Monday, June 26, 2017


Mines View Park? Mansion House? Baguio Central Market? Session Road? Lourdes Grotto? Wright Park? PMA? Good Shepherd? La Trinidad's strawberry fields?

Nope! Been there, done that.

Except maybe a family picture at Burnham Park, more as a rendezvous point rather than a place to visit.

"Let's go see a museum!" I said. 

"Search for BenCab's museum!" I next asked Bulan who, after giving us time to digest the sinking disappointment of not being able to correct the wife's birth date on her PRC ID, led us through the jigsaw of Asin Road via Waze.

And that was how we found the BenCab Museum, a modern edifice perched on a cliff housing a treasure trove of visual art, from a gallery of Filipino masters to budding artists, through modern printed art to a collection of antique Cordillera artifacts, and an interesting corner of erotic art to which Balong exclaimed "Nakakasuka!" but with that mischievous smile of his. 

Somehow, I have to balance my interest in Philippine art with the plain curiosity of my companions which unfortunately equates with a short attention span so after taking one last shot at a reproduced Igorot house, I herded them to the van.

"Take us to the Korean Ssambap Restaurant" I said to Bulan.

We found the place along Leonard Wood and with guidance from the chef, we tested two ssambap courses with bulgogi and the usual shabu-shabu, not really sure where to start, rolling condiments into fresh lettuce leaves, grilling frozen beef, experimenting with the shabu-shabu which turned out fine, wondering when the bulgogi would be cooked enough to eat, and declaring at the conclusion of lunch that it is among the most memorable ever. 

I realized only later that in ssambap, the rice should have been wrapped in the lettuce leaves too along with the bulgogi [grilled beef] and condiments. We ate it wrong and I don't really know what the last dish is but the entire meal was good just the same. 

Old Manila is also a museum of sorts. 

The square in Liwasang Bonifacio and the walls of Intramuros are etched with history, Escolta and Ongpin smells of acrid pollution and our Chinese heritage, while famous dead Filipinos are paraded in ornate tombs at the North Cemetery. 

I say the rice fields of Nueva Ecija is also a living museum on agriculture and a diary of our biking forays! 

Meanwhile, historic [bawdy] Cubao is undergoing gentrification with high rises dominating its skyline.

Malls and hotels have enveloped the Araneta Coliseum as restaurants sprouted like mushrooms among which are Food Exchange Manila in Novotel where for two lunches I gorged on Chef Sau Del Rosario's Kanyaman Buffet [the best of elevated [[fusioned]] Kapampangan cuisine [[[tamales pampanguena, lamb shank kaldereta, rellenong bangus, sisig with foie gras, three kinds of lechon belly, kare-kare with truffle oil, atbp]]]]; and Fred's Revolucion in what was the Cubao Expo now colonized by restobars where I have the best kinilaw na bangus ever and of course, reconnecting with old friends over glasses of free wheat beer.

That was more than a day and much more than museums but it was good memories that can be packed in a diamond studded day.     

Monday, June 19, 2017

UP, UP and Away!

Don't go to SM when there's a sale.

I did, in QC and Cabanatuan City, and ended up with a gray Bobson V-neck shirt [less 50%], a Levi's 501 jeans [less 30%], two Spoofs t-shirts [buy one-take one]a gray Dickie's long sleeved shirt [70% off] and a black Men's Club long sleeved shirt [50% off].

I brought them all and went to Bangkok to wear them.

Did I get the best part of the deal or fell into the alluring trap of capitalist consumption economy?

I'm sure the stores won't sell for a lose so I've been had like many, and was therefore extremely agitated upon realizing how much those retailers are sucking from us on regular store days.

By then, I was already in Bangkok wearing my unwashed "bargain" clothes so I tried moving on from my being a sucker through my favorite Thai beers [the only Thai brands known to me] and dining somewhere [fried catfish and grilled pork neck at Charlie Brown's] other than the usual place, before going back to the usual place for the next three nights [papaya salad with grilled pork, two kinds of Thai salad, grilled and steamed ruby fish, two kinds of Thai soup, and some shells].

Derk said I was looking good and that perked me UP [must be the new clothes], and the Asia campaign finally got UP running [must be that Team dinner].

Chatrium is a great place but no matter how its greatness is, it becomes boring when you can forecast the breakfast buffet menu.

I thought I need to even things UP by levelling UP my acquaintance with both ends [from Naradhiwat Rajanagarindra Road to Sathu Pradit Road] of Naradhiwas Rajanakarindra 24 Alley, and that's where I met UP with an animal cafe, two vintage cars, a bicycle rickshaw, and a strip of a breakfast food street.

Amen [SMIB]!     

Monday, June 12, 2017


Mayo nang humayo ang panganay mula sa Iloilo
Martes niya naisuot guwantes at sumabay sa aking pagtalilis

Huwebes dinalaw ng mga bakasyonista ang nasa Constancio
Nananghali ng pizza, pasta, ensalada at manok na prito

Biyernes nang isinop ni Bunso ang kanyang mga libro
Mga gulanit na tropeo ng kanyang tagumpay sa CLSU

Sabado ko muling naisuot ang lilang tapis at hiyas
Matapos ang bakasyon noong Huwebes at Biyernes
Na susundan ng isa pang yugto sa Lunes at Martes

Monday, June 05, 2017

MANILA BY BIKE (Special Edition)

How do I kill a Sunday? Let me count the ways.
I'll ride to the height of the monument in Luneta

Watch a Dragon Boat vanish in Manila Bay
String the broken ends of the walls of Intramuros
Make love before Charles IV in Plaza de Roma
Break the quite of Fort Santiago and the mass at San Agustin
Love them bamboo bikes, light and spry rides for hire

I love the Pasig despite its fetidness and lifeless waters 
I love Binondo and all its peculiar smells and sights
I grieve for the lose of my childhood's Escolta

I'll ride to those who were lost forever
Them heroes and famous people in cold fancy tombs
Presidents, Katipuneros, Masons, Artists, Colonizers
In Cementerio del Norte they all lay dead.  

--- With profound apologies to ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

Sunday, June 04, 2017


This is all about barbecue.

In its purest form, barbecue is roasting meat over low fire, with the barbecue grill later invented to catch the meat from falling into the fire, which perhaps evolved the barbecue spit to further secure the meat.

Barbecue apparently came from the word "Barbacoa" which originated from the Caribbean and later imported by the Spanish conquistadroes to Europe.

Barbecue was brought to Asia through the island of Java most probably by Indian and Arab traders. Wikipedia has not yet figured out the link between the Caribbean barbacoa and the Indian-Arab traders but what matters is thus was "Satay" came to be --- 3-4 pieces of beef or mutton skewered on the "tingting" of coconut fronds and later on bamboo sticks, and the satay later crossing to Indo-China and into Malaysian and Thai cuisine.

JALAN SABANG (Jakarta, Indonesia/31 May 2017)

Satay is as Indonesian as nasi goreng and I've had it in all my Indonesian trips. The last one is particularly memorable at the Food Street Capital of Jakarta itself in Jalan Sabang which is only 100 meters from my hotel. I was undecided [where's the best satay stall?] and intimidated [too many street musicians] on my first attempt and I have not seen a bottle of Bintang being served [it being the ramadan season] so I retreated to the secluded comforts of the pricey Beer Garden Menteng, more for the beer than the satay although I did have two sticks of satay ayam.

The next night, I decided to try the bars at Jalan Jaksa but the place was empty so I retreated to Jalan Sabang and finally got the courage to order five sticks each of satay ayam [chicken] and satay kambing [mutton]. "You want beer?" asked the waiter and that was it!

The satay was served in an orange plastic plate as I was midway into my big Bintang bottle and I am not disappointed. The meat were grilled just fine and came with a liberal dousing of ketjap manis [palm sugar-sweetened soy sauce] which in my opinion is better than the usual peanut sauce. I ordered another plate and should have had another beer if not for the Grab bike driver staring at me and the street musicians who suddenly found me.      

SOI RAMBUTTRI (Bangkok, Thailand/02 June 2017)

Satay is of course a common street food fare in Bangkok. The question is where to have it and for this trip, I decided to try Khaosan Road which is just a walk from my hotel. But since the place has become a circus, I went to the the other side on Soi Rambuttri, reputed to be the pre-"The Beach" Khaosan Road which I think is not but indeed an oasis of street food. I first tried a stall selling chicken/beef/pork satay for 10 bahts per stick, cheap and beautifully presented with a cherry tomato and a slice of okra skewered in but on the bland side. In my opinion, the all-chicken [wings, tails, breast] stalls are better, perfectly grilled meat with subtle flavors that went well with my 80-baht pink mai tai from the VW Cocktail Bar, for a price range of 10-20 bahts depending on the chicken part.

I also tried a high-end joint and was extremely disappointed with their 70-baht beef and sausage skewers which are mostly "porma" and felt robbed after falling for a 140-baht "sex on the beach" also-pink cocktail [never mind the beach but where's the sex?].     

Next time, I'll focus on the chicken and the 70-baht Chang bottles sold off the street.

TOMAS MORATO AVENUE (Metro Manila, Philippines/03 June 2017)

Back in Manila, an impulsive left-turn to a food bazaar along Tomas Morato Avenue introduced Bulan and me to the best isaw ever.

In terms of the usual satay, the Filipino BBQ that is mostly marinated to diabetic sweetness is no match to its Indonesian and Thai counterparts. I dare say the chicken inasal as a saving grace, and that skewered pork intestine [the isaw] in one of the stalls of Savour Manila which is really great! It tastes clean [no aftertaste that makes you think you might have eaten something that should not be there] with a mild sweet flavor and lightly charred. And it came with what may be the best dip ever too --- mildly sweetened vinegar-based mix with hints of crushed garlic, chopped onions and crushed black pepper. It went well with the beer.

I'll come back even if only for the isaw [and for the beer and music too]!   

Thus was last week across three countries and as I said, this is all abut barbecue.