Sweet Thirty Six

Have you ever heard of a Watermelon Rose Cake?

I haven’t.

When a former colleague told me that she and her fiancé wanted to make one for me on my birthday… I couldn’t say no. You might remember I previously wrote an embarrassing list of birthday gifts I’d like to receive. I mentioned that experiences trump actual gifts. I love uniqueness. I love new experiences.

Well, here it is. A watermelon rose cake! Baked by the two lovely ladies of My Bake Shoppe.

I can double confirm plus chop that this cake was devoured within a minute by myself, my housemates, and two guests. I don’t have a clue how it was possibly made. How can one plant the juiciest slices of watermelon within the inner layers of this cake… and NOT crush the delicate watermelon. It’s not too sweet, not too sour… it’s like April 25. A perfect date. It has strawberries. It has bits of rose petals. It has pistachios for some added crunch. It’s made with LOVE.

I had picked it up at Jo and Co’s void deck together with my other former colleague, Ge. Ge is my neighbour here in Pasir Ris Grove. So she picked me up so we could both collect our watermelon rose cakes.

As a bonus, I got to see Jo and Co’s dog Fendi. ❤

I can’t thank you both enough for the cake. I highly recommend it to friends who want to try an icy dessert treat!

***

That same afternoon I invited two good gay friends to join me for a prayer circle a simple pre-birthday celebration. The pandemic protocol at the moment is to limit house guests to two.

I didn’t want to trouble my housemate-chefs to cook. But I couldn’t help it. Bother them I did.

I REALLY WANTED LUMPIA.

What is a Filipino birthday gathering without lumpia? Housemate D also prepared his signature belly-chon, pork sisig, and leche flan. Housemate G added aglio olio pasta. PJ helped tremendously with preparation, the canapés (these were bacon-wrapped mushrooms, fried chicken)… and of course the lumpia.

Guests J and G brought apple cider and pink Magnum ice cream. J brought Mario Party too. G gave me a bag of my favourite Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies.

I love Mario Party btw. Oh, to be 16 again… far from the need to adulting.

We played several rounds of Mario Party before I had to understand I couldn’t kidnap my friends on a Sunday night. Like my housemates, they had work the next day. Adulting.

Happy to picture these two with plates of Filipino leche flan. I can’t think of the Singapore equivalent.

My housemates also gave me a chocolate cake from Awfully Chocolate. I can’t believe I’ve turned 36. It’s sinking in. It isn’t sinking in. I don’t know why the days, months, and years… are starting to blend into each other. Damay-damay na ‘to… also turning 36 this year is Lana Del Rey, Bruno Mars, Carly Rae Jepson, and Ciara. I’m a year older than Lady Gaga. I’m now twice the age of Olivia Rodrigo.

I didn’t want to move into August without catching up on pending stories from July. This birthday gathering preceded an entire week off from work. I’ll share my birthday staycation story next.

Thank you for the birthday greetings. ❤

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Celebrating our anniversary at Little Island Brewers Co.

Since I moved to the eastern part of Singapore, I’ve always wanted to grab a beer and take in the ambiance at Little Island Brewers. It’s a self-service brewery and restaurant located in Changi Village.

When we arrived on a weeknight, the setting was comfortable. There were barely any people here due to this pandemic. I remember seeing their Facebook page and the place was normally PACKED pre-pandemic.

Since I made reservations and we arrived 15 minutes early, we were given options to choose whichever table has a “Reserved” card on it. We picked a table right around the center of the outdoor area. I loved the string of lights and thought it’d be perfect.

P and I ordered the Animal Farm (SGD 48.00) platter:

It has beef brisket, pork belly, tikka chicken thigh, beer sausages, served with mashed potato, mixed greens, and sauces. I’m a sucker for everything tossed into a platter like that. I was happy with everything on the platter. The pork belly was crispy and juicy. The beef was tender. The chicken tikka was definitely grilled. And I can never get enough of mashed potato.

I think P was unaware of the large serving size. He also ordered the Chicken Tikka Burger (SGD 18.00):

This came with fries and mixed greens. Knowing P, he would ignore the greens. He loved his burger and I took some of his french fries.

Of course, Little Island Brewers is a… brewery. I was excited to check out the craft beers. Because of the pandemic, the staff will do the “self-service” for you. Here’s what the craft beers section looked like.

They let you sample the draft beers. I easily get tipsy when I start mixing different types of alcohol. I picked out the Hefeweizen since it’s their wheat beer. Golden Ale was the recommendation as well as the Double Trouble.

You can choose different types of serving size. We went for the smaller sized “Stem” so we could sample more. Here’s how the Stem glasses look like at Little Island Brewers:

I think I’ll stick to my wheat beer. It was my favorite among the ones we tried. After three glasses, I started to feel a little tipsy. I think my alcohol tolerance has changed in this pandemic. I’m actually cutting back on beer. But I thought this was an occasion anyway. 🙂

Plus, I was enjoying myself! Beers, a meat platter, and celebrating an anniversary. It was also a cool evening. New dining restrictions were about to be enforced so we managed to enjoy an anniversary dinner outside the house.

I think the place is popular amongst cyclists who find themselves having a pitstop at Changi Village. The area is in a slightly more remote part of Singapore which is inaccessible by MRT. I think that adds to the charm of the place. You have restaurants lined up within the parallel buildings that line Changi Village. There’s a nearby park and a nearby jetty for those going for a day trip to Pulau Ubin.

Little Island Brewers bills itself as self-service – with exception of this pandemic, there are some measures like letting the staff get your beer for you. I try to imagine how this place looked like pre-pandemic. It must’ve been packed and featured bands perhaps.

I’ll add this place as a recommended drinking spot in Singapore.

Little Island Brewers is at 6 Changi Village Road, Singapore, 509907. There is no MRT station near this location. But there is the Changi Village Bus Interchange which is two minutes away by foot. (Learn more on their Facebook page.)

Tell me about your favourite drinking spot in your city.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Getting my second vaccine jab in Pasir Ris

I guess this is a continuation of a previous post about getting my first vaccine jab. 🙂

July 25. The day of my 2nd vaccine appointment. I was LESS anxious this time. Probably because the first experience was breezy and painless. Plus, I had a cute guy inject me!

Like the first time, I didn’t take public transport since Pasir Ris Elias Community Club is a nice 15-minute walk away. I know that GoJek has some type of free transpo promotion for those getting their vaccination. But I didn’t want the fuss of downloading the app and being subscribed to some marketing mailing list. I’m fine walking since it’s good to get some sunshine.

Singapore flags are up and in full display – National Day is in a few weeks

I reached the community club on the dot. As soon as you arrive, you get asked if you’ve experienced fever or anything of that sort in the past 24 (or was it 48) hours. Then you get led up the stairs to a waiting area.

I can say I got my jab within 10 minutes after arriving on my assigned schedule. Lol no cute guy this time but instead a very friendly young lady in a hijab. I wanted to get a selfie with her for this blog but I was too shy.

The waiting area was filled with people! Must be a good thing. People are getting vaccinated here.

TED Talk Time: I checked that as of today, 50% of Singapore’s population is fully vaccinated. The country’s goal is to have two-thirds of the population vaccinated before National Day in August. I think they’re making great headway to reach their goal despite the spike in community cases. The cases the past few days are in the triple-digits.

Like last time, they give out masks to those who get vaccinated at this community club.

I walked home afterwards and walked home without listening to Blackpink. I don’t know. I think I was emo underneath the sunny weather. I feel lucky and grateful. But I think about things like… how about our friends in Malaysia? Indonesia? Thailand? And of course, how about my family and friends back home in the Philippines. The Delta variant has started to spread back home.

When I got home, I checked my TraceTogether app and the “In Progress” vaccine status changed to “Waiting to take effect”. Tapping it brings you to another page which tells you which date you’ll be fully vaccinated. My 14th day will be 8th August, right in time for Singapore’s National Day.

Wherever you are in the world, please be safe. Please get vaccinated. Sending love. ❤

How is it like to get vaccinated where you are?

New weekly videos on my YouTube channel

Earlier this month, I started a YouTube weekly video blog where I record 5-minute videos talking about what I’m watching, what I’m listening to, and some tidbits of each passing week. I also warm up by answering questions from a “365 & Me” app. What’s new about this (for me) is that the videos are unedited. There’s no music bed. There’s no b-roll. It’s raw and unfiltered.

My goal is to improve my ad-libbing and my confidence to communicate ideas. I want to improve in pace and clarity. I also want to build up on substance. I want to be better at doing interviews for both my podcast and my work with journalists and media professionals.

I’m calling it “Saturday Uncut” since… well… the goal is to publish a recording every Saturday. My KPI (wow, KPI) is 50 of these “episodes”. I want to run this series until mid-2022.

Here’s the fourth episode I recorded earlier using Zoom:

If you’re able to watch, do let me know your thoughts where I can improve. ❤

Authenticity, happiness, and the redefinition of “friends”

I’m nearing the end of my 11-day “mid year” holiday. This would typically center around my birthday and involve a vacation to the Philippines to visit family. But no. I’m in Singapore. I’ve spent the past 11 days doing a surprising number of things: a birthday staycation, a birthday gathering at home, getting another root canal, launching a podcast, watching a theatre play…

It’s a much-needed break from the routine of working from home. I thought I would squeeze in a few minutes of work emails or a few minutes of looking through Slack. But in fairness, none of that. I’ve spent almost eleven days in my own lane. Disconnected from work. Focused on me. (Woohoo.)

I turned 36 last week.

I’ve noticed hair growing in places they don’t normally grow (like a random strand of hair on my upper left arm – uhm, hello HU U?). I’ve noticed this odd feeling that I’m 5-10% less moisturised… how to describe, a youthful glow that is slowly starting to fade. I’ve noticed I’m no longer at the forefront of apps, tech… as I used to. It’s like everyone is listening to Olivia Rodrigo and even if I like her music, I feel like I could be Olivia Rodrigo’s dad.

I think I’m having a transformational moment.

I don’t know the exact trigger. It could be from a 10-minute Calm (app) meditation yesterday about embracing one’s vulnerability to be authentic. I think I’ve been obsessed with chasing happiness or living happy. I think that’s a mistake now. I should be chasing authenticity. How to live according to my choices, values, and identity. Choosing happiness or living happily isn’t fair to sadness or anger… which are valid emotions, right? Nobody is purely happy all the time. Sadness, anger, grief… these are all part of the equation.

I think I want to start living my life authentically as possible. I think that involves worrying less about what I can’t change. I think this means the real challenge is to just be me… without chasing what friends, people, and society “want” me to be.

The meaning of friends

This pandemic has isolated many of us from our loved ones. With reduced time spent with “regular friends” you see every other week, I’ve started to reflect on the type of friendships that matter to me.

A friend is someone you don’t have to check in with all the time. But the moment you connect, you just get each other. No formal niceties. No structured chatting.

If that were the criteria then… well, George, you can count your number of friends on one hand. Everyone else is most likely an acquaintance. These acquaintances are familiar people, but what do you really know about them?

And this is absolutely fine.

When I left my dragon boat team in 2019, it was like stepping out of a night club and into a parking lot. As the months passed and the pandemic took hold, it was like walking away from the parking lot and heading home where it’s warm and comfortable. I’m not saying the night club was a bad place. It was a fun place. But I grew exhausted. Plus, the night club had an unwanted patron.

I’ve spent years “cherishing” friendships. I’m the guy who “champions” get-togethers and annual reunions. I’m the guy who wants to “catch up soon”. But these days, no. I think it’s because I’m more comfortable with myself. I don’t see a need to fit myself in “for the sake of it”. I also don’t see myself bending to fit into schedules that don’t match. If I’m unavailable, we can find another time. If I’m late, you can go ahead and eat. I would have already apologised. But I’ll only apologise once. If you think I’m arrogant, I really don’t care.

I try to think if it would be the same if I were single. Yes, I think so. I’d most likely join a social club. Then I’d meet up with one or two friends (not acquaintances) and be fine with that. I think this is taking “I love me” to a new level. I attribute this learning to the pandemic.

All of this said, I am open for authentic connections. Not just happy ones.

“Are You Local?” Podcast Launch

I’ve finally launched my podcast! I was afraid to hit publish back in late 2020 because of imposter syndrome. I needed to take a “time out” and wait until I was comfortable putting my voice out there. It’s not perfect but I learned not to fall into that perfectionist trap. So finally, here it is! (Open in Spotify here).

“Are You Local?” is a question I get asked by some taxi drivers when they hear I carry a different accent. It’s an innocent question I’m usually happy to answer. But to have to answer it every time, I pondered what does local really mean. Many of us move between cities and countries. Are there secrets to fully integrating or happily co-existing?

In this podcast series, we’ll hear from folks who have moved to different parts of the world. We’ll also hear from people who live in multicultural locations. These are conversations with people who are finding their new place away from home.

My friend Greg joins me in the first episode and we explore what local means to him as a Singaporean. The podcast is available on Spotify. Support my storytelling by tapping “Follow”! Thanks!

Getting my first vaccine jab in Pasir Ris

COVID-19 vaccine registration for non-citizen residents of Singapore (ages 12-39) started on June 30, 2021. The government gave citizens in this age group more than two weeks head start to register. As a non-citizen but long-time Singapore resident, it was anxiety-inducing to wait. But I’m glad we were finally included. We are fighting this pandemic together on this island.

My housemates and I registered as soon as we could. We managed to book our first jabs within the first week of July. You can choose where to get your vaccine. The scheduling service will recommend the closest vaccine centers to your address. My schedule was on July 4.

My schedule was at Pasir Ris Elias Community Club which is a 15-minute walk from the house. Wearing comfortable clothes (shorts, a loose shirt, running shoes) – I made my way to the CC.

It was on a Sunday afternoon so I was expecting a managed crowd. Seats were laid out nicely and with social distancing. Once you arrive, like many things in Singapore, it was clockwork.

The vaccine offered at this centre is Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 (Comirnaty) and it is offered as two jabs. They interview you twice before you get the jab. They ask if you have known allergies, if you’re on specific medicines, etc.

The jab itself was painless. It lasted only a few seconds. After getting the jab, you have to wait 30 minutes in an observation area.

The observation area where you wait for 30 minutes
They have a pamphlet about the vaccine. It is provided in multiple languages.

I didn’t feel anything during that observation period. They call your name for one final interview before you are discharged. They check in with you, if you feel any immediate side effects that warrant attention or care. They also provide you with a printed sheet with your next vaccine appointment on it. The wait is 21-28 days until you can get the next jab.

Overall it was a seamless experience. (I wrote that like I’m reviewing a spa.)

My 2nd jab is scheduled at the end of July.

I hope you’re doing good in your part of the world. Please get vaccinated safely. 🙂

“What do you want for your birthday?”

So we’re clear: RECEIVING GIFTS is not my love language. 😉

Of the five so-called love languages, mine is QUALITY TIME. I’m NOT talking about being 24/7 up in my face. Ew. I’m referring to the intimacy or spark of something along the lines of five hot minutes together. Each minute, each second, EACH glance is worthwhile and meaningful. Money for gifts can be earned. Time that’s poorly spent? Meh.

This translates to one thing: EXPERIENCES

Years and years of writing travel itineraries for family, friends, and loved ones. Countless times of booking tickets to new attractions and restaurants. Pop culture, movies, films, video games, learning new languages, finding the best version of my favourite food… I mean come on. I deflate quietly whenever I get asked: What do you want for your birthday?

The quick answer: I want anything or nothing. The cliché goes: It’s the thought that counts. If you know me, you wouldn’t need to ask.

The long answer AKA your 2021 “cheat sheet”:

  1. A subscription to Calm.
  2. Tickets to the Singapore flyer.
  3. MagSafe charger with a 20v brick.
  4. Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan.
  5. A self-curated whiskey trip.
  6. A black or grey Apple watch strap.
  7. A new pair of workout gloves.
  8. Filipino recipes cookbook.
  9. A romantic picnic by the beach.
  10. Trying the city’s best sushi.
  11. Midnight / disco bowling.
  12. Visiting the cloud forest at Gardens by the Bay.
  13. Dinner at my favorite izakaya.
  14. Having a Filipino boodle fight, with a twist.
  15. Mario Party with friends.
  16. Hiking at Coney Island.
  17. A subscription to Headspace.
  18. A Wacom tablet.
  19. New pillows.
  20. Wooly mammoth stuffed toy I saw at Palais Renaissance.
  21. Brunch at Merci Marcel or PS Cafe.
  22. Stargazing from the best spot in the city.
  23. Biking at East Coast Park.
  24. Cupcakes. (But not the ones from Twelve Cupcakes which exploits foreign workers.)
  25. A Peranakan cooking class. Or, any local cooking class.
  26. Practicing yoga with me.
  27. A Japanese flash card set.
  28. Scrabble.
  29. The Singapore edition of Monopoly.
  30. Back to the Future movie night.
  31. Home-cooked food.
  32. Wine-tasting class.
  33. Canoeing or kayaking. A new way to appreciate an old stomping ground.
  34. Coffee tasting.
  35. Cocktails at Atlas.
  36. A pack of ped socks.
  37. A book about dealing with anxiety.
  38. Tickets to Jurong Bird Park.
  39. A revisit to the Southeast Asia Aquarium.
  40. Picnic and cocktails at Sentosa – at a beach bar I haven’t been to before.
  41. Visiting Madam Tussauds Singapore.
  42. Riding the cable car in Sentosa.
  43. Lunch at El Mesa Moderne Filipino in Clarke Quay.
  44. Scened candles from Bath & Body.
  45. Crate & Barrel gift cards.
  46. Anything pretty from Kinokuniya Bookstore.
  47. Middle Eastern food. The best one in Singapore.
  48. An Apple pencil compatible with my iPad 7th gen.
  49. A Moleskine notebook. Annual but un-dated.
  50. Tickets to go see a play.
  51. Camping.
  52. A staycation at The Fullerton, Andaz, or JW Marriott.
  53. The best bak kut teh in Singapore.
  54. The best Malaysian-style bak kut teh in Singapore. The addictive herbal type.
  55. The best burger joint in Singapore.
  56. Brunch at Shake Farm Telok Ayer.
  57. Go-karting. Because, Mario Kart.
  58. Seeing any new exhibit at National Gallery Singapore or Asian Civilisations Museum.
  59. Play miniature golf.
  60. Offering to help me declutter my space and discard unwanted items.
  61. Bake brownies as an activity.
  62. A 90-minute massage. Head, shoulder, and/or foot.
  63. Cocktail making class.
  64. Beer flight / beer tasting at LeVeL 33.
  65. Dinner at a good steakhouse.
  66. Lunch at Hard Rock Cafe.

If you completed my crazy list, you’ll notice majority are experiences not material things.

This was a rant. ✌🏼

I turn 36 next Tuesday.