Sunday, May 31, 2009

Diwal, Pearly Shells - Lasang Pinoy

The pride and joy of my mother's hometown is a delectable shellfish locals call diwal (angel wing clam, cyrtopleura coastata). These fresh diwal were my mom's pasalubong when she returned from Negros in March. She hand-carried 4 kilos so I could binge on succulent diwal.

Diwal is a sand-burrowing clam collected by divers from sandy-muddy bottoms of inter-tidal areas in coastal waters, 6 to 8 meters deep. They are also gathered by trawlers which are destructive to their habitat. When I was a kid, diwal was abundant and inexpensive---it was a favorite pulutan (finger food).
But a few years ago, diwal was considered almost endangered due to indiscriminate fishing methods used by some harvesters, and harvesting was banned. The clams are now available but in small quantities, making it an expensive shellfish. My mother bought it at P250 a kilo and it could be a bit cheaper when in season. When I was in Negros last year, my cousin bought diwal for me at P400 a kilo---and it's sold at P500 a kilo in restaurants.

Not many folks know about great-tasting diwal unless they've been to parts of Western Visayas. In Valladolid, my mother's hometown, there are vendors selling diwal by the highway when the clams are in season, between May and July. And the buyers who stop by are mostly tourists and city-folks...apparently, the locals couldn't afford them anymore.

I like to keep its natural briny and sweet flavors so I prefer my diwal grilled. We also saute diwal in garlic, sweet onions and ginger, or steamed in lemongrass and ginger---incredibly delicious!

Posted for spiCes

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Got Caught Dancing Again

I Got Caught Dancing Again - Hues Corporation

Photo-Hunter: Books

Books are great gifts---especially for people who love to read. For friends who are not book lovers, I still try once in a while to give them books, hoping they would discover the joy of reading like I did.

More than a week ago, I went to Fully Booked, a bookstore in Bonifacio High Street, to find a book for my friend who was going back to America. I wanted to give him a going-away gift that will remind him of his native country. Good thing the bookstore has a well-stacked Filipiniana section.

Bookstores are one of my favorite places to hang out, my literary destination on weekends. I get a cozy feeling at bookstores, love the smell of books. In my early 20's when I couldn't afford to buy the books that I wanted, I spent many Sunday afternoons at the National Bookstore in Greenbelt to read. The sales clerks became my nodding acquaintances, and they left me alone in a small, hidden corner---sitting on the floor, sipping a Coke and lost in the pages of a novel. It was my idea of a perfect afternoon. Books are one of my dearest and most constant friends---I can't imagine life without them.

Recently, I was dismayed when I read about the Department of Finance' (DoF) brilliant idea of imposing duties and taxes on imported books. In this tough economic times, books usually are the first to be dropped from the list when we're streamlining our expenses. The tax on imported books would simply be passed on to the reading public, and in effect, this move of the DoF would deprive many of us a much-needed soul and brain food. There were debates whether or not the Philippines was in violation of The Florence Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials.

It's funny because for more than 50 years, importation of books and raw materials to be used in book publishing has been duty-free. Until early this year, when a Customs Examiner had a eureka moment and "interpreted" the Florence Agreement, and demanded that duty be paid on a shipment of the best-selling novel, "Twilight" by Stephanie Meyer, because it's not educational (i.e. textbooks). Customs appointed themselves as arbiter of what was and wasn't educational.

Opinions were discussed on TV, radio and print media, lawmakers questioned Customs, some initiated a Congressional inquiry, protests and petitions from book-reading citizens flooded the world wide web. Now I know that the Florence Agreement grants all kinds of books tax and duty-free, as long as these do not directly endanger national security, public order, or public morals.

Finally, the President ordered the DoF on May 25th to scrap the taxes imposed on imported books and reading materials. Good decision, Madam President! I hope, in the future, Customs and the DoF would realize that it's not their job to interpret international treaties to suit their goal of additional revenues. And those bright boys & girls at Customs and DoF who believe books (bestsellers, pop lit, and graphic novels) are nothing but leisure reads should go back to kindergarten!

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy.

~Edward P. Morgan

Photos were taken at Fully Booked using my cell phone camera

Posted for Photo-Hunt

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sky-Watching at SLEX

Sky-watching while traveling at the South Luzon Expressway last week, on my way to Laguna.

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.

~Anthony J. D'Angelo

Posted for Sky-Watch Friday

Filipino Breakfast

A familiar dish at a Filipino breakfast table---tocino and slices of fresh tomatoes! It is a traditional Filipino delicacy that got its name from the Spanish word, tocino, which is used to describe cured meat. Tocino is sweetened cured pork, fried in oil and best eaten with fried rice.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Haydengate scandal

A male colleague brought some documents to my desk this afternoon, and casually asked if I have already seen Hayden's newest sex video. I was expecting an Aling Dionisia joke, but instead he opened his cellphone and showed me a video of a naked Ruffa Mae Quinto in bed, with close-up shots of her private parts. Same headboard from Hayden-Katrina video, the room looked intimately familiar (like I've been there! haha). In the video, Ruffa Mae was totally aware of the camera, and she was very relaxed. I was speechless!

I strained my ears and noticed how quiet the office was---even the telephones were silent. I walked around and everybody was monitoring the Senate hearing involving Dr. Hayden Kho, Jr. and Katrina Halili. There was live video streaming of the Senate hearing and it looked like everybody was glued to their computer screens. My colleagues even missed their cigarette break!

The scandal has riveted the public's attention since the first sex videos came out almost two weeks ago. Every night when I come home from work, my mother would update me on the latest development. Instead of her favorite telenovella, Haydengate is now my mother's latest obsession. She wants Dr. Kho castrated, stripped of his medical license (not of his underwear) and exiled from the Philippines forever (he's already been declared persona non grata in Palawan and Bohol). And I don't blame my mom for feeling that way---if you're a woman, or a man with a sister, a daughter, a girlfriend, a wife, a mother, you would be equally disgusted at this good-looking deviant.

But let me just say that the women in Hayden's video collection are not totally blameless. Granted, the young doctor is hot and sexy, and the fact that he is a doctor definitely makes him irresistibly attractive...but what about his character? We all know that he has a girlfriend when he had liaisons with the women in his video collection. And if showbiz insiders are to be believed, the girlfriend allegedly owns the condo he lives in and supports him with a 300K monthly allowance. So basically, he's a kept man who cheats. How could a rational woman expect something honorable from a guy like that? At the Senate hearing this afternoon, Hayden testified that "it was all sex and drugs with Katrina." While Katrina said the doctor charmed and wooed her---she even introduced him to her mother and she was in love with him. Unfortunately, love made her stupid.

What about the rest of Hayden's "victims"? I could only speculate that perhaps his ex-lovers had hoped he would eventually leave his girlfriend, Dr. Belo, and marry one of them, or they didn't was all fun and games, until the sex videos were uploaded in the internet. I can't help but wonder if the women in the sex videos had sexual relations with Hayden in the same manner that Hayden recorded their encounters in bed. He's their trophy lover---and in turn, their sex videos were his trophies, evidence of his conquests, proof of his vanity.

For a change, I hope something tangible would come out from the Senate hearing---like a law with sharp enough teeth to strike fear into the hearts of deviants and perverts. To make them think twice before victimizing unsuspecting women, men and children. Let's all learn a lesson or two from this scandal---number one, be very careful with who you'd like to get naked with; and if you think you're being duped, don't get mad, get even!:D

P.S. I hope the Senators would change their minds and conduct the next hearings behind close doors. The whole drama brings out the voyeur in all of us.

Litratong Pinoy: Alam mo ba? (Did you know?)

Sa halos araw-araw na nasa kalsada ako, papasok sa opisina at pauwi sa bahay, paikot-ikot sa Metro Manila at sa mga karatig probinsya, maraming nakakatawa, nakakainis at minsan nakakaiyak na mga tagpo ang nakikita ko. Kaya ibabahagi ko sa 'yo ang mga litrato na kinunan ko habang nasa kalsada.

Marami ang nagsasabi na ang Maynila na yata ang may pinakamasalimuot na traffic sa buong mundo. Isang dahilan na rin siguro ang pag-uugali ng mga Pinoy na tsuper at ng mga tao sa kalye. Kung Pinoy ka, tiyak, alam mo na ang sinasabi ko. Marami tayong mga drayber dito na hindi marunong magbasa ng road signs, walang pakialam sa batas trapiko, parang galit sa mundo at feeling n'ya s'ya ang may-ari ng kalsada. Sa gitna ng traffic, ang driver naman sa likod mo, busina ng busina bawat 3 segundo, pati usok minumura, at kapag "go" na, pati mga tumatawid, gustong sagasaan. Kapag binusinahan mo naman, hindi ka rin maririnig dahil sa lakas ng radyo, nagsa-sound-tripping ang mokong. At h'wag ka magugulat kapag ang sinusundan mong jeepney ay bigla na lang hihinto sa gitna ng kalsada para makipag-chikahan sa drayber ng kabilang jeepney. Pakialam ba nila sa mga sasakyan sa likuran mo...maghintay ka na lang hanggang matapos ang kanilang pulong. Kamag-anak ito ng pedestrian na hindi takot masagasaan, tumatawid kahit sa 4-lane highway, s'ya na nga lang ang iniiwasan na mga sasakyan---parang may death wish. Mahilig din itong tumalon palabas ng bus kahit di pa nakahinto ang bus, at daig pa si Lydia de Vega sa bilis kapag tumawid kasi green na ang ilaw. Malamang ang akala nito, si Ped Xing ay isang emperor ng Tsina.

Pero teka lang, alam mo ba na si Ped Xing ay hindi pala isang sikat na Tsino na ipinangalan sa kalye dy'an sa Roxas Boulevard? Kung alam mo na---mabuti ka pa! Kasi parang kailan ko lang yata nalaman na si Ped Xing pala ay hindi kaklase ni Confucius o ka-mahjong ni Lao Tze. Nakikita ko sa mga kalye sa Hong Kong at America ang karatulang Ped Xing kaya buong akala ko na isa s'yang magiting at matalinong Tsino---aba, kahit saan sikat s'ya! Kaya sobra akong natawa at nagulat noong malaman ko na ang Ped Xing pala ay pinaiksing "Pedestrian Crossing" o tawiran. Pambihira naman...kasama ba si Ped Xing sa LTO seminar? :D

Like any motorist, I'm on the road almost everyday---going to and from the office, around Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces, I've witnessed funny, irritating and sometimes sad scenes on the streets. So today, I'm sharing photos I've taken while on the road.

People say that Manila has one of the most chaotic traffic in the world. One of the reasons perhaps is the behavior of Filipino drivers and pedestrians. If you're a Filipino, surely, you know what I'm talking about.

We have drivers here who don't know how to read road signs, who blatantly disregard traffic laws, and angry drivers who think they own the road. You could try to honk at the wacko, but he wouldn't hear even a fire truck siren---his radio is blasted at full volume. And behind you at a traffic jam is some weirdo who honks every 3 seconds, yells expletives every 5 seconds, and honks at accelerates at the pedestrian lane. And bumping into a friend while driving (not to be taken literally) is a delightful occasion. Don't be surprised when a jeepney in front of you comes to a sudden stop in the middle of the street---the jeepney driver chats with his buddy in another jeepney. And what about you, and the ten to twenty vehicles behind you? Well, you all can wait while the long, lost friends are catching up. These drivers are related to a fearless pedestrian who crosses a 4-lane highway, jumps out of a bus while the bus is still moving, and runs across an intersection even after the light turns green. This pedestrian has either a latent death wish, or thinks Ped Xing was a Chinese emperor.

Did you know that Ped Xing along Roxas Boulevard is not a famous Chinese with a street named in his honor? I've seen Ped Xing street signs in Hong Kong and America, and I thought, "Wow, this guy's everywhere! He must be really famous!" I assumed Ped Xing was some brilliant Chinese philosopher, perhaps Confucius' classmate or Lao Tze's mahjong partner. I was dumbfounded when I learned, not too long ago, that Ped Xing is an abbreviation for "Pedestrian Crossing". Yes, it was an absolutely jaw-dropping, humbling moment.:D

So, let's cross Ped Xing when we get there...

Posted for Litratong Pinoy

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Water Lettuce - Watery Wednesday

Pistia stratiotes, commonly known as water lettuce or water cabbage, is a free-floating aquatic plant in tropical fresh waterways. This floating plant is a very aggressive invader and can cover entire surface of ponds, canals, lakes and rivers that can result to oxygen depletion and fish kills. They're beautiful but can have a severe impact on the environment and economy of infested areas. The dense mats created by connected rosettes block waterways, thus hindering flood control efforts. Water lettuce mats are also breeding place for mosquitoes.

Photos taken at Silangang Nayon, Pagbilao, Quezon

Posted for Watery Wednesday

Friday, May 22, 2009

Say cheese!

a plate of Jesse James sampler

For days, I have been hankering for caloricious cheese fritters. I snacked on cheese sticks and slices of Cheddar cheese a few times this week but I still couldn't get crunchy cheese fritters out of my mind. What can I say, cheese is one of my comfort foods. Finally, I had the pleasure of indulging my craving last night. Jesse James Sampler at Texas Roadhouse Grill---a perfect combination of wild cheese fritters, chicken tenders, spicy buffalo wings and slices of fresh cucumber served with 3 choices of sauces. The dips--- BBQ sauce, Cajun horseradish sauce and honey mustard, are a complement to this zesty appetizer. Great with a bottle of San Mig Light.

Posted for Food Friday and Food Trip Friday

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mangrove in Cagbalete - Think Green Thursday

Walking along the shores of Cagbalete was my favorite activity during my 3-day stay on the island in April. I enjoyed the fresh air from the sea, the interesting seascape and vegetation by the shore. And about 500 meters south of the resort, I found this patch of mangrove forest.

Mangroves are salt-tolerant trees and shrubs that grow in saline coastal habitats in the tropics. They are normally found along sheltered tropical wetlands, lagoons and may extend inland along rivers and its tributaries. Mangroves require slow currents and plenty of fine sediment for their roots to grow. They protect the coast from erosion, storm surges and tsunamis. Their massive root system is efficient at dissipating wave energy.

Mangroves are also capable of absorbing pollutants such as heavy metals and other toxic substances. They serve as natural waste water filters, preventing many land-based and near shore pollutants from reaching deeper waters.

In the Philippines, our mangroves were a robust 500,000 hectares in the 1900s, but this dwindled to 112,000 hectares in 1998 from over-exploitation, conversion of areas to other uses and logging of watersheds. Most mangroves were cut for their timber, or were converted into shrimp ponds or fish farms. According to experts, the disappearance of mangroves became apparent in the 1970's when the deterioration of sea grass and coral reef ecosystems became noticeable.

Thank you to a host of non-government organizations and conservation groups who raised public awareness on the need to protect our mangrove forests. According to DENR (Department of Environment & Natural Resources), there has been new evidence that our mangroves have slowly grown to nearly 60% of its original state in the 1900s.

A verdant mangrove forest indicates a healthy ecosystem. The mesh of mangrove roots produces a quiet marine region for many young organisms, a natural breeding and nursery grounds for many fish species. The submerged roots host a wide variety of algae, oysters, sponges, barnacles, and home to shrimps, mud lobsters and crabs. Mangroves are also a habitat to shore birds, some mammals (like monkeys, rats, etc.), reptiles and insects.

There are now community-based projects for sustainable development and management of mangroves, sea grass bed, coral reefs and other coastal resources. Not only for its environmental impact, mangroves are also a great destination for eco-tourism.

inland mangroves in Cagbalete Island

Posted for Think Green-Thursday

Litratong Pinoy: Lahat ay Payak (everything is simple)

Dahil isa akong FBI (full blooded Ilongga), minsan kailangan kong liwanagin ang mga salitang Tagalog, katulad ng "kabalintunaan" (irony) o "sapantaha" (presumption, hunch). Gusto kong makasigurado sa "payak"---kaya tinanong ko si Sally, na taga-Bulacan, kung ano ba talaga ang ibig sabihin ng "payak". At ang kanyang sagot: ang "payak" ay "thin in English". Noon ko nalaman na ang pagpapa-sexy pala ay nakakabingi!:D
Because I'm an FBI, sometimes I needed to clarify certain Tagalog words. I wanted to make sure what "payak" (simple, plain) really means, so I asked Sally who comes from Bulacan. And her answer was---"payak" is "thin in English". It dawned on me that dieting and exercise have certain side-effects, like hearing impairment!:D
Lahat ay payak---ito ang kadalasan nating ninanais lalo na kung nagiging masalimuot ang ating buhay. Sana ganon lang kadali magpapayak, este magpapayat (hehe). May mga sandali na hangad kong bumalik sa panahon ng aking kamusmusan, noong ako'y wala pang muwang sa mundo at konti lang ang aking kailangan para lumigaya.

No'ng aking kabataan, ang bahay kubo ay tila palasyo na. Payak lang ang aking mga pangarap. Bahay-bahayan, drama sa radyo at pagbabasa ng komiks ang aming libangan kapag walang pasok sa eskwela. Pamaypay na gawa sa dahon ng anahaw at buko juice lang ang katapat ng mainit na panahon. Di ko pino-problema ang bangayan ng mga senador, global warming at polusyon, di ko iniisip ang kinabukasan, o kung may ulam ba o wala. Mahimbing pa ang tulog ko noon...hindi ko iniisip ang mga batang natutulog sa kalye, o ang mga nagpapalimos para lang may makain. Hindi ko naiintindihan ang kahirapan at ang kawalan ng panlipunang katarungan. Wala akong takot sumakay sa truck na humahakot ng tubo kapag napag-iwanan ako ng huling byahe ng bus. At higit sa lahat, hindi ko pino-problema ang aking kalusugan lalo na ang aking timbang. Payak na payak pa kasi ako noon.:D
When things get complicated, we usually wish everything is simple. I wish it's that easy and simple to lose weight.:D There are times when I wish I could return to my childhood and reclaim my innocence, go back to a time when it took so little to make me happy.

As a child, a nipa hut was my whole world, it was a palace. My dreams were simple. We kept ourselves busy by playing house, listening to radio soaps, and reading comics during summer breaks. An anahaw fan and buko juice were our answer to hot and humid weather. I didn't pay attention to politics, didn't worry about global warming and pollution; I was not anxious of the future, or if there was food on the table or none. I slept like a log back then---didn't worry about street kids, didn't feel the pain of poverty and the lack of social justice. I was unafraid of strangers because I was taught that people are basically good. And most of all, I didn't worry about my health or my weight. Life was simple then, and yeah, I was thinner.:D
At itong kalesa nga pala...isang simbolo rin ng payak na pamumuhay noon, kahit di ko naman ito naabutan. Pero kapag nakakakita ako ng kalesa, naiisip ko ang payak ngunit eleganteng panahon ng ating mga lolo't lola---wala pang humaharurot na mga jeepney at tricycle noon sa ating kalsada.
And this is the calesa---a horse-drawn carriage, that in my mind, symbolizes an elegant and gentler life of our grandparents. It was an era when life was unhurried, and there were no over-speeding jeepneys and tricycles on the streets.
Posted for Litratong Pinoy

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fountains at Fort Santiago - Watery Wednesday

Sounds of water greet the visitor upon entering the gates of Fort Santiago in the walled city of Intramuros. There are two fountains at the center of the plaza known as Plaza Moriones, named after Governor General Domingo Moriones (1877-1880). Plaza Moriones is a public promenade with benches and tree-lined walk ways. Near the fountain is a historical marker established by the Spanish Embassy to commemorate the 1792 political and scientific expedition to the Philippines made by Alejandro Malaspina and Jose Bustamante.
The information center, cafe and souvenir shop are housed at the ten chambers of the stone wall near the gate. An old building, a former soldiers' barracks of the Spanish and Americans, has been slowly disintegrating and no longer open to the public. Cultural performances are also shown here---we caught a drum and bugle corps during our visit. I also noticed picnic tables, and the archeological excavation of Artillera de Maestranza, a foundry during the Spanish regime that cast cannons and ammunition. Flowering kalachuchi (frangipani), old narra and huge anahaw trees provide shade in this part of Fort Santiago.

Remnants of the past---a cannon and mortar shells on display, either from World War II or the Spanish period. Fort Santiago, one of the oldest Spanish stone fortresses in the country, is definitely a cool place to visit.

"The whole history of the world is summed up in the fact that, when nations are strong, they are not always just, and when they wish to be just, they are no longer strong."

~ Winston Churchill

Posted for Watery Wednesday

Monday, May 18, 2009

Palaisdaan in Tayabas - Weekend Snapshot

I hope you're not getting tired of my Tayabas series. I'd like to show you the rest of Palaisdaan Restaurant. Obviously, I love this place---the concept of huts by the fish pond and their promotion of traditional Filipino cuisine are wonderful. Palaisdaan is sitting in a 1.3 hectare elevated land at the foot of Mount Banahaw, approximately 136 kilometers from Manila and 8 kilometers from Tayabas town center. I love the food, the rustic ambiance, the lush vegetation, the cool climate and the abundance of water.

Aside from it's idyllic beauty, I've been returning to Palaisdaan for their ginataang suso with pako (native escargot with wild fern cooked in coconut milk). This dish is a native delicacy not easily found in Manila restaurants, and the fact that native escargots are eaten by sucking the meat from the shell makes it more exciting! The authentic feel of country life is something you can't buy in malls and restaurants in the city. The restaurant has 34 huts, 24 of which are floating, and a couple of pavilions for big events. The water in the fishponds, fountains and waterfall is coming from a nearby spring. Prices are reasonable---around P250/person. I also bought kesong puti (white cheese made from unskimmed carabao's milk) and native sweets from a vendor roaming around the restaurant.

with April and Cloyd
I love this nook by the parameter's a great place to sit quietly while having a cup of coffee, and gaze at the beautiful view of rice fields and Mount Banahaw.

Posted for Weekend Snapshot