Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sharks! and Dylan Thomas

I'm off to Malapascua to visit the sharks, threshers, scientific name unknown to me, but perhaps I'll wiki it soon.
Please let the sun come out! Diving on cold, grey days is depressing.
I visited Torn and Frayed, read out loud the post on Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" one of those poems which always sounds different when you read it aloud for yourself. And a poem I'd like read at my memorial service.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Childhood Food Memories Meme

Yikes, my first meme. Tagged by Stef of Stefoodie, and I didn't know until I read her post. Um thanks, I think. :)

Generally, childhood memories that come to mind are avoiding some horrible looking frogs on a cement ledge in the back of the school and getting all scratched up for my efforts, the many times I had to have minor knee surgery by my mom (she'd remove all the little stones and stuff I'd get when I would skin my knees), reading in bed which my mom said was bad for my eyes, but I did it anyway. And the cats, my never ending line of pusakals (stray cats). From the one mama cat that bit my cheek when I was 6 (and I imagined for weeks that I had a big gaping hole in my cheek), to my favorite tabby imaginatively named Orange who used to streak round my tiny room, to settle late at night on my face or near my neck. Poor thing died without me around as I was in college by then. Of course thinking of him prods my guilty conscience as I've just moved to a new place and I have had to leave my newest feline companion with my parents until 2007 (my current housemates are allergic to pets). Ok, enough with the somewhat negative and morbid nostalgic streak.

Food had a share of the better memories, particularly around the holiday seasons and birthdays. Birthdays for instance, always began with a bowl of misua (very thin egg noodles), with the meat and mushroom mixture in a separate bowl and the rich chicken broth in another. Then the condiments of fried garlic, thinly sliced green onions, peanuts and a boiled egg, all spread out around the table. The egg had to be colored red the night before for that extra touch of chinese authenticity. I don't know if it's true, but my parents would say that the misua represented long life. So we had to eat it on our birthdays or be banished from the family forever (maniacal laughter here). Erm, no that last bit is not true, but we would get into major doodoo if the egg was not red or if we tried to dash out of the house without eating the requisite bowl. Mind you, I loved misua and loved mixing the noodles and meat and broth, then add enough of the garnishings to feed a village. But some birthdays were on weekdays and school days which meant getting up at an ungodly hour just to gulp down the food.

Cake - where would birthdays be without cake? Hizon's in Manila was where we always got our chocolate cakes and it is always the arbiter for a classic chocolate cake. It was a moist, chocolatey cake, with enough of the dark chocolate icing to lick off later. Nowadays, we are inundated by great chocolate cakes all over the place, but no other bakeshop will have a place in my heart as Hizon's.

Speaking of cake, I remember that the best Easter cake we ever had was the humongous ice cream cakes Magnolia used to make. One Easter, after the mom-mandated fasting, no ice cream and no lusting after ice cream for three whole days, my dad brought in a big box and we beheld (or is it still behold?) this castle of a cake, pink and yellow, and just at the point of melting in the heat. Didn't take much for us to cut the cake and dig in. Don't think that cake had a chance to melt. And I don't know if Magnolia still makes ice cream cakes. The ones at Haagen Dazs are just way too pricey; would rather get a pint instead.

Sometime in my later childhood years, when I was allowed to get close to the knives and fires of the gas stove, it became a regular part of the repertoire to do homemade barbecue, and for some weird reason, we all wanted chicken barbecue. So I would take it upon myself to slave over the hot coals, basting the bbq-ed legs and wings and breasts for the parties. They were good and spicy but honestly, I don't know why I did it.

If we have to have a balance of the good and bad, I hereby admit that I abhor and still avoid like the plague ampalaya (bitter melon). I don't care if it is the miracle cure for the ages, I will never like the taste and it doesn't help that I have memories of my mom forcing me to eat it. Ditto on chicken liver sauteed in oyster sauce in chinese restaurants.

But back to the good memories, and as I wrote the last sentence, I can't post this without reminiscing over the Sunday meals after mass, when we'd head out to Ongpin and either eat at the original Smart Panciteria (oyster cake, steamed fish, those darn chicken livers, beef with kailan, and other seafood, plus a variety of soups and fried rice), or a dinky dive that served the best oyster cake and oyster soups, plus anywhere my dad felt like eating in the maze of Chinatown. I still get lost when I'm in the area, but the smells bring me back to the late 70's and early '80's, walking behind my dad, with my mom, sister and brother, dodging horse puckies on the road.

There are too many other memories flooding back right now (these memes are addictive), and if I find time to put them back onto blog paper, I'll catch up with my green mango/bagoong addiction, pan de sals with a myriad of fillings at the school cafeteria, and those never ending fruitcakes that took up space in the refrigerators.

I may have to do another blog soon as I can't think of who to tag. Give me a day or two.

Friday, October 07, 2005

What does it mean to me?

As a blog neophyte, I've been surfing blogland for a year, picking up insights on how other people structure their blogs, use the tools, write, and even make money through them. This blog isn't intended for anything serious, nor can I find one area to focus on. It's more a daily journal that I can post something I want to write about, although I find it hard to settle on any one topic even on the days I have an idea in mind. Over the next few months, I'll probably focus on a few things: diving, my new place, books, my struggle with languages (french and chinese), and maybe add a few photos of food when I figure out the intricacies of my camera. When I get to travel and if I remember to bring my camera, I'll put up some thoughts of the day or something relatively un-sublime.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bound bookstore

I love books. I spend as much time reading as I do sleeping. Maybe more. But as a self-pronounced bookworm, the offshoot is where do I keep my books? Storage, maintenance, and cataloguing the collection takes time. I'm also a self-pronounced procrastinator, so I rarely spend enough time taking care of my collection, with the exceptional moments I see a big spider and I smush it with two books I know I don't really care for. Then I go through a cleaning frenzy to make sure there aren't any more spiders lurking between the covers and pages.

At one point last year, I went through a "minimalist" phase and got rid of a lot of old clothes, shoes, and books. Garage sales and donations absorbed more than 100 books, but I still had piles and piles to dispose of. Early this year, a used bookstore in Quezon City opened up, and now I have a place to send my displaced books. Bound is located on a side street off Tomas Morato; the easiest way to find it is to keep an eye out for Grappa's. I've consigned over P6000 worth of books with them, and I've been happy with the knowledge that someone is getting a chance to read the books I no longer want.

The first time I dropped off a "shipment" with Bound, I wandered around the area and crossed the street to a neighborhood bookstore. Inside, I found several of the titles I had just given up, all new copies, wrapped in plastic, and priced at retail value, whereas my castoffs were discounted by as much as 80%. Since then, I've continued to bring more sets of books over to Bound, perusing the stacks of books still for sale and looking at what people are seeking in the little list they have for orders or special requests.

Last night, I saw two books I have had my eye on at National and Powerbooks available at Bound. But as I'm on an austerity period (no shopping for books, except when absolutely bored with doing nothing while waiting for something to happen), I have passed on buying and am staying on the other side, the selling. Moving is not only tedious and stressful, it's expensive. I also have to prepare for a short dive trip out to Malapascua at the end of the month. All that money going out and I'm not doing anything to hold back the fiscal tide.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Missing islands

Thinking of Christmas travel, surrounded by the jingles in the mall, my friends and I imagine ourselves outside the hustle and bustle of Manila. We begin planning out where to go, and when, how to meet up after doing our family chores.
We hit upon Siargao, beaches, diving, surfing, and some nature tripping galore. Yesterday, I take the plan a step further by going to PAL's ticketing office in Makati. After some discussion on an upcoming trip to Cebu, I ask the helpful information desk rep what would be the fastest way to get to Siargao. Her reply:
"Where is that?"

After I tell her it's located in Mindanao, near Surigao, she says: "I don't know where that is."

The situation doesn't truly hit me until I turn away from her counter to stumble into the Mabuhay Miles waiting room, more in a daze and not having eaten breakfast that morning. She doesn't know? She works for PAL, a primary agent in the tourism infrastructure in this country, and she doesn't know where an up and coming tourist destination is. Couldn't she have said, "I will check it out for you" or "let me find someone who can help you with the routes" or something a little more practical.

I vent some of my pissed-off-at-the-state-of-affairs with the Mabuhay Miles person, who kindly gives me the complaint letter form plus the name of the General Manager (although that person will more likely hear from me about how the MM customer service phone number is perpetually busy, the emails I've sent are never answered, and I waited two hours yesterday to speak to the agent. Not eating breakfast is a bad thing for my temper. All the minor irritants get blown up into a massive storm-in-a-teacup.).

Yesterday afternoon I googled Siargao travel websites and found a few options for the upcoming trip, including bypassing PAL altogether. Asian Spirit flies to Surigao then a bus ride and ferry to Siargao. Or I could fly to Cebu and do a boat trip over.

Of course if my pocketbook begins to unravel by November, I'll be staying in the city, close the doors, turn off the lights and do a dvd marathon for the week between Christmas and New Years.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies