Honest Notes VOL. 1: I found happiness in the South

HN 1Honest Notes are a collection of random pieces that I write on moments that overwhelms my heart. This is the first part of this series which I wrote during my recent trip with my family in the province of Batangas (hence, South). The past few months have been a difficult struggle of trying to keep my mental health in check which is why the said trip was important to me. Before leaving home, I was actually hoping to find some peace of mind and a bit of happiness along the way and I’m truly grateful for stumbling upon it on this humble trip.

(P.S. All the photos below are taken by me except for the two photos of myself which was taken by my sister) 

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Tomato Cannon: Braving Uncharted Recipes

Walking around the various streets of Malolos in search of new restaurants to explore and share with your family and friends might be a little too exhausting and time-consuming especially because of the increasing number of restaurants and cafes surrounding the area. Plus, there is always a tendency to find restaurants covered in fancy décor but offers bland and soulless food or places with only half-hearted attempts in following food trends causing huge dismay to their customers.

Luckily, we found a place that suits most of the categories needed for a good restaurant. Using a name which brought confusion in our 4th-grade selves and maybe up until now (Is it a vegetable or a fruit?!)–Tomato Cannon is a cozy café situated across Centro Escolar University Malolos Campus and South Supermarket which caters to all the hungry and picky tummies out there.

Exploration #1: “I came, I saw, I conquered” – Preparing for the trip


Wall of all things good. Taken by Jean Pagtalunan (10-23-16)

Tomato Cannon started as a fun project way back in the month of May between Vince Nuguid (owner), his family and friends. But after only two months in their soft opening, they received different types of positive feedbacks from the people and from then on, Vince decided to make plans for the café’s future expansion.

In spite of the relatively small space, they were able to maximize it using six medium-sized tables which can accommodate roughly 36 people. Once inside, you will be welcomed by cheerful waiters; immediately eliciting a smile out of your tired and hungry soul. If it is not enough to lighten up your mood, there are several feel good quotes scattered around the café. As a whole, the place succeeded in giving off a relaxing mood with the help of warm, yellow-orange lights paired with the tasteful music turned in just the right volume.

Exploration #2: “No stop signs, no speed limit. Nobody’s gonna slow me down” – Reaching Highway to Heaven


Thirst Quenchers. Taken by Thea Panganiban (10-23-16)

As its name promised, Tomato Cannon’s menu consists of different dishes using tomato as a staple ingredient. They offer basic tomato dishes from pasta to pizza and even bravely mixing tomato with other fruits for their signature drinks.

Aside from the unusual dishes that will give you more than enough reason to visit the café like Longganisa Mac and Cheese, Salted Egg Walnut pasta, Cheesy Volcano Ribs, Spicy Strawberry shake and the famous Ultimate Cannon Pizza, Tomato Cannon’s gem also lies within the reasonable prices of their food.

After deciding amongst ourselves, we ended up trying the store’s bestsellers in order to determine if they are really as good as what we heard. (Spoiler Alert: All of it is good!)

We ordered the Garlic Tomato Basil pasta (85php), Creamy Three Cheese pasta (125php) and paired it with the intriguing Tomato Lemonade (59php) and Brazilian Milkshake (59php). Finally, we ordered their Cheesy Bacon pizza (295php) which is said to be handmade and prepared using fresh ingredients.


Delish. Taken by Thea Panganiban (10-23-16)


Taken by Thea Panganiban (10-23-16)

First off, the Garlic Tomato Basil pasta. I normally don’t like tomato pasta since I prefer my pasta to be sweet and salty rather than sour but surprisingly, I love this dish. Unlike the typical tomato pasta that I’ve eaten before, this pasta’s flavors are well-balanced and the cook somehow perfected the art of picking tomatoes since it is not too sour nor too sweet which is the best and preferably the only way to eat it. On the other hand, the Creamy Three Cheese pasta is all the things that one can ask for in a pasta dish. It’s both cheesy and creamy at the same time and even though it has too many flavors and might appear to be a little too salty to some, we both extremely enjoyed it.

Second in the list are Tomato Lemonade and Brazilian Milkshake. We both admire the defiant combination of tomato and lemon in order to create a perfect shake to beat the constant heat in the Philippines. The surprising thing about this lemonade is that it tastes like bittersweet green mangoes which is totally unexpected but nevertheless, good. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Milkshake which is obviously a mix of milk and lemonade has a kind of addicting taste to it. My partner swore that when we eat at Tomato Cannon again, it will definitely be in her order.


Round Shaped Heaven. Taken by Jean Pagtalunan (10-23-16)

Finally, we savored the delicious thin-crust pizza with cheese and bacon toppings. I did not especially find anything new to it since I’ve never been a real fan of the said combination however, I must say that I adore their pizza crust. It’s not as thin as what the popular pizza parlors in our country offers which is good since super thin crust pizzas are kind of a little too much in my opinion. We were also in awe of the minimal amount of oil there is in the pizza which somehow makes it less sinful.

All in all, we tremendously enjoyed the food that we ordered and we’re both happy that we don’t need to travel far in order to eat quality pizza and pasta.

Exploration #3: “Not all those who wander are lost” – Marking the Territory

In our opinion, the only problematic thing about Tomato Cannon is its lack of parking space. Since it is located along the highway, there is a very little option in parking one’s car. Although according to Vince Nuguid, owner of the café, there is a huge possibility that they will transfer the store someplace else but since that will be a long process, we just have to bear with it for now.

With that said, we highly recommend Tomato Cannon to people who are tired of the same old dishes found in fast food chains or fancy restaurants. It is for the people whose philosophy when it comes to food is, every bite should be an experience. And what a great experience this has been! From the homey interior, the friendly staff, and owner, to the mouth-watering foods they serve–Tomato Cannon have aced them all.

So, what are you waiting for? Drop by at the café and mark your own territories as you spoon your way to every single piece of good food they offer!

Ratings: 8.5 stars

Rizal: A sun-filled province


After a stressful week at school, I can’t help but to be excited with the fact that I’ll be surrounded with the sun, cool mountain air, and honestly just anything alive and doesn’t scream “Study!” or “Deadlines!” to me.

Thankfully, my family decided that it’s about time to go on a road trip again!


Taken at Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia, Tanay, Rizal (09-10-16)

Since my family loves to visit pilgrimage sites, our first destination was Tanay, Rizal wherein the famous Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia is located. The said site is managed by Dominican sisters of Regina Rosarii and as stated above, they are the home of Contemplative prayer.

The place has strict house rules and before the visitors can enter the different worship sites, they must undergo a quick orientation. It’s mainly about the vision and mission of the place and the dress codes implemented.

TIP: If you want to visit, wear a semi-formal attire. For the girls, wear longer skirts or jeans because you need to borrow a shawl to cover the lower part of your body if you’re wearing clothes cut above the knee.


Taken at the picnic grounds on Regina Rosarii, Tanay, Rizal (09-10-16)

Once inside you will be welcomed by horses and sheep, colorful peacocks, and bright flowers. Lots and lots of them!!!




I apologize for taking so many pictures but they are absolutely gorgeous and I keep on wanting to show them off! Haha. 

After the 11:00 am mass, we immediately left Tanay and went on to Pililia to see the wind mill farm.


Taken at Pililia Wind Farm, Rizal (09-10-16)

There were a several number of people in the wind farm considering that we arrived there around 2:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon.


The place, as promised, is surrounded by huge wind mills and strong winds. Due to the strong afternoon wind, I did not mind the heat so much. Although I’m certain that I got a bit of a tan from taking photos without any protection from the sun. Still, I have no regrets!



TIP: Bring a cap or an umbrella if you want to visit this place. Trust me, it’s very much needed.



We stopped over on a couple of old churches along the way home too, but due to lack of sleep, I wasn’t able to take good photos of those places. (I sleep whenever we get in the car. Lol)

The trip however, was a really fun one-scorching heat and all. I was glad that I did something other than study and finish my tasks in our organization. I had fun and I definitely want to go back to Rizal another time. Mainly because we weren’t able to eat their special treats. I do not call it touring if I wasn’t able to eat the place’s specialty. Haha!

Anyways, the long weekend is about to leave and I fear that a major reality check is going to haunt me really soon. Lol. See you, again!



BTS: Before the Shot Stories – A Day In Manila

My unrelenting heart has flown,

Like the vast blue sky above-alone and unreachable.

Like a bullet racing towards its target,

My heart no longer aches to wait.




Flowers hanging in the trellis,

I was stunned by your thorns.

Blood dropping from my fingers,

I realized you’re fragile but strong.

Flowers hanging in the trellis,

I could not help but to think of his long gone kisses.

Tiny petals floating in the air,

I wish my memories of him could be blown out and away.




Dear Mr. Lamppost, I am calling out to you.

Can you hear the birds chirping from up above the sky?

Can you tell how scared I am?

Dear Mr. Lamppost, I am calling out to you.

Can you see the sun falling beyond the sea?

Can you feel my warmth quickly faltering?

Dear Mr. Lamppost, I am calling out to you.

My friend says you share your light with anyone,

Can you also cast your light upon my weary soul?




Travel Diary #1: Road Trip to Laguna and Quezon (Part 1)


Last week, our family decided to go on a road trip in Laguna and Quezon which were provinces from Region 4, both located in the Philippines. We do not have an itinerary because my father wants to go to so many places but unfortunately, his day off is only for two days. Nevertheless, the trip was a good one.

Since my parents absolutely love vintage churches, our first destination was the parish church of Majayjay, Laguna. It was built in 1576, during the Spanish colonization in the Philippines. I love the exterior look of the church especially the vines which freely crept to the bell tower.



The interior look, is also beautiful. It was adorned with beautiful chandeliers and golden ornaments. 

Shortly after that, we arrived in Lucban, Quezon wherein we stayed for the whole day. We also visited their church and we were all mesmerized by the beauty (and oldness) of it.




I took so many pictures because the whole place is just breathtaking. Plus, the people who work in the church are absolutely kind. There was this lady who was in charge of the donation box by the comfort room who helped us in finding a cheap but comfortable place to stay in. She was so cheerful as she gave us directions to different hotels and inns.



When we finished touring the whole church, we decided to walk around the town and to get something to eat. My father picked a restaurant just steps away from the church.


Inside Buddy’s, you’ll find wooden furniture with cute sunflower designs everywhere! The place radiates with calmness and good food. Their own version of Lucban’s famous “Pansit Habhab” is sooooo tasty! (And of course the Lucban longganisa tastes wonderfully, too!)



I love that they designed their ceiling with colorful “Kiping.” Kiping are rice wafers that are used to create an “arangya”. These are actually what the natives hung on their houses during the Pahiyas Festival.


Our next stop was Kamay ni Hesus shrine located also in Lucban, Quezon. The shrine houses huge statues of Jesus Christ and a very real (and big) version of Noah’s Ark and Garden of Eden.




Look at those stairs!

Meanwhile, the church itself is marvelous. I have this thing with chandeliers and the Kamay ni Hesus church have tons of vintage ones. Ah, they are so pretty!

There is also a grand piano just below the altar and it’s not an old one. It’s shiny and black and new. (The middle aged guy who played it have such a nice voice.)




THE Noah’s Ark. It’s pretty impossible to take a picture of all of it because well, it’s massive.

By the time we arrived at the traveler’s inn that we are staying at–we were all equally tired. But that didn’t stop us from taking one last, late night stroll.


The church of Lucban looked even prettier at night.



My family minus my brother who took this picture.

Our first day in Laguna and Quezon was indeed well spent. I was glad of all the vintage places that we visited and even more glad to meet nice people. 🙂

My first ever Cinemalaya experience

Photographed by: Gemmz Robles

Photographed by: Gemmz Robles

Yesterday, our organization went to the Cultural Center of the Philippines for the annual independent film festival which is called; Cinemalaya. It is their 10th year so it’s extra special and it’s also the reason why the festival’s theme or tagline is, Cinemalaya X: A Decade of Connecting Dimensions. But before anything else, I want to tell you a little information about our org. Our organization is called Multimedia Division and we specialize in photography, film making, script writing and the likes. So the said festival serves as both an exposure and enjoyment for the members. Anyway, back to Cinemalaya… We bought two full-length film tickets and two short film tickets. So all in all, we were able to watch four films. The said films were the following:

Photographed by: Gemmz Robles

Photographed by: Gemmz Robles

1. 1st Ko Si 3rd by Real Florido

2. Shorts A: Asan Si Lolo Me? by Sari Estrada Mga Ligaw na Paruparo by J.E. Tiglao The Ordinary Things We Do by David Corpuz Padulong sa Pinuy-Anan by Eden Villarba Tiya Bening by Ralph Quijano

3. Shorts B: Indayog ng Nayatamak by Joris Fernandez Lola by Kevin Ang Tan Nakabibinging Kadiliman by Paolo O’Hara Ina-Tay by Chloe Veloso Eyeball by Thop Nazareno

4. #Y by Gino Santos   We arrived at CCP at around 11 AM so we decided to eat an early lunch since the first film that we were going to watch is scheduled at 12:45 PM.

I'm in the middle wearing eyeglasses and The Beatles shirt.

I’m in the middle wearing eyeglasses and The Beatles shirt.

After we finished eating, we went straight to CCP and there we were welcomed by cold air, red carpet and an exhibit about the different indie films that made it through the festival. (I can’t put into words how glamorous the CCP lounge is because that would take me hours to do so.)

PicMonkey Collage

The wonderful exhibit at CCP’s lounge. (Photographed by: Gemmz Robles)

The first film that we watched is entitled “1st Ko Si 3rd.” It’s basically about a 65-year old married woman who, after five decades, was reunited with her first love; Third.  

My thoughts about the film: I love 1st Ko Si 3rd because it’s not your ordinary reunited-with-your-first-love romance. It isn’t about recreating what is lost and what is ruined by time. The film is about ageing and realizing that the things that we need in order to be happy is really just on our side. All we need to do is to appreciate it before it’s too late. Also, the film showed the joy that we get from reminiscing our past loves and the sorrow that ‘what ifs’ and regret gives to us. It made me laugh, cry and smile due to its poignancy and brilliance. (Plus, I can relate to the unsent letters and heartbreaking stuff in the film. Lol.)

“Nagsasama ang dalawang tao dahil mahal nila ang isa’t isa. Pero minsan, nagsasama sila dahil wala ng mahanap na iba.” -Cory, 1st Ko Si 3rd.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

The next film was Shorts A which is composed of five short films. It was shown in CCP’s Tanghalang Huseng Batute same as the place wherein 1st Ko Si 3rd was screened so we just went out for a while and went back to the theater again.

Inside Tanghalang Huseng Batute

Inside Tanghalang Huseng Batute

My favorite short film among the list is “Asan Si Lolo Me?’ because of its witty title, humorous characters and plot. It’s about a mother that told her son that his grandfather turned into a goat in order to hide the fact that the grandfather died. Though it lacks a deeper meaning, it’s still refreshing and amusing.

My ratings: 4/5 stars (I won’t talk about the other short films anymore because this blog post is getting oh-so-long. But I like every entry except for Tiya Bening which I still don’t get until now.)

Anyway, after the film ended, we went outside to eat. The whole place is crowded so it’s very easy to lose your way but luckily I didn’t. We also grabbed the chance to take a picture with the large ‘X’ sign outside of CCP’s Main Theater.


Cinemalaya X and MD ❤

At 5:45 PM, we went inside the Aurelio Tolentino Theater for the third film–Shorts B. Those films are all very good. I enjoyed this set more than Shorts A for many reasons but mainly because the stories in Shorts B are more unexpected and unique.

The best film for me among the five indie films is “Lola”. It is set on a Christmas afternoon and the story revolves around a grandmother tending her house. That was the summary of the plot but, BUT! The film is more than that. *Spoilers Alert!* Lola, really is about a zombie apocalypse. (Yes, I know! It’s WOAH. Just. Wow.) The main character (Lola) is a badass grandma who is expert in zombie killing. The whole film is very interesting despite of the creepy or should I say disturbing scenes.  Although the make-up of the zombies aren’t that great, the director found a way to cure it. (Hence, the shaky cam during the zombie scenes.)

For me, it’s the most unforgettable film before 1st Ko Si 3rd and #Y. It’s smart, different and altogether good. Really, really good.

My ratings: 5/5 stars.

Me with Lola herself :)

Me with Lola herself 🙂

After Shorts B is finished, we went out to eat dinner. During dinner, we saw the Magalona family who are there to support Elmo Magalona who stars in the film, #Y. (Saab Magalona is so pretty!) And it is also the last film that we are going to see for the night. (Or day) We also saw the various indie actors and directors who attended their gala night.

At Jollibee, Harbour Square

At Harbour Square

At about 8:30 PM, we went inside CCP’s Main Theater which is more known as Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo. It was gorgeous inside. The theater was enormous and we were seated at the orchestra so we have a clear view of the screen. It was #Y’s gala night so the director and the writer talked about their film for a little while and introduced the cast and the crew.

The cast and crew of #Y

The cast and crew of #Y

#Y is about the ‘Y’ generation. It revolves around the life of teenagers that are overly influenced by social media, drugs, sex and alcohol. The lead actor, (Elmo Magalona) wants to commit suicide simply because he just want life to be over. But the catch is, he leads a good life. His family is rich, he gets whatever he wants, he have friends and all other luxuries that normal people can’t have.

My thoughts about the film:  I like the film especially the script. It gives off The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower feels. It’s very bold and dare I say, vulgar but they were able to touch different problems in our society. (Politics, illegal use of drugs, suicide, etc.) It actually started in the moment wherein Miles (Elmo Magalona) was in the top of a building–ready to jump to his death. No, actually he really did jump. And that’s when the narrating started. I love the flow of the story. The voice overs, the change of perspectives from one character to another and the oddness of Miles. I also love the characters especially Abby and her relationship with Bruce/Miles. Although I don’t think that they really showed the true feelings or stages of a suicidal and suicide, I still like the film. Because again, the writer said that we can never comprehend the mind of a suicidal person. The one thing that I didn’t like about the film is the ending. I thought that after everything that happened, Miles would finally found a reason to live. (Scratch that. HE HAS A REASON TO LIVE!) But he didn’t. He still killed himself and I don’t understand why. (Y?!!!)  But thank God for the wonderful goodbye message that Miles said because if not for that, I would have really hated the writer. I also like the ‘Y’ sign that he did just before jumping to his death. Even though the cinematography isn’t that great, the musical scoring pulled the film up high. (I love the musical scoring during the bed scene of Miles and Lea. It feels like The Art of Getting By.) Nonetheless, the acting is great. I am very much surprised about Elmo Magalona. I didn’t know that he can act really good. (But then again, I don’t watch TV so…) The other actors did great too. I especially love Colleen Garcia’s acting. It’s very natural and cool. All in all, it was a good film. Not as good as 1st Ko Si 3rd or Lola but it’s still good in its own way.

“Being happy and having no right to be unhappy are totally different things.” Miles, #Y

My rating: 4/5 stars

The film ended at 11:00-ish and we were stuck in the middle of the lounge because my org-mates were still inside the theater waiting for the actors to come. By 11:45 (I think) we were already settled in the van and we were all ready to go home. It’s just sad that I don’t have enough money to buy the Cinemalaya shirt or other souvenirs from the indie films but I managed to buy a Cinemalaya baller so I guess it’s okay.

Cinemalaya souvenirs!

My Cinemalaya souvenirs!

Soooo, my first ever Cinemalaya experience was a blast! And I will definitely save up money so that next year, I’ll be able to watch every film. Hands down, I think this is the most exciting thing that ever happened to me these past few months. Lol. I wish that you also had fun on your Cinemalaya adventure! 🙂