Monday, November 30, 2009

the treasure chest next door

When I go to Manila, I stay at my progenitors' residence in Quezon City. When we were younger, my siblings and I thought that it was the absolute boondocks. It was too far from school, from restaurants and grocery stores, from playmates' and classmates' houses. Nobody wanted to come visit us. It was considered "the outskirts" then.

Nowadays, I have a real appreciation for our house's location. I never noticed before-- probably because my mother was a little paranoid and would not let us explore the neighborhood-- but everything, and I mean everything, is literally a few minutes' walk away.

We have grocery stores, pharmacies, dentists, beauty salons, a diagnostic clinic, and a whole slew of restaurants that are pretty durn good.

Case in point: Adarna Food & Culture. I had been noticing this restaurant popping up in different blogs for some months now. I usually take note of the address-- Kalayaan Avenue-- and think, hey, that's practically next door. And then I forget about it.

Note to self: Must make a list of restaurants to try whenever I go to Manila.

Anyway, mom and I went. It was very nice.

It's a bit like Cafe Juanita, but much less cluttered and chaotic. I think, though, that they were going for authentic, and not eclectic. Very successfully, I may add.

Parking and wifi are free. So I parked my butt and went online to check my email while mom was being entertained by the great staff. They showed her their mini museum, which I missed. Next time.

The seating is roomy but cozy. We were indoors in the AC area. The courtyard outdoors which serves as the smoking area is also delightful.

It's hard to top Anton Diaz's review of this restaurant. Since there were only two of us, we couldn't order a lot of stuff. We started with:

Sigarillas or sigarilyas are winged beans. Mom had never had them before. I really, really liked this dish. The veggies were crunchy and fresh, and the dressing was mild but flavorful. The pork bits on top pushed it over the edge to "must-order-everytime" status.

Let me just say that this is the hands-down best beef rendang I had ever tasted. Well, OK, it's not called that, but that's what it looked and tasted like. It has to be eaten fast, though. When it got cold, the meat became tough and the sauce started to separate.

This matched the beef perfectly. The single serving was more than enough for the two of us. Actually, I noticed that the serving sizes are quite generous. I would bring a bunch or relatives and friends next time so that we can try more dishes.

The crabmeat omelet was so-so. Maybe the quezo de bola and kesong puti variation would be better, with hot pan de sal. Oh dear, I just made my own mouth water, writing that.

(Quezo de bola = edam cheese. Kesong puti = soft white cheese made from carabao milk. Carabao = water buffalo subspecies, local beast of burden. Pan de sal = local bread, usually eaten for breakfast or afternoon snacks, characterised by very fine crumbs which get all over your clothes.)

Verdict: I would recommend this place to anyone who wants to eat hot, hearty, authentic Filipino food, while absorbing Pinoy vintage pop culture. Like its name says, they offer food AND culture. Adarna is a rare treasure chest and I am ecstatic that it's practically next door. Hot Tuna, you must, must, must try this restaurant. We will go with you-- just tell us when.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

bumoto ka!

This year, a bunch of my friends and I registered to vote in next year's elections. We had not voted in ages. The last time I voted, I was still in school. I didn't really take the right to vote seriously-- no big deal if I miss an election or two.

But the 2010 elections are different. There's somehow a sense of... urgency. There's a feeling that something significant is going to happen here, and around the world.

I think it all started with him:

Stressed out.

When Obama ran for the presidency of the world's most powerful nation and won, black people rejoiced. Women rejoiced. Gay people rejoiced. Middle-class professional America rejoiced. He represented every misfit and outsider, but was accepted by the insiders.

Our local version:

Not autistic, OK?

What does it feel like to have not one, but two parents who are considered saints and national heroes? I would be catatonic. But he stepped up. The problem is he doesn't look the part. I think, though, that he will win because his name is Benigno Aquino.

And on our island, we have:

Hanging out with the Vice.

John Yap: Scion of a clan of public servants. Eldest son of a beloved ex-mayor. Groomed from the crib to rule over our mini-kingdom. All he had to do was file his certificate of candidacy, and he had won already. So ready for the job, but he doesn't know it yet.

These three men have the power to change the world around them. They have so much potential to do great things. So many people's hopes are riding on them. They are our Pied Pipers. We will follow them anywhere.

We are on the cusp, the razor's edge. The future of the Earth will depend on what these three men do.

salt of the earth

I know, I know. The title is too cliche and so obvious, but the phrase just stuck in my mind and wouldn't go away.

What does it mean, anyway?

From "It means thoroughly good types. The origin is the Bible, from Jesus' sermon of the Mount, quoted in St Matthew's gospel: 'Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, werewith shall it be salted ' (Translated as-- You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?)

"The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says it suggests that the disciples should give the world an interesting flavour, and not that they were simply jolly good chaps. Super.

"According to the Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, 'the salt of the earth' is now used to describe 'a person or persons of great kindness, reliability or honesty'. People like lollipop ladies and shepherds. This backs up another claim for the origin of the saying.

"In the Moroccan city of Fez, the Jewish quarter (Mallah) is very old and was home to Jews who did a lot of salt mining. They were considered very useful to the community, and it is claimed that the expression 'salt of the earth' originated here.

"The Romans paid their soldiers an allowance of salt called a salarium - hence our word salary, and the phrases 'worth one's salt' and 'true to one's salt'. And if you 'salt a mine', you add valuable ore or something similar to make potential buyers think that they're getting something worthwhile. 'Salting an account' is when you put such a high value on something that you raise its market value. Of course, salt is traditionally a mark of social worth.

"To 'sit below the salt' means that someone has low social standing. It comes from an old custom of placing the family 'saler' (salt cellar) halfway down a long dining table. Those seated furthest away were the lowest rank. And people of distinction sat 'above the salt', near the head of the table.

"The expression 'taken with a pinch of salt', from the Latin cum grano salis, means that there's a grain of truth in it. What don't you trust us?"

Now wasn't that interesting? That's our lesson for today.

P.S. Actually, this post is about light and shadows. The sky is a brilliant blue this morning, no clouds, lots of sunlight. I wanted to play around with my Lumix LX3. The salt caught my interest. The pink salt, by the way, costs 635 pesos (about US$13).

It makes me happy to look at it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

food test

When I was in Manila last week, my goal was to eat at places that I had not tried before. Armed with a bunch of restaurant reviews, I spent a lot of time walking around the malls, looking for new food.

It's not easy, let me tell you. When your feet hurt and you're hungry, you can be tempted to go for the familiar. But I found a couple of gems in the Trinoma Mall.

I first read about World Chicken on Jenni Epperson's blog.

I'd heard about the long lines during lunch and dinner rush, but I went at 2pm so no lines. You get a piece of chicken, then choose your sauce and sidings-- kind of like Kenny Rogers. The chicken was nothing to write home about, although I appreciated the fact that it was boneless. The tarragon gravy was very yummy. It was one of the most untouched sauces, probably because not too many people know what tarragon is.

The baked potatoes were extremely dry-- will avoid next time. But their spaghetti al pomodoro is exquisite! Al dente, not drowning in sauce, savory and spicy but not overpowering.

Verdict: For 180 pesos (about US$3.50) with a glass of root beer, truly value for money. I will definitely go back, if not for the killer spaghetti al pomodoro, then maybe to try the other pasta sidings which also looked excellent.

Next day, I tried Cafe Mary Grace, also in Trinoma.

That's fusilli with chorizo and green olive sauce. Really nice. Not too salty, but not sweet either. I like these unusual pasta sauces (not red, not white) which just coat the pasta. A lot of local restaurants tend to pile on the sauce. You can't see the pasta anymore, let alone taste it.

I ordered the Apple Cinnamon iced tea. It's crazy good. It's like drinking a slice of apple pie.

Verdict: I was a little dismayed at first because of the serving size. I guess I got used to ginormous American-style servings which a normal human being can't finish by himself anyway. After I finished my meal, I felt really good. I was full, but not overly so, and no leftovers! Total price of meal: 400 pesos (about US$8). A bit pricey, but I would go back for the lovely service and to try the other stuff on their very extensive menu.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

slip of the tongue

I've been following the Manny-Jinkee-Krista love triangle story for about a week now. The best source is This was posted by a reader in the "Comments" section.

Click to enlarge.

There's something wrong there, right? Right? At first, you hardly notice it... but something doesn't look and sound quite right.

Shouldn't it be "She got all of our attention." Isn't that what was meant? But we all get it anyway.

Here's another one. From soul singer Jay-R.

When asked about a rumored lover, Jay-R said, "She is a very, very good friend of mine. She is someone I enjoy company with."

Read it again. Out loud. Think about it.

3... 2... 1... Boom.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

where they know my name

It was a catastrophe for my wallet.

I have a love-hate relationship with this clothing store. I can never go in and not buy anything. Everything looks good on me.

I love the extra long pocket. Sure, you can borrow my pen. Just let me fish it out of my shirt pocket.

The details of this one are very subtle, but still funky and unusual. I can wear it to a “serious” occasion and still show some personality.

This was my favorite! The design is insane. Check out the wonderfully useless pockets.

I ended up buying the first two, although I am contemplating going back for the third. Actually, I can only afford just one, but Christmas is just around the corner, so what the hey.

The sales attendants know my name. What does that tell you?

teddy's day out

I brought my dog to Tiendesitas, which has the world’s highest concentration of pet groomers all in one place. No kidding.

Heres’s the “Before” shot. Teddy looks like Chewbacca.

So well-behaved.

He’s never this well-behaved with me.

The “After” shot. Now he looks like a balding stuffed toy. Haha!

Well, YOU try brushing his hair everyday.

capturing the light

Ever since I shot those water lilies in Kalibo, it’s as if I discovered a whole new use for sunlight. Because the Lumix LX3 loves low light, I have been using it mostly in the shade or at night which sometimes results in flat-looking pictures.

It’s like a secret that I was not aware of until recently: Sunlight creates the loveliest shadows!

Even the shadows across this sign were interesting.

Click to enlarge.

It’s obvious that they used Spellcheck, but somebody should invent “Grammarcheck” and “Syntaxcheck”.

P.S. Notice my super cool Superga sneakers. Notice the super cool way I tie my shoelaces.

Monday, November 16, 2009

tortured by seair

I never take Seair. I usually take Zestair because of a sense of loyalty-- we know the former owners, the pilots, the sales staff. But since I have to bring Teddy to the dog groomer, I had no choice but Seair. Only Seair still accepts live animals and they're the only airline allowed to fly Caticlan. All other airlines have to use the Kalibo airport, which is a 90-minute drive away.

The day started out nice enough. The weather was great. I was not rushing. Teddy was well-behaved.

My flight was 9am. I was at the check-in counter at 7:30am. The Seair girl looks at my ticket, makes an annoyed face and says, "Your flight was moved to 6:45am. Weren't you informed?"

That was the first lie. My flight was NOT moved. Come on, just say it, you didn't have enough passengers, so you CANCELLED my flight and inserted me somewhere else. Also, you people have my email address and phone number. You just chose not to inform the passengers.

I said, "So? What time am I flying now?" She replied, 9:35am, which was not so bad. Only 35 minutes delayed. I check Teddy in and wait.

My poor baby.

At 9:20am, a Seair plane arrives, but it's not my plane. Ten minutes later, which was the time I was supposed to be inside the plane already, the Seair girls inform us that we have to go to Kalibo airport, which is a 90-minute drive away!

I ask, why? This is the second lie: Because of the weather daw. Did I just mention that the weather was great?

Here's the problem. I was fasting for a blood test. The fasting period is 10 hours, maximum-- meaning beyond 10 hours, I would be "over-fasting" and couldn't take the blood test anymore. I figured with my 9am flight, I should be in Manila in plenty of time if I started fasting at 3am. After all, the flight is only 40 minutes. As long as I had my blood drawn before 1pm, I should be fine.

So I start making a fuss at the Seair counter. I show them my doctor's instructions. I explain the situation to them. I'm also worried about Teddy, who was stuck inside his cage.

As I'm talking, one of the Seair girls yells to the other one, "Dalhin mo siya sa opisina! Nagrereklamo!" Literally, that's "Bring her to the office! She's complaining!"

I could hear her. I could understand her. She knew it. She didn't care.


So I get on the bus. Teddy's nose feels hot and he looks a little carsick. Finally, we arrive in Kalibo. There's another Seair girl herding us. She tells us to get in line and pay the terminal fee-- which we already paid in Caticlan. I ask her why. She says, "Oh, this is a different airport, ma'am. You have to pay again."

I said, no way. She gets on her walkie-talkie and yells, "Yung isang pasahero dito, ayaw magbayad ng terminal fee!" There's a passenger here, she won't pay the terminal fee!

I'm standing right there. I can hear her. I can understand her. She doesn't care.

We go into the pre-departure area. We have no idea what time we're flying. Nobody says anything. More importantly, we are not given anything to eat or drink. Not even a glass of water. It's already 12 noon.

We get on the plane. We take off. At this point, I have given up on the fasting. Obviously, I'm not going to make my 1pm deadline. I wait for some nourishment. In the middle of the flight, the attendant gives us... peanuts.

The windshield was filthy.

Seair, do you know how many lives you ruined today? Of course you know. You just don't care. You think that since two-thirds of the passengers don't speak English, you can get away with shet like this.

I believe in karma. To each and every one of you Seair people who was involved in today's fiasco: Someday, you will be starving and all you'll get to eat will be... peanuts.

Monday, November 9, 2009

flowers + water droplets

Still in Kalibo...

In the morning, it rained and the sky was kind of gloomy.

And then the sun came out!

Congratulations to CJ Zobel! You are now the proud owner of the last camera you will ever buy. May your new LX3 give you as many hours of joy as mine does.

lx3 + flowers

Whenever we go to Kalibo, I always look forward to staying overnight at our friend Kaleidosflora's house. He's a florist/ landscaper and his home is always filled with the most colorful blossoms-- perfect subjects for my Panasonic Lumix LX3.

These were shot at night:

No, I did not use the flash. No, I did not Photoshop these pictures.

There are a lot of point and shoot cameras out in the market now that have features similar to my LX3-- like the Canon G11, Sony TX1 and a bunch of others that are being touted as "best for low light", "super wide angle" and all that.

Guys, the LX3 did it first... and it's still the best.