Touched by Disney UK!

Disney UK got a cool and heartwarming Christmas advert!  I am particularly touched and moved by this video ad simply because it features bits of the Filipino qualities and culture. 

Mano:  the gentle placing of the back of the hands of your elders to your forehead is a unique Filipino gesture to show sign of respect to elders

Parol & Parol-Making:  a lantern which is made of bamboo sticks and colored paper is a major Christmas symbol of every household in the Philippines.  And it is a common practice that grade school students would create one as a school project during Christmas season so as to have it hanged in their respective houses.  I made a horrible-looking one myself during my young school days!

Simbang Gabi: a Filipino-Catholic tradition of attending midnight Mass at a nearby Catholic church for 9 consecutive nights prior to Christmas Eve.  And since I am wicked, this is one Filipino tradition that I never get to complete!

Recycling of an old cookie tin can:  Lola-s (translation: grandmothers) around the nation would never throw away metal cookie cans.  These would instead be re-used either as a jewelry box, a sewing kit container, an old photos or greeting cards chest or other similar charms, trinkets and mementos that a usual Filipino lola wants to keep.

Thanks Disney UK!  You moved me.

Feeling Low? Read This!

a friend captured this early this morning in his home province…

If you are a non-Filipino and you hate your life and at a lowest low, think again.  Let me just inform you that while I am writing this, my country (the Philippines) is experiencing the deadliest, the strongest and most devastating tropical storm of the year on the planet.  Power outages, spotty internet, dreadful storm surges by the seaside, terrible flashfloods, daunting evacuations of families and horrible destruction of buildings, crops and produce are all ongoing.   And this is in the midst of the deadly pandemic!

So, if you are feeling sad, miserable and dispirited, think again! You just don’t know how blessed and fortunate you are at the moment.

Got to go.  Need to evacuate to my mom’s house and arm myself with the mighty umbrella!  Stay resilient Philippines! I pray for everyone’s safety and that this deadly storm will pass soonest!

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.

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.

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!

Hotel Luna’s Sapsapuriket

Kicking modesty aside and based on my sense of taste’s practical background of experience, I think I have reason enough to say that I have the authority to judge if a Dinuguan is excellent, atrocious or just passable. Dinuguan is a savage Filipino dish known as pork blood stew!

I am saying this because I know what an excellent Dinuguan tastes like.  I just happen to be the son of the best Dinuguan maker on the planet.  Nengkoy’s Dinuguan is so delicious, this ferocious-looking dish would often be one of the most requested part of our family’s handa (food served during special occasions).

sapsapuriket

looks scary… yum!

My recent visit to the City of Vigan in Ilocos Sur exposed me however to a different variety of a Dinuguan.  Locals call it Sapsapuriket!  It is a blood stew variety in which the meat is not pork but the tasty cage-free native chicken. And the blood used to make the stew was not pig’s blood but from the fowl’s fluid that runs through its veins and arteries (Hahaha!).

I was fortunate that my first time eating of the savage Sapsapuriket was in Comedor, the restaurant outlet of the well-esteemed Hotel Luna in Vigan.  One would know that Hotel Luna’s Sapsapuriket is special, for it is served with potato cracklings instead of the usual rice. The hotel’s style of pairing the dish with potato chips was actually a success.  Texture on the palate plus tangy flavor of the pair was something to praise about!

comedor… dining at hotel luna

loved my short stay in vigan (inside a souvenir shop)

I am writing about Sapsapuriket, the Dinuguan of the north, so I guess, this dish served by Hotel Luna’s Comedor is something to praise and look forward to when in Vigan.

Queendom Called Vigan

The ongoing world-wide corona virus scare and outbreak made me defer any plans of going out of the country.  No way would I want to be quarantined for 14 long days!  This virulent virus however can not stop me from my being a wanderlust.

Instead of trooping out of the country, I settled domestic!  I went 9-hours by a sleeper-bus away from Manila and went to the Ilocos part of the Philippines and roam the queendom of Vigan.

travel back in time at calle crisologo

i heart vigan

Believe it or not, it was my first time in this rustic UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This queen city of the north of Philippines is actually one of the very few old colonial towns left in the country.  And what is so amazing is that the residents, though with struggle, were able to preserve the Spanish colonial era structures of the town.

While traversing the iconic Calle Crisologo at the heart of the city, I cannot seem to stop imagining that at any moment I would bump unto a European price, a Portuguese Duke or the Spanish Royal Guard who have gone for some leisurely vacay in the Philippines!

love this shot

antique finds!!!

so at home at casa syquia

rustic evening!

find me! hahaha!

Though some of the structures within the city were evidently abandoned, neglected and left to decay, the small impressive city obviously displays the cultural elements of Europe, China and the Philippines!  In fact some of the abandoned and decaying structures adds up to the charm and pleasing character of the area.

Because of the uniqueness of its character, I think I love Vigan!  And aside from taking tons of photos of the cityscape, my travel to Vigan took me the opportunity to taste and enjoy the Ilocano-cuisine, which I will feature in my future and upcoming posts.

Improved Happiness & Declined Sadness In The Middle of the Year

It is June 1 and we have exactly a month before our lives reached the second half of the year.  I just wish and hope that in the middle of this year, everyone has reached a certain level of improved happiness and declined sadness.

Philippines, is one of the countries (though with unreliable statistics) has the lowest rate concerning deep human sadness and depression as a chronic illness.  Reason behind it is maybe because Filipinos are generally happy and being sad and depressed is not an ailment but rather just a life’s short phase. 

So for those who are actually suffering from the sadness woes, I have one song dedicated for you for the second half of the year.  What is so ironic about this pop-song is that it was shot in my happy country, the Philippines…

The song, video and its location seem so apt and fitting for it was shot in one of the happiest society in the planet while resonating past sadness and moving forward at a positive tone. The happy Pinoy crowd in the video seem to say and convey, “Everything’s gonna be okay”. 

everything is gonna be okay…

This therefore is our song for the second half of the present year!   Stay happy everyone!

Kalahating taon, hir ay kam!

Surprised by the Museum of Natural History in Manila

Lowering expectation is one simple secret to achieving amazement and happiness.  Setting high expectations tends to result to frustration especially when measuring reality against imagined reality.  High expectations often wrings the joy out of experiencing something for what it is.

This were my exact thoughts when I and a bunch of colleagues decided to have a detour and headed to the Museum of Natural History in Manila before driving back to our office after some brief business meeting in Intramuros.  Knowing Manila being a run down, sullied, traffic-infested and over-populated city, finding something amazing seem next to impossible. 

this hall houses some of the most important artifacts

world-class!

my county’s “under the sea” features is one of the best

biggest croc on record is in the philippines it’s name is “lolong”

But our visit to the Museum of Natural History in Manila was indeed a big surprise!  It is one destination on the City of Manila that definitely deserves a visit! 

What I love most about this museum is that all exhibits – flora, fauna, earth formations, etc. – were of Filipino representations.  Also, segmentations of exhibits were really well thought of.  It’s like being so at home yet you would discover new and amazing natural wonders of the country. 

some fauna with two lucky folks

open up! admission is free!

the old-fashioned “botica”

i love this!

hall full of rocks!

Me and my colleagues were a bunch of pre-millennial species that is why we could really relay and seem so familiar with some of the indigenous exhibits.  Some of us could actually recall childhood encounters with some of the now rare flora and fauna displayed in the museum – dragonflies, beetles, birds, fruit crops, seashells, clams, freshwater crabs, etc.  Too bad, these floras and faunas we played with during childhood has started to become so rare it can now only be found in a museum.

I also like the fact that some of the exhibits are interactive.  I and my colleagues were so surprised, we could not keep ourselves from saying “Wow!” every time we enter a gallery full of amazing collections. Museum of Natural History in Manila was one surprising experience!  I have been to some of the top museums of the world and I can say that Manila’s National Museum of Natural History is world class.  .  It’s truly a fantastic feast for the senses! 

museum of natural history, manila, philippines

…was so impressed!

The National Museum of Natural History in Manila is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Entrance is free.

Ang ganda. Inferness!