Rediscovering Asiong’s Restaurant

Fed-up, tired and cloying from staying indoor due to the pandemic, me and 3 of my close colleagues decided to sneak out of the metro.  Despite the continuous spike in coronavirus cases, we agreed to break the monotony of staying in our respective houses and drove up to the scenic city-province of Tagaytay, an hour and a half drive south of Manila just to have lunch. 

We nevertheless took extra precautions prior to leaving the metro.  We were wearing face-masks and face-shields, brought along bottles of alcohol and I even have a huge pack of disinfecting surface wipes!

But only about five minutes away from our destination, we encountered a highway check point.  To make the story short, we were prevented from entering Tagaytay because we do not have the local government’s required travel pass to enter the province.  Yeah, this is how strict it is here in the Philippines due to this ridiculous pandemic.

We made a U turn yet decided to still have lunch someplace else.  And when I turned on Google to check for the nearest highly recommended restaurant, it responded ‘Asiong’s’.

I remember having dined at Asiong’s in the past.  I know that the food is really good but the atmosphere is something I really do not admire especially that moment when it would be the first time after a very long time of not dining out.  I know Asiong’s is not even a casual dining restaurant but some sort of a low-grade canteen or a roadside eatery which in the Philippines is called carinderia.

I nevertheless still suggested to proceed to Asiong’s because of their great food!  But I warned my colleagues that the ambiance is not like the typical snooty restaurants found in Tagaytay.

But when we followed and let the GPS navigation app point us to our destination, the road we were taking was totally different.  It seem no longer the same road I took when I last dined at Asiong’s eight long years ago.  (Click HERE regarding my 2012 blog post about Asiong’s)

pose first (the obligatory photo taking session)

a collage of photos i took (with jb, willy and mj)

The location of Asiong’s now is a totally different spot in Cavite!  And the establishment is totally dissimilar from the way it was!  The concept and its aesthetics has impressively been improved.  Their alfresco dining is no longer by the dusty road side but a cool garden dining set-up.  We actually settled alfresco for we did not want to be confined in a closed area during this time of pandemic.

The only akin and parallel to how Asiong’s was in the past was the marvelous food!  The awesome gastronomic experience was still the same.

asado de ignacio (braised meat and innards) an authentic savage caviteño dish

adobong pula (pork adobo in annatto sauce)… a must in asiong’s

pancit pusit (rice vermicelli noodles cooked in squid ink)… a house specialty

crispy tawilis (a fresh water sardine exclusively found in the philippines)… this dish is gone in 3 minutes!

a filipino meal will not be complete without the rice. this one is “binagoongang rice” (fried rice in shrimp paste)

Thanks to the valiant military men manning the highway check point. Hahaha!  If not for their being so rigorous in implementing the pandemic rules and protocols of the province, I would have not rediscovered the fineness of the present Asiong’s restaurant.

I Pay for Autumn, I Buy My Winter

It’s September 1.  Considered as the start of the BER-months, this is usually the day I would start getting excited about my purchased autumn or winter season.  Yes people, since I live on a spot where there are only two climate periods in a year, I buy my autumn and winter seasons.

Living and growing up in the Philippines which only has wet & dry seasons, my childhood is deprived of knowing what it’s like during autumn and winter.  And because I live in a climate where it is either hot or hotter, donning on thick coats, a beany and earmuffs would result to some fatal heat stroke.  Instead of owning trendy coats and jackets, me and my friends grew up possessing either a plastic rain coat or the mighty umbrella.

me and my sister love osaka!

And guess what?! During my early childhood days, I thought countries where snow falls are wealthy because that is where Santa Claus lives.  I would often wish that snow would fall in the Philippines so that it can finally get rich and Santa would have easier access getting here!

Now that I am old and my silly childhood wish for a cool autumn and frosty winter in my country will never ever occur, I purchase these seasons for me to personally enjoy and experience.  How do I do my purchase?  I simply apply for an elusive travel visa, book an airline ticket, reserve a cheap hotel and file my treasured vacation leaves so as to journey to a chilly northern or southern hemisphere spot on the planet.

Here’s some of my purchases…

happy at a snow festival in hokkaido!

braved trekking the ihlara valley in turkey during winter! 

my recent purchase! a chilly autumn in st. petersburg, russia

have always been a fan of autumn in koyasan, japan

Yeah! I envy people living on places where the leaves turn bright orange and where fine white snow falls. I guess, folks who say “people long for things and places they do not have” are so correct.  But for those who got yet hate these seasons, you just don’t know how blessed you are!  I so envy you that I even spend heaps of time and money purchasing it!

OMG! Sam Drew Me!

God is so smart and so clever that he decided not to bestow me the gift of being a drawing artist. Because of my being so egocentric, self-centered, narcissistic and self-obsessed, he knows that if He is to equipped me with such a talent, I would draw nothing but my self-portrait. 

But since God is truly unpredictably generous, He let me encounter an awesome Drawing Master. He gave me the amazing chance to know Sam of .AM I DOING THIS RIGHT? blog

I have been fortunate to bump into the wordpress blog of Sam.  His drawings posted on his blog gave me the impression that he indeed is a master drawer.  I may not be the arbiter who determines a good art work from the bad, but with my pretty rich exposures to various drawings and artworks that I have personally seen from various museums in various parts of the world, I guess I know a good artwork when I see one.

A fine art creation for me is something that prompts me to feel or do something: unconsciously grow goosebumps, write about it, stare on it for minutes, take photos of it, find out more regarding its origin or simply be breathless about it.

I was so impressed with Sam’s drawings that I did not hesitate clicking likes and commenting on his blog posts.  I was so impressed that I commented that “in case he run out of photos to draw, I can always volunteer and send mine” for him to work on.

Sam took it as a challenge and responded on my comment.  I did not, of course, hesitated sending him my photo.  And as expected, the one photo I choose includes me.  Without telling Sam the location where the photo was taken, he surprisingly recognized that it was taken in Glenorchy a beautiful southern town in New Zealand.

100% pure

After a short convo thru comment section of Sam’s blog, I no longer expected anything.  But surprisingly, when I tried checking out his latest blog post (I follow him by the way), this is what I saw.

OMG! Awesome!!!! (hahaha! i posted this photo without seeking Sam’s authorization, sorry Sam)

OMG! I uttered the biggest O.M.G. when I saw it!  I was so happy, I wanted to fly to Sam’s hometown and give him a kiss!

This is one big awesome surprise!  You just don’t know how glad I am when I saw it.    God may not grant me the talent Sam has but I know He was laughing out loud when He saw my jaw dropped, the moment I saw Sam’s super awesome drawing.  Thank you Sam from the bottom of my heart!

The Church of Multiplication

Raise your hands if you badly miss going out for a travel and be excited on an adventure!  I for one badly miss travelling.  No thanks to covid19 and this insane pandemic! A lot of us are stuck in the confines of our home and are left to settle not for a vacation or staycation but a “safe-cation”.

To ease and satisfy my cravings for an escapade, I was left with no choice but to checkout and revisit my previous exploits thru my stocked photos.  And while ogling onto some photos, I realized that (aside from my bad taste in fashion) there are lots of places that I have been to yet I failed to chronicle and write about. 

Since I am stuck in my house, let me take the opportunity to revisit these places and recall the adventure.  Here’s one awesome site in Israel…

expecting some fish sandwich!

The Church of Multiplication

No it is not a place of worship where you would have to master the multiplication table before you can enter.  It is actually a holy biblical place where Jesus performed an awesome miracle by feeding a crowd of 5,000 by sharing the meager two fish and five loaves between all these people. 

This charmed place where the miraculous treat for fish and bread occurred is also known as the Tabgha Church of the Loaves and Fish.

with my dear sister…

highlight is on the floor! those mosaic!

happy travel

Though it is a rather humble and simple looking place of prayer, I can clearly recall during me and my sister’s tour that the place was too quiet and that not all places are accessible.  According to the guide, it was because the place was just bomb a year before our visit.  The guide relayed that young Israeli Jewish extremists burned a portion of the site making it sadly inaccessible and were under repair.

While gawking at my photos, how I wish that in the present situation, it is fish and bread that is spreading throughout the planet instead of the sickening pandemic.  One can truly say that at present, we badly need Jesus for some meaty fish and delicious piece of bread.

Grocery Shopping the Silly Traveler Way

My country has the longest and strictest pandemic lock down in the world.  And because of prolonged quarantining, I realized that there has been somewhat a number of gains from this experience.  People now can enjoy a much cleaner air; folks has established closer relations with other family members; while some has realized how inept and incompetent their elected government officials were. 

On a lighter note, my being on a lock down made me a little nifty, thrifty and dreamy at the same time.  It has actually controlled my illogical retail therapy.  Case in point is my grocery shopping.  I no longer buy unnecessary stuff and I have gone basic, essential and primary.

The nearest grocery store from where I live is too short to have a ride and too distant to be considered a walking distance.  I chose the latter when I have to go there.  And since I have to limit my going out, the quantity of my grocery buying would basically be good for 2 weeks.

Since my buying is of enormous measure and I decided to walk so as to get some sun, a little cardio and pretty good amount of fresh air along the way, I cannot just carry it from the grocery store to my place of stay.  I then decided to be a little smarter.  I resolved this thru the use of my very well-travelled l.u.g.g.a.g.e!

my haul! fresh eggs & frozen meat products were placed in a separate eco-bag of course… never in my wildest dream would i place garlic & onions in my luggage! hahaha!

recently went to s&r membership shopping store (and brought along my luggage)

Yeah, since the pandemic has bunged me up from travelling, I decided my inactive and sedentary luggage to be of good use. My using it actually helped me a little in lessening my silly craving to go for an international travel.  I would just have to pretend that my walking to and from the grocery store were like the moments when I would do a flight transfer from one international airport terminal to another strolling along my heavy check-in luggage. Hahaha!

my empty well-traveled check-in luggage… waiting for the capsicum, green beans, oats, potatoes, cabbage, & a lot lot more! hahaha!

Stay safe everyone!

Nengkoy’s Preferred Sea Salt

I have always believed that not all salts are equal.  Varieties of this important yet often neglected flavoring abound.  Popular ones are the ordinary iodized salt and sea salt while the chic, hip and pricier array would be Kosher, Himalayan, Fleur De Sel and Celtic salt varieties.

But Nengkoy (my mom) prefers a different variety of salt.  Afraid to run out of stock, it is the seasoning that we never miss to buy and bring back to Manila every time we are in Alaminos, Pangasinan, a province north of Manila, tagged as the sea salt capital of the Philippines.

a gorgeous morning site of sea salt beds in Pangasinan

And unlike the strong, robust and concentrated variety, Alaminos Sea Salt seem subtle, calm and pleasant to the palate.  I don’t know why but this salt never overpowers and would seem to simply let the flavors and taste of the food standout.  It has some strange way of accenting the flavors of the food. 

Alaminos Sea Salt variety is really good.  In fact, the extra one sack that Nengkoy has in her house was actually purchased by a Korean guy who makes and sells home-made Kimchi.  Upon learning that Nengkoy got an extra high-grade sack, the Korean dude never hesitated on offering a good amount so as to buy my mom’s reserve/stock.

Online Sea Salt sold by Winner Joe’s

Good thing though, Alaminos Sea Salt can now be ordered and available online through Winner Joe’s Facebook page.  Thanks to Winner Joe’s, Nengkoy nor my family need not travel to Alaminos, Pangasinan anymore so as get hold of this exquisite seasoning.

Now, watch the beauty and magic in the creation of this pleasing flavoring.

Try this sea salt variety.  I am so sure your taste buds will do a standing ovation and definitely thank you for it.

Barkada is Fine with Me

I have personally experienced racism, discrimination and oppression here in my country and especially abroad.  This is oddly because of the color or my skin, my Malay/Pacific-islander features as well as the weird sounding accent that I have when I speak the English language.  And often times, here in my country, our warm hospitality is often abused by the flat-out bad travelers of a more dominant race.  And when abroad, I had personally felt the quiet laughter and the subtle disgust exhibited by the more dominant race towards me.

Digressing a little, recent local news featured a newly opened bar in Washington DC.  It gained interest here in my country because the bar was named Barkada, a Filipino word which means “a group of close friends”.  Though named after a Filipino word, the bar & resto has nothing else about the Philippines.  One would expect that it would offer something Filipino – cuisine, beverage, music, interiors, etc. – but surprisingly none.

got this photo from IG account of Barkada

This rouse some flak and negative reactions from my fellow Filipinos who posted unenthusiastic and superfluous comments on the social media account of Barkada (the bar).  It seems like a case when the Filipinos and not the dominant race are the oppressors and the unfair.

Some Filipinos would accuse the 4 Caucasian owners of cultural appropriation since not one of them were from the Philippines.  Other snow-flaked Filipinos would demand that the owners have to change the name because it has no relevant ties with the Philippines.  And even accused the owners for taking from a culture that is not theirs and that these Caucasians are asserting again their being so entitled. 

These juvenile and aggravating reactions made the owners published an apology to Filipinos who felt slighted.  Yet their impressive statement was on point when they explained the beauty in the word barkada that prompted them to use it as the name of their establishment.

“barkada” is such a gorgeous word that all should know and celebrate

For me, I totally agree with the 4 Caucasian owners when they said that barkada is a beautiful word that connotes the deep meaning of friendship.  And I totally disagree with the narrow-minded, intolerant and prejudiced Filipinos who reacted negatively on naming Barkada barkada

In fact, I actually felt flattered that non-Filipinos were able to appreciate the gorgeousness of the word.  For me, using the word barkada by a non-Filipino owned and a non-Filipino concept bar is totally fine.  In fact, the owners have just lifted up the concept of “barkada” into a higher global plane. 

Allowing and using the word barkada as a name of an establishment will not end discrimination, racism and oppression in the world.  Nevertheless, barkada may it be a word, a tavern, a feeling or a people should not selfishly be alienated but should instead be celebrated.

Oh, and by the way, here in the Philippines we have very popular restaurant establishments named Vikings Luxury Buffet restaurant and Congo Grille which has nothing to do with the Scandinavians and Congolese people and cultures.  Also, the most popular corned beef brand here in my country is called Argentina yet Argentinians are not offended, I guess.  Even the most famous and well-revered beer brand that we have here is named San Miguel Beer yet still Saint Michael is not reacting and posting his rants on social media regarding the unpermitted usage of his name for this Filipino alcoholic drink. Hahaha!

i wonder how saint michael feels… flattered or appalled?

To my fellow Filipinos, can we just move on and stop being such sensitive drama queens?! To the owners of Barkada, thanks for the warm appreciation of the word and I hope to have the opportunity to visit your store soon when given the chance to be back in Washington DC.  I really hope that during my visit the warmness of hospitality and friendliness of service you provide is Filipino-like.

Stepping on a Fine Piece of Art

For the past 10 years I have been stepping on a fine piece of art.  Though I tread, walk and step on it, it is one treasure that I value so much that I am the one who would personally shake, remove dust and debris so as to clean it up. I would be the one to have it left lying under the happy sun for a day and retrieve it back.  And only last week did I decided to have it professionally cleaned.

I am talking about my much-appreciated Moroccan area rug. I value It so much because it is one of those heavy and bulky items that I decided to hand carry on my way back home after a long yet enriching trip from Morocco ten long years ago.

stepping on a fine piece of art…

My memory is still very clear in recalling how I and travel-buddy Joesel got to purchase it from a merchant inside the medina in Fes.  I can still reminisce how the seller showed us various intricate and colorful designs of various rugs for sale and was even invited by the owner of the shop to climb up to their roof deck for us to be shown on how lady-artisans do the intricate knotting of the wool so as to create a great piece of art. 

I can also remember how anxious I was when the rug I paid for a hefty price was delayed in having it delivered to our hotel. Delivery was so behind in time, I thought I was duped by the merchant yet sighed with a huge relief when the hotel’s front desk called me to inform that I have a package in their office for me to claim.

comment down below on what those symbols may mean… thank you.

proof of authenticity at the back! it says “extra superieuere”. whatever that is.

a closer look! it takes an awesome artisanal skills to do those!

I however can no longer recall the representations of the designs of the rug I chose as described during that time by the merchant.  What I remember is that I simply followed my heart on which to choose from among the beautiful Moroccan rugs presented to us.

Though it is ten years old, I know that it will take another 10 long years before my Moroccan rug can be considered vintage.  But the memory of this piece of art that I step on regularly will remain in me may it be considered vintage, collectible or antique already.

Drool, Dribble & Slaver on Vigan Cuisine

The color, look, texture and taste of dishes of a certain region is an excellent way to depict the richness of its culture.  A local cuisine can tell a lot about a place’s unique character.  Say for instance, what food ingredients are rampant in their area, what implements and raw materials are readily available, what type of weather does the place often encounters, and what does the majority of the population’s palatal preference.

During my recent trip to Vigan City in Ilocos Sur (9-hour bus ride away from Manila), I was fortunate to have experienced a delectable treat! From scary black dish to creepy beef innards to comforting sweet indulgences.  Food choices – with very weird sounding names – from Vigan’s local cuisine though seem extensive are so unique and so exclusive that such are rarely found and hardly served in popular restaurants in Manila or elsewhere. 

I opted not to describe the palatal experience I had for each one of these dishes.  I rather settle posting photos of it.  One thing though is for sure, these dishes will not make it to this post if it is disappointing or something to forget about.

I can definitely say that my Vigan food exploit was a totally different yet enriching culinary experience.

Drool…

Deconstructed Dinengdeng (native vegetables in simmered fish bagoong soup topped with grilled fish)

Poqui-poqui (grilled eggplant salad omelette)

Dribble…

Sapsapuriket (spicy chicken stewed in chicken blood stew served with potato chips)

the jewel of region’s cuisine is called Ilocos Empanada

And slaver…

ordered this at Cafe Leona — the classic Vigan Platter (composed of Vigan Longganisa, Bagnet, Daing na Milk Fish plus Vegetable Pinakbet and Ilocos Bagoong with Onions & Tomatoes as Sawsawan)

Chicacorn! (the greatest Ilocano snack)

Balicucha (the sweet handmade muscovado sugar curly bar of the province)

Was So At Home Inside The Syquia Mansion

The highlight of travelling and exploring the City of Vigan is not just its iconic Calle Crisologo.  This is because a stone throw away from this emblematic street is the Syquia Mansion.

social climber!

mirror mirror on the wall! who’s the richest of them all?

fresh air!

Well-preserved Syquia Mansion will give you an interesting glimpse of the lifestyle of a wealthy family during the Spanish colonial times.  The majestic furniture will provide you hints on how prominent people in the past would conduct their lives. 

They have an ante-living-room and a main living room! You would wonder how many living rooms do rich people need to live a full life.  It is also amazing to know that affluent human beings in the past actually have a prayer room where they gather to pray the Angelus.

Paintings and sculptures scattered around the mansion were no doubt masterpieces!  Skillful craftsmen were obviously commissioned to build the comfy beds, dressers and sofas!

bed inside the principal bedroom

hagdan (stairs)

Also, monied folks during those times though prayerful and have lavish chambers for prayers actually have slaves (known as Aliping Saguiguilid).  And these slave-servants – who cannot marry without their master’s consent – only has limited access in the house which usually is the narrow hallway borders of the building!

so at home… one of the massive bedrooms…

at the dining hall

Contents of the super house no doubt is indeed for the rich! And while breathing and walking within the confines of the house, the social climber in me whispers that I am so at home inside the Syquia Mansion!