Monday, December 26, 2016

Pasko at Parol 2016

We have always had a Christmas lantern (parol) diplayed in front of our home even before we had our daughter. We felt it just wasn't as Christmassy without the parol even if we had a nice tree and decorations in our house. Since I always have out of town trips for my projects, I had many opportunities to get a parol from Pampanga and Tarlac during fieldwork there. The first big parol we had was from Tarlac in 2004. I bought it at a roadside shop (MacArthur Highway) where they manufactured and sold lanterns. I actually bought two - one for the office and one for our home. The office lantern survives today and is displayed in front of our building. It just needs some repairs including replacement of many bulbs. 

We noticed our lantern was also already needing some repairs and it seemed not big enough to be prominent on our balcony after we moved into our new home almost 3 years ago. And so the wife made it part of my mission during a trip last November to find us a new parol. I did find one in Pampanga where they make really good lanterns. A roadside shop in Mabalacat was the maker of our new parol and my colleagues also got theirs for their homes from the same shop.

Here's a very short video of our new parol. It's attracted quite a number of admirers already and among them children doing their Christmas carol gigs around the village.

A Blessed Christmas to All!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Blessed Christmas to all!

I just want to greet all my readers a Merry Christmas!


May your wishes be granted and may you be safe and healthy with your family.

Peace on earth!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Chocolate review: El Rey - Chocolate Blanco Icoa 34% Cacao

I continue on the series on El Rey chocolates here. This time its about their white chocolate that was part of the box of bars given as a gift to my wife by a friend of hers from Venezuela. I wrote before that we didn't usually buy white chocolate as the Clairvoyant and I find white chocolates too sweet for our taste. This was an exception, not just because it was a gift, but because this was no ordinary white chocolate.

El Rey's Chocolate Blanco Icoa claimed 34% cacao, which we found to be unusual for info on a white chocolate bar.
Details on the chocolate is found at the back of the package
This includes the contents or ingredients of this chocolate bar as well as information on nutrition.
The chocolate claims a minimum of 34% cacao and there is information here about the origins of the chocolate and, I assume, about how it is produced.

I would say that this is among the best if not the best white chocolates we've tasted. [I remember that Marriot's white chocolates that they made for Christmas were also good.] The sweetness is just right though we anticipated it to be sweeter (of course) than the dark chocolates and even the milk chocolates we've had before. The wife also enjoyed this and found it not as sweet as the more commercialized or mass produced brands. I would like to have one of these bars again to enjoy in the future.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

No more village grocery store

One of the things that got our attention when we were looking for a place to build our new house on a few years ago was the familiar grocery store near the entrance to the subdivision where we now live in. Shoppersville was very recognizable to us because it was landmark along Katipunan Avenue and just across Miriam College. We couldn't believe at first that there was a mini version of the supermarket here in Antipolo. Aside from it being so convenient for us (you can just pass by for some items on the way home), the prices were less expensive than the typical convenience stores.

After we moved in, we did patronize the grocery store and saw that many people not just from our village but others from nearby subdivisions passed by to do some quick purchases here. Of course, they did have many of the same products you could buy at the 'main' store including their baked products like the pandesal and cheese cupcakes that we usually bought for domestic consumption as well as to bring at the office.

After the Katipunan Shoppersville perished in a fire a few months ago, we were happy that they continued to operate in Antipolo and that it seemed business as usual for them. Unfortunately, what seemed to be okay wasn't really so and they eventually announced that they would be closing the grocery. The business here probably couldn't sustain operations and, despite reopening their bakeshop on a converted container at Katipunan, there was just enough funds to operate. So perhaps the Katipunan branch was actually subsidizing the Antipolo one.

Now, the place is dark and seemingly sad with less people coming to what is known as The Village Corner. We're not even sure if there will be a new grocery there soon as the location may not be as attractive if it weren't for the familiar brand of its former occupant. Perhaps a SaveMore, a PureGold Jr., Rustan's or a scaled down Robinsons can take its place? I'm sure these large companies can afford to do so but then there won't be the feel of a neighborhood grocery store to them.

I guess it will be a wait and see but we hope it won't be so long a wait.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Chocolate review: Heidi Grand'or Dark & Florentine

Passing by Clark last month, we had some time to go to the duty free shop to get a few items for us to take home. As usual, I browsed the shelves for some dark chocolate. I remembered the Heidi chocolates I had brought before and sure enough I was able to get my "quota" of chocolate bars for us to enjoy back home. But then I also spotted a newer chocolate among the Heidi bars we've already tasted.

Heidi Grand'or Dark & Florentine showed
Details on this Romanian chocolate at the back of the package
This chocolate features a "crispy layer of caramelized almonds". Of course, that could be seen from the pictures at the front of the package.
This chocolate claims a minimum of 45% cocoa.
This 100g chocolate retailed for about 125 Philippine pesos or about 2.50 US dollars. I would say it was enjoyable partly because of the caramelized layer of almonds. But then it was a bit sweet for my taste. Of course, this would be a treat for others so I would still definitely recommend this chocolate. It still qualified as dark chocolate but with an additional treat that makes you chew a bit more than let the chocolate just melt in your mouth.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pangasinan souvenirs

A trip out of Manila would not be complete without getting pasalubong or souvenirs. We were early enough to reach the visitor center (pasalubong center) at Lingayen beach. You can have a snack or meal here as there is an eatery inside the center.

T-shirts are among the more popular souvenir items with designs featuring Pangasinan towns and attractions like Dagupan, Hundred Islands, etc.
There are many shops at the visitor center selling typical souvenirs like handicrafts, magnets, pins, mugs and others that might catch a tourist's fancy.
Locally-made crafts on display
Map of Pangasinan showing attractions and landmarks in each town
Items for sale include furniture like this chair and the bar set beside it.
More handicrafts at the visitor center
We got ourselves a few shirts and and refrigerator magnets to take home. There are many other items including bottled and dried food and preserves, vases, magazine racks, boxes, etc. that may be of interest to many other people. We thought the prices were okay and competitive compared to what you can get at other souvenir shops or even the market.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Manaoag, Pangasinan

A trip to Pangasinan would not be complete if one did not stop by the town of Manaoag. Of course, I am referring to the Roman Catholic among us who know Manaoag for the miraculous image of Mother Mary. Devotees and pilgrims flock to Manaoag similarly as they go to Antipolo or Baclaran mainly to pray for help, forgiveness, assistance and other reasons including healing from serious illnesses, passing examinations, financial success, etc. Many of these have been granted by God through the intercession of Our Lady, which obviously led to more of the faithful coming on a pilgrimage for their wishes (desires?) to be granted. Those whose prayers have been granted come here regularly as thanksgiving and have declared they would do so as long as they can make the trip. This is what they call their panata or promise of coming back to offer prayers of thanksgiving. And they do bring with them their family members and friends.

Manaoag is not near Metro Manila and yet thousands (much more actually) come to this town despite the distance and a difficult travel. Of course, its easier now with three expressways and improved national roads making the travel faster, safer and more comfortable.

This sign basically says that if one has made the necessary preparations for the pilgrimage to Manaoag, a plenary indulgence may be granted to that person.
At the back of the church is a large area for those offering prayers through candles
You can purchase candles and other religious items like prayer books, scapulars and rosaries from one of the booths around this area. You can then light them here and say a few prayers before leaving or going inside the church.
There's this tub of water where you can place a floating candle. From the looks of it, a lot of people have lit floating candles as offerings.
The main altar of the shrine to Our Lady of Manaoag with the image at the center. Some say this is only a replica of the original one, which is kept and preserved by the church. This image, however, is touched by a lot of devotees who can get closest to the image via an access at the back of the altar.
A smaller altar at one of the church wings
A view of the front entrance to the church with the balcony above the doors.
Another view of the main altar from the middle of the church.
A view of the main altar and church dome
A less crowded area at the back of the church

The shrine has a big parking lot at the back of the church so travelers with their own vehicles need not follow those offering to guide you to a parking space. These are very much the same as those people who basically try to engage motorists in Antipolo to offer guidance on parking spaces near the shrine there. Of course, its best to visit during weekdays and what's regarded as off-peak seasons compared to other times when I'm sure its very crowded like Lent or before major licensure exams.

Friday, December 9, 2016

On Davao chocolates

Davao chocolates are among our favorites, and not because of who got elected from there but because we've found and enjoyed really good chocolates from there. I am talking about Davao's Malagos chocolates, which are single origin and, we believe despite having no mention in the packaging, fair trade.

Two of the Malagos chocolates we've tasted so far are the 65% and 72% dark chocolates. The 65% is the more common one of the two and we only were able to taste the 72% recently (and I will write about this soon).
We found this chocolate at the Echo Store and I decided to buy one of the three variants from the same company. We have yet to open and taste this but we do look forward to knowing if this is at least as good as the Malagos chocolates.

Davao and the regions around it produce very good quality cacao, which despite the demand is not produced in large quantities in the Philippines. In fact, Philippine cacao is not well known and which is why the success of Malagos and other chocolates are very important from the marketing viewpoint. These help put the Philippines in the chocolate world map and hopefully, the country can become a major player in both cacao production as well as the chocolates that come out of these.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hossein, Serendra, BGC

We had a craving for Indian food one Saturday. We ended up going at Hossein at Serendra in Bonifacion Global City. We had wanted to try out the restaurant as we missed eating kebabs and curry but we kept on putting it off as we didn't know if our daughter would like this food. Since our favorite Indian restaurant closed shop a few years ago, we had tried several restaurants for our tandooris, tikkas, kebabs and other dishes we enjoyed.

Chicken tikka
Shish kebab
Basmati rice
I also had lassi to go with our food. We were not really surprised that our daughter liked the food we ordered as she likes to eat flavorful food. I think she became curious about the food partly because of the fragrance and when she tasted the dishes she instantly was able to appreciate the taste. The food was good and the service, too. Their staff were attentive and helpful, which we liked because we had our little daughter with us. She can be a handful for a girl turning three this January. We will definitely be back for our Persian/Indian food cravings. Of course, we will be on the lookout for other restaurants offering this food as well and hopefully one closer to home.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Happy birthday Tatay!

Today is my father's 78th birthday. As he has done every year, he started his day by going to church to pray and express his thanksgiving to God. I called him this morning but initially wasn't able to greet him and talk to him as he was at church. A few minutes later, he made a return call but I was in the bathroom. So it took a third call between us before I finally was able to speak with him. I actually wanted his apo to sing "Happy birthday!" to Tatay. His granddaughter was looking forward to it after we had told her it was her lolo Tatay's birthday. I guess it brought a lot of joy for him to hear his apo greet and sing to him. I believe it was a very good start for the day and we look forward to our celebration of Tatay's 78th this coming weekend at my parents' home in Cainta.

Tatay with my first cousin Manang Ayo during the wedding of my nephew Ariel