Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Last full show

Does one scream at a concert? Indeed. What about a concert that is filmed then screened on a maxxed out movie screen? Perhaps not.
Food friends C and CJ have called out to those of us who haven't gone to see the U2 concert on IMAX yet, and without much mulling over, I said yes. I've been a U2 fan since the 80's, I love the Edge, and want to see them live in concert one day. But this movie will have to do for now. If only I don't end up being the only one who screams "I love you Edge (Mr. Edge? hehehe)!!!" AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sticky wicket

After dodging two days of rain, and attending a sad passing this morning, it's good to know there's silliness in the world. The diet Coke-mentos experiments are now on a global scale, with over 1500 students in Belgium breaking a record. Whee!

Friday, April 25, 2008


I'm praying for sun. The school has an afternoon to early evening activity with all our students, parents, faculty, staff, and board members. We've been planning this for two months, all the preparations are on hand, we have little huts set up around the field to provide food, a stage for the band and performances, but as I look up into the sky, it's grey, gloomy and looks like rain. Why oh why in the middle of summer, are we having to worry about rain? Yes, I've heard of La Nina, Yes, global warming too. But why today? Rain god head back home, herd your clouds back into their stables. Sun, come out of hiding.

5:00 pm update: it poured buckets from the sky for an hour, turning the field into a sodden mess. Sigh. Good thing for back up plans and manpower. We've managed to move the food and most of the tables indoors and the event will push through, albeit a bit cramper than planned.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Grocery log

A few things I've bought, tasted, and liked the last two weeks:
1. Toasted and flavored nori snacks: available in Unimart for P50 a bag. Three flavors - original, bbq, and spicy. I downed a bag of the original, and wished I had a bowl of steamed rice to go with it, and a cup of dark green tea.
2. Ice cream cone from Sango, brand name Giant. P75 each. What I liked the most about it is the non-waxy texture of the chocolate coating, and how the ice cream is piped in to fill a cone all the way to the itty bitty end.
3. Bottle Thai iced tea at S&R, approximately P100 each. I stuck a bottle in the freezer to see if I could get it into a frozen slushy consistency that I like when I'm in Bangkok. No go. Probably some stabilizer in the mix that stops it from freezing. But it wasn't horribly sweet, as it uses cane sugar and not high fructose corn syrup. On the pricey side; homemade thai iced tea is pretty cheap.


For duhat lovers out there, it's summer, the trees are laden, plopping down their dark purple nuggets. Dinner at my parents last night and managed to win a bowl of lightly salted and chilled duhats from my dad. He gave me a look after I finished the last duhat, sorry dad.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The weekend: stewed tomatoes, crying baby, and five shrimp

I took part in a tomato buying group with three others last week, and each of us got 2.5 kilos of tomatoes for only P50. Sweet. Lugging the kilos home, I looked at them and wondered - salsa? tomato jelly? spaghetti sauce for the month? salsa???? I gave a good lot away to my mother who will be able to eat most of her share in salads and healthy foods that she needs to ingest. And the rest, I prettified them by arranging the unripened fruit in a nice white ceramic bowl for a day. A table display. Not salsa.
The next day, starting to worry that the tomatoes would turn into their own salsa without any help from me, I decided to lop off their stems and put them into the slow cooker. I initially thought I'd make pasta sauce, but as I looked at them sllllooooowly heating up (crockpots are the worst for those of us obsessed with watching the pot boil), I figured I'd just douse the tommies with olive oil, some salt and dried herbs. Then I went to see a friend and her baby. 6 hours later, I came home to the smell of Italy. Hahahaha, well, olive oil and herbs and stewed tomatoes. For lo! I had stewed a kilo of tomatoes! Have I eaten them yet? No. But I have plans for my stewed tomatoes and I will get to that later in the week.
My friend R now has two kids, the latest is close to 4 months old and looks a lot like his brother. Mini-Sam the baby is. And he didn't want to be held by anyone but his mama. We did get some photos of him in a kiddie pool, no diaper, dabbling in the water with his older brother. But when his mom needed to eat dinner, he was ferociously unwilling to sleep. According to R, he's less fussy than his bro, but she was sorry he wouldn't deign to let me carry him without bawling. I did manage to hold him for about ten minutes when he had drifted off a bit, but I also had to head home, since Alabang is way far and my bedtime was fast approaching.
As scheduled, friend A and J met me for our Sunday painting session. Rather, the three of us yakked away for a couple of hours about J's recent family trip to Tokyo (Disneyland! and a day in slushy snow!), and all the family turmoil we've had since our last painting session a few years back. Then J's hubby called up and said he was on his way, so it was not as productive a painting session as we had hoped. To salvage what time was left, I ground up some ink, and dabbled on some paper, practicing or at least attempting to figure out the strokes for the shape of what I thought were lobsters, only to find out the painting I was looking at was entitled 6 Shrimps. Oh well. So I ended up with five shrimp, since four is a no-no number in chinese culture. And A said to place my chop and it would be ready for display. Heck no. This was practice. And I need more time to get used to my brushes again. Poor A. After a couple of years of storage, he opened his brush mats to find most of his brushes eaten up by some brush eating insect. Freaky! At least he's heading to China with the family next week and can shop for stuff galore.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Eminent feeding

What do you feed a President, a King, an Emperor or the Pope? What don't you give them when they're dropping by? In online news today, it's been noted that the Pope doesn't really need any more veal sausages of Bavarian issue. I'm sure he doesn't get that homesick for it, and must be easy enough to call up his local deli for a taste when he's back at HQ.

Recently, I had a family dinner at a local restaurant that served the last Pope that visited the Philippines. They kept the silverware and platters and had it displayed near the front door. Photos of the meal adorned the sides, and a small plaque noting the date of the auspicious event. Off-hand, I wondered aloud with my sister why they washed the dishes and utensils after. Wouldn't it be even more interesting to see the fingerprint of the pope on the wine glass?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Potatoe, potatoh

Rice shortages, hoarding, cost of transporting to the market (due to the skyrocketing oil prices), and now increasing wheat prices are constantly in the news and make for sobering thoughts. People speak of how difficult it is in the provinces, lining up for rice that is barely edible, stretching out their budgets to feed the children on gruel.

For consideration then - how about the potato? Scourge of the anti-carbohydrate era, and linked to the image of hungry Irish potato farmers during the blight, it's relatively price steady, a good source of both carbs and protein, just add the fat. Don't forget that it's also got vitamins.

It can be boiled, broiled, baked, fried, sauteed, mashed, hashed, matted, stewed, and even makes for tasty bread. Get yourself a spud today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MyPersonality.info Badge

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Note: I took a couple of days before I read the INFP profile, and while it hits the mark on several levels I wondered about the ff: they list people who are historically in the mold of the INFP/Dreamer. They've got folks like Audrey Hepburn, John F. Kennedy Jr., Peter Jackson, etc. Perhaps these folks took the Myers Briggs at one time. But what about the inclusion of John the disciple and Virgil the poet? How can they add them to the list other than basing it on the little we have of their works??? My eyebrows raised in doubt. Or perhaps that's part of my personality trait. In the list of fictional characters who fit the INFP list, I particularly enjoyed seeing Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) and Fox Mulder in the list. No wonder I like those two series so much!

Monday, April 14, 2008

A food post

In the two week visit of R, we ate at some new places, and revisited other places along the way, plus he cooked for an estimated 130 people. He wanted as much pinoy food as possible, with a quest for beef tapa and fishballs and halohalo. We were waylaid by a stomach bug the last week (it hit me first, then he picked it up a couple of days later), but it didn't stop us from making inroads into our food list.

The day he arrived, I dragged him to the Lung Center Market along Quezon Avenue on Sunday for a breakfast of bibingka and puto bumbong, with a side of pork bbq. We walked around the market looking for lunch options and fruit, picking up super spicy bicol express, a fresh lumpiang ubod, pancit lucban and mangoes. A sprig of camellia blossoms for luck. The market is a much larger spectacle than its Makati cousins (Salcedo and Legaspi Village markets), but parking is difficult after 8 am, and it gets searingly hot and humid after the first blush of the morning. I prefer getting there early, buying gulay or fruits, and stopping by some of the prepared food vendors for regional pinoy cuisine. He nearly picked up a large wooden cutting board and a musical wooden frog :)

We also went out to Angel's Kitchen in Greenhills (along Connecticut) for Sunday dinner. The place has become increasingly popular, and not knowing how packed it gets on a Sunday night, we were lucky to snag a table for two next to the dessert display. They are famous for the lechon kawali and pinakbet rice combination plate and naturally we had to have it along with a salad and fish dish. That night, there wasn't as much punch in the pinakbet, but the dish was still homey and comfortable, with a thick slab of porky lechon kawali to offset the vegetables of the pinakbet. I ordered the dory with asparagus and nori, which had a heavy dousing of black pepper, and redolent with sesame oil. We gave up dessert in lieu of a soothing pot of genmaicha pop - the green tea mixed with popped rice. It's light on the tongue, fragrant, and clears the palate.

Monday, the day we visited Ocean Park, I brought R to Chinatown, looking for a small noodle house on Benavidez. Lamien, or handpulled noodles, are a basic comfort food, propagated by the Uighur minorities in Northwest China. Where you find the Uighur you find darn good lamien noodles all over China. I have good memories of the two little noodle diners near the university where I studied mandarin and when I read of a lamien place in Binondo, my heart leaped! So R had no choice but to give into my need for hot noodle soup. We ordered one lamien soup, with beef, and one dao shao mien or knife cut noodle soup, plus a plate of steamed dumplings. For P200 we were stuffed, and I was happy. The owner makes the noodles herself, thumping the dough on the prep table in front, thump thump THUMP, and from a lump of flour and water, it stretches, ever so violently, into noodles. It's magic. Her cheeks are rosy from the daily exertion, but she has a twinkle in her eye when she sees you smiling at her aerobic cooking. She is also in charge of cutting the noodles for the dao shao mien, her knife skills dangerously fast against the mound of dough she prepares against the boiling stock. Each of the tables is laden with a big bowl of freshly chopped green onions and coriander, plus individual containers of soy sauce, black pepper and hot chilli oil. When you get your orders, add to season as you wish. I like mine extra spicy.

The next three days we spent in the province was lazy with provincial calm. We arrived early morning on Tuesday, toddled off to the market to buy some chicken and other bits, and spent the rest of the day cooking for the visitors attending the first night's procession. Since the Tuesday before Easter isn't a major holiday, the procession is relatively smaller, and the hordes less in number too. R cooked chicken wings with a garlic soy sauce glaze. Along with the meals prepared by the other members of the household, they fed over 30 folks that night, not much leftovers to worry about! Feedback from the garden where people were digging in for the meal was that the chicken was a hit, and R will have to do it again next year. On Maundy Thursday, we got to the market too late to buy beef, so we ended with 10 kilos of pork to grill that night. The procession was going to be much larger than Tuesdays, and we were warned that at least 100 people would show up after they marched through back to church. The miki had been prepared in advance, and calderos of vegetable stew had been simmering, not to mention a really large pot of rice. R was also thinking of a way to provide something sweet for the attendees and after some price haggling, collared an ice cream vendor to give us full use of his ice cream cart for the day. We had two hundred cones, two 10-gallon tubs of ice cream, and the cart! After marinating the pork for several hours in a garlicky dunk, R grilled the meat, then we chopped them into easy bite size slices, enough to fill two bandehados. R's aunt, ie Sorbetera, took up the post of scooping the ice cream for the little ones lining up for a treat, and we had great shots of happy kids eating as much ice cream as they wanted.

By the time we flew to Dumaguete, both of us had been hit by stomach flu bugs. Needless to say, food was downgraded to safe edibles like crackers, soup, noodles, and gatorade. But we hadn't found R's must-eats yet, so once he felt better, we tried a couple of places in the city for beef tapa, tapsilog to be exact. One restaurant had tender beef but the sauce was sooooo salty. It was like a beef salt lick. The other place had somewhat chewy beef with a decent flavor. The last beef tapa he tried was at Antulang, where it was a decent plate but didn't stand out. The quest continues.

The Dumaguete boardwalk has a spot dedicated to vendors of squid balls and "tempura" - mashed up shrimp and flour thinly molded into skewers and deep fried. Returning from a day trip, we walked from the ferry to the sidewalk vendors and chose a spot that was relatively busy, assuming that the higher turnover of customers would relieve us from worrying about hepatitis. Or not. But risks have to be taken in life. And for less than P100 we had ten sticks of squid balls and tempura, two softdrinks and a view of the sea at dusk. One can contemplate on a lot of philosophical issues with a tummy full of floury fishy stuff and a coke while basking in the cooler night air.

For the last quest, halohalo was one of the first meals we had, stopping by Via Mare on a sultry afternoon for a tall glass. Sadly, I remember the VM halohalo being much chunkier before. Lately, it's lost some of the stuffing and added more chunky ice. We had a strawberry ice cream and cereal halo halo in Dumaguete, which contradicted R's convictions of ube ice cream and pinipig. Progress? It was still a decent halo halo in flavor if not in ingredients. I know there was another halo halo stop before we got back, but I can't recall where and whether it was any good. During a dinner with my family, R's tummy had already been hit by the bug, and he was forced to watch my dad gobble up a tall glass of halo halo; sheer torture!

The last dinner on his trip was homemade. We tossed together a sausage ragu and pasta dish, alongside the chickpea salad I posted before; R made garlic bread, while I waited for the other garlic bulbs in the roasting pan to caramelize. Were there any vampires in my neighborhood, they'd have shrivelled up into dust by all the garlic we were consuming that night. To kill a bit of the hearty savory taste, we took a short walk to the Magnolia ice cream parlor around the block for sundaes and parfaits. Childhood memories reminiscing ice cream and summer, what a great combination. And thus was his two week trip completed.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A touchy subject

Mary Roach wrote a book about death, cadavers to be specific and how different historical and scientific er activities revolve around the use of our bodies after we die. Read it, it's a hoot! Or maybe I'm really just a morbid person. But honestly, I haven't read something that interesting in awhile.

Now, I hear that she's tackling another subject. To avoid being filtered by the web-nannies, let's just say that Bonk is all about a basic need. From the review I read and Ms. Roach's interview, I am looking forward to reading all about her research and some of the historical approaches to learning the physiognomy of this aspect of life. She writes in a very accessible manner, sometimes approaching overly facetious, but never disrespectful of the topic.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Moses laid to rest

How many times have you seen The Ten Commandments? I can't count the number of times it was shown in the movie houses or on tv when I was younger. During Easter, there were very few options available, so it was either The Ten Commandments, the Robe, another movie about Moses, and a couple of biblical movies. I don't remember Ben Hur being shown that often, but my mother let us watch it once since she figured Charleston Heston was Moses in the other film so BH must be good viewing. Or so I thought.

Then she started introducing his other movies - El Cid (Sophia Loren vavavoom!), Planet of the Apes, Agony and the Ecstasy, and then probably the movie that made me turn from CH - Soylent Green. What cheese. Or maybe in this world of GMO, what amazing foresight!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Step back - travels in two weeks

Last year, R and I took our first trips around the Philippines together. On his recent return, we retraced a couple of trips, spending a bit more time in two spots; taken several mediums of travel (plane, bus, ferry, car, train, and motorbike under our belts); plus a few more sights to look forward to. We also changed the route around this time, starting with the northernmost, heading a bit south before going further south to Central Visayas.

As we had a couple of days before our holiday trek up north, we spent a day in Manila and Chinatown, going to the newly opened Ocean Park, and seeking out a "lamien" - northern noodle soup restaurant. I'll have more about some of the meals we had in another post, otherwise I'll muddle myself up, and go round and round the topics. Wouldn't want that, I tell you. I had some reservations about the Ocean Park, but figured who best to see a big aquarium with than with R, who is in the business of marine creatures? I had been warned that the lines at the entrance were LONG, but maybe everyone was flaking off that morning as we got in with minimal fuss. The first few tanks were a bit puzzling. River fish, Amazonian fish, fish and plants that don't really have anything to do with "oceans" but I guess we have to show diversity and accessibility. We moved onwards to the small tanks holding ocean creatures. Reef fish, a few samples of corals, shrimp, a large alaskan crab that looked a bit awkward in its cubby. However, we both thought it was sad that the exhibit had to resort to fake coral, and very plasticky looking fakes at that. Stuff you'd find in Bioresearch! By the time we entered the larger tunnel walk and shark tanks we were in need of something awe-inspiring (although the mandarin fish were very cool, so look out for them).

The walk under the tunnel was fun, and watching the diver mobbed during feeding is always a blast - partly because you don't see that kind of interaction in dives in the wild. The rays and the one leopard shark give the kids a thrill, not to mention the larger shark holding tank full of black and white tip reef sharks. I loved the large tank with the three or four large puffers, the zebra puffer had lovely patterns. Then you face a rather confusing exit link back down, through construction as the hotel and the rest of the edifice has a lot left before completion. There are a few more restaurants they plan to add and a small hotel (fish beddings? a goldfish by the bedside?) on the upper stories. I say give the place a few more months before deciding whether it's worth the ticket price (P400 for adults). But for days or weeks when you can't get out to the ocean, this is one option for families over the summer.

Up north, we spent time at R's family ancestral home to attend and take part in the religious ceremonies and processions through the first few days of Holy Week. This is the same house that his relatives had told me was haunted, and even R told me about the footsteps heard around the kitchen late at night. Still no ghostly sightings, even after three nights and days. I am so not sensitive to uncorporeal revelations. Oh well.

We watched two processions, the Tuesday and Maundy Thursday marches. We spent the time before the processions watching and photographing the preparation of the 'santos', the large religious statues and dioramas; R's family has had the Mary Magdalene santa in their family for generations. She was dressed differently for each procession - a gold and silver dress on Tuesday, a dark green cape on Thursday. We were told she'd be in black on Friday or Saturday, then in full color on Sunday. The Tuesday procession only had about 8 santos, while the Thursday procession had at least 13. A lot more people too, which meant feeding a lot more too! But it's that kind of purpose that whips people into attending the gatherings. The kids, the babies, their parents and grandparents, all support the march through the streets. They build the rest stops, called abong-abong, imagine if you will, large scale diaromas depicting religious themes, decorated with local fruits and vegies or just plain vegetation. On Thursday night we walked around to view as many of the abong abongs as we could, everyone else was jammed into cars cruising around the stops taking photos. We may have been the only ones using our own ambulatory power.

After spending Easter in Anilao, Batangas, we headed south to Dumaguete, city of smiles (did you know that was the tag line? I want to go to the city of grumpy people next!). There was work to get done, but we fit in a day trip to Siquijor. I'm thrilled that I can add one new province to my list. And Siquijor has such an interesting reputation, a mystical land full of faith healers, mystics, witches, warlocks. Magical! We rented a motorbike and toured the western part of the island from Siquijor City to Lazi where the old cathedral and convent host a small religious museum. Massive stone pillars keep the building stable, and the floor planks hark back to the days when we had narra trees and molave trees. Forests, people!

Trying to find our way back through the central road, we ended up lost in the middle of the island, high enough to see that we had to head towards one side of the island. Twas a good thing we found our tracks back to Lazi and rushed back to Siquijor city in time to catch the 4:30 ferry. We lost a cap along the main road, and our arms and faces were tanned by the sun.

The last few days in Negros Oriental, we followed the recommendation to try out Antulang, which is supposedly at the very tip of the island. Go look at a map of Negros island (yup, go now and find one), see how it looks like a boot? Now look at the tip where the toes would be and that tip that sticks out into the sea is where Antulang resides. With some luck, you could actually wake up to a sunrise and gaze at a sunset, except our rooms didn't have much luck in the latter. We did have a gorgeous view of the vast waters with a shadow of Mindanao peeping above the horizon. Every hour a pair of fishing bangkas would troll the waters for fish, their nets cast between the two, which must mean there's a vast horde of fishies in those waters offshore. We strolled along the limestone and coral fossil cliffs, along walkways that spoke Gothic novel to me, trying to find any large schools of fish in the strong waves below. Except for some surgeon fish that fought for the bits of bread we threw in, we didn't see much of marine life.

I would definitely cast my vote for another trip to Siquijor, but I dearly want to bring R to Mindanao next. Hopefully his plans pan out and we can do so soon.

Next up - cooking and tasting!

Faces of death

Reading up on blog posts on backlog, I came across this link through Dooce. The reaction that made her open up the comments section made me shake my head, but I can understand why people have such a visceral reaction to the dead, so before checking the link, be prepared to be faced with photos of the dead. The photographers have created a beautiful portrait series, I didn't find myself dismayed that the photos were taken or are on display. There's nothing gratuitous about it.

Likewise, an article in the New Yorker about how long one lives or the eventual end of one's life based on winning the game of life ("my life is longer than yours") grates on me. I see my dad, many of his friends have died, he's survived most of them, and he reflects how sad that is to be the last man standing. He's had to attend funerals more than birthdays or anniversaries. He doesn't have his mates to play mahjong or walk around chinatown or eat a bowl of lugaw down by the estero or smoke ciggies with or plan a trip together. My mom's friends have survived more or less, but they're all in their late 70's or early 80's now and we can't stop fate.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Summer Sundays

Some years ago, I took up chinese watercolor painting at the Ayala Museum, met friends there, and with one other classmate, continued to paint on and off for another two years which led to making even more friends, but primarily for the lunches and meals we'd have and not for painting. Complicated? Sort of, but really, what it's come down to is that I haven't held a paintbrush in two years, although I've bought new paintbrushes and even perused art books in consideration of painting again.

Chinese or oriental brush painting is primarily watercolor based, painted with goat/rabbit/horse/wolf/animal hair brushes, using black ink or watercolor ink, and on rice paper. Watercolor painting is not easy. There's little room for mistakes. When you've put the ink to the paper, it's there. Hard to redo, smudge over, repaint, erase with another color. Good thing rice paper is relatively cheap, but unfortunately, not so easy to find in Manila.

After years of hibernation, my painting friends are interested in reviving the Sunday painting sessions. And I'm all for it. I have my brushes, my inks, my paper, my books, my water holders, and all the stuff I bought years ago. Now I have reason to dust them off and open up my artistic pores.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


In this list of cookbook titles, the one that spoke to me was the one about the garbanzo/s (is it singular or plural?). Last night I tossed a cup garbanzos (canned, drained), thinly sliced shallots, a crushed garlic clove, some parsley, a twist of lime juice and olive oil. I had a small head of radicchio broiling in the turbo oven for 30 minutes and when it was ready, added some slices from it to the salad. A liberal shaving of parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Great on toasted french bread, as a side to any dinner main dish, or for leftovers add to chilled noodles. Holy cow batman! 3 in one! And it took no more than 10 minutes to prepare the base salad.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies