Monday, February 25, 2013

Milk and cookies: back in Tagaytay

The Clairvoyant and I were back in Tagaytay yesterday and as always enjoyed our short trip to this still beautiful city. I say "still" because there are many developments there now that to me does not blend with the character or charm of the city. I would like to write more about this in another post. 

An unexpected highlight of our stay in Tagaytay to celebrate my 41st were the milk and cookies delivered to our room last night. We thought the hotel was quite thoughtful to send their guests warm milk and cookies in the evening. This feature of the stay makes one feel at home and warms the heart (in addition to the stomach). I could still smell the cookies as I write this post. :-)

Warm milk and cookies for a night cap


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Choc Nut

Among the guilty pleasures we usually enjoy is a simple sweet that's quite popular here and to many Filipinos abroad. Choc Nut is a blend of peanuts and milk chocolate that has been a staple to many sweet tooths like me. Recently, it has had a repackaging of sorts with the foil that used to be its main wrapping now integrated to the paper label. Previously, these were separate and one had to slide the foil covered treat from the paper wrapper and then unwrap the Choc Nut for eating. Now its simpler with just one wrapper. But it doesn't really matter considering that you'd probably do away with the wrapper quite quickly to enjoy the treat.

One of the more recognizable brands in the Philippines, Choc Nut already has many competitors including those that have imitated its label. Regardless, Choc Nut still leads the pack and one will notice the difference immediately with the others.
Guaranteed to be addictive for those not allergic to nuts
Choc Nut used to have two sizes with the smaller ones being those I was introduced to when we were children. The larger ones came out in the late 1980's, I think, or the early 1990's. The makers probably noticed they had a market for larger servings (or pieces) of the treat. Now they only have one size, which is somewhere between the two sizes of old, and the pack seems smaller now than before. We often bring Choc Nut as pasalubong when we go abroad as our friends also have a longing for this as it is not available abroad , except maybe in some Filipino stores where it's probably expensive.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Red Kimono at Technohub

My officemates and I also have cravings for Japanese food. Many of the senior staff at the office are alumni of Japanese universities or had stints in Japan under training programs of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which was a benefactor of our Center for the longest time. Some who have not had the actual experience of going to Japan had tastes of Japanese food from the lunch-outs we had whenever we had a visiting professor or expert from Japan at our office.

Red Kimono at the U.P.-Ayala Technohub is one of the more accessible restaurants in the area and often caters to our craving for Japanese food. It is relatively convenient to come to the Technohub as I or another officemate would usually have a car at our disposal. Taking public transport is not so convenient due to the configuration of the U-turn slots along Commonwealth that requires jeepneys to turn and proceed away from the Technohub. The result is usually a long walk under the elements. Taking a taxi would be the better option but for a short ride, it is quite expensive. Taking a taxi back to the university though is easy as the Technohub attracts a lot of taxi users due to the BPO companies located there.

Tempura udon - when one does not feel like eating rice but wants some carbohydrates to go along with the prawns

Teriyaki chicken
We are already wondering (and speculating) about what restaurants will be locating at the University Town Center currently under construction in the UP Integrated School area. The place is more accessible by public transport as well as a short walk from the College of Science complex. It would be possible to park there and just cross the road later on to go to the town center. In my case, I hope they would have decent Filipino and Japanese restaurants and perhaps an Italian one. Duplicates of the ones at Technohub are welcome but of course new ones are even better for variety.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

All boxed up - still on the high school homecoming

Last Saturday during our high school homecoming, I couldn't help but lift my eyes and notice the tall buildings surrounding the campus. These were mostly residential condominiums from the middle class types like Robinsons development, built on land where the original Medical City used to stand, to the high-end Shangri-la developments just across from St. Francis Church, it seemed to me that a lot of people (and strangers at that) were looking into our event from their units high above the campus. Soon, there will be more condos around Lourdes as I saw signs showing the proposed developments along Shaw Boulevard just across the school. I guess, many residents of these condos have children studying at Lourdes considering the convenience of the location. 

All ready - the stage and the dining tables are all set for the event. This is a permanent structure in the campus that hides the fire escape that was added to the grade school building only recently in compliance with safety standards. Note the high-rise condos in the background 
Suigeneris was the name of the fair our batch organized and hosted during our senior year in high school. It was the first school fair that was not financially supported by the school and so our student council had to solicit support from various donors. It was a resounding success for a student council-led event. Later, I learned that our council president and batchmate named his sounds and lights outfit Suigeneris. He provided the equipment for the homecoming.
Another batch photo - this was taken earlier in the night before the formal program started.  Notice the condo in the background (upper left)? I actually felt strange to see all the high rise buildings surrounding Lourdes Mandaluyong. There are many including the Shangri-la's posh St. Francis and the Robinsons condo shown in the photo, which was built on land that used to be occupied by the original Medical City. Indeed, much has changed since the time when we were still students here when most of the surrounding areas were undeveloped.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

High school homecoming

We had our high school homecoming last night with our class, the Silver Jubilarians, playing host to the batches represented there. It was a very memorable event. After all, you don't get to celebrate 25 years more than once - or can you? Anyhow, despite many of our batchmates unable to come home from abroad (many are currently in the US or Canada), those residing in Metro Manila came in force. It was good to see many old friends and acquaintances again after about 25 years. As expected, some looked as they were back in high school plus a few white hairs. Most probably gained weight. Some grew moustaches or beards. Some sported new hair-dos. But most brought back memories, stories to exchange, and, most important, the jokes and laughter shared throughout our high school days.

Members of LSM Class of 1988
It was also nice too see some of our former teachers including Fr. Ed Tiamzon, who was LSM rector for most of my stay at Lourdes including my graduations from grade school and high school. I learned last October that our English teacher, Ms. Marciano, is now high school principal. She was there last night sharing a table with mostly a new generation of teachers. There was also Mr Ed Caligner who was our Christian Living Education teacher and who is now with Ateneo De Manila University where he is a guidance counselor. Most notable for me though was the presence of my former Physics teacher and 4th year adviser Ms. Marissa Lemu-Solano. I owe her a lot for much of fundamentals in physics that was so useful during my university studies and until now, when I get to used mechanics and other principles when studying traffic flow.

Photo op with our former Christian Living Education and Physics teachers Mr Caligner and Ms Lemu-Solano
With our former CLEd teacher Mr Caligner and grade school buddy Jocel Roxas
I am very appreciative of our batch officers for the hard work they put in for this event to become the success that it was last night. I am also appreciative of the effort by some batchmates who are really busy people for attending the homecoming. The most notable among these people is Perci Intalan, head of TV5's creative and entertainment, who was a grade school buddy of mine. 

Now I am looking forward to a second silver jubilee celebration next year. Is a second 25th possible? In my case it is because of a circumstance I share with many of my Class of 1988 batchmates. We were accelerated back in 1984, which meant we skipped Grade 7. That led to our advancing to join the batch ahead of us who went through Grade 7 at Lourdes. As such, we left our grade school batch behind who will be celebrating their 25th year of graduation from high school next year as the Class of 1989. I got to talk with some old grade school friends and similar to other batches at LSM with the same situations, they regard us "accelerants" as their batchmates. And so next year, even as part of 88, we could celebrate with our grade school batch on their silver jubilee. After then, we hopefully can look forward to the next milestone...

Friday, February 15, 2013


On Saturday, our high school batch will be celebrating our 25th year since our graduation in 1988. I look forward to attending my first high school homecoming since 1989, when I was a freshman at UP Diliman and my barkada and I agreed to come to our high school just to meet up. We didn't know then that it would be our last reunion until now, 24 years later. I don't have high expectations for the homecoming as our batch really started serious planning and mobilization for this only a few months earlier, unlike similar batches from other schools who launched all sorts of activities like marathons, movie premieres, golf tourneys and the like for fundraising. I myself am guilty for not participating in the planning and other activities leading to the reunion for various reasons.

I don't expect my barkada to be there. Among my closest friends in high school, only one will likely be attending the homecoming. I say likely because it is still uncertain despite our recent exchange of messages on Facebook. Another friend will most likely skip the reunion as he might be expecting himself to be the subject of some japes or taunts, as he was back in high school, which was mostly because of his religion and which I think was unfair. 

It will not be my most recent visit to Lourdes Mandaluyong. Only last October, I was at our alma mater to give a short talk to 3rd year high school students about possible careers in Engineering. I agreed to doing to career talk in part because I was curious about what the school looked like from the inside after all these years, when I only had glimpses of the school exterior when passing through Shaw Boulevard or San Miguel Avenue. The career talk I will write about later as my opinions on that topic deserves more than just mere mention here.

The latin words that is on the seal of Lourdes School is said to be the favorite greeting of St. Francis of Assisi
I hear that Silver Jubilees are a big thing with many if not most schools. The Clairvoyant is already involved in their own school's homecoming preparations next year when their batch is celebrating their 25 years. I'm not sure if what our batch did for this year's homecoming would be enough but maybe it's the spirit that matters and all the other batches who will be there tomorrow will be there to enjoy each other's fellowship.

As I write this, I am listening to a radio ad announcing the homecoming over a popular FM radio station where a batchmate is working (I hear he's an exec there.). Silver anniversaries are once in a lifetime and I think it would be a great idea to meet up with friends and acquaintances from way back. In a way, we share similar experiences from 4 years and yet a lot has changed since then especially as each one of us have probably been influenced by college life as well as our work environments. The homecoming tomorrow might also be the last opportunity to see old buddies in high school, knowing it is uncertain what happens to each one of us after the reunion. That, as they say, is life.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Formula for love

A friend posted a formula on Facebook together with a simple instruction to copy and paste it on Google. Hitting the enter button will instantly give the result shown in the screencap below.

(sqrt(cos(x))*cos(300x)+sqrt(abs(x))-0.7)*(4-x*x)^0.01, sqrt(6-x^2), -sqrt(6-x^2) from -4.5 to 4.5

You can actually change part of the formula to re-size the heart.
This probably proves that math can be fun and definitely can be used to express feelings or emotions. Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Some thoughts on an Ash Wednesday

It's Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent for Roman Catholics that will culminate 40 days later during Holy Week. There has been a lot going on the last few days locally and in the world. On the local scene, the campaign period for the upcoming midterm elections in May started yesterday. Much have been written, said and reported about candidates for the Philippine Senate. I have learned to be diligent and discriminating with these people, twelve of whom I am supposed to write on the ballot come election day. So far, I think I already have six whom I would likely vote for. I am not yet sure about the others. That means I need to do more research. Given the nature of political parties in the Philippines, I don't necessarily look at party lines or coalitions. To me, these are but arrangements for convenience. I am also supposed to vote for a congressman, and gubernatorial and municipal posts this coming May. That's a lot of names if you ask me and it isn't easy to choose among people who won't probably give a damn about his or her constituents after the elections. Will they really work for the public good or would they be working for their own personal agendas? 

I am also supposed to vote for a party list. These entities are supposed to represent the marginalized, those who are not adequately represented in congress. And yet I still see a lot of party lists who are being led by the same elite and some ambitious people who would otherwise not be able to compete with the more familiar names in Philippine politics. I am glad that the Comelec was able to weed out a lot of party lists who all claimed to be representing one or another cause or advocacy. But there are still many remaining on the ballot whose intentions and (real) supporters are suspect and would surely only be a waste of public money if elected for the next congress.

Generating a lot of buzz these last two days has been the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI's that he is resigning effective by end of this month. I have already read several articles on his resignation including those that articulate hopefulness for a change in the Roman Catholic Church with a new Pontiff in the Vatican. Many reports now speculate on who will succeed Benedict XVI and the same list several names as strong and wildcard (or dark horse) candidates, including the current Archbishop of Manila whom many regard as too young. While I am no expert in the politics within the Church, I would assume that upon the announcement of resignation, a lot of communications (including those in private or in whispers) have probably been exchanged especially among those who are perceived to wield influence (or power) within the Church hierarchy. I like it that "conscience" was explicitly mentioned by the Pope in his statement. These days we really need to consult within us, to try to search for what is right based on our convictions. Soul-searching seems to be a thing of the past and an activity reserved for the desperate or the depressed in this age of high tech and living in the fast lane. We should learn to take pause, maybe slow down and find out if we are proceeding as we should be and with guidance from Our Creator.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Vietnamese dinner - Part 2

The "cooking party" was a fun activity and between the exchanges of notes from the memories of those who took the cooking lessons in Hanoi, there were lots of other stories as friends got reacquainted after a long time of not seeing each other.

After shaving the green papaya and carrots, these are squeezed of their juices.
One can use a clean cloth to squeeze out the juices from the papayas and carrots
Papaya and carrots after the squeeze
The papaya and carrots are then placed in a bowl where they are to be mixed
Sesame oil is added to the papaya and carrots as they are mixed by hand
The hand-mixing process
Papaya salad
The next part was the preparation of the dip
Next: more Vietnamese cooking

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Star apple season

You know the kaimito or star apple is in season when you see vendors suddenly sprouting along the stretch of Katipunan Ave just behind the University of the Philippines campus. Most of the fruits are harvested from trees in the Old Balara area where, fortunately, residents have not chopped down or killed the trees. I assume that they realized that the trees would provide them some livelihood when the fruits were in season, and that they helped make the environment more pleasant in the area. There are also many kaimito trees in the UP Diliman campus and I have seen some people harvesting the fruits from the trees lining the Magsaysay Avenue in front of the student dormitories.

Vendors lining up along Katipunan selling kaimito or star apple. Behind the fence is the UP Diliman College of Science Complex
The green variety is white inside
The violet or purple ones are the same color inside
I prefer the green ones as the edible parts are usually more compared with the violet variety. This is mainly based on my experience buying the fruit plus the advise my mother gave me from years of also getting the fruit for our family's consumption. I would like to think that I eat a lot of kaimito than the average person. I love the fruit and its availability near my office makes it easy for me to get a few kilograms for our home quite often during its season. I also purchase a few kilos for my parents, parents-in-law and siblings.

Kaimitos are sold at PhP 50 pesos per kilogram, which is quite cheap considering they sell for PhP 60-90 per kilogram in the market. I've been told that there are those who come to Katipunan to purchase a lot of the fruits from the vendors there (namamakyaw) to sell elsewhere. I have not seen kaimito being sold at supermarkets so I assume that you can only get these from the markets or roadside stalls like the ones along Katipunan. Fortunately for me, I can purchase kaimito as I leave my office at UP to go home.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Vietnamese dinner - Part 1

I've only recently appreciated Vietnamese cuisine but mainly through a popular Vietnamese restaurant as I have not been to Vietnam. It was the Clairvoyant who introduced me to Vietnamese food, which at first I thought had some similarities to Thai food (which we like) but then learned had a distinct taste as well as ingredients and preparations for it to be called authentic.

The Clairvoyant went to Hanoi recently with some of her friends where they attended a short cooking session. In the half-day class, they were able to learn a lot including the preparation of our favorite fresh spring rolls. And so coming back to Manila, they decided to organize dinner where they would be demonstrating their proficiency for their newly gained knowledge of Vietnamese cooking. Following is a first set of photos of what would be a journal of sorts for the adventure culminating in a late dinner one Saturday night.

Cutting up the onions
Rose petals out of tomato skin
Green papaya salad for vegetarian fare
Tomato roses

Hard labor? The preparation of Vietnamese food

All fresh and natural ingredients
Green papaya shavings for the salad
Next: Part 2

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Best yakitori in Manila?

There is a small enclave of restaurants and Japanese stores in Makati along Chino Roces Avenue near the Makati Cinema Square. The enclave is called Little Tokyo and hosts several izakayas, stores and even a barber shop that are frequented by Japanese residing in Metro Manila including expats and staff from their embassy. It is a nice place where I guess the Japanese could get their comfort food as the chefs and owners of the restaurants and shops were Japanese and dished out authentic Japanese food at Philippine prices.

I remember eating at a restaurant popular for its yakitori in the 1990's when our office still had a lot of JICA Experts assigned to it as part of a project that transformed our Center from a mainly training facility into a research institution. One time, one of the experts invited the staff to Little Tokyo where we ate and drank at an izakaya. Some friends sat that izakaya turned out to be Nanbantei restaurant, which eventually had a branch at the now posh Greenbelt 3 at the Ayala Center in Makati. Nanbantei opened another branch at Bonifacio High Street in Taguig and has become very popular with the growing office worker population and residents of Bonifacio Global City. 

Carrot dip
Miso shiru
Left: Shiitake maki and Right:Aspara maki
Nanbantei menu on a leaflet
Nanbantei leaflet featuring specials
The branch in Taguig is quite new but the staff are attentive and efficient. Prices are very reasonable and the variety is probably the clincher for most diners. Did I mention the taste was authentic? It is and I think the many Japanese who also eat there attest to the restaurant's consistency and commitment to high quality food just as we like our food to be. Nanbantei is a definite winner and a must try!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Homemade yakiniku media noche

The Clairvoyant and I experimented on yakiniku (barbecue) during the Christmas and New Year's break. We had even bought a new grill pan for this purpose in addition to the frying pan and sauce pot we got to replace some old ones that we deemed should already be disposed of. The outcome was quite good though the wife cooked more than we could eat in one sitting. Our helper was on vacation last Christmas and New Year and we didn't want to give the rest to our dogs. So we ended up eating yakiniku for 2 lunches and a dinner. Needless to say, we ended up eating out the next chance we had for us to "reboot" our palates.

Homemade hamburgers and mushrooms
Young corn and mushrooms
The Clairvoyant cook and her trusty assistant
It must smell really good!
The darker slices (lower) were marinated before and during the barbecue. The ones on top were marinated only while barbecuing.
Finished product consisting of sirloin strips, young corn and mushrooms.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Chicken katsu curry ver. 2

I wrote about our re-discovery of curry and our chicken katsu curry meal a couple of weeks ago. The only flaw, if you could call it that, is that we used breading that is usually used for your regular fried chicken. The result was not as good as we would have liked it to be (i.e., the breading made the chicken somewhat salty) but it could pass off as Pinoy chicken katsu curry. Still, we weren't satisfied with the final product even though the curry was a savior of sorts, rescuing the chicken with its signature taste.

Passing by the supermarket last week, I decided to pick up a pack of Japanese breading. I think the brand was Kasuga and I made sure that it was indeed Made in Japan and one that is also used for other favorites like tempura and the pork version of the katsu dish. The outcome was really quite good and captured the essence of chicken katsu curry just like what we usually ordered at Japanese restaurants. Of course, it helped that I also bought Japanese rice (Akita Komachi) despite it being quite expensive here.

Take 2 of homemade chicken katsu curry or version 2.0 as it is customarily termed these high tech times

Close-up of our homemade chicken katsu curry


Friday, February 1, 2013

Craving for Japanese food

After what seemed to be a government transaction that went forever, I decided to have a good late lunch before returning home. My day was practically consumed by a single transaction that I had assumed would take only an hour or two at the maximum. I didn't want to consider the day wasted as I still had the afternoon to work on some things for me to be productive. But coming from something that was essentially a downer, I wanted to reboot my day with a refreshing meal. I did write about comfort food in a recent post and this time I was craving for Japanese food.

And so coming from Antipolo and while driving along Sumulong Highway, I decided to head to Marikina where I knew I could get a satisfying lunch. My destination was Tamagoya, one of the worst kept secrets along Soliven Avenue near the junction with Sumulong Highway.

Yakiniku bowl
My friends at the university have been planning to have lunch out at Tamagoya but we haven't found a common time among our teaching schedules and meetings. We also have to leave either for an early or late lunch as it takes something like 30 to 45 minutes to get to the restaurant and about the same time or more back to the office (if traffic along Katipunan isn't bad). Perhaps we could finally schedule one and have a meeting there so we could also linger for some time while enjoying Japanese food just like when we were students in the Land of the Rising Sun. I'm already looking forward to a big bowl of ramen or udon...