Monday, December 31, 2007

chocolate love

I had gone to the Ferry Building while in San Francisco a week back, bought several bars of chocolate from the Scharfenberger store. I had plans of making chocolate truffles, but never got to use my stash. Instead I ended up buying some good 60% cacao chocolate from Ghirardelli, heavy cream from Trader Joe's along with some cocoa for dusting last night. As I rolled out the ganache into non-round baubles of chocolate truffles, my fingers softening from handling the cream, I enjoyed the cold weather; no need to refrigerate the ganache much in this temperature. The byline of a popular candy came to mind "melts in your mouth, not in your hands," although the homemade truffles barely made it to a plate, they were melting in the mouths of friends and family impatiently waiting for their share. No chance to even take a photo! Oh well.

Tonight, not wanting to slave over the stove, we opened a box of See's Old Fashioned chocolate candies, the nuts and chews variety. There is a surfeit of choice for chocolate candies in the US, high and low end alike. But our family loves the See's. It's always a consistently high quality product without having to pay through the nose. My mom's favorite is the english toffee, my sister and I also love the almond royales. My dad, diabetic that he is, is now infamous among family member for inhaling two boxes of chocolates. Any combination of nut and chew and chocolates work for me, just no liquers please.

I'm saving the precious Scharfenberger for home. May not be able to make the truffles unless I fashion a polar environment in my tropical kitchen. But they won't be wasted!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sin city

Second week of my vacation, I've flown up to SF from LA, and am now spending a couple of days in Vegas, yes, Sin City itself. But in the winter, all sinning is probably put aside for staying warm inside the hotels and casinos. It's effing cold, people! I feel like a fashionable Michelin man/woman/person. I have to wear at least 4 layers and I still feel like a popsicle when I make my way back to the hotel.

So far, my only "sinful" activity has been brunch at Bouchon at the Venetian. Mimosa, eggs au gratin, and a pain de chocolat with coffee. Tourists may come to Vegas for the gambling, I'm here for the food! Nearly every major chef has a restaurant here: Daniel Bouloud, Joel Robuchon, Mario, Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck, the guy from Aureole has a branch here too.... If only I had a thousand dollars and a week to eat at each place.

The main show I went to see was Spamalot, the Monty Python musical. Take MP and the Holy Grail, add new songs, twist some things around for the Vegas setting and you have an hour and 45 minutes of enjoyable, slapstick, sing-along laughter. My tummy hurts, not to mention the pain from smiling for so long. Pure silliness with the Knights of Ni, the killer rabbit, knights who can't figure out what their grail quest is, and a lot of Terry Gilliam's great animation from the movie. Worth every penny and frozen toes getting to the Wynn Casino/Hotel for the show!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

9:25, 12/22/07

A moment of quiet in an otherwise busy, stressful, harried, jetlagged week. I sit in the corner office of my aunt's home in very chilly San Francisco, high on top of a hill, where on a clear morning like today's, you could see the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge as you drive down the road.

I spend a quick morning at the Ferry Building, buying cheese and chocolates (some to give away, the rest to share with loved ones, and a tidbit or two for myself), resting at Lili's for a bowl of rich butternut squash soup and half a sandwich, ham and fontina cheese, drizzled with truffle oil in a lovely chewy ciabatta. I shared a table with a mother and daughter team who were in the middle of shopping as well, and their dad and other daughter soon joined in bringing a rich and cheesy mac/cheese from Eat, the deli down the market. As we noshed, I found out the family was from Philly, taking a break from the weather (although for this tropical gal, this was still too cold for my blood). The girls were well-mannered and enjoyed each bite of their sandwich and the chips, saying they were the best they ever had.

Carolers from a local school sang beautifully from the mezzanine, warming the cockles of the shoppers' hearts. We stood, craning our necks to watch, or stood close by, near the Scharffenberger chocolate store to listen, applaud after each song, blocking a lot of the walkway, but no one was annoyed. It was a good way to offset the overloaded Christmas buying rush, listening to songs of joy, songs of faith, songs of cheer.

Walking down Market, I take a rather long detour down California, through Chinatown, and then down to Union Square, where I find myself in between some of the nation's behemoth stores: Macy's (ever faithful), the newly opened Barney's, Bloomingdales (which shares the Westside Emporium with Nordstrom's), and Neiman Marcus. But I don't even attempt to join the flood, my goal is the small alley called Maiden Lane, where I know the London Sole shop is found. I will not complain about shoe prices in Manila again, since a pair of ballerina flats (in the cutest of designs, but still! $250 for a pair???) costs too much. But I am swayed by one that is rugged enough for Manila walking, the treads being made of rubber tire treads, so the saleslady says it won't ever wear out.... I should have told her that I just had the tires of my dad's car changed, so I think rubber tires do wear out. Nevertheless, my shopping budget is severely limited and I still have to buy other essentials. And I'm meeting my best friend T at the SF Museum of Modern Art in 10 minutes!!!

After a detour for other essentials at Ross, I walk through the Yerba Buena park and enter the MOMA. T and I have been friends since we were in elementary school, have gone through highs and lows and life changes of all kinds. A cousin recently said to her that she's like an adopted daughter of my family. We visit several other stores, looking for gifts for friends and family, chatting away endlessly, catching up and updating one another on work, life, love, etc. We are also trying to decide where to have dinner, since we share a lifelong goal of always eating well. After a bit of debating the merits of cuisines in the city, we are recommended by her friend to a Persian restaurant in the outskirts of North Beach. Maykadah Persian Cuisine, on Grant and Green Sts, is a warm, inviting restaurant, with a perfect menu - it doesn't overwhelm you, you can see what they are good at, and there are enough choices for the carnivore or vegetarian. We had been told that the filet mignon kebab was a good choice and we also tried the eggplant (a lighter version of baba ghanoush), a lamb with red lentils stew, and a large dish of yogurt. I also ordered the "dough", which is their yogurt drink, unsweetened with ground dried mint in it. Service is quick, but not forced, and they also serve a free set of mint with radishes, a square of feta and butter to whet your appetite. We were truly satiated by the good food.

Being in the Little Italy of the city, we weren't deterred by our full tummies not to have dessert. Gelato stores at every block convince you to come in and have something, even if it's freezing cold outside. T sticks with her tried and true combination of chocolate and hazelnut, while I want to try the eggnog with the lemon cream. While the lemon was perfect, the eggnog was soon a tiresome flavor on the tongue, not to mention it was rather hard for a gelato, not as creamy as I would have liked. Across the street, we peered into the italian bakery selling rows of custard filled baked goods, hemming and hawing over buying a canolli or not; eventually I just photographed it for a mental keepsake.

From my memories of trips to San Francisco years ago, Decembers were always foggy, and rather scary to drive at night. But today was a beautiful day, sunny with clear skies, and the drives to and from my aunt's hilltop home meant beautiful scenery throughout. I look down from the car onto the star-like streets lit up with Christmas lights, and I am content.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fear factor

A friend and I share the same gripe: why do they always use the balut for reality shows featuring the Philippines, particularly for "challenge" events? The poor balut. It gets no respect. Well I for one hereby state my love for the ugly duckling. Yes, it's not the prettiest thing in the world to open up a shell and see a half-formed duck embryo staring at you, especially if the beak is there, feathers... ok, you get the drift. But it's a tasty thing. And if you are lucky enough to have parents who do eat balut and train you from babyhood to eat it, enjoy it, beat your breast like a champion after (hahahahaha, no, seriously, no chest beating, just some tummy rubbing after eating too many of them when you could down more than 3, not to mention groaning for the comfort of your bed), well then you, my friend, are one of us. Baluteaters.

Revel in a hot, large gray egg, particularly those from the balut capital, Pateros in Rizal, not too far from Metro Manila. They look like young charcoal balls, an ivory grey color, very luxe when it's in suede and covering yon Louis Quince chair or Chippendale (not the dancing, tux-bow wearing kind).

Look for the round end, tap on it's hard shell till a crack helps you unpeel a hole, enough to check for soup. Yes, verily I say! It's got soup! For these eggs are boiled, and some crazy chemistry takes place and we've got soup in the egg. Sip soup gently, add some salt (less than a pinch, between a dash and a whisper), sip some more. No gulping, it's hot remember?

After most of the soup is gone, peel back a few more millimeters of the shell, see if you've got the white or the yolk. Add some vinegar with chilli peppers soaking it, or more salt, whatever takes your fancy. If you are a dainty eater, take thee a fork or a spoon and nibble on some of the yummy fatty boiled yolk. Poke fork tines through to see how big of a duck you've got in there and if you're squeamish, poke fast and mix yolk with the duckling and it won't be so bad. Really.

Otherwise, eat each section with care, I like to eat the yolk first, with a drizzle of vinegar and salt. Then I add more vinegar and gulp down the duckling like an oyster. It does feel like an oyster, a boiled oyster. Hmmm, maybe I should try adding some caviar the next time... Ok, then the last bit, some people don't eat it at all, the hard white dome that probably is some placenta thingy. I nibble on it, and while waiting for my dad to finish his balut, I sometimes finish the entire white stuff. It has no flavor, it's mainly a dense ball of nibbliness.

Finish off with any leftover soup at the bottom of the shell if you didn't do the job right in the beginning.

Give yourself a few minutes to feel the effects of all that cholesterol in your system and take it slow while you think of having another duckiness. Drink some hot water or a shot of gin to cleanse the system, then go for the next egg.


Friday, December 14, 2007

In one day

... Saturday, Dec. 15, to be exact, you can:

1. go to the Salcedo market to buy bagnet, sukang iloko, and an abel blanket at the first Ilocos fair (in tandem with the regular Saturday market);

2. get a tattoo at the Dutdutan Tattoo Expo, PTTC, corner of Roxas Boulevard and Buendia.

3. have lunch with friends at Angel's Corner in Greenhills (or debate whether to go all the way to Banawe for crab at Fook Yuen)

4. Sit in on the Why Not 2.0 Forum at Fort Bonifacio

5. Do last minute shopping at the pinoy goods expo in front of Makati Shangri-la Hotel.

6. Dash back to Katipunan for dinner with friends at In-Yo.

7. Or stay home, have the house cleaned, trash thrown, cat groomed, and catch up on sleep.

Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Movie trivia quiz - What's the connection between The Golden Compass and Elizabeth (whose sequel The Golden Age is now showing in Manila)?

While you wrack your trivia brain cells on that, here are my reasons for being thrilled with the upcoming movie season and with an upcoming trip:

- having just watched Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises (with two fellow Viggo-philes at that), I'm hoping he'll finally get noticed for his acting. Yes, he plays his typical laconic self, but there's understated humor interspersed with all the violence and degradation, and we 3 groupies all agreed that when this dvd comes out, we are going to be using the freeze frame option on our dvd players a lot!!!

- Daniel Day Lewis is back in a new film since Gangs of New York (has it really been 5 years since that movie came out?). "There will be Blood" is the Paul Anderson directed piece based on Upton Sinclair's "Oil!", reviews online are positive, the movie's already getting award's buzz, but I'm there just for DDL. The man can do no wrong, at least not on screen. Guilty pleasure is watching him run around in Last of the Mohicans; my favorite scene is his dialogue with Madeleine Stowe's character watching the stars. He's got this craggy profile that makes my knees go into jellylike spasms, wugawugawuga.

And as I will be in the land of Lala soon, I am so looking forward to movies! fresh out of the box! oscar worthy! Cineplexes here I come! Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp! No Country for Old Men with Bardem! Diving Bell and the Butterfly! ! ! !

(Answer to the trivia: Daniel Craig. He stars in Golden Compass, and had a teensy role in the first Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett as John Blanchard, the assassin. Thanks to Jessica Zafra's blog entry for pointing out the reference to his scene, dark, hooded, walking through the mist for her royal blood.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In the bone

A childhood memory: rainy day, possibly a typhoon, called out from playing in my room to have lunch with the family, dash out to the dining room to make sure my brother doesn't usurp my seat on the right hand side by my father's chair, attempt to get the cat down from the dining table, resume sitting while the meal is set before us all. It's soup, but not just any soup, a bulalo, with lots of meat and vegetables, ginger bobbing in the broth, cooked long and slow till the meat falls from the bone. My goal however, is not the meat, but what's inside the bone. Marrow. Soft, jelly, tasty, soupy, succulent, rich, makes my tummy happy marrow. I hope that one of the portions with the bone will be for me, and I send up a second hope out there that the bone I get will have a good chunk of marrow I can scoop out with the flat of the knife. My plans for that rich jiggling blop is to top it on my steaming bowl of rice, add some broth, and eat it simply. As we got older, my brother and sister stopped or just resolved not to clog their arteries with it, but my dad and I continue to enjoy a good rich bulalo with the marrow as our proverbial cherry on top.

As I've gotten older, I've also learned how wonderful roasted marrow is, and with a sprinkle of fleur de sel, some hearty bread, what a meal it is! Locally, there are a few places to get your marrow fix (Cibo used to have it), and if you have a super duper urge for it, I say go to Je Suis Gourmand for one heck of a marrow plate. A month ago, 2 friends and I went over to appease our marrow urges. K and I ordered one each, and were blown away by the size of the serving. This is no crosscut of bone with perhaps a teaspoon, if you're lucky a tablespoon, of gooey yumminess. This was a femur! A leg bone, cut down the shaft, roasted and served with both halves on display. Each long crevice shimmies with marrow crying out to be eaten. (All food lovers see their food as crying to be eaten!) We gratefully acquiesced to their wishes. Dabble a bit or a chunk on your toast and chomp your way to pure joy. There's enough to feed two or three nibblers, but K and I are no pansy eaters. We finish our bones, mop up the juices and roar with womanly pride. Rowr. I bet our friend wished he had ordered the marrow! K outdid us all that night by having the foie after the marrow; while I was happy with my arugula salad. But I did have two kinds of ice cream for dessert!

Je Suis Gourmand
G/f, Net One Center Bldg
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
Ph: 815-8801/02

Monday, December 10, 2007

Damn tonsils

This is the worst week to be sick, specifically sore throat sick. Can't swallow, can't taste. Add to that the neverending flow of goodies, sweets, savories deposited on my desk practically each hour. I've been propositioned with brownies, blueberry cheesecake, suman with latik, a cupcake, and birthday cake with orange-glo spaghetti (the pinoy kind with hotdogs!). So unfair!

die bunny die

A quick run to the bookstore this weekend and found something I never thought would be available here: The Bunny Suicides by A. Riley (ok, just the 2008 calendar, but still!). For those uninitiated to the morbid antics of Mr. Riley's wabbits, he draws cartoons solely depicting suicidal options of bland looking rabbits. Rabbits may be cool and collected on the outside, but inside they are a seething, angsty, insecure bunch. At least Riley's are. And they have figured out that man's new-fangled technology can be used to self-destruct.

If you're interested in buying the Suicidal Bunny books, they are available online, or check out a short clip on youtube to get your first dose of killer bunny humor.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Home away from home

I'm writing this on an early Sunday morning, 4:30 am to be exact, in Xiamen, China. This is my third home, where I spent 2 years of my life, where I learned another language, made friends, tried new adventures, and learned a lot about myself.

Xiamen is the largest city in Fujian province, on the southeastern coast of China. It's right across the Taiwan strait, and has a significant economic role in the region, not to mention being the direct source of many overseas Filipino-chinese families. It is not the capital of the province (Fuzhou has that distinction), but in this small corner of the chinese world, this is the place to be for business, education, and pleasure.

The two years I lived here were mainly spent in Xiamen University or Xiada, over by the then new foreign student dorm, Cai Qing Jie Lou, right across from the overseas chinese language school. We'd have class from 8 to 2 everyday, learning grammar, culture, and trying to learn the 4 tones used in speaking putonghua or mandarin chinese. We also struggled to write the characters, some 3000 of the basic ones, too many others to fully absorb. I was one of the longer residents, and saw many a roommate through my stay on the 7th floor. My primary room was #713, had canadian, japanese and german roommates. J and S are still good friends to this day, and we keep in touch by email or visits when we chance upon one another throughout life.

Since leaving in 1996, I've come back only once before; I could see the imminent changes on the city then, and now am fully amazed at how much I don't recognize in this little town that could. The airport works, the road network is expansive, most of the pokey little villages near the beach are gone to make way for the new apartment developments or a highway; there are 4 major international hotels, many more independent ones that look modern and welcoming. No more fears of questionable toilets that looked like the source of evil, carpets that look alive, or pisspots by the door.

There's a bit more global interaction now, a scatter of Italian restaurants, a german supermarket, and for the pinoys, a SM. Within that mall, Walmart has one of two outlets. Many bars and clubs are jointly owned by expats and chinese partners, and it's not unusual to find a good choice in any general store of items that we once hoarded from visits to HK (toilet paper no longer feels like it was reused from students' notebooks).

In the three days I've been visiting, friends and I toured a couple of regular sites for all Xiamen visitors to see: Gulangyu island and the temple of Nanputuo. We hiked trails, took the cable car to an aviary, were thrilled with the display of cactus in the botanical gardens, and giggled at silly english signs. As for our food choices, we'd save a bit by having breakfast at our friend's apt. followed by a late lunch/early dinner at some of the local eateries, then cruise the night life till the wee hours of the morning. That's sort of why I'm writing this at 4 am. While I have great student budget memories of cheap eats around town, we tried a few other things including an all you can eat hotpot place, a theme restaurant based around what they'd have served during the Cultural revolution (with waitresses dressed in throwback army wear), and a 24 hour hawker place for soup and roasted chicken bits. My fellow travellers were not able to stand hot and spicy food, so our one foray into sichuan cuisine was sort of half-hearted. I was all set to cry, sweat and sniffle my way through the dishes as I love a spicy meal. But not alone. One wants companionship through culinary suffering! Ah well, I got one dish that only I could have, the rest were all milder, albeit tasty.

The weather has been perfect, the main part of autumn is in full gear. I've been able to use a few sweaters and my coat, and wish I could bring home a week's worth of the cold temperature to save up for next summer in Manila. This is the perfect time to hike around Xiamen's sites, and drink large bottles of beer with your spicy soup. For the cost of US$0.30 you can have a liter of beer! Cheaper than water, and safer at times, given this is China.

The weekend's been a nice short holiday from all the hullabaloo in Manila. I'm glad I have a friends who have moved here, to visit again soon, and to revisit that part of me that is of this land. I don't think it's the place to go for everyone, but it's a charming spot, and if you see me having a plate of steamed jiaozi (pork and vegetable dumplings), you'll know I'm feeling nostalgic for my youth in China.

Friday, November 30, 2007

All the news that isn't fit to print

Today is a national holiday in the Philippines. Banks, offices, schools are closed. Families are together (or apart) travelling, sleeping in late, preparing for the xmas holidays, shopping, going to the carnival, or just taking time to breathe. The holiday celebrates a national hero, one Andres Bonifacio. The only image I have of AB is of him rousing his troops against the Spanish, decked in a white shirt, red pants, and wearing the red bandana tied around his neck. His arm is raised, his face distorted by his call to arms. I am sadly deficient in AB lore, which I will attempt to change by reading up on him today.

Mr. Bonifacio may have been watching the Philippines from wherever soulful state he is in, wondering what the heck was happening. Most people will probably need this three day weekend to recover from all the minor and major shocks to their system. Some more than others.

In the week of November 26, 2007, we experienced a series of environmental and political shocks. Some have died due to them, and others merely damaged. Let's start with the weather.

A week before this, typhoon Lando hit the central Visayas, causing damage in Cebu. A friend said it was as bad as the effect of typhoon Milenyo last year to Manila. No lights, no water, the city was hit hard. Lando moved west, heading out towards the South China Sea.

In came Mina. She was already a big one, a supertyphoon, and so strong in her advance that up to a million people in the province of Bicol were evacuated. She blew in, and guess who came back to join her? Lando. Yup, he couldn't resist her charms, so he turned around and surged back around the southern islands of Luzon while Mina tore through the eastern part of the island. While those two were getting cosy with one another, a third low pressure system called Nonoy was giving these two a lookieloo, maybe checking Mina out, deciding if Lando was worth taking on. He hovered around the southeast of the country, but was expected to come on board soon. With these three dancing about, the country was sort of like a sponge for rain and wind. Most parts were under some dark cloud, nights were chilly, and generally everyone's mood was the opposite of blithe.

In times like these, the national weather bureau, whom we pinoys know as Pagasa (in tagalog pagasa means hope. Calling the weather bureau by that name perhaps ammeliorates the annoyance of their miscast weather warnings. I'm guessing.), begins posting typhoon signals. Most of the Visayas had been under signal 2 or 3 with Lando, and then Mina was definitely a sure shot for a 3 if not higher. Manila and the rest of the capital region expected to be under 1 or 2 if things got really crazy, but we stayed hovered under no signal even though the outside weather was looking grey and mean.

By Tuesday night, Mina was tearing up the eastern seaboard, Lando was in Mindoro, and we were all battening down the hatches. That afternoon at 5 pm, an announcement went out that elementary levels would be suspended on Wednesday. Which was sort of strange. Because Pagasa had only hoisted signal number 1, which as the lowest signal warning meant that only pre-school classes were down for the count. All these announcements were sent out by the media, which gets their news about such stuff from the Department of Education. So happy kids cheered at the thought of no school for a day. I'm sure those with tests danced a jig of joy.

Watching the news around 8 pm, I hear the announcer state that they were retracting the news about all elementary levels were cancelled, and emphasized that only pre-school kids get the day off. ARGH. I start contacting our school's officials to check if they saw the same news, and find myself dealing with confused information and people unhappy with the thought of retracting the news. Eventually, we all agree that we have to wait for the 11 pm and 4 am Pagasa and Dept of Education announcement, and that commences a night of uneasy sleep. I check the news online at least every two hours, and keep a watch on my cell. The final word comes down from on high and it's final, there will be classes on Wed. Throughout the day, it feels like everyone is sluggish, the kids and parents drag themselves in, cursing (with camel fleas) the ineptitude of the govt and weather bureau, and on a remarkably sunny day (wither Mina and Lando?), we all just dig in to what work has in store.

I realize at this point that there is a missing piece to the story. We were hit by another natural force, on Tuesday afternoon, a 6.0+ earthquake hit the city. We were all shaken and stirred, but luckily the epicenter was far enough not to cause major damage. For the moment it struck, I wondered why I was slipping down my chair, but realized that it was not due to the need to reach for chocolate in my bag.

So as we reach Thursday morning, the count is 3 typhoons, 1 earthquake. The final stage is set.

It starts pouring buckets Wednesday night. Pounding on the galvanized rooftops, and definitely keeping many bleary eyed folks awake. Thursday arrives all grey and rainy. No winds though, but traffic soon congeals into a bigger mess; one of my staff gets stuck for 4 hours, so I share my appreciation for her guts in staying the course and coming in anyway. Poor kid.

As I'm preparing to leave at 11:30 for a trip, rumors of a manmade mess comes in. A recently elected senator who was involved in a military botched uprising 3 years ago at a hotel has walked out of his ongoing court case and manages to sway his peons to join him in another attempt to make himself heard. We hear he is amassing his supporters, and most, if not all, are in the military. Parents call in, asking to pull their kids out of class early, and we inform administration to prepare for the worst. I leave to catch my flight, and by the time I land on another shore, I find out that the putsch has failed again, with considerable damage to one of my favorite retreats in the city, the Peninsula hotel. Sorrowful tv shots of the damaged door and lobby, teargas streaming through the space and up to the second floor. The government troops have rounded up the rebels, the leaders caught once again. What may be the perfect subtitle to all this is the CNN announcers review of all that was happening on Breaking News, that he "wasn't quite sure what was going on" because that's exactly how many of us feel about the neverending dramas that occur in the Philippines. And I am relatively safe by being far away, out of reach, appreciating chilly weather.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Eye candy

A friend is going to Switzerland next year for Euro2008. She was quite disappointed recently hearing the results of elimination games, England lost to Croatia, and Ukraine is out of competition too. She had hopes of seeing some of her favorite male football players in play, plus one who she was ready to boo and heckle. But none of them will be around. At least she will have the boys of Italy and a few favorites in the Portugal team to look out for.

She mused that if she had the power to build a stable of studs, most of them would be football players. She grudgingly agreed to consider some of the manly attributes of the french rugby team, famous for their Dieux de Stade calendars.

As we ran through her list, I wondered who I'd have in this fantasy island? I have favorite football players too, but considering how large their egos are, I don't know if I'd appreciate their other attributes. Not unless they are muzzled. So I have a shortlist of possible droolishious men for that isle:

* Canavarro of the winning Italian Team at last year's World Cup. For his bod.
* Neil Gaiman, writer, for his hair.
* Viggo Mortensen, actor, for those gorgeous eyes, and yes, the bod too.
* J. Denk, classical pianist and blogger, for writing a comparison between a rice twinkie and Beethoven. Got to have some sort of artistic/intelligent conversation while enjoying the view. Don't know if he's cute, but he can write and tinkle the ivories in the dark corner if he's not.
* Mario Batali. He's not cute, unless you want wheezy red heads, but the man can cook!
* There's a guy on some DIY/Home renovation show, has the looks of a greek god (no, not that shrimpy designer on Oprah), but whose name I can't remember. Anyway him, so he can build the stable, plus keep the island in some order.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Not shopping

US clothing mega-franchise The Gap is open in Trinoma. Cheesy giveaways for buying an item included getting a Gap bumper sticker, EH????

Perusing the items on offer, why in all of tropical climates would stores sell wool jackets, and fur-lined gloves in the Philippines??? More than half the items are better suited towards those freezing their bitukas north of the border.

With the eventual opening of Banana Republic in Greenbelt 5, I think I had best wait till March before checking out warmer clime wear.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"What's that mountain goat doing at this altitude?"

Companies have tag lines. Famous ones like Nike ("just do it") are easy to remember. Some marketing genius (or lucky duck) found something, it stuck and people recall not just the name or brand, but also the motto. It's intrinsic to the brand in many cases, just as famous as their symbol.

Schools, likewise, have slogans or something to heighten the drama. Not many are memorable, I doubt many of us remember our high school's slogan if there was one. I can remember my old school's colors (green and yellow), or my college mascot (partly because it was so weird, like some blue gumby creature). But I can't rattle my grey cells for the slogans of either. A vague memory of "something et veritas" rises from the sludge when I try to focus on our old school seal. What was very clear was the noble profile of our Native American, when we were still known as the Indians. Unfortunately the Politically Correct factions got to it and now they have some weird animal instead. I think when the animal rights folks start demanding that animals shouldn't be used for mascots we'll end up back to human images again. Or maybe inanimate items. The Chicago Bulls might end up as the Chicago Great Lakes.

Anyway, what about humans? We have names, but very few people can say they have a slogan. A few supermodels have been called The Body (Elle McPherson), and you might recall some sports figures for special moments (Diego Maradona, Hand of God). But if you're the average joe/jane, what slogan would you use? Something pithy? In Latin if you feel a bit snobby? It could be like avatars, which are so popular in this day of tech and animation. So here's your challenge, think of a slogan that might epitomize you. Post it in the comments. No rules, no restrictions. Crass, poetic, whatever.

By the way, the title of the post is something I've used as a "slogan" - rephrased from a Far Side cartoon.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The nose knows

Of the 5 senses (sight, taste, touch, smell, hearing), my sight is downright dismal, my taste is normal as far as I can tell, hearing is still decent so long as I don't overuse my earphones, touch still up to snuff, but smell, oh my. I can sniff out cigarette smoke that no one else notices, pick out a lack of natural perfume in a rose, and can remember someone by their smell.

I have memories revolving around aromas or stenches. Going to a multi-race school, we had our share of people from all over the world with their own cultural perspective on cleanliness. One day playing soccer, I accidentally rushed a classmate from the Middle East. I don't know if I hit him, but recall the horror realizing that my hand smelled of BO. I had to take a break and wash it with soap and water; could still sniff it out some hours later, that's how bad it was. It was on par with the intense, oily odor of my 2 day roommate during a conference in Philadelphia; she was from a small Western African country, and I had serious breathing problems after the first night we shared in the hotel. I also feared that the smell was settling into my own clothes, and was very grateful when at the next stop I had a single room to myself.

My sister's boyfriends soon learned that if they wanted to get on her family's good side, they would have to contend with a younger sister who was forced to chaperone them on certain events. Imagine being dragged out from doing what you want to do just because your mother/father said "go with your sister and that boy. Make sure nothing happens." ARRGGGH. The boys in question soon learned that I would put in a positive vote if they had nice smelling cars, didn't smoke (at least not around me), and brought roses that were naturally fragrant. Points removed for short stemmed wimpy flowers with not a note of perfume.

I once joked with friends about a date who had no smell. Which might be a good thing for the most part. But when someone smells more like, water? or air? it's a bit disconcerting. Makes me think he's something out of the book Perfume by Patrick Suskind. The main character is a murderer who has no smell and at the same time the most sophisticated sense of smell; the trait allows him to avoid detection, and his keen sense of what a perfume is made of makes him very rich. As for my date, you can't have any memories of a person without some sort of fleeting spectre of themselves attached via your nasal passages I think. Preferably a good smell, like chocolate!

There are cultural differences about cleanliness and body smells. On this interesting snippet from a book by Katherine Ashenburg, she writes about her research on the historical differences of washing, bathing, deodorants, hygiene, and ultimately smells. While she notes that modern day Americans are crazy about bathing and deodorant, former colleagues of mine would agree that we had our share of questionable American visitors, who we called "plucked from the gubat (forest)" for their insidious stink. The most notorious of recent years included one research fellow who wore the same pants every day for a month (we'd ask each other as we guided him from lecture to lecture when he'd ever change clothes). There was never a year that we didn't have at least one who we'd wish we could dunk in boiling hot water and a lot of soap.

Friday, November 16, 2007

No thanks, I MEAN IT!

Returned from an out of town conference full of well meaning people. But other than the interesting presentations, what may linger the longest was the rather annoying and intense pressure to join the group in their last night revelry. When someone says "I don't dance" or "No thank you, am not into dancing", wouldn't you just leave well enough alone? Why in all hell's bells would you continue to pester them? Was the person trying to pressure me deaf? Dumb? Insensitive? Or just plain stupid? Why continue and continue until I could barely hold myself from throwing my horrible glass of merlot at her face?

I will dance with friends, but last night was not a group of people I knew beyond a couple of hours acquantance. And being told to dance again and again is just not a nice way to spend an evening. If that woman ever ends up in Purgatory may she end up in the ring where no music reigns, and she's forced not to speak for the rest of her spiritual existence. Or persecuted by wasps saying "Dance! Dance!"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Eavesdropping tidbits

Overheard at the theater (Music Museum, Into the Woods show):

"Act Two? There's an Act Two?" (methinks he was ready to head home)

"Couldn't understand the lyrics, it was like watching a British movie!" (Sorry, no subtitles)

"Did you hear about George Clooney and Fabio?" (Oy vey)

Distinct gasps when some onstage canoodling took place between two married characters. Yup, this is the Pinas.

"How tall was the Giant?" "Too tall to have on stage!" (Use your algebra/geometry lessons to figure it out.)

Into the Woods by New Voice Company

"There are giants in the sky, there are great big terrible giants in the sky..."
"Stay with me, the world is dark and wild..."
"Agony! That can cut like a knife..."

These are but some of the lyrics swirling in my head all through the weekend. Lyrics that come from the pen of Sondheim, from one of his most memorable musicals, Into the Woods. Over the weekend, the New Voice Company premiered their representation of the Sondheim/Lapine work, and here are a few highlights to look out for:

Great performances and voices:
- Menchu Lauchengco Yulo as the Baker's Wife. For a character who doesn't have her own name, she is the lynchpin in this cast. When another theater company showcased the play, Ms. Yulo portrayed the Witch, but she brings a wonderfully bright characterization to the BW. Her voice is pitch perfect, with the necessary frustration dealing with her husband, full of awe in her encounter with the Prince, and her no-nonsense approach towards getting the job done.

- Julia Abueva as Little Red Riding Hood. Blew me away from the first note. She might sound too perfect for a child, but no quibbling here. She's definitely one of the reasons to go see the show.

- Michael Williams as the Baker. I enjoyed him in this vehicle more than when I saw him in Cabaret two years ago. Maybe his role in the latter performance was too wimpy and whiny, but as the frustrated Baker, he seems exactly what was needed for the man on a quest. He sings several pieces, mainly with other cast members, but is never out of step. His voice is smooth and appealing. And when he sings with Cinderella, and the two younger cast members in perhaps my favorite of all ITW songs, "No one is alone", his longing and strength shine.

Here are my "awards" for the cast:

Hubba-hubba cast award goes to Joaquin Valdez as Jack. I see him reprising Westley in the Princess Bride; "milkboy, fetch me that pitcher!" "As you wish." (evil grin)

Best bod has to be Lynn Sherman as the renewed Witch. Ms. Sherman's got amazing arms and shoulders. And she didn't do too shabbily singing "Stay with me", although she seemed a bit breathless doing the prologue. I missed the shiver down my spine when she sings Last Midnight. Could have used more oomph given what's happening on stage.

Most in need of a lip sync is unfortunately shared by Tommy Abuel as the Mysterious Man and whoever was stuck performing Red Riding Hood's Granny. Mr. Abuel only had to sing one song with oh, 5? ok 10 lines. But he's not a singer. Or those slightly off notes were not what I remember in the score. Er... As for Granny, she's barely in the show, she gets eaten and spewed out. But something went amiss in one of her singing/speaking lines and whatever words of wisdom she meant to impart was lost; the acids in the Wolf's stomach interfering with the wires!

Benefit of the doubt awards towards the Narrator (whose braces may be causing the noticeable lisp), and the slightly unprincely demeanor of the two princes. Jamie Wilson was happily leery as the Wolf, simply oily as Cinderella's Prince; while the other Prince has a receding hairline and looks more like he'd be better cast as a librarian. Could have used more hunky princes to make us believe Cinderella and Rapunzel would swoon into their arms.

Overally, there are more reasons to enjoy the show than not. I'm looking forward at another chance to catch the show.

(addendum: I saw a review of the play in a manila daily and I don't think the writer knows bubbly musicals from adam. Did he even listen to the words? There's more angst and philosophy in this play than most overacted soaps on tv!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kiehl's, Greenbelt 5

The new extension to Greenbelt is fast approaching completion. A few restaurants are open, and some clothing stores are in place. I'm looking forward to the first Banana Republic in Manila (at last!), but what truly made me jump for joy was finding the Kiehl's store. Kiehl's has a great collection of body, face, and hair products, I particularly love the lip balm, the body lotion, and when I swim a lot, the shampoo that clarifies against chlorine build up. Prices are set against the dollar, so it wasn't unbelievably unreasonable. Sort of what you'd expect to pay for imported items.

And as I was the only customer and the saleslady was ready to make a sale, she knew to throw in a sample or two of some things she felt I might like. I know a few friends who will be happy to see the store open at last. No more requests to friends heading to HK or the US for a few items.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The music man - part 3, Into the Woods

The Story: 4 fairy tales are intertwined around the theme of wish fulfillment and a quest through the woods. Cinderella goes into the woods to commune with her mother's spirit and is found throughout the play stumbling through it escaping from the Prince; Rapunzel's tower is there, her prison and refuge from the world, where the witch keeps a close eye on her to protect her prize from life; Jack heads into the woods to sell his cow Milky White, urged by his mother not to trade less than 5 pounds for the cow; and Little Red Riding Hood sallies forth to pay a visit to her grandmother, and encounters her nemesis. The only undefined fairy tale is the story of the Baker and his wife, but it is the genesis for most of the play.

When the play begins, the audience is faced with three sets, each one pointing towards one of the stories. As the long prologue is sung, we learn that Cinderella is suffering from the abuse of her stepmother and stepsisters and wishes to attend the King's Festival; her stepmother torments her by promising to let her attend the festival if she manages to pick the lentils from the ashes. For those who only know the Cinderella story based on the Disney cartoon, I highly recommend reading the older versions of the fairy tale, the gorier version with eyeballs pecked out, toes and heels cut off. There are no magical speaking/singing mice involved in the play. The middle set is for Jack and his mother; she calls him a fool, and thinks he's touched in the head. He's a bumbling, but kind fellow who loves his cow. These days, he might be considered something of an artisan, but in those days, well, he's just a boy with no social interaction other than a bovine. She tells him to sell the cow as they have nothing left to eat. The last set is for the Baker and his wife, who sing of their inability to have a child. They are interrupted by two visitors, the first is Red Riding Hood buying bread and sweets for her ailing grandma who lives down a long path through the woods. The second visitor is the witch, who tells the Baker and Baker's Wife why they have remained barren.

The Baker turns out to be the never heard of brother of Rapunzel. A long time ago, their father went into the witch's garden to get vegetables for his pregnant wife. He ravishes the garden taking all sorts of greens, and not being very neighborly about it either according to the witch. He also takes beans, magical beans. In return for his actions, the witch takes the baby, Rapunzel, away from the man and his wife, and curses them with infertility for the stolen beans. The curse continues through with the Baker and his wife, but the witch offers them a reprieve. Find her four items by the stroke of midnight three days hence and the curse will be lifted: a cow as white as milk, hair as yellow as corn, a gold slipper, and a cloak as red as blood. She orders them on their quest.

Throughout Act One, the stories converge, mishaps occur, Princes run after maidens or entice them down from their towers, the cow is sold, is lost, refound, reborn. Jack gets beans for the cow, the beans grow into a redwood size-stalk and he steals three treasures from a giant, who dies in pursuit of Jack. Cinderella attends 3 nights of the King's Festival, loses her slipper to a wily Prince and is made into a princess after her sisters are handicapped. Red Riding Hood is eaten by the Wolf, but saved by the Baker. Rapunzel is nearly lost to the world, but finds her prince, all of them babes in arms. The Baker and his wife lift the curse and the witch gets her groove back. All ends happily ever after.

In Act Two, (yes, Virginia, there is an Act Two) we see the same cast of characters, but happily ever after doesn't consider all the after effects of obtaining one's heart's desires. The Witch may be young and beautiful again, but has no powers. Rapunzel may have regained her Prince, but she seems to be a neurotic mess who wants her mommy. Cinderella can't find her footing in the castle, plus her family's decided to move in with her, sort of a hypocritical greek chorus, pandering to her every whim, while her Prince isn't around much, he's got a roving eye that one. Red Riding Hood, the Baker and wife, and Jack plus his mom (and the cow) are the first to find out directly that a Giant is out and about. Soon, life as they know it is in shambles, and everyone can't find a decent hiding place against the marauding giant. Lives are lost, and family bonds break apart. Eventually, the act is completed and satisfaction is achieved, they wish.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The music man - part 2, songs

There are a few Sondheim songs that I love, have a few versions playing on my ipod, and when in need of a song to sooth the soul, turn to. Here are is a shortlist:

Not a Day Goes By - my favorite version of this is sung by B. Peters in the tribute to Sondheim concert. Her call to lost love and the longing for someone who lingers as a painful memory is guttural, piercing, and haunting.

Could I Leave You - From Follies, it has a hysterical chorus close to the end, with an emphatic YES at the punch. One of his twisted love songs!

Everyday a little death - originally in A Little Night Music, along with my not so favorite clown song, this one gets a new lift in the revue Putting it Together. Hear the 1993 version with Julie Andrews, she's no longer Maria or Mary Poppins. She's a wife who has suffered and shares it with the younger gals. "Every move and every breath and you hardly feel a thing, brings a perfect little death."

Losing My Mind - Just one more painful love song, but full of seemingly mundane activity ("I dim the lights") intertwined with the repetitive line "I think about you" makes for a heartbreak song.

Another Hundred People - from Company, sung by Marta, the hip, New York girlfriend of the protagonist. The city is full, crowded, dirty, but fantastic. Sang at a pace you wonder where she takes a breath.

Art and music come together in It's Hot up Here, from Sunday in the Park with George. Sondheim studies the technique of painter George Seurat, and even if you have never seen the painting (or the musical), you know there's something underpinning the composition. Staccato = pointillism.

Perhaps Sondheim was in the mood to show the other side of Madame Butterfly when he created Pacific Overtures. Set in Japan at the time American naval ships entered Yokohama, it's a dissonant, sometimes atonal musical (Chrysanthemum Tea), with a few lyrical pieces I enjoy (Someone in a Tree, and Pretty Lady). According to the online write up, PacOvertures had the shortest run for a Tony Award's Best Musical.

Tomorrow is the premiere of New Voice Company's Into the Woods; I might post one more chapter about the songs from that particular musical (I have a few favorites there too), and highlight some plot twists, of the many that take place throughout Acts 1 and 2.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Segue within the genre

A colleague popped in this afternoon to get some forms fixed and somehow the topic of watching Into the Woods came up. He then told me about the worst musical show he had to suffer through recently. A Filipino-chinese community event showcased a history of the chinoys (chinese-pinoy), had a few relatively famous names attached to it, but was the most amateur production this side of the Pasig river. I couldn't stop laughing as he told me about the miserable 2 hours he had to sit through: the 15 kids who couldn't sing a note; the can-can line of firefighters (real volunteer firefighters) who looked befuddled as they hichkicked through a song; the technical problems including audio that was too loud and a spotlight that couldn't catch up with the performers. He desperately wanted to leave after the first 30 minutes but the production didn't include an intermission - maybe they knew that if they had one, they'd only have less than half their audience left. He muffled his giggling through the schmaltzy song numbers, but a few of the older audience members would throw him dagger looks when they heard him snorting in the back. He couldn't help but feel in the minority when at the finale, the venerable chinoys gave the cast a standing ovation. He just felt that it wasn't worth the several hundred pesos for a ticket! Perhaps it was karmic retribution for something in his recent past! lol

The music man - part 1 of ... a few parts

Does it feel like we're in the middle of an upsurge of musical theater? Avenue Q, Fiddler, now Into the Woods. It's good to see the local talents showing off their singing/dancing/acting chops. I enjoyed Avenue Q, and am looking forward to the New Voice performance of Into the Woods. Am not sure I'll watch Fiddler, even if a friend told me that about the guy playing the part of the Fiddler (a christian minister playing the part of a russian jew.... hmmm).

A friend wondered what Into the Woods was all about. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the show, since some people think it's a fairy tale, some people only know of the short one act version (the kiddie edition). And most have never heard about it. I'm not fully immersed in musical theater and can't spout the entire history of one genre over another, but having been brought up watching my share of broadway shows/musicals, here's a short intro and background brief on Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist of Into the Woods. The next post will probably about my favorite Sondheim songs, followed by a review of the musical after I watch it this weekend.

How do I begin to encapsulate in a few paragraphs the genius of Sondheim? Let me start by saying this: I hated "Send in the Clowns" and didn't think much of the composer for a long time till the late 90's. I remember hearing the seemingly ubiquitous Judy Collins version of the song in the 70's and 80's and found it sappy. Her voice was never one I liked, sort of like a comfy velvet sound mixed with hokey folk timbres. Bored me to tears. Years later, I heard other versions of the song sung by other singers, both popular and cabaret artists and realized the song had merits. And through copies of Sondheim revues like Putting it Together and Side by Side, I realized I knew a lot of his music but never related it to him.

It's been said (on countless reviews, websites, etc. Go ahead, google it!) that Sondheim is an acquired taste. I wholeheartedly agree. See above. Definitely not one for younger tastes unless the person can take the dissonant tones, sung over dialogues, jarring verbal imagery, sexually driven story lines, and an attitude that might be construed as very New York. Even his more sappy songs are not straightforward love songs, the words will usually have a twist, send a shiver of humor or discomfort down your back. And for the most part, he writes without trying to date the music to a particular era. Many of his musicals are considered cult favorites; they may have been flops when they were premiered, but given the growing interest in his music by the cognoscenti, new audiences are delighted with exploring his oeuvre. He may have the most number of revivals over the last 20 years, and very popular touring shows.

Consider Sondheim's compositions - they are paeans to Mozart, Ravel, Schoenberg, rap, operetta, Bach, Hammerstein, Gershwin. His lyrics are ambiguous, witty, and never amateur. Many of his best songs allow his female stars (Strich, Massel, Peters, LuPone, Lansbury, etc) to shine with raw emotion. They are not songs for ingenues, they speak to those age old learning moments of heartbreak, destruction, torment, delusional love. Even if you've never had to suffer as much as they have on stage, you're let in on the pathos of it all.

Is there an intro to Sondheim? I think most people know his songs even if they don't know it's a song he wrote or composed. Start with Send in the Clowns (although that still gives me pause), but realize that he wrote the songs to West Side Story and Gypsy, plus the songs from the movie Dick Tracy. I think the revues, Putting it Together, Side by Side, or one of the tribute concerts lets new listeners pick up a song or two to love, if not the entire list. Then take one or two opportunities to listen to more of the songs sung by different performers, and if there's time and interest, buy a ticket to Into the Woods, presented by New Voice Theater Company at the Music Museum in Greenhills this November till the first week of December. Here are some details for interested parties:

09, 16, 23 & 30 Nov and 07 Dec 2007 Friday 8pm
10, 17 & 24 November and 01 & 08 Dec 2007 Saturday 8pm

Ticket prices:
*Balcony Php 700
**Orchestra Side Php 900
***Orchestra Center Php 1200
Tickets are available through Ticketworld or contact the New Voice Company. Lorna Lopez, the Bachelor Girl, is also promoting the show, so check out details on her site.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Not on the menu

The recent thread in magazines and blogs seem to be about last meals. As mentioned in a recent post, famous chefs were asked what they'd have for their last meal, and a book about their intentions was given a spotlight in Time magazine. According to another website, there is a fellow who has documented the last meals of prisoners. In both cases, the theme is comfort food, food that one enjoyed in childhood, what makes us happy and brings back happy memories. Only a few asked for a grand feast, and not many went out on a limb for the strange or unusual (maybe in 20 to 30 years, we'll see requests for a citrus foam on fish noodles).

Since I'm in a somewhat devil's advocate kind of mood, I ask myself, not what I would have for my last meal, but what I would not want. Maybe that is a weird thing to state. Why would you consider things that you wouldn't want to eat at the last day of your life? But I still have a few days of life left (I hope), so this is my chance to state the ff had better not be within 100 feet of my last meal:

fried liver - could never stomach the smell or the taste of fried chicken livers. I like pate, and enjoy a good foie, but will pick out every bit of fried liver in pancit or anything that incorporates it.

ampalaya/bitter gourd - I doubt my mother will be at my deathbed forcing me to eat ampalaya ("it's good for you!"), but I sure hope no one else will try. I'm not the only one with an aversion to this vegetable. It speaks to the worst childhood meal memories for many. I'll haunt anyone who thinks this is something to add to my last meal menu; bonk you on the head with a large adult gourd.

boiled vegetables - perhaps, I should be more specific. Overboiled, sock smelling, no flavor boiled vegetables. There are too many beautiful greens and interesting ways to prepare them. Why would you cook them till the color's bled out and anything interesting is lost?

Bounty or any chocolate candy bar with coconut. I love coconut water, gata, and on some things, dessicated coconut is a necessity (bibingka, palitaw), but I hate the combination of milk chocolate and dessicated coconut. Or whatever they call the white stuff in that bar. And now that I think about it, I'd prefer no drugstore chocolate bars, or Whitman samplers. The sugar content will kill my teeth. I want my full set at death.

No cherry flavored or any fruit flavored liquers. They taste like medicine.

Marshmallow icing on a dry cake. Dry cake, blech. I want moist! I want flavor! and buttercream frosting!

And should I order any sushi/sashimi for that penultimate meal, please make sure the seafood is fresh. Wouldn't it be the ultimate bummer to have freeze dried fish or shrimp that barely has any flavor?

So those are several things I can imagine not wanting at the end. I wonder if a blog is sufficient legal writ for a will? Hmmmm

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ice cream triangle

My neighborhood is full of tree lined streets, relatively old houses and more than a few retreat houses for the catholic lay missionaries. One of the better hospitals is 10 minutes away, and am close to the LRT3 system, so a couple of stops away and I'm in a shopping mecca. But what probably stands out as the major landmark is the ice cream factory.

As a child, the ice cream factory was also known as the Magnolia factory, it had a cafe/ice cream shop that we'd go to after mass. We would order our choices from parfaits, splits, cobblers, or shakes. My brother was an Ernie and Bert guy, while my sister loved the splits with the occasional parfait thrown in. I'd always get the Black and White. My parents would try different things, so I can't recall what they typically ordered. We also would always try to sit near our favorite ice cream server who would add in extra cream or extra crushed peanuts when he could without any charge. If my parents had their way, we'd sit at a booth, all skwushed in, my brother and I fighting for leg room. But if the booths were full, we'd rush to the stools and watch the scoopers prepare our orders. I liked the stools.

Sometime in the 1990s a big multi-national came in and bought Magnolia. Or took over, or in some form or another swooped in and changed the face of my childhood ice cream shop. For awhile it was Nestle-Magnolia, then it just became Nestle. And the ice cream shop at the factory? It lost it's je ne sais quoi. I heard it got a bit grimy, and less customer friendly. Plus it wasn't our own anymore, excuse the nationalism. So when I came home in the late 90's I didn't go back to the old ice cream shop.

Moving into the neighborhood two years ago, I was faced with the fact that the behemoth was right there, a good landmark when giving directions. But sometime earlier this year, I realized that Magnolia had a place, right across from the factory. Sort of like a kid nyah-nyah-nyahing the big brother across the street. I didn't go around to either ice cream shop for most of the year. Until yesterday. What changed my mind? Well, there's a new kid on the block. It's called Amazing, it took over the space of my neighborhood chicken inasal place, and it offers pizza in a cone, and soft serve ice cream. Hmmm, interesting combination, no?

So after dilly dallying for a few weeks, and seeing all those people trying out Amazing, I thought about going over there to test it out. I walked over and ordered myself a soft serve cone (was not in the mood to try the pizzas, and considering the displayed pizza cones looked congealed, I will pass on the option) with chocolate chips and crushed reeses pieces (peanut butter and chocolate!!!). I was looking forward to it, then took a lick. Ugh. It tasted like non-dairy creamer!! Yuck. I had a crestfallen not-real-ice-cream moment. Sorry but that isn't amazing in my books.

What to do when one's plans for an ice cream treat fall by the wayside? I walked down the road and decided to have a foot massage. And after an hour of that, I realized that I was right next door to the Magnolia ice cream shop. With P220 in my wallet, I turned into the shop and went over the menu. It really looked like the old menu from when Magnolia was across the way, and I saw they had Ernie and Bert, Black and White, all the floats, shakes, splits. What oh what would I have? I had to erase the memory of the icky soft serve from not amazing. And there I saw among the parfaits, the Brown Derby! Whoohoo, yes, I would order the BD.

The Brown Derby is a three scooper, strawberry, mango, and chocolate, with chocolate syrup, strawberry jam, and crushed pineapples. They also poured in some sprite (why? eh, for the fizz!), topped it with a large dollop of real Magnolia cream (not that nondairy stuff), and lots of peanuts and a small sliver of maraschino cherry. All for P144. Not bad, but my dad would probably intone "it used to cost P25 for a shake!" I loved smushing it together, avoiding too much side spillage, getting flavors, textures and happy feelings all rolled into one. I had no problems forgetting the bad earlier incident in favor of a moment of feeling like a 10 year old again. I'll have to go back and see if the servers will toss in extra peanuts!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Red Sox

If the curse of bambino was undone in 2004, this year confirmed that Boston is a championship city once again. I just saw the 4th game of the World Series and caught the winning innings. Rather a nailbiting game, with the runs only coming in at the 7th and 8th innings. The Japanese pitcher who had won the 3rd game sort of faltered at the 8th inning and let the Rockies gain 2 runs, so he threw in the towel. But in the end, its a sweep for the Sox. I can imagine that a lot of people will not be in at school or work Monday morning in Boston, perhaps less so than the revelry that came over the city the first time they regained their status 3 years ago.

(Monday morning, barangay elections equals a national holiday; this Thursday and Friday are also national holidays. This entire week is perfect for either bumming around or taking a trip. Decisions, decisions.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

When it's raining

... and your nose is stuffed with a cold, you stay home and avoid sharing the germs. You mentally berate yourself for putting the book you're reading, of which you only have two more chapters to go, in with the laundry (book saved from watery mess, but not available for reading for a day). So you turn to the "interweb" and read what is going on out there. And watch way too much tv.

Let's start with tv: who forgot to tell me that StarWorld is now showing old episodes of Northern Exposure? One of my all time favorite shows. Quirky, well written, romantic, lovable characters, and made me want to move to Alaska, like LA Law made law school applications jump through the roof. They've tried replicating it (Men in Trees), but nothing comes close to the intelligent writing and verbal sparring, plus imaginative scenarios all in 7 seasons of classic tv (the last two seasons were less brilliant). Unfortunately, I'd have to be home from 10 am to catch it.

Discovery Channel in Asia is finally showing Dirty Jobs, a great show highlighting the most unimaginably disgusting work in action. I'm guessing that Discovery Channel Asia is starting from the first season, so the most recent episode has him talking to noodlers, who stick their face in holes looking to get bitten by catfish, well to fish for these honking big catfish in Oklahoma. Then a few more jobs dealing with manure, worms, goo. Love it! Someone's got to do it indeed.

As for reading online, there's an interesting interview about female chefs, the trials and tribulations they deal with as women in the kitchen; Time Magazine has a short photo essay on what famous chefs would eat for their last meal (I didn't find any of it too illuminating, but go check it out for the photos! I love the pasta hat worn by Lidia Bastianich, and the gigantic pugs with Adria.).

And just when you feel like having a dab of perfume to make you feel a bit better, you read about the continued use of civet musk in the fragrance beez. Kat peez. I'll just drink the coffee.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I first heard about it from my sister by text. "Is Pepperdine affected by the fires in Malibu?" Oh no. The fire season.

Pepperdine is located off the Pacific Coast Highway, in Malibu. The campus (also known as Seaver Campus) was built on a bluff overlooking the ocean, and there's not a year that goes by that it isn't named one of the most beautiful campuses in the US. It also tends to create the myth that Pepperdine students don't study, we're like whoa, surfer dudes/dudettes. Or stoned with the amazing views. Or that we're a bunch of conservative yuppies who drive porsches to school and play tennis with local supercelebrities who live nearby. Well the last statement is sort of true for some of the students there. Luckily not all of us are tarred with the same brush.

The location also doesn't help during the fire season. Given the non-ending drought in the southwest of the US, the fire season seems to happen more and more often. Dry scrub, winds (the infamous Sta. Ana's), add the occasional malicious arsonist, and you have a recipe for disaster. In 1993, the year after I graduated, the campus was closed down for a few days when the fires came too close for comfort. I remember reading a few years back of another close call. And today, there's another case for worry. Checking the school's website after seeing my sister's text, I see that they've announced that classes have been cancelled, that students were evacuated to common spaces away from the dorms near the higher scrub areas, and that roads to campus have been closed down. I have faith that the school's prepared to keep both studnets and buildings safe. But there's no guarantee with fire.

I hope R and my bro stay safe.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The King and Anna

Deborah Kerr passed away today at the age of 86. She is remembered for the beach scene in From Here to Eternity, and most romantics will have a copy of An Affair to Remember (Cary Grant and her, the viewing deck of the Empire State Building). But my favorite film of hers is The King and I. She was not a singer, so the songs were dubbed, but she managed to sail through the movie in the flounciest dresses, undergarments in full rig.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Filling up my time

Based on my "planner" (er, the sticky note on my computer), I have nothing scheduled for this weekend. A friend who just came back from a long stay in the US has invited me to come over to see her expanding tummy (she's 5 months pregnant), and my cousin just moved to a new condo so I have to drop off a housewarming gift sometime this weekend. However, so many other interesting things are taking place as well, so thanks to the blogging community for posting stuff to titillate my fancy. Here are some ideas for the weekend if you're not travelling:

1. CineEuropa 10. Starts today till the end of the month, at the Shangri-la Plaza Mall in Edsa. Catch noteworthy european films, classics like Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander, Oscar winners Kolya and Lives of Others (I am definitely making a beeline for the latter; the former is a sweet sappy feel good movie though, I'd love to see it again). I only caught one of the films from the recent Spanish Film Festival; hope to spend a bit more time checking out the options from the EU.

2. Food Festival at the Sofitel (formerly Philippine Plaza). Oct 21 and 22. Am curious but not dying to go to this one. Check out Margauxlicious' blog to learn all the details.

3. Japanese gift wrapping workshop at Sinag Arts Center, Oct 19 to 21. I'm the worst gift wrapper on the planet. My sister usually handles all the wrapping for me since I cannot give gifts that look like it went through a shredder; even when I plunk them in a gift bag with paper fillings, they look so pedestrian. The Japanese are known for their aesthetic eye, and have avenues filled with paper products to appeal to a gift receiver's heart. So I'm hoping this will be useful. I'm only attending the Sunday morning session, but if I gain some mastery in a couple of hours, I may extend till the afternoon session.

Books, tidbits

A billboard on EDSA sponsored by a funeral parlor touting DEATHCARE Week, October 27 to Nov 2, offering a 50% discount on services. One of their action lines is "Serbisyo hangang langit" (service up to heaven). My morbid funny bone was momentarily tickled pink. Hmmm, what about those who head down instead of up? Non-refundable I suppose.

***** ****** ******** ************

Google statistics show top word searchers per country. Germany, Austria seem to have a thing for one A. Hitler, although the word Nazi was mostly sought out by folks in Latin America and the UK. For us Pinoys, our top three words? Terrorism, Love, Homosexuality.

***** ****** ******** ************

Am in a middle of a schizo reading month, juggling 6 books. The two that I look forward to opening each day though is Fluke by Christopher Moore and a mystery series by Phillip Pullman (he of the Amber Spyglass, Golden Compass trilogy). Fluke (subtitle: I know why the winged whale sings) is best described as a slightly off kilter fantasy/science nerd book about whales and the people who study them. It starts off well enough about the marine biologists who spend all their lives studying the singers - humpback whales who sing whale songs, then turns into semi-espionage thriller of dastardly deeds done to the researchers (with more than a strong splash of anti-military rhetoric) before turning into some form of fantasy where whales are part of a reversed Darwin experiment. Who pray. The prose is constantly cheeky, and the characters are lovable. Plus we want the whales to kick those stupid navy guys' butts. A day or two ago, I came across an article about how military installed sonar booms across the Pacific are the reason why certain whales may be beaching themselves and dying. HA! Truth in science and fiction.

Am starting the Pullman series backwards, accidentally beginning with the 4th in the series. Which is sort of dandy, since the story is individual and distinct, and cannot really be argued in favor of the phrase "suitable for kids". Actually, Pullman writes for an older audience, definitely one more mature, but he gets categorized in the kiddie section because his publishers probably have nothing better to do. Whatever. Go look for his Sally Lockhart series. And if you read The Tin Princess, expect intrigue, espionage, murder, war, heroism.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Thrilla in the camalig

As I mentioned in the previous post, friends and I had lunch at a renovated camalig or granary in Angeles. The strong downpour forced us to stay inside, we sat by the window watching the rain, munching on our pizza. We were the only customers there for an hour, and our only companions were the waiter, the cashier, and the cook in the back. But we were regaled by the radio broadcast of the Pacquiao-Barrera fight. Round after round, we listened to what was happening over in Vegas, while we joined the rest of the country to listen or watch the show.

Listening to a sports event made me feel very relaxed. Yes, it was man vs man, fight to the finish, blood, gore, sweat, tears, and a lot of pain for both gladiators. Thousands of miles away, two guys and a lady sit listening to the broadcaster narrating the play by play action, watching the rain cool the earth, sitting in a stone and wood hall, the fans overhead circulating the rain cooled air. If I were watching it, I think I'd have been turned off by the sight of what they were doing, but having the experience second hand, through the voice of the sportscaster, I could imagine the ballet of the fight.

When he won, we raised our milkshakes (well, E raised his fork) to him. Cheers!

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Friends who like to munch, A and E, said let's go north young people, so north we headed. With a goal of Pampanga tripping on our minds, we spent a few hours cruising around Angeles where I guided the two through some previous finds: Susie's and Rosings, Everybody's Cafe, and the halo-halo triangle near Nepo Mart. Between the three of us we tried and bought:

12 boxes of candies from Rosings (caramels, nougats, chews, and assorted sweet goodies)
2 morcons
3 packs of chicharon
1 mochi with gata sauce
1 carabao milk custard
4 packs of puto (ube and regular)
a large bag of bread-y goods from Perfect Loaf (cinnamon bread, ensaimadas, mamon, cheese rolls, ube muffin)
Sticky duman bibingka (a very uncommon kakanin that I immediately ordered to taste since it shows up only when there's a harvest of the special rice)

We had also gone north to try an Angeles tradition, the pizza at Armando's. A told me that the restaurant was in a "camalig", or granary, which has been in the Nepomuceno family since 1840. We enjoyed poking around the restaurant, there was a lot of old pieces still stored under the main dining hall, and there's a certain comfort eating inside a place that's solid and built to last. However, the pizza was made for a Pinoy sensibility; think 3A, Magoos. Yup, a cardboard like crust, with a sweet sauce and processed cheese. I doused each slice with hot sauce.

Back in Manila, we walked around the Cubao Shoe Expo (or Marikina Shoe Expo located in Cubao. A bit confusing, but most Manila based people know what it means); A fell in love with a small painting we spotted in White Box, an art gallery chockful of new artists' works. We also met the owners of a new cafe offering healthy salads and cupcakes, Halo. The three ladies there were enthusiastic and full of vim. But they'll need more than that to keep this place afloat. A couple of places we had hoped to visit, a furniture design shop, and an art gallery that sold collectibles, were kaput in less than a year. Vintage Pop, a fun place to poke around had a sign that said "open upon request"; the rain didn't help to keep our spirits up. It would be nice to see the shops make it, but they depend on regular custom.

And at the end of the day, tired friends seek something simple, hot, and comforting while the rain pours down. Soup.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


The good people of Aldo have decided that Manila is a good place to open a store. What is Aldo and why do I mention them here?

My story starts in 2001, a trip to the US brought me to DC for work. On a free afternoon walking around Georgetown, I see this store with interesting shoes. Walking in, there's an immediate European vibe, Italian style, and my shoe salivary glands (or the part of all Imeldific Manilenyas that goes thumpa thumpa) are in overdrive. I barely remember what was in vogue that long ago, but I do remember falling for two pairs - a black 3 inch pump, and a black stacked oxford. Bought them, dragged my shopping back to the hotel and drooled over them further (you know how women who've just bought shoes do it - we put on one or both shoes, raise our leg to an attactive height for angular inspection of the shoe, preferably in front of a mirror so we see how Mahvellous! the shod foot looks. A good hour of that is typical after a successful shoe shopping trip.).

Part of the work schedule also included a night out sponsored by the Turkish embassy, and we all trooped down to embassy row in our finery. I had to use the new heels, and it was the perfect look for a night of schmoozing. However, it soon spiralled into a painful evening, as I can only do one hour of standing in heels before my feet begin to scream for relief. The setting for the cocktails didn't include any place to sit for over 4 hours and I barely made it to the taxis back that night. It was awhile before I used those shoes again, but they still have a place in my shoe collection.

The oxfords were far more abused. I walked miles in them and would love to get another pair if Aldo still carries something similar to it. They had a masculine facet, but were very polished for a work shoe. After 5 years of use, I decided it was time to let it go.

Aldo has opened a branch in the Bonifacio High Street, Fort Bonifacio. My nightly prayer will be that they carry my size.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Cheese notes

Cheese club, Manila Polo Club. October 3, 2007.

Theme: Austrian cheeses

Highlights: Wurzige Heidi (a peppery soft cheese), the Milder Intaller (a creamy piquant "well balanced" cheese - went well with the red grapes), and a grainier hard cheese reminiscent of Gruyere and Grana Padano (whose label was unfortunately missing, so we guessed it was the Vornalsberg c/o mini-flags stuck to a couple of the chunks). Most of the cheeses I tried were labeled as raw milk cheeses (bio-kase).

Low points: a lot of bland flavors ("nutty, semi-hard cheeses, no zing"), and nothing that made me say Wow. No raclette cheeses left early in the event, and the initial invitation stated availability of Tyrolean hams which also disappeared a bit too fast. All that was left was overly chewy speck. I had been hoping for some stinky farm cheeses, but perhaps customs tossed them from the shipment. The main lounge of polo club must stink of cheese for days after the club meetings.

Wines sipped: an Austrian Reisling (fruity at the start, dryer at the end; hard to find in most local wine purveyors), a Chilean Carmenera (Sta. Rita Reserva) - berries, not too tannic, good drinkable wine.

Complete the statement: Austrian cheeses are like a pair of knitted socks on a rainy day.

If you were one of the Austrian cheeses on offer tonight, you would be: the "heidi" - a soft raw milk cheese with a crust of crushed pink and green peppercorns.

Overheard at the cheese club: "This cheese is flavorless! And read the sign - strong aromatic taste yet mild flavor. What an oxymoron!"

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Sometime this weekend I read about a documentary film being worked on in the US about music and life in the big city. Over 80 regular joe's and jane's are going around town being filmed singing songs from Broadway musicals or jazz pieces in public areas like the subway, or around a park, or walking down the street. I am fuzzy on what the raison d'etre of this film is, but what it's turned out to be is not just a delivery on people singing in public, but how the public reacts to overt musical activity. For the most part, most people seem to be ignoring the activity. And the singers are asked how they feel before and after their performance. Most mentioned that it was awkward to sing in a "anonymous" public venue, and they felt conscious at the beginning. But it was the non-reaction of the rest of the people around them that made them feel worse. Is it perhaps the choice of music? Or is it the cold-hearted nature of urban living that puts a barrier between singer and the prospective audience?

This morning, while walking through a large business complex in Makati, I crossed paths with people who looked like they had gotten off their call center shift. And one of them burst into song (from a recently reviewed Broadway musical shown last month). Somehow in Manila, where police dance while working, or janitors sing to keep themselves from the doldrums, or secretaries sing along at work, it doesn't seem out of place. The fellow singing his ditty this morning wasn't strange. And he put a smile on this urban dweller's face.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday notes

Dodging rain bullets outside (typhoon Hannah is in our vicinity, but she will not hit Manila directly); rainy mornings are soporific. Barely made it out this morning, not that it was that encouraging for any outdoor activity, but the bills have to be paid and promises kept.

Back at home, I clean up my feline companion's litter box and find the backyard full of pots filled to the brim with water. Dengue Alert! I spend the next 30 minutes draining every potential mosquito condo development and make sure the drain spout is clear of obstruction. It's a good idea to check on this more than once a month since mozzies aren't picky about where to lay their eggs.

I tuck into a sandwich, coldcuts and cheese. Tasted the beef sausage from Mickey's, a new deli. You can tell that they make their sausages by hand, based on the uneven sizes of the sausages. The taste is a bit overly salty, but paired with pickles and vegetables, a decent late lunch.

For dinner, I decide to make or toss together a sesame noodle dish. For more precise instructions, there are tons of recipes online, but I'm doing what I do best: check what I've been keeping in my refrigerator and cupboard, see if I can make something out of something (honestly, where does the line make something out of nothing even make sense?). I find a questionable sesame vinaigrette that's been in the ref for sometime (sniffed it and found it to be in good shape). A couple of plugs from that in a mixing bowl, a tablespoon of chunky peanut butter, a glug of soy sauce, several shakes of indonesian chilli sauce, take a taste, find some white vinegar for additional texture, and pour over reconstituted noodles (ramen do fine, but if you have canton noodles, or linguine, or chinese egg noodles, actually any noodle that is long/stringy does the trick). Ah wait! I find a bottle of minced ginger, toss half a teaspoon in. Mix. Taste. Freshly grated black pepper. Good cold or hot, but no matter. It's perfect for a quiet night. Me, my noodles, and a book.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Final frontier

Take one salmonella bacteria, dress it in blue body suit, red briefs, and paste a big S on it's chest, don't forget the cape! Look! Up in the atmosphere! It's a chicken, no it's an egg, no it's SuperBug!

Scientists tested what happens when you take bacteria, salmonella to be exact, up into space, give it something to chew on, then bring it home and test it's virulence on lab mice. The result: the mice infected with space raider salmonella got sicker, faster, and deadlier than mice infected with earthborne bugs. Ay caramba, Mickey Mouse and Minney got sick!

So now what? Whither man goeth, so doth the bugth. If we dream of eventually colonizing Pluto, or whatever took it's place in the line of planets, we're sure to bring along our dregs. And I'm not talking certain politicos, but basic one or two cell organisms that love to break us down to our mortal coils. Just like Captain Cook brought forth the destruction of the dodo bird, when we head up and outward, we're likely to expand the nature and power of our wonderfully symbiotic bugs and viruses.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

First of many

The New York Times first food review was published on New Year's Day 1859, with a byline "Strong-minded Reporter of the times" - anonymous food critics at the very start. I found the long essay to be a great insight into NYC life then, plus wonderfully humorous, rather Wodehousian in tone. The pathway for Craig Claiborne, Ruth Reichl, and Frank Bruni, et al was born.


A week's gone by. What have I to show for it?

A "Tuscan" dinner with friends last Wednesday. The food was decent but not outstanding, the wine seemed to taste all the same except for the sparkling rose, but strangest bit of all was the lack of presentation of the sponsor's discussion points. They spent time setting up a lcd/computer, and a large screen, but I doubt anyone in our side of the room paid any mind to it. Why didn't the sponsor keep us in the alcove where we had been sipping the spritzers and munching on salty nuts and talk to us there? Why did they think that it was better to "plug" their products while no one was listening? Marketer's head on a plate I say.

Long business meetings that last 3 hours or more do not make sense. Especially when the agenda talking points look suspiciously like the ones at the last meeting a month back.

Roasted chestnuts, shelled, packed in little bags of 100g each look like a great convenience, a healthy option. But when they turn out to be the source of 3 hours of toilet time, it's time to find another option. I missed out on a lunch for a friend (a lunch I ORGANIZED for her); but no way was I going to survive a trek outdoors in that condition. I am blessed to have friends who care enough to drop off a six-pack of Gatorade for a dying friend (hehehe, teensy exag).

Speaking of friendship, there are friends who you can count on to nourish you, and there are reasons to cut certain friends out of one's life. When someone disrespects you, why keep them around? I'm too old to be paying court to everyone, pick and choose those who make one's day a joy, not a stressful mess. Faretheewell.

Tsinelas, flipflops. I have two pairs for the house. One I've used for shuffling around the house and for use in the bathroom, the other I got as backup. Yesterday, at the US embassy fair, I found myself another pair. Didn't plan to buy one. And it's definitely an inessential purchase. For P100.00 (or $2.20), I bought a pair of black tsinelas with a cute row of sequins and beads along the strap. Why would I need to pay hundreds of pesos more for brandname rubber slippers when inexpensive alternatives exist? Would have been even more sense, money-wise, if I had trekked down to Quiapo, where I could probably find 3 or 4 tsinelas for the price I paid yesterday. But they served their purpose. I had been walking the bazaar hall for two hours, my footsies hurt, and changing to the cutely embellished flipflops kept me going for another 2 hours of shopping. Priceless.

Oh and I bought a rattan chair.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Apocalypse tomorrow

The World Without Us by Alen Weisman looks at what will happen if humans die out. Think homo sapiens on the extinct list. Without us, as the book describes in great detail, nature regains control, and Mr. Weisman plots out who wins supremacy or survives. If you believe that in the event of a nuclear war the only creature that would make it out of the bomb shelter are roaches, well. read on and take a new perspective of our synergistic relationship with la cucaracha. You might feel sorry for squishing one the next time ... probably not.

What saddened me, but was understandable, was that our domestic animals with the exception of cats, would turn into prey for larger, more instinctive predators that don't expect a handout from a canned or boxed food item. All those crazy dog coats and boots? Ditch 'em! Teach your dog how to live in the wild!!! Give them survival training! Stop coloring their hair pink, silly billies.

On the website related to the book , you can also watch the eventual timeline of what happens to a city or to one's house after it's no longer being kept up. I found it a bit odd that it takes 40 years for mushrooms and fungi to start growing back in profusion, maybe because in the rainy season, it doesn't take long for those tiny white caps to sprout on the root of my front yard tree. And at the 400th year, when the house has collapsed back into the fold, they could have added a bit more foliage. Still looked a bit too urban for my taste.

Naturally, plastic will be around for more than a millenia or two. The microbes that will mutate to break down plastic into its basic petroleum and chemical elements need a hundred thousand years to develop and build a taste for plastic. So, cockroaches may not be the king of the world, but plastic will keep our legacy alive for any aliens who plan to land on our blue planet in 74000 AD.

Sans - wich

Does a sandwich have to be made of bread? Would you call it a sandwich if it were between waffles or pancakes? Isn't a quesadilla simply a grilled cheese sandwich (and fixings) "sandwiched" between two tortilla shells?

A query about what makes a sandwich is posted on Serious Eats today, from a post that includes a picture of a potato-ham sandwich open faced sandwich on a waffle. I guess no one bothered to send a photo and review of the pancake-sausage sandwich at Jollibee recently.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Spendthrift September. Not.

Shopping opportunities this September:

Tru is on sale at Rockwell (2nd floor, Lifestyle section). Stylish handbags, subdued, no loud brand label, and real leather. Up to 70% off.

Furnitalia at Fort Bonifacio has a 5 day furniture sale. I haven't bought furniture in years, and cannot say whether this will be worth an effort to visit.

Brother's Burger is having an anniversary sale, 50% off their pounder on September 14.

Bazaar at the Intercon this weekend, a friend suggested checking out "couture cookies", and other girly items.

NBC tent will be packed this weekend. Same old same old. But for outlet items, time to start planning the stocking stuffers for the holiday season.

Aroomatherapy at Legaspi Sunday market (every Sunday, 8 to 3 pm) has a sale on their fragrances this month. I like their vanilla mist, and the olive spritz.

The US Embassy is holding its annual (semi-annual?) fund raising bazaar at the World Trade Center on September 22, Saturday. According to a friend, there will be more vendors than previous years. Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes.

Toast, the wine festival, is holding dinners and wine tastings all through the end of September. Likewise, Sommelier Selection sent out emails about a Food and Wine Festival, which doesn't state the date, but did say "Reserve by September 30" - would someone at SS please resend with the date of the event? Merci.

Any other suggestions for spending money this month?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Crime and punishment

A perfect crime is one that is never discovered, and will never need to be solved. Robberies are hard to miss. Eventually, the item/s being salted away will be noticed or the sum of money discovered. Murder, however, may go unnoticed. Only the loss of someone's presence would lead others to ask and perhaps investigate the cause of their disappearance.

In European news, a Polish writer has been thrown in jail for murder. He was found out based on a book he wrote, which was close enough to the actual events of the murder leading the investigators to the author's door. What egotism on the writer to indulge in a crime and then profit from it by writing and selling the story.

My morbid streak is partly fed by a steady stream of mystery novels, which began in my childhood with Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and any young adult series that centered around detection and mystery (Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey twins, etc). As a twelfth birthday present, my father gave me the complete Sherlock Holmes collection, a book I still keep, albeit taped together after years or reading again and again. I've read a good number of European mystery writers' work, and a fair share of American ones. I haven't found a cache of Asian mysteries yet, and should probably do my bit for the local literary economy by trying out a pinoy detective series (do they exist?). All I want is a sound plot, dead body or two, ambience that is gothic worthy and either a plucky detective or someone who is full of angst and humanity.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


As a bookish child (and adult) my school library was my shelter, refuge, harbor. In the elementary building, we had a seperate library that contained all of Andrew Lang fairy color fairy tale books, the Black horse series by Farley, countless books on animals, stories on witches and warlocks, worlds that lived in our imagination.

When I moved up to Middle School and High School, we were introduced to the larger library, a two story level repository, where I soon found more wonderful stories like Desiree, Beauty (by R. McKinley), the gothic side of Louisa May Alcott, and the books by Madeleine L'Engle. A Wrinkle in Time and the Austin series were all at one time or another borrowed, read, reborrowed, and enjoyed with happy memories. She tied in fantasy with science fiction, however they didn't seem too difficult to read or too fantastical. They were about families who loved and fought, daughter saving her dad, moms caring for the kids. Normal everyday things we do, but with added dimensions and extra-sensory powers thrown in. Ms. L'Engle was a believer in science and introduced theory of relativity to her work, but never made it overbearing in the stories. I recently found out that her books are considered contentious and controversial among many conservative societies, and A Wrinkle in Time was or may still be on the banned books list.

Ms. L'Engle died at the age of 88 last Thursday.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Music, lights, puppets!

Quick, what images come to mind when I say PUPPET? Do you see Sesame Street? Muppets? The Lonely Goatherd from Sound of Music ("those were marionettes not puppets!")? Sherri the Lamb? Candice Bergen's father and his ventriloquist act? Maybe it's time to update your mental paradigms. And if you like Broadway musicals, award winning ones at that, then it's time to head to the Carlos P. Romulo Theater at the RCBC Plaza in Makati for the latest Atlantis Productions performance of AVENUE Q!

The plot of Avenue Q is spotted with the urban grittiness of Big Apple living. However, many of the themes are downright hometime hokey: it’s a boy who loves a girl, she loves him, but he’s trying to find purpose in life (what a schmuck). There’s a boy who loves his roommate, but can’t tell him, so ends up throwing him out of the apartment. There’s a monster who knows the basic truths in life (sex and money), but is misunderstood. And there’s Gary Coleman.

The show and the music are an experience and one doesn’t want to spoil any of the plotlines. So let’s share some highlights: look out for the wonderful performances that make you pause and think "am I reacting to the puppet or the actor?", the darn good singing from most of the cast (a few weak links won’t spoil the broth except for the overly picky), moments of feeling transported back to childhood/young adulthood/actually most of life’s roller coaster moments throughout the show, and laughter that won't stop till that last encore. With a few exceptions, the songs are going to at least make you smile (come on, let me see those corners of the lips lift a bit); hopefully the more sensitive and easily offended stay away. This is not for the prissy and prim. It’s on the poster – full frontal puppet nudity. But there’s also raunchy lyrics, profanity, and well, promiscuity. Plus dangerous monetary behavior that nearly beheads someone (how Shakespearean!).

Keep an eye out for small moments: the playbill that Gary Coleman is looking through, references to classic movie moments, the digs against establishment and Tom Cruise.

Bravo to the cast, I loved Rachel Alejandro and Joel Trinidad’s double trouble efforts. I loved the pastel neon zaftig of Frenchie Dy's cake of a wedding dress; it reminded me of an over the top event I attended as a child. And I want a mini Trekkie Monster!

Go watch a musical today!

(Avenue Q is on a limited run of 12 shows from September 7 to 23, at the RCBC Plaza's Carlos P. Romulo Theater, Makati. Bobbie Garcia and Chari Arespacochaga codirect for Atlantis Productions.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Plane pants

Project Runway's Tim Gunn says that what turns him on is a good pair of jeans that make you look long and lean, and none of those cuts, rips, holes. Dark washes. I agree, I just can't find jeans that fit a smaller waist to a larger hip/butt ratio. Deep sigh.

What this article reminded me of was a recent trip to Zamboanga. At the airport, while waiting for the plane, my friend E noticed a woman walking around the airport with a rather odd looking rip to her rather torn up pair of jeans. They were pretty tight, skin tight, and she had a couple of rips on the thigh, while on the back, she had more rips and cuts down the leg. What made us both look twice was a hole that we thought we had mistaken for a patch, but turned out to be a hole, right on her right butt cheek.

We couldn't imagine sitting in a public place, much less an airplane, wearing pants that showed the world that you are either wearing no panties or a thong. Somehow, I just want those parts protected.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies