Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tinukib Souvenir Center

En route to Iloilo City from the airport, I spotted a large building in the middle of a rice field along the city-bound direction of the national road. I noticed a sign indicating it was a souvenir center and I asked our driver about this. He mentioned to us that it was indeed a new souvenir and a one-stop shop where Ilonggo products were on display and for sale. The name of the souvenir center is Tinukib, an Ilonggo  or Hiligaynon word that translates into "discovery." While it is not yet at the level of the huge souvenir centers in Bangkok, Bali and other cities, it is a good idea and set-up for the province and especially the  town of Pavia, which is strategically located between the airport and the city.

Tinukib features a wide range of Ilonggo products including furnitures and fabrics
These lamps including those made with capiz shells are of the highest quality. The dolls in the boxes are Dinagyang dolls celebrating the annual festival held in the city.
Hand-made products like picture frames, book stands, coasters and pen holders are popular souvenirs.
There are other items, big and small, at the center including the usual bags, key chains and shirts.
I think the best items here are those made of fabric, particularly pinya (pineapple fiber) and hablon (jusi or banana fiber), which the province takes pride in producing.  I myself prefer these fabrics for my formal wear (Barong Tagalog) and I wore pineapple fiber barong for my wedding and other formal functions that I have attended. In the photo is a hablon dress and in the background are table runners, shawls, scarves, handkerchiefs and other items made from hablon.
Hablon weave on display at the pasalubong center. Hablon is also the preferred fabric for the sablay or sash used by the University of the Philippines for formal functions (e.g., graduation ceremonies). These are manufactured exclusively in Iloilo City and distributed by the UP Alumni Association.
They have ready-to-wear barong made of pinya, hablon or a combination. There are not much to choose from, however, and Tinukib staff would recommend a visit instead to a shop in Arevalo specializing in these fabrics.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Lunch at Breakthrough

The top ten lists for restaurants in Iloilo City often have the top two as a toss-up between Tatoy's and Breakthrough, both located in the city's Arevalo district. Writing about Ponsyon in the previous post, I just had to write a brief one on its "mothership" Breakthrough. It happened that my friends haven't eaten at Breakthrough despite also having traveled to Iloilo a number of times. And so I decided to bring them there especially considering it was a nice day and I was sure we would have a great view of the sea.

Beachfront view from within the restaurant
At the beach - not white sands like Boracay but clean and not hot to step upon. That's Guimaras Island in the horizon.
Bounty of the sea - squid, shrimps, blue marlin and seaweed (the crabs we ordered were not yet served when the photo was taken). I always order coconut water (buko juice) fresh from the shell (or with the shell) whenever its available.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

New world chess champion

I was elated with the news that there is a new world chess champion. I have followed the history and news about chess since I was in high school. I still get a bit sad when I think about the books I lost during the floods of the 1990s and Ondoy. These include my collection of the Sahovski Informator (Chess Informant), which I bought at the old National Bookstore branch at Crossing during my high school days. 

Before then, I already had possession of a few chess books that my cousin Edgar, who's related to Asia's first Grand Master Eugene Torre had given me as he encouraged me to understand chess to be a "good enough" player of the game. These books were also lost including one which was a favorite read for me because the writing was really good and it related a lot about the old masters of chess including Morphy, Fine, Steinitz, Nimzowitch, Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine and Botvinnik. It also featured games of up and coming players of the time in Tal and Smyslov, who along with Petrosian, Korchnoi and Spassky later represented the dominance of the former Soviet Union in chess. 

Their games are still memorable and instructive considering they established the foundations/theories of the game that are now well explored. There is also a kind of romanticism that I associate with those game considering there were no computers and systematic trainings or preparations for matches in those times. I would like to think that the games then were more spontaneous and the players more creative and took more risks than the current crop of super Grand Masters.

Anyhow, congratulations to the new World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen (ELO 2870) who defeated Viswanathan Anand (ELO 2775). Carlsen is the highest rated player ever, using the system developed by Arpad Elo. Anand was the highest rated player years ago and played with the likes of Gary Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topalov and others who were among the first to be tagged as super GMs. At their peak, they were the best players in the world and dominated the highest category tournaments. Though already regarded as a prodigy and a very strong player, Carlsen wasn't as consistent at that time but eventually the very young player (he's only 23 now) found the consistency and developed into the best player in the world. Well done indeed and may you be an enduring champion of your generation of chess players!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ponsyon by Breakthrough

When in Iloilo, we usually try to make time to be able to lunch or dine at Tatoy's in the Arevalo district of the city. There, we enjoy native chicken inasal and grilled seafood. This time around, we weren't planning to go to Tatoy's but instead tried out other restaurants in the city, particularly at the Plazuela de Iloilo. The Plazuela is a relatively new development beside SM City Iloilo and has become a popular hangout for many people of different ages. Perhaps the most popular restaurant at the Plazuela is Ponsyon, which is related to another very popular restaurant in Arevalo - Breakthrough.

Clam soup and kinilaw na tanguigue
Grilled pork liempo and cuttlefish (lukon)
The sizzling scallops were perfect - and spicy
The sign for the restaurant indicates its affinity with the popular Breakthrough restaurant in Arevalo.
It is hard to get a table at Ponsyon during the peak lunch and dinner hours. As such, it is highly recommended that unless one is able to make reservations, it is better to have an early or late lunch or dinner. Otherwise, you'd just have to wait patiently for a table. Anyhow, their attentive staff will be attending to you and provide you with the menu so you can browse it and maybe even place your orders (it takes some time to cook).


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Writer's block and some thoughts on Haiyan's aftermath?

While I find writing to be cathartic, it is not easy to write just about anything. This is especially so after the recent events that plunged entire regions of the Philippines in crisis after a very destructive typhoon (Haiyan/ Yolanda) plowed through the Visayan islands a week ago. I have made it a habit to write about various themes in this blog including some routine musings about travel, food and various experiences. Once in a while I do write about sentimental matters like how it was back in the day when we were young and life seemed so much simpler (and kinder).

This time it's not really a case of writer's block for me but more of a restraint that I'm exercising in light of the recent disasters that hit many parts of the country. While I can only imagine the experiences of those who were along the path of Typhoon Haiyan based on various reports, I am no stranger to calamities being among the victims of Typhoon Ketsana in 2009 and by the monsoon floods of 2012 and 2013. Previous to that were similar floods in the 1980s that our family had to endure and cope with. Yet, the circumstances of Ketsana and its aftermath were very different from Haiyan's in that the latter's destruction was more comprehensive or, for lack of a better word, more complete. So much so that we now see a massive exodus of people from Leyte, particularly from Eastern Visayas' regional center - Tacloban City. The daily out flux of people already indicate that thousands are fleeing to cities where they seek refuge and perhaps opportunities for livelihood. Many have relatives elsewhere like Metro Manila or Cebu, but many do not have anyone or anything for them where they flee to and so they will just risk it (makikipagsapalaran) rather than stay in Tacloban or other towns in the ravaged provinces where they perceive aid is slow to reach them and recovery will take a long time.

Hopefully, there will be more happy endings to these real-life stories than the sad conclusions that seem to be a certainty for many. A lot of people have lost loved ones (and in some cases entire families perished), which are definitely more important than the material or money they have also lost in what seemed to be hell on earth during those hours or even minutes that they will not forget for the rest of their lives. Even those with the strongest of wills are now or in the next days, weeks, months or year going to be tested as they inevitably replay the painful memories of Haiyan's onslaught. We can only pray that the survivors will not lose hope nor faith as they recover and rebuild their lives.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

#ReliefPH: Access and needs of other towns and provinces

The buzz on the streets and on social media is the focus on Tacloban, Leyte when vast areas and many other towns and provinces have been ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). This seems unfair to other cities and municipalities considering Yolanda made 6 landfalls at or near peak strength (as a Category 5 typhoon) with winds topping 225 kph and generating destructive storm surges as it hammered through the central Philippines.

If you have Facebook, one provincial government staff has posted a lot of photos describing the situation in the northern towns of Iloilo where the destruction caused by the typhoon is very clear and to many, still unimaginable. These photos along with all others that can be Googled, Yahooed or found via other search engines or news agencies show the extent of the damage brought about by Yolanda.

Some people say that the islands of Cebu, Panay, Negros and Mindoro are fortunate as principal cities in those islands like Cebu City, Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Dumaguete City and Calapan City were relatively undamaged. This is also true, and so the airports and ports in these cities provide direct access to the islands for relief work. Moreover, government agencies and private entities have been able to organize relief activities through these cities and based on various news reports, it looks like a lot of people are already involved in these activities. That goes without saying that more people are still needed to be involved in various capacities for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction work that are expected to be undertaken over a longer term considering the extent of the damages to towns. But given the circumstances for the said islands, there is no excuse for more rapid aid not being able to reach the affected towns in these provinces. In fact, much more is expected where accessibility is no longer an issue and so faster recovery is possible for Panay, Negros, Cebu and Mindoro. In the cases of Cebu and Bohol, it is important to remember that the provinces already are also still reeling from the impacts of the Magnitude 7.2 earthquake that occurred only a few weeks ago.

On another note…Tacloban Airport is still closed to commercial aircraft but the land routes via RORO or the nautical highways are open to traffic or operational. I think the quickest way to Leyte is via the route from Cebu. There are regular RORO and Supercat services between Cebu City and Ormoc City in Leyte. There are other maritime transport services from Bogo City in northern Cebu but I am not sure those services are back to normal. Then there are also access via the Eastern Nautical Route via the Bicol Region and crossing over to Samar Island (Allen) via Matnog, Sorsogon. Many roads still need to be cleared but the main highway (Pan Philippine Highway) including the San Juanico Bridge that connects the islands of Samar and Leyte.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan

The news reports on the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda (international: Haiyan) are now coming in. All reports state that wide areas of the central Philippines have been devastated by the record-breaking typhoon. News and amateur footage as well as photos from all over the provinces that were affected by Yolanda show depressing images of the destruction.

Here are links to the 2 major news agencies in the country:

As of this time, many people have not been able to contact relatives and friends in their hometowns. This is due to power plants, power line and communication facilities that were destroyed by the typhoon. Based on reports, it will take some time before these facilities are repaired including the clearing of debris like trees that have fallen on power lines. I have relatives in Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Sorsogon whom we are still trying to contact. What we know so far from various sources is that they are generally safe though we don't know yet exactly how our relatives' homes fared considering the very strong winds of the typhoon. Hopefully, we could talk with loved ones soon so we could know directly about their plight and have some peace of mind about their situations.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Super typhoon Yolanda

Lives will be at a standstill for many parts of the Philippines when super typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) finally makes its presence felt as it takes a path through the central Philippines from tonight until Saturday. The typhoon is already a Category 5 and packing winds above 250 kph. It will be a destructive system as it plows through areas already saturated by rains from a storm that preceded it just a few days ago.  The image below is from Google Earth, showing the approaching typhoon as of early morning of November 7 (Philippine time).

Google Earth screen shot showing Typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) bearing down on the Philippines

Transport will surely be affected by this powerful typhoon with airlines already expected to cancel or postpone flights. Sea craft were also already advised against travel given the waves and storm surges expected from the typhoon. Landslides are also expected in mountainous areas where roads will probably be blocked by debris. Trees, poles and others are also expected to be strewn across many roads, limiting access to communities. As such, our disaster councils are on high alert to respond to the challenges that will be brought about by the typhoon's onslaught.

People in the provinces of Bohol and Cebu that bore the brunt of the recent magnitude 7.2 earthquake are still reeling from the damages from the quake. Many are still living in tents after their homes were destroyed or damaged by the quake and its aftershocks. We can only assume and trust that our national agencies, disaster councils and local governments are prepared to provide immediate relief to those who will be affected by the typhoon.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Theo & Philo artisan chocolate

I occasionally go to the Human Heart Nature shop near the university to pick up a few bottles of the Bayani Brew tea that I have found to be very refreshing and healthier than most iced tea products you'll find in the market. There are many products in the store and consigned to them are other local products including artisan chocolates from Theo & Philo. I picked up a few bars of chocolate for the Clairvoyant to take to our friends in London and this post is basically a re-featuring of this high quality artisan chocolates.

Dark chocolate with green mango and sea salt - the Clairvoyant's favorite
Information on each chocolate bar variant is on the back of each bar
Dark chocolate with calamansi (local variety of lemon)
This reminds us of the nice blend of dark chocolate and orange 
Milk chocolate with barako coffee (a local coffee made mostly of liberica beans)
Barako coffee is popular for being a strong blend and a favorite for people who want to stay awake to work or to study. I assume this bar also packs a punch?
70% dark chocolate is the most bitter of their products but 70% is just right for  dark chocolate lovers.
This bitter chocolate is of high quality and tastes smooth.
Theo & Philo chocolates are not available in your typical or favorite supermarkets. You can get them at the Echo Store or at Human Heart Nature stores. Check out their website for other outlets.

Friday, November 1, 2013

What sabbatical?

Relatives and friends always ask me what I'm doing during my sabbatical and I reply that I'm involved in some projects here and there. Of course, it's not really so much as a here and there as I spent a lot of time at our center instead of away from it. I was very much accessible for relatives, friends and colleagues during the last year. I didn't go out of the country or out of town for long periods of time as I had planned the year before when the Clairvoyant was still working in Singapore and we had our nice little home somewhere in Chuan Park. 

She came back to Manila months before I started my sabbatical and we indulged in other, more important projects. Unfortunately, the most important project of all didn't bear fruit but that is a continuing endeavor and despite all odds, I still believe we'll succeed somehow. The next big project is one that's been delayed but for our limited resources. Despite being professionals we weren't as well compensated as others nor do we come from wealthy families who can help us out with things like putting up a new home. This we resolved to do as we experienced another deluge right after the wife returned home. The importance of this second project was reinforced by another flood a few months ago. Then, of course, there is the prospect of an earthquake sometime in the future...and we wanted to have a safe, secure home where we could also live happily ever after.

I am thankful for the year off teaching and the schedules that go with it as well as admin work at the college, the institute and our center. The flexibility in my schedule, however, allowed me to take on bigger and more relevant projects. These included two local projects with an international agency, one international research with well known institutes, and a few smaller ones with my colleagues at the center. These were all very interesting projects that I chose to take on because they were not just important for me but also were important from a larger perspective, that of the country. At this point in my life and career and during this sabbatical, I felt I had to choose my projects carefully and not just take on anything that comes my way. Of course it helped that I was able to travel abroad and in the Philippines in connection with these projects. The travels afforded me the chance to make some sentimental trips to old haunts and I got to meet new people and strengthen old friendships.

I now look forward to teaching again at the university and perhaps at a more relaxed pace. There will be research, extension and admin work just like before but I will be looking at these challenges and applying my own style of time management so I can enjoy life. It's perhaps my way of getting out of the proverbial rat race.

And definitely, I'm already looking to the next sabbatical...