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)