The Hobbyt: Sembo Blocks

On our trip last time to Tagaytay, we found ourselves on a Metro grocery where we didn't expect to find these toys. Unfortunately when we came back home I didn't notice that the first set we got had an incorrect box. Which is why in the days after my supposedly 4 pc set have gone way out of proportion! I have now 4 sets total!!

I've sourced the ones I currently have from the Toy Kingdom sale and I've completed the rest of my flower shop via Lazada. Now I'm stuck with a missing gift shop from one of the sets which I unfortunately cannot find yet. Tagaytay is a pain in the ass to go to these days and I'm not so sure I would go out of my way to look for it there without any assurance that the last piece I wanted was still there.

Enough with the chatter, let's describe the experience. 


The missing gift shop :-(


Comparing with my Loz Blocks a year ago, I've noticed a few differences with both. The biggest difference is the blocks are larger and easier to remove with each other. Another shallow observation are the missing logos on the blocks themselves unlike with Lego's and Loz's. 

Like Loz, they do have stickers but are harder to attach because it adheres easily once it's removed from the white sheet it comes with. You won't get a second chance once a piece gets too close with a brick. There are a few stickers I've incorrectly attached that I could not salvage. Which is why my cheap Omega shop is not only obviously a pirated version but the logo also inverted :-(.


Next 3 are up for assembly one of these days


When I hoarded blocks at the Toy Kingdom sale I realized that there are 3 version of these, the first ones I got from Tagaytay was 2nd to the smallest (smallest ones are truly cheap; 99 PHP but based on the photo at the back it's just one floor, didn't bother with those), and the ones from TK are larger versions that came with light boxes. I've tried to open one once and it was cute!


Significantly taller than the first set I got


I did enjoy assembling these blocks but the difficulty is not the same as Loz. There were a few pieces that were challenging but not as much. The longer you've been churning out one completed shop after another gives you a good guess on what needs to be put next. Even though they are much larger, the sets aren't as detailed as hoped from the inside. The colors come different as well from the manual that I had to adjust on what piece I need to put next. Also another notable thing is how they are a bit scrimpy in excess of pieces. One time I only got 2 or pieces left! 



From Lazada except the Flowershop stand which we got by mistake 

Based on what I've searched so far online, there are more of these out there. As to whether I'd get more could be seen because I'm already swimming on displays. I don't have much surface anymore to put them on. What's worse is Daiso / Japan Home doesn't have display cases that would fit my shops at all making them more susceptible to dust. I just hope I'd get to complete my set though :-(.



Prices: 199 for the mid sets, 299 for the larger ones with lights.



T&J Travels #12 : Tagaytay 2018





After months of rendering OTs, I finally called it quits. Dealing with everyday stress feels too much and the knowledge of not travelling on my birthday this year makes me want to atleast take a mini break. At my planning stage bf wasn't going to join me, originally he was just going to visit me on a Saturday. Changes happened, he stayed for both my nights and unfortunately we hadn't utilized our stays too much.

+ Eco Cabin Hotel +

This was supposed to be a staycation for me on a commute and also my first solo travel which is kind of funny since I lived in Cavite most of my life. But nevermind that I still want to do this as easy as possible by booking a hotel easy to go to.

The location of Eco Cabins is really optimal. It's a few minutes from Rotunda, it's within walking distance of really good restaurants, it's in front of Ayala Serin (granted, you have to take the overpass to cross) and a Colette's is nearby as well. It's also easy to get back to Manila on commute because you can just take a bus right in front of the hotel too!



Tip: Bringing a car? Parking is a bit limited and you might have to position it well if you plan to, let's say go out early in the morning else you would be on the mercy of the double parked car behind you. 

On my arrival I found it funny that right at the door a white dog (named Blue) greeted me. I called him the guard / doorbell since sometimes you would know if there's a new visitor when you hear him bark.








The decor of the hotel is minimal / rustic. I find it welcoming without so much frills. I am not a tall person so the room feels quite enough to move around but maybe not for taller, bigger guests, more so if there are more people in the room. 




Free breakfasts are really good. I just hope they don't add their meals to their off breakfast menus because there are times we would like to eat there for dinner when we're too exhausted to go out and we're running out of choices. I can't possibly have the same meal 3x a day right?



Wish lists include: More hooks for clothes and maybe a proper dial for the heater. I never look forward to taking baths because of this. I wasn't able to perfect the experience. I would also appreciate an additional closeup mirror because I could barely see anything from their mirror having extremely poor eyesight. I had to tiptoe to their counter so I could see myself. 

Price: 3000++/night including taxes and fees. Prepare a security deposit of 1000, refundable upon checkout.

Before we slept we slightly planned to go to Taal but that didn't happen because we're not sure with the weather. In the morning over breakfast as we're watching over the tiny island at the rooftop there are heavy clouds looming that we forgo that plan and went to a museum instead.

+ Museo Orlina +



It's a few minutes away from Eco Cabin via tricycle (70 PHP one way). You could save money if you just take the jeep but trikes for me are much more convenient because we don't have to keep track on where to get off.



Bags are OK to bring in but they would suggest you leave them at the counter since majority of the exhibit are extremely fragile. 






There are no tour guides (caveat: we didn't ask, we weren't offered) so we are left with reading the accompaniment texts on each display. You also start on the 2nd floor and since there are no tour guides you could choose whether you start downstairs or at the rooftop. There's also an elevator for PWD, seniors and pregnant women. There was no AC when we're there.

Price: 100 / head


+ Tsokolateria +


This is one of the restaurants near our hotel that I find really interesting to try. It was small, barely enough for a huge group so the noise is minimal. They have a garden of sorts as well that doesn't look appealing when it's too hot outside. Maybe it would work on the evenings.

We were presented with two menus, one was of Tsokolateria and with another restaurant name I forgot what was called. We haven't ordered anything from there to try though. The menu for Tsokolateria was really enticing that I could not decide what to order. They have tons of options that sounds good on my head that I am very much interested in going back for more.

I appreciate everything that I had on my plate. The salads were fresh, the pastas were both properly seasoned. I also like the portion of their dessert, it was enough to cap a really good meal.






Overall our first attempt to staycation was really nice, it was a nice short getaway. While I have enjoyed my stay at Eco Cabin, I would like to try the rest of the hotels near the area, possibly where I am near a pokestop! I am currently playing pokemon go (again) and while the hotel had tons of pokemon spawns, there are no stops nearby that I ran out of balls and lost tons of ones I would like to catch. I am thinking of Days Hotel next! The view looks great from the highway as well.










The National Museum of Natural History



I arrived by Luneta hours earlier but I suddenly had the urge to come in around 330 in hopes that there are less people. I thought that the line outside WAS the only line but as soon as I entered the doors the queue snaked 3x! There are two main problems, 1 the XRAY machine for bags is not working (surprise surprise) and there is only one log book. The museum has been open since last year and I was hoping that they could be more efficient than this. Yes they do let your group in and have one representative but what is stopping them to have more than 1 log book?

The all white paint of the interior adds is really pretty to look at. It's clean and modern. I also loved how they've thought of adding ramps on each floor to help even our PWDs and seniors to reach with ease. The airy main hall ensures that it won't feel cramped. Too bad it's not open in the evenings, I wondered the dome would have looked good with proper lighting. I just hope the AC is cranked higher because it's a bit humid especially with too many people around. 

The displays are surprisingly good, maybe because everything is still new. I loved how some floors were transformed to look like you're under the sea, or in the middle of the woods. I would love to go back on a non busy day because it feels like the noise of all the kids running and screaming takes off the museum feel I envisioned the experience to be. Based on experience museums overseas are usually quiet even with kids around maybe because there are more  presence of museum personnel who would reprimand touching exhibits (I had to call out a teen touching a painting) or any other misbehavior. Kids should learn early how to behave properly in places such as museums. 

There are still floors not accessible for public which is why I'm excited to come back when the museum is 100% complete. Amazing wish lists include gift shops, more interactive displays, AVP rooms for scheduled programs and all that I've mentioned above. And oh, don't forget to bring back Lolong too!

PH TV Streaming



HOOQ




Image from Lifestyle Hub

Tried this for a while but abandoned it eventually. I was able to get a free subscription from it via Globe but never returned. Customer service is supposed to be good, they did reply as soon as I reported an issue but it wasn't resolved until my sub was over. Said issue was the weird subs that was in Community (TV Series) that was often wrong. One episode even had Spanish subs on it! There are also shows that are horrible to watch, it jumps and sometimes look corrupted it felt like you're watching on a pirated CD.  I didn't get to see all of these corrected last time so I might be wrong as of writing. 

Price: 149/month
Watch for: American TV Series (Community, Powerless) and Pinoy Shows



Iflix



Been a customer for more than 6 months but have not paid a single cent to date. I just kept on purchasing my rewards from Grab. They have some titles that are also available in Netflix like Brooklyn Nine Nine, My Hero Academia, The Good Place, 12 Monkeys, Once Upon a Time among others. A good reason to keep them is how they have an active list for local and other Asian TV Series and Movies that you could never find in Netflix. They also release Pinoy Indies which I hope would get more extensive as years go by. One con is that you could not share your account with anyone else. 

Price: 129/month or 2100 Grab Reward Points (for 6 months)
Watch for: Diverse Asian TV Shows and Movies (Pinoy TV Soaps, Kdrama, Anime) and Channels (GMA, ABS CBN, ABC, Discovery, History, TLC, etc.)


Netflix




The most cast-friendly of what I've tried so far and really good for binge watching for a while. I said a while because I noticed that the longer I watch the harder it is to pause / stop a show because the app automatically closes on my end. It still plays on my TV but I could not see where the pause / play buttons anymore. I don't know if it's an Android issue or it's just my phone though so it might be an isolated problem.

Their list is good but they are more focused in producing originals because I could go on weeks without selecting a non-Netflix produced show. I particularly love their Sci-Fi offerings, but Comedy standups not so much. Majority of them are such a huge miss. 

One of the things I really appreciate them doing is perfecting the interface because it's easy to search the ones I used to play. It would be amazing though if we could choose to bump off shows we're not interested in or have already watched but still being recommended anyway. The subs both on app and via TV are excellent as well. 

Price: 460/month via Globe (was able to get more than 6 months free from them too)
Watch for: Netflix Originals (Stranger Things, Dark, Bright, 3%, Riverdale, Bojack Horseman, Sense 8, etc.)

Fox +




I'm currently under a free subscription and I have not yet decided if I'm willing to pay for the service. Their list is really good since they have the most shows I really hoped Netflix had. I could see myself going on for days binge watching BUT casting and interface is dreadful. The interface is a bit hard to navigate to, you had to click My Profile > My List first before going back to shows you are currently watching. Casting via IOS is OK but NO matter what I do, the subs doesn't show. Almost the same issue is encountered in Android that most times I had to switch back and forth to different languages just to get the English sub to work. Binge watching is terrible too, it works intermittently but mostly I had to search back to which episode I was last on and play it via the app. I hope they fix it soon because the potential is definitely there.

Price: 249/month
Watch for: Popular TV Series and Movies (The Walking Dead, Modern Family, Family Guy, Masterchef, WWE, NGC Shows, Fox Movies, etc.)   

Disney Life



Got this subscription for free. I realized I've already watched most of the movies they currently offer not to mention that most of them are readily available in other streaming apps already. They do  have some series exclusive but most are either for kids or for teens. The interface is good but subs are non existent on the shows I tried (On the Woods, Duck Tales). There is no toggle to remove nor any option to change to another language. They also offer albums of their shows but Spotify is already good enough for that. Casting via Chromecast is good albeit the sounds are a bit inaudible even if my TV is already at it's max.

Price: 149/month
Watch for: Marvel, Disney classics.

Coming Soon: Amazon Prime

Will test this as soon as my Fox + sub is over

Updates:

10.30.18 - Added Disney life

The Hobbyt: Loz Blocks





So NBS had a 70% off sale and what I got were not books but a set of minis I have never heard before. I don't have any collection of such but it's my go to gift for Reagan in the form of Nanoblocks. I am not a fan of landmark kits but I do have some affinity with miniatures especially if it involves some tiny houses. This though were in the form of shops and I love it just the same that I had to buy the entire set (there are four of them) in one go. 




The sets are easy but it's challenging to assemble. The quality is not perfect that most blocks are hard to push in on each other or remove when needed. I have issues most times at the ceiling (my most hated was the wedding dress shop) when it cracks in the middle and I have to revisit the steps to correct it. 




The kits come in bags of pieces and a manual. They also have a few random extras and this small gray device that aids you in removing some blocks that are pressed with each other. The manual is easy to follow and most of my mistakes are entirely my fault. I do not have a system in making it, all that mattered to me was I followed the instructions.

On my research there's another set of Street Mini in 5 boxes (includes a bookshop and a pet store) but unfortunately I have no idea where to buy them. I am not so sure in transacting at the official online shop I found nor any other shops that looked like they're selling them. I am half convinced to just find it on a physical store overseas, but Loz is not that popular to be easy to find. It would have been great if I can complete all 10 even if I don't get the other set of "branded shops". What's funny is I found more blocks that were all pirated versions of Lego. I don't find it interesting other than this so hopefully I get to complete the rest of the kits for the Mini Street collection. It would be amazing to get all those shops on my non existing shelf.



Official Site: https://www.loz-blocks.com/collections/mini-street?page=1

Ang Huling El Bimbo





SOME MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

Eraserheads is one of the most influential bands in Philippine culture so it's not hard to imagine that a musical will be produced a la Sugarfree's Sa Wakas or Aegis' Rak of Aegis. The instant I heard about them I instantly booked us seats.

The musical starts with a dead body of a girl and 3 aged men who "might" have something to do with the death. We get flashbacks of what I could only assume to be set on the 90s (has to be) when all four were still young and were friends. 

Almost all of the most iconic songs of Eraserheads were featured especially on moments where it's lively and more than a dozen of backups are on stage. I was seriously having a good time that I forgot that this wasn't a feel good musical. The last arc before the intermission set the tone that would disturb me until the end. I know I shouldn't be surprised on the direction they made, yet it still shocked me to my core. I got so terrified that even today as I'm writing this I've been pushing that scene out of my head. I do not know if kids are allowed to watch but personally if it was me watching when I was younger I would have felt traumatized. I could not say if it's the same case for every audience though. I mean my bf didn't look like it bothered him at all.



Newport doesn't have excellent surround sound that at times the actors sounded like they're screaming. That and the space could be a deal breaker for some audiences. We've already been inside the Newport Theatre way back (Sound of Music) and already know they have a large stage. But I still felt sad for other patrons who do not know this and would have been shocked that they are going to watch the entire play on a TV. Maybe they were still able to see some but I doubt it any better than what we did. Even we had to see some scenes from the TV due to their blockings. 

Some would say that the story was predictable (we had one immediate reviewer as we're going out of the theatre) but I still urge everyone to watch. I know I would not repeat a viewing because of how uncomfortable I felt, but don't let that discourage you. It's kind of depressing but you know, that's life. Not everyone gets their happy ending. Not for most in this musical at least.


That Season in Project Runway (Season 8)




I've completely lost all sense of urgency in all the other TV series I've been finishing ever since Netflix added Project Runway to their roster. I am not much fan of reality show UNLESS it involves: houses, baking (cooking IDK why I don't get too hooked) and sewing clothes* because I felt it doesn't have too much drama unless it was truly necessary. I did watch Amazing Race and Survivor but I now digress.

I've been watching PR the longest I could remember but not consistently, like I'm not sure which seasons I've fully watched since I only rely on my couch surfing skills which is pointing the down button on the remote looking for which show I like as my noise in the background. So anyway, fresh from the high from Season 7 where all of them are legit good, both Emilio and Seth Aaron are ridiculously strong and years later huge successes on different paths. It was a beautiful season where their skills are truly a highlight THAT when I got to the first episode of Season 8, I was like: are you serious?! After all the strong contenders last time we got this?!

So anyways fast forward to episode after episode and it started to become dramatic. Why is there a bully such as Ivy Higa and Gretchen to a friendless guy that is Michael Costello? It got so heated that as of writing I think, was this scripted? What was I missing on why everyone hated Michael? And why is there so much hate against him?

One of the highlights of this whole Ivy-Michael drama was when there was a team challenge wherein he was ganged on by Michael's 5 team mates who thinks he doesn't know what he's doing / doesn't know how to sew. Prior to that episode he won (to the dismay of the other contestants) and got immunity that the moment everyone from his team was "throwing him under the bus", Heidi exasperatedly said that whatever they (other designers) were doing would not be of any affect to Michael because in fact even if their team lost, he's the only guy who is safe due to his immunity. Michael cried when he was sent back to the room, retelling what happened at the panel. It was disturbing  too because no one bothered to even console him. Before the episode ended, Tim Gunn had to call out the bullies and had to specifically mention Gretchen as a manipulator. This in turn shook Gretchen's ego. This had clearly affected her work because she never won a single episode after that, other than her win at the finale, which was even a controversial win against Mondo. If by statistics alone, Gretchen, Mondo AND Michael are tie by 3 wins. Ivy, the most hated contestant on the other hand was out on the 9th episode out of 14. 

Now, just as when I am totally with Michael's, there are times after that episode that he became a bit mean on the interviews. I don't know if it's his true colors showing or he's just trying to toughen up since he could not get friends. Andy and Mondo seemed to have warmed up to him though after a few episodes. In fact Mondo apologized to Michael at some point because he believed he was being a dick in his snide remarks against Michael who just needed guidance on what he had to do. So anyway, I am not sure if it's just how they made it look like in the show but maybe in the workroom and in their apartment, THERE REALLY IS something there hence the other designers' hostility towards him. 

Another memorable episode was on the sportswear challenge where the eliminated 6 was brought back to help. Not too long Ivy Higa had to engage Michael in an argument on how he was a cheater and couldn't sew. She was nonstop in her complaints and accusations that Tim Gunn had to step in again and clear whatever rumor that was. Instead of being ashamed, Ivy Higa didn't care and a funny snippet happened. It was a genius edit wherein she was complaining in an interview on how Michael was undeserving of being there, and how karma will get back to him someday. The next clip was hilarious when at the sewing room she was in front of a machine and something suddenly poked here in the eye out of her doing and the camera zooms in on Michael's gleeful face. 

Karma actually made me search for all 4 of them: Gretchen Jones, Mondo Guerra, Ivy Higa and Michael Costello-- 8 years since the show wrapped up. Suddenly I'm someone from the "future" who can see what happened to all 4. While Gretchen Jones won, both she and Ivy Higa are still designers BUT NOT at the same level to the achievements that Mondo, especially Michael through the years. Michael Costello dresses high profile celebrities like Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj to name a few. He's actually a favorite go to designer of celebrities when they grace awarding bodies such as the Grammy's and Emmy's. Not bad for "someone who cannot sew". In contrast, Ivy doesn't even have her own wiki page. 

Ivy have said a lot of things in the show that are obnoxious but if anything she was right that someday, karma will hit Michael. She just probably didn't know that there are two types and the one that got Michael was the kind she never expected. I wonder if at nights she remember it still.









*FINE. I did dabble on ANTM on it's early seasons.
** Original Image from http://ruinasdeinvernalia.blogspot.com / Edited via Canva