COURSE I said yes!

And after waking up super early in the morning, instantly hating her for putting me through that, we made our way around Makati.

I was struggling (my last run outside had been with Mai Mai, a month and a half ago), but Jenny was super patient with my slow ass.  Garmin still wasn’t accurate, even at the Ayala park where it’s clear of buildings, but it looks like we were able to get 3 (slow) miles in.

I hate holding people back, but I know is just a matter of time (even if it might be a long time) until I can do short runs at a 10 min/mile pace again.  But if I don’t keep on running, I’ll never get there, right?

So far I had Mai Mai being super patient with my slowness (but I think she has given up on me, since our last run was my last outdoor run) and Jenny.  Anyone else wants to slowly jog around the streets of Makati?

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