Thursday, July 28, 2016

Message in a rainbow

With all the negative things happening around the world and especially in this country, the first thing that came to my mind when I looked out from our viewpoint in Leyte towards Samar was - HOPE!

The photo, taken from my phone, doesn't do justice to the rainbow. It was the clearest, brightest and largest (we were close) I've seen. I only wished our daughter Ally could have seen this one where ROYGBIV were so clear for everyone to see.

There's just too much violence and other bad things happening all around us. This makes the saner ones of us ponder about where God is in this time when our faith is being tested. We think about logic, philosophy as people use their beliefs to justify things they probably won't be doing to loved ones. I think we all need to tone down on our attitudes and rhetoric. Perhaps we should be taking some time-out from whatever there are that make us "nega". These include social media, news, and even perhaps contact with "nega" people. It will probably make our lives less toxic and help us get back to a more positive outlook than what we have now. We can start by getting out more often and enjoying the simpler things in life. Yes, that includes looking out to see rainbows that remind us of hope!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Maisen, Greenbelt 5

The wife and I had a meeting in Makati last April and couldn't find space in the parking buildings along Dela Rosa. We ended up parking at Greenbelt and then walking to the building where we had our meeting. It turned out not to be a long walk and it helped that there were good pedestrian sidewalks between Greenbelt and our meeting venue. After our meeting, we decided to have an early lunch at Greenbelt. 

The easy choice was a Japanese restaurant at Greenbelt 5. The display in front of the restaurant was enough for me to get attracted and I was amused to see they had takeout. Bento or lunchboxes are popular in Japan and especially among those on the go or too busy to go out for lunch. Workers usually had just enough time to leave the workplace to buy bento. And then there are those who get bento from a vendor coming or delivering to the offices.

The restaurant offers lunch boxes (bento) for those in a hurry
Items on the menu are on display, Japanese style, in front of the restaurant.
We went for their katsu set and had a hearty lunch. Their katsu was good and they even served mugi cha, which was a popular and refreshing drink during summers in Japan.
Maisen is a good place to have a good meal at whether its for lunch or dinner. The service was good and the quality (i.e., taste) of the food, which is what counts, was also high. Thumbs up to this Japanese restaurant at Greenbelt.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Dama the repeat: terrific music

The Clairvoyant and I went to a concert last Saturday. We haven't been to a concert since December 2012 when we watched Sting perform live at the Araneta Coliseum. That concert was almost cancelled after Sting refused to perform at the original venue, the SM Mall of Asia Arena. This was after a group informed him of After that, we missed a few concerts we could have gone to and which we would probably watched. However, since 2012 we had our daughter Ally and we made the obvious choice of not being out late with only a few exceptions and with at least one of us staying at home to be with Ally.

This time around, as Ally's grown up a bit and we have tried going on "escapes" once in a long while. We tried to really go to this particular concert as we have tried to catch two of the artists in one of their gigs. Ebe Dancel and Johnoy Danao are our friends. We've known them since the 1990s and even had Johnoy and his then band Bridge perform at our wedding 14 years ago. Incidentally, the last local concert we attended was Ebe's when he was still with his band Sugarfree. This one was special because both were performing and a bonus was their comrade in music, Bullet Dumas. We missed the first concert as well as their gigs at Conspiracy.

Bullet Dumas, Ebe Dancel and Johnoy Danao
The concert was really good and we were not surprised by that. We were surprised though with the performance of Bullet Dumas. He was basically a beast (halimaw!) out there and belted out what we termed as "karaoke-proof" songs. Of course, we meant that in a good way. Johnoy was his usual great mellow and hearing him sing brings back good memories (he was our wedding singer). Ebe was also in a zone but we felt something about his performance that was on the personal side. You can feel his pain by the way he spoke and sang. Ebe mentioned during the last part of his solo that this concert will probably not be happening again. I would like to assume that as not happening in the near future rather than not happening at all. Meanwhile, we have their music in CDs and in our computers for us to listen to. We should be getting Bullet Dumas' music, too, as we found it both refreshing and energizing aside from being very intriguing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Chocolate review: Chocolate Stella Stevia Extract

An interesting chocolate we picked up from the airport duty free shop is one dark chocolate that used an alternative sweetener. Stevia is a popular herb used as sweetener and I was a bit surprised seeing this with chocolate, particularly an international brand. I associate stevia with diabetic friends and relatives so we got curious about this bar and bought a couple just to be sure about the taste.

Dark chocolate with Stevia Extract claims to have no added sugar
Details on the bar are at the back of the package including the price tag that also shows where this chocolate was purchased.
The chocolate is supposed to have 53% cacao
The chocolate claims to have been made under climate neutral conditions and bears the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.

This 100g chocolate bar costs 4.65 USD (around 218.37 PHP) so this is not as expensive as the other Chocolat Stella bars nor the Valrhonas we have tasted and featured here. It tastes okay but not as bitter as we expected for a 53% cacao bar. Perhaps the stevia had an effect on the taste of the chocolate? I have made a similar observation on other chocolates that used alternative sweeteners. There seems to be something peculiar about the taste whether its milk chocolate or dark chocolate. It is not as sweet as chocolates using conventional sweeteners (i.e., sugar) so its seems to have lost some of its edge. Will I buy this chocolate again? Maybe, but to be honest, it will not be on the top of my list.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Rest in peace, Dr Marcelo Esguerra

I got a call from my father this afternoon and he had some sad news. His long-time friend and my cardiologist, Dr Marcelo Esguerra, passed away last June 2016. The information came from former officemates of my father's who came by their home this afternoon to extend invitations to a reunion of retired company employees. Dr Esguerra and my father had been friends from way back when Tatay was still working at Ajinomoto. The doctor's wife was their company doctor so they usually met during company functions and socials. The couple were our godparents/sponsors at our wedding back in 2002.

It was sad news to me mainly because he was a good man and I knew he cared for many patients including friends and relatives to whom he has become more than a doctor to. I knew he was also a doting grandfather who looked forward to going abroad in order to be with his grandchildren in New York. Dr Esguerra was also my cardiologist and cared for me since 2001 when I was first diagnosed with hypertension. I was seeing a different doctor (one referred to me by my HMO then) and I had complained that my medicines were making me dizzy and acidic. Tatay chided me for not going to Dr Esguerra and I eventually found my way to his clinic where, after a work-up, he was able to diagnose correctly that I had an irregular heartbeat. The latter condition has been corrected through medication and my hypertension has been under control. Of course, there were sacrifices including my watching what I ate and drank (drastically reducing my alcohol intake - not that I drank a lot) and exercising more than I usually did.

Dr Esguerra had been like a father to me despite our meeting only twice to thrice a year for my regular check-ups. He never failed to strike up a nice conversation, relate some stories here and there about his travels and experiences as well as dispense advice for everyday living. Farewell for the last time Dr Esguerra. It is time for you to rest after living a good and productive life and caring for so many people the past 50+ years as a medical professional, father, grandfather and friend. Rest in peace Dr Esguerra. Thank you for all the good you have done and for sharing yourself through your medical practice. God bless your soul and console your loved ones who survived you.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Room service dinner at The Manor

Flashback to last month... On our last night at our hotel, The Manor, the Clairvoyant and I decided to just order in so we can also try room service food at the hotel. We already knew that their food was good from first hand experience as well as from our friends who have stayed and dined there. We were not disappointed with what we had for dinner.

Bolognese on angel hair pasta - this was a bit different from the other Bolognese we've tasted. The meat seems to have been grounded well so it integrated well with the sauce. This was flavorful and the serving was generous enough to share between two people.
Warm breads to go with the pasta - it is always a treat to have freshly baked bread for a meal.
Their version of beef salpicao was on the spicy side. It was a good thing we ordered rice to go with this dish.
Their Belgian chocolate cake - was sinful indeed and was a perfect ending to our in-room dinner.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Curiosities at a tollway stop - Part 2: old globes on bookends

The impending decision on the Philippines' rights to territories in the West Philippine Sea against China's claims based on their nine dash line invention brings to mind our interest (or fascination) with old maps. I bought a pair of bookends that immediately caught my attention at the antique shop at a tollway stop that I featured in a recent post. The following photos show these bookends each with a globe of what appears as old renderings of the world.

A pair of bookends I found at an antique store at a stop along NLEX
The items are in very good condition though they do look old. I like the details including the compass around each globe.
A closer look at the globes (they are identical) reveal Asia and where the Philippine Islands should be situated. Interestingly, China is marked as Tartaria on the globe, a clear reference to the Tartars and where dominion was according to whoever made the map.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Kawayan Farms Restaurant, Pillilia, Rizal

During our recent trip to the Pililla Wind Farm, we had to delay our lunch a while in order for us to reach the wind farm at a time we thought there would be less people. The Pililla Wind Farm has become a tourist attraction, getting a lot of visitors since it opened part of the facility to curious folks, especially those who are quite eager to take their photos (e.g., selfies) with the gigantic turbines. On our way there, we spotted a roadside restaurant where we decided we would be having our late lunch.

Kawayan Farms Restaurant is on the right side of the Manila East Road on the way to the wind farm from Morong and perhaps about 2 kilometers from the junction of the wind farm access road with the national highway. They have a good enough menu featuring what we thought were popular fare like barbecue, tilapia, and vegetable dishes. We picked their specialty, of course, and that is the lumpiang sariwa using bamboo shoots as its main ingredient. While we tempered our expectations, we found their lumpia very satisfying including their version of the peanut-based sauce that was surely the concoction of their head cook.

One of the best if not the best lumpiang sariwa we have tasted is Kawayan's specialty.
We chose to be safe with our main dish and so we both ordered barbecued chicken. This, too, was a pleasant surprise as their version of barbecue sauce tasted more like adobo.
There were other people eating at the restaurant when we arrived including what appeared to be a group of friends who made a stopover along their way to the south. While eating, we were joined at the restaurant by a family of three who also seem to be on a provincial road trip rather than a quick one like ours. On the glass windows of the restaurant were stickers of various motorcycle groups who seem to frequent the place. Perhaps Kawayan is indeed a popular stop. It is surely worth it if only for their lumpiang sariwa.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Flashback shoes: Haruta

Browsing an Japanese online shopping site, I decided to order a pair of shoes that's a throwback to high school days. Haruta was a popular brand back in the 1980s especially for students required to wear leather shoes for much of the school week (4 out of 5 weekdays). I think I wore 3 or 4 pairs of these shoes including the penny loafers and the one with the tassels. Two of those pairs were brown and one was black. Almost all of these had failure on the sole right that I attributed to the shoes I had being fakes. I don't remember the prices but we usually bought shoes at the Marikina Shoe Exchange shops in Cubao. Mine were cheaper and bore some suspicious marks indicating they were fakes. So of course, I just had to have an authentic pair.

Direct from Japan via the Express Mail Service (EMS), the box is opened to reveal a flashback to the 1980s.
The shoes have to be genuine, real leather and...Made in Japan. There were many fake Harutas back in the day and I think I owned and wore a couple of pairs myself at a time when these were the rave for us required to wear leather shoes 4 days a week.
These shoes are easy to clean, easy to shine. They are relatively heavier than my Cole Haans and Florsheims. Pardon for my being mayabang but I earned the money I paid for these shoes :) 


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Useful curiosities at a tollway stop

We start July with a post on a recent find I made along, of all places, an expressway. A recent trip to Bataan provided a pleasant surprise in terms of a store I found at one of the stops along the North Luzon Expressway. There is a shop selling antiques and a lot of other old (and used) items from the US, Japan and Europe. The information on the sources, of course, came from the shop keepers and later, from the proprietor/owner whom I met as we were about to leave the stop. I ended up purchasing several items including a set of cups with pewter holders, which I show in this post.

This immediate caught my attention as I browsed the cabinets full of coffee and tea sets as well as various mugs, glasses, bowls and plates.
The designs on the china are exquisite so you know this was finely made.
Even the handle on the pewter holder seem meticulously crafted.
The cups caught my attention among the many other cups, mugs, pots, glasses, plates and bowls in the shop. When I initially asked for the price of the five cup set, the shopkeeper couldn't give me one as she said it was a new item. Fortunately, I inquired about it before we had our meal at the restaurant nearby. When we did finish eating, I decided to cross over to what I thought was another, different shop from across the restaurant. It turned out to be an extension of the shop I earlier entered and there was the proprietor/owner who I casually engaged in conversation. I ended up asking about the cups and the shopkeeper eagerly brought it to us for the proprietor to give me a fair price for the cups. In a future post I will feature the other items I got from the shop.