Monday, April 28, 2014

Our mango tree

We like to tell people that we are very happy to have a mature mango tree in our new home. The tree seems to be an old one judging from its trunk. When we first saw it in November 2012, it looked gaunt and missing some branches (likely from natural causes like typhoons) and our contractor actually asked us if we wanted to get rid of it. We decided against cutting the tree as mangoes are strongly linked with our families. The Clairvoyant's family on her mother's side comes from Zambales and have had mango trees in their lands for as far back as they could remember. On my father's side in Iloilo we also have had mango trees in our lands. It was a "no-brainer" to have our own mango tree.

The mango tree the first time we saw it back in November 2012.
Our mango tree - photo taken last April 12, 2014 with its branches decorated with lichen and mangoes ripening everywhere. We poured a bottle of water we got from Dauis Church in Bohol in 2012 and afterwards, the tree seem to have come to life, rewarding us with lots of fruits.
Orchids and other plants now adorn our old mango tree
Among the orchids are sanggumay, which is an indigenous specie that's popular with its large flowers. Ours were given by close friends and already have buds hanging. My mother is also growing sanggumay in her garden and has told us that she will give us a few for our garden.
The harvest from our kalabaw mango tree - ripe and green mangoes just the way we like them.
Our mango tree now stands as a sentinel for our home. We like to think of it as an ent (ref. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings) guarding us from unwanted elements and that it comes alive when we are asleep to keep watch of other trees and plants in our home.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Healthy meals

During the Holy Week, we decided to cut down meat and eat vegetables and fruit instead. I will not claim this to be "sacrificial" in keeping with the Lenten Season because in truth, we really do enjoy eating light meals consisting of greens, fruits and perhaps some bread. The salad usually consisted of romaine lettuce, arugula and fruits. I like apples as they are perfect with the arugula. If we had mangoes, we also mix them up with the greens. At times we have dried fruit like apricots, figs and cranberries. For variety, we also include walnuts or almonds. We like the candied walnuts we found at a restaurant in Tagaytay. These make the salads more enjoyable while maintaining the nutritional value of the meal.

Fresh greens, fruits and walnut wheat bun

Romaine lettuce, arugula and apples with vinaigrette


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chilling at the bookstore

Whenever I am at Bonifacio Global City (BGC) and I had the time, I try to pass by the Fully Booked branch there. I like browsing their shelves for books, comics or CDs. I think I usually picked up a book, magazine or comic book almost everytime I'm there despite doing my best not to be tempted considering the escalating prices these days. Books are not cheap in the Philippines and I think this is partly to blame for our being generally immature for our tastes in literature. I mean, honestly, how many people really do read Murakami, Rushdie or Garcia-Marquez who recently passed away? I'm all for the electronic stuff as an aid for developing reading comprehension but there's nothing like a good book or magazine to enrich the mind. 

Recently, I had been at the bookstore again months after the last time I was at the Bonifacio High Street. This time I had some time for myself as I waited for the wife to arrive from their out-of-town workshop. I was surprised to find second hand CDs at the music section and found that most if not all came from Japan. I was certain with this as I saw the CD labels and ended up browsing the CDs as I did whenever I was in one of my favorite used CD shops in Tokyo and Yokohama (e.g., Yamagiwa and Recofan). I got most of my CD collection from those shops and most of these were high quality CDs that were made in Japan or Europe including my collection of classical music CDs. I ended up purchasing a couple of CDs - one classical and another jazz to add to my collection. I was a bit disappointed though that the used CDs were not as inexpensive as I had expected them to be. I recall that good quality used CDs in Japan usually cost me 1200 JPY or the equivalent of about 300 to 400 PHP at the time I was there. So I had to make sure I really liked the CDs I picked up before finally making the purchase. 

I celebrated my purchases by getting some frozen yoghurt at the White Hat branch in the same building. The froyo and lemonade were refreshing treats before I walked back to the parking lot to wait for the wife.

Frozen yogurt and lemonade while reviewing my CD purchases.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Some thoughts on a Good Friday

For a change, this will be our first Good Friday in many years that we are staying home instead of going out for Visita Iglesia. For me, this comes after many years of spending Good Fridays in my father's hometown in Cabatuan, Iloilo where we usually went during the Holy Week. It is a nice change in pace as we didn't have to drive around. And it seems a good thing after seeing all those posts about traffic congestion along routes typically used by travelers to go to the churches in and around Metro Manila. 

The more adventurous go to the provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, Pampanga and Tarlac either for religious trips (e.g., Visita Iglesia) or recreation (e.g., swimming, hiking, etc.). These trips are usually by car or motorcycle and lead to congested roads in many areas, particularly near popular churches. Private vehicles are the main modes of transport because there  are less public transport vehicles operating during Good Fridays. Tricycles rule many streets in the absence of jeepneys and buses despite the demand for their services on this day.

An inconvenient and rather irritating sight through what many people claim as expressions of faith in the form of Visita Iglesia, alay lakad or, what a friend has termed as bisikleta iglesia (for the cyclists) are the piles of garbage along the routes. Ortigas Avenue, Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway, which are the most popular routes to Antipolo Church, for example, are basically trashed and quite literally considering all the garbage accumulating along these roads. These are by-products of people claiming to go on pilgrimage but forget that they also have a responsibility to the environment. Most of the trash are non-biodegradable; plastics that need to be processed if not recycled. These are the same wastes that clog streams and drainage systems that eventually lead to flooding during the wet season. This is something that I think people should also reflect upon as they impose their waste on others and disregard the environment while claiming to do so in the name of pretentious faith. After all, it is a grave sin to the environment and to your neighbor when you are irresponsible with your garbage.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Morning drinks - Macalauan Pure & Best Lactose Free Chocolate Milk Drink

At the supermarket one evening before I went home, I found some interesting choices for milk as I picked up a few packs of Yakult. There are products by Nestle and soy milk products by various manufacturers. But the ones that caught my attention were the cartons of various products with the brand Pure & Best.

Pure & Best Milk's Lactose Free Chocolate Milk Drink is made by Macalauan, a local company based in Calauan, Laguna. The town became known for its infamous mayor a couple of decades ago and its nice to know that they have this company and likely others like it that are making a name for themselves for their good products. The milk is touted as farm fresh and is ultra pasteurized. The chocolate milk is creamy and definitely very satisfying. It is perfect as a morning drink for breakfast and reminded us of a chocolate milk drink we enjoyed when we were kids - Choco Vim, which I think preceded the Magnolia Chocolait that's probably more familiar to a lot of people today.

Macalauan Pure & Best Lactose Free Chocolate Milk Drink
We usually get the lactose free milk as the wife is lactose intolerant. Those that did have lactose are similarly good and a few times I had bought the regular chocolate milk, which tasted good as well. I found that the supermarket I bought the chocolate milk from only had limited supply (i.e., a few cartons of each variant) every time and often I couldn't get the lactose free products. The supermarket probably thought that they couldn't have too many in their inventory as these products didn't have long shelf lives and they are more expensive than the products of larger companies. These are also not generally available from other supermarkets so I just time my doing the groceries so I can pick up a carton or two.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

National Museum of the Philippines - National Art Gallery, Part 3

This is a much delayed Part 3 to the series of posts on the National Museum. The first two parts were written last December 26, 2013 and January 21, 2014. I had actually chosen a few photos for this short article and wanted to focus on a few sculptures by national artists and a national hero. Somehow, the draft got lost with other drafts I had started about other topics I had wanted to write about. So as the saying goes, "Better late than never!"

Also on display at the National Museum are various sculptures featuring artists such as Guillermo Tolentino, Isabelo Tampinco and Jose Rizal himself, our multi-talented national hero. Following are a few of their works that are on exhibit.

"Oyang Dapitana" - sculptures by (L-R) Guillermo Tolentino, Jose Rizal and Isabelo Tampinco
The label for the exhibit indicated the artist who created each
"Mother's Revenge" by Jose Rizal
Bust of Dr. Jose Rizal, national hero
"St. Paul the Hermit" by Jose Rizal

Then there are the door handles to many of the rooms at the museum. These seemingly utilitarian pieces turned out to be the work of national artist Napoleon Abueva. Each metal handle bears his name and indicates that each were made in 2004.

Door handles by National Artist Napoleon Abueva
The National Museum is open 6 days weekly and is free on Sundays (though I would suggest visitors donating money they could spare to help in the upkeep of the museum). I think Filipinos should take advantage of this for them to be able to appreciate our rich history through various artwork such as paintings and sculptures on display at the museum. We often wonder how in other countries they are able to preserve artwork and much of their heritage when we have so far very limited effort for preserving and even exhibiting ours. I would like to think that a lot has changed with that outlook and there are efforts to come up with good museums with the National Museum in the forefront of these initiatives.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dinner out in Tokyo

On our first night in Tokyo last February, our group had dinner out upon the invitation of one of our hosts. Though hungry, we really didn't want to eat heavy but wanted a good meal together with a good drink. It was a cold night and everyone was still adjusting to the temperature even with our winter clothing so we wanted to have a hot meal to warm ourselves from the inside. Fortunately, there was a nearby building that hosted a number of restaurants and shops that was open where we could have our dinner. Torafuku is located in between our hotel and the office of our hosts. It was indoors so we didn't need to have our coats on while dining and exchanging stories.

I am no longer the "drinker" I used to be when I was a student in Japan so I was delighted to see Kirin Free, which had zero alcohol. The taste of beer without the kick of alcohol is something my friends would have enjoyed during our time in Japan.
The salad was interesting with sprouts, cabbage and what looked like fish jelly
Kaki furai
Chicken karaage
Eggs and radish on the side
Horenzo (spinach) with fried tofu strips and fries (small fish - dulong in the Philippines)
Grilled salmon
Rice is cooked using these special steamers
The kitchen is open for viewing by diners
Sake and shochu bottles lined up as part of the restaurant display
Reception area of the restaurant


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chocolate review: Montezuma's Dark Chocolate Orange & Geranium

We still have a few bars left from the package given to us by our good friends the last time the Clairvoyant was in London. We decided to open one last February and I keep forgetting posting something about this bar, which we thought was definitely exquisite. Montezuma's Dark Chocolate Orange & Geranium is quite enjoyable as its bitterness was tempered by the orange and geranium bits in the bar. We like orange with our chocolate and have tasted bars with other types of citrus like the calamansi in an local artisan brand. We thought that Montezuma's was among the best if not the best we've tasted though I couldn't really single out the geranium parts from the orange due to their smooth blending with the chocolate.

Montezuma's Dark Chocolate Orange & Geranium is billed as "organic" and an "innovative British chocolate."

It's packaging indicates 73% minimum cocoa so it is more on the bitter side than the typical dark chocolates you can buy in supermarkets that contain anywhere from 25% to 56% cocoa.


Friday, April 4, 2014

UP Academic Calendar 2014-2015

The University of the Philippines approved the shifting of its Academic Calendar from June to August effective the next school year 2014-2015. The new calendar indicates a semestral break from mid-December and the first half of January. The second semester will still have a substantial break during the Holy Week but this will not be as long and disruptive to momentum as a Christmas-New Year break. "Summer" will be June to July.

UP's Academic Calendar for 2014-2015


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Summer treats

Hot days have heralded the arrival of April and we can look forward to more of these hot and humid days ahead after what seemed to be a relatively cool March. While there have been no alarms yet regarding water levels in reservoirs in Luzon, it is expected that somewhere, sometime there will be a water shortage. This is likely due to a bad water supply management considering all the water we usually get during the wet season.

The summer months of April and May, however, are the best times to go out and enjoy the outdoors. The beaches are sure to be full of people and expect many to flock to the cooler cities of Baguio and Tagaytay to get some respite from the heat. Ice cream and halu-halo will be very popular but summer is usually the time for fruits including natural coolers in watermelon (pakwan), cantaloupe (melon), and honeydew. We, of course, enjoy traditional favorites in mangoes, bananas and kaimito, which is currently in season. We are thankful that we can enjoy such treats during the summer months.

Ripe mangoes, lakatan and latundan bananas, and kaimito