Tuesday, August 24


So, since it is common knowledge that I lack the ability of following through anything thoroughly, I will try to write in random here in my blog--stay long enough to warm the place, but not that long to contrive another senseless entry, just for the sake of. 

Over the few months that I was away, life again happened. Some in a good way, as I see my children on the grind and enjoying school, I have finished the last Harry Potter book, yay!; after which I felt a frenzy for reading again, so it seems I had been in good company of Willa Cather, Isabel Allende---from which thought I derive much pleasure-----and some which happened in not such a good way, namely that I had been ill and was having episodes of stabbing pains that I was clueless about until an ultrasound told me that stones had been making a sanctuary of my gall bladder. 

The surgery went fine, but the psychological pain was something I would not venture to talk about right this moment. Suffice it to say that I am gall-free today, but a slight amount of fat in what I eat would render my insides a wreck. The migraines are still there, but they are not as often anymore. This was a fair amount of warning for me not to take my health for granted, so I am right into that.

Thursday, June 17

I'd like to think I'm at 
a crossroads.
Discovering a path
which does 
converge with 
the old 
familiar one
but on which 
is more promise
of change
of goodness
of everything
that is 

Thursday, June 10

In Praise of Food

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw

I am not a good cook thus I content myself on appreciating what is served on the dinner table. I am no certified gourmand either so I cannot claim to be a reliable source of opinion on culinary fares. I wouldn’t possibly even identify what’s in the food that I indiscriminately stuff into my mouth, just that if it’s not spoiled, then it’s a go; but if it’s laden with cyanide and I suddenly fell  stiff on the floor , then it’s a bit late to do some complaining, ain’t it?  And try as I might to whip up something good in the kitchen,  I do so with very little success. It’s a relief, hence, to have a husband who is skilled with his meat and herbs, like he is with his graphic designs. My only critique about Oliver’s cooking is that he gets homicidal with the pepper, and dashes it like there’s no tomorrow, that everyone in five feet radius of him gets crazy with their sinuses. I am a living victim of that.

Over the years , I’ve done the rounds of  Italian, French, Thai, Mediterranean, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, American, and of course Filipino restaurants---not frequently as I would have liked to, but thanks to our company dinners, I get introduced to these different cuisines in my lifetime, something which I wouldn’t even possibly have come across, had I relied entirely on my own pocket.

But like all fundamental human cravings, there are particular food that don’t really have to be chef -anointed,  or labelled  “cuisine” for us to appreciate and hank for it. That is why there is such a thing as comfort food.  In fact, I discovered early on, that I am just a girl with simple carenderia taste. Not that carenderia food is something to be mortified about.  Filling one’s stomach with home-cooked meals, no matter how common or simple, brings a sense of nostalgia, and yes comfort--- a feeling of being in a warm, comfortable place, of being a child again, wandering through a kitchen full of cooking women, of waking up in the morning, the aroma of coffee and newly baked bread wafting in the air, of your first taste of wine and t-bone steak,  of  easy days when the sunshine is bountiful and pretty, and everyone is dressed in summer clothes, drinking lemonade, taking turns on the barbecue grille, dancing merrily across the lawn, looking fondly at the rowdy kids joshing each other by the poolside, just being happy  knowing you are a part of that beautiful memory. I know I am just dreaming some of these up, but one will get my drift.

I found out that most of the food that had left a lasting impression on me, and have in the long run become my  favourites, are actually those associated with recollections of my childhood. The fact that they were all humble family recipes and that I will probably never taste them again unless I spent a fortune dining at an authentic Spanish restaurant, makes me respect my roots all the more.  And even now that my gastronomic experience progressively stretches to much broader horizons each time I eat out with my work bosses, my strong desire to indulge in what I would call my  happiness food is becoming more and more homeward bound.

Cabbage Rolls—one of my most beloved Ilonggo dishes. I say Ilonggo because I only tasted this from my  grandmother who called her version “meat in blanket” . It is seasoned ground meat wrapped in cabbage leaf, and tenderized by pressure cooking it in tomato sauce and spices. Even some of my aunts, who took after my grandma’s expert kitchen skills, have never tried this recipe. Save for a friend’s New Year dinner I once went to in Baguio, I have not tasted this dish again after my grandma passed away. The cabbage rolls in Baguio was of a slightly different variation, it tasted good, but there was perhaps an ingredient missing to remind my palate of the special blend I so treasured as a child. One day I’d like to get my culinary flair working, if there is one hidden at all, to whip up this dish for my family. Until then, I’d have to keep imagining it in my head and on my taste buds. Sigh....

Lengua Estofado
—again another Ilonggo cooking I grew up into. This was a staple on special occasions like fiestas or birthdays, and has become a conversation piece among the foodies in my clan. Years ago, when my son was baptized and we threw a dinner party for family and friends, I asked my aunt to cook this dish for us. I went with her to the market to pick up the best ox tongues, but little did I know that these things, when raw, looked, and quite honestly, smelled disgusting. It takes a lot of scrubbing and cleaning before the dirt comes off, it’s a tongue after all, and I firmly saw to that until I was mentally convinced it was clean enough for cooking. The moment one sees and tastes the finished product though, one forgets all her skivvies and eeew moments.

Pancit Molo and La Paz Batchoy
—I’ve tasted a few variations here in Manila, but nothing comes up at par with the authentic ones I’ve had as a child in Bacolod. Even the sweaty fat Manoy who  cooked and owned the batchoyan across the street at the mercado in La Castellana had more appeal to me than the well-groomed crew at the pricey air-conditioned Ted’s restaurant in Filinvest. Again, it’s the secret ingredient, which my cousins would teasingly tell me was Manoy’s kili-kili power. But could I care? If it was, then I certainly loved me some of Manoy’s power.  But that was long ago, and last time I checked, standing in the batchoyan was now an internet cafe. My only consolation at Ted’s here in Manila is their soft puto manapla, which makes me sorely miss my hometown each time.

Paella Valenciana
—I prefer valenciana more than seafood paella because of its more subtle taste. Like any paella dish though, it’s a meal in itself and one could get generous helpings. I love it when the pork liver and peas and bell pepper and boiled egg are fused together in the mouth ,that creates an interesting texture.  If cooked very thoughtfully, the paprika flavour surfaces and the nice saffron coloring on the rice makes it all the more delectable.

Drunken shrimp—aka nilasing na hipon. Don’t care much whether them shrimps imbibed beer, or wine, or just plain Sprite before their lives passed on, right smack in the pan, perverse though it may sound. The mere pleasure of peeling off their shells, eating them with bare hands, dipping them in a mean mixture of sinamak (spiced vinegar) and  soy sauce, and wolfing them down with a palmful of steaming hot rice, leaves me in one word----delirious!

Softdrinks Chicken—or Coke chicken, to be more exact. This is a simple dish I stumbled upon when my sister in law came to visit one day. Her chicken was wrapped in foil, stuffed with whole bulbs of onion, cloves of garlic, lemongrass, and carefully turned over in the fire, in a mixture of coca-cola and soy sauce which serves as its basting. The steam on the pot cooks the chicken to the tenderest bit .It tastes pretty much like the local lechon manok and to borrow Max’s byline, is sarap to the bones. I have since tried cooking  this on my own, and somehow I would never get the exact same taste again. Gah, now I’m reminded of the spicy buffalo wings I used gobble up every night at Jollibee when I was working on a  graveyard shift. It was the kind of food that leaves one finger-licken and happy as a clam in butter sauce, to put it quite literally.

In brief, my other "happinesses" are:

Peach and tangerine yoghurt
--- I can have it every day of my life

Dark Chocolate
—any kind. The darker, the better (translation-60% cocoa and above)

Blueberry Cheesecake
---makes me cry , because it’s so delicious and expensive.

Barbecued Chicken Ass
--alright, you can now laugh your ass off at me....

There are several other dishes that are incredibly too mouth-watering for words, and which  for sure I have hugely enjoyed and make me smack my lips with gusto and say, mwaaah!

La vie est belle!

Tuesday, May 4


What I got for my birthday.....
sweet notes on my bedside table...
nice simple dinner.....

a roll of sinful, sumptuous (dark!) chocolate cake....

yummy cheese ice cream....
....and lots of family lovin.

Can't be any more perfect. Merci beaucoup!

Tuesday, April 27

Movie Time

Some of the most notable movies we have seen recently, aside from Up,Diary of a Wimpy Kid which preempted my plans to read the series, and How to Train your Dragon (yet to see), are stop-motion animations that on the surface seem to be made for children, but really contain underlying observations of our true human behavior. I also find them very good even when they are marketed for kids, because unlike other films where parents have to sit down and suffer through them in the name of adult supervision, I myself really enjoyed them and don't have qualms if my children watched them over and over again.

Mary and Max
Very touching story about a lonely Aussie girl and her pen-friend, an obese New Yorker who suffers from Asperger's syndrome. Their friendship spanned twenty years through letters, how they made each other's lives less sufferable by discovering common grounds like a love for chocolates. The ending made me cry, but no spoilers here..

Based on the Neil Gaiman 2002 novel, Coraline is a horror-fantasy film about a girl who wishes for something to take her out of her boring existence when she feels neglected by her writer parents. Being brave and curious, she discovers another world where The Other Parents seem to be much cooler and more attentive. Gab and Sophia were horrified with some scenes, especially about Other Mother with the button eyes, and so was I. This is a keeper though, I would not tire of viewing this again. And by the way, it's Coraline, not Caroline : )

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Even in animation, George Clooney (Mr. Fox's voice) proves to be hot, and a force to reckon with. The movie is based on the Roald Dahl classic book about a wily fox who returns to his old wily ways, two years after nearly losing his life when he and his wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) were once caught in a fox trap. The events lead up to his attempts to steal fowl and apples and alcoholic cider from three dimwitted farmers- Boggis, Bunce and Bean--and how they tried to outsmart him by not-so-smart means. Full of sarcastic humor, I was worried at first that it may not be appropriate for kids, but what do I know, they laughed and winced at the right moment. Lesson 101, never underestimate the kids' grasp of the english language. They may be young and little, but they get it. Got it? : ) Lots of laughs in this movie, and also something to learn about greed and over-estimation of one's self.

Relax, see a movie!

Tuesday, April 6


The weekend that my cousins and I were supposed to fly down to Bacolod for the Holyweek, it was called off and we made an alternative trip to Mindoro. I had been to Puerto Galera before, but I had not explored the other side of the island. This was for me another journey with zero expectation, but with a hundred percent optimism.

If we’d pushed through with Bacolod, we probably had been busy participating in the Semana Santa with our Angustia. Born from a family of devout Catholics, Angustia (aka Pieta) was an heirloom passed on to us from the great great grands. Our aunts travel every year from as far as Davao and Manila to prepare the carroza and dress up the Angustia (a figure that depicts Mother Mary cradling the wounded Jesus Christ on her lap). This is especially meaningful to them because my grandfather painstakingly restored it from the state of serious decay, after years that it was noticeably missing from the Santo Entierro procession. I remember as a grade schooler, that Holy Week would coincide at a time when my mother would cut my hair really short, like a bob (being summer and all), and as we were the ones helping out on the carroza after the procession, folks would ask for their handkerchiefs to be wiped on the Angustia for blessing, calling out to me “Ari pa, toto” (here, boy!) –apparently mistaking me for a male. With a sour face, I would grudgingly take their handkerchiefs while I’d silently curse them for the slip-up, thus somehow taking away whatever potent powers they believe was caught into the handkerchiefs. My aunts have been saying it’s high time they pass the responsibility on to us, I mean our generation. Because of that, by default we are expected to be in Bacolod every year, and thereafter, to look after the Angus. 

Nonetheless, Lisa and I, together with our families, found ourselves on the bus heading to Batangas port on the early Wednesday morning. It was a perfectly hot sunny day and the kids were running up and down the roro vessel while I was battling a bit of seasickness. My cousin Ed was kind enough to use his uhrm, authority, to exempt us from having to get into a long line of passengers to buy our tickets. We were privileged enough to almost be the first ones to sit on the air-conditioned lounge. Bad idea, however. Five minutes into the trip, after a small meal of beef strips and rice, Gabby was nauseous and was vomiting his guts out. I led him out of the lounge for some fresh air, but he fancied being outside more, so I had to endure the clammy, salty air for the rest of the trip. 

When we got to Calapan port, my aunt was down at the ramp waving at us. It was nearing sunset, there was an aura of quiet and calm, and I suddenly had that instinct to sing “Ploningggg!”, as I remember the movie being predominantly set on some seashore, and everything was small and quaint and nostalgic. As an aside, I love small and quaint places---the more off-beaten, the more shy and self-effacing the people appear, the more I am attuned to it. I found it rather ill-bred therefore when someone once off-handedly declared that Saigon (Vietnam) was “one big toilet”. Wow, I would never say that of another country, unless my opinion had been borne out of a very bad encounter, or I was just plain bigoted. Even so, there must surely be something in a place that would more importantly reflect its history and culture, in its artifices and people, and not its urban planning, or lack thereof.  To travel is to keep an open mind to new things and experiences, and to give due respect to the territory. Unless otherwise I went on a business or shopping trip, then I will be compelled to shut up about it and keep my ignorance to myself .

At 4pm we headed down to Anahaw. Personally it wasn’t much of a beach, but I didn’t expect much either. We didn't choose Galera because it was peak season, and all we were looking forward to was a breather and the company of family. My cousins and I treat each other like sisters, it’s a bond that I have to thank my aunts for instigating, as their brood of 15 is not a joke, though they have somehow managed to pull the clan together and kept the closeness firmly on ground level. The sand on the beach was as black as the night, there was nothing very appealing about the resort, but the kids couldn’t care less. They scampered off with their swim rings and buckets and shovels before we could even admonish them to stay close by. My shooting chance proved nil as the light was gone, but still I tried. I was wishing I had a wide-angle lens, but I wasn't about to rant and go mental about impossible things. I consoled myself with a few snapshot moments, and forgot trying to be a flickerite. Dinner was spent lounging at the pool side as we went on and on about our childhood, joking good-naturedly about the way we were back then, and the way we still are presently, while the children were just being gloriously happy in the water. It was all I hoped for in a way.

The next day, more cousins arrived. The women found an occasion to walk around town a bit before we did our marketing. There were no malls in Calapan, just one two-storey building where everyone does their grocery shopping. The folks prefer to get their stuff from the wet market and small shops for their dry goods, but otherwise, they seem live a simple, almost primordial existence here. But the traffic light was a revelation. One time, we reached an intersection where a modern-looking traffic post loudly went tick tick tick, almost like a bomb was counting down to explode. We crossed the street in a huff, but in our confusion thought it was a go light, and someone behind us shouted that it was a stop, but we walked on anyway. They were very mindful  not to get caught or be penalized. Funny thing is, the streets were a mere one-third size of a city street in Manila, and in Manila people are foolhardy enough to cross the wide streets at any time they fancy, even if they risk colliding with a speeding vehicle. In Calapan, you sense the discipline, you’d hardly see a candy wrapper on a gutter, and people cross on pedestrial lanes, and not anywhere else they please. Hard pill to swallow, eh?

Well, anyway, it was all a swimming affair in Mindoro, as we spent Thursday in another resort, and Friday  in a different beach. It was a great experience among our little kids and they hit it off admirably. So it was with us and our spouses. Oliver suffered a bit of a snag though, as he had a gout attack, but all that paled in comparison to the other things. The food was marvelous, fresh and splendidly cooked by my able cuz-in-law Jona. Our hosts were great, and it helped that we had service deluxe anywhere we went, and vip treatment at the port, courtesy of my aunt : )

I also learned how to play tongits, and took pleasure in my so-called beginner’s luck (hey I won around a hundred bucks!). I used to frown on card games, and I kept repeating this story to everyone, that I spent most of my teenage years with grandparents who never passed an afternoon without a session of mahjong or Panguingue, but I never learned to play them because I had a self-imposed aversion to it. Someone taught gin rummy though, and I really enjoyed it, but as long as it didn’t involve money, I never considered a game chancy like gambling. Now that I am adult though, I regret not learning to mahjong, especially on occasions where the skill becomes your meal ticket to inside conversations and witty repartees. So, I’ve resolved to learn mahjong this year and bug, even niggle, my cousins about it. Saturday afternoon, we were on the roro back to Batangas, and we heaved our tired but blissful souls back home.

I have not forgotten about Bacolod and our Angustia, eventually. The thought subdued me from all the noise in my surroundings during the bus trip home. Even if I wasn’t physically present, I mentally walked with my aunts in the procession, closed my eyes in unison to their prayers and reflections, and on a very personal level, acknowledged God in the center of what I had done in the past three wonderful days.

Wednesday, March 17

Thoughts—On Birthdays and Life Lessons

I will be 39 in a couple of months. Just looking at the prospects makes my insides go suddenly rigid. How could have life gone away in a blink? I used to think that 25 was the benchmark, an age where a woman finds herself in a standstill and eventually leaves the mockery of youth forever. Beyond that, she begins to shape herself into an ideal of grace and virtue, bearing the wisdom of a sage and the efficiency of a well-oiled machine. So it was a bit of shock to me that at 26, I still felt that I have not moved up a rung and mapped out my life more clearly. I was way past my quarter life and had not started my own family, at the very least. I was still hanging out at cafes and associating with uncommitted friends.

Maybe I am just the perennial late bloomer. Everything comes to me long after others have gone on to revel at new things and make pioneering choices in their life. When my colleagues have decided to find themselves some fine chap, get married and have children, I was still at the stage of aspiring to meet a boy. I was caught up in the romantic notion that if a certain Jay Gatsby comes by, tries to sweep me off my feet, throw lavish parties and shower me with a parade of worldly goods and excesses, I would turn him down like Daisy did; but in favor of a financially-strapped sickly looking artist-type boy who would impress me, with only a tattered copy of his Foucault-despite not understanding Foucault--- just because he is too broke to afford anything else. I had the belief that if he was bold and honest enough to present himself as thus and win me over, then all is good. For me it was a young, passionate and quixotic idea, enough to make me fall in love. But even if I had sounded foolish and impractical then, I was not being superficial at all. 

Now that I am married, with kids, and about to become an official member of the joy luck club, I have to be more grounded and realistic. Good news is that I am a late bloomer and therefore amenable to change. Bad news is I feel that in two months’ time, I will be hanging on a precipice, where 40 looms over more closely than 39, and everything will be too late. Whatever I will learn now won’t do me much good. One day soon, I will slip over the hill and become too old and antiquated to even remember how to get up, much less reflect on things like love and passion. Rather, I will be apprehended by incontinence and the chaos of grandchildren. There’s realism for you. 

We all emotionally grow up at some point that our priorities and our stances change. For the worst or the better, only we can know. But while I’m at it, I continually struggle to discover the more fundamental lessons in life. Take for instance, Contentment. If you ask me today-- and I would never admit this years earlier-- I will say that money, is a necessity. It pays the bills, it puts food on the table, it sends my children to school, it ensures my retirement years, it sets me off to buy some occasional womanly trifles for myself.  What I failed to account though is that with money too, I can lose sleep over outstanding debts, I can lace my feet with a pair of Louboutins and still feel grossly inadequate, I can habitually sip a cup of Starbucks and create the idea in my head that I belong with my imaginary in-crowd, I can warrant myself a free pass into private soirees of  the rich and what haves, and assimilate in their lifestyle by acting like one, I can buy friendships and loyalties and people’s souls, I can stand out and be exasperated by the curiosity of irrelevant humans even if their candor had once been my source of happiness. I never thought that money had that much power, and seeing how people change and become spellbound to it and even become, well greedy, for lack of a better term; I begin to suspect that money indeed can be more important than goodness, and that it all becomes a matter of worshipping the hero of one’s choice.

But I choose goodness, over money.  Of course, if I had the money I’d probably be singing a different tune. Imagine the liberties it would afford a working-class woman like me! With money, I’d probably be jetting off to Europe basking on some Parisian afternoon sun, tasting the finer things, carrying about the air of a well-traveled woman with that so-called je ne sais quoi--- instead of skulking at some ratty second-hand bookstore, surreptitiously reading and daydreaming about stories set around a Parisian afternoon sun and a well-traveled woman. But does money need to change me, ingratiate me with the thought that I can be perceived as a better person when I have it or smell like it? How long will it make me happy? Will it ultimately make me happy? I have always thought that we have to be content at some point.  If I had enough of it, will I be content then and not want anything? Are there things that can be had without having to mention money? Are they a better option? 

In two months, I would like to start something. I would like to advocate simplicity and contentment. I would like to believe that we work to live, and not live to work. I am not wont to be in the forefront of some angsty crowd, crying battle cries of the oppressed or weak. I don’t need to level any playing field and seek equality from anyone, such that my personal values and fulfillments become lost on me. I would like to think that motherhood, and wifehood and womanhood is an act of faith and whether it has set disadvantages from what I had wanted to do, it has certainly done me more good than harm. I would like to convince myself that money can be used for good things, very good things.

I would like to have the answers above and see how it can make me a better person, at 39.

Thursday, March 11

Hello 2010

So, although it seems like I have completely abandoned blogging in deference to being a full-time something (maybe a mom, worker or photography enthusiast), my heart still hankers for a space to go home to, where I can unload my emotions or thoughts. Do thoughts really need to be unloaded, yes perhaps, because it drains me to have that much to keep inside my (almost) pea-sized brain and not have the means to elucidate myself about them, on account of people around me being busy living their lives as well. My only consolation is, I have a life, and am not moping around waiting for things to miraculously move from point a to point b. 

Well sometime ago I have created another blog on which I intended to post my photos. I did, for a while. But as per usual, I tend to start my little ventures and fail to finish or follow them through. Honestly, I get a little overwhelmed with having to keep a lot of things up, I have admitted that I am not good at multi-tasking and that's why maybe my focus is singular in one thing, but any more than that, and I crack down. It's not having an excuse, it's just the truth. So I guess I will keep things simple instead and maintain this original blog. Hopefully I could post more often, or if I lack the initiative to write, I can put up photos of my Sophia my daughter, who happens perhaps to be the only willing model in my, well, photographic pursuits, which honestly causes my self-confidence to vacillate at times. As Henri Cartier Bresson would say though,  your first 10,000 photographs are your worst, and seeing that I am probably just on my 3 thousandth, I am not too worried about it. I just get a little impatient, especially after having assumed lots of my shots were good and end up cussing them to varying degrees once I realize the exposure mistakes I've made, and the opportunity I've wasted. It's just me, I can be that single-minded that if you ask me what I ate last night, I wouldn't have remembered.

Things have happened so fast in the last few months, it seems such a daunting task to recall now what they were, but darn I am trying very hard to redeem myself here. Alright, so my little Sophia is not so little anymore. She celebrated her 4th birthday in October of last year. She had her first pink/purple bike from her dad and couldn't have been any happier with it. But I think the bike was just a tad too big for her frame that after a few frustrating tries, and some cuts and bruises to boot, intrepid soul that she is, she shoved the bike in a corner and gave it up for good. I watched her silently hoping that she'd pick it up again one day, but so far she hasn't. Fortunately though, she is one to always have her hands onto something, like drawing. I have observed how she would wiggle happily when I come home with a box of crayons for her, and although she is  way past the stage of writing on walls, she comes up with these fascinating stick figures and colorful copies of princesses and mermaids that she sees in her books. I can't say that they exude anything so genius that would make me suspect her of being gifted, but being a mom and someone who appreciates art, I would like to be the first person to give her that latitude she might need to grow into this kind of passion, and even encourage it. I see that she enjoys it and proudly shows me her work when I come home, so I can't help but be positive about it.

My son Gabriel is now 7 years old. He is in grade 1 and becoming much more independent than we could have prepared ourselves for. He is immersed in television, and has outgrown a lot of his toys which reminds me that I should now have to decide whether to keep them or give them away, and should stop  buying anything unless he absolutely begged for it. Isn't it true though that when you are a parent, you go through stages of compulsion to provide for your children and smother them with the most colorful little plastic stuff just so you know you are being a good mommy and not depriving them of the essentials of a happy childhood? But yeah, well I've learned, and now I suppose I'll be stubborn about it.  

So how about me? What's up with me? Lotsa things, but now I have to go see if  I can take a break and come back in a few days.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...