30 May 2006

Close encounters of the Durian kind

I've had a few helpings of durian in the past. But it was not the actual fruit. It came as candies and sweets as pasalubong. True to its smelly reputation, even the candied variety has the unique ability to make my officemates' noses twitch. Inspite of that, I did like the candies.

I did not think much about having durian in Davao. In fact, I was even 50% looking forward to it in the first few days. But the build-up of this treat, like it was an event all by itself, made me feel cautious as the dinner to Em's place neared.

So I was glad to have a durian product first before the actual fruit. After one of our hearty dinners, went to Blugre', a local coffee shop that offered Durian coffee. Hmmm... intriguing. Everybody except the locals in our group ordered this concoction. Cheers!
It smelled and tasted ok. It actually tasted more like coffee with a hint of durian candy. I was enjoying my cup when I felt a pulpy consistency when the cup when I was four-fifths done. Intrigued, I slurped the remaining pulps, munched, and swallowed.

I was perspiring soon enough. It was very uncomfortable. I don't know if it was the remaining coffee that had a concentration of sugar and cream that hit me (I perspire profusely when I eat candies and sweets), or the power of the durian itself. At any rate, the group had a field day about my sweating session. Aaaargh.
When we visited Princess Em's house for dinner, I was delighted not to see any trace of durian on the table. Just watermelons and mangoes. But when everybody was already contentedly finishing up the remaining seafood tidbits on their plate, some yellow, roundish things were served on the table.

Everybody stared at me, with smiles on their faces.

One of our companions (a local) took some and took huge bites. "This bright yellow variety is the best one!" he declared. It would be foolhardy to refuse because it might offend the host, so I took one. So did our other companions, who haven't had durian before too.

It's best served refrigerated, so I took a moderate-sized lump, ready for this challenge. After the others took a bite off their smaller portions, I had mine. It had the consistency of soft ice cream. But the taste ... I cannot quite place it. It's difficult to describe. But I knew then and there that it will take a while for me to finish off my piece. It was not that wierd actually, but I can tell you it's no orange or pineapple or watermelon either.

After some time, I finally laid down the seed on my plate. When asked if I wanted another, I respectfully declined. Incidentally, I did not sweat profusely as with the coffee version, though I read in wikipedia that durian does cause sweating.

It was a unique experience for me. I'm not picky with my fruits. I even chomp down on an occasional chesa, the yellowish fruit that I'm not really fond of. But the durian is quite something. It must be an acquired taste.

I think I will settle for the candies for now. But if the occasion calls for it, I will take the challenge and eat a lump. Hope it will come fresh from Davao, though :-).

26 May 2006

In search of Pag-asa and Waling-waling

Mindanao is blessed with abundant natural resources. The sad part is, these are being threatened to extinction by deforestation. The Philippine Eagle (or monkey-eating eagle), once proudly flying across the blue skies where it is king, is now kept in cages for breeding and preservation (though a number are being introduced into the wild). The waling-waling is also on the verge of extinction. This unique orchid was once found only in Mindanao, but are now being cultivated in other countries as well. Ironically, it is a threatened species in the Philippines due to its sensitive nature and the desctruction of its habitat.

The trip to the Eagle Sanctuary was a memorable one. I originally thought that there were only a handful of the eagles left. I was surprised that there more more. Over fifteen eagles, I think. Wait, that is indeed a handful. I do hope more are on the way.
The eagles were magnificent. Even from afar they are a sigh to behold. They would mostly perch silently on trunks and trees inside their cages, but when they would fly off to perch on another branch, we would stare in awe. Such huge wingspans! Here's a photo of Pag-asa's cage. I believe the original Pag-asa has long since died; he is a second-generation eagle with the same name. Can you spot where he is?

Hmmm... the eagle wouldn't look at us so let's not look at him to. Let's see who will budge first...
We also visited a butterfly garden at Malagos (which, sadly, is also in various states of disrepair; it must have been a wonderful place to visit when it was well-kept). The place ws huge, and plants were tagged with their names. An educational stroll overall.

Debbie wanted to kiss the frog. But that's no frog!

This fern is an endangered species, though we did also see some at the Waterfront Hotel where we had our conference.Butterflies fluttered in close proximity. It was mesmerizing, the way they glided about.

And there were also fowls of various shapes and sizes at the Paradise Island. Ostriches remind me of the good old movie Swiss Family Robinson.
Too bad I forgot to bring Visine.

I was not able to see a waling-waling up close and personal, so I settled for other breeds instead. Read the myth of the waling-waling in Filipino here.

It was wonderful doing the nature trips in Davao. There's another spot we weren't able to visit because it's too far away. It's called Eden.

I can only imagine how the eagles flew beyond the horizon from days of yore, and how the waling-waling thrived in the forests, and captured the imagination and awe of many a people.

Happy weekend everyone!

24 May 2006

Davao food!

And now we come to a subject matter that's close to my heart. FOOD! Lots of them!

Davao is heaven for food lovers, especially seafood! And it's inexpensive too! Lapu-lapu and crabs are common table fare here. In Manila, it will cost you an arm and a leg to dine with these delicacies.

Just how affordable is the food in Davao? Here is proof of this amazingly delicious surprise: P50.00 buffet breakfast! P99.00 per head for catering!
They didn't scrimp on the breakfast food choice either. There's plain and fried rice, pancit, scrambled eggs, chicken adobo, mushroons, spanish sardines, and tapa.

Indeed, after work we needed to unwind and we had one of our breakfasts along the shores of Paradise Island. After all, how often can you dine by the beach, and take your time just enjoying the scenery and being away from the hustle and bustle of urban life?

Here we are before...
And after.
But wait, let's have desert!

In most of our meals, we had this dish called kinilaw. It's basically diced raw tuna mixed with vinegar and pepper. Delicious. Em is quite fond of it (including that ice cream delight in above photo). But with fish so fresh, who can resist?

Here is a photo of the meal we had in Ahfat (a Chinese restaurant) along Victoria Plaza Mall. Look at those crabs! The soups were delicious too. There's sweet and sour fish too. We were eating near the display window where their chefs cook up mouth-watering delights. Occasionally a waiter would be rushing off to the small window and hand over a bowl with something struggling to get out. Yes, the fish is very fresh in these parts.

Then there's the coconut juice, served with the entire husk. Sip the sweet water, then grab a spoon and scrape off the translucent, soft coconut meat inside.

Here, we have a photo of our dinner at Princess Em's house. Look at that! Crabs, grilled tuna, squid, shrimps. It's seafood smorgasboard! It was quite a silent dinner, I tell you, each concentrating on their food.

I had the most wonderful serving of shrimps at the Harana Restaurant. It's called hilabos na hipon. I was already halfway done when I took this photo. The meat was sweet, and it had a buttery, salty flavor to it. I couldn't resist eating the whole bunch and didn't share it with my tablemates. I don't think they minded anyways, as they were quite busy with their meals as well.

They have these small peppers that belie its spicy strength. As I sat amused and started to crunch these to mix with calamansi and soy sauce for my shrimps, Em wondered if I wanted indeed to have two of those. Why not? They were too small actually, I replied. Em warned me that they were quite hot.

A couple of dips later, I was grabbing for my drink. It was hot indeed. But it complemented the shrimps at the same time. I loved it.

And so I end this post with this photo of my plate at Em's house:
Look at those claws!

22 May 2006

Davao pasalubong!

Davao is part of a bigger island called Mindanao located south of the Philippines. It is one-third of the country itself, the other group of islands being the Luzon and the Visayas grid.

I had the rare opportunity to visit Davao del Sur last week. It was a business trip, but we managed to take a couple of days off to see the land of the Philippine eagle and the Durian!

Inspite of its reputation as being an island that's a rather dangerous place to be in (due to insurgency), our vacation at the Davao del Sur region was relatively peaceful. In fact, the people were friendly, and the place is one of the cleanest I have ever seen!

Taxi drivers don't choose their customers. Simply get in, tell them where you want to go, and you're off. Plus, they give back your change to the last peso. Ain't that grand?

And going around the place is relatively easy. People speak Filipino as the major language! I was expecting them to speak a Visayan dialect of which I know nothing about. But I had very little difficulty going around and interacting with the locals.

By the way, there are non-aircon taxis too! And i thought those exist only in Baguio. They use the compact Kia cars. It's okay to drive around without aircon because inspite of the heat, you don't get that icky sticky feeling when you sweat here in Manila.

And since there's little or no traffic at all, you can get to your destination in a jiffy!

I will blog about our nature trips and the food in future posts. Today, I would like to talk about pasalubong items!

Aside from the foodies featuring durian-based delicacies and sweets, there are lots of other trinkets and apparel you can choose from. In fact, these goodies are so nice you want to take some home for yourself! Mindanao has a strong Muslim influence , along with its clothing and culture. Ethnic designs make pasalubong items truly unique.

The malong is a cylindrical, long piece of cloth which, when twisted, turned and knotted this way and that, can become a bag, or a dress for women, or a kilt-like thing for men.

Here's Princess Em showing off the malong I bought for myself :-) Thanks Em for being our gracious host to discovering the delights of Davao!

There's also the tubaw, a scarf-like clothing used to cover the head and neck part. It can have a simple design, or can be very intricate, like those for the ladies.

And then there's the sahal, which looks like a bandanna used to wrap around the head.

And of course, there's an assortment of keychains to choose from.

I picked up this small wooden chest as well. This is for my wife. It now contains a few simple delights for her. I hope she'll like this litte surprise when she gets it this coming weekend!

Another wonderful thing with Davao is that the place is so laid back, you got a lot of time on your hands! Us busy Manila folks who are so accustomed to rush hours tried to do many things at once there. Imagine our surprise when we would realize we still had four hours or more til dinnertime, or we would be lounging around watching TV and still we'd have a couple more hours before lunch. Ah yes, our schedule revolved around food. It's in abundance and relatively inexpensive too! I will share that with you in a future post.

We had sooo much time on our hands that we even managed to take a breather and be kids again!

Philippine map photo credit: Wikipedia

16 May 2006

I'm off to a business trip!

Hello friends! It's Tuesday early morning (1:30AM), but here I am trying to keep awake. I just hope I don't get migraine from this...

I think I won't be able to wake up on time because I am due to go to the airport later for a trip to Davao. The flight is at 4:30, so I have to be at the airport at around 3:00... so I need to take a cab from home by 2:30 or so.

It's a business trip. It's my first time to be there so I'm all excited. I just hope I get to see more than just the 4 walls of the conference halls. So I'm off... til Sunday. I'll see if I can sneak in and do a bit of blogging from the land of durian and the tarsier!

Til then! I'll buy some pasalubong!

12 May 2006


"Pasalubong ko ha!"

That's what you would usually hear when friends get word that you are leaving, be it for business or for pleasure. As someone who goes to my hometown of Baguio regularly (and Baguio is loaded with pasalubong goodies!), I am frequently asked to bring something along, be it strawberries, vegetables, peanut brittle, or choco flakes.

I don't mind doing the extra trip to the market, because many of these requests usually come with payment already (they now offer payment because I go so often to Baguio that it's like a regular weekend trip home already and pasalubong shopping can really add up to a lot of cash). But what I really, really don't like to bring along are brooms! Yup, Baguio brooms have a reputation for sturdiness and are popular pasalubong items too. But that's the one thing I don't like carrying around. And sometimes, I just conveniently forget to buy :-).

Here are some popular pasalubong items from other regions:

Dried fish and squid galore! Famous delicacy from the Vizayas region. Deep-fry these goodies, dip in vinegar, and it's the perfect companion to fried rice!
These dried delicacies give-off a strong scent, though, so it's not allowed onboard planes. Make sure your pasalubong is wrapped in plastic and newspaper and stored in a box when making plane trips.
These ae a couple of pasalubong items I received from officemates. At the left is chichacorn, a crunchy corn product from Vigan (which is located North of Manila). The other one is peanut brittle from the island of Mindoro.
Yup, we Filipinos are big on food. But pasalubong items can also be magnets, keychains, shirts, and lots more. Recently I received two keychains: one that looks like a crocodile from Palawan (in the Southernmost tip of Luzon) and an intricately-woven keychain from Bataan (in the northernmost tip of Luzon! What a coincidence).

But no matter how simple the pasalubong is, it's always the thought that you were remembered (or you remembered if you're the one who left) that counts.

Happy weekend everyone!


Here's a pasalubong update! I just received some broas (a type of semi-crunchy sweet bread thing) from an officemate who had her vacation in Bohol, land of the chocolate Hills! Yum.

09 May 2006

Boracay discoveries

While staying at the Fairways and Blue Waters in Boracay, we had some time to wander into the surrounding areas, far from the busy beachfront. Being situated atop the mountain, the resort affords us a path going to the opposite side of the island. A brisk walk and you see a different beach. The sand is still powdery, but there are no caretakers here to remove dried-up coconut leaves, the waves are more pronounced. It provides for a quiet time by the shore.
This beach has two sections. Orienting yourself at the swimming pool area of the resort, the left side is what I have described above. The right side is also similar, but with a fenced-off area dotted with open-air cottages for guests who would like to have a massage.

From the massage area, you go to the beach through this hollow cavern.

We were a bit delighted to find a cave in that area as well. Exploring a bit further, we found out that it was not deep, and it is being used as a place of adoration, with logs as benches and oil lamps dotting the wall for illumination. The cross, if you may notice, is veiled. It was Good Friday when we made this visit.

And yes, I still have the Boracay hangover.

07 May 2006

Pinoy Big Brother

My wife was able to visit the Pinoy Big Brother house a couple of weekends ago. Pinoy Big Brother is a reality TV show whereby contestants stay in the house and stick to the rules, play the game, get nominated for eviction, and saved by the audience through SMS voting.

It's quite popular here in the Philippines, and the house itself has become a "tourist attraction." I know of some people who'd love to see the actual house as well. Well, here's my wife - who didn't like PBB before and did not actually watch the first two editions, but is currently glued to the TV when PBB is on - in front of the actual house!

05 May 2006

Your Mission: eat your vegetables!

Chu has become quasi-vegetarian. He no longer wants to eat pork and beef, though he getting chickenjoy off his system might take some time. This discussion ensued while he segragated the meaty bits from his pizza slices in yesterday's breaktime.

After my last meeting which ended at 8PM, my colleague Harry, my brother Dodi, and I rushed off to Glorietta to catch Mission Impossible III. We have been hearing rave reviews about it, so we decided to see a second night screening.

We got hold of 9:40PM tickets and with abundant time still on our hands, we walked to the lower level of Glorietta 4 where the Food Court is located.

Incidentally, we were talking about vegetarian places and a few establishments were named. A quick search of the establishments later, we found ourselves in front of Evergreen. The dishes looked "normal" enough. The meat-like ingredient turned out to be veggie-meat, a mixture of tofu and flour.

It looked appetizing enough, so they took our orders. I had bopis (sauteed finely-chopped "meat" with green peas and pepper) and laing (veggies and "meat" cooked in coconut milk), Harry also had bopis and asado (ummmm.... how do I explain what this is?), and barbecue between us. (Dodi has not arrived yet at that time, so he bought burgers to go instead). We thus ate with curiosity. And we ate using spoon and fork, ladies and gentlemen!

The taste? Not bad at all. If you are an avid fan of meat, you will immediately notice the difference in texture and taste, but it's actually tasty. We even finished our meal with extra rice each.

Now, on to the movies!

Mission Impossible III was one heck of a ride! Fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thrill! Watch it in a Dolby or THX-certified cinema to get the full effect of the action sequences.

The enemy is cool and calculating, and highly believable. Comic relief is done by fellow agent Ving Rhames, who was also present in the movie's second installment. No antics, just conversations and one-liners that were quite effective. And of course, Tom Cruise delivered another superb performance.

I don't want to divulge anything plot-wise about the movie, so go watch it for an Impossible Missions night. Highly recommended!

MI:III photo credit: IMDB
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