Saturday, September 29, 2007

Umuusok Pa

It is already September - the first of what Pinoys like to refer to as the "ber" months.

In the minds of many, it signals the start of the Christmas season ...
We were brought up like that
That is the culture
That is the body clock

So - characteristically my body is starting to look for "ber" stuff
Even more so today because they were playing Christmas carols in the mall as I walked through
I longed for some "ber" food
I needed a carbo fix
And just before I got to the jeepney terminal -there was the answer to my craving

Ferino's Bibingka has been one of the Philppines' leading bibingkas since 1938.
A long time ...
A long honored tradition

Started by spouses Mang Ceferino "Ferino" and Aling Tinay Francisco with three clay stoves and a bench in front of their apartment in Juan Luna St., Tondo - this longtime favorite has stood the test of time ...

And the test of taste .
After all, it's been around since 1938
It's got to be good

Bibingka is a traditional dessert of coconut milk, rice. salted egg and "kesong puti", cooked with live charcoal over and above the batter resulting in a soft fluffy flatcake with a slightly toasted surface. Eaten hot with coconut pulp grating on top - this is greaaaat for those cool "ber" evenings.

So there I was ...
Enjoying the breeze
Listening to Christmas carols blaring from the monster sound systems of the jeepneys by the terminal
Watching Pinoys doing their after office pasalubong shopping
Enjoying bibingka

Before I left I just had to express my gratitude to the lady cook ...

"Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay naku
Fresh na fresh
Umuusok pa ...
Ang sarap talagang kainin ang bibingka mo :-) "

She froze
Perhaps it was the cool Septem"ber" breeze ...

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I remember a childhood in a neighborhood on the other side of town
My "neighbors" included carabaos rolling over in mud
And a swampish area overflowing with "kangkong" (also known as swamp cabbage or water spinach) .
The unpaved and dusty road leading to our core housing unit was my playground

Like any young kid on the block, I would explore the world barefoot ...
Slippers were a luxury and were reserved for special occasions,
Or for those moments when my parents would suddenly remember proper etiquette

I grew up feeling comfortable with moving around barefooot.
As life progressed into the realm of wooden floors, vinyl tiles, marble , and wall to wall carpets - I would find myself instinctively walking around barefoot at least in the privacy of my home ...

That is until a cathartic event -the memory of which I recall today.

We were in Baguio
Me, my son and wifey ...
The weather was great
I was walking around in a room we had rented for the weekend
The wooden floor was nice and cool

My bare feet were sliding along comfortably

Suddenly - my vision blurred
A pain shot through my entire right foot and up into my leg
My eyes poured out a bucket of tears
And a howl escaped from my lips

My bare feet had walked straight into the legs of a narra table
Narra ( Pterocarpus indicus) is the national tree of the Philippines
It is considered one of the hardest of hardwoods
One can imagine that on a cold day - a narra table can be one of the hardest obstacles a foot can run into
And when it happened - the laws of physics determined which was to give way -my foot or the narra table

The outcome was predictable
As my howl of pain subsided, I could see the little pinkie toe of my right foot at a horrendous angle in relation to the rest of my foot

If it weren't so painful - it would be funny
True enough, my loving son and my caring wifey who did not feel an iota of the pain broke out in irrepressible laughter at the sight of my little pinkie
For a while, even I , thought that it was funny
But the pain ... ohhhh the pain would bring me back to my senses

That was not the end of it ...
Instinctively wanting an end to the anomaly, having had some experience as a boy scout ,and having seen enough movies
I resolved to correct the situation immediately and by myself ...

I took a face towel, rolled it, and bit into it - ready to take the suffering like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible or Matt Damon in Bourne Ultimatum
Deep, deep breath ....
Took hold of the pinkie
Closed my eyes
And jerked it back into place


I opened my eyes
I was still alive
The two laughing hyenas had frozen in their tracks
Their eyeballs close to popping out in disbelief
Suddenly they were concerned ...
Moving rapidly to hand me some gauze and plaster bandage strips to further immobilize the pinkie against the toe next to it

I winked at them both
Took the remote control and changed the TV channel as if nothing had happened
I was Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise and Mat Damon put together
I felt victorious
My manhood was validated
I smiled as another tear of pain rolled down my cheek ...
It was a night we all will not forget

Today - I walk around at home in a pair of Crocs
It's a lifestyle shift
Significant and groundbreaking (at least for me)
But the change is for the better ...
I refuse to stub my toe like that again
Been there - done that
Never again

"Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain."

Robert Gary Lee

Thursday, September 20, 2007


The country was glued to radios and television sets.
Newspaper headlines were screaming ...
A young man named Joey was ready to name a "mystery man" in an allegedly botched deal between a large Chinese telecom company and some implicated Pinoy political personalities.

Another scandal?
Graft and corruption agennnnnnnnnn ?
Government officials "fixing" a deal for personal gain ?
Could that be true ???
Unbelievable ...

But then, gosssh - I am digressing from the essence of this blog ,
I am here to describe personal experiences and insights,
Not to make political statements
So - let us just go back to restaurants and food

Lutong Macau
is a restaurant along busy Jupiter Street in Makati City where people congregate for Chinese food that is above the standards of the proliferating "teahouses"and "noodleshops", and yet, not quite to the level of the high end outlets of the major hotels.
Parking is a little bit of a problem - but then that is I guess a reflection of how popular it has become.
The restaurant is modernly cut with a typical open kitchen
An area where hanging fowl and meat cold cuts complete the Chinese "feel".
It is simple and laid back
With the characteristic noise level of Chinese restaurants
And the frenzy of waiters zipping back and forth

The food is correctly "Chinese" unlike some restos which "Filipinize" the taste
Succulent sweet-sour pork
Slurpable corn and crabmeat soup
Perfect yangcheow rice
And a wonderfully crisp Macao fried chicken

The menu is extensive ranging from basic dimsum to some lauriat set options for larger groups
The food is not 5star but neither is its price.
If you are in a Chinese food mood- Lutong Macau might be worth a visit.

Oh, oh, oh ....
In Pinoyspeak , Lutong Macau also means "a fishy transaction marked by predetermination and rigging"
But then - that's just a coincidence :-)

Lutong Macau
116 Jupiter St.
Bel Air Village
Makati City
Delivery Hotline: 896-7777 895-3333

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sa Tabi

Wifey on the cellfon: nasaan ka nanaman?
Dagul: dito lang sa tabi
Wifey: hoyyyy lalake –pinahanap na kita sa lahat ng sulok
ng bahay at subdibisyon– nawawala ka nanaman
Dagul: dito lang ako sa tabi
Wifey: pinaglololoko mo ako
Dagul (irritated) : sinabi nang dito lang nga ako sa tabi eh
Wifey: Nakuuuuuuuu – ewan ko sa iyo

I raised my bottle of San Mig to my lips and chugalugged my irritation away. Sisig with rice and a grilled tilapia completed my private moment.

Sa Tabi is a typical sidewalk food grill
A hole in the wall adorned by monobloc chairs and electric fans,
It is a carinderia cum ihawan
Where I can drown myself in cheap beer
Banter with drivers, messengers, low tier office workers and the like
It is the real world with real people
And I feel comfortably part of it all …

All eyes are glued to a small TV watching a basketball game
Stories are told of how tough the times are
Laughter is released at the slightest provocation
Sweat flowing down from our foreheads
We reek of the smell of grill smoke
Our breath tainted by the power of beer

It is an anti-thesis to the fine dining that I often find myself indulging in these days,
But it is somehow not foreign to me
For this after all - is where I came from
And places like this will always be home to me …

"Bosing - isa pa ngang light ..."

"ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan"

Sa Tabi
sa tabi tabi, bandang Reposo
papunta sa JPRizal, Makati
walang telepono
walang website

Monday, September 17, 2007

Minnie Mousse

Baker’s Dozen was a weekend event at the Rockwell Powerplant Mall.
A select few were invited to display and sell their baked specialities – effectively transforming the food court concourse into an “avenue of desserts and pastries”.

Among its participants was a dear friend of mine who sold her cupcake and mousse specialties to a frenzy of curious shoppers. At the end of the day … ”sold out”
Such quick success is well deserved

Minnie Mousse is a line of desserts as envisioned and baked by a beautiful lady intent on re-inventing herself and doing the things in life that she has always wanted to do.
Cooking and baking out of her home - she devotes much of her time to perfecting her culinary talents. Already she is being called upon increasingly to cater small dinners, and to provide her signature desserts for various parties and events.

Of late, she has taken on the challenge of sharing her talent with others in the form of cooking lessons. Her first series has been a limited success.

Her desserts are starting to command a following
Word of mouth is spreading like wildfire
Her cellphone is now ringing more often than anticipated
And her kitchen is becoming busier than ever

A bite into her heavenly liqueur flavored mousse which comes in kahlua, cointreau or crème de menthe flavors will keep you coming back. Her “petite cheesecakes” are bite sized poppers that come with toppings of mango, strawberry, grape or blueberry.

And her flavored coffee cupcakes?
Omigosh …. hazelnut, amaretto, almond, chocolate, gingerspice, peppermint, orange, banana and coconut

Throw your carbo worries out the window.
Enjoy life
This is delectable stuff

( Congratulations to Minnie Mousse
I am sure that your family of Trees are proud of you.
Certainly the best of luck is wished upon you by Betty Boop, TwinkleToes, Vicks Vaporub, Donald Doc, GI Joe, and Philip Morris as well . )

You go - girl.

Minnie Mousse
Inquiries/Orders: 0917-8382559

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Go get your tickets
There is still time
Three more weekend shows are scheduled (Sept 21,22,23)

Avenue Q is a Tony award-wining musical play that has been produced in Manila by Atlantis Productions, the bi-continental multimedia production company that had previously presented us with the Manila production of Rent.

Co-directed by Bobby Garcia and Chari Arespacochaga, the play features Rachel Alejandro, Aiza Seguerra, Teenee Chan, Frenchie Dy, Rycharde Everley, Felix Rivera and Joel Trindad.
Purposeful acting and wonderful voices
First-rate performances

Avenue Q tells of a bunch of friends in a representative US outerborough - each on a trip of self discovery.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself
Was laughing out loud
Felt an occasional lump in my throat
And a thump in my chest

Avenue Q combines people with Sesame Street-like puppetry to get its message across,
Through characters like Lucy the Slut,
Songs like It Sucks to be Me
And lines like ... "if you rearrange the letters in UNEMPLOYMENT , it spells OPPORTUNITY" .

One easily identifies with issues of poverty, relationships, gender, racism, porn, unemployment, sex, dreams , purpose ...
It's a story about being human
A story about the challenges of the world
All told with a musicality that leaves one humming ...
And with humor that leaves one doubled over with laughter

Don't miss this one.
Outstanding stuff
Totally entertaining
It'll make your day
It really made mine ...

@Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza
Ayala Ave.,cor Buendia
remaining playdates (Sept. 21,22,23)
TicketWorld 500, 1000,and 1250 pesos

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rush Hour

Why is it called “rush” hour when the traffic moves so slow?

It had been a long day, and I was stuck in my car with a temper that could not tolerate the stop-go antics of the cars ahead of me. I decided to take a side street and ended up on Reposo St. now known as Nicanor Garcia St. in Makati. Off to the left was an oasis of quiet where I could spend a nice quiet hour as the horrendous traffic simmered down …

Ricco Renzo is an art gallery /caffe owned by the amiable Paulito Garcia and managed by a bubbly Kaye Nuguid. It has been known as a gallery and venue for exhibits of leading artists . It has also been a convergence point for such activities as poetry reading, creative writing classes, seminars on animation drawing , art sessions, painting workshops and other pursuits of the arts.

I walked into a nice quiet island of art
A reprieve from the horn honking madness outside
An oasis of culture
An antithesis to the dog-eat-dog traffic warfare on the streets
A quiet corner to gather my thoughts …
To indulge the senses

I bumped into an old acquaintance – Alan Cosio
One of the country’s leading artists who was holding an art exhibit – Cosio’s Nudes
Stories were exchanged as we brought ourselves back to the “good old days”

We settled comfortably in the Caffe – a work of art in itself
Surrounded by paintings
Multicolored table linen
A blue lighted deco bar
A pianist quietly providing an ambiance of classic and standard music

It was indeed a “happy hour”
Aside from bumping into an old friend
There was “buy 1 take 1”beer
And 30% off table wine …

Their menu is quite extensive with pastas, sandwiches, entrees, appetizers etc.
But they were also serving “breakfast”
And I just could not resist
So there I was with 2 sunny side eggs, crispy corned beef , rice and a glass of vodka
Breakfast indeed …
At 6pm in the early evening

Truth to tell, the food in Ricco Renzo is rather good – having to cater to a combination of “artistes”, young professionals, and bohemian friendlies who have made this a regular hang-out since it opened 4 years ago.
If you are in the area,
Do drop by
Satisfy your appetite
Challenge the senses
Soothe your muddled mind

G/F LRI Plaza,210 N. Garcia St. (formerly Reposo)
Bel Air II, Makati City1200 Philippines
Tel. No.: (632) 898-2542 - 45

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Be Happy

Her name is V(h)aleria .
She spells it with an “h”
Her nickname is Haler.

Of late, we have become fast and firm friends ...

After the rumble in the jungle that is my workplace,
I often bump into her,
As she drowns her own stresses
At our favorite watering hole
During a buy 1 take 1 happy hour …

She sees me enter the bar and her eyes start to roll as she loudly proclaims -
“Well, well, well …
Look do we have here
C’mon – let’s join us”

Her eyes sparkle as her mascara heavy eyelashes fan the dust off the high table
I start giggling even before she is able to say another word
I grab a seat and settle into the bar stool that is to be my home for the next hour

“Anything drinks?”

This girl is amazing… her English is consistently wrong but she speaks with such English-neutralized enthusiasm, confidence and fluidity that it almost sounds correct.

She waves her hand like an Iberian flamenco dancer to attract the bar attendant …
And points her glossified lips in my direction.
The waiter instinctively understands and takes my order – a double Frangelico on ice .

“Balita ko na-promote ka sa trabaho … “ I say with admiration

“Yahhhhh – it’s a blessing in the sky” she demures
“Only , my schedule demands my time” she adds sadly

“ Buti nababalanse mo pa ang oras mo. Di ba bata pa ang anak mo?” , I say with concern

“Well ...I just take things first at a time. .
Like yesterday ... in the morning I ran into some errands.
And I still able to work in the afternoon.
I get most of both worlds.” – she proudly declares

“Eh – yung asawa mo? Tuloy na ba yung separation nyo? –I inquire

“Wellllll … he is annulled and void .” – she says with a frown

“ Talaga? Ano ang sabi nya? – I inquisitively probe “

“I don’t care a damn what does he say.
He can just do his do and I’ll just do my do
I can’t take it anymore of this.
I told his face ... ‘you harden there’ !!! “

“Pero – masaya ka naman?” – I suggestively quip

“Are you joking my leg.? I am hilarious.
Life is gooder than ever after.“ – she says with a smirk

“Mabuti naman. Kasi minsan, siempre nagaalala din ako sa ‘yo…” I suggest with sincerity

“Don’t worry baby ... it’s all spilled milk under the bridge.
Life must fast forward.

I just ask myself ... what is the next that is?
If worse comes to shove , what are friends like you are for??” – she says with conviction

My 2nd drink goes down the hatch.
She raises her bottle as if in a toast

“Sige – hilong hilo na ako sa ingles mo” – I whisper

She pouts …

“Joke lang – siempre hilo ako sa alcohol …” I quickly add

The moment appears to have been saved
“ Uwi na ako … magkita na lang ulit tayo next week … “ I volunteer

“The same for me. Time is of the elements …
It was nice to bump you “ – she declares as she chugs her last drop of beer

We part ways.
She disappears around the corner.
I marvel at how she has transformed herself from a shy provincial lass to an exuberant city gal.
Confident despite …
Always on the upbeat
Ready to hurdle her obstacles
Enthusiastic about life
Raring to change the world …

I smile as I realize what a joy it is to have such friends …
To remind me of the fire in the belly that I need to regain
To see the good despite the bad
To move forward with life
To get over the speed bumps
To live life …
To live it well

As she would say – “Don’t’ worry baby. Life is like a disco ball – it just shines to the beat … “
Whatever that means – I am sure that it is a good thing.

"To be depressed is to be lonely; to have a friend is to be happy..."
- Guido -

Monday, September 10, 2007


Talking about cookbooks ...
Here is a really great one.

Philippine Navy Ensigns Elmer Cruz and Emerson Rosales were among the hundreds of "rebels" ("heroes" to others) who were thrown into jail for their participation in the July 2003 protest action known as the "Oakwood Mutiny". To distract themselves from the depressing humdrum of incarceration, they started compiling recipes of "pulutan" - the soldiers trusty bar chow cum instant meal.

The result - a novelty cookbook entitled
"Pulutan - From the Soldiers Kitchen"
With a cover design adapted from San Miguel's pale pilsen, the book lists recipes accumulated over time from fellow inmates including the now Senator Antonio Trillanes ...
Some even from the very guards assigned to watch them,
And some taken from the memory of their childhood and adolescent misadventures.

Recipes range from the favorite Beef Salpicao,
To the defining Calamares a la Trillanes,
To mouthwatering Kilawing Puso ng Saging,
To the unusual Dinuguang Manok
And the adventurously exotic Adobong Dagang Bukid

Consider this sample:

"Balls 2 Men"

1/2 kilo cow or goats testicles
4 tablespoons onion rings
6 tablepoons choped ginger
1/2 teapoon chopped siling labuyo (chili pepper)
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed calamansi juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the testicles in enough water until tender then slice thinly.
2. Combine all ingredients in bowl. Mix well then serve.
Serves 4-8 persons

Pulutan and beer(or spirits) ...
Not just the soldier's,
But also everyones comfort zone,
Bringing to mind the warmth or camaraderie of Pinoy barkadahan, pakikisama and kapatiran.
This cookbook has made it to my kitchen shelf,
I hope it makes it to yours

Oh -, oh, oh -
Perhaps because it is a product of jail time being served for alleged rebellion, the authors have veered away from any "political" recipes ...
It is strictly a cookbook - not a political statement.
Otherwise , they might have included concoctions such as "Pinaupong Pandak sa Kamatis" or "Nilagang Bumaliktad na Baboy" or "Hipong Kinorruption" and maybe even "(Pang)Ulo ng Isda na Dinaya sa Patis" ....

Pulutan - From the Soldiers Kitchen
125 pesos @National Bookstore
(beer not included)

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Okay, okay, okay ...
It’s been a hectic two weeks and I haven’t posted anything
I have just been overwhelmed by work
My mind would totally blank out whenever I tried to face my laptop to start an effort to post anything in the evening …
I would snore myself into dreamland before creative juices could push me to come up with something to write

But finally …
Workload has tapered off
Everything is back to normal
Slept the whole day
Woke up ready to eat a good dinner …

Dress down
No big crowds
Just a quiet Sunday dinner

Cookbook Kitchen is an old reliable that has been around for a couple of years
It remains an interesting find for the first-timer and is a great re-visit for the return patron
Located in a small side-street of Mandaluyong (off Shaw Blvd.) - Cookbook Kitchen is a house converted into a cozy hidden nook of surprisingly good cuisine
Laid out with touches of a European home cantina, the ambiance is very laid back and casual

Their “star” has always been the Parmesan Crusted Whitefish …
This is worth the effort of making the multiple right and left turns to find this hidden gem of a place …

We also tried the Pork Steak with Honey Mustard Sauce which is cooked with light soy, rosemary and spices. Then there was the USA Kielbasa Sausage which was crunchylicious.

Easy dining.
Reasonable prices
Quaint and cozy

It’s worth a try.

Cookbook Kitchen
8 Socorro Fernandez St.
Mandaluyong City
Tel. (63-2) 724 3595