Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pepper Steak

It took me a few weeks before I even realized that I haven't blogged in a while. And looking back, there seems to be a lot of things to write about but it just seemed like I didn't have time to write as the days seem to whiz by and now, I'm staring at a December approaching dangerously (but excitedly) fast.

I've mentioned in past blogs that I enjoyed my stint in Japan from 1996-1999 as well as the shorter visits since then. One reason I was able to settle in quite quickly and became "hiyang" was the food. I was introduced to Japanese food and its variants only in 1995. At the time, I only knew about Italian food through Shakey's and Pizza Hut, and what passed of as American via McDonalds and Wendy's, and the Filipinized Jolibee, Cindy's and Tropical Hut. Needless to say, Filipino food was always on the dinner table at home or when I was able to go out with friends to restos like Trellis and other grills.

Japanese food at the time was Tokyo Tokyo, and then Saisaki. I didn't quite get the taste at Tokyo Tokyo and equated Japanese cooked food to what was offered in the menu. Saisaki was definitely better and offered more variety including my favorite salmon sashimi. I did get my first taste of authentic Japanese food via Benihana and another Japanese resto in Makati. It wasn't until my first trip to Japan in February 1996 that I was able to finally and happily introduced and enjoyed Japanese food. Even the food served at the University shokudo (cafeteria/canteen) had the distinct taste that told you you were in Japan. And in hindsight, I say this because I've tasted cafeteria food in Thailand, Singapore, China and the US.

When I returned to the Philippines in 1999, I was elated to learn that there were more Japanese restos in town. I, however, learned that many of them weren't able to capture that all too familiar taste whether the food was cooked or raw. If you wanted good food, you really had to pay for it and so the only opportunities to enjoy good Japanese food was when we occasionally lunched or dined with Japanese professors or visitors.

Tokyo Tokyo and Saisaki were still around (even now) and they were joined by Teriyaki Boy, Kitaro and Sushi-ya. But Teriyaki Boy had that westernized taste. And Kitaro and Sushi-ya, though offering good sushis and sashimis seem to lack that certain ingredient similar to the X-Factor one usually looks for. Benihana was gone but in its place, there's Sugi and, as I discovered in 1999, the authentic restos in Little Tokyo near Makati Cinema Square that was the hang-out of Japanese expats including embassy and JICA people.

I was actually elated when Yoshinoya came to the Philippines and was all the more happy that they retained the taste and didn't decide to Filipinize their famous beef bowls. I just hoped that their layout were similar to those in Japan and that they didn't go for the typical fastfood layout like McDo's and Jolibee. The additional food on the menu is excused and is most welcome for the variety as well as the good taste.

Most recently, the Clairvoyant informed me of a new resto that opened at the Powerplant in Rockwell. When she mentioned the name of the resto, it immediately rang a bell in my mind and my stomach sent messages to my brain urging me to go to Rockwell to investigate the new resto. I also looked for my stamp card from my recent visits to Japan from where I remembered the name of the resto - Pepper Lunch.

It was only last Saturday that we were able to go to Pepper Lunch together to enjoy the double beef serving of authentic Japanese pepper steak and the curry variant. After eating so many times at a Pepper Lunch knock-offs - Star Carrots and Sizzling Pepper Steak - I must say that I was more than satisfied with Pepper Lunch and would like to go back for more if only it were not inconveniently located in Rockwell. Star Carrots is passable and is a decent place but again, it lacks the X-factor that I found at Pepper Lunch Powerplant. So I look forward to the opening of a branch at Shangri-La EDSA and maybe verify if they're able to replicate the taste and ambience of the original especially the one located at the top of the gigantic Yodobashi Akky in Akihabara.

I'll leave the Clairvoyant to write about the experience of eating at an authentic sushi restaurant in Asakusa... That indeed is another story for writing and telling!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Not Even a Statistic

It was like just one of those mornings. I leave for the office early and look forward to a few minutes of quiet time in front of my desk. Time I can use to sort documents, to check e-mails and catch up on friends through Facebook.

Then it happened...the taxi in front of me applies the brakes. I hit mine. But not as abrupt as the taxi as I always keep a good distance behind in case of sudden stops. I hear a thud. No, it was more like a crunch. I look behind, and lo and behold, a motorcycle rider trying to scratch his head through his helmet. I put on the hazard lights and alight from the car. It wasn't going to be one of those days. Today was different. I was on the receiving end of an accident.

I won't talk about the expression on the face of the motorcyclist as he realized how much the damage would cost him. I won't talk about how he didn't want to show me his license and the registration of his motorcycle. I won't even talk about the impromptu lecture I had to give this morning about safe driving and its social and financial aspects. What's done is done and I'm sort of a forgiving person, knowing where I can't get anything. Perhaps it's just a wake up call. I just hope the other guy took notice.

Being in the transportation field, we call these things road traffic accidents. I just joined the hundreds or even thousands of people who get involved in accidents. What's sad is that my case is classified among the unknowns. Yes, Mr. MMDA Chair, your accident stats aren't at all accurate! What frustrated me and ultimately pissed me off this morning was the fact that several MMDA enforcers on motorcycles passed us by without even checking what happened and inquiring on the reason for the instant congestion our incident caused. Talk about training, talk about the drivers' faults, but don't take responsibility for this because its other people's fault that our streets aren't safe. In our accident reporting system, you have to be critically injured or dead to be a statistic. Maybe that's how a statistic is defined in MMDA terms. Perhaps that's how it's defined by our government or at least by some people who make the government look bad. But who am I to talk about these things? I'm not even a statistic!

Disclaimer: I am a government employee and I do serve the people.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


A lot has been written and said about change. Some people claim and proclaim how they are agents of change and how they have embraced change. Often, people are urged to get out of their comfort zones, to leave their shells.

I would like to believe that many of us, even those who preach the gospel of change in one way or another, actually fear change and hide behind the rhetoric, the words, in an attempt to shield ourselves from the very change we so advocate.

People change. It is indeed one thing that is constant in this world. We change as our environment changes. So much around us influence our lives. It may be our families, our loved ones, the people we choose to live with. It can be our co-workers, the people we mingle with, acquaintances, or even those we encounter for fleeting moments in our daily journeys.

We are often uncomfortable with the fact that those around us are changing, or have changed. We like to look and analyze and criticize how others have changed when all we are doing is denying ourselves of accepting that process, and realizing that we ourselves are changing, albeit at a pace that we choose and set in our minds. We have the tendency to observe and critique what's happening to those around us when we have failed to see our own transformations. And therein lies the problem - a dilemma that poses a challenge to how we engage the realities of life.

The real issue might not really be about change but of control. We might really be fearing the loss of control and not change itself. I would like to believe that we all want to have control, to take control, but in varying degrees and maybe under different circumstances. The frustration over loss of control in one area is manifested in our attempt to control those that we perceive we can. Often the problem here is the struggle for control overlaps or coincides with the attempts of others to have similar control.

At this point I will choose not to offer any solutions. I, too, am trying to understand, to comprehend how those around me, including myself, are coping with change. I, too, am looking inwards and seeking how I have, am and will assert what I perceive as the control that I would need to bring order to my environment while pondering on the influence I will have to those around me. I can only hope everyday that everything will eventually come out right and that I can achieve peace of mind and heart.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Prof. Jose Ma. De Castro was my teacher in only one subject, CE 121 (Construction Materials), and yet he has had a tremendous impact in my life, in my career. It was during his lectures in CE 121 that I came to appreciate how the minor subjects like CE 21 (Engineering Statistics) and CE 22 (Engineering Economy) were useful in many civil engineering applications. It was his ability to explain with such clarity that allowed us to understand both the theoretical and practical aspects of the subject matter. Later, he would joke that he was not a good CE 121 professor.

Jodec, as we fondly called him, was the Department Chair of Civil Engineering by the time I was a senior. He was always among the earliest to arrive at the C.E. Department offices during registration period. He advised us to take electives under two visiting professors at that time, explaining that these electives would provide us with a different perspective. Little did I know then that one of these electives will steer me towards a career in Transportation Engineering, especially drawing me towards teaching and research.

At a critical point in my life, it was Jodec who influenced my direction towards transportation engineering. I would like to believe that it was on the strength of his recommendation that I was later admitted to graduate school, which eventually opened many doors for me.

I will forever be grateful to what Prof. De Castro imparted – knowledge, wisdom, and a dedication to the University – but I am especially thankful to him for giving me a chance to become what I am now. I am sure that many of us are grateful for his invaluable contributions to Civil Engineering. On top of his obvious achievements, we will remember that he taught our generation, and taught us well. It is his faith in students like me that makes his contributions personal to us. And for those of us who followed in his footsteps within the academe, a legacy to aspire for.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I've been to Japan several times now and Saitama has been something like a retreat for me. For one, the University and my hosts have always been warm and I've found that cooperative research with the Urban Transportation Group was enjoyable as our interests converge. 

My host, in fact, is a very busy man and yet he finds time to personally take care of his students with very able support from his similarly kind research associate. The result is a laboratory that functions very efficiently and that works toward meaningful, relevant research. Such research includes community-based or participatory processes and it is clear how theory is translated into practice when the group applies what's learned in school to real-world situations. 

I had the chance to join them in one such activity in the World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go in the central part of Japan about 7 years ago. My experiences there was later manifested in a similar research that focused in a World Heritage Site in Vigan, Ilocos Sur in the northern part of the Philippines.

I've found a second "refuge" in Saitama after finding a very different system in my Yokohama laboratory. It is one where I am very comfortable and where I have found encouragement in the research that I do - and I like to believe that I do very well in. I will always look forward to the next visit.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Real Deal: US Politics

The clairvoyant and I enjoy talking about anything under the sun. It's probably among the things that attracted me when I first met her - online. These days, politics seem to be the flavor of the past few months, what with the recent Democratic and Republican conventions confirming the presidential and vice presidential bets of the two parties.

After what the world has gone through the last 7 years under the Republican Bush administration, I would like to believe that Americans would like to see a change in leadership, a change in how things are done at the very highest level of their government. The world seems looking forward to that. After all, how can a country project itself as a leader when its own leadership is being questioned by both its allies and enemies. The time is ripe for a significant change in the political atmosphere in Washington that would return the US to the moral high ground it used to have. 

But how do we view US politics here? How do Filipinos see Obama and McCain? Biden and Palin? If you ask me, two items that appeared today in the same Philippine newspaper clearly shows how people in these islands view the events in the US. 

My take and my opinion is closer to the first article. The second one probably deserves closer scrutiny as the author projected the Republican VP candidate as a commoner while at the same time stating that the Democratic presidential candidate is an elitist. But then again, those interpretations, those perceptions may be correct if we are to view such as the former being unfit to become VP as she is unqualified, having only the looks and the guns (i.e., pro-gun) to speak of and a lot of biases and flaws that the media and the public are just beginning to see.

You see, the US dug itself a huge hole and has had much difficulty getting out. What it probably needs, and much of the outside world sees this, is an elite person to lead them out and reconcile them with the world and - reality. This reality is manifested in the oil crisis, the relationship with what are branded as "rogue states" and the growing influence of China. This reality, more importantly, is manifested in a global environment where the US would need to physically, morally, and wisely assert itself in the form of a man who would become the first non-white leader of that country. One who will show the world that America means business and that business is genuine reform that would serve as a model to other nations.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Reminiscing Japan 1

It's almost 12 years now since I left the Pearl of the Orient Seas to study in the Land of the Rising Sun. I can still remember the warm welcome I got from the laboratory, my laboratory. There was always a sense of belonging to the lab. It's probably due to the system they have over there as well as the culture.

Below is one the first photos I had with the laboratory. I remember this to be taken during one of the parties, "meetings" or kais, as we called it. This was a graduation party we had for the laboratory and toasting our grads taken in March 26, 1997 infront of the Hokkaido Restaurant in the Kannai district of Yokohama. The photo was taken before we broke up to return to our respective homes. I always thought this was the core of the lab at the time since most students were loyal to the Professor. Our Professor, our sensei was Izumi Okura. I'll write about him in another post. He deserves a separate post. He was a kind man and he will be missed.

Seated (L-R): Sagawa (M1), Tozawa (M2), Okura-sensei
Second Row: Kato (B4), Suzuki (B4), Yokoyama (B4)
Standing (L-R): Hijikata (M2), Uchida (B4), Matsumaru (M1), Kawano (M1), Iwakami (B4), Hibino (B4), Me (D1), Oshiro (M1), Horie (M2)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Let the truth prevail

I saw this sticker on a car while driving to work saying "Let the truth prevail." I'm not sure I understood the English but maybe it's just an idea that gets lost especially if you try to delve deeper into the statement in the sticker. My take is that by doing just what the sticker says, you will practically be taking a passive stance like..."give way to the truth" or "let is pass." We would be like bystanders watching truth as it makes its way as it "tries" or "attempts" to prevail. No thanks to you or me. No, we'll just let it prevail. Nevermind the others who will stop at nothing to prevent truth from emerging victorious...

Whatever happened to "making the truth prevail?" This shows commitment. This exemplifies active participation in the scheme of things rather than be a fence sitter. So...shouldn't the sticker be saying instead "Make the truth prevail!" Act and as the shoe commercial says..."Just Do It!"

Friday, August 8, 2008

If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Was caught in particularly heavy traffic this morning. Sad to say, but it took a traffic jam along my route to work to make me write a post here.

Katipunan Avenue was again clogged and it took me an hour and a half to cover 2 kilometers. What can be more frustrating than burning liters of fuel while sitting in a traffic jam when there should be none at all? The culprit? We can all blame (yes, there is no other word more appropriate) it on the MMDA. I'm not even sure if orders came from the Chair himself, knowing that most of his people are actually spineless beings unable to make their own decisions. Wait, maybe they've evolved into creatures with little spines and a little brains (I trust the dinosaurs had larger ones.) because they just f*$#ed up Katipunan traffic.

I was quite amused when a crowd from the informal settlement across Miriam College gathered on the pedestrian overpass to cheer regular people, parents taking their children to school, getting out of their cars and engaging MMDA personnel who were helpless in (mis)managing the traffic. My applause though was reserved to Miriam College guards who safely guided children across Katipunan so they can make their classes rather than sit helplessly in their vehicles and maybe hear their parents, guardians or drivers cuss to kingdom come.

Traffic along Katipunan has alwasy been predictable, before and after the U-turn scheme was implemented. The peak periods are easily associated with the school schedules. Katipunan after all, is shared by three major institutions in University of the Philippines Diliman, Ateneo de Manila University, and Miriam College. Elementary trip generation will tell you (and most people using Katipunan know this), for example, that the critical hour in the morning is 6:30 - 7:30 AM. Before that and after that, Katipunan is manageable if not free flowing. But even during that period, traffic is and has always been tolerable, unless of course you happen to be one who doesn't plan your trips and blame everyone else for the traffic but yourself. But that's another story.

Experimenting with the U-turns in Katipunan the way its been done by the MMDA will always cause undeserved inconvenience, stress and fuel consumption to users of that road. There is actually nothing wrong with the traffic and congestion is a normal thing. Any attempts to fix something that isn't broken will only make matters worse. Another lesson learned from the awful experience today but only for us who actually care or give a damn in learning and improving. Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to the folks at the MMDA.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Obviously, this is not the follow-up to the previous post on mall parking. While discussions on that topic are continuing at home or in the car, I figured I can postpone the follow-up until I've had good material for at least a quarter of the malls I mentioned in that post.

What triggered today's post was a sticker I saw while riding a jeepney to work. The Clairvoyant dropped me off on the way to her office as I didn't have my car and I had to take two jeepneys to my office. In the second jeepney, I happened to sit behind the driver and couldn't help but see the back of an LTFRB sticker where, as usual, one person's name indicated what could have been his most prized accomplishment - Gen (ret). Thus, he probably couldn't really resist including his title to his name. The other two persons' names were printed quite simply - without even a Mr or a Ms to them. Yet I know them to be an Engr and an Atty.

It suddenly reminded me of what my calculus teacher told us back in college. We were sophomores then and we called our instructor's attention to the fact that he had a PhD and yet didn't bother putting Dr before his Romeo Manlapaz. He quickly joked that he wasn't insecure like those other people who revelled in appending those titles like they really mattered if the person is mediocre in reality.

What's in a title? I remember an uncle telling us that in the time of our grandparents the only titles that mattered were Fr. and Dr. The exception was the military and police who had various ranks and it was relevant to state the rank with the person. My uncle, a Korean War vet was quick to add that it was acceptable for professionals to add titles and rattled off a few the more commonly used titles - Atty, Arch and Engr.

Well, I guess this was okay as long as there is some consistency in the statement of names and if the names are indicated in signs, letters, or whatever material or instrument that made it a necessary thing. I would appreciate the specialty indicated after a medical doctor's name like the FACC, FPCC (indicating affiliation in cardiology) or FPOGS (indicating affiliation in OB-Gynecology). I also would understand that in the academe, people indicate PhD or MA or DrEng. In the corporate world, acceptable would be an MBA or CPA. In legal circles, Atty or Esq would be the norm. But appending all of BS, MS and PhD to your name would really be OA. After all, wouldn't this be mistaken for "Bull Shit," "More Shit," and "Piled higher and Deeper"?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mall Parking Part 1

I just could not keep myself from finally taking up something that has to do with transportation. But I'll be discreet, there won't be much theoretical matter in this article and the succeeding ones (Yes, I intend to get another and more shots at this!). I aim to have a more practical discussion of the topic at hand.

And that topic is...parking! Not parking in the general sense or maybe the art of parking. I'll be focusing on parking facilities at the shopping malls. Quite an original idea? Well, in Metro Manila, a metropolis that is transforming itself into a Megalopolis (if it hasn't yet done so), parking has always been an issue especially at the shopping malls.

The Clairvoyant raised the topic about which malls had the best parking including the design of the ramps while I was managing a curve up a hospital's parking area. I was in the process of complementing the well-designed ramp that was spacious enough to accommodate my old car and made the observation that there where no paint marks along the walls of the ramp. This was unlike the multi-level parking facilities of typical residential, office or commercial buildings where it seemed the designers (architects?) did their best satisfying the minimum requirements of the building code. Ah yes, the building code that manual of minimums that's often used by engineers and architects alike to take advantage of the uninformed public. But that's another story...

For this series on parking, I'll start with the malls and then maybe move on to other places of interest. But what right have I to compare parking facilities if I don't have a decent list of malls I and the Clairvoyant haven't gone to ourselves. So to conclude this first of a series of n articles on parking, let me list my specimens in no particular order:
SM (North EDSA, Megamall, Fairview, Centerpoint, Manila, Podium, Mall of Asia)
Robinsons (Galleria, Metro East, Novaliches)
Ayala (Glorietta, Greenbelt, Market!Market!, TriNoMa, Bonifacio High Street)
Gateway Mall
Ever Commonwealth
Greenhills/Vira Mall

Notice again that all of the above are well within the National Capital Region, the more technical term for Metro Manila. I do have a list of malls outside the Metro but I chose not to include them so as to be level in the assessment. For what it's worth, these include SM malls (San Fernando, Clark, Baguio, Bacoor, Lucena, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cagayan De Oro and Davao); Robinsons malls (San Fernando, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cainta), Gaisano malls (Davao and Cebu), Ayala (Cebu), and the others. I also, purposely, did not include branches that have shared parking or didn't have a significant facility like SM Cubao or SM Makati. Obviously, the majority of people park elsewhere or take public transport to these malls.

Now on to Part 2...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Centennial of The National University of the Philippines

To the day, today marks the 100th year of the establishment of the University of the Philippines. Already there are a lot of events leading to this occasion and it culminates in the Grand Alumni Homecoming on June 21 (Saturday) at the Araneta Coliseum. Incidentally, the UP Alumni Engineers held its homecoming last Friday the 13th at the Melchor Hall grounds.

The first 100 years of the University of the Philippines is rich with history, symbolism and excellence. People might like to add activism and idealism to that and I would agree. But I too would like to think, to believe that UP being a microcosm of the Philippines also represents hope - hope that someday the great ideas, the inventions and innovations, the creations of this truly national university would eventually lead this country from the misery and helplessness. It is but appropriate that in this Centennial Year of UP, its alumni reflect on the real meaning of the Oblation. For aren't we supposed to offer ourselves in service to our country and our countrymen?

Mabuhay ang pag-asa ng bayan! Mabuhay ang Pamantasan ng Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang Pamantasan ng Pilipino!

For more information on the University of the Philippines System and the Centennial events, click on the link:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Adventures with Clara Clairvoyant 1

My wife has her own blog and she's been egging me to check it out everyday to see her new posts. I think it's great that she's able to find time to write as I've always loved to read about her (mis)adventures. She's practically traveled around the world and her latest trip took her to Berlin, Warsaw, Cracow and Prague. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to tag along that trip.

The last trip we had together was in Japan. We went around some of my favorite sites near Tokyo including the ancient city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture. Required stops included the Hachimangu Shrine and Hasedera. Here are a few photos from the trip:

Kamakura and Tokyo was fun and we're looking forward to Kyoto in the near future. Actually, we've never been to the U.S. together and that's coming up soon... Now, I hope I can take time off from work to be able to join her in New York this Fall.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Voltes V

The last time I was in Japan I made sure I made the rounds of shops specializing in anime figures. Many of these shops are found in the Akihabara Electric Town district easily accessible by surface train (JR) or subway (Ginza Line). The main objective was to canvass prices of figures of anime robots from childhood days. My wife and I specifically wanted to have a scale model Voltes V figure - one that had all the five components: Cruiser, Bomber, Panzer, Frigate and Lander.

After weeks of establishing the fair price for both new and 2nd hand models, we finally settled on a 2nd hand but never opened box. I won't mention the price but we were very satisfied with our acquisition upon returning to the Philippines. We're putting off the display until we get good shelves or a cabinet.

Here's a few photos of Voltes V from the box to the "volted in" stage. And, oh, you can see our dogzilla looking on in one of the photos:

The box containing the goodies;

Components: Cruiser is at top left, Panzer at middle left, Bomber at middle right, Frigate at lower center, and Lander at lower left.

(L) Voltes V brandishing the laser sword; (R) Dogzilla looks while the enemy volts-in

Future acquisitions are now being planned for Mazinger Z, UFO Grendaizer and the Getta robots. Here's looking forward to the next trip to Tokyo.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Quick review

Whew! It's been quite a while since the last blog...actually, almost 3 months since I started this revival of what used to be my home on the net. I used to have the original Regin's Realm in Geocities but it somehow disappeared along with all the valuable material I had gathered during my 3-year stay in Japan.

Among others are memories of a wonderful and prayerful stint at the Sacred Heart Cathedral also known as Yamate Catholic Church. Katorikku Yamate Kyokai was a home away from home and its very warm community will always have a place in my heart as I reminisce services, stories, lunches, bazaars...and friendships. The parish priest at the time was Fr. Alfred Burke, who was a reassuring presence for ones like me who yearned for a figure who would stymie the onset of depression, of sadness while in a foreign land.

I have always made it a point to visit Yamate whenever I was in Japan and I've always marveled at how the community has continuously grown since I returned home in 1999. It is only fitting that I start, or shall I say re-start, Regin's Realm with thoughts on Yamate.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mornings Revealed

i never

clutched the pillows so hard

on nights colder than others,


laughed so much, or

sang as my heart sang

or danced

unmindful of my feet.

you are my first waking thought at daybreak

the sunbeam dancing in my head

the secret source of my smile

protagonist of my daydreams

sweet soft breeze on my cheek

my unceasing fount of inspiration

usher of my peaceful evenings

my soothing lullaby

my love



my dreams sit in rapt awe,


as the sun slowly weaves

into a waking sky

and I remain swathed

with faint memories

of the night before.

beginnings and endings


at that precious second

when the scents of dawn

descend on my pillow

and I sift through yesterday

with a shy smile.

today awaits, hope soars


than my hands can ever grasp,

where my soul finds odd comfort

and joy.