1 year and 4 months

It’s been that long since I last posted here.  I pretty much think that maybe I have commitment issues when it comes to doing things by myself and for myself.

I’ve traveled quite a few places since then.  But I failed to write about it.  I wonder why.

I’ve felt a bit of brokenness a few times but much were mended and seemingly welcome in my life.  I think I needed it in the first place.

Maybe I’ll start posting my travels and some of my photos again. Probably those that I failed to finish or commit. Or maybe those that I’m thankful for.

I have questions but I’m not sure if I’m ready for the answers.

One them is if I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY need to keep a blog. Really.

What’s your 1 year and 4 months like?

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Food feature: Apple, lettuce, and peanut butter and cheese sandwich

It is one of those I-should-get-myself-something-to-eat-when-I-review moments of my life. I prefer sandwiches when I get home from work and had to go straight to reading a pile of materials for school. I’m sure will feel full but not bloated that would usually result to me sleeping instead on reviewing.
Sandwiches, termed by the Wall Street Journal, as Britain’s “biggest contribution to gastronomy”, can be considered as a complete meal. Anything you put between those slices of bread can just claim any level of hunger or craving. Sandwiches are served either as hot or cold. And it definitely can reach both heights and lengths.
For this beautiful creation, the key is to play with flavor and texture. This is really special as every ingredient are very flavorful. All reach in natural oils, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

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Ingredients:
– 2 slices of wholewheat raisin bread (or wholewheat bread)
– a slice of cheese (cheddar or cream cheese)
– lettuce leaves
– thinly sliced apple wedges
– creamy peanut butter spread

What to do:
– Arrange on both slices. Serve sliced or whole.

Tip:
– Place spreads on the bread first before the rest of the loose ingredients to easily manage a stack. Press it on a pan (or sandwich maker), or pop it on your oven/toaster as this is best eaten hot (imagine the cheese melted inside – covering the apples and lettuce and blending with the peanut butter).

 

Food feature: Lemon cucumber shake with ginger foam

With the benefits of lemon turning drinks into alkaline concoctions which is very beneficial to the body becoming quite a buzz among health enthusiasts, I turned my health drink up a notch with a hint of ginger. For another, my family  have strongly considered stocking up on lemons or its more economical counterpart, on calamansi, as well.  It was explained by many dieticians that increasing alkaline consumption aids metabolism; boosts the immune system; helps fight hunger cravings (definitely a plus right now); and flushes out toxins.   So, I thought of combining this with the healing benefits of ginger which is a key to colon cancer prevention and inhibits fatty deposits from the arteries.  No wonder, too, that ginger is being processed into various forms for ease of use and being used in appetizers, to main dishes, to drinks, and even to desserts.

A known ginger product is the salabat or ginger tea.  It is one of the widely used herb tea in the Philippines.  Known for healing sore throat or stomach ache, salabat has been more accessible to Filipinos especially that ready-to-mix powder have been introduced in the market as well.  Hence, no need to crush and boil ginger or look for other herbs to blend with it.  For most people however, ginger is usually used in warm dishes or drinks (well, a gingerbread is quite an exception).

Matching my desire to manage my cravings and putting-up better food options, I was able to come-up with this drink which was a hit especially to my parents (and surprisingly, even to my office mates) .  None of us actually thought that ginger can blend well with citrus fruits, let alone with milk, and can end up as a refreshing cool drink.  From a dinner brew, the shake was extended to a next-day afternoon refreshment.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 piece lemon (squeezed)
  • 1 piece cucumber (sliced for the food processor)
  • 1 cup of fresh milk or 3 tbsp of milk powder for the shake; 2 tsp of milk powder for the ginger foam
  • 2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 800 ml of water for the shake; 1 cup of water for the ginger foam
  • 3 tsp of salabat or ginger tea powder for the shake; 1/2 tsp for the ginger foam

What to do:

(drink)

  1. Slice the cucumber; blend all ingredients in a blender/food processor; and
  2. Pour into glass/cup.

(ginger foam)

  1. Using the food processor, whip in the milk, water, and salabat until the mixture becomes a foam;
  2. Scoop it to the drink; and
  3. Sprinkle with salabat powder and brown sugar.

Tip:

If you want to choose an actual ginger, try using a small amount at first.  Grate the ginger into the food processor before blending all of the ingredients.

See how ginger can be blended in cold drinks as well.  Let me know what you think.

Food feature: Ensalada in ‘Bagoong Padas’ and Calamansi

I’ve been in love with vegetables especially the ones found in the Philippines ever since I could hardly remember.  Probably because of my Ilocano roots.  To think of it, I’m a quarter Ilocano (from Naguilian, La Union), a quarter Tagalog (hailing from the alleys of Tondo, Manila), an eighth of being Pangasinense (because my grandmother is from Urbiztondo, Pangasinan), and the rest of being matakaw (“gluttonous” in Filipino – this explains it).

And I just have to give-in with homemade and guilt-free dishes.  Besides, cooking with vegetables are very economical while there are various ways to cook it (for vegetarians and for those undergoing naturopathy, they would even prefer eating vegetables raw).

What is appetizing about this dish, especially for Ilocanos, is the use of ‘bagoong padas’ – fish sauce made by fermenting fish with salt.  The ‘padas’ fish (comparable to anchovies) found in the sauce provides texture and stronger saltiness in the whole blend – a twist most of us look forward to in every dip.  This fish sauce is frequently paired with tomatoes, calamansi, as well as grilled fish.  The sauce is the ultimate counterpart of soy sauce in Chinese cooking.  The Ilocano pantry cannot go empty of ‘bagoong’ or ‘bagoong padas’.

Ingredients:

(for blanching)

  • eggplant
  • okra
  • stringbeans
  • kangkong (any variety)

(for ensalada sauce)

  • tomatoes
  • shallots
  • calamansi
  • ‘bagoong padas’

Note: Any locally found vegetables would do. Options like ar-arosep (or fresh seaweeds), malunggay, or even sweet potatoes can be used for this dish.

What to do:

  1. Clean and slice vegetables.
  2. Blanch the vegetables separately or according to density such as kangkong cooks faster than okra and eggplants.
  3. On the side, slice tomatoes and dice the shallots.
  4. While the vegetables cook, prepare the ensalada sauce. Mix in the tomatoes and shallots in a large bowl. Add a tbsp of ‘bagoong padas’ (more or less according to the amount of vegetables to flavor). Squeeze at least 2 calamansi with this amount of ‘bagoong padas’.
  5. Toss in the blanched vegetables into the sauce.

Tip:

  • Only toss in the vegetables if you are ready to eat them.  Dishes with tomatoes and shallots need to be consumed immediately, else the rest will spoil instantly.
  • Try sprinkling it with unsalted peanuts for a more filling and earthy taste.  Best enjoyed with grilled fish or just with warm rice.

See how mouthwatering yet inexpensive dishes can be? Try this now and let me know what you think.

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Simply Sweet, Simply “Manyaman”

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“Manyaman” – ‘delicious’ in Kapampangan

I don’t miss having a taste of desserts, especially if it’s locally made, much more if it’s a Kapampangan specialty. My mother brought home uraro (arrow root) cookies when she was in Bataan and Pampanga two weeks ago after her field work. I remember my first taste or uraro when I was a kid – that sweetness playing from crunchy, to powdery, to a smooth and melting sensation in my mouth.  Even a hint of warm and buttery feel eases throughout the munching experience.  That moment I realized that these are my favorite cookies.

Arrow root is said to be a starch powder from the root of the cassava.  It is widely used in cookies and as a thickener in puddings and sauces.  The powder is also called as araruta (in which the name uraro may have been derived) and is also used in making San Nicolas cookies – another Kapampangan special delicacy (I’ll try to feature this in the future once I get hold of these again).  However, when I thought that cassava powder is only used in the Philippines and uraro cookies are only in Pampanga (much more only available here) I found out that it is also made in Colombia as panderos and Dominican Republic as ojaldra.  Doing a little historical analysis here and there, I’d say, it is no surprise since these countries are all former Spanish colonies and cookies and shortbreads at the time are always anticipated.

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Uraro cookies are made by mixing uraro powder with egg yolk, butter, sugar, and coconut milk into a dough and baked in slowly (at roughly 15 minutes).  In the Philippines, these are usually shaped as flowers in bite size pieces.  It is actually the perfect size as its structure is very delicate that you may not want ending the rest of the cookie left as crumbs in your hands or lap.

Since I grew fond of these cookies, I didn’t mind eating them only with water, coffee, or none at all.

ImageLucky for us, you can buy them not only in Pampanga or in pasalubong stores, but in supermarkets as well. As for Filipinos reading this abroad, surely you’re already craving for this one as nothing tastes better than anything that is “home made”.  Now, my cookie stash here is almost out, hope someone will get to bring home soon.

The “uragon” trail

“Uragon” (sometimes spelled as “oragon”), is a Bikolano slang for someone who is feisty, determined, principled, fighter, unafraid of consequences, and one who stands up for his principles.  No wonder other ethno-linguistic groups like the Tagalog would look them up as brave and determined yet warm and graceful like the Mayon Volcano, their most-sought ‘Bicol Express’. and their thirst for waves and adventure as exemplified in their world-renowned CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC).

I really have proven that it’s always the journey and not the destination.  So even if I already went to the same place twice, I definitely had a brand new experience. This is my travelogue as my friends, my boyfriend, and myself traversed Naga and Legazpi in three (3) days.

In this visit in the region, we gave ourselves a little push, to have a taste of the “uragon” blade.  Kami na ang matapang!

Day 1 – Naga: Bigg’s Diner, Church Heritage tour, and Wakeboarding at CWC

A flight through PAL Express (formerly known as Airphil Express) seat sales, however delayed, did not keep us from enjoying the NAIA terminal.  Thanks to my travel buddies namely Feo, Myc, and Karl, I experienced for the first time to really shoot at the terminal.  Talking about maximizing the use of the Php 200.00 terminal fee!  And so, we are off to Naga for a jumpstart.

At the terminal

We chose CBD Plaza Hotel.  They have good facilities for a budget hotel – from economy room to suites.  For a good price of Php 2,400, we get to have airport transfers, request for early check-in and late check-out, and daily breakfast.  They have clean rooms, toiletries, slippers, and located right beside SM Naga, Naga City Terminal, and food and convenient stores.  It is also some 20 minutes away from the CWC (commuting would never be a problem as well).

Speaking of commuting, the best way to roam the City is the traysikad (known as tricycle in the metro).  for Php 8, you get to go to your destination.

Traysikad around Naga

After check-in and packing our stuff for wakeboarding later that day, we are off for lunch at the Bigg’s Diner – known as the biggest foodchain in the Region. Inspired by the 50s, you can just see vinyl records, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, the Radio Flyer, and black and white tiles, among others, adorning the place.  Enjoy it with their Extreme Cheeseburger and fries, you’ll be back for another for sure.  The Diner is located at Centro Naga.

50s at Bigg's Diner

Full for the rest of the day, we began our Church Heritage Tour.  Just across the Diner, we walked passed the Plaza Quince Martires.  May I say that their plaza is really clean (so is the rest of the City).  We then arrived at the San Francisco Church.As a practice, I would wish and pray as I enter the Church and knock on the wooden doors as I leave.

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Even walking was an option, we rode to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.  Also there to amaze us the Porta Mariae – a triumphant arch inaugurated in 2009 to commemorate the devotion of the people of Naga to the Lady of Peñafrancia.

The Cathedral

Porta Mariae

The arch (Porta Mariae)

Then we had the chance to witness a wedding and be amazed by the size of the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, home of the blessed image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia.  The best place to cap our Church Heritage tour.

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Naga wouldn’t be more famous, if it’s not for the CWC.  We are fortunate enough to really learn how to wakeboard.  It is definitely safe and enjoyable for beginners.  Not only you get to wear safety gears, but also to get proper guidance from local instructors.  Lucky for us, it was a Sunday and we were just few. So instead of a 2-hour wakeboard, we get to have an hour and a half more to enjoy to place.

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And we dared ourselves not only to try the CWC Restaurant classic pizza but it’s Bicolano Pizza (laing pizza) as well.  And may I say, it was really hot but definitely delicious!

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Too tired to do extra stuff after arriving at the hotel at 9:30 PM.  We were set for another adventure the next day – Legazpi, Albay.

Day 2: Legazpi City day tour

We took the better option to ride a UV Express van for Php 140 for a 2-hour trip to Legazpi.  Oh my, instead of leaving at 6:00 AM, we left at almost 10:00 AM. We fell in-love way too much with our beds.  And did I mention, us girls are already feeling our muscles ache because of the wakeboarding?

Arrived in Legazpi and our first stop for our itinerary is lunch.  So expected!  The moment we mentioned sili icecream to our trusted tour guide (Legazpi City can be toured through commute, but it’ll definitely be more comfortable if you hire a van.  Fortunately, Mr. Diego Montessor, Jr. of Easy Travel, proved it easy for us.), immediately dropped us at 1st Colonial Grill.  It offers all types of Bikolano dishes.  Featured here of-course is the most-sought sili icecream, pili icecream, tinutungang ice cream (roasted rice grains that added much flavor and aroma), and malunggay icecream.  I left the main the dishes for your imagination.  These desserts were definitely the best sellers.

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For our tour, we went to Daraga Church.  And by the time that we went there, we also did not miss the opportunity to mesmerize ourselves with Mt. Mayon as well.  This centuries old church was built by the Franciscan missionaries in 1773 in honor of the patron saint of Nuestra Senora dela Porteria.

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Next stop is the Cagsaua (commonly spelled as Cagsawa) ruins,  which was also built by the Franciscan missionaries in 1700s.  It displays the famous bell tower which completes the view of Mayon in history books.  A tour guide (who also acts as the photographer of the group) would tell us the story of the place and show us different creative shots.  Tourists also have the option to try the ATV lava bed adventure tour with Php 599 (per hour, I think) as minimum cost.  There are a lot of souvenir shops stationed there as well.  We bought bell tower carvings made of granite at Php 150 – certified hand-made at a good price.

The Church of Cagsaua (commonly referred to as the Cagsawa Ruins)

creative shots

Mini bell towers (and knife sharpeners hehe)

Legazpi would not be complete without the Lignon Hill.  This place is a famous viewing deck for Mt. Mayon and the rest of the city.  Further, it is a home of various adventure activities like zipline, rappelling, and hanging bridge cross.  For our group we tried the zipline (a beginner feat) and hanging bridge and was aiming for the Japanese Tunnel afterwards (though, we didn’t have the chance to go inside the Japanese Tunnel as it was already closed by the time that we got there).  When done in groups, you’ll definitely feel adrenaline rush from your toes to your temple. You can request the staffs to take your pictures by the way.  They can print copies and save it on a CD as souvenirs.

The viewing deck and the zip lines

Hanging on at the hanging bridge

Japanese tunnel

Lignon Hill

Capping our tour is a cool evening walk at Legazpi Boulevard and Embarcadero.  I remember very well those cool and clean sea breeze blowing towards us as we stroll and take pictures of the boulevard.  We even had the chance to stand at the breakwater. This is also a place for joggers and triathletes alike.

Posing at the Boulevard

After the tour, we were dropped off at the Legazpi Central Terminal to catch the last trip back to Naga City.  We only had a quick dinner at Savemore before we hopped on the van.

Back at our hotel again at 9:30 PM, but this time craving for an evening snack, we feasted on some chicken and I-can’t-remember-what-else.

Feasting at CBD Plaza Hotel


Day 3
– Church Heritage tour continues, photowalks, Geewan, and souvenir shopping

We initially planned to Malabsay Falls that day.  But since I cannot really tell how far it is from our hotel and we were definitely tired with all our adventure during the past two (2) days, we resorted to continuing our Church Heritage tour, do souvenir shopping, and have lunch at Geewan.

Visiting the Penafrancia Church

I didn’t miss lighting a candle and saying a prayer for INA (as the people of Naga also called Our Lady of Peñafrancia).  I also noticed the statue of Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias who promoted the devotion to INA.

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We also had the chance to check the Museum of Our Lady of Peñafrancia.  We have witnessed how the devotion began and continued up to this day.  Much can be learned from this Museum.  Every diorama, aureola (twelve stars), crown, and “manto” (cloak), tells a story.  It is definitely a must-see for tourists and lay persons alike.  We are even blessed enough to step on the actual float being used for the annual fluvial parade (held during September).

The Museum

For Bikolano goods, we went back to Centro Naga.  For pili nuts and other goods, RPM must be the choice.  We discovered Tribu Bikolano shirts for quality souvenirs as well.

RPM and Bikolano shirts

Also, we did not miss shooting at the Plaza Rizal before heading for lunch.

Plaza Rizal

Then to cap it all, we had our hearty lunch at Geewan.  Bikolano dish, known or not to others, will be seen here.  From left, we had pinangat (porked wrapped in gabi leaves and cooked in coconut milk), kandingan (Bikolano bopis), and tinutungan (fish cooked in vinegar, malunggay, and coconut milk).  After lunch, we headed back to the hotel, in time for our travel to the airport for our flight to Manila.

Geewan

This travel was definitely a memorable one especially to our muscles, taste buds, and hearts (but, of course). All credits to my friends and my Dear.

My travel buddies and my Dear

More than Kimchi

I remember my time in Korea last November of 2011. That wonderful experience really deserves to be shared. By definition that it is wonderful, you get to enjoy the cool winds in the morning or get to see the soft light coming from a local bakery just by the corner of the street.  The test for blogging one of the most sought experience of a Hallyu audience.  There is no austerity in taking the usual scenarios into a digital monument.  Truly, a life-changing environment when capturing moments while enjoying every spectrum of it.

You can’t help but notice her focus on preparing all Korean food is famed for.

The Government of South Korea has long-put their effort in restoring the Gyeongbokgung Palace.  It was told that it is now at 40-50% restoration rate.

You will find any piece of nature as their art.


An authentic “black bean noodle” rich in seafood, rootcrops, and sesame seeds.  One will definitely go back for this.

Reconstructed omelet, rice, fries, deep-fried meat, and pickled vegetables.  An east meets west encounter.

Korea displays their very love to fancy accessories.  Shots of artists can be seen to help one see how can this be best paired into.

Vintage and antiques can be today’s art.

The tower represents the odds that can play against the surreal feel of dry leaves and bare branches.  Taken at 5:00 PM, the sun bids for another 12 hours for the city to play with the neon, coffee, and shopping.

If there is the bargain, definitely they have the high-end.  Shopping districts can always find a convenient, if not affordable, store for you.