The finest finds

I am enjoying this little detail: the fact that for the past few Saturdays I have been waking up early. On their last stretch of the season, Juliana’s little league baseball game starts at around 8 a.m. and — for all the sleepiness we exhibit in the car ride from the house to the field — we are a happy albeit drowsy heap of three pairs of entwined arms and legs, our torsos trying to relax as comfortably as possible despite being buckled into seat belts with little pillows around us. We become alert, awake and enthusiastic the moment the game begins. We see all the kids in their bright uniforms, their small feet running almost as fast as their big dreams, their little arms holding the bat and hitting the ball with unapologetic gusto-bordering-on-gigil, while we parents sigh and cheer and jump up and down like the little children we once were.  It is a time of pure joy, I tell you, and time spent on that playground is special in ways I cannot quite put my finger on. Ask any baseball mom or dad — they know/feel what I mean. Happy. Yes, it is a happy time, a nice way to start any Saturday.

Right after the game we find ourselves heading off to the Salcedo Market, a place I have been meaning to visit for over a year now, except that sleep or the lack of it as the case may be, always gets in the way.  But I finally made it there, last Saturday and the Saturday before that, and I had such a nice time. Richard and I bought a few plants, one was called the Welcoming Plant, to be placed indoors, and the other three were Peruvian poinsettias in three different sizes — lush shrubs that boast plentiful sprays of little white blooms.  They look like Baby’s Breath but nicer, or at least I think so, and the lady we bought it from said they like the sun and lots of water. Low maintenance, she assured us, and they will stay in full bloom until June or July when the white flowers will fall off and only the green leaves will remain. Their blooming cycle will begin yet again in November.

We planted them under the young yucca tree we have in one corner of our garden and I like how the white stands out against all the yellows and greens. I will think about what I will do when those little white flowers do disappear come June/July but for now, they look very pretty there. Hopefully by then we will have found some mature camachile shrubs, something that has eluded me for over a month now. The ones I have met are all young, and thus display no whiteness in them. They are just green with a little bit of pink, strangely, but I am after the beautiful white spray, something that every gardener I meet says happens only to mature camachile shrubs.

From the plants section we inch our way slowly around the market.  I have yet to linger carefully over all the booths, because we are always pressed for time, although we do make it a point to get what our palates dictate for the day. We operate purely on what we call our appetite compass, and so far the wonderful results are: goat cheese and fresh yogurt from Saint Mary Dairy, a vegetable dip with crackers that taste very much like the tacos from Pancake House, bottled dulong and perhaps one of the best-tasting taba ng talangka from the man who has a spot beside a booth called Ginang Bukid that, in turn, sells good maja blanca and chocolate mousse. There we have enjoyed fresh melon juice that reminds me of the way my yaya used to make it; fresh langka (already peeled and pitted) and pomelo, bagels and sugar-free pastillas. We also got eucalyptus leaves that make our room and all the guestrooms smell so fresh. I know there is still so much more there waiting to be discovered and I look forward to many more Saturdays doing just that.

Last Saturday after Salcedo, we decided to spend some time wandering around Serendra, only to happily chance upon a very quiet, virtually undiscovered second floor. I never realized there were that many shops there! We were waiting for a table at Chelsea and we had plenty of time to go around. Our first stop was Souk and I liked how all the items were thoughtfully chosen. There was a happy mix of designer jeans, although in broken sizes already, quirky handcrafted jewelry, very soft collared button-down cotton shirts from India in vintage prints, reversible quilted skirts, interesting eco-friendly shoes under the brand name Terra Plana (perfect for those with a bohemian style), and cotton T-shirts that were a steal at only P700-plus (already marked down 50 percent). I saw beautiful dresses from local designer Charina Sarte in jersey and in gauzy cotton that would be perfect for the coming summer season, easy dresses that look like they will flatter any body, and some China cropped jackets, too. I like that you don’t find too many of the same things in there when you look around and I feel that should be the lure of any small shop. Souk has achieved that, easily.

There are a handful of galleries, like Verite and Galerie Raphael, and I was drawn to the brass sculptures by Michael Cacnio in the latter.  And who would ever think there would be a shop there called Hermle Clocks selling mostly grandfather clocks in cherry wood? I thought I had heard Bernard (the very accommodating and informative guy single-handedly manning the shop) wrong when he led me to the section where there were — get this — grandmother clocks.  I never knew there was such a thing! Grandma was naturally smaller than grandpa, and in hindsight it does make sense — every grandpa must have a grandma somewhere. There were a lot of cuckoo clocks lining half a wall, old-fashioned music boxes (the type you see only in movies and in old houses), unframed artworks of European artists (no one we would know but that is the joy of appreciating art: you never quite know when you will stumble upon a treasure), wall clocks made in Italy and Germany and the most beautiful chess sets.  Depending on the theme (choose from Egyptians, Indians, Confederates, Knights, Romans, Pirates), they are painstakingly detailed and are made of either resin or pewter. Lovely to look at, and very lovely to hold.

For those who love home furnishings, you can wander through the doors of Biara (it is owned by an interior designer and they have nice pieces plus a very pretty oval-shaped capiz chandelier in their window that, I’m sorry to tell you, they are not selling) and Padua (they accept custom orders of everything from beds to bookshelves to sofas). There are other home accessories shops too — Habi, Isa Casa, One Of, Abbey Road and Finesa.

WIC carries jeans from Abfit Jeans Co., a selection of very nice shoes (although none came in my size… sigh), jewelry from Lanera, and a selection of imported brand name dresses in very affordable prices.  It pays to be patient and go through the racks because some very pretty dresses just can be found. Bark and Wag is a very charming store devoted to pets, so charming in fact that I ended up buying stuff even if I don’t really doll up Helen and Bruce, our dogs who really look like dogs. I gave it to a friend who really enjoys doing that and besides, her dog always looks more like a stuffed toy than the animal it really is. Over at Backstage were very pretty flats under a brand called Murmur and colorful bags again for the bohemian in you.

It is a good time to visit, especially because most stores are on sale now, as low as 50 percent off, and some even with either buy-one-take-one or get-an-extra-discount-on-the-lower-priced-item deals.  There is even an antique store, Chain of Custody, although it was closed so I just literally window-shopped, and nice rugs and planters that would make nice accent pieces from a shop called Durrani.  There is even a shop that sells nothing but items for corporate giveaways and the prices are so low you ask the salesperson again in disbelief, just in case you heard her wrong. Then she explains that there has to be a minimum order and it all makes sense. There are all sorts of little gadgets like wristbands with a voice recorder, pill-shaped laser pointers, SIM card back-up and SIM card editors, a stopwatch with multi-tools, alarm clocks with added features. It was a sea of doodads in there.

Mia Bella caries my favorite Melissa Shoes, select styles of Melissa bags too, and locally-made bag organizers. Pharaoh, as the name suggests, is everything Egyptian. They have belly-dancing costumes and accessories, goblets, etc. Luna is very charming, with wooden chairs and accessories painted in bright, happy colors that could very well find a home in a child’s room or a pretty beach or country home. They have a patina that, although most probably manipulated, looks very natural. There are pretty vintage-looking knobs that can double as pegs where accessories can be hung, wooden oars that sport snappy mottos or spark words, one-of-a-kind bags that the owners commission from a Thailand-based artist, recycled sea-glass jewelry made by a New York-based artist, handsome handmade mugs in vibrant yellow and turquoise that are chunky and odd in a very organic way. I also saw accessories made of laminated pressed flowers and four-leaf clovers (a symbol of good luck they say) from Mexico.

Peppered Cherry has the nicest interior in the whole floor, it is the most sweet-smelling too, and even their dressing room is nice. The theme of the décor is carried over even in the small details throughout the shop. I hear Pandok Indah is one of the most popular stores there and in the three times I have visited, the display always changes. It is very dynamic in the sense that items are never there very long because they get sold very quickly: take for instance the Pacita Abad plates, The Wayans, the batik on wood mirrors, lamps in jewel tones of blue, green, yellow and red, and the Balinese panels. I saw a stool made of grass leaves with a drawer in the middle that would be functional as well as pretty in a dressing room, a reclining wooden chair made of teakwood, a ladder-chair (it is a ladder until you flip it over and it becomes a chair). You can use it as a shelf, too, so it is like buying three items for the price of one.

Anna Pashmina is a great place to get shawls. They have very cheap ones as well as the very beautiful, embroidered more expensive ones from India — they cover the whole spectrum, style- and budget-wise. I especially enjoyed Carnevale, a shop you go to if you want to give someone who already has everything something. The items are almost irresistible — colorful beer glasses and mugs in excellent packaging from Ritzenhoff, tea glasses and bone china tea sets, beautiful clowns, My Sweetheart milk and sugar sets, the most artsy bottle openers I have ever met, scented candles in containers so exquisite you almost will want to burn the candle as fast as can be just so you can utilize the container in a different way. There are amusing salt and pepper shakers camouflaging as little people, serving trays and plates, beautiful glass ashtrays that could be used as catchalls, and Oriental jewelry pouches starring a girl named Shanghai Sally.

Blow-Up-Babies, a favorite of ours is also on the same floor and there is even a Bench Fix Salon and an E-Nopi Center!

I love the restaurants on the ground level of Serendra (what’s not to love?), but now there is an added reason to go visit. I think what I appreciate most about the second level is that every shop has a theme, and going through each of its doors reminds you that charm can be constantly reborn and surprises always await where you least expect to find them.

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On February 29, 2008 at 7 p.m., there will be a benefit piano concert featuring Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz, the most internationally awarded Filipino concert pianist, together with violinist Rachel Alcanses and cellist Antoni Josef Inacay at St. John Bosco Paish Church, A. Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City. The proceeds of the concert will be used for the improvement of the acoustics, inside and outside lighting of the church and the purchase of additional church equipment. Kindly support this project.

Also, there will be an “Introductory Retreat on Centering Prayer” from March 7 to 9 at Lake Island resort, Binangonan. This retreat will be worth your time as it will bring you deeper into God’s loving embrace. Please contact Anna Marie Llanos at 842-4030 for details.

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