Sunday, October 18, 2009

Islandhopper Dines at Bob's

Tritan Plaza
Paseo de Magallanes, Makati City

The Bait:
Namets-inspired sampling of Bacolod food
The Line:
"Since 1965. Serving the Negrenses with Good Food For Over 40 years. "
Hook: Comfort Food
The Sinker:
Birthing blues with service not up to the first flux of wannabe-the-first-to-try diners.
The Catch:
P350 per person; exclusive of dessert

In our marriage's restaurant choosing power play, he usually says, "same old, same all-time favorite." And she says, "anything we've never tried before."

This weekend's date night brought about a happy compromise.

Bacolod's Pride, Bob's, has been in Manila for just a few weeks. But it's been satisfying the Negrense diners since 1965. It satisfies my husband's craving for the familiar; the dishes vaguely reminds us of Dayrit's comfort food. Spanking new and already attracting a wait-in-line clientele, it sates my hunger for the novel.

If you're looking for newfangled cuisine, Bob's is not the place for you. The food is no-frills, no-surprises, just-eat-it-and-enjoy, yummy in my tummy, comfy for my soul food.

This old married couple ordered the prosaic and predictable. Buffalo Wings (5 pcs for P250) with blue cheese dip. Good, but not outstanding given the metro's choices of hot wings. Bob's Chorizo Sandwich (P105) was a bit of a disappointment -- delicious chorizo filling, but too much bread for not a whole lot of meat. They need to double up the chorizo serving and give it some visual interest. It is arguably the most boring looking sandwich on the face of the earth. The Big Boy Cheeseburger (P170) compensates. It doesn't blow your taste buds away, but it pleasantly satisfies with it simple, beefy goodness.

The major disappointment was the absence of desserts. The mention of Bacolod food conjures visions of napoleones and other sweet treats. The cafe counter fridge offers only a blah display of chocolate cakes and brazos de mercedes.

The main pic above is their place mat, which shows a copy of their menu circa 1965. Nostalgic. But shows the stark contrast of today's prices, thousands of percentage over. A bit depressing.

The service was a bit sucky; repeated follow-ups necessary before food and drinks are served. But that's also because the place was packed. We're going to give it another chance though. The steak and eggs breakfast insists on being tried. Read more!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Islandhopper Dines at Purple Feet

Wine Depot, 217 Nicanor Garcia St. (formerly Reposo St.), Bel-Air,
Makati City, 8973220, 897816

The Bait:
Dining in the middle of wine heaven
The Line: "Our Wine List is Our Wine Shop"
The Hook: Green tea pannacotta
The Sinker: I'm nitpicking here, but if you pick a copy of their biz card, you see their unimaginative logo, a literal translation of "purple feet," which at best reminds you of your neighborhood spa and at worse, reminds you of er, purple feet.
The Catch: P1k-2k per person; exclusive of wine

How can this semi-alcoholic, 100%-gluttonic [my word] couple refuse an invitation to dine in a wine shop on the week that Wine Depot was having a restaurant promo around the metro?

With no signs outside, Purple Feet gives you the experience of entering a speakeasy, sans the burly bouncer and the secret password. It feels like you're in on a secret, but it's the food that is the contraband, not the alcohol. Walking in, one might take several minutes to get to the dining area with all the eye candy -- glistening, glowing bottles of wine calling out your name, tempting you to shop. But we had friends waiting for us, so we had to resist all impulse to walk the aisles.

We were pretty hungry too; this made our decision to go for the set menu easy and obvious. Check out that picture of the blackboard. Four courses, each one accompanied by a glass of wine. At P888. It's a really good deal; unfortunately tonight (October 11) is the last night for it.

The Blue Cheese Seafood Chowder is hearty, creamy, flavorful -- three adjectives tops on my gustatory vocabulary. Dig deep into the tiny soup cup to find spoonfuls of shrimp and calamari. I would have wanted more, But more dishes were to follow. The Villawolf Gewutz...gewirtz...gewurtz...uhm white wine that comes with it is sweet; tastes like champagne without the fizz. A good start.

The Atlantic Smoked Trout in Macadamia Dressing doesn't look impressive, but actually tastes good. To my untrained wine palate, the Tulloch Verdelho was just okay, but that's because I'm not really big on white wine.

For entrees, my hubbalicious chose the chicken, and I had the fish -- one of the few occasions when he was right, and I was wrong. The saving grace of my Lemon Poached Garfish with Saffrom and Olives were the fresh, raw herbs topping it, and that dollop of Indonesian catsup on the side. Other than those, the fish was the opposite of spectacular. More white wine, please.

Our host, who opted for the ala-carte menu had Duck Breast, which she made me try. It's very good -- oriental-flavored, slightly sweet, crispy skin. For that price (900+) though, you might be better off getting your duck fix in chinese tea houses, says my host. Of course, aesthetically, the warehouse, secret restaurant ambience of Purple Feet is hard to beat.

The dessert totally made up for the entree. The Green Tea Pannacotta was sublime. And the Dr. Loosen Reisling was almost ignored, if not for the fact that I'm cheap and I don't want wine to go to waste. The Vittoria Coffee is very good; dense, bitter, and strong. Great ending to a good, well-paced meal.

I would love to come back on a non-promo night. The dishes on the other blackboard look like must-tries -- that Portabello Mushroom with Foie Gras and Stilton Cheese is now officially part of my bucket list.

But what's more interesting is the option to pick out "raw ingredients" like beef, scallops, duck from the board, and then collaborate with the chef to whip up dishes to your liking. That and the green tea pannacotta are worth a return trip. I'll have red wine with my dinner next time though.

(Forgive me for the lousy pictures taken by my lousy phone cam.) Read more!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wear Joaquin

You like fashion? You also like literature? Here's something that brings those two elements together.

Freeway honors Philippine National Artists by designing clothing collections that showcase the artists' works. The first set features Nick Joaquin. It's a scrumptious, artistic collection of t-shirts, blouses, jackets, and dresses.

I love the way the text takes as much space as the imagery. And if you're ever stuck in an elevator/waiting room/queue without a book, you can read your shirt.

Freeway does not seem to have a website, but google led me to this site that shows off the collection:

Gorgeous, huh? I know you want a piece of that.

It's a bummer though that I wasn't able to buy anything. I'm way off the size chart of Philippine apparel, so I was ready to go for a bag. But there's no bag; just a tiny kikay pouch. And really, my closet will vomit the kikay pouch if I attempt to add another to the 2 million I already have. I need something I can use, sling on my shoulder, and show off so people will say, "Wow, that's Nick Joaquin." And I will beam and carry a silly grin while thinking of myself as some kind of cool, nationalistic, literate dudette with socially-relevant fashion tastes.

Oh well, maybe I will come back to their stores one of these days to try on a men's shirt.

But for you, my lithe friends, I encourage you to check this out and get yourself a limited edition. Wear Joaquin. If you have 2 navels, now is the time to show them off. Let's support Freeway as they support our artists.

Up next for the holidays is a collection paying homage to Ang Kiukok. I can't even begin to articulate how excited I am about that collection as well, and it will break my materialistic, pa-cultured heart to leave empty handed, because here finally is my chance of having a bit of Ang Kiukok without having to pawn my husband.

Freeway people, make sure you include a tote or messenger bag for the Ang Kiukok set, okay? Read more!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Often, I find myself submerged in a thick plot, lost in the pages of a good book, deeply ensconced in an armchair and swept up in other worlds, embroiled in other people's stories. But this post is not about that. This post is about submerging the book.

Yes, dipping a book in water. Uhm, yes, liquid water.

I hear gasps and the gnashing of teeth.

Warning: The pictures that follow might cause shortness of breath, activation of tear ducts, and the rapid increase/decrease of blood pressure among my obsessive-compulsive, plastic-wrapping, book-loving friends.

Be assured, however, that no books were harmed in the filming of this blog.This is my totally waterproof book. Melcher Media's The Soothing Soak is a collection of poems, essays, and short stories by Pablo Neruda, AS Byatt, Diane Ackerman among others. It is meant to be read in the bathtub. But since we don't have a tub, this book is my spa book.

I've been wanting to have a book like this. Ever since I discovered the existence of waterproof books, I've been entering steam bath and sauna rooms with a profound sense of emptiness and longing, knowing that if I had such a book, I would read in joyous peace instead of boring myself in contrived zen.

One time back in the days when I didn't have this book, I tried going to the sauna with a regular book, the type with porous paper pages. I panicked when I saw the pages crinkling into little waves. In this mega-humid country of ours, water damaged books have the potential to attract molds and destroy your whole book collection. (There's that gasping and gnashing sound again.)

Gimongous thanks to my Chicago based sister-in-law, Ate Pat, I finally have this.

One weekend, I baptized (uhm, literally?) the book at The Spa in Jupiter. I tucked the book into my little pink spa bag and brought it with me to the wet floor.

I read poetry at the steam room.I felt a bit self conscious because there were 2 other girls in the room. And maybe they were thinking I was silly bringing a book in there. Or maybe they were envious. Because they had nothing to read. While I was unabashedly reading in the steam room, instead of watching my navel or doing nothing but grappling with my body issues and trying to cover up my cellulite. I was happy.

Then I moved into the Turkish pools. I love Turkish pools with the contrast hot and cold baths, except this time the hot part was not that hot, and the cold was not that cold. Normally, I would be a wee bit upset about such technical flaws, but this time I had my waterproof book, and I was a happy camper. I read a couple of short stories. I can hardly remember the content as I was just so thrilled at the experience of being able to do two favorite things at once -- reading and spa-ing. I enjoyed myself so much, I had to force myself to stop reading, pull myself out of the pool, and get on with my spa-ing.

Two drawbacks -- one is that you need to allocate more time before your massage. The other one is that even if it is waterproof, the pages do get wet and stay wet. So I had to wipe every page before I stored the book back into my spa bag. Spritzed it with Lysol. It's waterproof. I don't know if it's mold proof.

Aaah. I can't wait until my next spa visit and my next soothing soak. Read more!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What's On Your Desk Wednesday

A few Wednesdays ago, Blooey tagged me to participate in a blog meme that would shame me, my neat freak husband, and the mother who tried to teach me urbanity.

We're supposed to take pictures of our desk, and we're not supposed to tidy them up first to make them photo-pretty. Gasp!

This is for Sassy Brit's blog meme, What's On Your Desk Wednesday. The details and the instructions are all here.

I tried to ignore Blooey's tag. But what do you know -- it's Wednesday, and I'm too lazy to draft a book review or write a blog entry that makes sense. And I'm taking the easy but more embarrassing way out. So here, in all it's glorious chaos, is a picture of my desk. Click on the image for a closer, more embarrassing look. Hopefully, the dust bunnies don't show.
The rules say I shouldn't tidy up. I have to confess I tried to make it look a little presentable, but to no avail. It's a hopeless mess. It's the end of the term and there are tons of papers to be checked. It's also book sale season and well, you know how it is with book addicts who live in tiny laces -- a book shelving nightmare, the floor disappearing. Geez, what am I talking about? My desk looks like this the whole year round, so I'll shut up with the excuses.

But like they say, if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what does it mean if you have an empty desk?

Ooo, I almost forgot. I should tag 5 bloggers. So here are my victims:

  1. ArtSeblis
  2. Blurbologist
  3. Jo
  4. Fantaghiro
  5. Cubicle Dweller
Happy Wednesday, everyone! May the rest of the week be even better than the start. Read more!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing

My interest in fiction has always been that of a reader. I've never dared to analyze the art and science of fiction. In my brief, limited, and safe writing career, I've focused on the known -- on the formulaic and not-too-demanding field of business writing.

But Doris Lessing has opened a dangerous, little porthole to wander in and wonder about that thing called fiction writing. Don't be alarmed. I linger far from the possibility of birthing a novel from the depths of my bowels; no, please, no. It's just that Lessing has made me wonder how one can write so tautly with no tinge of superfluity. How one can conjure images and flesh out ideas with language so well thought of. So intelligent. But raw with base human emotions. Who writes like that?

Lessing does. And I can only bite my lip in envy.

The Grandmothers is the carrier story in a collection of 4 short novels. That's probably the thing going against the book; the novels are too short. Each of them can be developed into full blown books that can eventually be developed into full blown major motion pictures. But that is the beauty of this book -- it gives you just enough to chew on, without overexplaining. The short story quality of it that leaves you a little bit unsatisfied reassures you that this book will not become all that popular and you're one of those lucky enough to be in on the secret.

The Grandmothers is an almost incestuous, but certainly scandalous, story of two women. Two golden, beautiful women who fall in love with their golden, beautiful selves. When their lives turn out to be less than the perfection they worked so hard to make it to be, they shut out the world, look within the pocket-sized, controllable world covered by their golden halo, and love only those who belong to that perfect circle -- each other's son. Golden, beautiful boys who fall in love with their older female mirrors too.

Lessing writes in a way that casts no judgment. The reader is left to make her own. To be mesmerized by such a fantastic premise, or to say ewww and be morally offended -- your choice. I felt a little bit of both. The story does not end well for the grandmothers and their sons. Which is probably well and good.

The second story, Victoria and the Staveneys, struck me as somewhat ordinary. But I suspect it is a limitation of my ability to understand the nuances more than a limitation of Lessing's storytelling. Somewhere in there are messages on race, tolerance, hypocrisy, poverty, privilege, socialism, communism, and all sorts if isms. They escape me at the moment. Okay, maybe a very long moment.

I am torn between the first and the third as my favorite of the collection. The Reason for It, classified by reviews as science fiction, is an all too real account of civilization. It is a story about the conflicts between new and old, between progress and tradition. The story is told from the perspective of the old and traditional who whines about a dying culture. And so if one were to take the side of the storyteller, one would ache at how the world has regressed instead of progressed. How art suffers and knowledge is mocked as the newfangled becomes the new standard of what is good, beautiful, and right. And culture disintegrates and society is transformed into a sad, shallow shadow (alliteration unintended) of its former glory.

This is probably the most preachy of the stories. It talks about the emptiness of beauty when it is unmatched, unsubstantiated by a fine nature and a good mind.

It is also the most thought provoking. I have visions of throwing this to my book club friends who would act like frenzied alligators at feeding time as they apply every nosebleed inducing framework to analyze this. Shhh, I won't tell them about it.

The collection ends with A Love Child. A bit predictable. On the side of sappy. And the most likely to be made into a movie starred by Ben Affleck. Which is not to say it is shallow because it is loaded with meaning and still beautifully written.

It's been months since I finished the book. And I'm now over the fiction-writing itch. But I'm not over Doris Lessing yet.

Read more!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I am Gege. And okay, I admit it now, I am addicted to books. And book buying. And my husband does not like it. But confessions are necessary. And therapeutic. So, I'm showing here the view from under my desk where the recent loot is in temporary confinement until my husband goes out to play golf. When I, away from his prying eyes and judging heart, can put them into their rightful alphabetical places.

Shhh, don't tell my husband. Read more!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Somebody Loves Me

Somebody from the US loves me and knows the stuff I love. Thank you. I'm going to enjoy all these goodies. Read more!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bale Dutung -- House of good food, gracious entertaining, and art

July 26, 2009 -- We used Eric's arrival from Sydney as the perfect excuse to troop to Angeles, Pampanga for this 5-way lechon feast we've been hearing, reading, dreaming, salivating about.

We knew about Claude Tayag -- artist, columnist, and chef. Whipping up an amazing lunch, a degustacion that had food gluttons raising their little white towels in surrender, Chef Tayag certainly didn't disappoint.

But the surprise was Mary Ann, Claude's wife. Stylish, gracious, and entertaining, she elevates party hosting to an art.

Of course, the most pleasant surprise is Bale Dutung itself. You enter an unassuming suburban village to get there. Then once you cross the Tayag's gate you step into a rustic restaurant slash house slash gallery slash nature wonderland. A house filled with art, antiques, and creative ideas that salute Philippine food and culture.

And the food -- I honestly have never been that stuffed in my whole life. Slooooow food at its finest -- almost 5 hours. And well worth the time and the trip. (Of course, I'm not with the party that got caught in the flash flood and the 5-hour traffic jam on the way back, so I can say that.)

Resto review to follow. In the meantime, enjoy the photos at: Read more!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Dr. Seuss Sunday

Yippee. Yoohoo. ‘twas a Sunday!
A fine, fun Sunday, I may say
A fine day to catch up on sleep
And to read something not too deep

So I looked through my shelf

For a book I could choose

Then I thought to myself

How about Dr. Seuss?

Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss. He’s cool. He’s fun

And Flippers say for July he’s the one
I know, I know, some will be shocked
That I read a book about (gasp) a cat

For cats are creatures that make me say yuck

I will never like them, no matter what

This particular cat
Knows how to have fun
He brings out of the box
Thing two and thing one

This cat makes a huge mess

And gives the kids so much stress

It gives the fish a huge fright

When it lets the Things fly kites

This particular cat

Has a machine that sweeps things
Oooh, I want something li
ke that
A gadget so amazing

But the amazing thing is this
Dr. Seuss wrote this charming piece

With the same two hundred twenty words; that’s all.

So this poem can be read by kids, big and small.

When I was done with the story

Of this cat that’s naughty and feisty

I guess I had to admit
This cat is not all that yucky
As my Sunday went on
So did my Dr. Seussathon

Book two was Green Eggs and Ham
About a creature named Sam-I-Am

Though the poem sounds rather silly

And funny with a bit of whimsy

It has a lesson to preach
About living a life more rich

Get out of your comfort zone

Is the message of the book
Venture into the unknown
Try things, taste stuff, take a look

Dr. Seuss says for us to grow

Don’t say no to what you don’t know

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it

Don’t give yourself silly limits
Then it was time for book number three
This time, ‘twas something rather scary
What Was I Scared Of? was the next tome

This is now my fave Dr. Seuss poem

It tells us not to be afraid

Of things and folks that are unusual

We’re all just differently made

And that’s what makes us special

We need not fear

Of the strange and queer

Don’t be afraid too

Of things that are new

Then I took a break
From all the poetry
To read Theodore Seuss Geisel’s

Short biography

I learned he’s American
With traces of German

He majored in English

To be a teacher was his wish

Then he fell in love with Helen

Who became his travel companion

And it was in 1957

When Cat in the Hat
became a sensation

I was also to discover

That Dr. Seuss won a Pulitzer
For giving his life to educating

And making reading entertaining

My Sunday was drawing to a close

But before I rest and finally doze

There was another book to read

The last of Dr. Seuss indeed
You’re Only Old Once
Is a book for obsolete children
This was one of the last books

From Dr. Seuss’s fabulous pen

This is a bit depressing

As Dr. Seuss tells of the stressing

Hospital visits, doctor hopping
Waiting room waiting, medicine popping

Yet it’s still full of humor

And you wish Dr. Seuss could have lived more
To write more about cats and whatnots

Green eggs and other silly plots

So that’s my Dr. Seuss bookfest

What a great way to de-stress

I felt truly truly blessed
Dr. Seuss, you are the best!

PS: After composing this, I have new found respect for Dr. Seuss. This was hard. I had to use an online rhyming dictionary to get this done. And after trying to work out a semblance of a meter, I just gave up at the end.
Read more!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

To Poof or Not to Poof: That is the Question of the Day

Had a real nice dinner with a girlfriend last night. And we know that when two or more women gather, the discussion inevitably leads to the topic of men. And this is the question that we deliberated on last night. I am interested to know what others think. Please comment. Share your passionate views.

The question is: Do real men use the poof to clean themselves in the bath or shower?

I will share my views after hearing from you.
Read more!

Monday, June 15, 2009

DO HARD THINGS by Alex & Brett Harris

Do Hard Things, for me, is a hard read.

You see, I don’t like doing hard things. Yea, who does? But I think my aversion to doing hard things is above the average. I’ve spent my life running away from hard-to-do things. Sometimes some people do not believe me when I say I’m lazy because they see me involved in so many things. And when I’m really passionate about something, I work hard and work excellently. But I’m very selective about the things I do, focusing on things I love, I enjoy, I naturally excel in, I care about, or at least things that would bring me instant gratification. And even with those things, I always manage the degree of difficulty.

So when I read the blurbs inside the book – a lot of things about a lot of hard things – I literally put it down and eyed it as if it was the mother source of the H1N1 virus. I just didn’t want to hear/read any of it. I didn’t want to be challenged, to be goaded to do hard things, things that will make me sweat, get my hands dirty. I don’t want to do anything that would make me look stupid, incompetent. No, thanks. I like my life just the way it is. Cushy, fun, easy.

So the first hard thing I had to do was to pick up the book again and force myself to read it. The next hard thing I now have to do is to write about it. That is hard because writing about it forces me to reflect on what I have just read.

One of the things that make this a hard read is that it is really targeted towards teenagers. So, I’m reading this 25 years too late. And whatever message it has for me is a reminder of the things I should have done and shouldn’t have done many years ago. It made me a bit sad that at my age, the hard things are even so much harder to do.

So, if you are in your teens or just about to hit those years, go read this to avoid the regrets. First off, you’re going to learn that this teenage concept is a fairly new one. Ages ago, people were really just divided into two groups – children and adults. Back then, people started taking on adult roles and responsibilities when they were about 15. Child labor laws, though generally positive in intent, somehow extended the childhood stage, and so a new demographic was born. Now, the teen years are supposed to be some kind of vacation just before one gets into real life – adulthood. And vacation may seem like a euphemism for the lost, crazy, angst-filled, dysfunctional years.

How many times have you heard people warn parents about this phase? The phase when the teenagers’ search for identity is usually accompanied by wild, inexcusable but expected behavior and social experimentation. Adults sigh and say, well, what do you expect -- they're teenagers. And they’re supposed to be allowed to waste these 7 or so years drinking, doping, and coupling, basically indulging in spring break type bacchanalia. After all, they have the rest of their lives to get serious. But in the meantime, real life and real responsibilities can wait. One can just hope they pass those wasted years unscathed.

It is this problem of low expectations that Alex and Brett Harris address. They want us to rethink what we think about the teen years. They want today’s young people to rebel against low expectations and reclaim the teen years as the launching pad of their lives. They want teenagers to fight against mediocrity and to do far more than is expected of them. To do the hard things – the ones that take them away from their comfort zones, the ones that won’t give them instant gratification but far reaching and much better rewards.

It’s a message that people need to hear – whether they’re in that target reader age of 13 to 19, or whether they’re parents, teachers, and other youth-influencers. It’s a hard message for the teenagers. It’s a hard message even for the adults because they have to start raising their expectations of the youth. And for some (like me), they too have to learn to do the hard things. It’s a hard message but one worth listening to.

Alex and Brett Harris write well in a contemporary, easy manner as you would expect. I’m glad they didn’t use hip teenage jargon that could have made them sound like they’re trying too hard to sound like the teenagers that they are. A lot of well written, high-impact statements here. My highlighter pen vomited lines and lines on the book, underlining catchy phrases and calls to action that even this old fogey can learn from. I can already see the industry this book will spawn – devotionals, journals, calendars. Rubber bracelets?

The authors are very liberal with examples to inspire and practical tips to apply. Though this is obviously a book written by Christians for Christian readers, the message can be relevant to those of other faiths.

Its audience has its limits though. Even though, they give examples of the experiences of Philippine based youth, the context is most relevant to American or first world youth, those with options. It’s hard to imagine how this message might apply to youth struggling with extreme poverty, youth who have hard things thrust upon them, those who don’t even have the luxury of a real childhood. They do hard things because they have no other choice. As such, you wonder about their chances of redemption. Or maybe I expect too much. Maybe that topic is altogether for another book.

Limited audience notwithstanding, this book is a must read. I wish more young people would read this and be inspired, be alerted to a call to do great things, to excel, to achieve more than what is expected of them, to make a real, lasting difference in the world. But first they have to do hard things. And first, they have to read this hard-to-read but worthwhile book.
Read more!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Flippers are Foodies too

temporarily posting this here as I ask permission from the image owner, Lord Jit, here: Read more!


It was a bit surreal. To be standing alone in the school corridor because everyone has left.

One foreign student confirmed to have AH1N1. The school will be closed for 10 days. Some might think that's a bit much. But it's standard procedure they say. According to WHO. Just the same, it was pretty hard to believe that school was being shut down.

They're not revealing identities. But I suppose they're rounding up the possible contact points. And those who might have been exposed are probably in quarantine now.

Only rumors to go by. So far, I've heard the pronoun "she." And which college "she" is from. Not our college. Whew.

I'm in school 2 days a week. I interact with only a few people from the department, and my students are enrolled in major subjects. I don't go around much. The chances that her virus has somehow got to me is almost nil.

Unless she went to the library and used the desk a few minutes before I used it. Or had a kiwi strawberry shake like I did and sneezed on the straw holder, from which I picked up my straw. Or we walked together from the parking lot, and she exhaled a bit much. Insert suspense horror movie sound effects here.

Who knows where she's been? I certainly don't want to panic. But the mind is actively imagining scenarios. The erstwhile invisible air suddenly acquires a psychedelic haze and neon green dust enlarge and fly around like spring fluff landing on every throbbing surface. Every epidemic panic movie gets replayed in my head.

The second the rumors were confirmed by a memo in black in white, I started feeling psychosomatically hot and slightly diarrheic.

But really, I'm okay. Maybe I should just enjoy the extended vacation. Though a 10-day quarantine of just reading would be nice.

Ugh. I dread the repercussions of making up for lost time. Makeup classes are a pain. And my 2 sections are not on the same page anymore. Bummer.

I pray that "she" gets better and that will not be as traumatized as I imagine she'd be. It's not a cool way to get famous. I pray that no one else is infected. I pray that this scare blows over. Paranoia is not a pretty emotion.

Life in the time of the AH1N1.

The panic reminds me a bit of Saramago's Blindness. Surreal. Read more!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Inanity and the Absurdity of Posterity

A record of sorts. Beating my personal bests.

No. of hours in pajamas - 25 (maybe barring the times I've been in my sickbed)
No. of kilometers traveled in pajamas - app. 394

Bontoc. I put on my pajamas at roughly 10PM. The next morning, we were traveling to Baguio to spend the night there en route to Manila. I decided I would shower in Baguio. The Baguio Country Club shower, a gazillion stars better than the one at Bontoc, beckoned. I went coffee-shopping in Bontoc and had lunch at Cafe by the Ruins in my snowflake riddled jammies. And then some people, without asking my pajamas, decided to go straight back to Manila. The country club lodging was canceled. And so my pajamas and I arrived home past 10 in the evening. My pajamas practically walked itself to the hamper.

And that, my dear friends, is another installment of utterly useless facts about me.

There is no bottom to the well of inanities I can think of. Read more!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stuff I Like: Oishi Cheese Sponge Crunch

You may be surprised to know that I'm not all that fond of junk food. Except for clover chips, which is comfort food that brings me back to childhood when my dad would bring a pack home for me knowing it was my favorite.

I'm not even a snacker. No, I developed this lush fleshiness through the willful consumption of the real goodness of dead animals combined with the carbo-laden staple of the masses. Real meals for real women and voracious manual laborers. With extra rice.

I discovered this evil snack through this blog -- lafang nation's. Intrigued, I bought a pack each of the cheese and the chocolate for a long trip. I tried the cheese flavor first. I did not expect that my first bite would make my tongue feel what being in love feels like.

Well, it's just crud, really. There is no one main ingredient except for some starch combination, the elements of which may not necessarily come from nature. Starch shaped into little letter o's by machines and then dipped in an evil cheeselike flavoring. Soaked in cheese product. And sugar. And when you put it on your tongue, the crud and cheeselike substance and the sugar and all the additives melt deliciously coating your tongue with heaven, and your tastebuds take control of your brain and you feel like you did when you had your first kiss, and you understand why that tree was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It's so good it's disgusting.

The zip lock comes very handy, because you can really only have a couple of pieces at a time because it's sickeningly rich and cheesy and sweet. A couple of bites that add a couple of pounds to your hips. Agh. Oishi is the anti-Christ! Read more!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Book Review: Claude Tayag's FOOD TOUR

If you caught Anthony Bourdain's Philippine stopover episode, then you have seen Claude Tayag. He entertained Tony at his restaurant/home/art gallery, Bale Dutung, in Pampanga, presenting a very posh, telegenic rendition of kare kare. He also introduced Tony to sisig.

And if you're not Kapampangan, maybe you were offended by his assertion that Filipino food is Pampanga food. But I got what he meant. He meant to say that Filipino food is different for everyone, depending on your own experience and cultural milieu. The food you grew up with as you lived in the region you grew up in, the food served by your mom and/or your lola, the food that comforted you as a child and continues to comfort you now is your definition of Filipino food.

But this is not about Claude Tayag's Tony Bourdain guesting. This is about his book.

If you are a foodie worth your salts, if you take every three day weekend as an excuse, an opportunity to discover the regions and their cuisines, then grab a copy of this book, and keep it close to your sunglasses and favorite weekend jaunt outfit.

It will be your guide, your handbook as you traverse the country and its neighbors, searching for fantastic culinary experiences that sate the appetite for food as well as for culture. It presents helpful information including contact details so you can replicate the food tours he has taken. Really, get a copy. I can see myself bringing this with me as I go south and north of the Philippines.

The book is actually a compilation of his columns in the Philippine Star. At the end of each entry is a recipe.

It is not the best written food and travel book I've ever read. Claude Tayag is not an awful writer, but let's just say his core talents lie in the visual and the culinary. He writes well enough in a breezy, conversational manner with no pretensions. Maybe a little unimaginative with a tendency to interject using the word "burp" a lot. But hey, you're not buying this book because of its literary merits. You're buying this because it will inspire and enlighten the hungry gourmand and antsy vagabond in you.

There are 3 things I didn't like about this book. The first one is its size -- bigger than your standard trade paperback, it is not very handy. The next one is its price -- P550; I think it's worth it because I will get a lot of use from the book. I also like the quality of its binding and paper stock, and that alone makes it worth it for me, but it's a prohibitive price if you want to spread the word about it and want each of your friends to get a copy. The last thing that lessened my enjoyment of this book is that the entries are verbatim lifts from his columns, and sometimes they would include captions for photos that were part of the original newspaper articles but were not included in the book. It was a bit frustrating not having the visuals that go with the captions.

But the things I liked about the book compensated for the above flaws. I liked the history of sisig, his dining guidelines, the healthy balance of street food and fine dining experiences, how he communicated his lip-smacking love of food with no apologies, and his practical traveler tips. I love the way his stories include his wife Maryann as his partner in gourmanding and traveling. He makes fun of her a lot, but he is obviously head over heels in love with her. And best of all, I like the pen sketches that accompany each article; they add so much value, art, and charm to the book.

Oh, and one more thing, don't read this hungry.

Read more!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Musing Mondays: Mommy's Fault

Musing Mondays are hosted by Rebecca!.

Do you remember how you developed a love for reading? Was it from a particular person, or person(s)? Do you remember any books that you read, or were read to you, as a young child? (question courtesy of Diane)

I blame it all on my mom. I'm not sure how old I was when my mom started teaching me to read, but I remember that I wasn't in school yet, so I must have been 3. My mom would give me a newspaper and ask/command me to read in front of my relatives. Most moms would ask their kid to sing or to dance. My mom would show off my reading prowess. I remember mispronouncing the word highway, and they got a chuckle out of that.

Mom started me off with Ladybug fairy tales. Rumpelstiltskin just might be my very first book. In my mind's eye, I can still see one of my favorite books then, Little Match Girl. What a sad, sad story. Every birthday and Christmas, I would get 5 Nancy Drew books until finally I had the complete series. To this day, that collection is still in my must-save-in-a-fire list. I didn't really grow up with many toys so I had to rely on books for entertainment.

I blame my mom for this addiction to books. And I thank her much for it. Read more!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Ultimate Bookworm Gift

I want one for Christmas! No, I can't wait. I want one for Independence Day. Slurp. Slurp.

Gosh, I just might never leave the house with something like this in my room. Read more!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Mario. Vargas. Llosa. For some strange reason that name conjured a vision of an extremely serious writer typing somber, tedious sagas spanning generations, replete with tumultuous political events and heartbreaking drama. How wrong I was. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is anything but serious. I should have been more observant and let the whimsical cover clue me in. Nothing somber about it. It's flashy, color splashed, and it looks like the artist had much fun reading the novel and was inspired in designing the cover art.

It is a fun book. The back cover blurbs use adjectives like funny, extravagant, madcap, uproarious. All descriptions accurate.

The story revolves around Varguitas, a young law student and aspiring author who is paying his dues by writing slash plagiarizing news for radio. Set in the 50s, the story happens at a time when TV is not yet the ubiquitous medium it is now. Radio rules as the channel for entertaining and informing the masses.

Two Bolivians come to town.

One is Pedro Camacho, a talented but twisted writer who writes scripts and directs radio drama. His radio shows hook listeners and soon he becomes the buzz of Lima.

When Varguitas, peculiar in that society because he prefers books over the radio, asks his grandma why she likes radio serials so much, she says 'It's more lifelike, hearing the characters talk, it's more real. And what's more, when you're my age, your hearing is better than your eyesight." His other relatives explains their addiction by saying, "because they set a person to dreaming, to living things that are impossible in real life, because there are truths to be learned from them, or because every woman remains more or less or a romantic at heart." And that explains why Camacho's following grows. As his popularity rises to mythic proportions, his manic madness worsens, and soon he's out of control.

The stories that Camacho writes are central to the story. They are narrated in chapters alternating with the main plot chapters. So the reader actually reads many little stories within one book. Stories that entertain, shock, and end the chapters in cliffhangers and intriguing questions the way serials are wont to do. To me, this is interesting because the book uses similar devices to a book I read recently, Ricky Lee's Para Kay B. But Llosa's book ties the stories more cohesively to the main plot.

The other visitor from Bolivia is Aunt Julia, related to Varguitos only by law, recently divorced, and out to find a husband. She did not count on having a romance with a relative 14 years her junior. What ensues is mayhem as irate relatives, well-meaning friends, queer mayors, and a violent father get involved in this comedy that twists, convolutes, and climaxes (ooops, spoiler alert) in the most exciting and tiring wedding I've ever read about.

The story could and should have ended very soon after the climax. Instead it over-explains what happens after the meaty part of the story. A protracted epilogue. Only then do you realize that the book is actually a semi-autobiographical account. Wiki can shed more light about the autobiographical elements of this fiction.

This is my first Llosa, my first novel written by a Peruvian author. It overtook many books in my TBR short list because of a reading challenge I wanted to join. I didn't get to finish the book in time to make the challenge deadline, but I'm glad I read it just the same. It's the kind of book one calls delightful. Llosa is a witty writer who knows how to have fun and how to have his readers join in the fun.

The Latin American vibe is dominant and gives the novel its energy. The soap opera theme influences much the novel's cadence and reading experience. I like that the book is a good balance of realism, satire, fantasy, and slapstick. I enjoyed the detailed account of what happens in the making of radio serials. I like the clever way of using the first few lines of each chapter as titles. Llosa certainly writes to amuse.

I don't know if it's the translation, but the writing is on the side of verbose, with long complex sentences and hard words that trip me up like cyclothymic, oneiric, and deliquescence. As I type, all these words get those squiggly red lines, but they do exist; just look them up.

I recommend you look up some Llosas as well. Well worth reading.
This book is my response to the Global Voices Book Challenge. Read more!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


"Meritocracy" is one of those much bandied terms of the 90s. Pretty much the way "servant leadership" is today's buzzword, a favorite among cliche-loving speechsters. I didn't understand meritocracy much then, and it took Malcolm Gladwell's latest book for me to wrap my head around it. Ironically, the book illustrates it by underplaying it.

Gladwell asserts that merit alone is not the key to success. It it not what we do that enables us to get ahead. Which is not to say that hard work and diligence are not important. They are. In fact, Gladwell's magic number for somebody to achieve some kind of success in a chosen field is 10,000 hours. It takes 10,000 hours of practice to get good at something. Look at Bill Gates. He's been hacking (literally, not in the security assault sense) at computers since he was a teenager. The Beatles spent thousands of hours in smoke filled pubs to be as good as they are as a band. They worked harder than their peers so they got farther.

But 10,000 hours of practice is just part of the formula. There are other extraneous factors that have made people succeed where others failed. Things like cultural legacies. And circumstantial opportunity. And where, when, and to which family you were born. These things may work to our advantage or disadvantage.

The case of Korean Air pilots would strike you as a compelling argument that culture can affect our ability to do our jobs. In this case, their high regard for authority created communication problems that proved fatal. Recognition of the problem enabled the Koreans to turn the situation around. They had to stop using what is called "mitigated speech" to prevent more plane crashes. They had to be taken out of their culture and be re-normed.

Interestingly, the Philippines was mentioned as one of those countries most enslaved by this respect for authority. When my sister in law (a doctor involved in child protection) and I were discussing the book, she mentioned that our traditional practice of calling adults, related to us or not, with respectful terms as Tito or Kuya is a double edged legacy. One one hand, it makes us a gracious and polite lot. On the other, it sets up a situation of familiarity, misplaced trust, and undue respect that abusers may take advantage of. Like the Korean pilots, maybe we need to "shed some part of our own cultural identity" to prevent tragic circumstances.

But let's go back to the story of success that the book Outliers tells.

This book says that it is not necessarily the brightest who succeeds. Our smarts can only get us so far. This has been proven empirically. A high IQ can arguably get you to good schools. But once you're in, you're in the same level playing field as those who also got in, whether their IQ is higher or lower than yours. Interesting, eh?

Don't believe anyone who boasts of his success, 'I did this, all by myself." According to Gladwell, they are "products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky -- but all critical to making them who they are."

As usual, Gladwell fills the pages of a book with fascinating information shared through fascinating stories. Reading Gladwell always makes me wonder if there's any practical use to the copious information he shares. At the verge of (gasp) middle age, I no longer have any control over the circumstances and legacies that have shaped my life to the way it is now. And 10,000 hours? With a sinking feeling, I ask myself if there is something in my life, other than breathing and eating, that I have done for 10,000 hours. Hmmm, I better stop playing YoVille and do more of whatever it is I want to do best. I don't have much time left.

I suppose this is useful to parents, teachers, and any one who can influence the very young. This is useful to the young, the generation just starting to invest the first of those 10,000 hours. Gladwell says, "To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success... with a society that provides opportunities for all."

The book teaches us to look at the circumstances and the cultural aspects that can affect, positively or negatively, our chances of success. The first challenge is to recognize them. Then use or circumvent them. Then work hard, work smart, be open and alert to opportunities, and carry on.

Whether this book is useful or not, Gladwell, as he has done with The Tipping Point and Blink, entertains, engages, and encourages his readers to think.
Gladwell, I find him doing in all his 3 books, posits some brave, fantastic, maybe debatable, theories that may not necessarily be well grounded conclusions to his research, but he does make us think. Doesn't he?
Read more!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Red Kimono

Unit 1A GF, Fort Strip, Fort Bonifacio,
Taguig City, Metro Manila

The Bait:
All the Japanese food you can eat
The Line: "Get the best of both worlds -- buffet quantity and a la carte quality."
The Hook: Value for money, or rather, volume for money
The Sinker: Carb fest, not in a good way
The Catch: P535 per person exclusive of drinks and other ala carte items

I just learned about the term "volume for money" in Claude Tayag's book Food Tour. He attributes the phrase to Chef Myrna Segismundo. It refers to the Pinoy's predilection to stuff their faces and load their stomach in buffet lines. Volume a priority, taste only secondary.

Red Kimono's Better than Buffet helped me understand the concept.

It was the second time we went for the 534 peso all-you-can-eat promo. The first time was for dinner some months back. We arrived hungry and joined a group of more than a dozen people. And I enjoyed stuffing my face as well as the camaraderie of playing 1-2-3 pass with all the dishes being passed around the table.

A couple of days ago we went back for lunch, and it was not as enjoyable as the first time.

I need to explain the promo. It is buffet with a twist. And they say it is better than buffet. I disagree. Buffet is a simple concept of lining up the dishes on the buffet table, and the diner is free to strategize what to pick and how much of each.

I tend to go value for money focusing my attention on the starters, which feature high value dishes like sashimis, oysters, and carpaccios; then I skip the main dishes, the pastas, and the rice; and home in on the desserts. In a buffet one can control the quantity per dish. One can enjoy a mere tablespoonful of an item and be satisfied.

In Red Kimono's Better than Buffet concept, there is no buffet table. Instead, they bring the buffet to you. You pick items on a printed menu. You can get as many orders as you like. Then they bring the dishes to you already plated in family style quantities.

Plus there are conditions. They have the usual conditions of no leftovers, no take-home. I can agree with those rules because they minimize wastage. (Yes, we need to remember the starving people in China) The problem is you don't have control over the quantity per order. So you don't get to sample as many dish varieties as you would in a regular buffet.

There is also a condition about a minimum order of rice. The worst thing is they serve only sushis; no sashimis. So imagine how carb-laden you are by the end of the meal, even if you have managed to artfully and deceptively distribute your leftover rice among the plates and under them so it won't be too obvious that you actually had leftover food. Gag me with a sako of rice!

The other reason why this is not better than buffet is that there is no buffet table to walk to. I actually like walking from my table to the buffet table. And back. I can delude myself into thinking that I am exercising in between bites. Walking while carrying the weight of the loaded plate. At Red Kimono, you are deprived of that brisk-walking workout. Unless you need to go to the wash or take a biological break -- for that you need to go take a stub from the servers and walk outside the restaurant to the common rest rooms.

Carbs plus no-exercise -- not the best post-meal sensation. All your body systems focused on digesting all that starch. I was surprised that I was able to stave the lethargy and drive home before having the mother of all siestas. Take note: I am not a siesta person.

But after having said all that, I would still recommend this promo if (one) you are very hungry, (two) you are dining with a big group so you can share dishes, and (three) if you're a member of the extra-rice confederation.

I don't know if there was a change in chef, but the food seemed to be better the first time. Or maybe we were just hungrier. Back then, I loved the crabstick rolls with wasabi mayonnaise, the shitake mushroom teppanyaki, the chicken teriyaki, the grilled miso chicken, and the layered spinach & tofu. The beef kamameshi also seemed beefier then.

On our second visit, I enjoyed the california crunch and the salmon & cream cheese maki. The pork teriyaki is tender and tasty, but make sure you coordinate your orders. We also had teriyaki chicken, and I felt there was just way too much teriyaki in the world.

Of course, dessert is part of the better than buffet menu. If your stomach is not at bursting level, you may have the buko pandan jelly with vanilla ice cream. The green tea ice cream was too overwhelmingly tea-tasting, so I didn't like it. You can also try the chocolate balls.

So, is it better than buffet? Nah. But go ahead and stuff yourself when the time and conditions are right.
Read more!

Kiangan Flashback

This is a cut and paste from a May 8, 2002 blog. The photos were added recently. Made some minor edits before posting.

---start of flashback entry ---

Sappy Travelogue
May 8, 2002

I just had a memorable weekend, and for some reason I cannot find the words to write about it. We went up North and maybe my muse loved it there so much that she decided to stay behind. It’s extremely frustrating because I am wishing I can write about it as well as I have experienced it. Muse, muse, come back wherever you are. Nope, nothing. Still at a loss for words. So I’ll just plunge on and try to describe my weekend. I was able to get some free vacation leaves for Friday and Monday due to 2 instances I had to work Sundays. That meant I had a 4-day weekend to enjoy. And enjoy it I did. Tuks, his sister Yella, his cousin Angie, and I set off for the Northern province of Ifugao in Tuks’ reliable Honda Civic. We left our house past 10 and went to pick up Yella and Angie and we were at the North Expressway by midnight and out of it in more or less an hour. We exited and got into long winding roads of countryside. The three femmes slept most of the way while Tuks drove, something he seems to truly enjoy. We woke up to a breathtaking sunrise, with mountains, hills, and rice fields replacing our daily vista of concrete and steel. The road, lined with trees, stretched towards a horizon. The sky was cast with a pinkish bluish glow. It was refreshing to wake up and know we are out of the city and away from the rat race arena. Our mobile phones inutile as no cell sites were in sight. There was one Kodak moment when we caught the sun peeking out at that point where two mountains overlap. Kind of a cliché photo op, but it was too beautiful to pass up. I asked Tuks to stop the car. I said the word stop about five times but he kept on driving. When he slowed down it was too late. The view was gone and if we drove back the sun would not be in the same place anymore. His excuse for not stopping was that he did not think I was serious about asking him to stop. Sounded like something from a rape trial. I said stop and I meant it. But Tuks, the Vacation Nazi himself, has this race he plays in his mind as if Michael Schumacher and the devil are after him, and the jury of the Guinness Book of Records are waiting at the destination point to clock in his record breaking time. There could be a Mother Mary apparition by the side of the road, or a real, live Elvis Presley sighting by the highway shoulder, or Jennifer Lopez herself in a thong with a sign that says “will f*** for food” and he still won’t stop just to take pictures. It messes up his flight plan or something. I tried to sleep to forget about missing the photo op, and as I woke up Yella realized we were lost and we had to do a U turn. Ironically, the turn we missed was about a kilometer from the photo opp spot. I think Tuks, in his rush to ignore the sun peeping over the mountains scene, stepped on the gas and that’s how we missed a turn. If we had stopped to take that photo we would have been coasting leisurely and we probably would have noticed the little directional sign. And we wouldn’t have lost so much time.

Other than that sour moment with the Vacation Nazi, every other moment went well.
We arrived at the house of our host in time for breakfast, checked in at the Yamashita Shrine, where we were billeted, and headed for the Banaue Rice Terraces.

The Banaue Rice Terraces. We grew up being taught in school that this place was the eighth wonder of the world. As adults we realized that almost every country has its own “eighth wonder”. Call me biased, however, I think this spot is quite deserving of that claim. I will try to post my photos as soon as I can, but you can drop by this site I found through google to get a preview of how amazing this place is. Think Mt. Rushmore in grandeur, but prettier. It is a wonderful example of God and man’s coalition to create monumental art. Think 2,000 years back and how the tribal mountainfolk who created this wonder had to survive against or with the environment. Too far from the sea to subsist on seafood, their mountain slopes too steep for traditional rice fields, the Ifugao folk carved rice terraces following the contours of the mountain, meticulously piled and matched the rocks for reinforcement, used mud to bind the structure, built an ingenious irrigation system, and combined function with art leaving a work of beauty and a source of sustenance for future generations.

Having said all that, I also have to honestly say that it was a bit of a letdown. Modernization has brought about damage to what would otherwise be an awesome piece of nature art. Shanties of corrugated iron and wood scraps speckled the otherwise green and amazing scenery. Time has diminished its beauty, and the artists who created the original are no longer here to care to save it. It is on the list of endangered World Heritage sites and that at least is helpful.

And then we saw Charlie’s Angels. These are the 3 Ifugao women clad in full regalia, faded feathers on their hair, clad in hand woven costumes, standing by the road to have their photos taken with the tourists for a little forced "tip."

Afterwards, we went to the market place to look for local craft and interesting produce. We (meaning Tuks) just spent a small fortune the day before on my car A/C repair so a shopping spree was out of the question. I used all my will power not to buy anything. Okay, so it wasn’t will power. I just did not bring any cash with me. At the end of the market trip, all I bought were two hand woven sashes that I used as a bow to bind the photo album. The photo album turned out so pretty, with pictures (took 5 rolls of film) and illustrations.

We lunched at this hole in the wall place called Las Vegas Inn. Nothing Vegas about it thought. Rustic meets tacky. With a great view of the terraces. We had curry rice; igado, a local meat stew dish; something with lettuce and cucumber they call Israel Salad, which tasted really good; and fried milkfish.

We went back to Kiangan back to the Shrine where we were checked in. Showered. Walked towards the house of the bride, Lenore.

Lenore was a social worker working for the Child Protection Unit where Yella also works. She is a 40ish single mom, and was about to marry Paul, a 50ish American divorcee. They met 20 years ago, as maid of honor and bestman to Lenore’s cousin, and Paul’s brother’s wedding. No sparks, but they met again after 20 years, fell in love, and was about to marry. Their wedding was actually our pretext to having ourselves a grand vacation.
An Ifugao wedding is more than just interesting. It is such a memorable, astounding experience. It is steeped in tradition, and very rich with symbolistic rituals. There are pre-wedding and post-wedding rituals that involve the slaughter of pigs, cows, carabaos and chickens. I do not think I will get into detail with this because it requires much cultural tolerance to appreciate. Some parts are gruesome but we had to respect the cultural differences.

During the eve of the wedding, we were at Lenore’s house. There were some rituals done. We did not understand the dialect used so mainly we just watched. There were gongs playing, dancing, chanting, and lots of ground stomping. Ancestors were called, gods were invoked. Afterward, the priests and the couple, who were forbidden to touch each other, walked to a neighbor’s house to drink rice wine brewed specifically for the occasion. The wine tasted good. We continued to just watch and take photos because the people were conversing in their dialect and we could only guess what they were talking about. Poor groom, of course, was hopelessly lost.

We went back to the house for the highlight of the evening – the “poor piggy should have stayed at home” scene. The main ritual involved the sacrifice of a native pig and the extraction of its liver as an unusual alternative for tea leaves. The chief priest looked at the state of the liver and the bile sack to determine if the union was to be blessed by the gods. The liver seemed to have passed merit, and the shaman foretold that the coupling would be successful and fruitful. Offspring will be many despite them being 40ish and 50ish old already.
The ceremony went on till dawn. Chanting and dancing mostly. But we left right after dinner. Which was merely choked down out of respect. Nothing like witnessing a pig execution to ruin the appetite.

The next morning was the Catholic wedding, which we decided to skip. We instead went to the market where we did not find anything of interest. They were selling city stuff – plastics, fake jeans, etc.

We then drove to Bae, a valley of rice fields and amazing beauty. Nothing, not the photos, not my wordy descriptions can ever do justice for the spectacular sight of rolling fields, and mountains, and wild flowers, and vines, and more rice terraces and the locals doing their farming. It’s just so awesome, so incredibly beautiful it can make an atheist thank God. The road was a single lane concrete path winding over the fields and so you get this feeling that you are rolling in clouds of green. It is just beautiful. Spectacular. Priceless. Again, God and man conspired to draw out ooohs and aaaahs and OMG’s from us gaping, drooling spectators.

We parked the car and walked 283 million steps down a hill. My legs were trembling at the exertion; muscles left dormant struggled to keep up. At the bottom of the steps was a rusty bridge spanning a river. It was summer, and the water was barely ankle high. We followed the river downstream where they said there was a waterfall up ahead. Up ahead might be a short distance to the locals, but for us used to cars, escalators and walkalators, it was quite a walk. There was no clear path so we had to walk on mossy rocks and pebbles, hold on to vines, dip our teva’ed sandals on cool water. I slipped twice, once breaking 3 nails on my right foot. We did not even see the waterfall because getting there seemed too dangerous for our old cranky bones to survive. So we just sat and marveled at the view.

On the way back, we stopped by the bridge. A part of the river was deep enough for swimming and a lot of pre-teen boys were happily playing, diving from the cliff onto the water. We wished we brought a change of clothes so we too could take a dip in the cool water.

Walking back up the 283 steps was more difficult than going down. We had to take a lot of “nature appreciation” stops just to catch our breath. Gasping, panting or not, I would have stopped too. It is an awesome feeling sitting down alone just allowing nature to beguile me with its spellbinding magic. Basking. Praying thanksgiving for being so privileged to be where I was. Composing snippets of poetry in my head. Inhaling the strange, rare scent of fresh air. I would sit and observe insects sucking pollen from wildflowers, watch a butterfly color coordinate itself with the flower petals it lands on, look at trees and notice how their branches serve as picture frames for nature, highlighting portions of the vast scenery. A few seconds of rest and I had the time to notice the lone tropical palm tree seeming out of place and yet looking strikingly beautiful, standing defiant in a forest of hardwood trees. Leafless Jemilina trees with their white trunks serving as accents to the dark verdant background.

A leaf fell and I was there to hear it drop. And then another leaf fell, and another leaf, and another, and another. And soon it was raining leaves. I likened them to little children running home screaming, the rain is here, the rain is here for the leaves falling occurrence was followed by a drizzle. I was praying for it to pour just to complete the nature experience.
Who said words were necessary for poetry? What I was so privileged to see was poetry for the eyes.

And as if God knew the climbing, wading, trekking exercise was going to knock the breath out of us, there was a halo-halo stand waiting for us near where we parked. Halo-halo is a dessert concoction of sweetened fruits mixed together with crushed ice and milk. It was heavenly, especially because we forgot to bring any water with us and we were really thirsty from the trek. In the halo-halo stand, the lady who minded the store had an infant covered in homemade comforters. He had a name that sounded like medicine, benadryl or something like that. He had the cutest smile. And he was unaware of how lucky he was to grow up in a place of such beauty.

From where we were we could hear the gongs of the wedding reminding us to drive back for the tribal wedding ceremonies. It was the most difficult task to pull ourselves out of that huge slice of heaven. After a quick trip to buy more film, we went to Lenore’s house. Lunch was being served. Now, this you’ve got to imagine. There is no such thing as a small private wedding for the Ifugaos. At least 17 pigs were killed to feed all the townsfolk. No RSVP customs here. Everyone can just drop by, queue for the meal, which they ate on de-layered banana trunks. After lunch, they had the Ifugao wedding ceremony. Even more ceremonious than the previous activities.

The bride, the groom, the priests and the entourage were in full regalia. There were so many rituals. More of the gongs, the chanting, and the ground stomping. Bride and groom were given beads for their hair, fertility necklaces, intricate headpieces. More ground stomping and chanting. The other shaman’s feet must have withstood a million stomping. They were the widest feet I’ve ever seen, spread out like a fan, contorted, and twisted, and sturdy. Wine was poured on the couple’s feet.

Then the entourage was led out into the streets. Like a line following the pied piper, they walked and danced with the groom and the men striking the gongs in an unusual beat.
We did not follow them, but from what we heard, they went to another place and a dozen chickens were choked to death; one of the unfortunate fowl was tied to the groom’s waist. The standing joke was that there was a new definition of love. Real love is dancing out in the streets in a g-string with a dead chicken on your hip just to marry the woman you love.

We left the bride’s home and went to check out of the inn. We were supposed to stay and maybe view the post-wedding ceremonies the next day, but we were all overwhelmed with ceremony and decided to cut short our stay and drive back to the next province to make our trip back to the city the next day a little shorter.

We ended up at Solano, a bustling town in Nueva Ecija, which boasted of no major tourist attraction. The board, lodging and food costs were double of that in Kiangan. On the way to Governor’s Hotel, we stopped at the Dutch Pancake Restaurant. I went out of the car to ask the Dutch owner what time they opened in the morning. We were planning to have breakfast there. After checking into the hotel, we decided to have dinner at the Dutch restaurant also.

The T-bone was highly recommended, but I found it a bit tough. The scalloped potatoes were very good though. The pancake desert was also good. And it was fine service for the owner to run and get us wine even if it wasn’t offered in the menu. On our way out, he mentioned a little girl who went up to him earlier in the evening asking about what time they opened in the morning. It turned out that I was that girl, but he said I looked much younger a couple of hours ago. He said I looked no more than 14 then. I didn’t know if I would be thrilled to be mistaken for a teenager or aghast that I aged so quickly.
Nonetheless, he was a nice host and we had breakfast there the next day. He mentioned wanting to expand his restaurant as a franchise and was willing to give the first franchise for free just to break into the market. Mental note to remember this when we are looking for business ventures.

On the drive back to the city, we stopped for lunch at this charming restaurant called Vicentico’s Grill. Food was excellent and the local antique décor was lovely. A couple of stopovers to buy goodies for the folks back home.
Tuks dropped me off at my Dad’s place so that I can say goodbye to him before his trip to Europe. I stayed the night there. The next day, Monday, I had my practice round of being a woman of leisure. Woke up late. Breakfasted leisurely. Spent the good part of the morning creating a roller coaster park in the computer. Dragged my nephew and my niece to have my nephew’s tuition fee assessed. Went to see Spider Man. Hohum. Try as I might, I just can not find Kirstn Dunst pretty. Had popcorn, soda and fries for the movie. Mc Donald’s ice cream cones, chicken poppers, mashed potatoes and fries for after the movie. Back home, more computer games, dinner and Tuks finally picked me up to go back to real life. My greatest learning out of the whole experience is that I really should not worry about my Islandhopper business venture. Seeing the places I saw, falling in love with my own country, experiencing so much pride to call this land home, I know now that whether I succeed or fail in this venture, I would have had the time of my life traveling and seeing all these wonderful places and getting to know my country. Aaaah. God is good! Read more!