Fangirling at Gong Cha!

A couple of weeks ago, I learned from one of my friends that Gong Cha Philippines has finally reached the shores of Tacloban and opened its first branch in SM Savemore!

For someone who is a fan Park Seo Joon, it’s pretty embarrassing to say that it took me a little over two months before I found out about it. In my defense though, I don’t get to go out much and even when I do, I don’t visit the downtown area where SM Savemore is located because there’s no reason to since I live near Robinsons Mall. Also, I didn’t realize sooner that I wasn’t following Gong Cha Philippines’ page on Facebook so I missed the update about the opening of the Tacloban branch. Ooops!

I’m sorry, Park Seo Joon. I horribly failed as a fan!

If I had known about it sooner, I’d probably be one of the many people who lined up on the opening day. Anyway, I made a mental note to pay Gong Cha a visit as soon as I get the chance and this week, I finally got to go there and grab my first ever Gong Cha drink!

I was so excited to see Park Seo Joon’s standee but because there were a lot of people, I had to suppress my squeals and went to check their menu instead. I wasn’t really planning on getting myself a drink right then because I thought it was going to be expensive but upon seeing the prices, I hurriedly lined up and ordered a taro milk tea for myself. Yes, taro. It’s my go-to milk tea flavor when it’s my first time to buy a drink from a milk tea shop because I think it’s the safest choice.

I was somehow relieved that they weren’t offering the Park Seo Joon file folder as a freebie for ordering P300 worth of Gong Cha drinks because if they did, I probably would have ended up spending more than P68 just so I could get my hands on the Park Seo Joon file folder. Instead, they were offering Park Seo Joon 2019 Calendar for a minimum purchase of P888.

The original price of the Taro Milk Tea was P105 but I ordered a no-pearl milk tea so it became P95 and then I used my PWD card, which automatically entitles me to a 20% discount and no VAT, so I only paid P68 for my Gong Cha drink. Score! While Gong Cha’s Taro Milk Tea had a nice and refreshing taste, I think I’d still go for Chatime’s Taro Milk Tea because Gong Cha’s had a slightly watered down taste and it wasn’t as creamy as Chatime’s.

That time, there was only one staff on duty so there were about 4-5 people waiting for their delicious Gong Cha drinks to be ready and 3-4 people standing in line and waiting for their turn to order. It’s was good that most of the customers were ladies who were busy watching Park Seo Joon on the flat screen TV so no one complained while he took orders, gave the change, made the drinks and served them. But I personally think that they should always have at least two people manning the shop just in case a flock of people suddenly comes and order a lot of drinks. I got my first ever Gong Cha drink about 15 minutes after I ordered because the staff couldn’t start making the drinks immediately since there were still people waiting in line.

There were only a few tables and the chairs were a little bit uncomfortable to sit on for me since I’ve been experiencing some back pains lately. But I guess it’s okay since people sit there only for a couple of minutes just to wait for their order then they leave right away. However, adding a few more chairs would be great because there were like one or two people who were waiting for their orders while standing in a corner.

What I like:

  • easy to find, located near the entrance of SM Savemore
  • wide selection of drinks to choose from
  • drinks aren’t as pricey as I expected
  • free Park Seo Joon merchandise for a minimum purchase
  • Park Seo Joon videos playing on the flat screen TV

What I didn’t like:

  • slightly watered down taste and a slight lack of creaminess
  • very limited number of uncomfortable chairs
  • only one staff was on duty making the service a bit slow
  • plastic cups, plastic straws, plastic film cup seals

I’m excited to get another Gong Cha drink but I think I will purchase from their Robinsons Tacloban branch next time since it’s much closer to where I live. I had no idea Gong Cha has a branch in Robinsons as well. I just found out a few days after I went to the SM Savemore Tacloban branch. I would rate their SM Savemore Tacloban branch and its ambiance a 3.5 out of 5 and I will give their milk tea a 3.75 out of 5.

Gong Cha SM Savemore Tacloban branch
1/F SM Savemore Tacloban, Justice Romualdez St., Downtown, Tacloban City

Gong Cha Robinsons Place Tacloban branch
1/F Robinsons Place Tacloban, National Highway, Tabuan, Marasbaras, Tacloban City

Sakurajima Japanese Restaurant

I’m a picky eater but I always get excited whenever I get the chance to taste a foreign country’s cuisine or food from different parts of the Philippines. I’m always willing to try out food I’ve never had before as long as there’s no frogs, snakes, rats, alligators or other weird or exotic ingredients involved. Don’t expect me to open my mouth and say ‘ahh’ to that.

Living in a small city where there is only a small number of restaurants that offers cuisines from countries other than the Philippines is kinda sad for people like me who enjoys trying out different food from different countries. For me, being able to get a taste of a country’s cuisine is an exciting experience because not only do I no longer have to wonder what those food tastes like, I sometimes get to learn something about a country just by tasting their food.

One of the very few restaurants in the city that offers non-Filipino food is Sakurajima Japanese Restaurant. I’ve heard of this restaurant before and I’ve passed by the area a couple of times but I’ve never dined there before. However, a chance to finally experience dining there has come and here are my honest thoughts about the restaurant.

According to the information available on Google, the restaurant is supposed to be open at 11:00 AM but when we got there it was still closed. We were waiting outside in the scorching heat of the sun. We could see them preparing in the open kitchen and some of the staff saw us but none of them bothered to come to us and invite us to get inside and take a seat while we wait for the restaurant to open.

As soon as the restaurant opened, we went inside and we were asked where we wanted to dine. They had a dining area in front of the open kitchen and the upstairs dining area. We decided to eat upstairs where we can have a little bit more privacy and some peace and quiet because I wasn’t really keen on dining while hearing the rattling noise of the pots and other kitchen utensils coming from their kitchen.

Before we head upstairs, we were asked to take off our shoes and put on the slippers they provided. Good thing I wasn’t wearing a pair of sneakers so I didn’t have to go through the hassle of putting them back on for when we leave.

The interior of the upstairs dining area was nice and it felt like I was in a traditional Japanese restaurant. There were six tables and each table is good for 4-6 people. We decided to take the table in the corner with a small shelf adorned with some pretty Japanese ornaments. It was hot when we got there. I just brushed it off thinking that it’s because the AC had just been switched on and it will get colder after a couple of minutes. The temperature did drop a bit but I can hardly feel the cold. Some beads of sweat still formed on my forehead during our stay there. I was too shy to ask the staff to turn the AC up a bit. One of them did turn it up later on but it was still kinda hot. It was like being in a room with a fan that’s blowing warm air. But thanks to the cold cucumber lemonade, I didn’t feel as hot as when we first came in.

After taking a few pictures, we started to scan through their menu and ordered food. We ordered gyoza, salmon sashimi, california maki rolls and a bowl of tonkotsu ramen. My first impression upon seeing the prices is that some of their food was a tad bit more expensive than other Japanese restaurants I’ve been to but some were cheaper. I couldn’t wait to get our food and find out if it lived up to its price. The serving time was quite fast. Our food was served a couple minutes after we ordered.

When the gyoza was served, I got kinda confused because I didn’t remember ordering any pancakes. I didn’t know what gyoza was but I was told that it was fried dumplings so imagine how confused I was when I saw what looked like a large pancake. It was tasty although the taste is similar to Chinese dumplings or Korean dumplings.

I’ve never had sashimi before. The thought of eating raw fish kinda grosses me out but I decided to give it a try. It didn’t have any strange after-taste and the texture was soft. I didn’t have problems chewing it. It actually tasted good, way better than what I had imagined. I imagined it would taste like how uncooked fish smells like: bloody, stinky and gross. Hahaha! My friend did point out though that it wasn’t as tasty as the ones she had in other Japanese restaurants and that the color was slightly different but it was good.

The california maki rolls were good. Nothing special. It tasted just like the ones I’ve tried before. The rice wasn’t too dry or too soggy. It was just right. The mango bits were sweet which I like because I’ve experienced eating california maki rolls with slightly sour-tasting mango bits and it just didn’t taste good. I don’t have any complaints about the taste but presentation could be better. The rolls were looking pretty sad.

I enjoyed the tonkotsu ramen. It was pretty decent for the price. I liked how soft the pork was. It was so easy to chew and swallow. Although I prefer my boiled eggs well done, I really didn’t mind that some parts of the egg’s yolk was still soft and slightly liquid-y. However, the texture of the noodles was a bit weird but the ramen was still delicious nevertheless.

What I liked:

  • It’s easily accessible
  • There’s parking space
  • Nice minimalist interior
  • Serving size is good
  • Nice selection of food
  • Prices are reasonable
  • Dining areas are spacious and not cramped
  • The dishes we’ve tried were good

What I didn’t like / what could be improved:

  • It was hot. The AC wasn’t capable of keeping the upstairs dining area cold.
  • The presentation of some food was so-so.
  • The texture of the ramen noodles was kinda weird.
  • The food was good but there was no WOW! factor.
  • The menu had no description of the dishes. First timers who have no idea about Japanese food would appreciate it if there were descriptions and mouthwatering photos. People might also end up ordering food that has certain ingredients that they’re allergic to like shrimp.

Total Amount Spent: P820

Overall, I’m gonna give this restaurant a 3 or 3.5 stars out of 5. Will I go back there? Sure, why not? I’d love to try other food from their menu. I personally think the food was good. It was pretty decent and reasonably priced. It wasn’t cheap but it was still affordable. I hope that when I come back next time, the AC will be powerful enough to keep the place cold. I think it would be better to go there in the evening when it’s not that hot. I’m not sure about the authenticity of the taste of the food but if you’re not particular about that and you feel like trying something different, this restaurant is worth a try!

Sakurajima Japanese Restaurant
Filindia Arcade, Brgy. 59Picas, Sagkahan, Tacloban City
Monday – Sunday
11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
5:30 PM – 9:30 PM

Learning Korean through Anime

I grew up with friends who were huge fans of anime. Unfortunately for me, I was not a fan of it so I’ve always felt out of place every time they gather up during recess and talk about the anime they were watching. Gundam, Dragon Ball Z, Ghost Fighter, Yu-Gi-Oh, Sailor Moon, Fushigi Yuugi, Slam Dunk. These were just some of the animes I kept hearing from my classmates back in elementary school.

Growing up, I’ve made several attempts to get myself into liking anime in the same way as my friends did but I always failed. I did watch a few episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura when I was a kid and I liked it but I don’t know. Somehow, I did not get the same feeling I felt when I first got into K-Drama or K-Pop. I had no idea why but I guess it was just not exactly my cup of tea or maybe I was just too young to appreciate it which is weird because Cardcaptor Sakura is an anime that is aimed primarily at young female audience.

When I was in college, I watched K-On! and it was the first anime I’ve watched from start to finish. I liked it because it was cute and the story was random and light which was great because college was stressing me out and I needed something to relieve my stress with. I’ve also seen Prince of Tennis but I stopped after watching 10 episodes. And that was the last anime I’ve seen until recently, I got into online gaming. I’ve made some new friends on Ragnarok M: Eternal Love and some of them are determined to turn me into an anime fan so they gave me a few anime suggestions and I’m currently working my way to finishing all of them.

I’ve recently just finished watching Toradora which was suggested by one of my close friends in Ragnarok M and I began to wonder if there were any anime with Korean subtitles so I looked it up and when I found a Korean anime website, I was grinning as if I had just hit the jackpot.

The anime website is called Ani24. All the anime they have are of good quality (way better compared to other anime websites I know like KissAnime) and most important of all, they all have Korean subtitles. They have a huge collection of animes so I’m pretty sure you’d be able to find most (if not all) of your favorites there.

Currently, I’m downloading the episodes of Toradora and Cardcaptor Sakura with Korean subtitles. I’ve recently just finished watching Toradora as I’ve mentioned earlier and I liked it so much that I want to watch it again but with Korean subtitles this time. I believe it will take me longer to finish watching one episode because I’d be analyzing some expressions and looking up words that I don’t know or have forgotten.

What I do is I download the anime from Ani24 to my computer so I can play it on VLC player where I can control the playback speed. I slow it down a bit because some subtitles disappear before I could even finish reading them. While watching, I keep an eye for any unfamiliar words and when I find one, I pause the video so I could write it down on a scratch paper and do a quick dictionary check to look up its meaning before I press the play button again just so I can understand the flow of the story. I also take note of grammar structures I haven’t studied yet or haven’t been using actively and interesting phrases that I want to remember. After watching, that’s when I dig deeper. I check out different sample sentences on Naver to see how each word is used like what particle it is commonly used with. When I’m not lazy, I rewrite the notes I wrote on the scratch paper on a notebook with the additional information I got after digging deeper.

If you’re an intermediate Korean language learner who is a fan of anime, I’m pretty sure you’d be happy with this website because now you’d be able to learn new Korean words and expressions while watching your favorite anime. It’s hitting two birds with one stone.

I don’t think this is suitable for beginners because it will take you forever to finish an episode since there’s going to be a lot of words or grammar structures that you might not know but you can check it out or save it to your bookmarks for now then start watching when you’re ready. Don’t worry, I’ll try to look for beginner-friendly resources and write a blog post about it when I find one.

I hope you guys find this post useful. If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a message using the contact form here or through any of my social media accounts.

Also, some friends and I have recently started a blog about Korea. We will be posting stuff about Korean language, culture, travel, beauty etc. so I highly suggest that you check it out. Our website is called “FilipiNoonas” and if you sign up for our newsletter, you’ll receive a Hangeul Guide for beginners which you can use to kick start your Korean language learning journey.


A New Beginning

Hello! I’m starting over with a fresh blog.

I’m deeply saddened that my blog disappeared along with some cherished memories. I started Meloncreme back in 2011 to write about my Korean language learning journey and through my blog, I have met a lot of awesome people who share the same interests as me. I’ve even met some of them in real life and remained good friends with some. I’ve written a lot about my struggles and eureka moments in learning Korean and even shared some things about my personal life like important and memorable life events such as working in the Korean military camp as an interpreter and winning the Korean speech contest here in our country.

My blog became an online diary which contained some unforgettable memories in my life, memories that I would love to remember, memories that were so surreal I had to write about them just so I’d know for sure that they were real. That they really happened and not just some dream or imagination that I created inside my head.

And now, they’re gone. All gone.

Well, not all of them. I did manage to save some of my posts before 2017 but the rest, they’re gone and there’s no way to retrieve them. There’s no one to blame but myself. It’s my fault for not saving a backup copy of my posts just in case something happens to my blog. Well, I guess it’s safe to say that I’ve learned my lesson in the most painful way ever. Okay, I’m being totally dramatic but I guess you’d understand where I’m coming from. It hurts to lose something sentimental and I don’t ever want to go through that feeling ever again so now I know better to download a backup of my blog every time I post something new.

I’ve thought about importing my old posts here and continue blogging but I’m afraid I’ll only get reminded of the lost memories so I thought it would be best to just start over from scratch and create new memories. I’d love to meet new friends as well so if you’re reading this, I would appreciate it if you’d leave me a comment. Say hi or better yet, tell me about your current favorite song or about the latest Youtube video you’ve seen. Anything is fine.


KCC’s 2016 Korean Speech Contest

As I have mentioned in my previous post, I went to Cebu to compete in the semi-finals of the 2016 Korean Speech Contest hosted by the Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines and I got 1st place which automatically made me the representative for Cebu (even though I’m from Tacloban) to compete in the grand finals in Ateneo de Manila University.

On the day of the competition, I was nervous but I didn’t know whether it was because I was about to ride the plane to Manila or because of the competition itself. My near death experience in the plane in 2009 still scares me at times whenever I’m about to ride a plane. But I arrived safely and I was way less scared and more relaxed than my flight last year. I’m still trying to get used to it.

Read the rest of the blog post here: