Sunday, February 25, 2007


What is now famously known as mami started as a hot bowl of bami (i.e. from its main ingredient of ba or pork strips and mi or noodles) that was a popular street food of old Manila. The evolution to mami is attributed to a Cantonese immigrant who substituted the pork with chicken strips. Its price range of 5 to 30 centavos per bowl was affordable to most Manilenos who quickly fell in love with it. They called the new dish mami or Ma’s noodle in honor of its originator --- Ma Mon Luk of the famous mami house chain. Today, the only remaining Ma Mon Luk restaurant is that along Quezon Avenue. A small bowl of the original recipe cost P90.00 that goes well with their special siopao asado with chicken meat and salted egg which is P50.00 per bun.

After a visit iglesia to Binondo’s Basilica Minor of San Lorenzi Ruiz and the Church of Nuestra Senora del Pilar in Sta. Cruz, I decided to finally try the famous Ma Mon Luk mami. It was lunch time and the place is full. Ordering took around 20 minutes but the wait is worth it. The hot soup is just right, not too garlicky like the usual mami and topped with tangy chopped onion leaves and tasty chicken strips. The noodles are pasta-like which is just the right texture and a welcome change from the usual oily and rubbery mami egg noodles. It goes well with the equally renowned siopao which inspired the urban legend of it having cat and mouse meat filling to discredit its fame. I recommend washing it down with an ice cold glass of sarsi.

The Filipinos’ love story and addiction to the mami reached such proportions that when the lowly Payless Instant Mami was introduced, it became an instant hit and is now the unofficial national dish of the masa. There are now different brands but to the common tao, they are all Payless and the same. It has evolved countless variations like our favorite CLSU days ulam of 1 pack of Payless with the noodles broken into pieces, a pitcher of water for sabaw, salt or patis to taste, and 10 fronds of malunggay leaves. I swear this is enough to feed 8 hungry people. The weirdest version I have seen is that of Sto. Nino III’s Attorney Tantan: 1 pack of instant mami mixed with Jack ‘n’ Jill Chippy (original flavor) and 2 pieces of balut!

PHOTOS (from top to bottom):

1) The famous Ma Mon Luk mami and siopao.

2) BINONDO’S BASILICA OF SAN LORENZO RUIZ. The Dominicans established their Binondo mission for the conversion of Manila’s Chinese population in 1587. Nine years later and two years before the mission became an independent parish in 1598, the Dominicans started building a church that was completed by 1614. A new structure was built when the church was transferred to its present site sometime in the 18th century. The church was damaged during the British invasion of 1762. Repairs and improvements were conducted in 1778 until 1781. It was handed over to the secular clergy in 1768 then back to the Dominicans in 1822. The church suffered damages during the 1863 earthquake. It was again handed to the secular clergy in 1898. The church and the convent was restored and improved from 1946 until 1971.

3) STA. CRUZ’S CHURCH OF NUESTRA SENORA DEL PILAR. The Jesuits who administered the church until 1768 built the first structure of wood and stone sometime in the 17th century. It was the site of the British’s return of the city of Manila to Governor-General Simon de Anda in 1764. Fr. Agustin de Mendoza initiated the church’s reconstruction in 1868 after it was destroyed during the earthquake of 1863.

4) Payless Instant Mami (Lean’s Mini Mart, Science City of Munoz).

5) My favorite instant mami recipe: firm chicken flavored Nissin’s Ramen noodles, not too soupy, and 1 beaten egg stirred in after the cooking and before serving it.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Despite becoming a colony of the United States in the aftermath of 2 successive wars for independence, many Spanish expatriates opted to settle in the Philippines. Among them was a Catalan playwright from Majorca named Lorenzo Pou. One of his children is Fernando Poe, Sr. who later married Bessie Kelley who is the daughter of an Irish-American army engineer who married a Filipina and also settled in the Philippines. They have 6 children one of which is Ronald Allan Poe (the reason for the “Ronnie” nickname) who became the famous Fernando Poe, Jr. (AKA FPJ and Da King) of Philippine moviedom. Actually, FPJ borrowed the name from his brother Andy (as the nickname again implies) who is also an actor. As a film director, FPJ used the pseudonym Ronwaldo Reyes that was taken from his paternal grandmother’s surname. He made more that 200 movies in his lifetime.

In 1963, he and actor Joseph “Erap” Estrada who became his bosom buddy testified against gangs who extort money from the Philippine movie industry. Thirty-five years later, FPJ helped Erap became the 13th president of the Philippines. After Erap was deposed in what became known as EDSA 2, FPJ became a reluctant presidential candidate in the 2004 election which many believed he won. During a guided calesa tour of Intramuros, we passed by a row of metal sculptures depicting all the Filipino presidents. Our guide whom I believe to be a little bit mentally challenged said that FPJ should be there. I did not vote for FPJ but I agreed.

On 12:01 am of 14 December 2004, his excellency Fernando Poe, Jr. died of cerebral thrombosis with multiple organ failure at Saint Luke's Medical Center. He was 65 years old. He could have been the 15th president of the Philippines.

Precy is a big FPJ fan. But she can’t go to the theaters to watch his movies. Abet has been taught that such enjoyments are un-Sabadista. Neither can’t she watch FPJ on television because they don’t have one; Kid Buntal was never able to buy the one he promised many times. Many years later, they will have their first television --- a hand-me-down from Precy’s soldier nephew in Fort Magsaysay. One night, Abet went home to their house with crooked posts and slated bamboo walls in Almaguer, and found Precy and Kid Buntal trying to watch “FPJ sa GMA” in that old black-and-white portable yellow television with a picture that keeps sliding down. It was a hell way to watch a movie but they have no choice. Abet has just finished college and his first job don’t pay much. But he promised himself right that night that Precy and Kid Buntal will a have a new television. It will be a 14-inch Sony colored TV and it will take him one year to pay for it. But he did not care.

FPJ considered San Carlos City on Pangasinan as his hometown. I’ve been there as a 3rd or 4th grader but can’t remember much of the place. I decided to drop by during one of my trips from Manila. We had lunch in a carinderia that serves kaleskesan (pinapaitan without the pait) and pigar-pigar (fried fresh lomo). I asked the young waitress about FPJ’s place and what she thought if he could have the president. She had a sweet smile (and big boobs for her age) but she seemed not to know or to care. From there, I paid a visit to the city’s church that was built 4 times by the Dominicans in different locations. The first structure was razed by fire in 1587, the second one again burned down in 1718, and the third building was also destroyed by fire during a local uprising in 1763. The present church is actually the fourth building that was built between 1770 and 1763. The church was lowered in height and strengthened after suffering damages from the earthquakes of 1796, 1798, and 1799. Fire again razed the church in 1822 and was rebuilt probably in the 1860s.

Another favorite Pangasinense --- journalist Al Mendoza --- hails from the nearby town of Mangatarem that he periodically featured along with the infamous Valentin “VD” Dakuykoy in his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I like the way he writes with drama especially on topics related to my and the Philippines’ favorite basketball team (i.e. the fabled and legendary Ginebra of old). The first parochial buildings of what will be Mangatarem’s Church of San Raymundo de Penaforte were built under the supervision of Fr. Joaquin Perez (OP) from 1835 until 1844. These were burned down in 1862. Fr. Manuel Alvarez del Manzano (OP) initiated the building of the present church that was continued by Father Suarez (OP) until 1875, and completed during the term of Fr. Vicente Iztequi (OP) from 1875 until 1886. Father Iztequi also had the convent built during his term. Once upon a time, the church was the largest and the most artistic in the whole Philippines.

If I remember it right, ball player Marlou Aquino first played for Ginebra San Miguel in the Philippine Basketball Association. He hails from the nearby town of Sta. Barbara.

PHOTOS (top to bottom):
1) Da King as in his younger days.
2) A poster of one of his recent films.
3) People waited for almost 4 hours for FPJ’s caravan to pass by. Photo was taken in Bacal 2 in front of our house.
4) FPJ’s entourage passing in front of our house in Nueva Ecija during his 2004 presidential run.
5) San Carlos City’s church.
6) Mangatarem’s church.
7) Sta. Barbara’s Church of the Holy Family.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Angalakan Beach is really a river along the boundary of Mapandan and San Jacinto in Pangasinan. Abet and his brother often swim there whenever they have the time. One time, they rode to the river on their bike with their friend Bonor. The bike’s fork was already bent and the pressure of 3 heavy loads finally broke it and sent its riders tumbling in the middle of the asphalt road along with debris from what has been a bicycle. It was their first bike --- light blue like the early morning sky with a battery powered siren. There will be no more pretending to be cops chasing a bad guy with Bonor after that. Abet was later baptized in the river as a Sabadista. The first image he saw after being immersed in the water was her crying mother.

Abet finished his 3rd and 4th grades in Mapandan where they lived in the other half of a concrete duplex house beside the church in front of the school. Every time Abet have the chance, he would go over to the other half to pluck a 20-peso bills, 50 pesos, then a 100 from the bag of the head teacher who lived there. He was sure beaten blue by Kid Buntal when he got caught but he did watched lots of movies in Dagupan and bought glasses of halo-halo with a scoop of ice cream on top at the Golden Peacock Restaurant with his loot.

The best thing in Pangasinan is the sea and there are plenty. Their favorite is the shallow beach of San Fabian. One time, a typhoon caught them swimming in Lingayen but they didn’t care. The rain poured but the sea was as gentle as the afternoon breeze. They played their hearts out until Eric was almost hit by lightning while clambering over the old Japanese battle tank displayed near the beach front. Going home, they passed by Binmaley where stalls selling kaleskesan, pigar-pigar, and fresh talaba lined the road.

It was during that sojourn in Pangasinan when Abet first heard of Precy’s power of mental telepathy. She have the means of knowing what is happening in another place without being physically present there. One night, she confronted Kid Buntal about an alleged “second woman” in Alaminos where he was assigned for some months. He denied this at first but a shocked Kid Buntal later admitted his guilt when Precy suddenly closed her eyes and, like an ancient Greek oracle, began describing the exact clothes he was wearing when he dated his girlfriend, the place they went to eat, and other information he thought he only knew. However, Precy never get to find out about the waitress at Dagupan’s Golden Peacock Restaurant.

Abet and his brother are Anggalogs in Mapandan although they speak fluent Panggalatok. On some nights, Precy will allow them to watch Pilingpiling Pelikula at a neighbor’s house. Abet’s lasting images of the town are an illegal recruiter jailed at the municipio, the body of a dead man who was stabbed by his son displayed at the dispensary, and the bloated stomach of a man who nearly drowned in the pisong. But what he missed most is the suman with a sweet sugary dip, the pieces of pancakes with a Star margarine-and-sugar spread, and the cold pineapple juice that they (i.e. his brother Eric and sister Cheche) snacked together at the town plaza.

National Heritage Site: Pangasinan’s Best Preserved Church

What were probably the first parochial buildings of what will be Calasiao’s Church of San Pedro y San Pablo Apostol were built under the supervision of Fr. Alonso Montero (OP) and later burned by the great Palaris in 1763. These were replaced by structures that were probably destroyed again by either human or natural calamities. Another church was reportedly built a few years before 1804 but this was again razed by fire in 1840. Fr. Ramon Dalmau (OP) initiated the rebuilding of the burned church that was continued by Father Misa (OP) until 1845. The church was again razed by fire in 1852 before its rebuilding was fully finished. Fr. Ramon Suarez (OP) had the church rebuilt again from 1853 until 1858, and also supervised the building of a new convent. The church is considered outstanding and one of the largest to be built and the best preserved in Pangasinan. It has been declared as a national heritage site by the National Commission on Culture and Arts.

PHOTOS (top to bottom):

1) Angalakan Beach today and 2) Abet’s baptism in the river 26 years ago.

3) The church (right) and the duplex house (left, partially shown) in Mapandan.

4) SAN FABIAN’S CHURCH OF SAN FABIAN, PAPA Y MARTIR. The Dominicans built the first church in San Fabian in 1717 immediately after its foundation. Fr. Francisco Ferrer (OP) supervised the construction of the present church from 1762 until 1765. It was razed by fire in 1856 and was rebuilt during the term of Fr. Juan Gutierrez (OP) from 1857 until 1860. The church sustained various damages during an earthquake in 1892, during the 1898 Philippine Revolution, and during the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese occupation in 1945. It was renovated in 1952 and further improved in 1977.


6) BINMALEY’S CHURCH OF NUESTRA SENORA DE PURIFICACION. The town of Binmaley lies between the cities of Dagupan and Lingayen. It is the best place to enjoy Pangasinan’s native dishes of kaleskesan, pigar-pigar, and fresh talaba.

7) DAGUPAN CITY’S OLD CATHEDRAL OF SAN JUAN APOSTOL Y EVANGELISTA. The Augustinians built the early parochial buildings that were razed by fire during Andres Malong’s revolt in 1660. The Dominicans took over in 1713. Fr. Pedro Rama (OP) initiated building the present church in 1816. The fa├žade of the church was destroyed during the earthquake of 1892 and was rebuilt under the supervision of Fr. Vicente Istegui (OP) in 1895. It has been extensively renovated since then.

8) ALAMINOS’ CHURCH OF SAN JOSE. Augustinian Recollects built the first church and convent in 1770 that were later razed by a fire in 1814. These were probably replaced by other structures. Fr. Manuel Busqueto (OAR) initiated the building of the present parochial buildings from 1837 until 1849, and continued by Fr. Jose Tornos (OAR) until 1878. Fr. Victorino Vereciano (OAR) supervised improvements on the roof and the floor in 1879 until 1893.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Aurora Aragon viuda de Quezon was on her way to open a new hospital in Baler on 28 April 1949 when members of the insurgent Hukbalahap ambushed her entourage in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija along the Sierra Madre mountain range. She died in the hail of bullets along with her daughter Ma. Aurora and son-in-law Felipe Buencamino III, then Quezon City Mayor Ponciano Bernardo, and several others. In her honor, the sub-province of Aurora was carved from Quezon province in 1951 that was later relegated as a full province in 1978.

The Quezons of Baler are actually first cousins because their mothers are sisters. Aurora married Manuel (who is officially acknowledged today as the second Philippine president after Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo) in 1918. Officially, Aurora is the second First Lady but was the first to be called as such. She is also the first of 3 presidential spouses to be murdered before Alicia Syquia-Quirino who was massacred with 3 of her children by the retreating Japanese during the Battle of Manila, and Cory’s Ninoy who was assasinated while coming home from exile.

She shunned politics after her husband’s death of tuberculosis, declining an offer ro run as senator under the Liberal Party and a P1,000 per month pension offered by the Philippine congress “… when so many of (her) less fortunate sisters and their children are not yet taken care of. . .”. She instead became actively involved in socio-civic organizations like the Philippine National Red Cross of which she served as its first chairperson until her death. The Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Awards was named after her “to remind people of the fact that in times of violence, the first to suffer are the innocent”.

The Quezon house in Baler is just a around the Church of San Luis Obispo that the Franciscans first built of light materials in Tibag (i.e. now Sabanga) in 1611. It was handed over to the Augustinian Recollects in 1658 then back to the Franciscans in 1703. The church was destroyed by a tidal wave in 1735. It was relocated to its present site where a new church of stronger materials was built. Manuel L. Quezon, the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth, was baptized in the church in 1878. The young Aurora Quezon and her sisters were with a garrison of Spanish troops in the church that was besieged by Filipino revolutionaries from 1889 until 1899. Lt. Commander James C. Gilmore of the United States Navy was captured by Filipino troops when he arrived to rescue the Spanish troops. The church was handed over to the secular clergy in 1899, to the Carmelites in 1947, then back to the secular clergy in 1983. Aurora Quezon and her husband had the church rebuilt in 1939.

PHOTOS (top to bottom)
1) Aurora Aragon-Quezon.
2) Site of the Hukbalahap’s ambuscade on Aurora Quezon’s entourage in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija.
3) Baler’s church.

CREDITS: for the photo of Aurora Aragon-Quezon, and Wikipedia for information on her life.