27 February 2006

It's merienda time!

Many visitors to this blog has frequently commented on how this site is becoming a food blog. Well not exactly a food blog, as those I have seen under this category also share their recipes. I am not a bad cook myself, but I rarely cook. So I simply share my food adventures.

Perhaps the major reason why I love talking about food is because I am surrounded by people who love eating as well. Take our office, for example. Last week, it was almost everyday that there was free food at the pantry. And who doesn't love free food? :-). It's either for a birthday celebration, or for people who just turned one year with the company, or from people who got "duped" into buying food as a treat.

Here are a couple of photos taken from one of our merienda sessions. Two bilao (a round container made of bamboo, usually used to separate rice from the small stones and husks, but also used to carry veggies by vendors roaming house to house, and now used to carry food as well) of pancit (fried noodles with chopped veggies, shrimp, and pork), one white and other brownish, and an abundant supply of pan de sal (bread usually consumed during breakfast) were made available for the mid-afternoon break. Here are some of my colleagues having breaktime fun Filipino style!

The girl in the middle is no other than Dessa girl, who is on diet.

We would open up the pan de sal and stuff pancit in it. Yes, it's carbohydrates with more carbohydrates in it. Carbo loading!

Here's to a food-filled week ahead!

23 February 2006

Return to Majayjay, Laguna

How long has it been since I last visited Majayjay (pronounced ma-high-high)? Seven, eight years ago? I was with officemates then. Before, you had to do a couple of hours' hike to reach Taytay falls through dense vegetation. But when we did our trek back then (it was just for an afternoon's visit), something huge was abrew. A path wide enough for a car and a half had just been freshly carved out of the wooded floor from the town proper to the stairs going down the falls. Our rented van stopped where the cemented road ended and we started our hike on the freshly-dug dirt road.

Seeing the place again brought back these memories, but it was radically different now. The road has been cemented, and there are signs of habitation on both sides of the road. with the road came amenities such as the parking space, and within these premises a sari-sari store, some rooms you can rent for the night, and a canteen. The hike has also been cut short to a mere half an hour. Whether this development is ok or not is really up to the visitor's outlook. As for me, I have been here before so I kind of missed the walk and the fact that it was rarely visited then so we had the place pretty much to ourselves (and a couple of campers). It was like our secret place that we'd love to tell stories about to whoever asks, "where's that?"

But that initial feeling relatively dissolved as we made our way down to the river. The familiar cemented, narrow walkway, the wide channel of flowing water to the left, and the lush vegetation at our right is just the way I remembered it years ago. When we reached the vicinity of Taytay falls, we were greeted by a view of a small community of tents. There was quite a number staying for the weekend. We picked a place to set-up camp (beside a bigger group's place, whose couple of members dropped by where we rested, made small talk, and one of them even helped us with the setting up of our shade. It's a camaraderie amongst campers that's ever present.)

Surprisingly, the place has been well-maintained. The community of Majayjay has gotten into the act to ensure that the campers are safe (there are locals who would occasionally patrol the area) and the surroundings clean (there is even a garbage collector). It is likewise comforting to know that there is a comfort room nearby. :-). Butterflies would occasionally flutter by and hop from one flower to another. The river runs into the valley, so even when the sun shines, there is always a shaded area. But it's not likely that you'll want to stay away from the sun. There's intermittent drizzling which you wouldn't mind anymore once you get soaked. Unless you're cooking.

We had sandwiches at mid-morning (complete with tomatoes, greens, dressing, tuna. It's camping with style! All thanks to Marimar who took care of our food as her birthday treat to us. Belated Happy Birthday Marimar!), and a generous helping of fried fish, rice and veggies for lunch. We spent the rest of the day taking a dip in the cold waters (yes, it was c...c...cold! But once you submerge, you get accustomed to it. Quite relaxing, actually.) and singing some songs accompanied by a guitar. That's me at the photo; the guitar is just a prop! I just do some of the singing. If you can call it that. :-)

The night was enveloped with sounds of crickets and chirping birds and rushing waters. We lit the lamp and did some more singing. I think that's what attracted these mosquito-like huge insects. The night sky was black as ink, as it was still overcast.

The following day brought more excitement because that was the time all of us would be going to the falls! We marched back to the path and crossed many tents and campers along the way. Excitement filled everyone as we caught sight of the raging waters. We finally reached the pool and sat by the side. It was c...c...cold! Colder than the river below. But soon everyone was wading and swimming. We went to the back of the falls where there is a cavern and had a ball clinging on to the roof while the waterfall nearby created incessant waves that attempted to throw us off-balance.

To the left of the falls was a man-made structure that looked like a grotto ... and a path going up to where the falls originated. Wait ... there appears to be a sign right beside the grotto. What does it say? We can't read it from all the mist in the air and water in our eyes! So let's go up! And climb we did, navigating gnarled roots and rocks criss-crossing the steep mountain side.
We were rewarded with a most amazing pool of deep blue! The water worked its way at the right side into the falls, while at the left side the water was relatively peaceful. Some campers were there as well. I guess they found it difficult to read the sign too. We lingered for a while (the pond was quite deep in the middle) then proceeded to descend and stayed on at the falls.

We had lunch and left mid-afternoon. Amazingly, the sun started to shine like it was tempting us to stay on for another day. But back to the urban jungle we have to go. Thanks guys for the wonderful adventure!

21 February 2006

Ebun: a restaurant review of sorts

So there we were at Greenbelt one fine evening, gathered together with one objective in mind: look for a place to eat. We were supposed to stay at the Kitchen but it was taking forever to book seats (I like their serving of water; their bottles have mint in it). So we seated ourselves at the adjacent restaurant instead.

The place is oddly called Ebun. Please pardon my limited knowledge of local culture, but I believe people from Pampanga call the egg "Ebun", while a similar term in Filipino ("Ibon") means bird. Strange, eh? Anyways, the top of the doorway is decorated by whole eggshells encased in glass, and the interior is mostly white, with roundish objects to complement the theme. The furniture is simple and inviting (in fact, it oddly made me feel right at home).

Since this is a Pampanga-themed restaurant, we expected local dinner fare. So straight-off we ordered popular dishes that everyone will be agreeable to: Bulalo and sinigang for our soup, some fried fish, and a platter of grilled seafood.

Here's the group, waiting for the food to arrive. We are all smiles here, but actually we were all quite hungry already. :-)

Oooh. The fried fish looks tempting. Crunchy. What is it?, I asked. Catfish, came the reply. Huh? I ... usually ... don't ... eat ... catfish. What the heck. It looks good. So dig in I did. And it was yummy.
Mussels, eggplants, more fish, and shrimps!
I love Bulalo (beef soup with chunks of meat with bones, and with potatoes and green veggies), so this bowl stayed near my side the whole time. Unfortunately I was not able to taste the Sinigang (sour soup).

Ok... while I'm working up an appetite here while doing this post, I'd say our food choices was ok for some and not for the others. The fried catfish was delicious, dipped in aromatic vinegar. The mussells, however, were a bit on the dry side. Like they were no longer fresh. The bulalo was great. I was not able to taste the sinigang, unfortunately.

As for the service, the waiters took quite a while to deliver our additional orders for extra rice so our excitement died down for quite a bit when the rice arrived and one bowl was left unfinished. And when we asked for extra bulalo soup, they said they've run out. So early in the evening?

There was still the business of sumptuous beef begging to be chewed still clinging to the bone in the bulalo soup (which is ok; it's really served that way). It was difficult getting to the meat though. So we asked for a knife. Twenty years later, the waiter handed over ... a butter knife!
Go Francis go! He definitely had a grand time trying to pry loose those bits of meat.

My overall review: food is ok and not ok (if you catch my drift), service can use a time machine to speed things up a bit. Price would have been ok if the mussells were not on the dry side.

So if you're in Greenbelt in Makati and would like to have a nice dinner, try ... Kitchen!

16 February 2006

sharing Baguio photos

This month being the Festival of Flowers and all, I would like to share some photos I took in the past couple of weekends while visiting my wife and baby Jo-Lo. And do visit the Baguio-Quezon blog for the Panagbenga event calendar and some more photos!

This was taken at SM. My wife and I usually take strolls late in the afternoon. The stars have descended to the mountains!
Last weekend, there was surprisingly quite a number of passengers bound for the lowlands. I did not book a seat early on, and was stuck with a 1:40 Monday morning trip. This photo was taken from inside the bus. This is the Victory Liner terminal. Brrr.... very cold monday morning!
Is that a UFO? Nope. That's the moon, already visible at 2:00 in the afternoon!
This photo was taken after we did our visit to the stalls in Burnham Park (see photos at the Baguio-Quezon blog). Sunsets are quite nice in Baguio...

14 February 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

Just got back from lunch at Glorietta. Francis and I dropped by Holland Tulips (a flower shop) in the mall and we were not surprised to find a male crowd pointing out flowers, some waiting for their purchase to be wrapped, while others walked out the store staring at nothing in the distance while holding on to their precious bouquet.

This scene reminded me of my college days. Library Assistants would sell flowers at the Library lobby to the students. We, in turn, deliver these flowers to their recipients during class hours. This was toleratede by the faculty, because their student organizations also do the same thing on Valentine's to raise funds. Students get giddy with excitement and there are exclamations of glee with every rose sent to classrooms, which disrupts the lesson momentarily. But hey, it's only once a year!

Such simple surprises never fail to light up the day of the recipient. Such as my wife, who received a dozen red roses in her office this morning. Delivered by my brother (hence I was able to have this photo sent to me by MMS).

Happy Valentine's dearest! And to you, dear reader, a Happy Valentine's too!

13 February 2006

"the Apple of our eyes"

Our boss returned from Singapore last week with a surprise for Team Marketing: an Apple PowerBook G4! We got all excited when we saw the box and couldn't wait until our IT Admin had registered the unit with Apple and installed Adobe CS2 and Macromedia.

When we finally laid our hands on the laptop, we got a bit disoriented at how the controls work but after some time of fiddling around with it, we became familiar with the basics.

It has a wide screen display, with a default resolution of 1440 x 960. The colors are simply simply amazing, the images sharp. Our blogs even look better on the PowerBook! And it's fast!

We will be using this tool to work on graphics, web development, and desktop publishing. We have requested for another Apple computer as well, this time the desktop version (G5). Something new to fiddle around with at work. Staying in the office became more exciting. And this is officially my first post using the PowerBook!

10 February 2006

Simple childhood food joys

My nanay (mother) sometimes cook monggo (mung beans) as our viand on Fridays in observance the "no-meat policy" for that day in commemoration of our good Lord's death on Good Friday. When our Nanay pours the uncooked monggo beans on a basin of water with a bit of salt to separate the good from the old ones, we would pause our playing and linger by the dining table and gaze longingly at the basin.

"Nanay, pag naluto yung monggo, pwede bigyan nyo kami?" (Mother, when the mung beans get cooked, please spare us some?)
Our mother would smilingly oblige.

When the boiling mung beans become soft, she would then segregate a small portion into a bowl then add the rest into stir-fried bits of pork, with water added, and then topped with ampalaya (bitter gourd) leaves.

We would then add sugar to our portion of the mung beans and munch on it with relish.

At other times when we have friends over and we get hungry, we'd rummage through the kitchen and get the leftover rice. When we're really hungry, we would simply get the local candy choc-nut (a small powdery chocolate bar), sprinkle it onto the rice, and mix. Merienda (snack time) solved! But if our stomachs can wait, we would help out in chopping garlic and onions, and stir-fry the rice mixed with minced leftover fried fish or bits of meat.

Ah, the simple joys of childhood!

Photo credit:
Goodness Direct for the mung beans

On other matters...
I was browsing through a hardware store for a flashlight when I chanced upon this safety whistle. Looks simple enough. A hollow piece of plastic designed to emit a shrill, loud sound. But what I do not get is an item on its list of uses at the back of the package. It read: "Not intended as a remedy for excessive biting or chewing." Eh?

Happy weekend everyone!

06 February 2006

Bayani = hero

I am not much of a politics person and not really delve into this topic much but in the case of Bayani Fernando, I will make an exception. As our current MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) Chairman who is more popularly known to have built pink fences all over the metropolis to regulate traffic and painted overpasses a bright pink as well, I have no qualms about his projects and plans. Not even his color preference.

As the Mayor previously of Marikina, he was a very effective leader in giving a nearly dead river a lease on new life and made it a very homey place for bicycles and promenading. He fixed transportation and garbage concerns. Marikina is a very nice place indeed to live in (and we have even contemplated on transferring there too) and was even featured in the homemaking magazine Real Living.

He is a person of action. He does not merely give out directions and go blah blah to the masses. He is right there in the thick of things. He had islands between streets decorated. Trees were planted alongside roads. He is proposing a bicycle lane.

Alas, the law prohibits him from taking action on some of his plans and some mayors find his actions intrusive that they resort to scoffing. One mayor even had the trees (some of them bananas) planted by MMDA uprooted even if the place where they were planted were unattended soil by the roadside. I do not see anything wrong with the plants being planted there. This move could have been welcomed for the environment but apparently, it might have been interpreted for something else. I wish they can also walk the walk and talk the talk.

I saw his televised interview a couple of nights ago as he details his plans, projects, and how he is coping on the pressure from his detractors (he was quite cool about it) and found new respect for the man. I salute you, Mr. Bayani Fernando!

PS. There was a research conducted years ago in US prisons to see which color would ease an inmate. The result? Pink.

01 February 2006

Camping out at Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal Part 2

[recent readers, please refer to the post prior to this for Part 1. Thanks!]

Sensing that we were inclined to stay at the valley and set-up camp already, one of their leaders said: "May isa na lang kaya sa inyo na sumama sa amin sa camping site para makita nya? Tara para masaya! (How about if one of you come with us to inspect the site? Let's go! It'll be fun.)

I thought, what the heck. I'll go with them and explore a bit further. They said it was just near, wasn't it? Just over the bend. I volunteered myself and another of our companion to go. And I started changing into slippers. Eventually, my other companions also decided that we all go together. O'hana! O'hana means family! Nobody get's left behind! (Uh, nobody said that actually but it just slipped my mind)

So we donned our gear and started the trek anew. After all it was already near, right?

The final leg of the hike took more than a couple of hours more. But it was a most exciting adventure as we crossed streams, some with flowing water that's too strong to be called a stream. But the waters were all very clean and clear! In places where the water gushed forth, we refilled our now-empty canisters and drank. Mineral water from the source! We passed by a cave which we no longer explored.

One time it's trees and mushy ground (it had been raining for the past few days), another time, it's crossing streams, still at another time its hopping and climbing rocks and boulders. It was great.

But of course, it was also a bit tiring. Especially when the path turned upwards towards the mountain. We rested near the top of the hill and the tailing campers handed over some chocolate mallows when they realized we were quite hungry. After some chit chat, we proceeded on our journey. Just when we thought that the hike would not end, the path suddenly sloped down the hill and we could hear the raging waters below. I knew we were already quite near. It was the same feeling I got years ago when my office colleagues and I hiked off to Mt. Majayjay in Laguna. The path gradually descended and we could clearly hear the raging waterfalls ahead. Anticipation was high.

The path suddenly turned sharply down the hill. It was quite muddy, but thankfully there were bamboo railings to hold on to. After a few more minutes, we were finally there.

We camped on dry, rocky ground while the other campers moved on a bit further. Ben (our leader) had the initiative to cook rice beforehand so we were able to get our fill of a late meal and recover energy to tidy up the place and build the tents.

That night, we cooked dinner and ate under the bright stars. We saw Orion's belt and a couple of fireflies hovering lazily as we chatted about and laid down while roasting mashmallows by the campfire. We slept before midnight as the other camp continued on with their revelry a distance from us.

We were greeted in the morning by mist in the mountains. Beside our campsite runs a brook, which was a good thing because we would occasionally waddle about to wash our hands and feet, and even just have a dip and relax! Or just sit there while rinsing spoons and cookware. After breakfast, we tied a long piece of rope into the nearby trees and this served as anchor as we waded and swam in the swirling waters. The water current was strong enough to drag you even when you're sitting near the shore! A couple of eagles flew overhead. Even from a distance you will know that they were quite huge!

After a bountiful lunch, the other campers passed by while we packed and a couple waited for us a little beyond the hill. The trek back was quicker, and soon we were enroute to the busy streets of Manila, with curious onlookers wondering where we had gone off to. Wish they knew the fun weekend we had.
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