27 September 2005

Three cities in one day (well, almost)

Yesterday morning is perhaps one of the earliest times I have woken up for years while in Baguio. 5AM to be sure. It's because my wife and I were going to La Union to distribute invitations for Jo-Lo's baptism on October. Still groggy from not getting my full rest (we stayed up late preparing birthday gifts and pasalubong for Tina's dear friends), I had my warm bath, hot choco, played around with Jo-Lo who was quite awake already by that time, and at around 6 we were off. The fog has not yet completely lifted in Burnham Park. It would have been nice to take a stroll but we had to be someplace else.

We took a mini bus going to San Fernando by way of Naguilian Road, which is just as long and winding as the other access roads going to and from the city. And it's basically the same scenario on these roads: the mountain on one side, and the deep ravine on the other. My wife conveniently pointed out the place where a bus lost its brakes and fell off the cliff. Everybody died there. How comforting.

However, she also pointed out the China Sea and was a "wow" moment for us. I tried to take a shot but kept getting roofs of houses and trees. This is the nicest shot I got, but the sea can't be clearly distinguished. It's a nice photo anyway, right? :-)

My wife was going to attend a symposium first, which was to start at 9AM. That particular detail did not register on my mind as she reminded me that we talked about it the other day, and I can either sit-in, or stay at an internet cafe nearby. I chose the former.

The seminar was being held in a shaded auditorium at DMMMSU (Don Mariano Marcos Memorial something .. I forgot), with electric fans as the sole protection against the humid afternoon. It was about the Philippine eLibrary System which the government initiated and is now being opened to the academe and the general public, with fees involved in getting more detailed information. In his welcome speech, Undersecretary de la Pena talked about current Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) projects, one of which I was familiar with.

This event lasted til 4 in the afternoon, unfortunately. Unfortunate because many of the delegates have to travel back to their hometowns with 4 to 6 hours on the road ahead of them. Navigating the portal was relatively easy though, many of the functions being controlled by search queries.

After this event we hurriedly took a mini bus, then a pedicab enroute to Tita Rem's place (a close friend of my wife; she was celebrating her birthday this coming weekend). She was quite surprised to see us, and while they caught up on old times, I visited the nearby beach to take some photos. The waters were quite noisy, with waves splashing one after another with a force similar to the Blue Beach of my younger years in Dagupan, Pangasinan.

I would have loved to take a dip or simply take a stroll by the beach with my wife but we did not have the luxury of time. Plus, we forgot to bring a change of clothes. So after a few moments in solitude, I went back to the two chit-chatting ladies.

We promptly left Tita Rem and headed for Saint Louis College (SLC) where my wife worked for 10 years. She has left a year ago, and many people still know here. Shrieks of delight here, giggles there, catching up on stories everywhere. It was already 5:30 and yet there were still a lot of people she knew on the school grounds.

We gave out invitations, and pretty soon we found ourselves tired from walking all over the place. And we felt icky from the humid afternoon. We had a quick dinner at Jollibee and then we were able to get a mini bus ride going back to Baguio at 8PM. Tired, we slept in the bus unmindful of the sharp bends it was traversing at dangerous speeds. We finally got back home at 9:30. I had a couple of hours with Jo-Lo before I left for the bus terminal.

So it was almost three cities in one day, but Manila is 6 hours away, and here I am at work, reminiscing about the weekend that was.

22 September 2005

Street balls and pares

It was already past 7 when I was still in the office, and my stomach was growling impatiently. I asked some of my colleagues if they wanted to eat something before returning to work. A couple said sure, and they suggested the pares stall at Makati Avenue.

Now, I am known to be somebody who does not eat in street stalls. I don’t know who spread that rumor, but I do eat street food too. Especially squid balls. Well, okay, the pares thing is relatively new to me.

So off we went to Makati Av. Wow, there are two vendors side-by-side selling the same type of food but they both have more than their fair share of customers. People in shirts and shorts, others in office attire, some in police and parcel service uniform... quite a good mix. This must be a popular food stop at night; they’re nonexistent here at daytime. There were no ladies around, though, unlike with squid ball stalls.

The stall had two large caldero (cauldrons?) at the center. One had brown-colored rice in it, and the other had a brownish soupy thing. We ordered pares, and we were promptly given two bowls: one with rice, the other with this soupy mixture. The taste is not that bad, I guess, especially since we were all able to consume two orders of rice each. Perfect with soda.

The last time I ate at the streets was in a lugawan (I ordered arroz caldo, which is rice broth with chicken in it) and and I was sitting comfortably then. This time, you eat standing. Talk about faster than fastfood.

Speaking of street food, here are a couple of photos:
These are chicken balls. We were supposed to order squid balls, but they ran out of stock.

And this, my friends, is the new thing in balut (boiled, fertilized duck egg). This is not being served in the streets, however. This version is being sold in the restaurant row of the 6th floor of The Pacific Star Building at Makati Avenue.

The balut less the shell is dipped in an orange batter and is deep fried. Same goes for quail eggs (the small ones which you see here). I also eat balut but not 100% of it. I do not like the partially-developed duck at all. So when I see that portion, I give it to my balut-eating companion.

Which was the same case here. We used a fork to poke at the balut and get certain portions which we dip in vinegar. But when what remained was the baby duck, I gave it to my friend, who willingly gobbled it up but not before giving me a curious stare. But I don't like that part, so why eat it? Dare me with a minimum of 1,000 pesos and I just might try. :-)

This is nice if you have a craving for balut but you do not have the luxury of time to crack open the egg and mess with the juice.

20 September 2005

Pancit Pancitan

Happy Birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, happy birthdayyyyyy … happy birthday to you!”

Anong pagkain ang laging kasama sa handaang Pinoy, lalo na kapag birthdays? Sirit? Di ka masyadong naiimbita sa parties ano? :-) Wat els, e di pancit! At dapat, kapag niluto ang pancit, hwag puputulin ang noodles para hahaba pa ang buhay ng celebrant. Hmmm… saan ka pa makakakita ng kahit sa pagkain ay meron ding pamahiin?

Read more at Blogkadahan!

17 September 2005

Happy weekend everyone!

It has been raining hard for the past three days, so it's nice to see the sun take a brief peek this morning. But it looks like another rainy afternoon, so I would like to share with you this merienda break for a warm, cozy afternoon. Champorado with tuyo!

15 September 2005

Bata, bata ... pa'no ka ginawa?

Mga ilang araw na ang nakakaraan nang kami ng mga kaopisina ko ay nagpunta ng National Bookstore upang bumili ng borloloy ng regalo para sa mga kliyente namin.

Sale doon kung kaya't napalingon-lingon ako at baka makakita ako ng libro na maaari kong mabili. At nabaling ng pansin ko ang librong ito ni Lualhati Bautista, ang "Bata, bata ... pa'no ka ginawa?"

Sa halagang 88 pesos less 20% ay ayos na ayos sa aking numinipis na wallet. Nang nakita ng mga kasama ko ang librong hawak-hawak ko ay natuwa sila.

"Uy! Ginawan namin ng book report yan!"
"May pelikula rin yan! Ginawan naman namin ng movie report!"

Nagtataka ako. Alam ko na isina-pelikula ang librong ito pero di ko alam na sikat rin pala ito.

"Eh kasi sir, wala na kayo sa school noon lumabas 'yang libro."

Ayos. Binisto pa ang edad ko. Teka, 1983 ito nilathala ah. Matagal na akong tapos sa Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys phase. Hmmm... bakit kaya di ko ito nabasa noon?

At ang aking feedback sa lathalang ito? Da best!

Nakakatuwa ang pagkakasulat! May konting murahan portion dito at doon, pero overall ay solid ang kwento. Tungkol ito sa isang pamilya na di ordinaryo ang katayuan, sapagka't ang dalawang magkapatid ay magka-iba ng ama. Nagiging komplikado ang sitwasyon sapagka't gustong maging totoo ang ina nilang si Lea sa kanila, kaya't namulat ang mga bata sa katotohanang iba sila.

Bagama't medyo taboo pa ang paksang ito sapagka't conservative ang Pinoy (o maling pag-aakala na ito?) ay akmang-akma ang tema sa panahong ito. Ang komplikasyon ng pag-adjust ng schedule sa pamilya at sa trabaho, mga taong hindi mo lahat mapaliligaya, mga self-righteous, may masayang araw, at meron rin namang hindi.

Nasa ika-dalawampung kabanata na ako. Malamang ay matapos ko na ito pagdating ng weekend. Kung di nyo pa nababasa ito ay bumili na agad ng kopya! Awardee ito ng Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature!

6630 Blues update

Hello everyone! Just wanted you to know that I was able to retrieve 5 photos out of 10. When I loaded the card onto the reader, it immediately displayed 5 photos which I hurriedly copied. But for the 5 remaining ones, I was not able to recover even with the help of this software I downloaded. *sigh* And those were the better shots.

You can find three of the photos in Jo-Lo's blog. Until then ... gotta go to work! Thanks Dessagirl!

13 September 2005

6630 Blues

I was in Baguio last weekend and was happily taking photos of food, Mommy Tina and Jo-Lo when suddenly my camera phone (an office-issued Nokia 6630) conked out on me. Yes, the memory card got corrupted and I cannot retrieve the nice photos of the champorado, the camote, of baby Jo-Lo reading and with his smiling Mommy ... bummer.

Incidentally, this 6630 is really something. Whenever I go to Baguio, it goes into wacky mode. Yes, that's a special feature. I think that when the phone encounters a certain temperature change, it goes into auto-off mode. Time and again I found my phone turned off and it won't go back on when the ON/OFF button is pushed. So I have to remove the casing, remove the battery, then put back the battery and the casing again before the phone can be activated again. Double bummer. Were it not for the nice shots I get from this phone, I would have traded it for something else. Whoops, I forgot. This is not mine. Triple bummer. What's wierd is, the auto-off "feature" does not work in Manila. Strange, eh?

In a last ditch effort, I'm downloading software (called ImageRecall) to recover files from the corrupted memory card. Dessagirl will be bringing her memory card reader tomorrow. Wish me luck!

09 September 2005

Japan Video Topics

Last month I talked about one of my childhood TV memories, the Sunday Chinese Theater and the lady with the huge wok. Last night I saw on IBC13 another show which I was fond of watching way back when. It was called Japan Screen Topics before, but the show is now called Japan Video Topics. However, the show still uses the same format as it had years ago.

Japan Video Topics is a documentary on various things Japanese. Arts, places, food, people, events, hobbies, work, what have you. Each segment is divided into three topics, each very clearly described and with lots of amazing video footages. Snow festivals, origami, ikebana, sushi, plastic food, nanny services in train stations ... the show covers lots of interesting topics.

Or maybe because I also like watching anime and eating Japanese food that I find this show interesting?

Japan Video Topics can be seen in IBC13 in the evening (around 7 I think?), and in the morning (around 7:30AM) in RPN9. I think these TV stations are using this segment as fillers.

I also find myself watching Lakbay TV frequently these days for Asian places, customs and events. I'd like to visit some of these countries after travelling in ours someday.

So hum a little Turning Japanese and hunt for these shows! For some Japanese fun, visit Engrish.com and Sushicam, a Japan photoblog.

PS. I'm still having a bit of a problem writing into my own shoutbox from the office. Sorry if I cannot respond to your comments there. But thanks for leaving notes! I appreciate it.

08 September 2005

Beef bowl with ginger

Since we are on the topic of food and places to go, I would like to recommend the beef bowl of no other than Yoshinoya, a Japanese fastfood shop! The beef bowl is simple enough. Shredded beef akin to bacon strips with sliced onions on top of steaming white rice. But the taste of the beef is simply scrumptious. It's simple yet enjoyable. Add to that the nice green iced tea (though I am not quite sure if it possesses the benefits supposedly derived from this drink), and you get a tummy-filling meal.

But wait! There's more! Add a generous shake of ground spices similar to the one used in pizzas, and you get something that looks spicy but it's not. And then there's the red ginger! I pile a generous amount on my beef bowl. Frankly, I'm not sure if that's the way this is supposed to be eaten. Is this a Japanese appetizer? I don't know. One thing I know, though, is that the reason I come back to Yoshinoya is also because of this red ginger.

Not a lot of my friends like the taste so I was surprised when my wife also loved the red ginger. I would sometimes ask for some (they have samples in small plastic packets) to take home. I don't think grocery stores carry that.

It's strange that I like this red ginger thingamajig, when I remember back in high school a friend was happily munching on Chinese candied ginger and gave me some. I spit it out. Urgh. But now I also like the taste of salabat (a ginger-based drink. Soothes the throat), which you can now buy in "instant" form on grocery stores.

Now I wonder if my voice has improved ... pass the mic please.

02 September 2005

Yummy oysters

I suddenly had a craving for oysters.

It must be due to the seafood diet I've been having lately. Fish, mussels in soup, squid, baked tahong. But when was the last time I had oysters? 4,5 years ago.

My first taste of oysters was when I was a kid. My father's friends from Dagupan would go to our home in Baguio and bring a basketful of oysters. They would pour hot water over these in a basin, look for telltale holes in the seemingly solid piles of rock, and deftly open it with a knife to reveal the fresh, tasty morsel within. Yummy.

My younger brother loved to hang out with my father and his friends. Pretty soon, he also became adept at opening oysters. I satisfied myself with bugging our Tatay for some. He would give us a couple, and then refuse us some more, saying our stomach couldn't handle more.

The last time I had oysters was the baked variety at Via Mare's. Loads of melted cheese on it, the oysters sitting on a bed of rock salt. It was simply delicious.

Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia on oysters:
Oysters can be eaten raw, or smoked, boiled, baked, fried, roasted, stewed, canned, pickled, or broiled (grilled). Preparation can be as simple as opening the shell, while cooking can be as spare as adding butter and/or salt, or can be very elaborate.

Like all shellfish, oysters have an extremely short shelf-life, and should be fresh when consumed. Precautions should be respected when eating them (see below). Purists insist on eating oysters raw, with no dressing save perhaps lemon juice or vinegar. Raw oysters are regarded like wines in that they have complex flavors that vary greatly among varieties and regions: some taste sweet, others salty or with a mineral flavor, or even like melon. The texture is soft and fleshy, but crisp to the tooth.

Oysters are generally an expensive food in places where they aren't harvested, and often they are eaten only on special occasions, such as Christmas. Whether oysters are predominantly eaten raw or cooked is a matter of cultural preference. In the United States today, oysters are usually cooked before consumption; canned smoked oysters are widely available as preserves with a long shelf life. Raw oysters were, however, once a staple food along the East Coast of the US, and are still easily found in states bordering the ocean. Oysters are nearly always eaten raw in France.

Fresh oysters must be alive just before consumption. There is a simple criterion: oysters must be tightly closed; oysters that are already open are dead and must be discarded. To confirm an open oyster is dead, tap the shell. Alive oyster will close and is safe to eat. Opening oysters requires skill, for live oysters, outside of the water, shut themselves tightly with a powerful muscle. The generally used method for opening oysters is to use a special knife (called a shucking knife), with a short and thick blade, inserting the blade (with some moderate force and vibration if necessary) at the hinge in the rear of the shell, and sliding it upward to cut the adductor muscle (which holds the shell closed). Inexperienced cooks can easily slip and injure themselves; this is said to be a significant cause of domestic accidents in the Christmas season in France.

An alternative to opening raw oysters before consumption is to cook them in the shell – the heat kills the oysters and they open by themselves. Cooked oysters are savory and slightly sweet-tasting, and the varieties are mostly equivalent.

A piece of folk wisdom concerning oysters is that they are only safe to eat in months containing the letter 'r.' This is because oysters spawn in the warmer months, from roughly May to August. They are safe to eat at all times of the year, although their flavor when eaten raw can be somewhat watery and bland during spawning season. Oysters from the Gulf of Mexico spawn throughout the year, and are generally best cooked.

So, anybody out there who wants to invite me to dine on oysters? :-)
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