A Little Kyoto in Baguio

The pandemic made hermits of us all.  A week before Christmas last year, after staring at a wall for hours to contemplate about my life’s existence, I decided to have a date with myself.

escaping…

I went on a solo travel and proceeded to the chilly city of Baguio (127 miles up north of Manila).  Known in my country as the City of Pines, I simply had a breather, walked through pruned gardens of parks, dine at cheap restaurants, watched people walk with their uninteresting facemask on, and re-read a book I have read fifteen years ago.  And when I started to get bored to the point of being spiritless, I decided to search the web on what site in Baguio have I not been to.

The World Wide Web pointed me to St Francis Xavier Seminary in Pacdal, Baguio where the Bamboo Eco-Park is located.  I hurriedly booked online a transport vehicle service car which brought me to the place tagged as the Little Kyoto in Baguio.

baguio bamboo eco-park

glad there were so few visitors (for safety)

the smaller version of arashiyama

selfie!

And true enough, though the place was really little as compared to the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto, the place was equally peaceful and beautiful.  I have been to Baguio numerous times (both solo and with group) but I never knew that such a beauty exists in this part of Baguio until then. It was indeed a refreshing visit!  My first time visit to Bamboo Eco-Park in Pacdal no doubt was the highlight of my latest Baguio visit.

And before I left, it dawned in me that those pandemic hermits living in St Francis Xavier Seminary must be so proud of their work which resulted to something tranquil and beautiful.  A total opposite of my being an indolent and lazy hermit during this ridiculous pandemic.

Could Have Been Aubergines, No Thanks to the Treaty of Paris

Esquire magazine published an article entitled What If The Philippines Was A British Colony.  The write-up relays that between October 1762 and April 1764, the Philippines was actually part of the British empire.  Following George Washington’s attacks on French colonies, the French went to war against the Britishers.  Spain which rules the Philippines during that era, joined the same war so as to honor its alliance with the French.  Because of this, the Brits attacked and was able to capture Spanish-owned Manila in 1762.  However, British reign in the Philippines came to a peaceful end when the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763. 

The Esquire article then presented a number of could-have-beens in case there was no Treaty of Paris and the British rule continued in my beloved Philippines.  Expecting it to be mind-blowing, the theories presented in the article were somewhat deflated, subdued and ordinarily predictable because the notions discussed were simply aligned and paralleled to what happened with other countries under the British rule like India and majority of Africa.

the closest thing to my being briton now is wearing a union jack shirt. haha!

Let me then dispatch my inane and doofus version of what could have been if the Philippines was part of the British colony.  Firstly, I could have had high teas instead of siestas.  Eggplants would no longer be eggplants but aubergines and shopping carts would no longer be shopping carts but trolleys.  And I’d be drinking more tea and eating more biscuits while saying “God save the Queen” during weekends!  I might be speaking like Harry Potter by now and would be rooting for John Whaite and Johannes Radebe to win Strictly Dancing this year on BBC.  We will never know, if Brits ruled the Philippines, one of the James Bonds could have been some dishy Pinoy bloke.

talong, the filipino name for aubergine

Hey! Why was I not consulted when that wonky Treaty of Paris was drafted and taken into effect? 

Sizzling Hot Covid19 Vaccine

My post Covid19 pandemic started yesterday.  When me and my sister (being registered under our local government’s waiting list) were told that an available vaccine is available, we immediately drove up to the designated vaccination site.

Though it is sad to note that majority of my country’s populace still doubts the significance and efficacy of the vaccine, such popular yet imprudent viewpoint became advantageous on my part for getting the vaccine. 

If you’re reading this article and wonder why such meek and lowly event of getting my first jab seem such a big deal on my part, please understand that my poor unregimented country has very limited supply of the vaccine.  It is because my country at this late point in time only depends on the United Nation’s donations as well as the dole-outs sent to us by rich countries because they either have surplus of the vaccines or that their country already achieved the so-called herd immunity.

So how did my first vaccination affair went? Answer: It was hilarious, uneasy and at the same time a little nerve-wracking.  It was nerve-wracking because I hate injections! It was uneasy because the vaccination site was at an open-air public place.  With no air-conditioning and with the scorching humid heat index of 42 degrees Celsius (no thanks to climate change), me and my sister were soaked wet in our very own sweat! 

Good thing there were very few people at the venue, our papers were right away processed.   And after we were injected, the hilarious thing that happened is that both me and my sister were told to stay a little longer because both our blood pressures were shooting up! And when asked if I take medicine for high blood pressure, I answered yes.  When asked what medicine, instead of telling the name of the drug (Losartan), I uttered the name of a popular French bakeshop here in Manila (Lartizan)! LOL!

took a photo of my covid19 vaccine passport while waiting for my boiling blood pressure to ease down! beside it is my sister’s japanese fan.  underneath is a mini-towel to wipe off my super sweat!

With pocket-sized feelings of worry, me and my sister laughed instead after realizing that we were the only two who were asked to stay longer.  My sister even verbalized to the medical team present that who on earth would have a normal blood pressure at such a torrid and scorching temperature?!  After taking our blood pressure three times at an interval of every 15 minutes, both of us were finally released and discharged by the nurses.

I went home nauseous not because of the vaccine but because of the sizzling weather. I too was craving for Lartizan! 

Should Have Sang Don’t Stop Me Now!

my mom, my sister & me with the deadly bangs!

What are some of the songs you were exposed to during childhood?  Like Zoey Clarke of the musical tv series, I got quite a lot. Try recalling your childhood playlist.  It is believed that the songs and music you heard during your early years, in some bizarre way, shapes your personality today.  But do you have a song that you regret not singing during your carefree childhood?  I got one.

I can lucidly remember during my elementary days every time our teacher is suffering from a terrible migraine, a cruel dysmenorrhea or bouts of laziness to teach, she would robotically call for a “program”.  A “program” is a short spontaneous talent presentation inside the classroom in which the teacher would assign the class President to act as the emcee and call out the class Sergeant at Arms to list the names of students on the blackboard who has gone talkatively noisy during the program.  These raucous students whose names are listed on the board will later be castigated by the teacher when she’s feeling better.

This brief talent presentation would always comprise of singing, storytelling or rendition of a poem.  I don’t know why the patriotic yet very boring song “Ako Ay Pilipino” (translation: I Am Filipino) is always performed by someone.  Other Filipino 70’s classics were also commonly sung during a program, the likes of Mamang Sorbetero, Mr. DJ, ABaKaDa and Bato Sa Buhangin.  Another habitual and regular number presented is the rendition of the classic poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer.

my love for hugging trees may be attributed to my constant early development hearing of the joyce kilmer poem

Each time I am called to perform, I am prepared to either sing a song or tell a story.  I no longer remember the number of times I would tell the tale about the Alamat ng Mangga (translation: The Legend of the Mango Fruit) or the Alamat Ng Pinya (translation: The Legend of the Pineapple). 

I seldomly sang.  But when I am coerced to croon, the usual song that I would sing is not a Filipino-melody but from Annie’s “Tomorrow”.  Yup, bet your bottom dollar, I can hit those high notes when I was a kid!  I love the message of hope that Tomorrow conveys, but I have one regret though.  Back then, I should have studied and memorized Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. And added it to my very limited repertoire. Haha! 

This song could have been so appropriate because it’s singing and storytelling at the same time! Aside from its fun and exuberance, it also conveys self-worth and self-regard.  For sure, singing Don’t Stop Me Now would give further head ache to my teacher and my singing could have been such a show stopper!  And since the tune is super bouncy, I am pretty sure at the end of my singing, every body’s name is listed on the blackboard.

Driver’s License Bare Version by Morisette

One of my bases to consider if an internationally released song is a big hit in my country is when an able singer here in the Philippines get to do a cover of the song.  But since everybody here in my country is an able singer, let me reclassify that basis.  That is, if a song has been covered by a first-rate mainstream professional singer in my country, then such a song is a big hit.

And because of this, let me formally declare the sad and moving love song entitled Driver’s License originally sang by Olivia Rodrigo a big hit here in the Philippines.

Here’s the fabulous “bare” and moving version by the gorgeous Morisette Amon:

Morisette is so damn good! The vocals are so raw and emotional, she seems like living and feeling the song! She can tell such a sad love story through this rendition.  Super impressive!

And that’s how I sing in the morning by the way! Haha!

I Missed My Locale

This morning while the tropical sun is still mild, I dragged myself out of bed and decided to step out to give myself some pretty good cardio drill.  And while taking a break to catch my breath every so often (no thanks to the pandemic) only then did I realize that it has been a year that I have gone outside within the local vicinity where I live.

So in between the fast walks and jogs, I would stop and take a number of photos of the area.  It was the morning that I got to appreciate the aesthetic attractiveness of the spots and places where I live.  It felt like I missed my locale!

manila morning

fresh!

quiet…

i love this minute jungle in this part of the city

In the past, I have always been the kind of person who would rather chuckle and laugh at strangers (visitors and tourists alike) who would marvel, appreciate and take photos of the areas near my place.  I have been so used to how my nearby vicinity looks like that I find it weird for strangers to admire and gape at the charm and appeal of the area.

a cool morning in manila

And when the morning started to get too hot and while I walked my way back to my unit, I realized that people need to leave in order to miss their place and had to travel so as to realize how precious and beloved one’s starting point was.

Have a beautiful day everyone!

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.

Winter Feels???

I have long learned from grade school that Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system.  And when I grew up, living in one of the hottest nations where the fiery hot sun is up every day, there are boiling moments that I would start believing that my muggy sweaty beach-weather country is not on Earth but in burning Venus!

winter cold: the tropical country version! hahaha!

But not today!  At a temperate 24 degrees Celsius, my country now must be in a winter season status! Haha!  And it actually takes a cold snap in Korea, Japan and India before my country experience such a clement kind of temperature.  

gone crazy!

We don’t have winter but now that it is a little cold, I should pull out my winter gears! I don’t wanna experience frostbite!  And yeah, I am happy and gone nuts because of this beautiful weather!

A Swanky Kakanin

In my country, there is a ton of silly cultural and superstitious beliefs that needs to be kept and observed during the New Year.  From wearing polka dots, to ensuring 12 types of fruits on the dining table, to jumping when midnight strikes and to making sure all lights are on inside the house, all these and other insane beliefs are observed by Filipinos when New Year happens.  Failure to do so would result to some wicked curse, a good amount of misfortune and a handful of bad lucks the whole year.

Two of the silly beliefs my family did last New Year’s Eve was the tossing of heaps of coins inside the house (for prosperous fortune) plus the serving of classic “kakanin”.  From the amalgamation of two Tagalog root words kain meaning “to eat” and kanin meaning “cooked rice”, kakanin are varieties of sticky and glutinous Filipino delicacies whose main ingredient is rice.

It is an inane Filipino belief that eating something glutinous and sticky during the New Year like kakanin will bring good vibes in terms of relationships within the family.  Reason for eating something sticky will result to a greater bond, affirmative ties and optimistic connection among members of the family which for my family is very important and essential.

My family settled for having the “biko” as this new year’s kakaninBiko is a classic kakanin made of glutinous rice cooked for hours with fresh coconut milk and brown sugar usually sprinkled on top with brown coconut curds! And since I am pretentious, nitpicky and ostentatious, I pushed on levelling up this new year’s family Biko or Kakanin

I had our classic biko topped with dark brown coconut curds, drizzled with rich coconut-cinnamon caramel syrup served with slices of ripe and succulent peaches! Yum!

our swanky kakanin! yum!

Aside from hoping for a continuous upbeat sticky bond with my family, with this swanky kakanin, my hopes are high for a chic, swish and affluent New Year ahead!

Face Cover Fashion

Aside from tourism, airline and restaurant industries, one of the badly hurt industries smacked by the ongoing pandemic, I believe, is the lip-cosmetic industry.  With the mandate (at least in my country) that everyone needs to wear facemask and face shield when in public, only a few people would venture into putting lipstick on.  Also, my poor country being at the end of the queue among the countries where Covid19 vaccine would be made available, a totally different apparel has evolved during this time of contagion. 

The style and fashion of wearing face covering has been born!  Sorry to those who still do not believe the existence of Covid and would aver and persist for their freedom to choose not to wear one, I particularly is in favor of wearing a face covering.  It is not for the mere fact that it prevents the spread and snagging the virus, it is also the thought of having to wear a stylish kind of facemask and face-shield.

Here in my country, in fact, the type or quality of facemasks and face-shields one wear characterizes his and her social status.  The more stylish and expensive it is, the higher that you belong to the social hierarchy! Hahaha!

With the dawn of this new gear and apparel, I have actually amassed quite a quantity already.  These are either personally purchased online, bought from a department store, gifted by a friend/colleague or shipped from (no less) abroad!

got these to choose from! i use a “mask bracket” for easy breathing!

my face shields! i think, it is only here in my country (the Philippines) where face shield is required to be worn aside from the face mask

While I await the available vaccine, which would still be way way far away in the future (no thanks to the slow government bureaucracy here and no thanks too to the President, his security group and his cabinet secretaries who were the first to get injected with illegally smuggled vaccines here), I would rather enjoy the wearing and the flashing of some chic and stylish facemasks and face shields in public! Haha!