What comes to mind when you hear the word dessert? It's easy to imagine indulging in chocolates, cakes, ice creams, and crepes that come in different flavors and trimmings. But while we may have different tastes when it comes to desserts and sweet treats, I am sure we all definitely have a sweet tooth just waiting to be tickled by flavors that our palates are meant to love! 

Bizu's Fresh Strawberry Chiboust
The other day, I joined the foodpanda team's Good Food Tour Philippines -- Dessert Edition at the Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa to check out some of best places to have a sweet fix and was delighted at my new discoveries. We visited the following stores and here are what I've got to try in each ...

Bizu Patisserie, an established brand known for its wide variety of luscious pastries, presented us with three cakes they recently launched just in time for the upcoming Valentines Day:

lovely staff of Bizu ATC branch
1. Romance (P1,510) is made of tempting layers of dark chocolate ganache, super moist cake, creme brulee, caramel, and fresh strawberries on top.

2. Pleasure (P1,325) is composed of seductive layers of pistachio ganache, chocolate bavaroise with a chocolate biscuit, milk chocolate disk, raspberry compote, and rose perfume. This is the one served on our table and the one I got to try. The delicious combinations give a melt-in-your-mouth feel without overpowering sweetness.   

Bizu's Romance and Pleasure cakes
3. Fresh Strawberry Choboust (P1,050) is a classic French-style cheescake topped with seasonal strawberries and raspberry coulis. I'd love to try this soon because I always have a hard time resisting anything with cheesecake and strawberries.

Before we left, Bizu Marketing Officer Ana Sadang each handed us containers of Salted Egg Macarons to take home. Honestly, I am not that fond of macarons because many of the ones I've tasted before were too sweet. But when I got to try the salted egg flavor, I had to stop myself from finishing everything off. It is really, really good! They've got the combination of sweet and salty just right.

Bizu's Salted Eggs Macarons didn't last for long in our house
Our next stop was Cold Stone Creamery, which was named after their way of preparing ice cream and mixins on top of a freezing cold and sanitized granite stone. Trivia: this unique process originated in Arizona, USA. Aside from offering yummy ice cream, Cold Stone crew entertain customers by juggling and throwing ice cream scoops to those who are brave enough to catch them. 

apart from the many flavors of ice cream and mixins, Cold Stone also has
cakes, smoothies, etc. on their menu
Rebecca Fernandez, Training Manager, explained that they always emphasize customer service "because we value our customers so much, we want to give them something that they'll never forget, a fun experience at Cold Stone." 

so happy with my Cheesecake Fantasy choice! 
And fun was what I had because I thoroughly enjoyed my waffle cone filled with Cheesecake Fantasy! It had cheesecake ice cream, graham cracker pie crust, blueberries, and strawberries, which are basically some of my top favorite sweet treats. I honestly wasn't expecting I'll be able to finish the whole thing in one go but I did because it was so hard to put it down!

Our last stop was Paper Moon Boutique and Cafe, which is well known for serving Mille Crepe or what is also known as a thousand crepes. These are handmade paper thin layers of no less than 20 layers of crepes with light pastry cream in between and topped with caramelized crust. 

crepes galore at Paper Moon
P2,000 (whole), P225 (slice)
Apart from the store's many bestsellers, Paper Moon has new Valentines special cakes and beverages for lovers and singles alike. Two products to try this love month are the Red Velvet Mousse Cake and the Strawberry Shortcake that are heavenly delicious and not overly sweet. I love how rich and creamy the frostings are!    

Red Velvet Mousse Cake
P1,800 (whole), P200 (slice)
According to Arlene Alinea, Paper Moon's Marketing Manager, "Since the Filipino market are always looking for something new, we are committed to innovating our thousand crepes into different flavors that we know they can enjoy."

some of Paper Moon's beverage offerings
This Valentines season, forget about your worries for a while and have some of these wonderful treats. After all, stressed is desserts spelled backwards and we could always use a quick indulgent bite to lift our spirits up. 

Paper Moon's Petite Strawberry Shortcake - P550
Can't get out of the office or too busy doing something? Order treats from Bizu, Cold Stone Creamery, or Paper Moon for delivery via the foodpanda app or www.foodpanda.ph. You can even surprise a loved one with something he or she would love you more for. Browse these restaurants' menus at foodpanda now! 

If anyone asked me in early 2014 if I would be willing to run 10k or more someday, I'd probably say I couldn't. At the time, I had no plans of pursuing running as a form of exercise. Then came my wake up call in the middle of that year. Since then, running somehow became a regular part of my life.

3 years, 3 colors, 3 distance categories
In early 2015, I earned my first finisher's medal at the 7-Eleven 1500 Run for finishing 5k. That was very motivating! Still, I was bummed that the route only took me around the Filinvest City area in Alabang, Muntinlupa while the 10k, 16k, 21k, and 42k runners got to race along the Skyway

7-Eleven Run's 16k gun start
My husband said I must train and push for 10k if I really want to run that route the next year and I grudgingly agreed. Just a month later (eight months since I started running), he registered me for 10k without my permission! Thankfully, I was able to finish the course and had to admit I felt proud of myself for taking on the challenge. You can read about that story, here. Yeah, sometimes, we just need a little push to get us further!

crossing the toll gate without paying toll fees 😀
By the time 7-Eleven Run 2016 came around in January last year, I was more than ready to conquer the Skyway. And I did! That race was a very memorable one because it's not every day I could run and walk on an elevated highway I've only passed before while riding a car, van, or bus.

sunrise seen from the Skyway
Of course, like many runners before me, I knew the goal should always be to aim higher (or farther) in succeeding runs. Unfortunately, I still can't imagine jumping from 10k to 21k (a half marathon) that fast! I told hubby I'd like to try running 16k first but I still wasn't sure I'd be brave enough to push that far yet.

less than 1k away from the finish line
Another thing is, very few races offer the 16k category. We planned to register in the Milo Run last July but found that it coincided with my family's plans to celebrate our mom's 75th birthday. It just wasn't meant to be.

a view of the Alabang Interchange from the Skyway
But, when it was time to register for the 7-Eleven 2017 Run (of course, I'd love to run on the Skyway again!), there were no more slots for 10k and I considered it a sign that it must really be time for me to finally face my fears and go for 16k.

a rare sight of the Skyway filled with people instead of vehicles
And so I trained by pushing myself to finish 10k during practice runs instead of my usual 6k to 8k distances. Due to a lot of home and work responsibilities though, I felt that I didn't train enough and remained apprehensive all throughout the two weeks left before race day.

a runner's shadows thanks to 2 lamp posts
Somehow, I felt a reassurance that everything's going to be fine last February 1 when a pretty rainbow appeared along our practice running route! What a great way to start the month and provide some inspiration four days before the race!

To make a long story short, I didn't sleep on the night of February 4th, left the house at 3AM on February 5th and joined the wave of 16k runners at the 4AM gun start. It took me 2 hours 31 minutes and 37 seconds to travel by foot from Alabang to Bicutan and back. There were times I felt some cramps on my feet and twinges of pain on my lower legs so I alternately walked and ran, determined to finish no matter what.

my official time
The huge sense of relief washed over me even when I spotted the ramp going down to Filinvest City even before I crossed the finish line. By then, the sun had already risen and I wholeheartedly thanked God for another beautiful day as well as for giving me physical strength to finish my first 16k.

with my beloved running coach who never failed to encourage me these past three years 
I find this part of my fitness journey amazing because I've literally graduated from one distance category to another every 7-Eleven Run. The question now is, will I find enough courage to register for 21k next year? Let's see! After all, I still have roughly a year to think about (and train for) it 😉

* If you want to start running, please read my 5 Tips to Newbie Runners from Someone Who Used to be One 

I have friends who got married and whom one is Filipino and the other is Chinese. I am happy to see them live happy lives and am sure they do so because they have learned to embrace each others cultural values over time. 
Chinese New Year theme for HOOQ Hangouts
It's nice that the Mano Po movie series featured this kind of marriage in MANO PO 7: Chinoy as it gave many of us a peek into the lives of a Chinese-Filipino family and how they cope with their differences in beliefs, values, and traditions. 

Since I wasn't able to catch the movie during the 42nd Metro Manila Film Festival (see the list of winners, here) screening, I'm glad HOOQ, Asia's largest video on demand service, chose to screen it at the Globe Iconic Store - BGC Ampitheater in Bonifacio Global City last Saturday. It is a very apt film for welcoming the Year of the Fire Rooster.

Fresh from its theatrical release last December, MANO PO 7: Chinoy features a star-studded ensemble cast led by Richard Yap, Jean Garcia, Eric Quizon, Jessy Mendiola, Enchong Dee, Janella Salvador, Jake Cuenca, Kean Cipriano, and Marlo Mortel

Jean Garcia having a light moment with Richard Yap and
event host Valerie Tan
HOOQ Hangouts is presented by Globe Live in cooperation with Samsung. It is a series of outdoor screening events that showcases HOOQ’s vast library of carefully curated content. Lead actors Richard and Jean graced the event and posed for photos with some lucky winners from one of HOOQ's promos.  

Jane Cruz-Walker, Country Manager of HOOQ Philippines, explained, "We chose Mano Po 7 for this month’s HOOQ Hangouts not only to celebrate the Chinese New Year but also to emphasize that HOOQ will be the first to have the newest local movies after their theatrical run. Now, movie fans don’t have to wait as long since we will try to make it available on HOOQ as soon as possible." She announced that Mano Po 7 and other 2016 MMFF entries will be on HOOQ starting summer.

FYI, HOOQ subscribers can now enjoy over 1,200 Filipino movies spanning almost five decades of film making, and over 4,000 hours of local television leaving other video-in-demand services way behind in terms of Filipino content. 

dragon dance to usher in good luck
Apart from Mano Po 7: Chinoy, other anticipated movies soon to be available only for HOOQ subscribers include Camp Sawi, I Love You To Death, That Thing Called Tanga Na, My Rebound Girl, The Escort, Bakit Lahat ng Guwapo May Boyfriend?, and Working Beks

In addition, viewers can also watch catch up episodes of the latest GMA 7 TV series including Alyas Robinhood, Someone To Watch Over Me, Meant To Be, Ika-Anim na Utos, and more in the coming months.

"As the exclusive presenter of the Metro Manila Film Festival, we will soon have the 2016 MMFF top grosser Die Beautiful and the Nora Aunor starrer Kabisera available on HOOQ.  The rest of the entries will also soon find its way onto HOOQ!" added Jeffrey Remigio, HOOQ Philippines Director of Content and Programming.

HOOQ and Globe Teams with Richard Yap and Jean Garcia
Make HOOQ your prime destination for thousands of foreign and local movies and TV series. It has the largest library of Philippine-made movies amongst any video-on-demand service in the country.

"Pinoy films and TV shows are closest to our hearts because it tells the stories of our lives and we can all relate to them.  That’s why it’s so importantly for us to continuously enrich our growing library with more quality local content from the top Philippine production studios," described Cruz-Walker who also mentioned Erik Matti’s On The Job: The Series, co-produced with Globe Studios. This will be the very first local production to be exclusively shown on a video on demand service. 

For a list of other local films to catch on HOOQ, please read my other post about the #LovePinoy HOOQ Hangouts, here.

our group of movie buffs at the HOOQ Hangouts
HOOQ has over 10,000 movies and TV shows available for streaming or download. Globe At Home customers can get up to 6 months access to HOOQ with plans P1,299 and up, while Globe mobile customers can also get up to 6 months trial on selected prepaid and postpaid plans. You may also visit www.hooq.tv to sign up for a 7-day free trial. 

We are still in the first quarter of a new year and if you haven't begun working on those fitness goals yet, it's really time to start now. Make 2017 the year to finally achieve the kind of body you really want to have!  

our class of enthusiastic learners with Ms. Lisa Macuja-Elizalde
The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet, the country's premier school for classical dance, is offering a graceful way to a leaner and healthier you! While the school is well-known for producing some of the most accomplished Filipino dancers worldwide, it's also an institution that puts equal value to the wellness of people as well as the arts. In fact, the company is slowly garnering a following among health enthusiasts thanks to the ballet classes that adults can enroll in.

I had the pleasure of joining a Ballet for Fitness class the other day held in Yoga+ Express located at the Venice Grand Canal Mall in McKinley Hill, Taguig. The most amazing thing about this? It was conducted by Prima Ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde herself! 

Yoga+ Express McKinley Hill
To say that I was apprehensive about joining a ballet class for adults was kind of an understatement. It has been quite a while since I attempted to dance ballet (the last time was in elementary P.E. class so imagine how long ago that was!!!) and I never became flexible enough to do graceful poses that ballerinas are known to do. 

Still, I figured it would be good to give it a go since I am a staunch believer of the saying, "If it doesn't challenge you, it will not change you." (BTW, I just finished my first 16k race yesterday, so there 😉 ) Plus,  joining a class being taught by Ms. Lisa would definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

a sneak peek of movements before class officially started
Much later, with words plié, port de bras, relevé, etc. dancing delightfully in my head, I could definitely say I learned a lot and had fun while doing so. Yes, I am not (yet?) as graceful as I would like myself to be but I listened to and followed the directions well so I think I deserved an invisible pat on the back for showing up and taking on the challenge. Besides, with such a patient and encouraging teacher, it was easy to forget about making mistakes and instead simply enjoy the moment.  

Ms. Lisa, the school's founder and director, explained that they developed the ballet for adults class a few years ago when they started getting inquiries about using ballet as a form of exercise. "To be honest, it's such a pleasant surprise that people are so interested in the health aspect of ballet. It's such a great form of exercise as every part of your body gets the workout it deserves," she described.

class poster
"In addition, it is very holistic, which means that you are not just building the strength of your muscles, but also your stamina and flexibility, and you're doing all these while enjoying the art." Ms. Lisa also told us that ballet is a great way to prevent Alzheimer's Disease because the dance's vocabulary of French terms, along with the combinations a dancer has to memorize for each performance, literally and figuratively keep her on her toes.

Apart from adult ballet, The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila offers classical ballet classes for all levels as well as modern ballet and street dancing. As part of its summer workshop program, the school will also be offering Bollywood Dance, Floor Barre, and Mat Pilates classes. 

doing one of those graceful poses 
As a testament to their commitment to quality, the Bollywood Dance classes will be taught by two choreographers to be flown in from Mumbai. These class are meant to broaden the creative scope of ballet classes already offered.

On the other hand, Floor Barre and Mat Pilates aim to augment the students' training in strength, stamina, injury prevention, and recovery. Teaching these classes would be Victoria Vargas, a faculty member of Joffrey Ballet, one of America's most prestigious ballet companies.

on tip toes
The school's faculty members include accomplished Vaganova style-trained classical dancers who are considered some of the best in the country such as Jonathan Janolo, Sofia Sangco-Peralta, Gerardo Francisco, Eileen Lopez, Czarina Villegas, and Ms Lisa who directs the school alongside co-director Osias Barroso.

For your added information, The Lisa Macuja School of Ballet Manila is the only ballet school in the Philippines with direct links to the Russian Ballet Academy of St. Petersburg, Russia. As such, the school is often praised by ballet enthusiasts for staying true to the principles of the art form and for teaching the rigorous Vaganova Academy method of dancing, which is widely accepted as the highest standard of style when it comes to classical ballet.

It was a privilege and a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Lisa!
See the complete list of courses and schedules offered by visiting www.balletmanila.com.ph or calling telephone numbers 400.0292 and 525.5967 (Pasay City branch) or 285.1343 and 285.1353 (Quezon City branch). You may also email info@balletmanila.com.ph for inquiries and follow Ballet Manila on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep updated.

* Thank you so much ARC Public Relations, Inc. for the photos and the Kangaroo Nuts snacks! 

Noodle soup dishes have become increasingly popular in the Philippines. Apart from ramen, Filipino foodies can now also enjoy great tasting soba and udon, which can be found at Nadai Fujisoba. This is a well-known brand in Japan because, according to Chef Kudo Yoshiaki, one can find a store in almost all the train stops in Tokyo alone!

Nadai Fujisoba in SM Megamall

I had a late lunch at the Nadai Fujisoba branch in SM Megamall recently and found the dishes delicious. As appetizers, I had O-Ebi Ten (Shrimp Tempura) and Ika Ten (Squid Tempura), which both are covered in crunchy breading but with seafood that are moist and juicy inside. 

O-Ebi Ten - P360.00 for 3 pieces
I think it's actually my first time to eat squid that isn't shaped like rings! Nadai Fujisoba's tempura has a lengthy piece of soft, perfectly cooked squid inside. I recommend you try it when you visit one of the store's branches.

Ika Ten - P180.00 (3 pieces), P290.00 (5 pieces)
For my main meal, I had Ebi Ten Mori Soba (yes, I obviously love eating shrimp!) with hot soup and paired it with a glass of Fresh Dalandan Juice. For those who are wondering what's the difference between soba and ramen, soba are noodles made from buckwheat flour while ramen is made of wheat

Ebi Ten Mori Soba - P260.00
Fresh Dalandan Juice - P80.00
My table mates offered some of the dishes they ordered so we shared a bowl each of cold soba and udon. It was my first time to try cold udon, which are chewy and soft thick wheat noodles, and found that I really like its texture. It's tastes great when dipped in the accompanying sauce. Very flavorful!

Tori Tsuke Soba (accompanying bowl not in photo) - P280.00
Mori Udon - P180.00
For dessert, I had Kuro Goma Ice Cream (Black Sesame Seed) and wished that hubby was present to help me finish it off because he also loves this flavor. 

Kuro Goma Ice Cream - P100.00
There are many other items in the menu that I would like to try on my next visits. In the meantime, what I had were already enough to satisfy my tummy. If you prefer to eat rice with your meal, Nadai Fujisoba also offers Donburi Rice Bowls that can be paired with smaller orders of soba or udon.

interesting painting on the ceiling, I'd guess the guy was kept waiting for his food too long :p
I look forward to dropping by Nadai Fujisoba again, soon. This time, with some of my family members. I'm sure my boys, with their big appetites, would appreciate the filling and tasteful dishes served by this restaurant 😊   

I always enjoy views with a lot of greenery especially gardens that bloom with organic vegetables and love discovering venues within Metro Manila that do not conform to the standard images of city life. Thus, I was genuinely surprised to find such a place at The Selah Garden Hotel, which is just a few steps away from EDSA in Pasay City and very near Roxas Boulevard and Macapagal Avenue!

with hubby at Selah's tastefully decorated reception area
Selah is an 83-room boutique hotel that offers an alternative relaxed lifestyle in an urban setting. Who'd have thought that such a place exists very near the Makati Business District, historical Intramuros, and the Mall of Asia? It's also accessible to and from the airport!

see those green walls? they're lined with organic lettuce!
My husband and I were there recently during its launch and we were so amazed to see organic veggies (we both advocate for and have written posts about organic agriculture) being grown on beautifully designed spaces! What's even more delightful was seeing freshly harvested lettuce among the delicious food on the dinner buffet table.

flash mob dancers entertaining guests throughout dinner 
Moreover, I appreciate how friendly their staff members are, some of whom are talented dancers! We were treated to entertaining flash mob presentations that included several of them. I actually am envious of their energy. They danced every half hour and were smiling all throughout the evening. 

some of Selah Hotel's staff -- aren't these ladies and their uniforms lovely?  
Another notable feature that Selah has is its team building facilities that include a hanging bridge and structures for wall climbing, zip lining, rapelling, and more. My husband, who facilitates team building activities for various companies, was very happy to find out about this because they often had to look for venues outside Metro Manila for trainings. 

looking for team building facilities in Metro Manila? go to Selah!
The Selah Garden Hotel has various types of accommodations to suit different guests' preferences. There are rooms with bunk beds priced at P750 per person up to big rooms and suites with lovely lofts that can accommodate up to 10 people. Need a perfect getaway in the city? See rates on your preferred dates and book a room by checking out The Selah Garden Hotel at agoda.com. Trivia: the family of Miss Universe 2016 contestant's Miss Colombia stayed there during the days of the pageant.

inside one of Selah's nice rooms
I definitely look forward to staying in one of the rooms at The Selah Garden Hotel (most likely the next time we're running in a race again at the MOA Running Grounds), swim in the inviting pool (FYI, they offer scuba diving lessons because the deepest end is 10-feet deep!), have a relaxing massage at the beautiful spa, and do some exercises at the meditation garden.

room tour with some friends from World Vision Philippines
The Selah Garden Hotel is located at 2715 Park Avenue Street, San Rafael, Pasay City. For inquiries, call telefax 511.1331, 0917.6300604, 0925.5111131 or email selahgardensuites@gmail.com

* see more photos taken during the launch at this blog's Facebook page album

A lot of movie-goers are very familiar with Taters. After all, it is one of the best places to get tasty popcorn, chips, and other treats that are ideal to munch on while watching a good film. This 2017, Taters started the year with a big Cheetofied bang last January 25 as it hosted Taters Cheetos Snack Fest -- a crazy, crunchy, and cheesy party at the Glorietta Activity Center in Makati City.   

me and Aylin enjoying our Cheetofied snacks
Cheetos and Taters are two popular American brands that have been around for decades. Cheetos is a household name when it comes to cheese snacks while Taters is a well-known authority on cinema snacks that was brought to the Philippines in 1994.

snacks galore!
The Taters Cheetos Snack Fest became the perfect mix of two snack giants because Cheetos' iconic orange color and cheesy flavor combined well with Taters' affinity to entertainment. According to Taters Philippines, "In partnership with Pepsi, we wanted to celebrate Cheetos' official entry into the local market [because] we're both 'cheesy'! Our products complemented each other very well."

Taters and Pepsi executives with Chester the mascot
During the event, guests got to taste test five new Cheetofied products as well as join fun games and win prizes. Even local celebrities enthusiastically participated! Taters is the first in Asia to launch a snack fest featuring five Cheetofied products:
  • Crunch 'N Pop is an exciting combination of Cheetos-Flavored Superpop and Cheetos Crunchy
  • Crunchy Overload is a crunch after crunch after crunch of Cheetos Crunchy and Cheetos-flavored Tater Chips
  • Cheetos Chik-A-Chips is a cheesy mix of chicken fingers, Cheetos Crunchy, Cheetos Taters Chips, and comes with Cheetos Dip for an undeniably cheesy experience
  • Cheetos Fish 'N Chips is a cheesified version of the signature snack classic. It comes with juicy fish fillets, Cheetos Crunchy, Cheetos Taters Chips, and Cheetos Dip
  • Cheetos BBQ Crunch Dog is a flavor explosion in a bun that consists of a Beef Hotdog topped with Coney Island sauce, BBQ sauce, Cheetos dressing, Cheetos Taters Chips, and topped-off with Cheetos Crunchy.

The tie up between the two brands aims to attract both Taters and Cheetos lovers alike to choose their favorite Cheetofied snacks and bring them along while watching a movie in the cinema, take them home for those series bingeing moments, or simply enjoy as an anytime snack.

Taters Cheese Fight -- one of the games guests got to play during the event
Asked what product a first-timer should try, a Taters Philippines representative confided, "Each Cheetos Snack Fest product has its high points, but our favorite would definitely be the Cheetos BBQ Crunch Dog. We threw everything we had on it and created an explosion of flavor! It has a very unique  story because you get to taste all the unique ingredients. It Taters and Cheetos had a baby, this would be it!"

Cheetos BBQ Crunch Dog
Go visit your nearest Taters branch and be Cheetofied! Make sure to also like Taters' Facebook and Instagram accounts (@taters.snackleague) to win VIP passes, Chester Plushies, and prizes galore. The promo is on a limited-run from January 25 to May 15, 2017 only.

Oh, and watch out for Shizzle, Taters' beverage innovation coming this summer. I heard it will feature Pepsi and Lipton products as we've never experienced before 😉.

* photos without watermark courtesy of PixRepublik PR

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