Grocery Shopping the Silly Traveler Way

My country has the longest and strictest pandemic lock down in the world.  And because of prolonged quarantining, I realized that there has been somewhat a number of gains from this experience.  People now can enjoy a much cleaner air; folks has established closer relations with other family members; while some has realized how inept and incompetent their elected government officials were. 

On a lighter note, my being on a lock down made me a little nifty, thrifty and dreamy at the same time.  It has actually controlled my illogical retail therapy.  Case in point is my grocery shopping.  I no longer buy unnecessary stuff and I have gone basic, essential and primary.

The nearest grocery store from where I live is too short to have a ride and too distant to be considered a walking distance.  I chose the latter when I have to go there.  And since I have to limit my going out, the quantity of my grocery buying would basically be good for 2 weeks.

Since my buying is of enormous measure and I decided to walk so as to get some sun, a little cardio and pretty good amount of fresh air along the way, I cannot just carry it from the grocery store to my place of stay.  I then decided to be a little smarter.  I resolved this thru the use of my very well-travelled l.u.g.g.a.g.e!

my haul! fresh eggs & frozen meat products were placed in a separate eco-bag of course… never in my wildest dream would i place garlic & onions in my luggage! hahaha!

recently went to s&r membership shopping store (and brought along my luggage)

Yeah, since the pandemic has bunged me up from travelling, I decided my inactive and sedentary luggage to be of good use. My using it actually helped me a little in lessening my silly craving to go for an international travel.  I would just have to pretend that my walking to and from the grocery store were like the moments when I would do a flight transfer from one international airport terminal to another strolling along my heavy check-in luggage. Hahaha!

my empty well-traveled check-in luggage… waiting for the capsicum, green beans, oats, potatoes, cabbage, & a lot lot more! hahaha!

Stay safe everyone!

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.

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.

Ten Year Anniversary of My Morocco Adventure

Ten years ago I clearly remember we were all praying and wishing to own the coolest Blackberry phone.  It was the time when lifestyle magazine editors were the arbiters of taste telling readers what to see, shop and do.  Now our lives are ruled by the social media influencers!

me 10 long years ago inside our budget hotel in casablanca

Ten years ago, Alexa, Bixby and Siri may just be the names of your neighbor’s pets.  Now they are your reliable artificial intelligence who can help you with your missions and commissions.  It was also the time when watches were simply used to tell time and you have to manually count the number of steps you had for the day and need to go to the doctor to monitor your calorie intake.  Now these 3 aspects are just minor features of your smart watch!  

In fact this blog, ten years ago was still being powered under Friendster Blogging site prior to my switching to WordPress!  I switched/transferred Nengkoy blog to WordPress in 2011.

Ten years ago was my first long haul adventure out of the country.  Ten years ago was my Morocco adventure!  Though I spent my Morocco exploits with Australian friends, this was my first solo airplane long haul experience!  This I guess gave birth to my loving going solo on travels abroad.

me with joesel, the travel-savant

sahara dessert adventure!

inside a tannery in fes

And can you just imagine how backward technology was during that time?  So solo travel then was more difficult and more challenging.  Internet info then was a bit limited. I can still remember the countless times I personally called Qatar Airways to inquire and ensure that there is no transit visa needed during my lay over in Doha.

I have no idea about the existence of mobile wifi then!  Though internet was existing already, I clearly remember that me, Joesel and Charles had to go the nearest internet shop inside a medina so as to connect online and message love ones from other parts of the world. 

My cellphone was okay then but the camera I was using then was the compact digital camera type! Chinese has not invented selfie sticks and gorilla pods during that time so can you just imagine how we take turns in taking our photos and smiling on camera multiple times so as to get the best selfie angle?

a rest day at merzouga

casablanca mosque

Ten years ago, my Morocco experience was the start of the expansion of my viewpoints of the world.  My learnings of the world were no longer just sourced from the pages of the book I read.  It was the time when my comfort zone was ultimately tested.  It was the adventure that made me realize that I can actually do and accomplish things I never imagine I could do.  It was the start of my different way of growing. 

Wow! It was actually ten years ago and no way will I forget my Morocco adventure!

Visa Application: The Expensive Way of Proving My Being a Human Being

My comment on a Facebook post by Business Insider “Hahaha! No need to read the article.  I know this so well… (Filipino here)” is gaining semi-popularity.  This article written by a Syrian was about how difficult it is to travel when you don’t have the power of a privileged passport.

And like Syrians, Filipinos like me has to face expensive challenges and time-consuming process of obtaining a travel visa.  Like Syrians, Filipino-world travelers has very weak passports.  We are not privileged to travel easily like the French, the Norwegians and the Singaporeans to name a few.

new zealand: visa fee usd 140

shanghai, china: visa fee usd 27.50

Belgians and South Koreans and other nationalities with powerful passport need not plan so much ahead of time.  They can easily go and hop on the next flight available to another country if they wish to.  But Syrians and Filipinos need months in advance of processing our visit visa.  We need to prepare a long list of proofs of our being human beings as well as present our capability to finance ourselves during our travel.

We have to pay the expensive visa fees which Australians, Americans and Canadians can already apportion to their room accommodations or meal expense during their travel.  We have to allot a separate budget for that. Hahaha!  And these pricy visa fees does not actually assure us of securing our needed visit visa.  We need to do loads of prayers to the heavens plus tons of luck!

mexico: visa-free entry if you have japanese or us visa

israel: visa free (yohooo!!!)

turkey: need to have US visa + usd 20 for evisa

As of this writing I have to pay 60 euros to secure a Schengen visa, 160 US dollars to obtain an American visa and 832 US dollars to acquire a 5-year UK visa.  And according to 2018 schengenvisainfo.com report, Schengen embassies and consulates in the Philippines processed 175,700 visa applications.  UK on the other hand processed 78,482 applications.  And these are just Schengen and UK, we Filipinos love USA so do the math on how much these embassies profited from travel-loving Filipinos.

Wealthy Malaysians, Japanese and Singaporeans has to pay nothing.  Zero.  Thus, Schengen, UK and US embassies and consulates don’t earn from them considering that they can effortlessly afford it. 

If for some people getting lost in a foreign country is the most tough, Syrians for and Filipinos on the other hand, the process of obtaining visa is the most difficult.  Hahaha!  It is actually the very element that hinders me from going to places I want to explore.  It is one sad truth that a travel lover like me has to endure and undertake.

St. Petersburg Metro Stations & the Budgetarian In Me

Visiting and journeying to an out-of-country place entails a lot of readings and research.  I would usually explore the internet on how to go the cheapest and most convenient way so as to reach my hotel from the airport – should I go by train, by taxi, by bus or by other modes of transportation. 

Because I turn “budgetarian” when I travel abroad, it is a must that I have to know the Philippine peso conversion rate to that of the currency of the country I am to visit.  It is also essential to know the weather so that I can plan what appropriate clothes to bring.

I don’t join expensive, tiring and time consuming tour groups unless it is for free.  I would simply research on various tour packages and do it myself.  My point of reference during my DIY expedition of tourist spots are the hordes of Chinese tourists.  As soon as I see them, I know that I am in the right place. 

I do my own touring and not join tour groups because aside from its being cheap, I can control the time being spent on these tourist spots. I can leisurely stay as long as I want or simply pass by if such a sightseeing spot is plain and mediocre.

One classic case of venturing into a DIY-tour as based and followed from an online tour package was my touring the interesting metro stations in St. Petersburg, Russia. Available in the internet are tour packages wherein you got to be see and experience various beautiful underground metro stations within St. Petersburg dubbed as masterpieces of underground architecture.  This 90-minute duration tour package is worth 33 US dollars per participant.

Pushkinskaya station

 I spent only 45 rubles or 75 US cents when I did it by myself!  45 Rubles is the entrance fee to get inside the metro train system! Hahaha! Here are some of the photos I took when I did my own touring of the most beautiful metro stations in the world!

Ploshchad Vosstaniya station

Kirovsky Zavod station

Avtovo station

Here’s a video slideshow to further entice you to go on a DIY journey!