Friday, February 29, 2008

76 Rocks

Manila is brewing
Rallies,demonstrations, police, placards, slogans, effigies, marches, soldiers, politicians, soundbites, TV networks ...
It's a circus out there

To calm my nerves,
I always run to my favorite relatives
At their home which we fondly call 76

76 is a safehouse
A convening point for this side of the family
A place where all ages and all generations come together
From "lolos" to "apos" and all the in betweens
Female, male and whatever ...
Boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends, special friends, "friends only" , "friends na lang"
Visitors, neighbors, stray puppies
Happy, sad and the very "gay"
Where the bonds of our family strengthen to their maximum potential

It's a place where we all run ...
To eat
To rest
To "chill"
To party
To talk
To find solace
To find company
To bond
To just be ...

Where we are all family
No matter what

It is a sanctuary ...

Here -one drowns in laughter, love and food
It is an open house for breakfast, lunch, meriendas and dinner
Tapa (the specialty of the house) - on 24 hour call
Couches ready to flop into
Widescreen TV, Nintendo and Magic Sing on the ready
Instant parties in the offing
Chismis sessions in real time
And a loving couple to welcome and host us all unconditionally anytime

It is home ...

Wala lang
Just rambling
About a special place
And special people who make it all possible

Philip and Booboop (see video)
Because of you
76 rocks
And so do our lives ...

Thank you so much for everything.

Don't send a lame eCard. Try JibJab Sendables!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Forget Politics

I can't take much more of this
I just want to close my ears ...
I just want to disappear into the horizon
There is just so much ... too much - political noise in this country
It is so tiring
The viciousness with which we conduct our politics is debilitating

If only because most of us just want to get on with our lives,
That in itself should be a rallying point
A call for the politics of non-politics
Haaaaay naku

I needed a moment of solace
Just staring out into the sky
Revel in the sunset
Dream of peace and quiet
I needed a walk by the bay ...

San Miguel By The Bay is a boardwalk stretch located behind the SM Mall of Asia
Now lined with new, structured and organized food outlets - it is the new "baywalk" of Manila.

Food outlets line both sides of a central park area marked by a wonderful fountain with a synchronized dancing water/lights effect
Well known outlets like Pier One, Padi's Point, Harbour View, and Presidents Tea House mix it up with smaller operations better known as the Seafood market or "dampa" group of "paluto" ihaw-ihaws.
The "baywalk" is secured and kept safe by highly visible roving security guards
The architecture is uniform and controlled
Maintenance crews and streetsweep teams keep the area clean
Music bands and street entertainers liven up the strip on weekends

San Miguel by the Bay is a wonderful evolution of the Roxas Blvd "baywalk" that was closed and shutdown by the Manila mayor sometime last year to the dismay of many.
It is clean, safe, organized, well lighted and festive
As more and more concessionaires start to open up in the area, it appears to be headed towards being the preferred "by the bay" destination of Metro Manila

A cool night with a full moon
In the company of friends
Steamed shrimps, nilagang bulalo, sinigang na baboy, sisig, inihaw na plapla
And a San Mig light
This is the life ....

Forget politics

Monday, February 25, 2008

Once Again

February 22-25, 1986
People Power
The EDSA Revolution
Warm prayerful bodies pitted against the cold steel of weaponry
Doing the seemingly impossible
The power of right overcoming the "evil" of that time

Among the unsung heroes of that historical saga was a beautiful lady who dared to offer flowers of peace to a soldier who was in turn seated on his helmet in a moment of bewilderment not knowing what to do with the situation ...
The embodiment of a peaceful process of reconciliation in the midst of catalytic change

The iconic picture of that moment has a place of honor in our family
The lady is my sister-in-law
An ordinary person who did what she could in the very simple way that she did
In the process - she became part of history
Immortalized in a black and white photo that made the news desks of the world ...

February 22-25, 2008
Once again the nation calls
It's like deja vu repeating itself all over again once more
The nation calls for ordinary people to do simple things
To be counted
To matter
To be heard
To be there
To be part of history ...

Start picking some flowers
And join the growing crowds
Seeya -
I will be the fat guy with a camera and a laptop,
Seated on the sidewalk - nibbling on a ham"burjer" ....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Hottest Place

One of the favorite quotes of the late President John F. Kennedy, as inspired by the infamous Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) - was :
"The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality".

Taking that lead,
And in the context of what is currently happening in the country,
I propose that -
Those who sit on the fence and take no position about the ongoing national dynamic are destined to spend eternity with the "evil" ,
Living through a Hell that is of one's own making,
For "evil triumphs when good men do nothing"

These are times for meditation

On whatever side of the fence one may find himself,
What is important is that we realize that we cannot be mere spectators in the drama that is our own destiny
Opinions must be taken and defended
Positions must be established and reinforced
That is the essence of a working democracy
That we can agree to disagree
And in the end -the power of one cumulatively becomes the power of all, as the truth unveils itself

Much to think about ...
A good meal, a glass of wine and a warm cup of coffee in one of the Metro's "hottest" places might help

In the midst of the sprawling modernization of the Greenbelt 5 area of Makati - the developers have thoughtfully left an area where they have preserved generations old high top trees, and lush verdant foliage
Sort of an anti-thesis to the scourge of steel and concrete that surrounds it

There lies Zuni Restaurant and Wine Bar
A relaxed and casually elegant fine dining venue
Fronting the gardens surrounding the Greenbelt Park chapel.

Barely 2 months in operation, Zuni is fast becoming a word-of-mouth favorite
And why not?
Mediterranean continental cuisine
Friendly and attentive service
A fine wine list
And a vibrant setting that allows one to just "chill" ...

The menu is extensive - including tapas, salads, appetizers, soup, seafood, fowl, prime meats - all appearing to be a delight and a challenge to the palate

As is my habit, I started by benchmarking their Beef Carpaccio @345pesos
My first smile of the evening broke through ...
Then we proceeded with:
- Spaghetti with Steak and Vegetables
in olive-oil garlic sauce @350pesos
- Grilled Tiger Prawns and Scallops in cognac
in cognac-martini sauce served with brown rice risotto and asparagus @775pesos
- Grilled Steak in Adobo Jus
US top sirloin in roasted garlic-soy sauce on a bed of aubergine salad served with steamed rice @ 550pesos
- Roasted Beef Tenderloin Rossini
New Zealand beef tenderloin topped with foie gras, in truffle jus @945pesos

This was a dinner that was worth the moderately pricey tag

It was a wonderful evening among friends of different persuasions
Democracy at work over a sumptuous dinner
There was much of our national direction to ponder on
There was politics to discuss
There was truth to determine
There were sides to take

My gaze focused on the trees
My soul lifted by the spiritual strains coming from the chapel just a prayer away
A cool February breeze in the air
A glass of wine in my hand
And a slice of Chocolate Decadence cake beckoning ...

Let us see what tomorrow brings.

Zuni Restaurant and Wine Bar
Greenbelt 5
Legaspi Village, Makati
Tel: (63-2) 4673931 (63-2) 7570361

Friday, February 22, 2008

Is It Hot ?

Sometime last year, I enthusiastically posted about discovering America's famous Nathan's hotdogs in a food kiosk in Glorietta.
Sadly, the kiosk appears to have been one of those that was affected by the Glorietta blast of October 2007 ...
My hot dog destination was gone :-(

Where now, could I relieve my hot dog cravings?
Unexpectedly - just a couple of weeks ago, I received a comment on the post:
" Hi! My brother owns the stands that serves the Nathan's Famous hotdogs...The name of the establishment is "Htdog on Sticks". You can see them at most SM Malls, Robinsons Malls, even schools all over the country. They also have a dine in outlet at the SM Mall of Asia called Big City that serves a variety of imported hotdogs including johnsonville. You might want to try it out. Thanks! " - (anonymous)
So off I was on a hunt ...
SM Mall of Asia was it's usual busy Friday weekend self
There was much to see and do
But I was focused on finding my hot dog haven

Big City is a not so big nook of about 6 tables
It is located somewhere on the ground floor of the humongous Mall of Asia
From outside it's colorful design is an eye-catcher
I walked in with much anticipation

Good news, bad news.

The bad news first ...
Nathan's hot dogs were not available
According to the friendly server, they had had no deliveries for several months
Ohhhhh no ...
Shucks !

The good news is -
Johnsonville Sausages were available
Johnsonville is one of America's better distributed sausage/dog lines
Available in outlets and groceries - it is also a fave among sports stadium crowds who devour hot dogs by the tens of thousands during baseball, football, hockey, and basketball games
Johnsonvilles are combination pork and beef (or veal) sausage
(Pork hotdogs instead of beef)
Also known as "brats" for bratwurst,
They are a food type recognized to be German in origin
Crisp crunchy skins are their trademark
Flavor is their draw

Just like Nathan's -
Johnsonville hosts an annual World Bratwurst Eating Contest that is a media event of sorts.
In 2006, the renown speed eater Takeru Kobayashi set a record by eating 56 "brats" in 10minutes

Great ...
My initial disappointment at the unavailability of Nathan's hot dogs faded away
I excitedly ordered a "Johnsonville" bratwurst instead ( @115pesos )
"With relish pleaaaaaaaase ... "

I was a happy guy
Even happier to find out that Big City sells six packs of the Bratwurst. as well as Polish Sausage and Hot Links (hot and spicy with real jalapeno) for those like me who might want to enjoy some self-cooked "Johnsons" at home

I arrived home late (as usual)
Everyone was asleep
I quietly tip-toed into the kitchen and started frying a Hot Link "dog"
The delicious aroma filled the air
Suddenly - like a ghost that floated in from nowhere, the lady of the house was standing behind me
She slowly eyed what I was doing
She took a whiff and asked - "Can I eat your hot dog?"
Huh? (Freudian moment)
With a lump in my groin and a smile on my lips,
I shot back - " can eat my hot dog ... anytime"
"Is it hot?"- she queried
With a knowing wink of my eye I immediately replied ..."very"

(lights out)

Saturday, February 16, 2008


The sleeping giant is stirring
The silent are humming
The drums are beating
The lifeless are marching
Ever so slowly ...

A nation divided
Trying to find itself

That puts me in a nationalistic mood
Nationalistic and as usual - hungry ...
Where oh where oh where do I eat?

In the new and blossoming Greenbelt 5 mall lies a themed, little nook - Restaurante Pia y Damaso
Hmmmm ....
Memories of Jose Rizal
Inspired by the Noli Me Tangere characters Pia Alba and Padre Damaso - illicit parents of the iconic Maria Clara.
Just right for my nationalistic hunger pangs

From the outside, the restaurante beckons strongly
A wonderful contrast of beiges and black,
Ink drawing patterns are design magnets for the eyes
A chandelier, silver candelabras, and tidy paper table linings are touches of warmth and charm.
The name in itself immediately arouses curiousity,
A peek at its menu confirms the culinary trip that one is in for ...

Seated comfortably in this small, charming, cozy nook,
Attended to by enthusiastic and helpful servers,
We started by quenching our thirst with - "Tubig ni Maria Clara" - cucumber juice and ginger syrup in citrus water
Water never tasted sooooooo good
All my nation-building frustrations were easily washed away by this soothing concoction

The food is at best described perhaps as Pinoy fusion but is (according to Our Awesome Planet) referred to by owner Bambi Sy-Gobio as "comido antigo"

Starters for us were:
Ostrich chorizo skewer @150pesos
Filo tarts with pork asado and apple relish @220pesos

We shared an interesting black olive, cerveza negra and tuyo pasta @275 pesos
We then marched on to smoked tapang usa, roasted vegetable scramble (salted deer meat from Nueva Ecija, green mango,pickles, pepper omelette, & garlic rice) @420 pesos.
We rallied around a seared prawns with basa fish and crisp kamote on Davao tablea cacao, sherry, and orange juice with cilantro @520 pesos

The menu speaks for itself ...
This is a place for culinary adventurism
A subversive take on establishment recipes
One will find familiar tastes executed in unfamiliar ways
One walks out of the restaurante either with a sense of satisfaction or a sense of puzzlement over what just went down.
However else it may hit you - Restaurante Pia y Damaso is such an interesting concept that one can hardly resist its draw ...

We ate so much that there was no room for dessert - dessert being one of the strengths of this place since the owner (Bambi Sy-Gobio) is the same force behind Kooky and Luscious, a long time Metro Manila favorite dessert station.

Dessert alone deserves a separate post.
I plan to go back specifically for that.

See you there
I will be the Frayle Damaso in the corner makin' a move on a kooky and very luscious Pia.

Restaurante Pia y Damaso
2nd floor, Greenbelt 5
Ayala Commercial Center, Makati
(63-2) 729-5511

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hot Spot

The country has again been in the grip of its politics
But ..
Okay okay
Enough politics
Enough national angst
Back to just living this life that grows ever so much shorter as each day passes

I really now just want to eat a good meal
The events of the past few days had fixed my mind on anything "chinese"
So I was hunting for good Chinese food

Greenhills (in the Metro Manila city of San Juan)- is regarded by many as the upscale Chinese enclave of Metro Manila.
Here for sure would be a Chinese resto worth the drive through the crawling traffic surrounding the area

So drive through traffic we did ...
Tucked away in what used to be a "Country Waffles" flagship store, we found a newly opened Chinese resto destined for "get in line" patronage

Even from afar - CHOI GARDEN, with a ground floor bathed in red light, is immediately attractive
Eye catching interiors gives one a sense of China moderne
(It is divided into a 1st floor with more casual dining
And a 2nd floor with fine Chinese dining ... )

When you see wall to wall Chinese patrons with a waiting list to boot - it's got to be good

Choi Garden was still on dry run - so small service miscues were forgivable
The 1st floor is "hot pot" territory, though a reasonable dimsum and ala-carte menu is available.
Bathed in red light -the meat, shrimp, pork, scallop and wonton slices looked delicious enough to be eaten right there and then
But there was "dipping" in broth and steamboat stewing to do ... a Chinese fondue of sorts
Ask for the XO dipping sauce - and you are set

The flavorful broth base and the fun of cooking your own meal makes hot potting a wonderful eating style
You cook it - you eat it
(So I guess -if it doesn't taste good , then it is your own fault)
Hmmmmm -is that how it works?

Whatever ...
I had fun
I imagined the face of my favorite politician
Attached the image to a strip of beef
And then slowly dipped and stewed it in the boiling hot broth
Fun fun fun ....

Choi Garden is off to a great start
Great place
Good food
Pricey - but within a "payday" budget
I predict it'll be the next "hot pot hot spot " ...

Choi Garden
#12 Annapolis St., corner Purdue St.
Greenhills, San Juan City

tel.- (63-2) 7276042

(P.S. -I will post about Choi Garden's more expensive 2nd floor seafood and sharks fin, fine Chinese dining area at a future date - uhmmmm - that is, when I save enough money to eat there)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Technical Stuff

Sometime in January,
The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded the aviation industry of the Philippines to Category 2 - a category that put us in the same bracket as Bangladesh, Ivory Coast and Ghana.
Apparently an FAA audit found Philipine air safety practices, procedures and regulations as being non-compliant with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The Philippines of course vehemently objected, citing among other things the competence of our air safety officials.

Okay ...
I can empathize with that
I myself felt that that the downgrade was unfair
I even flew on a Philippine air carrier that very same week
One wants to be supportive ...

But then ...
In the first week of February - after a freak accident where a Cessna light plane crash landed in a grassy field beside one of Manila's malls - the Chief of our Air Transportation Investigation Board, after initiating his investigation, was quoted as follows:

“We will tear down the engine to see what caused the crash.
But based on our initial findings, the pilot said the engine conked out,”

Hahahaha ...
That's the chief talking ....
Really technical stuff
International standard for sure
Hmmmmm - I don't know now - maybe the FAA was right.


Sunday, February 10, 2008


Manila's Filipino-Chinese community is in an uproar over the insensitivity (or is it just plain arrogance?) of a government official in uttering remarks that were considered denigrating to Chinese in the Philippines. With the uncouthness of an uneducated barbarian, he successfully angered a community that considers itself as historically part of Filipino lineage ... a community that has contributed so much to the evolution of Philippine economy.

To consider his remarks as anything other than "racist" would in my opinion be at the very least, patronizing ...
More correctly, it would be - being blind to the emerging "untouchable" arrogance that some believe political power has conferred upon them ...

This - after not so long ago - when a ranting venemous senator of the land accused the same community as having "invented corruption" ...

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ...
(These two "servants of the people" deserve a couple of Shaolin chops to the neck .... hai-yahhhhhhhh)

All this is part of an ongoing national tele"nobela" complete with an unbelievable plot of power, money, greed, corruption, crime, adventure, and comedy - a tele-series of sorts that has the nation glued to television sets, radios and broadsheets
The Philippines is indeed an interesting place to be in these days ...

What are we to do?
What can the lowly hordes of us who are simply ordinary citizens do?

We could complain but our national history has shown that we might be threatened with technicalities of the very law that we thought was in place to protect us...;
We could ask our elected "representatives" - the voices of the people, those we voted into place to protect us, to actually protect us ... but they appear to be pre-occupied with "pursuing " other things";
We could run to the media - even as they legalese themselves out of jail , survive assasination attempts, or hurdle the libel cases that are strewn across their paths to the truth - but we would only be heard for as long as the story sells;
We could congregate and shout to the high heavens, enumerate our frustrations with life, or voice our desire for change - but we would have to be ready to face the consequences of being thought of as committing rebellion or some similar subversion.

Or we could simply be Gandhi ...
"Be the change you wish to see in the world"
Change from within
And wait ...
Wait till the slow momentum of the inevitable defines the history of tomorrow.

The nation is as usual ... divided.
So what else is new?

Friday, February 01, 2008


U.P. beloved
My alma mater dear

Ohhhhhh -the memories of university life
Riding the "IKOT" jeep
Going the other way on the "TOKI"
How much more proof do you need that this was the center of the "inteligensia"

Walking around in slippers
When slippers were still "tsinelas"
Worn by force of circumstance
Not quite like today's "flip-flops"
Which are worn by force of fashion ...

Learning the building blocks that would form the basis of my future
Long before "futures" could be traded
Facing the many realities of life
Long before "reality" was a television show
Being reckless and carefree
Long before "CAREFREE" was a means to "stay fresh and confident"...

Yes - peyups
Cradle of activism
Incubator of national pride
Fighting for causes
Marching for principle

Boisterous laughter
Infinite adventure
Passionate romance
Memories meant to last
The Kodak moments of my life ...

Hmmmmmm ....
So -wat da heck got me into this nostalgic mood?

Well ...
Today I walked into a "Rodic's Diner" - in Makati !!!
What a pleasant surprise ...

Rodic's was and is a landmark in the U.P Diliman campus
A canteen-type fave hang-out where we used to have the bestest "tapsilog" in the world ( or was that all that we could afford with our meager allowance)

Every Diliman "peyups" grad has been to Rodic's - right?
After all, it has been around forever (actually - since 1949)

Well - it is surprisingly now also in Makati
Typically activist as the 'peyup"er is - Rodic's brings its humble plastic table and monobloc chair set-up, to this urban steel and concrete block of commerce right smack in the middle of the country's financal center

I walked into an "inihaw na smoke" ambiance,
With a Larry Alcala inspired cartoon on the wall.
The two lady servers were familiarly as informal as they would be in some off-road campus corner.
An open kitchen revealed the organized mess that is the center of this "cantina of my past".

The tapsilog?
Just as I remember it.
Deliciously shredded , maybe even macerated
Served with an oil-bathed egg on a crumbling mound of rice
Not the prettiest of sights ...
But add a splash of vinegar, take a hearty bite - and you will savor the oh so familiar taste of university meat

If you are a U.P. cheap food junkie
Who finds himself (or herself) in the rat race of the urban jungle in Makati,
Take a break
Loosen the tie
Have a "tapsilog" at Rodic's - and be transported to the good old days

Ohhhh ...
Forget the cashier or the server,
Just "PAY (as you order) TO THE COUNTER"
Yes - you heard me -pay to the counter

( hahaha -I told you - the center of "inteligensia" )

Rodic's Diner
Salcedo Street, Legaspi Village

Call 75-928-75 for delivery