October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween !

natalie deeAlign LeftAlign Center

I'm off to Kuala Lumpur tonight with some friends and will be there until Sunday morning. Just a short and quick weekend adventure with the girls. :) I'm really looking forward to all the amazing Malay, Chinese and Indian food waiting for us! I've been to KL once before, but it was for work and I didn't have much time do anything else. But I do remember loving every non-fastfood meal I had there.

I promise to be back with stories and photos and I dare promise to post about it immediately. Seriously. Hopefully this will kick-start my posting into gear! :) I know it will!

I hope you all have a fun and freaky Halloween weekend! :) To those of you hitting the road, have fun but be safe!

October 25, 2008

My word cloud

my wordle

Create your own word cloud here! :)

October 14, 2008

A super special delivery

Djuna's lovely gift basket 1

When my sweet friend D offered to send me a sample basket of her organic produce, I expected, well , just a small sampling. Instead, I woke up to the super generous and colorful bounty you see in the photo above (there's a lot more in the basket you don't see: more potatoes, onions, kalamansi , another head of broccoli, another head of cauliflower, a zucchini and more tomatoes)! Don't they look gorgeous? It made me wish instantly that I didn't have to leave for work that day. I wanted to stay home and admire my lovely present and make delicious things with them. In an ideal world, that's how that special day would have played out, with the time to blog about each and every one of the dishes.

But in reality, I barely had time to arrange the veggies and shoot this photo before I grabbed some breakfast and dressed for work. Since that day though, we've enjoyed the freshness and all-natural goodness of these vegetables in simple dishes such as tortang talong, spanish omelettes, cauliflower au gratin, eggplant parmesan, steamed broccoli in oyster sauce, and tortilla de patata. The super crisp lettuce & juicy tomatoes I take with me to work for a nice lunch salad along with various other toppings, and all the carrots have already gone into the juicer with either oranges, grapefruit, celery and/or cucumber, melon, mango etc. (boy, do I love my fresh juice!!) :)

I'm really enjoying this stash! So much so that I've asked D to put me in her 'system', with an every-other-week order. I'm really loving how accessible all these locally-grown organic fruits (she'll be adding mangoes, papaya and bananas to the next batch:) ) and veggies are becoming, giving busy people like myself the opportunity to support local farmers.

I've also placed an order with another local organic farmer to try, the same one Joey ordered from and who was introduced to us by our dear friend, Katrina. (Thanks, Kat!:)) He delivered his produce this morning, looking just like Joey's in her photo, along with a dozen organic eggs, 2 papayas and one mabolo fruit. :) I can't wait to try everything!

Thank you, dear sweet D, for such a lovely and healthy present! :)

October 3, 2008


This has to be the best commercial ever made. I love it! And I love sharing the stuff I love, so here it is for those of you who haven't seen it yet. :)

Our world really is just awesome! :)

September 26, 2008

I love my Mother Earth *updated!*

Mother Earth Canvas Bags

Canvas Mother Earth Bags

Hello? Anybody out there? I hope you all haven't given up on me and left me alone. :( I'm a scaredy-cat. Sigh, but I don't blame you. I broke my promise, about being back to blogging, and about blogging on the road and I'm sorry. But I tried! Turns out, blogging on the road, is kinda like, well, doing a commentary on bungee jumping while you're airborne. Have you tried doing that? Neither have I but I bet it's difficult!

Anyway, instead of giving you a list of reasons why I've been gone so long, since I bet you can guess half of them, I'll show you one of the things that's been occupying my mind a lot and some of my time. In behalf of my amazing partners (Joey, Angela & K), I am thrilled and proud to introduce to you the Mother Earth Bags!

Mother Earth Flour Sacks

Mother Earth Bags made using recycled flour sacks

We've all heard the warnings, most of us have watched Al Gore's eye-opening presentation, so the last thing I'm going to do is preach to you. I have long wanted to do my share to help heal this beautiful planet we live in, for our sake and for those of our children and grandchildren to come. So while I'm making changes in baby steps towards that goal, I wanted to help others do the same. Hence the idea of offering very affordable and fun reusable shopping bags as an alternative to plastic ones.

The bags are expertly made by the hard-working women of The Livelihood Shoppe, a livelihood center that has been employing the underpriveleged women of Taguig for the past 21 years. So by purchasing and using these bags, you are not only being kind to our Mother Earth, you are also providing these women with jobs. Now how great is that?! :)

At the website, you can view the bags in slightly larger images, and find all other information such as product descriptions, pricing and details on how to order (unfortunately these are only available in Metro Manila at the moment until we figure out shipping arrangements to other places). Also on the site are some links and videos which I've included in case you like to know more about the gravity and magnitude of the dangers plastic imposes on our environment and eco-system.

Update!! : I'm both ecstatic and proud to announce that as of today, Oct. 15, Mother Earth Bags are now available at the EchoStore. I was a big fan of this store since it's inception, and to be part of it is simply thrilling! :) This is a one-stop shop for other Filipino-made, organic, environment-friendly, all-natural products made by indigenous communities and marginalized groups. It is the brainchild of Jeannie Javelosa, Chit Juan & Reena Francisco and was conceptualized to promote a sustainable lifestlyle while sustaining marginalized communities, showcasing Filipino excellence and giving small businesses like ours a place to market our products.

EchoStore shares shop space with Kape Isla and is located at the ground level of Serendra, facing Market! Market! with tel. no. at 901-3485.


Love our Mother Earth, we only have one.

July 8, 2008

Hi, my name is Christine and I'm a delinquent blogger

I'm really so sorry for neglecting my blog for as long as I have (more than a month already!). But between work, 2 new projects outside work, a friend visiting from the US and other stuff, I haven't had as much free online time as I used to. I always get home too late or too tired to do more than check email or new photos or friends' updates on Facebook, if I even turn on my laptop at all. I know I'm the one missing out since I don't even get to visit my favorite blogs anymore. Sorry guys, I haven't forgotten you! In fact I miss your posts and I promise to be back for a visit real soon. :)

Another reason I've been extra-busy this past week is that I'm preparing for an upcoming month-long trip. The first half of the trip is a 2-week holiday that will have me visiting one of my favorite cities in the world once again (SF), and from where we kick-off our road-trip along the Pacific Northwest towards Vancouver (another favorite city), with stops along the Oregon Coast, Portland and Seattle along the way.

I'm so psyched about the trip, as you might imagine, because aside from the fact that I love roadtrips, I'l be visiting with my sister and her family in Vancouver!! The last time I did that was back in '96 when I lived with them for 3 months. Twelve years is just too too long, this is a long overdue trip. :)

I'm going to try something new, blogging on the road. I know, I know. You're probably thinking, yeah right! She can't even blog regularly at home. And I share your skepticism, trust me! So while I say I'm going to try, I'm not making any promises. I just think it would be a great idea to post while the experience is still fresh and I don't forget any important details. And most imporantly, I won't be so overwhelmed with processing all the photos and info when I get back home a month later. So wish me luck and have a little faith! :)

Also, if you have any recommendations for favorite places in SF, Portland, Vancouver, and also NY & VA ,where I may be going for work in the latter part of the trip, I'd very much appreciate it!

(I had meant to post about my trips to Xiamen and Dumaguete plus a few food posts before leaving, but because I didn't I'll have to save it for another time. To those of you who still take the time to visit my blog, thank you for being so patient with me! :) )

June 2, 2008

WS #39: Beer Party

The Brew

Two WS entries in a row with nothing in between, ayayay I'm slacking again. I need to get cracking on my backlog of posts.

But for now, here's my entry for Weekend Snapshot #39, a photo of the brew we ordered for a beer-tasting party. It wasn't one of those formal beer-tasting events with the survey forms etc., just a group of fellow beer-loving friends sampling different varieties of imported beer. The beers come from select breweries in the US such as Ballast Point, Rogue Ales & Spirits and Gordon Biersch and include pilsners, abbey ales and wheat beers. I love beer and I miss the wide selection from the grocery shelves and from the bar taps while living in London, so I was thrilled about all this new beer suddenly available in the market.

So I sent out the tasting notes to friends from which they made their selections, called up the guy who brings it in (cousin of a good friend) to place our orders and picked it up the next day. Prepared some pica-pica that I thought would pair well with the beers (cheeses, chips with various dips, truffled popcorn, homemade trail mix, salchichon and salami, buffalo wings, spicy sausages, olives/pickle/sweet onion mix etc. plus more snacks brought by others), set-up my iTunes and proceeded to have a really great time. The party lasted 9 hours (from 5pm to 2am) and it reminded me of how often I used to entertain in the past and how much I enjoyed it and missed it.

So what were my favorite beers from my selection? They were the:

GB Hefeweizen - described as "Interesting flavor of creamy vanilla, banana, and zesty citrus balance, the sweetness of its earthy malts. A hint of whipped cream is thrown in for good measure. Mouth feel is smooth, creamy, medium-bodied thickness. "

Rogue's Hazelnut Brown Nectar - "A nutty twist to a traditional European Brown Ale. Dark brown in color with a hazelnut aroma, a rich nutty flavor and a smooth malty finish. "

Rogue Mocha Porter - "Ruddy brown in color, a bittersweet balance of malt and hops with a light cream finish. "

Rogue Dead Guy Ale - "Deep reddish amber hue. Generous toasty malt aromas and earthy hops follow through on a moderately full-bodied palate with fruity accents and a long spicy hop finish. A delicious hybrid style with bock-like maltiness but ale-like hopping "

and the Rogues American Amber Ale - "Tawny in color, with a coffee aroma, tight head, and a delicate roasted malt accent. Generous use of hops and a smooth finish. "

For more info on the beers, check out the Global Beer Exchange website.

BTW, you can sample these beers at all the branches of Old Swiss Inn, Basilio's at the Fort, Myron's (both at the Power Plant and G5) , Elbert's Steakroom, and Good to Go Deli at Net One in the Fort.

May 26, 2008

WS #38: Stairway


I forced myself out of bed earlier than usual last Saturday morning so I could make it to Agrifina Circle in Rizal Park by 10 am. I've been to the Louvre, the British Museum, many other museums in foreign lands, even the Egyptian Museum! But I had never, in my 34 years as a Filipino, ever been inside the galleries of our very own National Museum. I know, right? Sad! It boggles my mind that this was never included in any of our field trips in school.

Well I'm proud to say that this photo I'm submitting above for WS#38 was taken inside the National Gallery of Art, one of the two main buildings that make up the National Museum (the Museum of the Filipino People is the other). I joined John Silva's tour together with about thirty or so other people, and I'm really glad I did. It was a very entertaining and educational 3 hours well spent. If you're interested, he has more tours scheduled in the month of June. (see blurb below). Proceeds from tour fees fo to John's I Love Museum foundation whose goal is to educate Filipino students about the importance of the arts by bringing public school teachers to the National Museum and to their local museums.

Morning tours of the National Museum in Manila are being offered in the coming weeks. Led by the museum’s senior consultant John L. Silva, the three-hour tours encompass the 15 galleries of the Museum of the Filipino People where a highlight is the collection devoted to the Spanish galleon San Diego and its treasures; and the National Gallery of Art with its massive original of the “Spoliarium” by Juan Luna.Remaining tour dates are June 7, 11, 21 & 25. They start at 10am and end at 1pm, priced at 700 pesos for adults and 500 pesos for children up to 18 years. Information: John Silva, phone +63926 729 9029, email jsilva79@mac.com.

May 14, 2008

Carlitos' Way

Carlos doing Quiapo

I've gone on many of Carlos Celdran's walking tours, some more than once, which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about the Philippines or who simply wants to be entertained for a few hours. Because much more than just a tour guide, Carlos is a highly-entertaining street performer.

Save for the photos I've taken while on his tours, this post isn’t going to be about that. If you're looking for information about his tours, please click on this link and this one. Neither is this going to be about my experiences on his tours because you already know I'm a big fan. He's been written about countless times by bloggers and has even been featured on television shows both here and abroad, even making it to Time and Lonely Planet.


Instead, I’d like to share with you some interesting tidbits about Carlos' past and personal life that most of you probably don’t know. There was quite a few items I had to leave out because they’re not meant to be published and I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining his reputation. ;)

Intramuros collage

If These Walls Could Talk collage

As early as the 5th grade, Carlos designed his own cards with the cutest caricatures and witty sayings. I remember the first one I ever received from him, I think it was for my birthday, and I was amazed! It looked like the work of a professional graphic artist rather than that of a 10 yr old. At that moment, I knew this guy was going to be famous someday.

He slept through school. Literally. As you can imagine, this amused his classmates but drove his teachers batty. He got away with it, because each time they caught him sleeping and tried to get him with a difficult question, he managed to answer it correctly.

He knew a whole lot about anything and everything without having the slightest ‘know-it-all’ attitude that usually comes with the territory. You can talk to him about anything!

He swallowed mayonnaise by the spoonfuls just to gross us out.

He once shaved off our girl friends hair on stage, for art’s sake.

Carlos was the youngest cartoonist of the Samahang Kartunista ng Pilipinas. He had a funny comic strip in Business Day & Manila Chronicle called Bar Sins.

He played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Metropolitan Theater, but was rejected when he auditioned for the Miss Saigon London cast.

Quiapo collage

The North Bank tour collage

Whatever is the opposite of OC, that’s Carlos. His room and car looked like mini-landfills.

He’s the man responsible for the designs of the then famous Island Spice T-shirts. With the profits he made from the shirts, he replanted an entire forest in Mindoro, single-handedly driving the trees across the channel.

In between all the careless partying and beach-bumming that made up our high school life, Carlos was already an active member of the Haribon Foundation.

His bathroom mirror had “Lose weight, Charlie!” written across it in permanent marker.

While everyone around him was going through teenage angst, and struggling with the trials that come with puberty and high school, Carlos was just…..steady. Nothing fazed him. He was our rock, and that was always comforting.

And I bet you didn’t know Manila’s favorite tour guide CAN SING! During the Battle of the Bands, he treated us to a fantastic rendition of Hotel California!

Chinatown collage

All the way down to Chinatown collage

His first car was a silver VW bug with a green stripe that would noisily announce his approach from 2 blocks away.

He was our comedian, our jester and our clown without even trying to be.

He’s been known to take his dog with him to a meeting with one of the heads of a big corporation.
He secretly dropped out of UP to live like a hippy in Baguio.

He was already frequenting Penguin and Cosa Nostra long before Malate became a popular bohemian hang-out.

When he had used up all his allowance, Carlos would borrow small change from different people in school, in the pretense of using it to make a phone call, until eventually he would come away with more food from the cafeteria than those who donated their change

La Vida Imelda collage

Living La Vida Imelda collage

Our friend John claims you could count on Carlos to lock his keys inside his car especially when it was raining cats and dogs, and most definitely lose his parking ticket as well.

He once dated a 250 lb lady doctor whom he painted nude, before he married Tesa. But he himself also posed nude for other artists while in college at RISD.

Carlos is a genius. He’s like the Rain man, but not quite autistic. Just a naturally tremendously talented artist and intelligent person.

But those who know Carlos and know him well, will attest to the fact that he was the one person you could count on to cheer you up no matter how down and out you are, because within a minute in his presence you’re sure to be laughing your butt off.

Carlos doing Chinatown

Carlos shows us how it's done - at a temple in Chinatown

Carlos 2

HS Grad Picture

Follow these links for some articles on Carlos:
Carlos Celdran is changing the way you look at Manila - by Pepper Marcelo
A Walk through History - by Trina de la Rama
Walk the Talk with Nostalgia - for Go Negosyo
Local Heroes - by Irwin Cruz

May 12, 2008

WS #36: Three


My dear niece turned three last weekend and we had a nice intimate party for her at her my sister's garden. There was all the good stuff of birthday parties including games, prizes, presents, and yummy party food. After she blew out the candles on her cake, and as soon as night fell, her uncle brought out a torch he made especially for her, which when lit glowed a beautiful number 3 for the number of years she's livened up our worlds. Happy birthday, dearest N!! I love you bunches! :)

For more Weekend Snapshot entries, click here.

Also, for those that inquired or those who are interested in these torches, (they can make words out of it too), send an email to Freddie: freddie@effects.com.ph .

May 6, 2008

Playing dress-up with my cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes with maple pecan frosting 2

How many of you were told time and again not to play with your food? There you were, still a little munchkin, sitting at the table with your mind on other more interesting things than what's on your plate. You're pushing the peas around with your fork and there's a bored look on your face, which is likely resting on the palm of your left hand, when the stern reprimand comes. Sound familiar?

Yes, we were taught well. Instilled deep in our bones are proper table manners and good etiquette that spared us many a embarassing moment later in life. And with maturity comes freedom. The freedom to play and have fun and express ourselves, as with the food we create. Our toys may have changed over the years but one thing is certain, we never get too old to play! So when I saw these Silly Feet silicone baking cups, I just had to have it. I mean, look at those bright pretty colors they come in. Hey, Barbie isn't the only one who's gotta accessorize! My cupcakes could use some new shoes too. :)

I made a dozen of these cupcakes to take to my sister's house for a party she was throwing. I baked 8 cupcakes in regular paper cups, and used the silicone cups for the other 4 which I saved for my sister's kids. Those in the Silly Feet are not really meant to be eaten like regular cupcakes, you'll have to use a fork for these, but that doesn't make it any less fun to eat! I thought they looked adorable and the kids got quite a kick out of them so you can bet I'll be playing dress-up with many more cupcakes in the future.

The recipe is from Buttercup Bakes at Home by Jennifer Appel, owner of the popular Buttercup Bake Shop in Manhattan. The delicious cookbook which has separate chapters for cookies, quick breads, layer cakes, pound cakes, cheesecakes, pies & tarts, puddings & icebox desserts, baking with kids, and of course cupcakes was a birthday present from dear Joey who had snuck a peak at my Amazon wish list for gift ideas. Thanks again, Jojo! :)

These cupcakes are quite light, that is until you slather on the scrumptious frosting. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of sweetened shredded coconut to be swirled into the frosting along with the pecans but I didn't have any at the moment so I left that out. It still came out wonderful.

So get in touch with your inner child and play with your food. It's fun! And because I said so. ;)

Chocolate cupcakes with maple pecan frosting

German Chocolate cupcakes with caramel pecan frosting

To make the cupcakes, you'll need:

2 oz. Baker's German's sweet chocolate - I used Callebaut dark gianduja
1/4 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs, separated
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 deg.
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate with the water, stirring to melt the chocolate completely. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar using medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks, beating well until combined. Add in the chocolate mixture and the vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk, beating after each addition until smooth.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on the high speed of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the batter until no streaks of white are showing.
Spoon the batter into muffin tins lined with cupcake liners (or cute silicone cups) to about 2/3 full. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Be careful not to overbake, as this cake has a lighter texture than most.
Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack. Spread on Caramel Pecan Frosting.

For the Caramel Pecan Frosting, you'll need:
3/4 can evaporated milk
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

In a large pot, whisk together the milk and egg yolks. Stir in the sugar,butter and vanilla extract. Stir continuously over medium heat about 10 to 12 minutes, or until thickened and bubbly and golden in color. Remove from the heat. Stir in the pecans.
Transfer to a large bowl and cool until room temperature (about 2 hours until it thickens to good spreading consistency). Spread the frosting over tops of completely cooled cupcakes.

May 5, 2008

WS #35: Mother Nature's works of art

Matabungkay Sunset 2

Matabungkay Sunset 3

I'm still enjoying the 'hangover' of yet another wonderful weekend at the beach. Because Thursday was Labor Day and hence no work, a group of us took Friday off as well and headed out to a friends farmhouse by the ocean. There we lounged around in the pool, played with the kids, cooked paella outdoors under the rain, feasted on gorgeous Filipino food on banana leaves, chased crabs, picked fruit from the trees and just enjoyed the fresh air and rustic environment around us.

I couldn't decide on just one photo for this week's WS, so I went with these two which were taken on the same afternoon, no more than half an hour apart. One shot from the shore, and the second one shot from the driveway leading up to my friends house. Mother Nature is still by far, the world's most talented artist!

Check out the rest of WS #35 entries here and if you haven't already joined and want to, click here. :)

April 29, 2008

I survived the Guam shopathon

Two Lovers Point

view from Two Lovers' Point

Wanderlust had gotten the better of me that before I knew it I had overbooked myself for the month of February with a trip planned every weekend. It all started with a journey to the north (Ilocos), a day trip to Clark for the hot-air balloon festival the weekend after, followed by an overnight tour of Corregidor with Carlos (will write about this very soon!), and then that lovely long weekend in Bohol. As if that wasn't dizzying enough, I threw in yet another destination, this time to Guam, for the last weekend.

It might sound crazy to some, and yes a schedule like that can be quite exhausting. But if you're like me and you get energized on the road instead of on the couch, you'll understand why I do this to myself. I'm usually tired at the end of a trip, but it's a happy tired. Travel is my drug and I'm hopelessly addicted! So when I found out about PAL's $98 (exclusive of taxes) promo for Guam, slave as I am to my addiction, I took a hit and went for the ride. :)

Guam signs

Our group of six arrived in Agana, the capital of the island territory of Guam, at the ungodly hour of 5:00 am. But that was no problem, we had it all planned. We would dump our luggage at the hotel lobby then proceed to the 24-hour K-Mart where we kicked off our weekend of hard-core shopping. Oh yes, two full days of tax-free shopping, and we shopped like we've never shopped before and until I got blisters on the balls of both my feet (my mistake for wearing flip-flops instead of trainers!). If you know me well, you'll know I have a very short attention span for shopping unless it involves a local food market or local arts and crafts, so this will come as a shock to you. But for someone as - ahem! ;) -voluptuous as I am who is seriously deprived of off-the-rack shopping in the Philippines, or anywhere in Asia for that matter, where everything is made for the teeny-tiny Asian body, it was much needed retail therapy!

Guam premium outlets

Guam Premium Outlets

After Kmart, we had breakfast at Shirley's Coffee Shop, the diner beside our hotel (recommended by Santos) that serves up hefty Chamorro, American and Asian comfort food. It's a daunting task perusing their large menu and faced with so many choices such as steaks, scrambles and omelettes, french toasts and waffles, porkchops, curries, yakisobas, country fried chicken, salmon fillets, English muffins, grilled seafood, sweet and sour pork and other Chinese stir-fries. Evetually I settled for the Chamorro sausage with eggs, Shirley's award-winning fried rice and some nice fluffy pancakes. The servings were huge but shopping can sure make you hungry. The Chamorro sausages were delicious! They were served sliced and fried to perfection, hot and spicy, just how I like 'em. The fried rice came chockful of diced ham, carrots, green onions and egg, and really was a meal on it's own. We washed it all down with an obscene amount of coffee. We enjoyed Shirley's so much for our first meal, that we chose it for our last meal too.

Two lovers in Two Lover's point

two lovers at Two Lover's point :)

Fueled with that power breakfast and with caffeine finally in our system, we checked in quickly at the hotel before setting out for more shopping. A couple of my friends stayed at The Marriott while the rest of us chose the Hotel Santa Fe in Tamuning, a rose-colored adobe-style boutique hotel situated on Hagatna Bay. The rooms were cheerful and sunny and the beds were comfortable. I was happy. The hotel's restaurant, The Grille, is around the back by the beach. It looked like a lovely place for a sunset cocktail and some beach BBQ. Unfortunately, we never had a chance to enjoy this little pleasure.

Getting around Agana is a breeze with the Lam Lam Trolley system of four color-coded courses that make regularly scheduled runs to most shopping centers, hotels and tourist spots. We bought the 7-day unlimited pass which is a better value at $10 compared to 2 one-day passes at $6 each. We spent the rest of the day at the Guam Premier Outlets or GPO, that housed stores such as Ross, Anne Klein, BCBG, Payless Shoe Source, Nine West, Nike Sports, Guess & Levi's. So we hopped-on and hopped-off the open-air trolleys conveniently, unloading bags at the hotel just 5 minutes away and going back for more. They just make it too easy for you to spend your money here!

Tags of Devotion

symbols of eternal love on Two Lovers' Point

For dinner we went with another recommendation by Santos - the Jamaican Grill - for some jerk BBQ. We were joined by an old friend I hadn't seen since he moved away after high schoool and his friend (who turned out to be a former actor in the Philippines), both now residents of Guam. We shared the huge family platter of Kingston Jerk chicken and a slab of Boston Beach ribs served over a mountain of Jamaican rice with salad on the side. The restaurant had a festive ambience that pulsated to reggae beats and appeared to be very popular for families. The meat was juicy and moist and we dug in until there was nothing left but squeaky clean bones on our plates.


Tumon's entertainment and shopping strip

We kicked off the next day with a massive brunch at Denny's before hitting the outlets one more time. There were some exchanges that needed to be made and last-minute purchases before we could make our way to Macy's at the Micronesia Mall which had an ongoing sale. In Macy's, I spent a good amount of time drooling over the Martha Stewart kitchen and dining collection but didn't buy much. I had to be practical since we still had some sight-seeing to do after Macy's and a baggage allowance to be watchful of. But I did buy some small items which I couldn't resist. :)

And finally, we headed out to our one and only tourist attraction on this trip, the Two Lovers Point. We arrived shortly before sunset. Two Lovers' Point is the island's most visited landmark and it is from here, 378 feet above sea level, that you are presented with a panoramic view of Tumon and the west central coast of the island. The legend tells of the beautiful daughter of a Spanish aristocrat and a young Chamorro warrior who fell in love but were forbidden to be together in this world; so off this cliff they leaped to their death so they could be together in eternity. Sigh, I love these tragic/romantic tales. The romance was not lost on the others. On the wire fence that surrounded both upper and lower decks are hundreds of locks left by couples as a symbol of their eternal love. Seeing them shine in the golden glow of the sun's remaining rays, I couldn't help but smile.

We took the last trolley out from Two Lovers Point to DFS Galleria, where we literally breezed through the high-end stores. DFS is located right across The Plaza where you can find more exclusive brands, on Tumon's most happening road known as Hotel Row. It is reminiscent of the Vegas Strip complete with Vegas-style magic shows, clubs, and restaurants. We had wanted to eat at Sam Choy's but after hearing mass at the chuch in Tamuning, we were too lazy to head back there. We opted instead for, you guessed it!, more shopping. This time for goodies at the grocery near our hotel. It was here that I decided to be true to my Pinoy heritage and purchase a balikbayan box (large cardboard box Filipinos usually use to ship gifts home to their families) because I had a serious space problems. However, the box only gave me more reason to buy more since I now had more space. What I failed to consider was how the heck we were going to lug everything back to hotel a few blocks away. The bags were heavy and no taxis would come take us because it was too near. Fortunately, I have strong friends who were kind enough to suffer along with me! Thanks, guys! :)

Cliffs of Guam

So that was my Guam experience in a nutshell. Sorely lacking in attractions and experiences other than shopping that it fit in one post. heehee. But I loved it, I loved everything I bought and I loved Guam. I think I may even love it enough to live there. It's got the best of both worlds: island lifestyle and urban living. It is a unique amalgam of western and chamorro culture with a generous sprinkling of Filipino flavor. It felt a little strange being on an island in Micronesia, paying in $US but conversing mostly in Filipino.

I'm definitely not done with Guam. That was a sneak preview at most. A good friend of mine is returning to Guam for good sometime in May. She's currently packing up her stuff in Arizona to move back to the place she has called home since she moved there straight after college. I'd let her take me to her favorite places, it would be so nice to see Guam through her eyes. And hopefully that time, I can finally meet Santos and thank her in person for the lovely presents she left at my hotel lobby! :)

Hotel Santa Fe, 132 Lagoon Drive, Tamuning; Tel. # (671) 647-8855
Shirley's Coffee Shop, Tamuning; Tel. # (671)646-2288
Jamaican Grill, Tumon; Tel # (671)647-3000/4000
Lam Lam Tours; Tel. # (649)5314/5; (brochures available at your hotel lobby)

April 28, 2008

WS #34: Bangkero


This shot of the lone fisherman/boatman (bangkero) was taken last Saturday at a beach in Batangas. For WS #34, I was deciding between this photo and a photo of the 'floating ice cream' man (he has his cooler propped on an inner tube!) but chose this because I thought it had more drama. :)

How was your weekend? Tell us in the comment section, or show us by joining Weekend Snapshot here.

April 25, 2008

Other reasons to visit Bohol

rounded chocolate hills

Aside from the churches and ancestral houses, there are of course other reasons to visit Bohol. Here they are, in no particular order:

The Chocolate Hills : No visit to Bohol would be complete without seeing this peculiar landscape that has been declared a National Geologic Monument. Our hike up a couple hundred steps to the viewing platform is rewarded with a view unlike any I've ever seen before. Some hills were pointy and conical and some were rounded but they all appeared to be of the same size. They looked like scoops of matcha or green tea ice cream garnished with sprigs of mint and parsley. Actually more like pistacchio. Two of my favorite flavors! I pictured it in the summer when the hills dried up and turned brown like chocolate (hence the name). B & I watched in amusement as on-site photographers directed tourists in funny poses over the hills, making them jump high on command while straddling a broom so it looked like they were witches flying over the hills. One could also choose to 'surf' over the hills, or shoot an arrow like cupid. Make sure you check out the photo samples on display, they're a riot!

The hills, over 1,200 of them spread over 50 sq km. across several towns, continue to puzzle geologists and there are a number of theories regarding it's formation (see under Origin here). But like a magician who never reveals his secrets, Mother Nature likes to keep us mystified.

cute tarsier

The Tarsiers:

Aww the tariers, such adorable little primates. Seeing them for the first time was actually a bittersweet experience for me. On our way back from the Chocolate Hills, our driver pulled up in front of a small shack at the side of the road, "to see the tarsiers", he said. We followed him inside past the souvenir shop to what looked like a tiny greenhouse. There was a small crowd milling about and peering into the trees and plants, snapping away with their cameras. It didn't take me long to realize that this was it, and I was already surrounded by the tiny creatures. So I searched the bushes until I found one, and there it was snuggled on a branch, eyes half-closed. It was the cutest thing ever! It couldn't have been much bigger than my hand. I saw about 10 more. All teeny-tiny, furry, big-eyed precious little things. They had frog-like fingers and heads that could freakishly swivel 180 deg! I took photos as B fed one a skewerd bug that was promptly snatched and stuffed into a tiny mouth - crunch, crunch.

But the cuteness stopped there. Nothing else about this scenario amused me much. In fact, I felt a flood of sadness for these sweet things held captive away from their natural habitat. As a carefree kid I kept all sorts of animals at home: parrots, fish, rabbits, mice, hamsters, hens, name it. But I have long since disposed of the fish tank and bird cage. But this wasn't just about animals in capitivity for our amusement (I can even tolerate this when it's for educational/ research purposes), but tarsiers are nocturnal animals. If they're 'working' like this during the day, when do they sleep? :( I really hope they're cared for well over there. Otherwise, tarsier viewing should be limited to the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella which is under the auspices of the Philippine Tarsier Foundation.

alona beach, panglao island

Alona Beach

I know I said this particular trip to Bohol wasn't about it's islands or beaches but we couldn't resist. We couldn't have chosen a better place to have dinner after a long day on the road. Alona beach at twilight was like a salve to my senses. It is a beautiful stretch of beach lined with resorts and restaurants sans the maddening crowds that usually plague more popular beaches in the country. B & I wound down with a nice barefoot stroll before settling down at the Coco Vida restaurant for a lovely seafood dinner. We picked some fresh fish, prawns, corn and fruit which they prepared according to our preference while we waited, enjoying the live Americana folk music from a local trio. The food was more than we could normally consume, but it was great and we managed, washing it all down with a couple of beers. Ahh...I'm definitely coming back and staying here next time!

panglao island

And speaking of food:

Bohol has it's share of culinary delights. One of my most memorable meals aside from the seafood dinner in Alona beach were the turo-turo (literally point-point) style lunch we had in a carinderia (eatery) outside the Loboc church. I can't remember what everything was called but it was all delicious. We sampled and took home local delicacies such as calamay hati- a sticky sweet concoction made with coconut milk, sugar, and ground sticky rice sold in smooth coconut shells; peanut kisses - very addicting cookies (shaped like Hershey's kisses hence the name) made with peanut and eggwhite; Bohol torta - a sweet cake; ube kinampay (purple yam) - which I found to be lumpier, and not as sweet or creamy as Baguio's Good Shepherd ube which I have a fierce love for but it was pretty good, the puto-maya is not unique to Bohol but it was special because it was sold to me by these adorable kids outside the Albuquerque church, puto-maya is sticky rice boiled with sugar and coconut.

Boholano food

Top row: native chicken & longganiza, kalamay, tsokolate tablea
Middle row: carinderia-style lunch in Loboc, Bohol torta, puto-maya
Bottom row: ube kinampay, fresh seafood on Alona beach, ube

And then there's Osang's broas. These are by far the best broas (ladyfingers) I've ever had. They are super crisp and light, almost feathery, melt-in-your-mouth heaven! I was thrilled to no end that you could watch them make the broas right there. There were only four women at work in the small bakery. I watched as the mixture was piped onto sheets of tin, baked by charcoal in a clay oven, and then scraped off the sheets and turned over on a grill to crisp and cool before being packed into brown paper bags. A very uncomplicated process using conventional baking equipment and methods. The entire place of course smelled of butter and sugar and all that bakey aroma I wanted to bottle up. I bought as much as I could manage to hand-carry in the plane (you don't want to crush these delicate things in your check-in luggage!). They were still warm from the oven when they were handed to me and I handled the bag like a first-time mother would a frail newborn baby.

Osang's broas

The Buzz Cafe

I thought it would be charming to stay at the Bohol Bee Farm on Panglao Island. But that was before the unfortunate incident at the Great Wall of China. Bees don't like me. Considering how much honey I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Maybe that bee in China is some kind of vigilante bee like Barry (Seinfeld's character) from the Bee Movie, but I wasn't taking any chances and decided to just visit the place for a meal and to buy some of their products instead of sleeping there. Unfortunately, we didn't even have time for a quick visit.

Upon realizing that we had some time to kill before heading to the airport on our last day, we opted to spend it at the Island City Mall in Tagbilaran. B & I both saw it at the same time - the sign for The Buzz Cafe of the Bohol Bee Farm. Yay!! I was going to have my honey and my chance to sample their food after all. The cafe is a sunny and charming country farmhouse style affair where you can also buy the farm's products such as honey, of course, home-baked bread, spreads, pure honeybee pollen, bee propolis, and their famous muffins (loved the corn and pumpkin the best but the cheese and carrot were great too). For merienda (afternoon snack), I ordered the kamote (sweet potato) fries with latik (caramel-like coconut milk sauce). It was delicious! I paired this with their signature corn coffee specially-brewed from roasted corn.

The Buzz Cafe by the Bohol Bee Farm

The locals. They Boholanos are a charming bunch. They have a deep sense of pride in their heritage, a trait I admire greatly, so they are more than happy to show you around and tell you tales. Everyone we met was warm and friendly and very down-to-earth. They remind me of the Dumaguetenos in many ways. :)


And on that note, I conclude my Bohol series. I will be posting a part two should i return in September for my friends' wedding (fingers crossed!). :)

April 22, 2008

Treasures of the past

Just as with old churches, I am equally fascinated and doubly charmed by old houses. It pleases me even further when they are still inhabited by descendants of the original owners and not converted into a government office or restaurant or what-have-you. I still think about all those gorgeous ancestral homes in Silay (Negros Occ.) and how much I regret not setting aside time from work to venture beyond some of those iron gates, managing only to admire them from across the road or through the car’s dusty window.

So to say that exploring the ancestral homes in Bohol was a treat for me would be a gross understatement. It was quite the honor. When you cross the threshold of an ancestral home, you are never just a tourist satisfying a curiosity. You are, above all, a guest of the family and of their forefathers.

We learned much of what we know about the BAHANDI or Baclayon Ancestral Homes Association from our lovely hosts at the Mendez Homestay, but also from a lady we met who operates a homestay of her own. It was in her living room where she recounted how the ancestral homes along the main highway were threatened by demolition due to a road-widening project. So in 2002 the BAHANDI (bahandi is actually Visayan for treasure or inheritance) was founded to protect these homes. Thanks to their tireless efforts, not only were the beautiful houses spared from the wrecking ball, but so was the cultural heritage of Baclayon. Today the BAHANDI continues to organize local cultural events, support locals engaged in traditional arts and crafts, conduct educational campaigns on culture and history in schools, and advocate the preservation of historic buildings.

Everything in the house tells a story. Even the width of the hardwood floor planks reveals the wealth of the family (the wider, the wealthier). But best of all are the stories you weave together from the personal mementoes left behind by generations past: the frayed baros carelessly hung on the walls; the worn piano keys and chess sets; framed portraits and sepia-toned photographs, rickety furniture you wouldn’t dare sit on; gorgeous aparadors next to canopied beds, doilies underneath antique porcelain figurines; religious icons that came in sizes smaller than my thumb to taller than my 6 ft. dad; books that threatened to trigger my allergies if I so much as lay a finger on them; vintage green and amber glass bottles, chipped clay pieces, walking canes and other odds and ends.

Most of the houses are of typical bahay-na-bato design, with the use of stone limited to the lower level for the foundation. The upper levels are built using wood, bamboo and other native materials. A staircase (a showcase in itself) leads you up to the large and airy main room with high ceilings. This is the most important part of the house serving as both dining and living area, and from where large doors lead into the bedrooms and the kitchen. Window sills with sliding capiz & wood shutters make up most of the upper level facade with shuttered ventanillas (smaller windows) just below it decorated in pretty iron grillwork.

I appreciated the quiet grandeur of these stately homes; devoid of the lavishness that most ancestral houses elsewhere display. But I appreciated even more the respect the locals have of the gifts of the past and the pains they've taken to preserve them. With the mass development of suburbs all over the country boasting of modern and western designs, I take comfort in knowing that houses like these which make up our national identity are fiercely protected.

So here are the Baclayon ancestral homes we had the pleasure of visiting. The information I'm providing here is taken from chats with members of the family supported by facts found in the BAHANDI 2008 calendar. Each house is as unique as the stories they tell. Instead of trying to describe each one in detail (I'd have to dedicate a whole post per house if I did), I'll let the pictures do the talking, in the hopes that you are treated to an enticing sneak preview at the very least.

1. The Malon House is currently the home of 6th generation Malon family and was the site of many political meetings between former Pres. Carlos Garcia and Juan Malon who was then working at the municipal hall. It was originally T-shaped and built in the late 19th century, but the wing that extended into the sea was destroyed by a typhoon in 1968. The house had a large and sunny living room where I found amidst the timeworn sundries, chocolate tablea covered in dried leaves. Not a stranger to the delights of homemade tablea from the provinces, I asked if they were for sale and bought some to take home. It was a week later during a beach trip with friends that I used them up to make hot chocolate for everyone at breakfast and wished that I had bought more. (Poblacion; 2 Fan Rooms, 3 Beds at P600 per person. Contact: Ms. Cecile Camba 038-5409514 / 0910-3387033)



2. The Villamor House is one of the oldest ancestral houses in Baclayon, built by a trader, Ciriaco Villamor, in the late 19th century. The family lives in the Mangrove House (below) next door so the Villamor House serves mainly as a museum and homestay. From the kitchen window is a nice view of the mangroves and the Mangrove house. (Baliaut, Poblacion; 1 fan room/2 beds at P600 per person; Contact: Ms. Telly Ocampo 038-5409030 / 0920-2097558)



3. The Mangrove House is so called because the rear part of the house is built on stilts and is nestled in the mangroves. It is there in that hut above the murky waters where all BAHANDI meetings are conducted. To get to the hut on stilts, you pass through one of the most charming native kitchen I have ever seen (see bottom row of collage). (Baliaut, Poblacion; 1 Fan room/3 Beds at P500 per person; Contact: Ms. Telly Ocampo 038-5409030 / 0920-2097558)

Mangrove House

Mangrove House collage

4. The Luza House is a large turn-of-the-century home of influential local merchant Fortunato Luza and his wife Maria Ginete. It is currently the home of Boholano artist Lutgardo Labad (who I spied outside in his garden) and where one goes to buy the famous Mama Nena's La Boholana Ube Kinampay. To be honest, it was the ube we were there for. We weren't planning to see any more houses that day, but when we emerged from the Luza's garage with our ube loot, the sweet-looking lady of the house called out to us from where she sat at an upstairs window. She invited us in for a quick look-see and who were we to decline. Unlike the other houses which were situated along the water's edge, this one was across the street and so the view from the second floor was the sea. I imagined that husband and wife spent hours sipping their coffee at that table by the window. (Poblacion, 2 fan rooms/3 beds; P600 per person; Contact: Mr. Gardy Labad 038-5409464 / 0916-3611786)


This last house, though not located in Baclayon and hence not part of the BAHANDI, is probably the most famous of all. It is the Clarin Ancestral Home in the town of Loay, not far from Tagbilaran City and en route to the Chocolate Hills. It was built in 1840 and was the home of Don Aniceto Velez Clarin, Bohol's first governor and his son Jose Clarin who was a former Senate president. The Clarin home was declared a heritage site by the National Historical Institute and is a must for visitors to the island. At the lower level is a coffee shop that extends to a peaceful garden, a perfect place to take a break from all the sight-seeing.

Clarin house

Clarin house collage

I've included the contact information for these homes should you be braver than I am (I'm a scaredy cat with an overactive imagination!) and would like to experience living in an ancestral home. If you'd like a list of the other homestays and their contact details, send me an email and I'll be happy to send it to you. :)