Thursday, March 31, 2016

Chocolate review: Chocolat Stella Noir 60% Dark, Baobab Fruit

I conclude the month of March with a chocolate review. I thought I already posted about this chocolate before but it turned out I didn't. I spotted this chocolate at the Duty Free store at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 and got a bar as part of my haul of dark chocolates I usually buy there to get a discount. Duty Free Philippines gives a 5% discount on purchases using their travel light promo. You claim your purchase upon your return from abroad.

Chocolate Stella Noir 60% Dark with Baobab Fruit is branded as organic and fair (referring to fair trade)
Details on the chocolate including nutrition information at the back. I didn't remove the price tag for reference.

This chocolate is among the best we've tasted so far. Its smooth and at the same time fruity. The bitterness is just right considering it claims to have 60% cacao at the minimum. The clincher here is the baobab fruit, which until we tasted this chocolate, we didn't know was edible and suitable to combine with chocolate. The taste is on the sour side but then orange, lemon and citrus goes well with chocolate so the mixture of sweet, bitter and sour went very well. My only regret about this chocolate is that I didn't purchase more bars. The 100g chocolate bar costs US$ 5.55 (~ 255.30 pesos) from the Duty Free Philippines store (US$ 5.27 with the travel light promo). That seems to be on the expensive side but I assure my reader that it is worth it.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Black Saturday musings

In my younger days when we spend our Holy Week holidays in my father's hometown of Cabatuan, Iloilo, Maundy Thursdays and Good Fridays were busy days. The Mass commemorating the 'washing of the feet' was Thursday afternoon and usually extended into the evening. I think those were the longest Masses I've participated in and were generally longer than Christmas or Easter Masses that I have also experienced in Cabatuan. The part of the washing of the feet was usually held with much fanfare especially during times when there were alumni homecomings for the town's National Comprehensive High School and when there were elections in May. There was a time when the apostles included the mayor, vice mayor and councilors of the town and the parish priest seemed so deliberate in emphasizing his moral high ground in his homily and the ceremonial washing of the feet. There was a Last Supper reenactment at the town plaza after the Mass.

Good Friday's were even busier with the Stations of the Cross  in the morning that started from the town's centuries old church to their version of Mount Calvary, which is a hill located in one of the barrios not too far from the town proper. The climb up used to be a treacherous one as the steps were narrow and were carved out of the hillside. Later, when I was already in university, the steps were already improved and made of concrete. They were also wider, allowing two-way traffic without having to stop and give way to others. The Stations of the Cross started before 6 AM and usually ended before 8AM for those who followed the main entourage of the priest and participated in the prayers. The rest of the people who joined in don't really seem to be in it except for the 'barkadahan' (fellowship) part, which was all about the merriment aspect of the event rather than the spiritual part.

In the afternoon, people gathered in the town plaza to await, join or watch the Good Friday procession that also started from the church and went around the town passing through the major streets of the bayan. I remember that there used to be less than a dozen carrozas with their santos (religious images depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ) when I was a boy until the time when I was a teenager in high school. Later, there seemed to be more than 20 carrozas that comprised the very long procession. It seemed to me that the organizers of the procession, which included church officials, allowed the additional carrozas and santos from the 'emergent' families of the town who suddenly had the wealth to purchase their own santos and build their carrozas. Having your santo and carroza was a status symbol in old towns like my father's. The old and prominent families of the town owned the old santos but the younger, newer money (mainly from OFW families and those who have established themselves in the US and Europe) were accommodated for one reason or another. 

I used to go with my aunts, cousins and friends on these Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Tatay used to take advantage of our vacations to reconnect with our relatives and friends including his high school buddies. The last time I was there, I went with my aunt and cousins but my childhood friends were no longer there. Most if not all have moved our to reside elsewhere particularly as many had to find work in other places. Truly times have changed over the years and Tatay's hometown has also evolved along with its people. I just hope that the town does not lose its charm and that when I do visit I could still reminisce happy days whenever I go around.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Graffiti or vandalism: UP Diliman's walls

The wall of the University of the Philippines Diliman's wall along Katipunan Avenue had been a blank one. We had thought one time that it could be perfect for some graffiti or wall paintings. Previously, we did some wall art together with family and friends at an orphanage in Manila. This idea came out of a similar activity the Clairvoyant had with her office-mates as part of their company's team-building and corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. And true enough, the wall was subject to a painting project care of the organizers of Miss Earth.

In the past few years, however, the wall has seen a drastic transformation from what used to be pleasing art work to one that claims to be art in the form of what is claimed to be graffiti. I use the word "claim" because of what I think can be classified as art and what is plain rubbish.

Some people might call this art - not me
The stuff of night mares?
Are these'statements' that UP allows or tolerates? Their mere presence on its walls reflect upon the university. I would like to think that these walls could be used for better messages, more constructive work that can be shared to travelers along Katipunan/C-5. UP, after all, has a College of Fine Arts and other people with talent as well as social consciousness to come up with more appropriate images on these walls.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lau Pa Sat

Singapore is famous for its hawker markets that also cater to the food cravings of Singaporeans and visitors/foreigners. These are where you can have good meals without hurting your wallets or pockets. There's a lot to choose from and among the hits are Chinese, Malay, Indian and of course, Singaporean food. Lau Pa Sat also has Italian, American, Japanese and even Filipino food so you have all the choices you can have so you can eat different every mealtime each day.

Lau Pa Sat was being renovated during the time we last went there before we came home in 2012. Since the food market was just across our hotel this time, we made sure to have at least a couple of meals here. We had meet-ups with friends and these were during mealtimes. It is nice to exchange stories while sharing meals with friends.

Sign at the corner of Robinson Road and Boon Tat Street

The building is a marvel to look at in the nighttime when the lights of Lau Pa Sat mix with those of the modern building surrounding it. This is a photo from across Cross Street when coming from the Raffles Place MRT Station
The section of Boon Tat Street across from Lau Pa Sat is closed to traffic at night to accommodate the crowds enjoying their outdoor meals consisting mainly of grilled food. Orders are facilitated by hawkers affiliated with the various barbecue stalls that set-up only during this time of day.
Inside the building, one is treated with many stalls offering various food and drinks. Impressive as well is the building itself with its well-preserved steel frame and high ceiling. The gigantic fans help keep the building well-ventilated.
Another view of the steel frames supporting the building. The people in orange shirts are staff who clear tables and clean up after customers. These 'aunties' and 'uncles' do a great job of making sure Lau Pa Sat is clean and tidy for all eating there.
Still another view of Lau Pa Sat's interior and stalls.
The contrast between old and new is very evident from this photo of Lau Pa Sat against the tall modern buildings of Singapore
The same street is open to traffic during the day


Teppanyaki at Somerset

One of the things we missed about Singapore was eating out. After checking in to our hotel, we found ourselves walking to the nearby SMRT station to board a train to Orchard Road. We alighted at Somerset to check out if our old food haunts were still there. We found that there was no longer a Din Tai Fung at the Somerset mall. The old Ramen Play resto was also no longer there. Marche was still there but we decided to go for the teppanyaki at the top of Somerset.

I know its Maundy Thursday but here goes a couple of photos of the set we ordered for our 'heavy merienda'. The Clairvoyant wasn't able to have lunch so we decided to have a heavy enough meal before taking a walk along Orchard Road.

Beef and seafood

Scallops and prawn
The teppanyaki came with a generous serving of salad and a cup of rice. Afterwards, we decided to go around the mall a bit to see what other changes were there before taking our Orchard stroll. More on our Singapore sentimental weekend soon...


Monday, March 21, 2016

Filipino art at the National Gallery of Singapore

The National Gallery of Singapore has in its collection several important works of art by Filipinos including the works of Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo and Fernando Amorsolo. These, along with other similarly important works from other ASEAN and Asian countries are exhibited from time to time. In particular, they are often part of a theme on nation's developing their identities and the struggles each country went through to become independent not just from foreign occupation and influence but also from internal tribulations during their own trying periods. Following are some photos we took at the National Gallery of Singapore last weekend featuring the exemplary works of Filipino artists.

Sculpture by Napoleon Abueva and painting by HR Ocampo
Painting by Arturo Luz

'Defend thy honour' by Fernando Amorsolo
Distinctive work of Jose Joya
Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo's masterpiece 'Las Virgenes Cristianas Expuestas al Populacho'
We were actually surprised to have overheard a museum guide trying to explain the meaning of Hidalgo's masterpiece and mistakenly allude to it as if it had nothing to do with the Philippines. In fact, the guide was overheard by the Clairvoyant as stating the Juan Luna and Hidalgo were Spanish and not Filipinos. We wanted to correct the guide but had to restrain the nationalists within us knowing such actions might have unwanted and unexpected repercussions in a country where people are not known to take such corrections lightly even though they are truly erring on the matter.

'Mother Nature's Bounty Harvest' is a collaboration of three national artists - Victorio Edades, Galo Ocampo and Carlos "Botong" Francisco
The last photo on the collaborative work by Edades, Galo Ocampo and Botong Francisco is gigantic and reminded me of other collaborative works including those by national artists who were assisted by their apprentices who themselves later became national artists themselves.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Back in Singapore

We were back in Singapore last week with the Clairvoyant attending meetings over the week and I following for some rest & recreation over the weekend. I will be posting not a few photos over the next few days about things in Singapore that we missed as well as new experiences we've had during our short stay. I took the following panorama atop the National Gallery of Singapore where we spent half a day appreciating the collections of art from ASEAN artists. There were many works there by Filipino artists including those by national artists like Fernando Amorsolo, Vicente Manansala and Botong Francisco. I will post about them in the next few days.

Some landmarks in the photo are the Singapore Flyer, Esplanade Theaters, Marina Bay Sands and the Fullerton Hotel

Singapore has been kind to us. We called it our home for more than one and a half years and we certainly miss a lot of things (there were definitely much more good than bad to remember about Singapore) including the company of friends. We will definitely be going back to island-city-state from time to time and cannot wait to take our child there for her to enjoy that country's attractions especially the Singapore Zoo.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Chef Mo's Ribhouse

Another restaurant located at the same building along Malingap Street in UP Village where you have Parilla, Ally's All Day Breakfast, Happy Thai and Angus Tapa Centrale is Chef Mo's Ribhouse. We decided to check it out as we had a craving for good meat (i.e., steak or ribs). We ended having our fill of really good ribs.

Chef Mo's menu featuring the specialty of the house - what else but ribs
The interior was actually a surprise to us
The place was elegantly furnished and definitely provided a good atmosphere for a good meal
Here are other items on their menu including side dishes and drinks
Decorative pieces on the wall include these plates, a clock and these lamps
Counter and walls evoked a log cabin that made you feel at home at the restaurant
The false window made the place look bigger than it was and they also had a nice chandelier
A turntable provided the music for diners. The resto had many records and playing at the time we had lunch were The Stylistics.
What do you eat at a ribhouse? Ribs, of course!
The verdict on the specialty of the house is that their hickory ribs were great! They were as good as advertised on their menu - delicately cooked and grilled to perfection. This was the equivalent of melt in your mouth for meat and you definitely didn't need a knife to cut the meat and separate them from the bones. You can compare this with Rack's and I thought that their preparation and cooking probably was the same as that of the established restaurant. We thought their food was priced just right (read: not expensive considering the quality of their ribs). Chef Mo's is highly recommended especially for your cravings for good, old fashioned and very tasty ribs. We will definitely come back to this restaurant.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sunsets and sunrises in Tagaytay

I still have a memory of passing by the Tagaytay Ridge when I was very young. We passed by the area because it was along the road to Nasugbu, Batangas where my father's company used to have their annual summer outing. Popular then was Matabungkay and at least once a year we went through Tagaytay, stopping for a few moments to stretch our legs (our Volkswagen Beetle was not necessarily a comfortable ride between Cainta and Nasugbu at a time when roads weren't as good as today's). I recall there were not much development in Tagaytay then and you had a good view of Taal Volcano and Lake from along the ridge side of the highway. One time, we stayed longer on an emergency stop as my father noticed one hub cap from our Beetle roll off to a grassy area along the road. We had to stop and Tatay took some time before he found the hub cap.

I still like going to Tagaytay despite it becoming congested and crowded. There are still places where you can stay at where you can have a good view of the lake and volcano while staying away from the crowds of tourists. Here are a couple of sunset and sunrise photos I took from our trip last weekend. The more colourful one is the sunrise photo. I shared the sunset photo on social media with a caption of "more than 50 shades of grey".

Grey sunset
Colorful sunrise
Sunrises and sunsets are just magnificent anywhere I go in our country but especially when you're in Tagaytay or perhaps the beach. You marvel at the serenity and the contemplative aspect of sunrises and sunsets. And you can only be thankful of its symbolisms in terms of life and living.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Happy Thai, Malingap Street

There are many restaurants sprouting around UP Village but we do go to our regular lunch spots as these are quite reliable in terms of the food, service and prices. One building along Malingap Street (right in the middle of the street) hosts several restaurants, many of which we have already eaten at. These include Parilla, Angus Beef, and Ally's All Day Breakfast. We were curious about the Thai restaurant beside Parilla and decided to finally eat there a couple of weeks ago.

Entrance and tables
Fresb spring rolls with the peanut-based sauce on the side
Chicken pandan
Garlic squid
The restaurant had clean, well lighted interiors but it was also quite simple compared to other Thai-themed restaurants we have eaten at in the past. Those had distinctly Thai decors and atmosphere. The food was okay and to be fair, we ordered some 'safe' items on the menu including fresh spring rolls and chicken pandan. I couldn't say if these were better than the same items I had in other Thai restaurants and in Thailand during my past travels. I would say they were average at best. Perhaps we should order the Tom Yum or the Chicken Basil in the future to see how authentic their food tastes. Price-wise, we thought that Happy Thai was okay on the pocket.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Chocolate review: Lindor extra dark

It seemed fitting to start the month of March with another chocolate feature. And so our simple review today is on the Lindt Lindor Extra Dark. I picked up this box of three balls of chocolate at the supermarket as I looked for dark chocolate to satisfy a craving for chocolate to have for dessert.

Lindt Lindor Extra Dark box of three
The chocolates are described as extra dark with a smooth melting filling

Nutrition information and expiration date
Chocolates wrapped like candies out of the box
Lindt Lindor did not disappoint. The 60% cocoa shell was smooth tasting and the viscous filling was very enjoyable to the tongue. The bitterness and sweetness was the right mix and one is tempted to consume more of these chocolates if only there were more. Perhaps that's one of the reasons (and the main one?) why these came in boxes of three.