Sunday, July 10, 2016

MMJ2

Despite lacking the wet floor scene, and the amenities, I just love getting home service massage. The convenience makes up for everything. I usually have massages weekday evenings, after my workouts. This becomes even more satisfying after a run. My achy feet and legs are treated to kneading that is both painful and pleasurable.

I have special linens for the purpose. These are laid on top of the beddings so these don't get stained with oil (and other body fluids LOL). Sometimes I am considering buying that portable massage cot in S&R, but it won't fit inside my itsy-bitsy bedroom. I recreate the spa ambience with the diffuser (mist humidifier) from Muji, which has its own mood light.

After the massage, I can easily take a quick hot shower and go straight to bed. I am just so relaxed after a great massage.

I know of the horror stories, though. I have heard of gruesome reports on media of 'single guys stabbed repeatedly by an assailant who must have been familiar to the victim.' I am thankful that none of that has happened ever. I have also put up some precautionary steps to minimize the risk.

I would prefer referrals though lately, I have taken chances with some who were not. I ask the household help (yes, they know that I have regular massages) to always open the door for them. This way, the therapist knows there are other people in house. And they have been seen and 'monitored'.

I definitely hide the valuables from sight and just put the payment somewhere else for easy access. The rubbers and lube are also at the bedside table. But that's another story. :-)


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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Memories of a Masahe Junkie 1 (MMJ1)

Yes. *stands up. I am a Masahe Junkie. And no one is surprised. LOL

My earliest memories of massage would go back to the 90's. I wasn't earning much so I couldn't go to spas as often as I would have wanted. Back then/, there was The Spa along C5, SM Kenko, The Ritz in Malate. My partner then and I would visit these places more for the action in the wet floors, though. But the massage itself was always a welcome 'ending', usually performed by female therapists.

We didn't go to the 'spakols' of that time. I always found those too expensive, unsanitary. Though the idea of being massaged with happy ending or extra service in the hands of a hunky therapist has always been a fantasy. It was just too expensive. And in those days, those spas were hole-in-the-wall types, with little cots separated by plywood walls. You can literally hear the moans and groans of everyone else.

I would, from time to time, have this lady therapist, a bit old, who would come to give me a good massage. She was quite a talker, Aling Helen, but she did give a good massage. The funny thing is that she would always burp during the massage. She said that was part of 'imbibing' the client's 'energy.' In the comforts of my home, on my bed, a good massage was a welcome treat.

Then by the start of the millennium, with a new partner, I started frequenting spas that had male therapists, and very active wet floor action. The best example would be City Lifestyle on the corner of Morato and Timog. It had a huge wet floor, three hot pools and a shower stalls tucked-in one corner, all perfect for cruising. But beyond the cruising, some of the male therapists offered extra service, at a negotiated add-on cost, of course. The guys were average-looking but they were trained in good massage. I recall a must-try therapist, Edward. He was a bit better-looking than the others and also a lot more aggressive*wink wink. Would you believe I have a friend who actually was de-virginized by him? Good grief. Na-carry away ang bading at nagpabottom.

There was also the more upscale Basilica. It started in Malate then had a branch in QC. That place in Malate was a converted old house. It even had a cafe. It had a maze for a steam room, patterned after Bangkok's bath houses. The adventures you could have in that maze! The guys looked fine, too. Hehe

Both spas are closed now. One that is still around is New York Spa also on the corner of Timog and Morato. It's been ages since I visited. It didn't seem as well maintained even then.

And after a while, I soon got referrals for home service therapists that incorporate massage with extra service in the comforts of home. I slowly shifted away from the spas to home service.


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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A milestone recalled

I celebrated my golden year of life in February. Turning 50 is a milestone that certain cultures feel it is worth celebrating. But supposedly for Chinese, they do not celebrate at 50 but at 49. A colleague reminded me of this days before my birthday. This is supposedly related to the good 'feng shui' of ages that end with the number "9". According to him, one should be extra careful at those ages. He knows of different people who passed away at 59, 69, etc. It wasn't a very good thing to be reminded of! LOL

Nevertheless, I considered it a milestone. And rather than just have the usual party, I decided to checked of one on my bucket list - hold a personal concert.

I had to have a platform to show off all that voice training. I needed to build my confidence in singing. No, I do not have a fantastic voice. I can carry a tune. I also wanted to challenge myself to learn how to sing classically. After about 4 years (?) of voice lessons, I just had to do this.

What better time than during my 50th birthday? I am going to have a party anyway. I might as well subject my guests to torture first before receiving the reward of food. LOL

The plan was hatched in November 2015. I wanted to sing with a sunset as a backdrop. I was able to find a function room that had just that. I wanted February 27 but it was booked. So it had to be on the birthday itself, which fell on a Sunday.

I engaged my voice teacher for more lessons than usual, starting December. I started working on my set list. But it needed a theme. I'm glad to have thought of the theme - 5milest0nes, cleverly embedding "50" while also thinking of the different milestones of my life that made me smile. (Of course some people would continue to read it as 5 milestones. Sigh.)

I ended with the following segments as 5milest0nes of my life: My faith, Work, Failed relationships (Lost Loves), Current Relationship (Love Found, hehe), Family and Friends, Aspiration. I put in songs that reflected the theme and pushed me to have that 'tenor' voice range, yes, birit as tenors would do it.

By the numbers - 3 prayers, 3 cross-overs (2 Grobans and 1 Bocelli), 2 kundimans, 2 Broadway musical numbers, 3 oldies/classic Arias and 50 guests. LOL

The rehearsals were grueling. Although I have been singing some of those songs, trying to sing them as faithful as the way the music sheets were written proved to be more difficult. A few of those songs I had to learn from scratch.

Then I had to get a pianist even as I started finalizing the details of the menu, the program. I had to set the rehearsal schedules with both pianist and voice coach. Then the technical details had to be layered in. Sound system? Lights? The digital piano? OMG

And my voice wasn't consistently cooperating either. There were times I felt I sounded fine and I hit those notes effortlessly. Then there were the other times. Or if it's not the notes, it's the lyrics, or the beat.

Then I had to time all this in for the sunset. Ultimately, I had to drop the sunset-backdrop, as a one-hour program would include a time when the sun's glare would still be too much.

A week before, I was having fever. Two nights before, I had insomnia. And I felt I was developing sore throat. All doubts started setting in. Why am I even doing this? Why am I the type to always have to push myself out of my comfort zone?

On the day itself, it was all cloudy. Then it started to rain. And even when the set-up was being done, it was obvious that there wouldn't be any sunset. But the 'show must go on'. The rehearsals before the program started as a disaster. My voice was cracking. I was missing them notes. Well, if I make a fool of myself, it would be to family and friends who would (or should) continue to love me anyway. Hahaha. All they had to do was endure the program and they'll get their reward.

But as I started to forcibly relax myself (that sounds wrong, right?), I got to be a bit more comfortable. And I realized now that the most important lesson I learned from my voice teacher is the control of my 'instrument', my voice box, my diaphragm and all other support systems so that despite whatever stress or circumstances, I could still perform. That was what I had to learn.

Then I got on that stage and started singing. The more I sang, the more relaxed I got. Making the audience smile and laugh helped me, too. I felt I did fine. Not perfect but not grossly out of tune or out of beat, methinks. I was able to relax even as I was singing, even when I have sung quite a number of songs already.

I remember the quote "They may say that I can't sing. But they cannot say I didn't sing." This was from this American heiress, Florence Foster Jenkins, who similarly staged a personal concert. Incidentally, that movie came out in May, starring no less than Meryl Streep.

And when the concert finished, I was just on cloud nine! Yes, the weather did not cooperate. I did not end up 'singing to the sunset' but it was fine. The venue came out nice, the program flowed smoothly, and the food was served well. C3, my fag hag, my family all helped me pull it off.

The lessons here:

Only you know what your comfort zones are. So only you would know what will push you away from those zones. And from time to time, you just have to do it. Some people run marathons. Some people make career changes midlife. You do it because your 'self' needs to be stretched to a new form. The world is changing. Your new form will allow you to adapt to those changes.

Sometimes, it is the unlearning more than the learning. I have picked up some singing habits that do not allow me to tap into my voice. I have adaptation mechanisms that make singing actually more effortful and stressful.

There is this three-dimensional axis of talent, training with performance as the dependent variable. Some people, by sheer talent, will perform well, but these are outliers. Some people will Not be able to perform, no matter what training is given. These are also outliers. But most of us, with some measure of talent, and lots of training and hard work, will be able to perform, perhaps even perform well. So it is the combination that allows for peak performance.

And finally, it matters less what people will say and feel about it but what you feel about it. You may receive mixed reviews but that doesn't matter as much as how you felt during and after.

After singing that last note, I was on a high. I did it. I survived. I saw happy faces greeting me, even congratulating me. I was just giddy after, drinking and eating with all my family and friends. It just felt so wonderful.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Shemitah complete

With May's ending came the end of my 'Shemitah year'. Funny that it coincides with the proclamation of the new president, riding on a campaign of coming change. The changes in major aspects of my life have come to pass as I celebrate 50 years of life.

It is weird state to be in. It is 'business as usual' but also very different. Haha. I am now transitioning to the new order. I think of two machines, one huge and another small, both with many moving parts slowly integrating midstream. The gears and wheels of both are turning rapidly yet will have to seamlessly lock-in at certain points to become one huge machine.

I am excited. I thought that at 50 years old, I was going to prepare for retirement. It was going to be an academic life for me, and maybe a business on the side, consultancies, too. All that would have to be postponed for now as I look at the prospects. The challenges remain daunting but there is now some measure of relief in sight. I was about to hang up all those ideas, all those initiatives but now, maybe, I can actually test some of them. That excites me.

But it also weighs me down. Sometimes I don't know if I could still take the load and the stress that comes with it. This body is old and creaking at the joints. Again, a mix of emotions is at play.

On the lighter side of things, though, I feel good about how 'this old body' is still able to maintain itself. I may actually be in a better fitness level than before. It may be my best ever. I think I have finally gotten the right recipe of diet and exercise and willpower to lower my body fat percentages. It doesn't show as much but I try not to fret as much, too. It ain't looking great but it ain't so bad either.

As a whole, things are looking up.


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Friday, May 6, 2016

The Thoughts of An Eternal Optimist

I want to see the silver lining in this super-acrimonious election campaigning reaching fever-pitch levels. It's getting harder and harder as I find it more and more difficult to read social media posts of friends without raising my eyebrows, rolling my eyes or cringing. But I will still try.

With so many presidential candidates to choose from, it is still anybody's guess. I sometimes think of the simplicity of a two-(dominant)-party system, just like in the US. One aligns with a party idealogy first. Then the party chooses its standard bearer. And that process could be just as bitter and dirty. But eventually, the electorate will settle with the two major candidates slugging it out.

But this is not the case for the Philippines, of course. Our political-economic circumstances somehow prevent clear idealogical battle lines as basis for party-building. So we have all these parties with no clear party stand on anything. But instead of sighing, perhaps there is something good to be said about this current state we are in.

My bold, maybe naive, conclusion: the plurality of choices is raising political consciousness of the majority. With no clear black and white choices, the masses have started to think for themselves. I think that in previous years, the majority of the electorate (more rural than urban, more of the have-nots and have-less) are confined to just 'going with the flow'. They vote based on personalities, on the choices of their leaders, religious or otherwise.

But now, I hear of people truly debating one another on a political plane. More people are thinking for themselves about their choices. More people are starting to choose based on considering the impact of political outcomes on their lives.

Do I want a president who will solve the problem of crime I fear most about? Who is talking about my family starving in the drying rice fields? Who will change the circumstances of traffic in the Metro to allow me to go to work on time? Who will make sure that my children will have equal opportunities when looking for jobs?

People have started to think for themselves. Despite all the hurtful, hateful things being said now, I see this as progress.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Travel Must-dos: SG

A friend once posted "Don't know what else to do in SG. Been here so many times." My first thought - why'd you go there in the first place. But I wonder if that is a popular predicament, now that people are much more mobile. Although there a zillion other cities to visit, inevitably one finds visiting certain places more than once.

My advice: Start out by listing places you want to visit again. A 'must-do-everytime' list. This will probably include fave restos, even tourist spots or sceneries and shops. I build on top of that places crowd-sourced, either from friends and family or lately, from online apps and sites like TripAdvisor and Foursquare. There's always an updated list of trending restaurants, shops and must-dos.

In our last trip to SG, some of the regular must-dos: shopping at this specialty store in Ion Orchard. My mom collects dollhouse miniatures. I discovered this brand (https://www.reutterporcelain.com) from Germany in my previous trips to SG. The shop Das Erzebirge-Haus carried the brand among so many other collectibles. The detail is so intricate. You can find the shop at the top floor of Ion Orchard.

Another mall I like visiting is Orchard Plaza. This 'fashion-forward' place houses shops and stores that have a 'hipster'-feel to it. From accessories to bags to even furnishings, I like the mix of stores here.

During my last trip, the bakeshop Lady M was high on the trending list. I finally got to try the layered crepe that made this shop famous. It was good, not too sweet. I like the airy interiors of the place, located inside that mall, too.

I just love the croissant at Tiong Bahru Bakery. I usually visit the one at Tang's along Orchard. Freshly-baked, with the right butter-creamy taste, crisp and flakiness, the croissants also come as sandwiches.

Finally, a trip to SG won't be complete without having an attendance check at Neil Road's rainbow bars. Between Tantric and Taboo, I like Tantric better. It's actually like choosing between a bar and a dance club. I happen to like bars better, I guess. I saw a lot more foreigners in Tantric, too, as the locals converge more in Taboo.

So far, that's what I have on SG. Next up, Boracay.



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