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.

Put Voltes V Anime Series on Netflix

I recently read an article which acknowledges the existence of Philippine-English.  It is an English language variety that is different from American, British and Australian English-es.  Philippine English is so prevalent – thanks to the big population of Filipinos on the planet – that it has officially been acknowledged as an acceptable English language variant.  It is so unlike the other English-es that it actually has its own slang and peculiar accent.

grew up watching this!

I have long acknowledged that I learned speaking the English language during my early childhood years by regularly watching Sesame Street (a TV show in American English).  But after I have outgrown my liking for it, my learning the English language has continued thru my childhood fondness for the old Japanese anime TV series Voltes V (pronounced as Voltes Five) dubbed in English.

I can truly say that Voltes V – which was controversially banned by dictator President Marcos in 1979 due to its underlying theme of rebellion and revolution – plays a big chunk in honing my knowledge of English as a language.

Unlike the most recent rerelease of this TV anime series which was dubbed in Tagalog-Filipino language, the original one released in the 70’s in the Philippines was dubbed in English.  What is so atypical with the original series shown in the Philippines is that it was dubbed by native Filipinos speaking the English language. 

I recently re-watched the first 2 episodes of the series (thankfully available on YouTube) dubbed in English and I can truly distinguish that the English language utilized was the classic example of how a Philippine-English is along with its distinctive accent.  My way of saying “comfortable buffalo” is so different from how Americans would say it!  Ask your native-Filipino workmate and an American friend to say these words for you to know the difference.

Sad to note though, that a big number of young Filipinos now can’t speak nor write proper English may it be of whatever English language variant.  One reason maybe is because shows now prevalent in various forms of media in the Philippines are now spoken or dubbed in the local Filipino language.

I am not saying that Filipino language is a bad thing.  What I would just like to say is that knowing a second language is a weapon, a faculty, a gift.

say “comfortable”!

I can’t seem to identify an English-dubbed or English-spoken TV show in the last 10 years shown in the Philippines that became trendy or popular among the youth which can be acknowledged later on in their life as a basis of their learning another language.

If given the power, I would re-release Voltes V in Netflix! The version would no doubt be the old Philippine-English dubbed edition for the present kiddos of today to watch and learn.  And if present kids now would reject watching it and prefers some lame and boring Filipino-dubbed TV series, me and my fine Philippine-English speaking generation would definitely look forward to watching it.

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.

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.