Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday pasta

We love eating sea food and pasta so it's only natural that we combine the two. It was quite easy to do so with the variety of canned tuna available in the Philippines that allows one to concoct variations of pasta al tonno. Mix it up with garlic, olives and some pepper and its ready to go. It doesn't spoil easily so you can have the leftovers placed in the refrigerator for another meal the following day. It's perfect for whatever meal during the day including breakfast and more so during Lenten Season when we try to minimize our intake of meat and poultry.

Spaghetti with Spanish Style tuna chunks
Close-up of the plate in the previous photo looks a bit reddish or orange that it reminded me of another variation where we include sun dried tomatoes for the dish to seem like Bolognese


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Weekend at Melaka - Part 9: The streets and sidewalks of Melaka

Walking towards the church of St. Francis Xavier from the plaza of Christ Church, the walkways reminded me a lot of similar forms back home in Manila, Cebu and Iloilo. The latter were old cities "founded" during the Spanish era just about the same time Melaka came under Portuguese rule. Much of the designs of course were not from those times but more recent, perhaps when the Philippines was under the United States and Malaysia under Britain. I can only imagine how beautiful our cities could have been if we were careful about development and making an honest effort towards heritage preservation. Similar walkways in many of our cities are now jammed with vendors, beggars and are poorly maintained (e.g., garbage and other dirt or grime everywhere). There is hope, however, as I have seen similar streets in Bacolod City that are clean and pedestrian-friendly. I will feature this in a future post. Meanwhile, the photos below were all taken in Melaka.

View towards the plaza - the red building is part of the Christ Church complex but is now home of the Melaka Post Office
The walkways reminded me of similar forms in Manila, Cebu and Iloilo, all old cities established during the Spanish Period when Melaka was under the rival Portuguese.
The pavement was tiled but well-maintained
Traffic was light so one could get a good shot of the street leading up to the plaza.
The street leading to St. Francis Xavier made me imagine how old cities in the Philippines would have looked like if those cities made an effort to preserve heritage and controlled motor vehicle access to their street.
Some buildings have been converted to restaurants and bars but they retained their nostalgic features and feel.
The Clairvoyant posing along the walkway to Xavier.
Melaka made sure their signposts and lamps were designed consistent with the ambiance of the heritage city
Another shot of the seemingly endless walkway beneath the buildings.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Express lunch

Among our favorites for quick meals is Pepper Lunch, a fast food restaurant variant that specializes in sizzling strips of beef, pork, chicken or fish served on a metal plate together with rice and corn sprinkled with pepper and other spices. 

I discovered Pepper Lunch accidentally while in Japan in 2008. I was exploring a huge electronic mall and decided to have dinner at the food court at the top floor of the building. Looking for a place where I could get a quick, inexpensive meal, I found a branch of the restaurant and decided to try it out. Ordering was simple because like other fast foods, there was a vending machine where one could select a meal set and pay for it without making contact with the staff. You get a ticket corresponding to your selection and then give it to their staff manning the bar where people sat around. 

After Japan, Pepper Lunch next set up shop in Singapore. And so we could enjoy quick meals at their Pepper Lunch Express corners found in mall food courts there. Only last weekend, we had lunch at their branch at the Funan IT Mall before we canvassed the shops for a new router. We didn't feel like eating a big meal like those offered in sets by other vendors at the food court and so we decided to eat something familiar and sure for us.

There were some people who obviously got the idea and set up similar style restaurants in the Philippines. While their menus were very much the same as Pepper Lunch's, the taste still doesn't exactly match the original. And so we were glad that Pepper Lunch finally landed in the Philippines and one of their branches was accessible to us via the Shangri-la mall.

The other day, I decided to check out the Pepper Lunch Express at the Trinoma mall. I was in the area to take my bag to be repaired and remembered that the restaurant had established an express branch at the mall's food court. It was still early (before 12:00 noon) so there were few people and I even got a good table near the counter. Following are a few quick photos I took during my early lunch break.

A serving of iced tea with the cup bearing the Pepper Lunch logo.
Customers can see the preparation of their meals from the counter or the window
My lunch for the day - sizzling pepper steak!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Thai food at Siam Kitchen

We had dinner at the NEX mall and decided to go for Thai food. The Clairvoyant suggested we eat at the Siam Kitchen, which she had tried once before. I also somewhat craved for Thai food and was game for some spicy fare that night.

They have a very good selection of Thai food on their menu and it was difficult to order only because we wanted to try different dishes. Unfortunately, it was only the two of us and we could only eat so much on a Friday night. Fortunately, our choices turned out quite well and we will definitely eat at this restaurant again to try out the other dishes to satisfy our occasional cravings for Thai food.

Khao Phad Sapparot Talay (Pineapple fried rice)
Khao Pla Tod Chu Chee (Deep-fried fish fillet with chu-chee sauce)
Phad Kana Pla Kem (Stir-fried kailan with dried fish)
We had iced lemongrass tea to go with our spicy fare. I remember that most of the drinks we had during our travels to Bangkok before were quite sweet. This, we thought, was a way to compensate for their delicious but spicy food.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Weekend at Melaka - Part 8: Old Churches

There are three old churches of note that we were able to see in Melaka. These include one whose ruins are preserved and overlooking the city from a strategically located hilltop. These churches tell a rich story about Melaka (formerly called Malacca by its colonizers) that includes Roman Catholic history about one of its most famous missionaries and saints - Francis Xavier.

Christ Church in Melaka is located in the center of the city with a plaza that features a clock tower, flower garden and obelisk. The area is usually very busy throughout the day with a lot of tourists and the occasional pre-nuptial photo sessions around the area.
Founded in 1759, the church is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia.

Photo op with the church in the background
The plaza is full of stalls selling souvenir items to visitors and there are the many colorful three-wheelers (pedicabs) whose drivers call out to tourists for a non-motorised tour of the city.
The obelisk with Christ Church in the background
The obelisk is located at the center of a fountain.
Based on the inscription, the obelisk is or monument is dedicated to Queen Victoria
The original chapel was founded by the Portuguese in 1521, just about the same time when the Philippines was "discovered" by Magellan (incidentally a Portuguese citizen) for Spain.
Inscription tells the story of St. Paul's Church including its changing hands under the foreign powers who occupied Malacca. A frequent visitor happened to be St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary who preached in East Asia including China and Japan.
The old bell tower that was made into a lighthouse by the British when they took over Malacca from the Dutch.
Access to the lighthouse was via a steel ladder. It is closed to the public.

Remnants of St. Paul's Church include the entire shell and what was left of the altar. There are also the tombstones of those who were interred in the church. As is the tradition similar to the Philippines, prominent people including priests used to be buried in the church.
The Clairvoyant posing near a side entrance to the church with an old tree in the background just outside the church.
The church must have been magnificent during its time and we could imagine that it used to have stained glass windows and probably a carved door. The ruins did not have a roof and this could have also been painted with scenes from the Bible.
Posing among the huge tombstones, I was surprised they were this huge compared to the typical lapidas in old Philippine churches.
We asked some fellow Filipinos touring the area to take our photo as the sun started to set.
The church used to have a second floor.
More tombstones lined along the wall in what used to be the altar area.
A steel cage now encloses what used to be part of the altar. I was a little confused about its function as at first glance it seemed to provide protection to something sacred considering the sign on cage. On the roof of the cage, however, are slots where visitors may insert coins. There are are many of these coins inside the hole in the floor in what has become some sort of a donation pit cum wishing well.
The old trees around the church ruins may have been witnesses to whatever happened in and around the church and Melaka.
We descended the hill from another way around the church. From this path, we could get a great view of the the city including the Proclamation of Independence Memorial seen in the center for the photo.
The entrance to the path from the memorial is a fortress structure with walls that reminded us of Fort Santiago in Manila's Intramuros district.
Relief at the fortress
We decided to take an early walk the following day and we were rewarded with some great photos in the Christ Church area. Part of what was the rectory of Christ Church has been converted into the Melaka Postal Museum.

Side view of Christ Church before the crowds arrived.
St. Francis Xavier's Church was built in 1849 over the site of an old convent that was built there in 1553.
The plaque provides historical information on St. Francis Xavier's Church.
The story of St. Francis Xavier and his companion, a Japanese man named Yajiro is related in this plaque in the form of a book.
We tried some artistic shots of the church facade.
Photo of the church from across the street.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Seafood in Roxas

I love seafood and enjoy going to destinations in the Visayas and Mindanao if only to be able to eat fresh seafood in whatever way it is cooked (or uncooked). Grilled seafood is great and given the variety derived from our wealthy seas, one is assured of As we were in Roxas City, it was only fitting that we "feast" on the bounty of the sea as the city is called the "Seafood Capital of the Philippines" because of the variety they are able to get from the waters of the coast. We missed their famed angel wing shellfish (diwal) though, of which the city celebrates a feast with the same name. This variety of shellfish is said to grow only in clean waters and were almost wiped out a few years ago if not for the city strictly implementing environmental and aquatic programs to revive its populations.

The Coco Veranda is along Baybay Beach and has an excellent view of the sea
Our host ordered grilled fish, prawns and sinigang for us to enjoy while exchanging stories about Roxas City

We will definitely return to Roxas City and not only to enjoy their seafood but also to try to improve their transport system including easing congestion along its roads. We will also be returning to enjoy the company of friends and acquaintances in the city, where the people are generally warm. The language and dialects are related to Hiligaynon, the language of the Ilonggos, which is naturally malambing even when people happen to be arguing already. Capiz is one of 4 provinces sharing the island of Panay, the others being Iloilo to its south, and Aklan and Antique to the west.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Charming Roxas City

I've been to Roxas City twice and the second time was only last Thursday. I find the city to be quite charming and a bit what I would have wanted small cities to remain in terms of population and form. Only the transport system would need some tweaking to reduce the chaos along the city's streets and provide better mobility for its people and visitors alike.

The Roman Catholic Church is sandwiched between City Hall and a College. It's also just a stone's throw away from the Provincial Capitol.
The inscription on top of the church states that the Immaculate Conception Cathedral was built in 1877, making it more than a century old and 135 years this year to be exact.
Roxas City Hall - they were able to maintain the facade of the building but inside, the offices have been remodeled and feature modern facilities to serve the city's citizens.
The Provincial Capitol with a statue of Jose Rizal just behind the flagpole in the small plaza fronting the building.
The Colegio De La Purisima Concepcion (College of the Immaculate Conception) that is also located around the rotunda.
The monument with the Colegio in the background
Roxas Airport is a small domestic airport that previously serviced only turboprop aircraft. It currently serves  jet aircraft, whose take-off and landing requirements are just about the length of the runway.
The Panay River is clean and apparently navigable with small watercraft like bancas.
Typical scene along Arnaldo Boulevard, which connects the Seaport, Airport and the city center.
Seaside park along Baybay Beach and in front of the home of current Sec. Mar Roxas of the DOTC.
Huts lined up along the beach along the coastal highway leading to Culasi Port
Gate to the Port of Culasi
Baybay Beach stretches along the coast of Roxas City - it doesn't have white sands like Boracay or Panglao  but it is good enough for most people who love going to the beach with its clean and shallow waters.
You can see an island, where there is a small community of fishermen, from the beach.
Tricycles rule along the streets of Roxas City ranging long distances. The transport system of the city needs to be rationalized in order to improve services and address congestion issues.