Monday, October 31, 2011

Sizzling meals

SM North EDSA opened just before we entered UP Diliman. There were no direct public transport rides at the time from the campus to the mall (the UP-North EDSA jeepneys were franchised a couple of years later) and we had to take 2 rides to get to the mall. One was a ride out to UP via either the Philcoa or Pantranco jeepneys. We usually alighted at Philcoa and walked a few meters to where we could get on a jeepney that originated from Quezon City Hall and terminated near the mall. At the time, the area where the Trinoma mall is now was still occupied by informal settlers and there were eateries and a talipapa (informal wet market) wet market in the area. The jeepney terminal was also informal, mainly some open space where the jeepneys were allowed to park and load and unload passengers.

We frequented the mall during our breaks or after classes when we had time to spare in afternoons depending on our collective schedules. I remember having one semester when I had a rather odd schedule due to the difficulties of manual enlistment at the time. I got one class from 7:00AM-8:30AM followed by another from 11:30AM-12:45PM, and finally one from 4:00PM-5:30PM. An instructor not showing up for one meant a huge hole during a day already having two long lulls between subjects. Our 7:00-8:30AM and 4:00-5:30PM classes were usually the ones that had the more studious professors and so we had quite a number of days when we had to wait out for our 11:30 class and ended up being stood up by the instructor. Those times we usually ended up in the mall if we didn't have anything urgent to accomplish otherwise.

Being college students, we had limited resources (read: our money mainly consisted of our allowances provided  by our parents) though there were times when our more affluent classmates treated some of us to a movie or a meal. But most of the time, we had to find inexpensive options for our lunch and that usually led us to the Food Court where we had a number of options aside from the usual fast food from Jollibee and McDonald's. The males among us preferred to be mainly carnivorous considering we were all young and without worries about any ailments. Only our female friends were more conscious about eating healthy food.

And so we ended up with "discovering" Sizzling Plate (not to be confused with the restaurants in the UK and the US), which provided us with a good number of choices, again mostly meat. One friend usually ordered the tenderloin steak and another preferred the T-bone. I had the fondness for the Hungarian sausage if not the sirloin strips that were quite tasty with the Java rice. I remember we always got Pineapple juice for our drinks and it was perfect to go with the meat. At the time, the Pineapple juice drinks were not as diluted as today's. The rice serving was also a little more generous than today's so I guess we had it good at the time in as far as our meals were concerned.

I still eat at Sizzling Plate from time to time and especially when I'm by myself (the Clairvoyant's currently based in Singapore) at an SM mall. I think the franchises are now owned mostly if not partly by SM so it is a mainstay for most if not all their malls' food courts. They have tried to diversify their offerings that now include some seafood options but I noticed some of the old choices like my favorite Hungarians and other sausages that were quite popular back in the day are no longer available in some of their booths. Maybe its a supply chain or a quality control thing but I hope the original menu will be retained for years to come.

Modern Sizzling Plate station at one of the newer SM malls in the city
Garlic stake and java rice on an all too familiar hot plate and a large cup of four seasons drink

There's a similar booth called Sizzlers at the CASAA canteen in UP Diliman. I assume it is a knock-off of Sizzling Plate but then it looks older and more an institution than the one at the malls. We also patronized this for our quick but tasty lunches at UP but I've notice over the years that the quality and quantity has gone down a bit considering I think they tried to keep the prices down to be affordable to most students on a budget. For Sizzling Plate though, I think not much has changed except maybe the prices. Perhaps this was necessary in order to retain the quantity and whatever quality it was that attracted us back when we were university students.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Expression of love and praise

"Hi Ferdi, nice to see you again kanina. Your homily was great and seems to have answered a question running in my mind since last Sunday. The wife and I were hearing Mass at a church in Singapore and prior to the Mass during hymn practice, the choirmaster warned people against raising their hands while singing the "Our Father." He said it was wrong and that the Church didn't teach that. Parang napahiya naman kaming mga Pilipino. Well, I didn't know exactly where that came from considering the choirmaster was supposed to have been knighted by the Pope. We were thinking that it was a sad view considering people raising their hands or holding hands together during the singing of The Lord's Prayer included not only Filipinos but Singaporeans, other Asians, and Caucasians. Kanina, I was reflecting on what you said and I think we should be thinking not of how others see us, how we look to others but rather how God will see us for what is truly in our hearts. I'd like to think our practice of raising our hands or putting them together with the hands of family, friends or strangers is our own expression of worship, of thanksgiving and praising God.
God bless Ferdi!"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Surprise visit

I  received a surprise but very pleasant call early this morning from a favorite cousin. It turned out that she was in my parents' house together with another cousin (her brother) and our nephew and niece. Manang Maya or Rebecca Brey was visiting from Iloilo, taking advantage of the semestral break from her teaching job at La Consolacion School in Hinigaran, Negros Occidental. She was in Manila to meet up with our nephew Dexter Brey, who is the son of her elder brother Ernie. Manong Ernie passed away years ago and was about the age of my father. Manong and Manang's mother was the first cousin of my father but was ahead in years owing to a big family and my father being the youngest among the siblings. Accompanying Manang was her younger brother Ramon, whom I have not seen since maybe 1985 or 1986. That was 25 years ago! Our niece, Neneng Mana-ay, the daughter of Manang's elder sister, Violeta.

Dexter is in Manila to attend to personal matters. He is Registered Nurse and currently employed in a hospital in London after a stint in the Middle East. Another niece, Ivy, is there with her family and is also a nurse in another London hospital. She is the elder sister of Neneng. Dexter and I were quite close back when we were kids and regarded each other more like cousins rather than me being an uncle. He even introduced me to some of his pretty classmates at Cabatuan National Comprehensive HS when I was visiting my father's hometown in Iloilo. Nowadays, he is usually away from the country and preferring to take vacations in Europe and the United States rather than come home to Iloilo. This after his mother, Manang Dolores, passed away after battling a lingering illness. Dexter's story is a success story considering he was able to recover most if not all their properties that were pawned to finance his schooling and placement abroad, and I guess nowadays he has saved enough for a comfortable retirement later. He's the only child of Manang Dolores and Manong Ernie.

We took a few photos to mark the occasion of their visit to Manila and Cainta. I was careful to remember doing so considering I lost most of my family photos to Ketsana in 2009. We had many photos, Manang Maya, Dexter and I. Maybe Dexter was able to save quite a few in their Iloilo home. Perhaps I will borrow them for scanning in the future. I remember I even have a photo of Manong Ramon when he was a young lad. Many of my elder cousins stayed with us when they first came to Manila in the 1970's. I'm quite happy to know that they're all doing well though we seldom if not rarely have contact with each other.

 From left: Dexter, Manang Maya, Manong Ramon and Neneng. On the foreground is Tatay

From left: Me, Manang Maya, Manong Ramon and Neneng

Have a written about how much I owe Manang Maya and another cousin, Manang Dora for what I am now? They happen to be my first tutors before I had formal schooling. At the time when they were staying with us, both my parents were working so they took charge of helping me learn the ABCs and the 123s. I hope to write more about this soon considering there's is a lot to write about those days. I had only tears when Manang Maya left for Iloilo and eventually Negros in 70's. And I am always happy to see her whenever we meet. And she always refers to me as her palangga.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Another taste of xiao long bao

The Clairvoyant and I missed taking a few photos while eating at Din Tai Fung, one of our favorites for either lunch or dinner while in Singapore. I, in particular, wanted to have a photo of the very delightful, tasty xiao long bao that the restaurant is famous for. It is the restaurant's most popular item on the menu, and we always order them for their flavor and as a perfect prelude to the main dish.

 Xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung

Noodles with fried pork chop

In the first photo, the Clairvoyant already picked up one piece of the dumplings. We enjoy very much the flavor of the broth inside the dumpling that until now has us imagining how in the first place was such tasteful soup included in the dumplings (It is actually the result of very skillful handling of the ingredients). Meanwhile, in the second photo, I already consumed half of the pork chop that i didn't expect to be an entire chop considering that other restaurants would probably include only a few strips. Value for money? Definitely, and more!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Taiwanese fare at Asian Kitchen

The Clairvoyant and I decided to have dinner out yesterday at the NEX mall prior to doing our groceries.  Finding that our usual dining spots were quite full and with long queues to boot, we looked for another place for sustenance. The Clairvoyant recommended the Asian Kitchen where she had Oyster Meesua while I had Char Siew Rice Noodles. As side dish we had greens with clam sauce.

 The greens with clam sauce actually had some chilli and the waitress asked us how spicy we'd like it to be. We requested it to be mild but it still had a spicy aftertaste with a hint of clam. The dish reminded us of kangkong.

The rice noodles with char siew looked real good but I found it to be a little sweet. I had expected some soup to go with the noodles but I wasn't familiar with this Taiwanese fare so I wasn't that surprised to find the noodles to be more like a pasta dish or pleasantly like palabok.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tay Bauy

I just learned this morning from a nephew that the oldest living sibling of my father, Tay Bauy, passed away today. Braulio Regidor is the eldest brother of my father and they were separated for quite some time partly because my uncle decided to settle in Bukidnon in Mindanao. We learned later that he and his wife struggled as they raised a large family in Valencia. Living there entailed a lot of sacrifices, which eventually bore fruit as our cousins also worked hard to improve their lives with some becoming professionals and investing in businesses that prospered. Eventually, one cousin was able to establish a Resort in Maramag, Valencia City

I know from photos posted by my nephew that my cousins and their families are living comfortably in Bukidnon. They are a very good example of people who have emerged successful against all odds similar to others from Luzon and the Visayas who decided to settle in Mindanao, which many years ago and until now is seen as a land of promise given its climate and natural resources.

I only saw Tay Bauy in person once and that was back in 1989 when he was finally able to come home to Cabatuan after so many years. He was still quite strong then though he was accompanied by his son, Manong Junior. My cousin passed away some years ago, ahead of his father who lived to see more of his grandchildren over the years. My only photos of my uncle also perished during Ondoy but fortunately our reconnection with our relatives through my nephew has allowed me to see relatives who could easily have been lost given the divergence of family members. We have a diaspora of sorts that now has spread to the US, Canada, China, Europe, the Middle East as well as various provinces in the Philippines. I do not know exactly now who is where as well as who is who among relatives to a certain degree.

To Tay Bauy, God bless and keep your soul! May you rest in peace in paradise and may your children and other descendants continue to remember you for all your sacrifices and goodness that has allowed them to be where they are now and to live as they live today.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekend chores and merienda

These days, I prefer to stay at home during weekends enjoying my "me" time together with the dorgs while the Clairvoyant is away. I take the weekends as an opportunity to recover from a week's worth of hard work, though I must admit I also tend to use the weekends to correct the examination papers of my students. Still, I get to enjoy doing stuff not at all related to work like general cleaning, car maintenance, and putting some order to a variety of things at home.

Last weekend, I had one of our office staff who is an electrician help me change the lighting fixtures in two rooms. I had a nasty experience with electricity back when I was a kid so I generally stay out of such matters unless I know exactly what to do. I also took the opportunity of cleaning shoes, taking advantage of the clear weather to "sun-out" my leathers while the running shoes were safely being dried out in the shade. I deliberately place sports shoes in the shade as I had the experience where the shoes were ruined by exposure to intense sunlight.

To fuel myself for my activities last weekend, I picked up a box of small bibingkas right after I did the groceries. Bibingkas  are rice cakes formulated like pancakes and cooked in a conventional oven (pugon) using charcoal. It is not to be mistaken for puto, another rice cake that is cooked through steaming. I usually purchase bibingkas from Bibingkinitan, a name which is a play on the bibingka and the modifier for small items.

The bibingkas are perfect with hot coffee or hot chocolate (I prefer the latter). But since I was working and it was quite hot last weekend, I instead took some cold orange juice with my merienda. You know they're really good based on the smell alone, and our Lab Troy will just sit beside us to patiently wait for crumbs or the occasional taste tests.

Of course, weekends are also opportunities to visit family and we usually do visit our parents' homes on Sundays to have lunch or dinner with them. That, of course, is another story to be told and retold in future posts.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vietnamese food at Viet Ville

Vietnamese food is also popular in Manila with quite a few themed restaurants including the chains Pho Hoa and Pho Bac, which have many branches throughout Metro Manila and major cities in the Philippines. These restaurants have full menus aside from the popular noodles people tend to associate with Vietnamese food.

In my case, my closest to experiencing authentic Vietnamese food was during a visit to Palawan back in 2007 when we had a project there. After field work, we usually explored the city or town where we were staying to find places where we could eat good food. Viet Ville was one of those places recommended to us though it is well outside the poblacion area of Puerto Princesa. It is located in a village that used to be a refugee center for Vietnamese who fled from the conflict when that country went through a difficult stage in integration. These were mostly what people called "boat people" because the mode of transport from Vietnam to the Philippines were small boats that precariously drifted across the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea. Those that made it to the Philippines were accommodated in Palawan, with many eventually settling in the United States or elsewhere where they found their families or friends.

The interior of the restaurant is quite simple and there is a stage where bands can play or a karaoke machine can be set up. Some staff are Vietnamese or are children of Vietnamese who assimilated into the Philippines by way of marriage.

The presentation of the food is also simple just like how food is served in local canteens or eateries but the taste is said to be authentic Vietnamese. We enjoyed our meal but we did not have the benefit of knowing what Vietnamese food should taste like. The bread was fresh and went well with the noodles and the rice toppings.

The Clairvoyant had the opportunity to visit Vietnam and had a first hand experience dining on authentic Vietnamese food when she attended a conference in Hanoi more than a year later in 2008. Because of this, I always ask her about the taste when we order Vietnamese so that I would at least have an idea how close or how far from the real deal are we with the food that we're having.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Detox at Nurture Spa

We usually go to Tagaytay on a weekend to detox. This is practically the reason why we like to try different hotels or B&Bs where we can relax and detoxify from office work.

The Nurture Spa is among our favorites and would highly recommend an overnight if only to avail of their massages. So far, theirs is the best we've tried anywhere in the Philippines where we've traveled.

Welcome drinks at Nurture Spa.

Our room aptly named Saya.

Lounging area where we also got our foot massages after dinner.

 Seared fish with their version of lemon butter sauce with steamed veggies on the side.

I forget exactly what this was except that it was a delightful meal that was a little spicy because of the chili. The lemongrass tea provides the right balance to the spice.

Dessert was light but still quite indulgent for a menu that was packaged as healthy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lunch at Verbena

One of the most enjoyable meals we had was during one trip to Tagaytay when the Clairvoyant and I decided to try out the Restaurant Verbena of Discovery's Country Suites. It was quite rainy that day and we were just coming into Tagaytay after our usual long drive from Antipolo. It was already lunch time and though we were booked at another hotel, we just decided, probably on a whim, to try out Verbena. It was highly recommended by friends and the Clairvoyant related to me about what has been written about the restaurant and its chef. Perhaps the Clairvoyant can help me remember what it is exactly that we ate that rainy day in July.

 Verbena provides a nice view of Taal and with a garden that looks perfect for an outdoor affair.

I forget what we ordered but I do remember it was a four course meal that included appetizers. We were served bread with a selection of butter, pate and salsa to go with it.

 I don't exactly remember what this is but I can guarantee that whatever we had were all delicious and well worth what we paid that day.

I think this is creme brulee and I seem to remember it being quite delightful and perfect for concluding for the main course, which I think was a terrific seafood dish.

Perhaps another trip to Tagaytay and another lunch at Verbena will refresh my memory. Next time, we'll take more photos to better document the experience. Maybe, we'll stay at the Country Suites the next time?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lourdesian blue

Blue is my favorite color ahead of rose (not maroon) and green. I am fond of the different hues of the color ranging from navy, royal, sky and dark. Blue is associated with different schools, most prominently with one along Katipunan that is well known for the blue-colored avian that represents its teams as well as its products. I am well aware of this and yet I insist on picking blue but of a different hue. 

Some people call it light blue, some say its sky. I prefer to call it Lourdesian blue after my alma mater. This variety of blue is one that is associated with Our Lady of Lourdes and is distinctive on the clothing of her image. It is my preferred hue also because I feel it to be cool rather than warm. It also blends well with my skin unlike the darker hues that seem to make me look darker, too. Many of my shirts have elements of this hue of blue and I consider it a part of my style even as I also try to diversify my wardrobe to include reds and greens. 

Of course, blacks and whites are basic colors and are pretty standard for me especially when I have to suit up for presentations and important meetings. The barong tagalog, I believe, should only be colored white or its variants. White shirts are perfect for any tie and black complements perfectly with white (e.g., white shirt and black plants and suit jackets).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Of Kingdoms and Thrones

I have never been so interested in a series since The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sure there was Harry Potter but despite the great reviews and the movies, I just couldn't will myself enough to purchase one of the books and was contented with waiting for the next movie and reading about the reviews. The reviews gave me an idea of how faithful the movies were with the books and I was convinced the movies were enough for me. It was quite different with the LOTR where I had read the books and other works of Tolkien prior to the production of the films. I even wondered when they were going to do a film version of The Hobbit (its now being produced) and imagined how The Silmarillion could be adapted into a film. The latter is an epic that would require, I think, a series considering the wealth of stories that can be derived from the book. In fact, some publishers have come up with what I thought was a conscious attempt to break up The Silmarillion into a few books and make it look as if they were independent of the original work.

The first time I learned about A Song of Ice and Fire was through friends who posted about their excitement about the first book, A Game of Thrones, being adapted for a series with HBO. The result, as they say, is history and I got my first glimpse of the series with the Clairvoyant one late night in our Singapore home as we did our scan of cable channels while lounging in our living room. We were both impressed at the production and excited and anticipated for the next episodes of the series. When the series ended, we both exclaimed "bitin!" And rightfully so considering it has captured our imagination especially after the dragons hatched in the season finale. 

A Song of Ice and Fire is actually a series of novels that includes the following, so far:

A Game of Thrones
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows
A Dance with Dragons
The Winds of Winter
A Dream of Spring

The last two books are still to be released but are highly anticipated considering the sudden popularity of the books and the boost created further by the HBO series. My only regret is how I only came to know about the books when the first one was published back in 1996! Nevertheless, it is never too late to try to catch up on my reading considering I would really prefer indulging myself with such literature to balance my constant diet of material pertaining to my chosen profession. I think the Clairvoyant would agree with me that we need to get copies of the novels so we can feast our minds on the certain pleasure of digesting these books.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


A great man passed away just recently. He was a pioneer, a visionary, a man who dared to live his life his way, and in the process influence others' lives along the way. Steve Jobs lost his battle with pancreatic cancer but surely won his other battles and the war altogether as he lived a life that will be remembered most of all for what he imparted through his ideas and creations.

I only got to finally get my own Macbook last year after hesitating for a few years and deciding against the iPhone (I opted for a BlackBerry instead). The Clairvoyant and I now have 2 Macbooks and an iPad, with another one probably coming along soon. We quickly learned how to use the things thanks to superior user interface that is the trademark of Steve Jobs' products. The term "user friendly," after all, is something that applied and applies to Apple more than any other company.

For a nice article on Steve Jobs, one can read the Steve Jobs, 1955-2011 by Rest in peace Mr. Jobs, knowing you will continue to live in the Macbooks, iPhones, iPods and iPads, and hopefully those of this world who cared enough to listen and brave enough to live their lives unhindered.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bed & Breakfast at 8 Suites

The Clairvoyant and I have our favorites when staying in Tagaytay. These include Sonya's Garden and Nurture Spa. We have also tried Hotel Dominique, which is near the Pink Sisters' convent and the T House, which is along the way to the Picnic Grove. Of course, there are many other options when staying in Tagaytay and with accommodation costs ranging from the very cheap to the prohibitively expensive. There are also the old reliables such as the refurbished Taal Vista Hotel, the Days Hotel, and the Estancia Hotel. I would like to caution people about relying on the internet for reviews because each and everyone have different tastes and preferences. Everyone would have his or her idea of what is acceptable and what has value for the money they spend.

Two weekends ago, while relaxing at our nest in Singapore, we decided to try 8 Suites, which is operated by Fat Jimmy's. The reviews were quite satisfactory and we were aware that it was a relatively new B&B that is quite off the beaten track, so to speak, considering its location (it was further from the national highway and already near Tagaytay Highlands). We were impressed by our suite room and the view was just marvelous. It was more than what we expected to see. The food was also good and dinner was just right for two hungry stomachs (we had an early lunch that day).

Hot clear soup to prepare the palate for an early dinner

Pan-fried white fish (probably Cream Dory) with lemon-butter sauce and Beef Salpicao, all cooked using olive oil

As we did in past visits, we made it a point to take note of other hotels in Tagaytay. We are looking forward to maybe finally trying out the Tagaytay Country Suites or maybe one of the new boutique hotels in the area. For research, we are asking our friends who have tried these places as we would have a better gauge of what to expect as we know our friends' tastes and preferences.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Weekend escape to Tagaytay

Definitely one of our favorite places is Tagaytay in the Province of Cavite in Southern Luzon. It provides us with a weekend destination to escape the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila though we also live in a suburban community in Antipolo. In the past years, we must have gone to Tagaytay quite regularly (every other month?) even considering it usually took about 2.5 hours of travel time not including the stopovers for meals or toilet breaks. Nevertheless, once reaching this city located at the ridge formed by the eruption of an ancient volcano, you are greeted by its cool fresh air that automatically switches your mode to one of rest and recreation.

There was no particular occasion on this most recent of our trips to Tagaytay, as with most of our trips there. We came to enjoy the pleasant climate and the food offered by many of the nice restaurants in the city. Some of these restaurants are Tagaytay originals and may not have branches elsewhere though many popular restaurant chains have established branches in the city. Perhaps one place that we have always made a point to visit and eat at every time we are in Tagaytay is Bag of Beans. The original branch, or at least the one which our friends directed us to years ago, is located along the national highway just past the junction to Mendez town. It now has another branch near the intersection (rotonda) with the Aguinaldo Highway. Their breads are delightful and their meals take advantage of the fresh ingredients that are readily available in this the city and from the farms in its surrounding towns.

We particularly like to just hang out and have coffee or hot chocolate while enjoying pastries on the side. Last Saturday, the Clairvoyant decided to have some cinnamon rolls and a cup each of hot chocolate as we relaxed after the second part of our long drive from Antipolo. This was the part driving from Paseo de Sta. Rosa, our usual stopover prior to Tagaytay.

Hot chocolate and warm cinnamon rolls at Bag of Beans

With the Clairvoyant currently based in Singapore, this is only our first trip to Tagaytay this year. This one though is practically an escape as a typhoon blew by Northern Luzon over the weekend and sprinkled some rain on Metro Manila and Antipolo. We figured we'd rather be somewhere where we could relax and not think about work, and Tagaytay is that place for us. We did take note of the more recent additions to the restaurants and hotels in the area and would probably try out another hotel or bed & breakfast next time. We do try different accommodations every time we visit, though our personal favorites are Sonya's Garden and Nurture Spa.