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!

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!

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)