28 December 2007

Lessons from the Lanzones

Today, looking at all the fruits we received as gifts from friends, such as apples, pears, pomelos, dragon fruit, persimmon and grapes, I wondered why no one bothered to give out local fruits as gifts for Christmas. Even the pomelo was imported. Where were all the locally available fruit? To my knowledge, pears, apples and persimmon still do not grow in the tropical climate of the Philippines.

In my mind, I went through all our local fruits and the various ways we usually eat them at home:

- Mangosteen: We in our clan, for some reason, call this as "Mango-stan". My favorite fruit! Since I was a kid, I would feel that all that thick purple rind was such a waste for it is usually thrown away. Now we know of its natural curative properties, even for Cancer.

- Balimbing (Star fruit): As seen in the picture above, of a still unripe and green Balimbing, we still have a tree of this in Pasig. This is so good when it is ripe. Say no to the giant ones found in markets these days, they just don't have the same flavor. Say no to real-life political balimbings as well, hehe.

- Siniguelas (Spanish Plum): As we were growing up, our 'katiwala' in Binangonan would bring 'kaings' of these small fruit to our home from our farm. My mom prefers the slightly raw and crunchier fruit, I prefer the fully ripe, softer ones.

- Lanzones: You can't stop eating this once you've started. A word of advice though, don't eat it on an empty stomach, unless you're constipated. Major laxative! You can also smoke dried lanzones peels to drive away mosquitoes. No, you don't smoke it like a cigarette, you burn it and just allow it to smoke. Duh.

- Duhat (Java Plum): We had a huge tree of this in Binangonan. We would place them in a sealed container with a little rock salt and shake them vigorously, afterwhich, voila! Non-stop duhat eating. The salt hides the somewhat bitter taste while all the shaking tenderizes, and I swear, sweetens them. They make this into wine too, though I have never tried it.

- Kasuy (Cashew): I think I am allergic to the nuts, my tongue hurts for days after, but the fruits are wonderful! What is better are the young leaves of the tree. Eat them raw with some spicy, fried dish. It is bitter, but

- Pinya (Pineapple): I don't particularly like this fruit because I usually eat my fruits either first thing in the morning or right before meals, on an empty stomach, and this fruit always gives me major acid problems. I have only tried one variety of pinya that I ever liked, and that was at the Dole plantation, and it is for export only.

- Durian: Ah, the fruit you either hate or love. Well, I loooovvvve digging into them with my bare hands! I love its texture, its taste, everything about it, including its smell. Admittedly, I was impartial to this fruit, and even disapproved of its smell, that is until I tasted a fresh durian with my bare hands in Davao. Alas, the love affair commenced...

- Santol: There are sweet santol and there are sour santol. I, proudly state, that I have uses for both kinds. Unlike others who enjoy allowing the santol seed to swim gleefully in their mouths, I would rather leave some 'hacked' whole fruits in a jug of water overnight in the ref for a refreshing drink the following day. As for the sour fruits, which most people neglect because they are 'inedible', I discard the seeds, grate the inner part of the rind, ferment in salt for a few days, and cook with chilis and coconut milk for an appetizing entree. I'm serious!

- Kamias: As in the picture above, our Kamias tree grows next to our Bayabas tree, and if you look closely, can see the the fruits of the Bayabas in the background and the Kamias bunch in the foreground. My Lola used to make candies out of these Kamias fruits. As kids, we would also eat them as-is, with a pinch of MSG (Oooh, we didn't know they were bad then). Its sourness would really make our mouths water. Kamias is also wonderful as a souring agent for sinigang, provided it is done properly. I remember my lola instructing us to clean our hands with mashed-up Kamias fruits, as she often did. It was supposedly a good hand cleanser.

Bayabas (Guava) - Have you ever tried the local 'manibalang' guavas, the ones not as large as the imported varieties? Well, you should! I was mostly indoctrinated on the imported ones, which I found hard to eat with all the seeds and really, it wasn't all that tasty. On top of that, guava cooked in sinigang actually doesn't appeal to my sense of smell. That is, until I chanced upon one of the help in our Tagaytay farm meandering beneath a guava tree, muching the time away. I got curious and tried that small yellow-green orb of a fruit, and it was like..."where have you been all my life?". It has to be 'manibalang' or at that point in its maturity where it borders between being too crunchy and too soft, or just right....right? I started appreciating sinigang sa baybas as well...

- Langka (Jackfruit): Eaten ripe or... taken from the tree while still immature, chopped into bite size pieces and broiled in coconut milk. Ginataang Langka! "Kamansi" or Breadfruit is another fruit which tastes good prepared the same way as immature Langka. Try freezing ripe Langka so it stays longer. Then, when craving for some, just pull some from the freezer.

- Avocado: We have an avocado tree which we regularly take from, and anticipate all year round. The kids, wife and I love Avocado mashed with milk and sugar, then frozen. The leaves, we use for tea. I learned this from an old-timer I caught picking fresh leaves.

- Dalandan: Among all the citrus fruits, I love this the best. It is great eaten as it is, or juiced and mixed with pandan water. I swear, I can tell even while blindfolded, if the citrus scent is from a Dalandan, Pomelo, Calamansi or Orange. Its scent is definitely unique and easy on my palate --- not too tangy, not too sour.

- Kaimito: Has everyone tried Kaimito? Chilled? As is? I really like this fruit, I can gobble up several pieces at a sitting. The tree in our backyard is testament to our prolific want of the fruit. You can still see wooden stairs, sungkit and nets leaning against our trees.

And there are others: tiyesa, marang, mabolo (which I still need to try) and all the rest of the clan... I love you all!

Considering that the mango and watermelon are probably out of season, I just tried imagining how good and juicy they tasted when they were still around during this past year.

I enjoy discovering new fruit varieties, specially the ones endemic to a certain location. I once met a certain Dr. Coronel who was an expert in Philippine trees and fruits. He operates a nursery in Los Banos. It was there that I formulated the concept that what is good for you to eat depends on what grows where you live and what is available at that point in time. Watermelons, for example, seem to do a good job of replenishing lost body fluids and minerals during the summer months, when they are naturally available.

Back in Subic Bay, there was this tree that bore fruits similar to a longan. Upon opening, you were greeted with a large seed with thin-paperlike sweet flesh covering it. That was the edible part. I saw the monkeys eating it, so I ate it too. I later learned of the tree's name, which escapes me now, and that it only bore fruit every five years. Lucky me, I thought.

I just noticed that my grnadmother's old cacao tree is packed with fruits. I was told that one could eat the flesh like a santol. I think I'll go and try some...

Yum....eaten just like Santol.

Oh, and the lesson from the Lanzones?

Not so long ago, when I learned that it took at least 15 to 20 years for a Lanzones seedling to bear fruit, I quickly remarked that it was not worth the wait to plant them. Even the economics probably wouldn't work out. I was then told, "It is not for us, but for our children. If everyone thought that way, we wouldn't be enjoying Lanzones right now."

Aha! I was dumbfounded. Barado! Guilty! Guilty!

(Topmost photo: Cacao/Cocoa Fruit; All photos taken from my Lola's backyard. Sorry, no picture of the Lanzones, we don't have a tree of it.)

24 December 2007

Christmas Cheers!

Before I get drunk tonight and lose my ability to write meaningfully, or carry on a decent narrative, let me take this opportunity to greet one and all a special Christmas. Instead of reminiscing on all the great times gone by, and how things were so much better before, my wish for all is that before we let this season pass us by, let us all make this our best Christmas yet.

Christmas time is merry-making time with our loved ones, and that is what makes us long for Christmas the whole year round.

A Happy, Memorable and Joyful Christmas to all!

20 December 2007

The Peculiarity of the Philippine Language

It is difficult to remove biases, especially when these involve differences based on individual's geographical origins. Language, for one, often betrays one's roots which in turn serve as someone else's preconceieved notions about the person. The way one speaks is sometimes a cause for discrimination.

Particularly in the Philippines, the reason why a person from one region pronounces the same word differently from someone from another part of the country may then come as a surprise to you.

Did you know that the original Philippine alphabet, most likely the foundation of all our contemporary dialects, called 'Baybayin' or more commonly known as 'Alibata', only had three vowels? Yes, just three.

They are "A", "E or I" and "O or U". E or I? O or U? Yes, the use of "E" and "I" are interchangeable, and so is the use of "O" and "U"

This accounts for why both "Lalake" and "Lalaki" are acceptable pronunciations of the same word. And so with: Kain and Kaen, Multo and Molto, Diyos and Deyos, Laki and Lake.

So, the next time you hear a person from a different region as yours pronounce the word "kuya" as "koya", or vise versa, think hard about who is correct. In this case, both of you are.

(Photo courtesy of www.magandanghaponatbp.com)

16 December 2007

Venting Out

First of all, I must apologize: this post will not have a picture. Why? Read on.

I lost my mobile phone yesterday, and I cannot understand for the life of me, why it hurts so much. It is not even the amount, I know I will be able to manage that. The phone isn't even technically mine, as it is a service unit issued to me by one of my clients. I still have my personal line.

I have been processing my feelings and I am not even that attached to the device. I can't understand why I feel so miserable.

My last recollection of using it was at around 2PM yesterday, then as I usually do, slipped it in my right trouser pocket. It was around 6PM when I noticed it was gone. I have vague memories of glancing at it ocassionally or even feeling it in my pocket, basically out of habit, but then I wasn't sure.

Sure, it is the camera phone I use for my blog pictures, and I had taken some beautiful pictures with it I was meaning to post: some forest scenes with a real rainbow as backdrop, some sunset pics taken over the bay and some taken at night. All these pics were still on the phone, but I don't think that is why I feel miserable either.

It somehow feels like a bit of treachery, maybe more of fear, of insecurity, of inadequacy, of self-pity, of betrayal, of losing, of being cheated OR this feeling may even be a reaction from a previous experience, this dimension or otherwise.

Maybe I dropped it. Maybe it was picked from my pocket. Maybe I had misplaced it. I tried to retrace my steps, but I couldn't find it. You see, I had gone to 3 places between 2-6PM, and one of them was a party.

I have now decided to just let it go and bless the person who holds it right now.

Everything happens for a reason. Maybe the universe is collecting from me. Whatever it is, I must oblige if it must be.

14 December 2007

Razon's Halo-Halo

I have to confess, I took on a new vice: Regular doses of Razon's Halo-Halo. I know, I know, shame on me. But really, how could anyone resist? All it takes is one puff....I mean, try.
To the uninitiated, halo-halo is your Philippine summer staple made from a variety of sweetened fruits, beans, gelatin and other items of fancy topped with shaved ice, leche flan and/or ice cream, drizzled with milk or coconut cream. One can take it as is, but better to mix the concoction well and blend all the flavors together. What ensues is a cornucopia of different flavors, rummaging itself through the palate.
Now, halo-halo seems like typical fare which would go well only during the hot summer months, where the sweltering heat would naturally prod your body yearn for an icy sanctuary. Not the case these days, where halo-halo can be taken at any time of the year since outlets like Chow King started offering it all year round.
Razon's likewise has always prided itself in its pancit and halo-halo. The Razons branches that are in proximity to the areas I operate in, and that I am aware of, are the ones in Julia Vargas, Greenbelt I, San Fernando (Pampanga), Sta. Rita (Pampanga) and Olongapo. I have tried them all, with the exception of the Julia Vargas branch, and I found the halo-halo in Olongapo to be the best. That's what I think, at least. My friends say they all taste the same. I still beg to disagree.
A short disclaimer here: I have no idea if all these Razon's branches are actually part of the same chain. You know how it is with "The Original Adeng's Puto Binan", "Adeng's Real Puto Binan" and "Adeng's Puto Binan". You never really know, do you?
Back to the halo-halo...
What makes their halo-halo unique, for one, is that there are only 5 ingredients visible: macapuno (or it could also be plain sweetened coconut), sweetened saba bananas, all filled with finely shaven ice, drizzled with evaporated milk, and topped with a slice of leche flan. (Okay, technically its just 3: the bananas, leche flan and macapuno. Ice and milk are part of ALL halo-halo varieties.)
Second, their finely shaven ice rarely has lumps in them, and can easily be mixed with the ingredients as compared to others that need to be poked at constantly. Believe me, when you're dying to eat your halo-halo, poking at fused-together shaved ice can really be frustrating.
Third and last, I believe they have a secret ingredient. I can't believe all those simple items can result in such great tasting halo-halo. I think I've got an idea of what it is: crushed pinipig, or immature glutinous rice flakes. I think that is what makes the beverage a bit 'thick' and tastier than your usual fare.
But hey, with all the trouble in trying to figure out how to make the perfect halo-halo, and making it yourself, why not just order one at a Razon's branch. After all, it probably will cost just about P50.00 no matter which branch.
I wouldn't really recommend their puto to go with it, since the taste and consistency changes each time I order one. Their pancit, I must admit, I wouldn't really know. I'm vegetarian, remember? But hey, maybe I'll try and order one sometime, one without chicharon.

12 December 2007

The Hidden Wisdom of the Ages

I believe in learning from the wisdom of our elders, whose following statements have been generally 'hidden' from the public throughout time:

"Thou shalt not kill" does not apply to murder of one's own kind only, but to all living beings; and this Commandment was inscribed in the human breast long before it was proclaimed from Sinai. ~Leo Tolstoy

To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. ~Mahatma Gandhi

Truely man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds theirs. We live by the death of others: we are burial places! I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look on the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men. ~Leonardo da Vinci

We manage to swallow flesh only because we do not think of the cruel and sinful thing that we do. Cruelty... is a fundamental sin, and admits of no arguments or nice distinctions. If only we do not allow our heart to grow callous, it protests against cruelty, is always clearly heard; and yet we go on perpetrating cruelties easily, merrily, all of us - in fact, anyone who does not join in is dubbed a crank. ~Rabindranath Tagore

Can you really ask what reason Pythagoras had for abstaining from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man did so, touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds? ~Plutarch

I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other.... ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth? ~George Bernard Shaw

You put a baby in a crib with an apple and a rabbit. If it eats the rabbit and plays with the apple, I'll buy you a new car. ~Harvey Diamond

Man is the only animal that can remain on friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them. ~Samuel Butler, Note-Books, 1912

Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak! Bury a sheep, and nothing happens but decay. ~George Bernard Shaw

One farmer says to me, "You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with;" and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle. ~Henry David Thoreau

The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of "real food for real people" you'd better live real close to a real good hospital. ~Neal Barnard, M.D.

My situation is a solemn one. Life is offered to me on condition of eating beefsteaks. But death is better than cannibalism. My will contains directions for my funeral, which will be followed not by mourning coaches, but by oxen, sheep, flocks of poultry, and a small traveling aquarium of live fish, all wearing white scarfs in honor of the man who perished rather than eat his fellow creatures. ~George Bernard Shaw

Vegetarianism is harmless enough though it is apt to fill a man with wind and self-righteousness. ~Robert Hutchison, address to the British Medical Association, 1930

Recognize meat for what it really is: the antibiotic- and pesticide-laden corpse of a tortured animal. ~Ingrid Newkirk, National Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

We all love animals. Why do we call some "pets" and others "dinner?" ~k.d. lang

A mind of the calibre of mine cannot derive its nutriment from cows. ~George Bernard Shaw

A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses. ~George Bernard Shaw

I think if you want to eat more meat you should kill it yourself and eat it raw so that you are not blinded by the hypocrisy of having it processed for you. ~Margi Clark

As soon as I realized that I didn't need meat to survive or to be in good health, I began to see how forlorn it all is. If only we had a different mentality about the drama of the cowboy and the range and all the rest of it. It's a very romantic notion, an entrenched part of American culture, but I've seen, for example, pigs waiting to be slaughtered, and their hysteria and panic was something I shall never forget. ~Cloris Leachman

It is only by softening and disguising dead flesh by culinary preparation that it is rendered susceptible of mastication or digestion, and that the sight of its bloody juices and raw horror does not excite intolerable loathing and disgust. ~Percy Bysshe Shelley, Queen Mab Notes

A veteran USDA meat inspector from Texas describes what he has seen: "Cattle dragged and choked... knocking 'em four, five, ten times. Every now and then when they're stunned they come back to life, and they're up there agonizing. They're supposed to be re-stunned but sometimes they aren't and they'll go through the skinning process alive. I've worked in four large [slaughterhouses] and a bunch of small ones. They're all the same. If people were to see this, they'd probably feel really bad about it. But in a packing house everybody gets so used to it that it doesn't mean anything." ~Slaughterhouse 1997

I do not like eating meat because I have seen lambs and pigs killed. I saw and felt their pain. They felt the approaching death. I could not bear it. I cried like a child. I ran up a hill and could not breathe. I felt that I was choking. I felt the death of the lamb. ~Vaslav Nijinsky

And this, I particularly like:

I won't eat anything that has intelligent life, but I'd gladly eat a network executive or a politician. ~Marty Feldman

And finally, from the smartest man that ever lived:

Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. ~Albert Einstein

10 December 2007

The Bats of Subic Bay

Bats are nocturnal creatures, which means that they sleep during the day and forage for fruits at night, this being the case with the Subic bats who are actually peaceful giant Philippine Fruit Bats, or also known as the Giant Flying Fox, and yes, you guessed it, found only here in the Philippines.

Recently, I have noticed that these bats are disturbed from their normal sleeping hours during the day by, I was told, poachers. The bats are relatively protected in the Subic reservation, but are at great risk when they leave its boundaries at night to search for food. Other factors may also contribute to their restlessness, including too much noise, which pretty much could have been the case in this particular instance.

Nevertheless, if the bats are frequently irritated, they tend to move their abodes, which has been observed several times in the past few years. Subic authorities has moved the original bat viewing area, where they used to be seen flying from their nest during twilight by the thousands. I have spent early evenings with my wife and kids, staring at the night sky as the bats almost turn the twilight sky's violet hue to an almost black as they travel overhead us.

The bat's slumber being disturbed, coupled with their dwindling population due to them being hunted as food (the bats are a delicacy in certain parts of nearby provinces, particularly Bataan) make for an unstable formula in the continued peaceful and balanced existence of these wonderful creatures.

Here, we see the bats converge and attempt to sleep in a tree just a few meters from our backyard. I suspect that they would rather spend the day sleeping in that tree rather than in their usual home.

I wonder if anyone is doing anything to protect our bats, and keep them from going....uhm....bats!

07 December 2007

Ilog Maria: Closer Than You Think

Back during the times we used to frequent our sanctuary in Tagaytay, I used to regularly drop by several places, one of them being Nature's Original where I usually get my stock of what-have-you's such as incense, vegetarian supplies and other unique items of fancy.
After moving to Subic Bay, one of the other places I used to visit that I began to miss was Ilog Maria. I started feeling the pangs once my supplies, practically available only from their farm, started running dry on me and I began longing for the scent and comfort they usually brought to me and my family.
So deep was my longing that I decided to google anything on Ilog Maria. I eventually found myself on the doorsteps of their website, quickly going through the products found on their Product Catalogue section and browsing through their FAQs. Oh, joy! There, I found all my favorite products.
Seeing that the website is frequently updated, I felt confident enough to sign up as a registered user on the site. After receiving an email to which I quickly confirmed to, my account was activated and I immediately proceeded to place my favorite items in the shopping cart. After going through everything I had placed in the cart, removing some items to stick to my self-imposed budget and double-checking if I had everything I really wanted, I checked them all out and waited. The whole process lasted no more than a few minutes, my decision-making process taking the longest time. I immediately received an email confirming my order and was told to keep tabs while they make sure they had everything I ordered in inventory.
I waited, and early the following day, Joel Magsaysay (the owner) emailed me confirming that they did have everything in stock. The email stated that they tended to respond to emails and orders in the mornings. He then proceeded to give me instructions on how to make payment. Glad that it was Joel who emailed me, I jumped at the chance to send him my regards and to let him know how we were doing.
Joel presented me with 7 payment options to get my payment across, which I must say is very savvy of him, and convenient for us: BPI ATM deposit, BPI online banking check-free payment, BPI over-the-counter deposit, GCash (via SMS or Globe business centers/accredited outlets) and Smart Money (via SMS or Smart wireless centers/Smart Padala centers).
After weighing my options, and going through my own process of elimination, taking the following factors into consideration:
  1. BPI Account or ATM Payment - I used to have a BPI account and was one of the first adopters of online banking in the country, as I recall way back in 1998, but I made the mistake of neglecting its low maintaing balance sometime last year when I ceased using it frequently, and my usual transactions stopped, when we moved residence. Suddenly, I found my account closed. That payment option is out.
  2. Smart Money - I gave up my Smart line and just kept my Globe line, augmented with a Sun line. I do have a Smart number, but it is issued by one of my clients for my use while I remain their consultant. I am not making the same mistake twice. Smart already refused to transfer a heavily used Smart money account to a prepaid line I took just to keep my account going when I dropped my postpaid line. Too bad for them, I stopped using Smart Money since. I mean, I had no choice! My account was linked to my OLD postpaid line that didn't exist anymore! I had more than P500 in that account and they never even considered that. This option too, out the drain. I wouldn't go to a wireless center just to transfer money with better options at hand, besides, parking is a hassle in their small, cramped wireless center in Olongapo, and we have no 7-11s in Subic Bay.

  3. GCash - Problem is, I had used my GCash wallet several times in the past few months that I only had P44.00 left! I wouldn't go out just to see to it that this transaction was done properly. Also, their business center is too far out in Olongapo to merit a trip.

Considering all these factors, and the fact that I had an easy way out, I simply sent a messenger to deposit the amount at BPI. upon his return, I scanned the deposit slip and emailed it back to Joel. I know, shame on me, not patronizing the tech route in spite of my profession, but this was really the most convenient given the circumstances. Hehe.

My total order amounted to P1,317.00 and since the total weight was 2Kgs, I just had to add an additional P155.00 for shipping.

Joel confirmed receipt of my email, including the scanned deposit slip, at 6AM the following day and shipped the products out.

I got my order via FedEx/Air21 at 10AM, in the jungles of Subic, the day after it was shipped. Total time it took me from placing the order, paying and finally receiving the order: around 60hrs or less than 3 days. Not bad, not bad at all! This all happened late in September of this year. It definitely saved me an unplanned trip, coerced by a major event such as a family reunion, with 3 kids a-lug and a 6 hour drive ahead of me.

The transaction may not have been true-blue full cycle e-Commerce, but which I consider a practical application of it nonetheless.

As you see from the picture above, this is all that is left from the original order, 2 months after. I particularly enjoy using their soap, which as you see from the picture is all but gone. We enjoy the Eucalyptus-Ginger, Lavender, Rosemary and Spearmint-Oatmeal most of all, each of them ideal for certain moods. I, for one, use the spearmint-oatmeal soap in the morning for a good perk up and the lavender soap for an evening relax.

Let me share with you how we personally use the rest of the products we usually buy.

The honey propolis shampoo and lavender liquid soap are very good replacements for their more commercially-available, chemically-laced commercial equivalents. They both smell really wonderful and actually make you feel cool and clean after using them.

I use their essential peppermint oil as a massaging agent on my temples whenever I have a headache or if I simply want to relax. For a whole body massage, which by the way only my wife can give me, I use their healing massage oil scented with a blend of different essential oils. The patchouli oil I use as a daily perfume on my handkerchief. It actually reminds me of the hippie lifestyle somehow. I also drop a small amount on the incandescent bulb in our bedroom at night before I switch it on for an aromatic diffusion. I really can't explain my addiction to this scent.

I keep some propolis throat spray at home in case anyone complains of a sore throat. I know my body and I swear that this product saved me from fever on many an ocassion. The times I ignored those first symptoms, it worsened. My dad always keeps one in his pocket as a breath freshener. In fact, he has learned to purchase a big container which he keeps in the ref and refills his small pocket-sized spray bottle with.

I take my bee pollen first thing in the morning before breakfast as a weight reducer and vitamin supplement, or whenever I need that extra boost for my biking. My lola gained weight after I had her take a scoopful after meals, and she has a hard time trying to gain weight. Oh, by the way, she's pushing 88 years old and as strong as a she-ox.

My children use the sting-less insect repellant frequently. It is made of natural ingredients such as citronella and lemongrass, so I prefer it over off lotion. It is our secret weapon against dengue, specially since we literally live in a forested area.

Ang before I forget, last but not least is one of the most important Ilog Maria products in our arsenal of natural remedies: their propolis ointment. This, I have to say, is something I take with me all the time in my travels. I use it to treat burns, wounds and 'singaw' (canker sores, I think). Each bout I have with the singaw would usually last a few weeks and really upset my mood and movement because of the pain. These usually start off, in my case, whenever I bite my lip or whenever I feel I am overworking my body with too much late nights and stressful days. At the first signs of a singaw, and if I apply the ointment early enough, it almost always nips it in the bud, so to speak.

Their products, which form part of our essential supplies, is why my family (and my good friends know this) never keeps pharmaceutical products in our medicine cabinet.

For more information on Ilog Maria and the wonderful family that runs it, visit http://www.ilogmaria.com/

02 December 2007

"What do you eat?"

You can imagine how often I am asked that question by people. Sometimes, followed by ".....salad?.....boiled vegetables?......do you eat rice?......I bet you don't drink Coke!.......so, you don't eat sweets?.....But fish is okay, right?"

I have been known to sheepishly joke about "not being a rabbit", or playfully correcting them by saying I am actually "veginese". Then of course, next comes the subtle accusation that I am a closet meat-eater. "I mean, you're 200 lbs., and you eat just vegetables?" Hello.... duh!.....cows? elephants? carabaos? They're vegetarian too! (Okay, okay, I need to lessen my food intake)

Just to satisfy the curiosity of those people, I would like to share what I ate this past week:

Sunday (Today) - as of posting time

Breakfast - Burger Steak ("Arrow" brand, made by the Seventh Day Adventists. They're all-veg) with gravy made by my wife;

Saturday (Yesterday)

Dinner - Bittermelon Rasam (a south indian soup dish) which I topped off with fresh organic coriander from our farm; Pakbet made with vegetarian bagoong we bought from "Nature's Original" in Tagaytay; Fried Tofu sprinkled with Amchoor (dry mango) Powder and topped with fresh tomatoes. Now, the vegetarian bagoong is not a necessity. We had some, so we used it. Carp Patis, which is made from soya and can be found in most grocery stores, or loads of tomatoes would have done just as well.

Lunch - Curried chickpeas and potatoes (not so spicy, so the kids enjoyed it too!); Pancit bijon guisado; Home-made Chapatis brushed with a little ghee, Mango Chutney;

Breakfast - Grilled barbeque (vegetarian, of course), marinated in our secret sauce ;-)


Dinner - Fried squash flowers stuffed with our mashed potatoes; Lime chutney; Eggplant, spinach and tofu hot pot

Snack - Gonuts Donuts (sugar glazed & pastillas de leche flavors)

Lunch - Cucumber, bittermelon & tomato salad with rice (That was all I could eat at the affair I went to, although it doesn't happen that often)

Breakfast - Vege-hotdog (From Country Vege-Foods) and Vege-burger (From Hapilife, Olongapo) with rice


Dinner - Hearty curried vegetable soup

Lunch - Packed vegetarian lunch from Rho-Del vegetarian stall located at the Olongapo Market c/o our client

Breakfast - Banana Loaf (which we bought from Country Vege-foods)


Dinner - Vegetable Pasta and leftover pizza

Lunch - One extremely large pizza (half all-cheese and half mushroom and spinach in white sauce) from Extremely Expresso

Breakfast - Assorted Fruits in Season


Dinner - Indian Lentil Soup w/ Okra (Sambar)

Snack - Krispy Kreme Donuts (which we bought the day before from Bonifacio High Street)

Lunch - Potato Bhajee and fried Vadais (Thick lentil fritters)

Breakfast - Banana w/ home-made Yoghurt and Vegetable Samosas (From Taj Grocery)


Dinner - Vegetable Sinigang & "Lumpiang Hubad"

Lunch - Take-out food from Country Vege-foods in San Juan, enough for the entire family.

Breakfast - Hash Browns

So there, life as a "veginese" ain't so bland at all, right?

01 December 2007

I Love the Weather!

I keep a wall clock with a built-in thermometer on my living room wall, which tells me how cool or warm it is inside my home.

For the past two days, I have woken up to a comfortable temperature of 23 Deg. Celsius and I really feel good about it. Its actually wonderful compared to the 29 Deg. I usually get during summer time.

This cooler weather means that I do not need to switch my airconditioner on, and in fact do not even have to run my ventilators/fans at all. My refrigerator's temperature settings have also been adjusted, the contents are much too cold to be just "chilled". We have started using our thick comforters again, and can snuggle up beside my partner without feeling too warm. For some reason, I enjoy my warm meals more and top them off with a cup of hot tea. We have started heating our bathing water as well.

I notice my neighbors don't switch their A/Cs on too, making my nights really quiet. Nothing to hear but the nocturnal creatures' wild calls to each other.

The scents of all the plants and flowers seem to travel better in this cooler temperature, and I can hear the crickets in the evening and birds in the day agree with me. I woke up yesterday to a scent similar to honey-lemon. I imagined some citrus smelling tree dripping its sap on a bee hive and mixing its juices together. Now I wonder if my daughter slyly wiped some Halls candy somewhere near me while I was asleep.

Outdoors, I estimate the temperature to be at least a good degree or two less, but the sun still shines warm, so I can hang my clothes out to dry.
I also had a nap this afternoon, something I don't usually have the luxury for. It was a pleasant one because of the cool weather.

Manila was said to have clocked in a cool (literally) 19 Deg. Celsius sometime early today. I wonder how it must be in Baguio or Tagaytay. It must be really cold there.
I am ecstatic, PAGASA just announced that we should yet prepare for colder weather in the days ahead. Yipee!

29 November 2007

The Real Spirit of the Katipunan

I should be celebrating Gat Andres Bonifacio's birthday tomorrow, but aptly enough...

With what Senator Antonio Trillanes pulled off today, I am compelled to react, not to support or condone his actions, but merely to remind everyone that love of country is not about creating discord or chaos, enticing revolutions or sowing hatred.

Our National Hero Jose Rizal knew all too well that any profound change must start from ourselves, and naturally, all change that is meaningful to us is one that results in harmony, cooperation, understanding and ultimately Love --- love for fellowman, love for country.

Ultimately, history will be the judge of today's theatrics.

Every 7th of each month, a small group of people quietly meet in a small house somewhere in the heart of Manila, Quiapo to be exact, to meditate on, study and share positive thoughts on the Kartilya ng Katipunan written by Emilio Jacinto. The Kartilya is a collection of 14 tenets which once upon a time, formed the heart of the Katipunan's values. The lessons of more than a hundred years ago still ring true and are as relevant as they were then, today. Read more about the movement here.

Did the Katipunan, long held as the unifying symbol of revolutionary nationalism or which serves as the basis for the advocacies of many so-called nationalist movements we see commonplace these days, espouse the use of force as a means to an end? Read here and be the judge. (Note: click on the blue links for an english translation)

If you want positive change, including that of the world around you, start with yourself.

"We must be the change we want to see" - Mahatma Gandhi

26 November 2007

Hapilife: A Real Find

I guess I just couldn't help it. I said I wouldn't blog about restaurants, but this one is just too good to be true --- at least for us vegetarians!

I came across this vegetarian restaurant while I was exploring the streets of Olongapo a few months ago, purely by chance. I wanted to find Olongapo's best pancit, and I was told by a friend that I would find it at a place called Rico's. It was practically next to Rico's that I found Hapilife Healthy Food Corner. I would have simply zipped past it if not for its huge tarpauline sign laid across its front entrance. It helped that it bore a huge green leaf as part of its logo. I was compelled to stop and see what the place was all about.

Amidst the chaos of Olongapo's side streets, I surprisingly found the surroundings refreshingly peaceful, well-venilated (windy, in fact), lovingly decorated and comfortably clean.

To my delight, they offered snacks and meals at a price range well within the means of its primary market, students from a nearby elementary and high school. A cheese "burger" costs P20.00 and their Combo meals are at P45.00, Most other entrees cost around P35.00.

I suggest visitors try their Lian Me cold noodles (P25.00), Veg Kare-Kare (P35.00), Fried Rice (P25.00), some nuggets (P25.00) and lemon shake (P15.00). That loadful amounts to just P125.00, and believe me, two can fill up with that much food. The servings are generous.

In fact, to my palate, I would consider their preparations as gourmet vegetarian. I find myself quite fortunate that I can get such quality vegetarian meals not too far away from where I work and live.

Another pleasant surprise was when I found out that the owner, Teddy, was like me a student of the Tao. Those that follow Taoist philosophy do not eat meat. Teddy's labor of love will literally show in his work and in the manner he maintains his place. He actually does most, if not all, the cooking.
I was happy that the students nearby have a place to partake of healthy and affordable food. Seeing that the place has been operating for several months now makes me happy that they seem to be doing well. I have frequently taken food home for my family and had some delivered to work on several ocassions, and I must say their food is consistent.

I came by for lunch the other day and decided to finally blog about Hapilife, in the hope that more people patronize such a worthy endeavor.
Oh, and while waiting for your meal to be served, do go through the reading materials Teddy has made available to his guests. I found the collection, mostly of health-related articles, a good and informative read.
Hapilife Healthy Food Corner is located at 18 Corpuz St., West Tapinac, Olongapo City, Philippines. Tel. Nos. +63919-807-0968 and +63906-512-5148

21 November 2007

My 'Personal' National Attire

Recently, I decided to find out what our national attire as Filipinos really was, mainly for the purpose of embarking on an advocacy to promote nationalistic pride through the use of attire as a medium.

Frustratingly, all roads led to the 'bahag' (loin cloth) or some other form of vestment inappropriate to be worn in contemporary times, especially in the big city.

I then posted a plea for help on one of my e-groups, LightShare. My good friend, Ed Aurelio "Ding" Reyes responded that the barong would instead be a better candidate. In spite of the fact that its roots can be traced no so far back, to the Spanish era, where our colonial masters insisted that it be worn by the Indios for the simple purpose that one could easily see through its thin material whether the wearer was armed. Their paranoia led to our acceptance and use of the barong to this very day. Ding added that the symbolism can be seen positively as well, as a sort of show of transparency not only of dress, but of inner strength or inherent character.

Many others responded that whatever attire one wears, as long as they are comfortable, should be sufficient. I beg to disagree. They completely missed the point. I wanted to define what it is we should wear to identify us as Filipinos, so that we become deliberate in our actions, for any good we do will be attributed to us being Filipinos and any ill actions are avoided at all costs lest we allow ourselves to bring shame to our country. An idealistic concept, I must admit, but one I subscribe to nonetheless.

After having a hearty dinner tonight at Evergreen, one of the few vegetarian places to dine in Makati and located at the Food Choices of Glorietta 4, my friend and I stumbled upon a magazine booth that sold a unique wrist trinket. It was made of abaca and manufactured by a group promoting nationalistic pride by wearing this abaca band. (More info can be found at http://www.yabangpinoy.com/)

Hey, I thought, this would be a great way to achieve the goals I set forth to do a few weeks ago while I was sorting my concept out. In fact, I am now considering supporting this movement in lieu of my own advocacy. I find their ideals genuine enough to merit my time and effort. Oh well, let us see what comes of it. I will start digging up more info on the movement.

In the meantime, I am adding this to the array of boodles already on my wrist. In addition to a copper band bearing the words "Hare Krishna" in sanskrit and another ornament made of native black wooden 'Kamagong' beads, which I thought would constantly remind me of my noble roots, the abaca band seems to fit nicely on my collection of increasingly confusing wrist "what-have-you's".

11 November 2007

Plane Insights

A lot of good conversations and insights can be gained from plane rides. On one of my trips, I was asked by my seatmate-- in a rather skeptical tone-- if I were one of those persons who believed that events in people's lives are pre-destined. Calibrating my reply carefully so as not to offend, I replied, "...of course", to which she happily replied, "and that is why I do not really plan for my future".

That statement got me thinking. Did I really mean what I said?

On another ocassion, while irritably negotiating for excess baggage fees with an airline check-in counter staff on my way back to the Philippines, another passenger, an Australian woman in a similar situation, asked me if I was of a certain religious belief because of the necklace I wore. I politely said no, although I replied that I wore the trinket because I subscribed to some of their beliefs. At that moment, she shared that she was of that religion for 18 years, and even lived in one of their homes, but left due to politics. In parting, she offered that "What's important is what is in here", pointing to her heart.

I have to agree that religion still is run by man and are prone to his imperfections.

In one of my trips to Singapore, I watched an on-board movie entitled "Knocked Up". The story is about a highly disparate couple who end up preparing for the unwanted pregnancy of Alison. Ben, the father-to-be, has to quickly grow into his new role. The whole movie revolves around the individual plans and aspirations of each and how they eventually had to accept not having them fulfilled as they expected.

That struck me too. Life is indeed full of frustrations, but we just have to trust that God has a perfect plan for all of us. Sometimes, we do not get what we want, but we end up with something better.

So you see, the answers you are searching for may be found in the most obscure places and situations, where and when you least expect it.

Be keen to the messengers.

10 November 2007

Our Ancestral Home

Our ancestral home was built in the 1800s, as I recall from the year inscribed on an engraving just at the top of the main front door. Although I had not seen it in a long time, I do have fond memories of the place. That was the house my lola supposedly grew up in, and where my cousins and I would spend some summer days and every All Saint's Day at. It is now totally neglected. The last person to live in the house was my uncle, who has now passed on.

I remember how it used to be. It was cool even in the peak of summer because of its huge capiz windows augmented by beautiful wrought iron vents above and below them. There used to be much antique furniture and items around the house -- beds, tables, chairs, candleholders. One thing that amused me most was the old-style commode, 2 of them actually, one serving as a huge bidet. Another thing were the huge statues of saints that were hidden in one of the rooms, they literally used to freak me out for they actually had real hair on them! And yet another item of fancy was the sink by the dining room which had no drain spout. You wash and it just dropped to the ground two storeys below. It was one of those old houses who had nothing on the 'silong' or ground floor, everything was upstairs. It had a bridge going to the kitchen and had a huge living and dining room. I remember it having 5 bedrooms but just one toilet! It also almost has a forest for a lawn, with all the trees growing.

Now, here is the best part: We have always been told that the house is haunted. In fact, the Spirit Questors once did an episode in that house!
Since I was a kid, stories of ghastly encounters came to us quite often, from the help to my cousins and uncles. One of my favorites being the time a friend of my cousin came to pick him up and commented about the security up front. My cousin was puzzled as we didn't have any. Upon further prodding, his friend was actually describing men clad in period uniform for a "guardia civil"! This is when we found out that we weren't even the original owners of the house, it was bought from a Spanish Distillery company. And that it was even used in the war as a Japanese officer's residence.
The last time I stayed in that house was in 1994, as I recall. Even then, water did not flow into the 'banyo' anymore, and the entire dining area was starting to collapse already.
I just wish we could save that old house of ours. With all the memories created in it throughout the generations, it deserves to be loved.

09 November 2007

Resto Blog

The other day, back in the Philippines, I was tempted to blog about a restaurant I went to. I was impressed because when the chef found out that I was vegetarian, he visited our table, eager to cook me up a special veggie dish. I enjoyed the entree he decided to cook me up: spicy curry vegetable pasta. I wanted to blog about it but I ran out of time, I didn't have a decent camera with me and my Sony Ericsson just wouldn't do justice since the light source was insufficient. It would have been my first resto blog, but I decided against it at the last moment.

Today, I had lunch at the same restaurant. The same chef wasn't around, so I just ordered any vegetable pasta they could make up as long as it didn't have fish, pork, beef or chicken. My companions ordered salads and a serving of onion soup. The onion soup was the first to arrive, followed by the salad that had......right at the very peak of its mound of greens.......a small, live crawling cockroach!

Waiter! It wasn't I that ordered the roach salad!

The waiter was quick to pull the dish off the table, but not before we noticed the crawler. We naturally rejected the dish and carefully examined every dish that came out of the kitchen and into our table thereafter. Try eating decently after that incident.

I hereby take this as a sign: Resto Blogging Isn't for me!

08 November 2007

India Eats

India is vegetarian heaven. Having been full vegetarian for 7 years and a fledgling one for 4 years prior to that, I especially enjoyed my India eats. Indian food incorporates a variety of spices, and as one of my hosts claimed, each one has proven health benefits.

Interestingly enough, Indian food is classified into two main categories: Veg and Non-veg, and by default, most restaurants (at least those we ate at) usually serve Veg unless instructed otherwise.

The other difference between Indian and western food is their use of the staples of rice and bread, usually flat unleavened bread made of whole wheat or plain white flour called chapatis or naan. (I will blog more about this in the future)

Food is usually eaten with your bare hands, on banana leaves, at homes and in even the most posh restaurants.

In most hotels, however, a spoon and fork is offered, or should I say, standard.

Main ingredients are usually lentils, peas, potatoes and different kinds of vegetables cooked in a gravy of spices and sauces.

Street food abounds even during the night. This particular snack item, Pani Puri, starts off as a piece of crispy puffed bread. A hole is then poked into it and filled with various yummy savory sauces, then topped with flavored water. I was warned not to try this, first due to the water's questionable origins and later, on seeing how the vendor scoops the water from the steel container, hands all a-soaking. So sue me, I was stubborn. Yum!

Below is a different type of puffed bread, simply called Puri. It is not as crunchy as the Pani puri, but still crispy after being fried. This is one of my favorite bread options to go with a warm veg curry. Before gorging on it, you will have to poke it first to let loose all the steam inside. Most other Puris I have seen are a lot larger than this.

You will notice that even the snack item below, a Samosa --- or savory pastry filled with potatoes and spices, which I bought from an ISKCON temple --- was served in an environmentally friendly, plastic-free, serving dish made of ... LEAVES! As this is the way most street food is served, I thought it was a splendid practice.

A few pieces of raw vegetable such as radish or onion is usually served as a siding to most meals. That, I think is a healthy practice. (Again, I was told not to eat anything raw in India.... okay, take me to court!)
Yoghurt is another common sight at the table, eaten after a meal to balance the fire from a spicy meal, or mixed with your rice. Yes, you can eat bread and rice at the same time in the same meal.
In fact, Papads, or crispy lentil wafers, are commonly eaten WITH rice or even noodles.

Some other common vegetables you see in Indian cuisine, apart from potatoes, are cauliflower, carrots, chickpeas, tomatoes, long beans, peppers, eggplant and "paneer". Paneer (or Panir) is milk curd similar in consistency to tofu. It is prepared just like most vegetables, fried or with some form of gravy or sauce.

The most common type of rice served is Basmati rice, which is unusually long grained and flavorful. In southern India, it accompanies practically every meal. Breakfast, likewise, is not complete without Idli, or lentil cake similar to our "puto". It is either dipped in sauce or chutney.

I had the pleasure of trying out a common merienda (morning or afternoon snack) item, which is chickpeas with raw onions and coconut meat. It was....yum!
Most Indian food is prepared spicy hot, just the way I like it. Also.....they tend to.....uhmm.....
Sorry, but I really gotta go. I am getting extremely hungry. I'll continue this food blog some other time.....Ciao!

06 November 2007

My Flights: India

I arrived in India as my usual self, donning my normal judgmental attitude, thinking how things around me could be better, how they should be doing this instead of that, complaining, whining, planning for my future, relieved upon arriving at my hotel. Maybe shopping would be exciting.

As I moved along to Chennai, Coimbatore, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Agra, Vrindavan, Mathura. The sounds, smells, tastes....not the common. The place, I found, mystical.

I went to the street markets, the temples, the birthplace of Krishna, the Taj Mahal, my hosts' homes. I ate their food. I drank their water. I breathed their air. I wore their clothes and walked barefoot on their streets.

I left India...
... rethinking my life and what matters most.

We are all one. (India, October 2007)

19 October 2007

My Flights: Dumaguete

I was supposed to be in Dumaguete for a job, but once my work was completed, I decided to enjoy myself.

I stayed for three days, and work was yet on the second day. My first day was spent just whiling away the time at the beach resort where I was billeted in, Sta. Monica Beach Resort. It rained hard that day, and for that I was grateful. Frankly, I don't enjoy the beach as much as I do the mountains although I did swim in their beautiful pool later in the evening, which I suspect was heated. It was the first time I exposed my skimpily clad, 'healthier' body in public, in a long time. Thinking no one else swam at night made me decide to give it a go. After some stranger decided to also take a dip, I couldn't get up, unless I risk being accused of obscenity.

After my work was done the following day, we had dinner at this wonderful Persian-Indian restaurant, called Persian Palate. It is located at the Spanish Heritage, right next to a quaint shop that sells PX goods, all for P99. (The merchandise I found there was really interesting, not your usual imported goods. Even by Manila or duty-free standards, the items were tasteful.). Being vegetarian, I had a large serving of Dahl, some samosas, aloo palak and a pot of Persian tea.
At around 8:30PM, somehow late for Dumaguete standards, a companion of mine mentioned to me that he saw some motorbikes, "underbones" to be exact, for rent at a rate of P20 (US 0.50). I struggled to comprehend whether what he was telling me was accurate or if he had just made an honest mistake. We (ignorant Manileños!) decided to take a tricycle to that part of town and check it out. There were 5 of us at the time, and we all boarded this huge tricycle that could seat 6-8 people! It was a surprisingly comfortable ride, with room to spare. The night wind of Dumaguete being so cool and refreshing, I actually started to feel sleepy. When we got to the 'motorbike lender' a few minutes later, all he asked from me was "any ID" and for me to sign a waiver, which I gladly did, and handed over my expired village pass, which he accepted. I started dissecting his rate structure with him, until I came to a conclusion that it would be cheaper to rent the underbone for a whole 24 hours since it would come out cheaper, at P250 (US 6.00)….mind you, that translates to a little just over P10.00 per hour! (US 0.25), so why the hell not?!?! I picked the best looking underbone (a Honda Wave) from his collection of around 15 bikes, all neatly lined up, and rode it away feeling a little guilty for having just left a P100 deposit (which is all he asked for!)….well, and an expired ID. If he had done that in Manila, that could very well have been 'Goodbye, Bike!'. What happened next, I will remember fondly for the rest of my life.

What started out as a group of 5 quickly turned into a horde of 15, with friends, friends of friends and officemates joining the pack. It would be a night of joyriding around a town I had just first set foot on a day before. From 9PM to 2AM, we rode and rode, to places whose names I don't even remember now, while the population of this wonderful town slowly diminished as the hour went by. We rode along beachlines, within subdivisions, in between tall grassy knolls, in between new government buildings being built, by school campuses, against the flow of one-way streets, along the famous 'Boulevard' by the bay. We peeked inside houses of fantastic 50s architecture, preserved as if they were built last week (reminds me of my lola's Brady Bunch-like house in Pasig), inside bars and restaurants, we stopped at famous landmarks, and when the night was almost over, sat a recollected the events of the evening by the bay eating boiled egg, squid balls and 'tempura'.

From my conversations, I learned that Dumaguete had one of the lowest crime rates in the country, one of the largest student populations, and home of Silliman and St. Paul's University, the very first among many St. Paul schools across the country founded in 1904. Silliman University, a protestant University well-known for the quality of its graduates, was established 3 years earlier, in 1901.

With good schools like those, including the Negros Oriental State University (NORSU), it did not come to me as a surprise that the people I worked with that day and spoke to on the streets were very well educated and fluent with their English. So fluent in fact, that they actually spoke with an American 'twang', or at least very close to it.

Apparently, the name Dumaguete was taken from the word "dumaguit", which meant to ensnare, such so I was told, because in Pre-hispanic times, Moro raiders would come in their Vintas to snare young ladies, presumably to use them as slaves. We went to visit the watchtower or Belfry used by the residents at the time to spot oncoming raiders. Another very interesting story I came across, and somehow tied up with the roots of Dumaguete, was the story of their Patron saint: St. Catherine of Alexandria. The legend tells of a lady who was seen walking along the bay (or shore as it was probably then) just before a fleet of Moro raiders was expected to strike. At the time, all the ladies and children had already been sent to the uplands to hide and the men had stayed to protect their land. It was these men who saw the lady on the shore. The raiders never arrived, and according to the accounts of some of the moros on the ships (presumably the same ones who gave advanced warning to the residents that they would strike on that day), they simply could not find their way. All they could see where Dumaguete was supposed to be, was nothing but clouds. When the Spaniards first arrived in Dumaguete to evangelize, the residents recognized the lady on the shore that day as one of the Saints' pictures the Spaniards had with them. The residents attributed their safety to St. Catherine and since then, made her their Patron Saint. Most people think of the story as a victory, I would like to think of it as one of compassion. It is a story of a Moro who forewarned the residents of Dumaguete of an impending strike and subsequently narrated to them the story of how they could not find Dumaguete. How could it have been otherwise? Back then, what would a Moro be talking to them for? I really, really liked that story.

The day I was to leave back for Manila, I decided to spend with 'Family'. The Perdices clan of Dumaguete has a long loving history with my family, which is why my mother always reminds me that we are not family friends, but relatives. I personally believe that we may not be blood relatives, but we are karmically connected, by an even greater bond. I actually took my rented bike back home with me to the resort the night before and rode it back to the City that morning to first take a sunlit spin around Dumaguete, such that I would see it in a different perspective than that of the previous night. I then realized that I had only used up P50 (US$1.00) of gasoline for all the places I went to! Amazing. I had a lunch date with my Tita Maryann 'Inday' Perdices-Templo, so I had to be contented with having just the morning for sightseeing. I practically spent all morning walking around the Silliman campus and checking out the local lifestyle nuances. It was finals week, so I was pleasantly delighted to see a group of students all packed neatly in the back of a pickup truck, frolicking after probably surviving finals week. Now, this is something I have not seen in a long time. I reckon that with all out fancy regulations in Manila, this practice is now probably unallowed.

I met up with my tita at their nice, quaint and cozy resto called Mamia's, named after the term of endearment for their Lola. There is an old picture of Mamia at the entrance of the restaurant, and quite amazingly taken, at my Lolo and Lola's old home in Retiro, QC. My Tita Maryann asked me to take a photo of Mamia's picture and ask my mom if she knows where the photo was taken. Naturally, when I next saw my mom, that was the first thing I showed her. After barely a second of looking at the picture, she immediately recognized the place as the home of her youth. I spent hours chatting away with my tita, as I enjoy conversations so much, especially when they involve stories of times gone by, of events even before I was born. I am neither a historian nor a student of history, but something about stories of the past just excites me, specially when the stories are about relationships. Maybe that is why I dislike history as we know it, peppered with dates, names and places: I just can't relate without the human side of it. Now, that's just my take. I'm sure I would enjoy history if I only spent more time with it. Funny enough, my mind is a repository of life events of family, friends and people who matter to me.

Mamia's is owned by Tita's nephew and niece, Tincho and Lizza, who I had the pleasure of meeting. I enjoyed the food and ambiance of the place. It was comfort food! Sophisticated, exactly the way I liked it! And the ambiance, Über comfy. It was like dining in Greenbelt at Dumaguete prices. Two things I would insist any Dumaguete visitor to try: the Frozen Cappuccino and Churros con Chocolate. Believe me, these are not your usual dessert and merienda items. I heard my cousin, Olsen Racela, and his team went to Mamia's just for the frozen capp. The churros is really different, at least from the churros I am used to, and very filling.
Mamia's is set along the boulevard. You can find it almost in front of the monument dedicated to the seven nuns who established St. Paul's in the Philippines. Sitting inside, you get to enjoy the fantastic view of the bay, watch ships as they sail by and the people as they walk by to enjoy a leisurely walk. I wouldn't have it anywhere else in Dumaguete.

I couldn't return to Manila without any pasalubong, so I scampered next door to Sans Rival to get some Silvanas and Bico for my family. Boy, were they wonderful as well. I usually don't enjoy Bico, but since it was the most recommended item, I bought some. I didn't regret hand-carrying it back to Manila at all. I did regret not buying enough.

Of all the places I have been to in the Philippines, Dumaguete sure left a lasting impression on me. Despite being a mountain person, I wouldn't mind spending time in this place, or even living here. It could be because of the pace, the lifestyle or even the way the place is oriented or set up, but I honestly think it is because of the people. They don't call it the "City of Gentle People" for nothing, I guess.

(All pictures taken using my Sony Ericsson P990i Mobile Phone)