Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cafe Dominic

We pass along Quezon Avenue so often as it is our route when going to DPWH for meetings or perhaps to Mapua or UST where we have co-researchers. I remember noticing Cafe Dominic sometime last year one time we were en route to Manila. It is right inside the compound of Sto. Domingo Church in a building that's connected to the church, which is also the Shrine to La Naval. One Saturday morning, I decided to walk to the Cafe from where I was having our car serviced. It was only a 10-minute walk and though it was a little hot that late morning, it was still an easy stroll. It helped that both sides of Quezon Avenue had sidewalks and that these were clear of obstructions. Following are a few photos of the cafe that I took as I had lunch while my car was being serviced.

Mugs, tumblers and other dishes on display near the counter of the cafe
Ceiling details with the drop lights
The counter where customers make their orders. A simple menu of what's offered by the cafe is on the chalkboard while desserts are on display. While orders are taken here and payments are made immediately, the staff takes the order to the customers' tables.
Cool kalamansi and lemongrass - perfect for a summer day
Tuna pesto pasta
A slice of teramisu and a brownie for my sweet tooth.
I understand they had free wifi at the cafe and so other customers were using their notebooks and tablets. There was even a group of students having a study meeting there. Sto. Domingo is near several schools and just a short ride away from the University Belt so I guess its a favorite venue to students who want to have a snack or drink while studying or working on projects.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chocolate review: Valrhona Caraibe 66% Cacao

Reputed to be among the best chocolates in the world, we tasted Valrhona before we read the reviews. We definitely agree with the reviews and thought their chocolate were among the best we tasted. It was smooth, refined and the kind you'd want to have lingering in your mouth for a while. I haven't tried it with wine as we usually ate our chocolates as dessert after dinners. But I'm sure it's good as a standalone treat. We just kept a mental note not to indulge (read: consume an entire bar in one sitting) so as to enjoy the chocolates longer.

We grabbed a few bars at Changi Airport in Singapore on our way back to Manila last year. Unfortunately, despite picking up 3 kinds of their dark chocolate offerings, I was only able to take photos of the last bar we were preserving in the fridge. And so to celebrate our acquisition of a lot in Antipolo where we will be building our new home, the Clairvoyant and I decided to open the last bar of Valrhona that we had. It was perfect and we should get some for when we inaugurate the house later this year.

Valrhona Caraibe dark chocolate 66% cacao

Some detailed info on the chocolate - we consumed the bar a couple of months before the indicated expiration

More on chocolates soon...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Chocolate review: Monggo Extra Fine Chocolate Dark 58% with Orange Peel

As we were going around the shops at the Bali Denpasar International Airport last year, I came across a store selling a wide variety of what looked like a local chocolate brand. I inquired about the bars on display and was informed that  Chocolate Monggo is a Indonesian brand and a popular one for souvenirs. While I bought several varients of their extra fine chocolates, I was only able to take souvenir shots of the last bar we had in the fridge a few months ago. We usually saved the best of the batch for last so I guess this was the best (our opinion, of course) of the bars I bought at the airport.

The combination of dark chocolate and oranges is a favorite of ours and the Clairvoyant and I make it a point to find good dark chocolate to take home whenever we are on trips. And so I brought home several bars of dark chocolate variants from Indonesia, and I do remember picking up three of the Dark 58% with Orange Peel along with a couple of plain dark chocolate (69%) and a bar of Red Chili.

Monggo Extra Fine Chocolate, Dark 58% with Orange Peels

I will remember to pick up a few bars or maybe more the next time I would be in Indonesia. Perhaps I will try to get the other variants so we can compare and determine which ones we'd prefer over the others.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Trolls in our midst

You see them everywhere online these days. They are particularly active in news and public affairs websites, popular blogs, chat sites, Twitter, Facebook, and even general sites like Yahoo. They are those who seem to have an opinion about anything. They are those who like to post negative comments even loaded ones that tend to agitate or rile other online denizens. The wayward comments are intended to bait the author and other people to reply, setting off what was termed as a "flame war" in the past (I'm not sure it's termed the same way today.).

I first noticed trolls on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) in the 1990's. They like coming into chat channels and immediately post wayward, inappropriate, or offending remarks in the channel. Many deliberately attempt to disrupt discussions to the point that chatters eventually create other channels or end up having private chats in ad hoc channels. All of them hide under the "nicks," short for nicknames that chatters use in order hide their true identities. There are many reasons for people hiding their true identities online. Among these reasons are to be able to attack others online while remaining anonymous. Such behavior, many say, is the hallmark of cowardice as many of these people don't really have the courage to speak up in person or face-to-face to the people they are wont to harass online. Of course, the counter claim is that their anonymity protects them from backlash (whether online or in real life). But why be afraid of the repercussions of your remarks if they were true and not maliciously delivered? 

I've noticed the past few years the increasing amount of trolling online. These are mostly on unmoderated sites where article authors and legit comments are often"attacked" by people who exude what we now call "nega" (short for negative energy). But now, you also have a lot of trolls on social media, using the typical tactic of hiding their true identities behind their handles. Noticeable, too, are what seem to be professional trolls - those who are paid to comment negatively on news articles, opinion pages, and public figures or sites or pages devoted to the same. Among the most frequent targets, naturally and logically, are politicians. And then of course, there are already sites wholly devoted to criticism where most if not all contributors pass off themselves as experts who practically know it all and best.

Fortunately for us, there are also filters and ways to moderate discussions or comments on posts. Such tools save us from much of the trolling or prevent the "nega" comments from being out there in public. Of course, there are some of us who choose to engage these trolls once in a while in order to expose many of them as frauds and cowards. I must admit that I myself have tried to use their own methods against them (a taste of their own medicine). So far, I've managed to piss off some of them as they end up ranting or contradicting themselves. So to those who might have experienced or who will experience trolling first hand, there are basically two ways to handle these creatures: limited engagement or the silent treatment. The first is quite tricky and one must be careful not to get lured by the more experienced trolls. The second, I guess, is the most effective and what many decent people employ most of the time.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy 42nd!

We celebrated our parents' 42nd Wedding Anniversary on Mothers' Day. My brother bought a cake and we had dinner at our home in Cainta.

A simple cake to celebrate

I took a photo of my siblings taking a photo of the cake and food we were having for dinner

My parents with my niece and nephew


Friday, May 10, 2013

Parks, open spaces and dating options

It was Valentine's Day again and rather than write about why the Clairvoyant and I didn't necessarily celebrate this cheesy day I am writing about ideas on dating. Call it unsolicited advice but it seems that in this age of materialism and malling, of social networks and android phones, old fashioned activities like taking a stroll along the park or going somewhere except the mall is lost to many of the current generation.

We are quite fortunate that we have advanced means of communication. Couples who are geographically apart such as those with loved ones abroad no longer have to sulk as they wait (eagerly) for a letter, a greeting card or an expensive long distance call. With the internet and advanced telecommunications, there are so many options now for long distance relationships (LDR) to be established and nurtured. Among the more popular options now include Facebook, Skype, BBM, and the various promos (e.g., Unlitext, Unlicalls, etc.) now available for texting and calling offered by the competing telecom companies. Yet there is still a need to have actual contact (face to face? EB or eyeball?) rather than the relatively impersonal chat online.

It's sad that Metro Manila and many other cities in the country have few parks where people can enjoy the outdoors. Most people now go to the malls. Likely, this might be to window shop and during summers, perhaps to enjoy the airconditioning of the mall. In the smaller towns in the provinces, the town plazas are still the places for a stroll. And there are some cities that have taken steps toward walkability including Marikina (Riverbanks area) and Iloilo (river front). Quezon City prides itself with the Quezon Memorial Circle, Parks and Wildlife and the La Mesa Eco Park. Manila still has Rizal Park, the promenade stretching along Roxas Boulevard and parts of Intramuros (Fort Santiago). But these examples are more the exceptions than part of the norm. We need more parks and other open spaces where people could take a walk or just find a place where they could sit and perhaps spend some time reading a book or simply doing nothing. I read somewhere that parks and open spaces serve as lungs for a city.

The University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City is one of few places in Metro Manila where the public can enjoy open spaces. UP's Sunken Garden and Lagoon are havens for faculty, staff, students and other people coming to UP to enjoy these public spaces. On Sundays, the Academic Oval is closed to motorized traffic and more people flock to the campus to walk/stroll, cycle, play games/sports, or picnic.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

God bless your soul, Cai Austria!

I just learned today that a former student of ours passed away last night. I have few memories of Cai Austria mainly as she was a student in a couple of subjects I taught quite a few years ago. She was an advisee under our group so I was partly involved in supervising her undergraduate research. It was almost right after graduation that we learned she had a rare cancer, and she went through a very challenging treatment for the cancer. We learned later that she survived this battle with the help of relatives and friends who encouraged her to fight and to live. She was pronounced cancer-free for a time until one check-up detected a new growth of the same rare cancer. This time, I recall that the location was much difficult to treat but she was brave and strong enough to meet this new challenge face to face. I believe it was her strong faith that was keeping her alive, and that she would likely 

From the messages posted by her friends and batchmates at UP, I can tell that Cai was well-loved and shared a lot of happy times with her friends. She will be missed by many and I could only agree with a couple saying "mabuti at makapagpapahinga na siya" (She would finally be able to rest.). It is not everyday that we know someone who was cancer. We read about it in the papers and the internet. We see people who have it featured on TV. But it is not until we know someone who has it that we are able to really have a "feel" of the disease. [It was about a decade ago that I learned my sensei had cancer and passed away quietly, apparently deciding to only get treatment for the pain and choosing not to go through chemo.] In Cai's case, she fought the good fight and her faith never wavered as she decided she would survive.

May you rest in eternal peace Cai, our Kanser Waryor, we know that you are now in the loving arms of Our Creator!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Curiosities - Philippine map in Russian

While waiting for a meeting to start, we were looking around the room amused with the items on display on a shelf and at the walls around the room. The collection is owned by the Mayor of a highly urbanized city near a free port and part of a prominent family of politicians in the area. Among the things on the shelf were trophies and plaques, product samples (some looked like they had already reached their expiration dates), and other mementos or souvenirs from trips or given by visitors.

What caught my attention, after closer inspection, was a map of the world. My staff pointed out what appeared to be text in Greek but then I quickly recognized that the map was Russian and the text in Cyrillic. I am not an expert in languages nor am I conversant with Russian but I could recognize the text and could figure out the names of the places as I am familiar with the geography. It also helped that I tried to figure out Cyrillic from the chess books I had before that were published in the former Soviet Union. While the text were in Russian, the notations for chess games were in the international algebraic standard that allowed for easy understanding of the moves recorded from the games of prominent grandmasters of the USSR such as Botvinnik, Tal, Smyslov, Petrosian, Spassky, Korchnoi, and Karpov. These were old books from the 1960's and 1970's so Kasparov and his generation were not yet featured in the books.

Part of a framed map of the world, I took a photo of the Philippines with Sabah on the lower left corner. The reflections on the photo show a shelf on the left and a window with blinds drawn down in the right.

I ended up amusing myself by attempting to decipher the Cyrillic equivalent of the English alphabet as I browsed the map for the names of places in the Philippines. I took the photo above for posterity as it was also probably our final presentation of our study to the Mayor and his staff that day and maybe the last time I will see that map hanging on his office wall.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Pasalubong from Cebu

Every time I am on a trip, I make sure to bring home some pasalubong whether its for family or friends. It's quite easy to find souvenirs to take home when I'm traveling in the Philippines as most places would have their won products. Cebu is one of the easiest places to find souvenirs and I usually buy food items like dried mangoes, otap and rosquillos. When I have enough time, I try to visit the market to buy dried fish like danggit, espada, dulong and squid, which are all our favorites. The Cebuano versions are much less salty than in other places I've been, and the word is that it is less salty because clients were always asking them if the dried stuff were okay with people with hypertension, diabetes and other illnesses requiring moderation on salty food.

This time around, it was a very quick trip to Cebu and I only had time to get a few items for the flight back to Manila. I picked up a few packs of otap and rosquillos, which were requested by the Clairvoyant. She was quite particular with the brand, Titay's, for the rosquillos and I got some from a shop at the airport. If I had time, I would go to one of their branches in Cebu City or buy from a supermarket. Otap and rosquillos are cheaper when bought there compared to the airport shops.

Special otap from Titay's. You can also get good otap from another popular brand, Shamrock.
A pair of otap wrapped in thin paper
Titay's rosquillos is the best rosquillos in Cebu (and probably in the country?). It was highly recommended by friends from Cebu and whenever I'm there, I make sure to get a pack.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Weekend lunches with family

Weekends are reserved for personal stuff including family get-togethers. We usually go to our parents' homes on Sundays and at times go out for lunch with my in-laws. When we do eat out for lunch, we usually go to the nearby mall where we have a lot of choices among the restaurants there. We have our favorites like Racks and Savory but we also try other restos. Usually, we go for those serving local dishes so that we can share the food and guarantee that we have a fulfilling meal.

Fresh buko "juice" or coconut water
Grilled squid, chop suey, pochero and grilled tuna belly
Not all restaurants are able to serve food the way we like it. We've had our share of soup being too salty or seafood not being grilled right (i.e., overdone or too rare). In some cases, we had to ask the staff to take back the dish for it to be done right. So far, all the restaurants have been gracious enough to correct the situation and we have not had a follow-up complaint after the first time we send our food back to the kitchen.

More on lunches and dinners later...