Envious of Joanna Lumley

It’s not the monarch neither the Spice Girls.  It’s not Elton John neither J. R. R. Tolkien.  Though I admire the wit of Stephen Hawking and at awe with Margaret Thatcher, it’s not them.  The British human being who I envy the most when it comes to world travel is the effervescent Joanna Lumley.

Joanna thru her series of British TV travel shows feature amazing spots on the planet and showcase interesting cultures around the world!  What is so enviable about this travel diva is that she got to go around and got a bunch of travel-savvy production team who will do the chronicling for her!

 

I was at awe with Joanna’s enchanting Trans-Siberian adventures.  I enjoyed her splendid exploits of the inestimable Japan from north to south.  And how I wish I will be granted with the gift of travel for I was truly envious with her Silk Road adventures!

I have read somewhere that travel envy can happen to anyone.  It is caused by emotional discontent, frustration, feeling left out, the tendency for endless comparison and even social media.  In my case, it would be a mix of all of these combined with being stuck for a year due to this crazy pandemic.

I too read that one way to cope with travel envy is to turn such envy into inspiration, that is by planning the next adventure.  But it looks like planning for an out of the country escapade now seem unrealistic.

I would rather practice gratefulness and reminisce about my past trips.  Good thing I have this blog because reading through some of my travel posts decreases the intensity of my feeling jealous.

this is one spectacular spot joanna lumley has yet to step on! haha! https://neillangit.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/batad-rice-terraces-no-words-to-describe/

And while I was busy basking on these feelings of envy towards the British travel muse, I paused for a while not knowing how to end this invaluable writing.  I turned to my Facebook for a break and this very fitting photo struck me.

Hoping to see the world soon!

The Unescapable February

My solo dealings literally, figuratively and unromantically about life’s quests and adventures has resulted to considering the love month of February as a season for silly rants, inane bitterness and ridiculous resentments! Hahaha! 

While everybody adores the amorously fab month of Feb, for me, it’s a dark and menacing month that I hate to confront and grapple with!  I am so prosaic and unromantic, friends and colleagues know that if I could just skip and jump to March after the cool month of January, I would! Hahaha!

But this year, let me go pretty easy towards the unescapable February. Let me be a little different this year.  I decided to post no rant, no bitterness and no resentment in this season of love!  I will instead try my very best to post thoughts and notions about love may it be towards pets, friends, a movie, a song, a romantic partner or even inanimate objects!  Besides who wouldn’t want to be love-filled during these uncertain times of the pandemic?

Watch out Cupid, this blog may eat your heart out this love month of Feb! 

Me, Anthony B. and the Vicious Sisig

A couple of years ago while on a 6-hour pit stop at Incheon International Airport on my way to San Francisco for some exciting solo adventure, I can clearly recall that I chose to sit at a very quiet portion of the airport and a tall white curly-haired gentleman sat across from where I was.  He too was quiet and seem so engrossed with his mobile phone.  My hazy brain tells me that the guy looks like Anthony Bourdain.  When the guy looked at me and realized that I was staring at him and seem to have noticed that I know who he was, he stood up took his leather bag and silently left.

I recalled this vivid experience because of my recent visit in an eatery at the culinary capital of my country where the late Anthony Bourdain once dined. I was at Aling Lucing’s, a humble eatery in Angeles City, in the province of Pampanga. A two-and-a-half-hour ride from Manila.

anthony bourdain with the sisig queen during his visit (framed memory posted on the wall of the eatery)

I chose to dine in this modest eating place for its original dish called “Sisig”.  This too was the same dish that drove Mr. Bourdain to dine in this eatery because the tasty Sisig has been established to be one original Filipino food. 

I consider Sisig to be in the same league of other scary savage Filipino dishes like the Dinuguan (black-colored pork blood stew); the petrifying Balut (steamed fertilized duck egg); Betamax & Helmet (grilled coagulated pork blood and grilled chicken head respectively); Tuyo (the dreadfully stinky dried fish); and, the lewd Soup No. 5 (soup made from bull’s balls & wiener) to name a few. 

sisig!

these other food selections clearly complements the ferocious sisig! steamed tilapia, grilled eggplant, salad with pink shrimp paste, balo-balo dip (another savage dish made of fermented rice sauteed in shrimp & tomatoes)

a collage of photos i took during my visit

Sisig for me is vicious and ferocious because it is the ears, the face and sometimes the brain of the pig that is the main ingredient – grilled, chopped into pieces and served on a hot sizzling plate!

Sisig has gone a long way since the time this has been created by the Sisig Queen herself, Aling Lucing.  In fact, during that solo trip in San Francisco, I had the chance to eat Filipino Sisig in burrito form! Click here to learn about it: Sisig Burrito.

According to Mr. Bourdain “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park.  Enjoy the ride.”  And one unique culinary ride that one must take is by trying the vicious, un-elegant yet very tasty Sisig.

A Non-American and the Un-American at the US Capitol

If it would be inevitable to change my citizenship, one of the nationalities I would prefer would be to be an American.  Sad, crazy and outrageous as it may sound but who would not want to be part of the populace who has the strongest economy, the richest opportunities, a very hip civilization, beautiful people and a super power status as a nation?

It is therefore not surprising that setting my foot on USA soil (at least being a tourist) was on top of my bucket list.  Luckily by some grace and blessings from the heavens, this entry on my long and arduous bucket list has long been done and accomplished.

majestic yet a tranquil visit

I, a non-American have been to USA a couple of times already.  And in my last visit, I found myself at the capital state of Washington DC touring the insides of the US Capitol.  I can clearly recall that the outdoor grounds as well as inside of the Capitol Building gave me some incalculable sense of calmness and security.  It was majestic, it was peaceful, it was secured.  I can also recall my regret of not bringing my favorite pillow then.  Reason behind this is that being inside that most secured building on the planet gave me immense feelings of security and comfort.  The building made me feel so at ease, dreamy and relax I wanted to take a nap.  Haha!

loved it!

But these personal experiences in and out of the Capitol Building was a total opposite of what I saw and read on the news when Americans themselves consecrated the dignity of that honored spot of their country.  For me, the reckless and unwise siege done last January 06, 2021 at the Capitol Building was so sad and very un-American.  From my personal view point, the January 6 incident did not in any way made Americans great again!

Though some peace has been restored, I was in fact quite glad that on the day of the humiliating siege I was not an American.  I just hope that every American would realize how lucky, how fortunate and how free they are being citizens of the strongest and most democratic nation on the planet.  They should not let these valuable benefits slip from their hands because of some rash, thoughtless and heedless revolts and rebellions.

If some un-Americans are tired of being American, a lot of deprived and underprivileged gasping human beings here at a third world far east are willing to swap with them.  I guess, only when they become non-Americans would they realize how precious it is to be one. 

Abe’s Farm Is Like Next To Someone

I know that being next to someone is the ultimate favorite place of everyone.  But if a spot that is about 2.5 hours drive and you no longer cannot count the number of times that you have been there, does this mean that such a place is also one of your favorites?

the compulsory posing! hahaha!

This will be short…

Abe’s Farm, a quiet staycation venue at the foothills of dormant volcano, Mt. Arayat, north of Manila is the place.  For me, Abe’s Farm is one of those perfect getaway places where one can just stay quiet, have a short social media detox, simply breathe and relax.

A perfect add-on to this is the food that they serve.  Situated right in the heart of Pampanga, the culinary capital of the Philippines, Abe’s Farm food offers what one can call an assault to the senses – texture, color, presentation and of course taste.

happy eating! yum!

Yeah. I gave myself some short quiet break.  And just this weekend I am again at Abe’s Farm.  I guess Abe’s Farm though not a “next-to-someone” is one of my favorites.

A Plantito with Black Thumb

I have always recognized that I do not have a green thumb.  Though I love plants and have taken cared quite a number of them in the past, plants don’t love me back.  My relatives can attest that I have purchased countless number of plants in the past, but all chose to breathe their last breath and declined to settle with me in my condo unit.  I sometimes correlate my relations to plants as a form of unrequited love! 

When I and my family would go out of town, I would often suggest to stop at a garden store by a roadside before heading back to Manila for I want to acquire new greens.  “Are you looking for a new victim?” or “You’re just wasting some bucks” are the usual remarks of my relatives when I would suggest my buying new plants.

the recent garden shop where i purchased my succulents… i can hear these greens saying… “no! not me!!!” LOL!

I have always thought that I would make a good gardener because I had an A+ grade in my Botany subjects during my old school days and would even had the time and fortitude of talking to these plants.  But all these photosynthetic members of the Kingdom Plantae refuse to live with me.  My relatives has even tagged me as having the black thumb or even worse the black-kiss-of-death thumb!

Owning and taking care of plants here in Manila is the new craze.  Like me, this has been some of people’s emotional outlet or thing to do and be busy of indoors during this time of quarantining and pandemic. 

This has been evidenced by the steady increase in the number of social media posts of people posing behind, in front or beside their happy and healthy plants!  People call these plant-fanatics and shrub-obsessed folks as Plantitas (for female) and Plantitos (for male) of Manila.

In my recent out of town adventure, I again purchased a new batch of plants to enjoy and take care of.  I hope these creatures are as glad as I am.  I am really hoping that this new batch will live a long life and would finally erase my being a black thumb.

if those trees can run, i’m pretty sure they’ve moved way way farther! hahaha!

my not-so-happy green companions! please don’t die…(my recent purchases)

But if these plants chose to reject me and die instead, I will still care for one and would just have to melodramatically remind myself that old warriors may have to fight a long battle more than once to win it.  And if one zany plant would finally decide to settle it out with me, I will call myself a Plantito who would be smiling while sharing social media pictures with it.

Looking forward to having photos with these new plants!

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.

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.

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.

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.