It was a day made for walking!

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We’ve spotted so much just from walking around and intentionally getting lost: beautiful and thought-provoking street art, interesting spots to people-watch from, new food places to dine at. This city was meant to be experienced through walking, and this is what we are going to do this summer! There is nothing we love to do more than go adventuring around the city!
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Well, that and eating all the good food that Toronto has to offer. This is “dinuguan,” or Filipino blood stew. This particular version, which we got from Kanto, was rich, savoury, full-flavoured, and best of all, topped with crunchy toasted garlic bits! Not in the picture is the (massive) side of garlic rice that came with it.
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Along with the dinuguan, we got the sisig fries! I was a fan of the sisig and the chunks of pork belly that came with it, but Mikaius loved the fries more, which, with the lemon garlic aioli and sriracha drizzle, was apparently flavour heaven for him. He also says that chopped up tocino would have been very nice with those fries, an idea which we shall try at the next possible opportunity.
Of course, it being such a sunshiny day and all, we also had to get dessert. Such a beautiful day was not to be wasted! We traipsed down Augusta Avenue to Wanda's Pie in the Sky and shared a slice of banana cream pie - best version we've had in a long while!
Of course, it being such a sunshiny day and all, we also had to get dessert. Such a beautiful day was not to be wasted! We traipsed down Augusta Avenue to Wanda’s Pie in the Sky and shared a slice of banana cream pie – best version we’ve had in a long while!


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Mikaius spotted this robot and fell in love with it. Took a picture for posterity, and also just in case the image was gone by the time we made it back to that particular spot.
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Walking around downtown Toronto can be exhausting! What better to quench your thirst with than a nice tall glass of pineapple Italian soda? Maybe an iced coffee (of which I am a big fan), but this was great, too!

Snapshots: An Infant at Home

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Sometimes, this adorable little munchkin comes to visit my family and I on Saturday afternoons.

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I love kids, so I end up bugging (ahem, playing with) her so much that she can’t get any peace and quiet.

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And then she thinks, “Can’t you just let me alone to nap? Guys? I’m a growing child!”

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So, respecting her wishes, I try and give her the space she needs. I go out and photograph her itty-bitty shoes instead. Aren’t they just the cutest?

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Then I come back in and her Mama’s rocking her to sleep.

And that is the story of how the baby in the house finally got herself some peace and quiet.

(Photos all taken by the author.)

Where I was and what was playing: Safe at home munching on cake, and Ed Sheeran’s I See Fire.

Falling In Love With The City of Toronto

I may have fallen in love with the city of Toronto, bit by tiny bit. Beautiful was not really the first word that came to mind when thinking about Canada before I lived here. What came to mind was vast. Cold. Alien… And yet, one of the things that I first noticed when I arrived on 1 May 2010 was the amount of greenery everywhere. There are trees, flowers, and plots of grass all around! I was overjoyed at this, because coming from a tropical country, I had thought that greenery was one of the things that I’d sorely miss in my new home. While my initial perception of Canada being a land of dead trees, winter storms, and glinting icicles wasn’t entirely wrong,  (see: the Great Ice Storm of 2013), I did realize that it was wrong to judge a country by only one aspect of it. When I arrived in Toronto in 2010, it was warm, everything was blooming, and there were barbecues in backyards and parks almost every weekend. Good memories, my first summer here. I got fat real quick.

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The little sidewalk cafes that Mikaius and I passed all had planters on the railings. This pretty little thing was in one of them. (c) DM

On the subject of Toronto being beautiful – I’m not ashamed to admit that one of the factors that influenced my choice of Uni was architecture. I like beautiful buildings – gothic, Victorian, modern, red-brick, steel, glass, cottage, skyscraper, whatever it may be classified as, I absolutely adore buildings that carry themselves with grace and strength. Toronto’s buildings have this odd but endearing mix of red-brick-and-vines beside steel-and-glass edifices that I think is wonderful, and the University of Toronto has a particularly eclectic mix.

This is University College, the main reason that I fell in love with UofT’s downtown campus. I ended up being in Woodsworth College, but that doesn’t take away from my love of that old, gorgeous, historical building. I am fascinated by the stonework and the wooden stairs, the stained glass windows, and the stories of the ghost roaming the halls. It didn’t help that I had a class that used to be in one of the towers, with a giant round stained glass window set in one of the walls – it was beautiful up there.

When Mikaius and I walked around the city for almost three hours yesterday, we ended up in sections that we hadn’t been in before. He said that he, “felt like a tourist in my own city,” and you know what? I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all. Armed with a bottle of water and a camera, we explored alleys and main streets, roamed around Chinatown, dropped by a 7-11 for a Slurpee and an iced coffee, and ended up at the Courtyard of University College just sitting and soaking up the sun. And taking many, many photographs.

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You know what was wonderful, to me at least? When we hung out at the UC Courtyard, there were no less than five people just sitting under trees and reading. Here are two of them:

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And here are a few shots of the courtyard/Uni itself. Isn’t it beautiful there?

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I think that my attachment to all things green stems in part from my grade school/high school campus. There were trees everywhere, sometimes there would be sheep wandering on the the football field, and at one point I swear I remember a water buffalo just idly munching on grass, too. My school offered a degree in Agriculture, so it wasn’t a surprise seeing animals around the area. I don’t know how it looks like now as I haven’t been back in about seven years, but my memories of that school has a lot of trees in it.

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Mikaius trying to preserve his anonymity. He has a gloriously wavy, messy head of hair. I love it. I love him. (c) DM
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Thank goodness we came across a 7-11. Their iced coffees and slurpees are pretty good at helping sun-drowsy people keep their cool. (c) DM

I’ve only been in Toronto for four years, and while I am half-in love with the city, I know that situations are less than ideal for many of its inhabitants. Studying Social Inequality, especially for immigrants of colour, has made me realize that while I may think the city itself is gorgeous, there are many issues that still plague the population. That being said, I also believe that things will get better, glass ceilings have the possibility of being breached, and while it is not projected that immigrants’ wages will ever reach the level of Toronto-born Canadians anytime soon, things can be done to work towards it. I got pretty depressed writing my papers for social inequality, what with all the sources showing me only the stark truth of numbers and nothing of the back stories of the people. Yet this additional knowledge, bleak and depressing though I found it at times, has spurred me towards attempting to try and make things better. I’m only twenty-three, I still have time.

Where I was and what was playing: Safe in bed, and Maroon 5’s Never Gonna Leave This Bed

*lolo = grandfather in Tagalog

Long Walks, Street Art, and Cheers to the Summer of 2014

Whenever Mikaius and I take walks downtown, we always go by the philosophy that since we’re already here, we might as well get lost; getting lost with him and stumbling onto random alleys with beautiful graffiti on the wall is always the best part of our adventures. Meandering through the downtown streets is a favourite date activity, possibly because it’s a way we get to see all the things that we don’t usually see (he lives in the suburbs and I live in the GTA). It also means we get to add more food places to our ever-expanding must-eat-there list as we discover various restaurants, holes-in-the-walls, and game board cafes.

Last week, Mikaius took me on a celebratory date the day after my final examination. He had seen firsthand how stressful the entire month of April was for me, so he promised a trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario. The day’s itinerary was breakfast at Max’s of Manila, the AGO, a long walk downtown, and dinner at Ajisen Ramen to cap the day off.

One of my favourite photos from that rainy afternoon. Toronto has so many beautiful examples of street art. (c) Dani Magsumbol

Oh, man, breakfast at Max’s. T’was a very tasty experience. He had the tapsilog (tapa, sinangag, and two sunny side up eggs), I had the bangsilog (bangus, sinangag, and two eggs), and we split the ube creme decadence for dessert. While the entrees were filling, it was the dessert that had us raving all day. If you can get to Max’s, that ube creme really is amazing. Dinner at Ajisen Ramen was also good, but the spur of the moment decision of getting a grape slush and a donut at ChaTime as we were on our way back to the Finch Terminal was what made the final hours of that date really good. I still dream of that wonderful, wonderful, white-chocolate coated donut.

After stuffing ourselves silly at Max’s, Mikaius and I trekked through the gloomy rainy day down to St. Patrick’s Station for my long-awaited trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario. The AGO wasn’t as enjoyable as I thought it would be, probably because I’d been there before and I’d already seen many of the pieces. Also, the Waterhouse painting that I wanted to see wasn’t there anymore, likely returned to wherever it was on loan from. Plus, Lanius isn’t such a fan of the “arts” – he calls himself heathen and uncultured, but I disagree. He has strong opinions on the arts, he just feels differently about it than I do.

In any case, after the rather disappointing walkthrough, we decided to look over the available trinkets at the gift shop (Mikaius: *in an incredulous voice* What are COOKING UTENSILS doing in an art gallery gift shop?!).  One particularly hilarious moment was when we were looking at hand-stamped necklaces with the picture of the maker on the tag, and he said that they do that as a subtle nudge to the potential buyer that what they’re getting is unique and special, but the piece was more than likely mass-produced. Upon closer inspection, we saw that there were indeed three or four identical necklaces in a display of about nine.

We then braved the drizzle and held hands while making our way downtown. That walk was hands down the best part of the day. Toronto is a beautiful city, but I am particularly in love with the little side streets and the old townhouses, the abandoned and the crumbling buildings. They tell a story of this city that can be seen in the cityscape; as my professor in Urban Globalisation, David Roberts, told the class: “The story of a city can be read in its architecture. Here in Toronto, you can see cobblestones and railings for streetcars coexisting, in addition to shiny condominiums right beside townhouses converted to art galleries. What it tells is a story of a city that grew around its people, one that we can decipher if we care enough to look.” Of course, I might be paraphrasing there, but that is how I remember the sentiment.

One more example from the rainy walk.
One more example from the rainy day walk. (c) Dani Magsumbol

In other news, today I had an interview at the Kapisanan Centre for their Marketing and Communications Internship. I think the fact that my father is an artist helped, because it meant I was invested in the arts. I was open with the fact that my skills as a writer would be better geared towards the social media part of the job – I don’t know very much about the Marketing aspect of it, unfortunately –  but I also said that I was very willing to learn the Marketing side of the internship. Ate Kat was very helpful, and she said that teaching me would not be a problem at all. I got the position, and I am beyond excited to start next week – plus the walks to and from the subway aren’t bad. It takes me through the heart of Chinatown, and ALL THE FOOD PLACES OMG. When the weather is better, I shall take more photos.

At Kensington Market, while I was on my way to the Kapisanan Centre.
At Kensington Market, while I was on my way to the Kapisanan Centre. (c) Dani Magsumbol

All in all, this summer is shaping up to be a beautiful one.

Where I was and what was playing: Starbucks at University and Dundas, and Jason Mraz’s Four Letter Word

Christmas Morning

Christmas morning, to me, speaks of a feeling of overwhelming peace. Growing up, the household I was raised in never celebrated Christmas, so there was never a big deal about presents and such. Here in Canada, 25 December was not celebratory because my Mom would usually be working on those days. But there was always something about waking up on the 25th of December that made my heart feel content and peaceful, like all was right in the world.

Christmas morning at Niagara
Christmas Morning at Niagara. (c) Dani Magsumbol

I took this photo last Chrismas at Niagara Falls. It was my first time spending a major holiday over there, and I have to say that I loved it. Waking up as warm and cosy as a cinnamon bun in a soft bed with fluffy sheets, surrounded by family without the stress of holiday prep, and looking out to a gorgeous view of the falls from the hotel was an amazing experience.

It was a beautiful Christmas. As we drove out of Toronto, every single twig, leaf, and bud was coated in ice. It looked like a scene straight out of a storybook. Trees were bowing due to the weight of the ice, often collapsing onto electric wires. Pipes were frozen, the streets were rivers of ice. As we made our way closer and closer to Niagara, the difference between a normal winter scene and Toronto became clearer. Obviously, Elsa had frozen us over.

Photo from: http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2013/12/21/21353301.html
Photo from: http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2013/12/21/21353301.html

Niagara Falls during the winter season is the perfect little holiday destination. Powdery snow, relatively quiet because most people are staying home, and the Christmas sales at the outlet strip are only some of the draws. Of course, the gorgeous decorations are not to be missed, either. I’m a sucker for strings of Christmas lights (apparently more commonly known as fairy lights in North America), sprigs of greenery, ribbons, and festive trees. Having only left the Philippines for good when I was 20, I was accustomed to songs blaring from every store and jeepney, and decorations being put up as early as September, being in a “Christmas village” did my heart good. Even the falls themselves had a festive atmosphere, with the light show providing some variation from the ice and snow. As much as I enjoyed that outing with my family, I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I had gone alone. We need to recharge, sometimes. For me, my recharge system is being alone, walking around, wandering and meandering to my heart’s content. I feel bad about it because I feel like I am very selfish for wanting to be alone more than being with them, but the statement stands.

By the way, this is the view I woke up to:

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Sunrise Overlooking the Water. (c) Dani Magsumbol

The world is an awesome place, in all senses of that word. It is both beautiful and terrible, and teems with wonders and horrors that some of us will never experience. All we can do is make our own little corner safe for everybody in it. I dream of the day when waking up feels more like Christmas morning than another dreadful foray into the world.

Where I was and what song was playing: Safe in bed 10 floors up, and Jason Mraz’s The World As I See It.