Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bucket List

I think I have written so many variations of my bucket list. This barrio girl does not really feel the need to update or revise. It's just that I've learned that at a certain phase in one's life priorities and dreams change. 

When I was a struggling college student, I had a tin pencil case where I kept a running tab of the material things I want to possess. I remember I listed the following: a television set, a Teflon-coated flat iron (I was obsessed with ironing even my hankies back then), many pairs of Levi's Jeans (I couldn't afford one at that time), and other mundane things. And eat at Jollibee, a lot.  

In my 20s, I wrote about traveling... seeing the world. I traveled in Southeast Asia. Am happy, I did. But experiencing other people's culture makes me want to broaden some more my horizon. 

I want to see what and how it's like on the other side of the world. At the same time, I want to firmly put myself into the ground. I would like to start taking roots. 

Here are the things I would like to do and enjoy before I reach the big 40: 

1. See the ruins of Siem Reap. Done. It was one incredible trip forever etched in my memory.

2. Visit the Terracotta Warriors of China and do a jump shot at the Great Wall. 

3. Ride the bullet train of Japan. And walk around its beautiful gardens.

4. Enjoy a culinary journey in the south of Italy.

5. Experience the fjords in Norway or Iceland. 

6. See the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Parthenon in Athens and the picturesque cliffs of Santorini and Mykonos. 

7. Sip a cuppa in the sidewalk cafes of Paris. And shop. 

8. Get to know the Ibatans of Batanes. 

9. Get lost in the colors of Jaipur. 

10. My own condo in 2016. I think we've made a few small steps. Pre-selling amortization is being paid as I write this. So, yay!

A year from now, I hope to re-visit this post and see if I made progress. 



Monday, July 29, 2013

The Ruins through the eyes of a Barrio Girl

This barrio girl had a chance to mix a bit of pleasure in a business trip to Bacolod City over the weekend. With a window of exactly one hour before the sun sets, we head to the city's famous ruins.
The Ruins, remnants of a war and testament of a love affair transcending the test of time. 

I am fascinated by ruins. My first encounter was of the Ruins of St Paul in Macau. Seeing ruins' transport me back in time. The Ruins of St. Paul is grand and in a way breathtaking. But only the facade has survived.
The Ruins of St. Paul is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Unlike this. The whole structure is intact including the stairs leading to the second floor. It's as if the inside was scooped out and what remained was the foundation and the beautiful details surrounding it.

This grand house is nestled in the midst of a sugar cane plantation. Naturally, as it was built by a sugar baron, Don Mariano Lacson as a memorial for his wife, Maria Braga. 
On the eve of the WW II in 1942, the mansion was burned so that the Japanese will not occupy it. The fire razed for three days.
I imagine that back in the 1900s, the city did not have subdivided villages yet so the drive to the mansion would be through a gravel road in between endless hectares of sugar cane. Today though you have pass through two small villages, pay toll twice before you get to the small and narrow driveway of the mansion. Here, you pay P80 for admittance. Just a bit of caveat: the road can be tricky to navigate during the rainy season -- potholes and mud are ever present. Although, we've seen some parts being paved with cement already. 

The mansion is of Italianate architecture of the Renaissance Era. It has a belvedere which offers a commanding view of the garden and the surrounding plantation. 


I think part and parcel of the mansion's charm is the generous lawn. I fantasize of a social gathering of the who's who at the time with lively music serenading the guests milling around the vast lawn. 

Towards the west side is a beautiful fountain.

Lounge chairs for afternoon siesta?
I think due to the number of people curious to experience this monument of love, the estate managers have added a cafe. I think it's a little out of place. If only, they built it in such a fashion that it seamlessly acquired the charm of the main attraction, it would have been far lovelier. 

Permitting time at the time of your visit, it would be really nice to take your time to stroll around the garden. 
Of course, we did not leave without my requisite jump shot. Taught my colleagues a trick to get a good jump. Now, if only Ronald's (colleague cum designated photog) hands were not shaking :-)
We had a great time in The Ruins. One should not leave Bacolod without paying homage. One of these days, I will come back and check out the other architectural wonder of this rich province -- Balay Negrense. 

How to get to The Ruins: 
If you're coming from Bacolod City, take a jeepney that is going to Bata. Get off at the Pepsi Bottling Plant. Beside it is a tricycle terminal that will take you there.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My two cents on being poor

I had an interesting conversation last night with friends Mara and Zhorai regarding illegal settlers. Both were born and raised in Manila but have distant relations in the province and I, the barrio girl. The discussion stem from recent social events that spurred commentaries on how urban illegal settlers should be treated. Of course, there are two opposing sides. 

My two cents on being poor. 

In this country, there are two types of poor citizens: the rural poor and the urban poor. The urban poor has a sub-type I call, the professional urban poor. 

Let me tell you a short story. I grew up poor. Rural poor. So I know what being poor means. My father is a salaried man who worked for one of the banana plantations in our province. We are the banana capital of the Philippines. 

Having said that, there are two things that are guaranteed in our life. As long as the banana leaves are green, my father has a job and there would be food on the table. We never found ourselves hungry, unclothed or uneducated because all of our basic needs can be had through the company my father and the rest of the hundreds of employees in the barrio work for. 

We had access to medical care, the simple ones are treated at the company dispensary. Consultation with the company physician is free, medicine dispensation is subsidized. Pharma samples were always handed out to patients who need them. Our medical history is neatly stacked in our folders in the clinic's filing cabinet. It only stops once you reach your 21st birthday -- dependent, no more. For hospitalization, we had access to the largest hospital in the city. We even have our private ambulance for emergencies. 

I've witnessed many families in the wee hours of the night call for ambulance while the neighbors crowd and willingly offer a helping hand. Everyone gets an access to it fast. Admittance is a cinch; just present your company ID. Letter of Authority to follow.  Discharge at the hospital regardless of the hospital bill is easy. The employee (either the husband or the wife) just signs the papers at the billing section. 

For a long good while, I naively thought that hospitalization is free. But when my parents incurred a hefty bill for my youngest brother's hospitalization I then learned that yes, we get discharged without paying the hospital but only because the company my father works for, guarantees it. But a great portion of that bill in amortized amount is deducted from his salary. 

Grocery, fresh produce, school supplies and even hardware supplies are available at a huge bodega where we just submit the list of things we need, signed by our parents and voila we go home with bags of goodies. For a while there, I thought we get them for free. Ha ha. I found out these too were deducted from my father's pay. 

With all the expenses we incur, it's no wonder my father's take home pay is just enough to pay for electricity, kids' allowances and other needs. No more extra cash for vacation or even trips to the city. 

Our barrio has a large public elementary school. Almost everyone's kids studied there including us. We had good teachers, nice classrooms outfitted with comfort rooms. No one did classes under the shade of a tree. We had a huge play ground with majestic acacia trees surrounding it. This frees all the parents the worry that comes from paying tuition. 

The big public high school is located outside the barrio. In fact the town is about 15 minutes away. So the company provides us a school bus. Not the cute ones that I see ferrying kids here in the metro. It's a huge bus that can load about a hundred kids to school. And we ride for free. Again, this frees our parents precious cash to dispense with. 

And yet, even with all these provisions the family income is just always enough. Sometimes less. You know why? The wages in the province is way below the income of those in the cities. 

But my family and those of my entire barrio never gave up. They just continue to work harder, tended gardens and saved for the children's college education. Because college is no longer free. And company scholarship is scarce considering the thousands of employees' kids vying for a slot.

It's the sort of picture growing up rural poor paints. 

Fast forward to early 2000s. I am already working with one of the biggest multinational companies in the country. My first area of assignment is Samar in the Visayas region. Samar is ranked as the poorest province in the Philippines. 

Source of livelihood is almost akin to my province -- agriculture. But theirs tended to be a farm-to-market type. Ours was export-oriented. Imagine the difficulties when crops are damaged during typhoons, droughts and everything else in between. 

I had my first glimpse of what being rural poor really means. When you don't have an organization to lean to in times of hardship, you have no one but you and the land. I've seen vast expanse of lands and yet the houses dotting them are way too small for a family of four or six or eight. Most of them are made from bamboo and thatched cogon for roofing. Imagine living in it whilst threatened by strong winds during typhoon season. Samar faces the pacific.

I met a struggling working college student who shared with me that the first glass pitcher they have used was a gift from Avon. Before that water is stored in an earthen jar. And in age where electricity is a need, their house is yet to be connected. 

Since then, I have learned to be truly thankful for my blessings. I cannot imagine how their other needs are met when the tough gets going for them. 

It's tough and heart breaking. Here are these families who work so hard to till the lands and yet they continue to struggle despite labor, diligence and perseverance. Not enough. And yet they don't blame the government for their plight. They just hope that someday a portion of the government coffer trickles to their community to build those much needed farm roads, community health centers and permanent health workers. 

Sad. But it's the stark reality. 

Now, let's talk about the urban poor. 

I believe most of them came from the province hopeful of greener pastures in the big city. Before leaving their lands, they must have fiercely believed that Manila will cure them of poverty. I know it may sound absurd but to us who lived in the far flung provinces, Manila has this mystified image as the land of plenty and opportunity. 

But we know that the disparity of whatever is aplenty is wide between the haves and the have-nots. And so it begins the vicious cycle of hopeful probinsiyanos arriving in the big city, shockingly dismayed and yet retains their pride by prodding on in spite of the odds. They are those who defy their situation by finding employment as construction workers, janitors, metro aide, and small entrepreneurs. They believe that time and odds that tip on their favor will lead them to a better life. And I salute them. For whatever occupation they have that requires their blood and sweat is to be admired. There is dignity in labor

My heart is crushed whenever I see how dire their situation is. They live in the dumps because they cannot afford to be anywhere else. 
One of the security guards in the building where I live collects and segregates our garbage. He salvages those that can be sold to the junk shop. He bikes to and from work. Yet in one of our conversations, I learned that his eldest daughter is married to an American and now lives in the US. But he still works hard and look for extra income because his other kids are still in college and high school. He could have taken the easy route and demand allotment from the daughter who is based abroad. But no. I don't think he is very poor but I would surmise that with his income he belongs to the poverty scale, as measured in the poverty index. 

Dignity of labor.

And then there's the professional urban poor. These are those who have been skilled, experts even in being awarded housing in re-settlements sites, sell the housing rights and go back to the slums. Repeat the cycle. Endlessly.

To the argument of Zhorai, it is absurd to fault them to think about the short-term benefit of this arrangement. They grasp at straws when it comes to what little comfort the measly sum can give them. And besides regardless of the amount they generate, it never amounts to anything. For the obvious reason that they are not financially literate. 

And it can even be said about the working professionals. So, it's really hard to expect our urban poor neighbors to make a fortune out of small change. 

I admire the organizations who look after the plight of the urban poor but I hate it when they insist that these illegal settlers must be provided for by the government with decent housing because it's the government responsibility. 

Please, they're not the only the poor in this country. While it is the government's responsibility to provide opportunities for employment and education, it is likewise the responsibility of these illegal settlers to understand that the owners of the land they borrowed have a right to get it back from them. I believe that our freedom is not absolute. It is limited by the rights of others.

I think we should not coddle them. It gives them a false sense of right and entitlement. What we need is for the government and the private sector to work together to design and implement a comprehensive plan that will provide equal opportunities for all -- and hopefully the scale will not tip too much to a certain sector of the society. 

Meantime, let's not indulge and encourage them to defy government efforts to be re-settled. What we need to do is ensure that they are built a functional community so that they do not get tempted to look for another empty land and illegally squat again.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The tenderest loin is at Saboten

Lately, I have this compulsion to eat everything that's Japanese cuisine. My first love really is sashimi. Maybe it's rooted from my childhood memories of eating kinilaw (fresh tuna in vinegar and cucumber) on weekends. That was the usual fare.

And then my palate got introduced to the explosion of flavors of ramen. And the difference in provenance puts a spin to its taste. And then, Yabu came along. Suddenly, Katsu is no longer just one of the dishes in a Japanese cuisine. It has become a specialty in the Filipino palate. Of course, I went and checked it out. 

Am not a gourmand but I do know how to appreciate good food. I also do not impose my taste on others. But I get excited about sharing my fondness for certain types. When about a month ago Saboten opened, the hype and fuss that came with it are astounding

Uncharacteristically, it took me a while to brave the crowd. Until two Sundays ago. Tyrone and I had a long leisurely late lunch. When the belly is empty, anything is usually palatable. But I kid you not, it's not the case here. 
At four in the afternoon, you would think getting a table is easy. But no. We were wait-listed. About 20 minutes later, we were shown our table. Ah, the thrill of anticipation.
Once seated, the first activity to keep your hands busy is to grind the sesame seeds for the dip/sauce. 
Sesame seeds for the dip/sauce.
 While waiting for the main course, you can feast on a cabbage salad.
It is yummiest when paired with sesame dressing. Scout's honor. I didn't know cabbage can be really this good. The secret is all in the dressing.
Cabbage Salad dressings: Citrus and Sesame
Or you can munch on pickles. Refillable, too.
Now, the main course. Truth be told, we chose to order its original -- the signature menu.  The tenderloin set has 3 sizes: Small (P375), M (P395) and L (P425)
Large size.
Small size.
 Any order comes with a cup of rice (refillable) and miso soup (refillable). House Tea is also provided should you want it. You can take it hot or cold. 

I think it's wise not to order dessert or another main course if you order this set because it's really filling. The cabbage salad alone takes up a lot of belly space. But it's hard to say no to it naman kasi nga masarap

I must say that the pork (katsu) is the tenderest that I have ever tasted. It's love at first bite. Flavor is very subtle; it makes you want to chew leisurely to savor the taste. That good. In fact, two nights later am back with Mara who eats there on average, at least once a week.

In a few weeks of operation, it already claimed the number 1 spot in Spot.ph Top 10 Tonkatsu. So, don't just take my word for it.

If you're curious check it at the G/F Serendra Piazza, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.



Friday, July 12, 2013

Stockton Place

I found out about Stockton Place last week in an online news article. It piqued my interest as I am perpetually in search of food haunts. It seemed out of the way and interesting. Just like the speakeasy next door, The Blind Pig, which happens to be a sibling. 
This restaurant doesn't advertise its name except for this board. Nondescript comes to mind.
The facade with its tables on the sidewalk.
Our Yogini friend Joyce has decided to she's gone full circle; she's going back to Africa. Not quite her home country in Zimbabwe but Kenya, as she said is pretty close to home. From her Jakarta (last Asian country of residence), she's back in Manila over a week to say goodbye to friends.
Putting on our happy faces. It's Joyce's favorite catch phrase inside the hot room (bikram studio).  (Me, Joyce and Febz)
Going back to our restaurant story. Stockton Place is just a few weeks old. And just like The Blind Pig, it doesn't really put itself out there. Word of mouth is their game. Having said that, I cannot get in touch to make a reservation. The number I was able to get a hold of is not working. 

So, I came in early. But in spite the effort, the resto is already booked on a Thursday night. Did I say that the seating is very intimate? It can only seat 40 people. We ended up at the bar. Quite uncomfortable when you're having pasta linguine. Ha ha ha. 

The restaurant starts to serve dinner at six. Since 6pm is cocktail hour already, I ordered a glass that's called Eastside Bellini -- it has champagne, peach, grenadine and something. It has a sweet note. 
Eastside Bellini (P240)
Febz had the Rose Royal (P240). It's sweeter than my cocktails.
 Here's the menu. I was told that this could change from time to time. 

I love the roof! It's like a sun roof at day time.

The restaurant is predominantly black and white color scheme in its exterior as well as the inside including the furniture. It gives off this southern vibe of the plantation-era. I think it fits well in the area as it is in a part of Legaspi Village that's quiet and quite laid-back. 

The food, I found to be nothing extra-ordinary. It scores a lot though on presentation. I say it's on the pricey side, too.
Crispy Potatoes (P150)

Pork Belly (P650)

Clam Linguine (P350)
The clientele seems to be the well-heeled variety. But it's not intimidating. Just a little subdued. No rowdy diners!

Piped-in jazz music hums along the background never intruding on the quiet conversations. Having your date there would really be a pleasant experience. 

Would I come back? Yes, I want to give it another try and see if my opinion of the food will change. I have my eye on its sumptuous steak. I saw it from another table. He he he. Maybe on a date with my hubby or with friends in celebration of something. Friendship, maybe?

Stockton Place 
227 Salcedo Street corner
Gamboa Street, Legaspi Village
02 844 9539
0917 8561419



Monday, July 8, 2013

Dipping Noodles at Mitsuyado Sei-Men

Oftentimes, everyday life takes over and you put on a later shelf (to-do) the important stuff like seeing friends and re-connect with them. It's been more than a year that I haven't seen my good friends Jaye and her hubby Jeck. 

We have a nice history, all three of us. Jaye and I lived as neighbors in Batangas when we were on provincial assignment. It was like being in a set of FRIENDS. We lived in the same building about two doors away from each other. We go home together, eat dinner, have breakfast. We even shared one harrowing typhoon! Very neighborly. 

On days off, we would explore places and restaurants. A lot of times, I played third wheel on their dates! We watched movies, dined and had countless coffee dates. I even tagged along in their dives (I did my intro dive with their prodding), wind surfed and climbed mountains (Mt Kinabalu). 

These were the things and more that we reminisced last Saturday when we finally met to have that long overdue lunch! And fitting to have it done at Mitsuyado Sei-Men (the house of tsukemen).  Ah, perfect because am on a Ramen mission. And fitting because we had always been alike in exploring new food haunts.

What is tsukemen?  It means "dipping noodles". The noodles and soup are served in separate bowls. The diner dips the noodles in the soup before eating... Interesting, eh?

How do you eat it? First, you choose what kind of noodle you want -- hot or cold. Am told that the cold noodles retains most of the soup's flavor. Then, quickly dip it into the soup/sauce then, slurp it. 
Double Cheese Tsukemen (P340/regular & P380/large)

The best noodles I had so far. Very al dente.
Krashi Tsukemen (P250/regular & P290/large)

Marutoku -- charsiu, Japanese Egg, nori & vegetables (P80)
Gyoza (P180)

The price points are really easy on the pocket. Honestly, I was expecting it to be more expensive. So, pleasant surprise. It's atmosphere is very relaxed. And inviting.

My lunch at Mitsuyado Sei-Men was a gastronomic feast; happy belly. I believe that I am going for more. Thank you to my beautiful couple friends who traveled all the way from Sta Rosa to share a lovely meal with me. 
Thank you, guys! Next luncheon is on me :-)
 Until the next Ramen adventure!

Mitsuyado Sei-Men

22 Jupiter St Bel-Air, Makati
(02) 511-1390

Photo Credit: Jeck Simbulan



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Breakfast at Antonio's

I get excited about birthdays. I really do not mind getting older. I feel that the more years I have tucked in, the more that I need to celebrate. Life should be celebrated for the blessings, chances and relationships built through the years. 

And this year, I especially looked forward to it because for the first time am celebrating it as a married woman. Oh, the romance of it. 

So, in spite of the rain and storm signal we drove to Tagaytay. Of course, the brat in me sneaked out. For the better (worse) part of the drive, we gave each other the silent treatment. Funny though, in a stop light in Sta Rosa, we both turned towards each other and hugged. Spontaneously. Aw. Ha ha ha. Pardon the mushiness. 

All is well. Then, we arrived at our destination: Breakfast at Antonio's . I fell in love twice over. The interior of the restaurant has a quiet elegance to it. Exposed beams, soft lighting and open planned. Mesh wires instead of actual walls around the dining hall -- it accomplishes two things: ventilation and view.
Hello, fog!


Breakfast with a view. Imagine waking up to this backdrop.

We learned that the menu changes on a weekly basis. The restaurant only serves the freshest ingredients coming from the local farms so the chef adjusts to what the pantry has. Organic.

I love the uniform. It's very dignified. And old world.

We were drooling for the smoked baby back ribs. Sadly, it was out of stock. But the wait staff suggested this tasty roast chicken. It's on the dry side. If you're used to having the usual roast chicken, this might disappoint you -- no fat drippings. But I loved it! It was absolutely delish!
Roast Chicken (P600). It comes with a really yum roasted potatoes flavored with rosemary.


Turkish Bread (P150).
These spreads came with the bread.
 I had the most satisfying Eggs Benedict, ever! This can even be shared. The serving portion is good enough for two people. I had just learned that it's the Chef's recommendation when I checked its website days after I had this. What a delight!
Eggs Benedict Pancake (P270).
Took our time to enjoy the food, the company, the ambiance, small talk and social media on the side. It's the kind of meal and place, you want to linger and savor. 

On a date like this, make sure that you save room for dessert. We did.
TWG Jasmine Tea (P180) and New York Cheese Cake (P245)

 The rest room has swag.

A huge painting by the bath room by some local artist. Swell, eh?
In strategic areas of the restaurant, this signage is displayed. 
We bid adieu with a loot and a silent promise to come back. Hopefully with friends. It should be more fun. Here's the To-go counter. The raisin bread we bought was yum.

fresh greens to go!

Go to Breakfast at Antonio's for money well-spent on food and date.

Breakfast at Antonio's
Brgy. Neogan Purok 138
Tagaytay, Cavite 
 +63 (917) 899.2866

Dress Code: Casual