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. :)

April 21, 2008

WS #33: Mini World Cup Final Score

Mini World Cup 2008 final score

The Finals scoreboard for Manila World Cup 2008. Africa wins the cup two years in a row,
while Spain earns a deserving spot in 2nd place.

It was that time of year again, Mini World Cup time! A two-day football (soccer) event that's been in our family tradition for almost two decades now I think. Many countries are represented by their own nationals, with some inevitable imports, in a friendly and exciting tournament at the Nomad Sports Club. Although we have friends in other teams (such as Philippines and USA) it is Spain we come to root for because it's made up of friends and some relatives and was always my brother's team .

The games are always so much fun regardless of outcome. The days end with drinks, and the party is kicked up a notch at the end of the 2nd day after the awarding ceremonies when national boundaries are cast aside. And while our team didn't make it to first place (Africa truly deserved that honor!), they played with all their might and had a blast doing it. And at the end of the day, isn't that all that matters? :)

Click here to share a glimpse of your weekend with us through Weekend Snapshot.

Mini World Cup collage

April 18, 2008

A Taste of Yellow: Tocino del cielo

Tocino del Cielo 1

My mom and I can be polar opposites when it comes to certain things. Case in point:
My mom is a walking medical encyclopedia and a frustrated pharmacist. Give her just two symptoms and she'll diagnose your problem, suggest a prescription and even give you a prognosis. You will later make a trip to the doctor who will more often than not echo mom's words and charge you for it. Regardless, doctors are her friends. And she has lots of them, most of whom she visits quite frequently. My dad likes to tease that the hospital is her second home.

And then there's me. The apple couldn't have fallen farther from the tree. The mere thought of going to the doctor gives me the heebie jeebies. Not counting the time I went to the ENT two years ago (I had a major cold/earache that threatened to ruin a trip to Mexico) the last time I was at the doctor for a check-up was at least 6 years ago. I hate the smell of hospitals and I don't like popping pills in my mouth unless they're vitamin supplements.

Although I think my mom teeters on the edge of hypochondria, it is because of this same caution and keen sense of awareness that her breast cancer was caught at an early stage. They found the lump on her left breast when she went in about a pain on her right breast. She was grief-stricken and we were in shock. Until then, our family did not have a history of breast cancer. Mom was fearful and depressed at first. But armed with unwavering faith and buoyed by a tremendous support group and prayers she trudged forth and began the gruelling battle of tests and more tests. Treks to a multitude of doctors for an opinion and a second and a third. Enduring those agonizingly long waits in between tests and results. Countless hours spent praying for the wisdom to make the right decision. And all the while trying not to break down from sheer mental exhaustion, managing to even put up a brave front.

Today, a year later, you couldn't tell that she's had a mastectomy much less cancer. She's a survivor, my mother. :) And I will forever be grateful for that! Her story, like those of other survivors, is one of hope. And a reminder of the importance of early detection. I no longer get annoyed when she nags me about going for a check-up. In fact, I'm scheduled for blood work and a mammogram next week. Yes, we can all learn a thing or two from our mothers. :)

So any chance there is to support those who are fighting the big C or to celebrate my mom and the rest of the survivors, I'm there. Which brings me to the reason for this post: to do my share for the LiveSTRONG Lance Armstrong Foundation via A Taste of Yellow, an event founded and organized by Barbara of Winos and Foodies to promote cancer awareness around the world via the blogging community. Thank you, Barbara, for being the kind and generous person that you are and for hosting an event that gives us an opportunity to show our support and to help promote awareness and hope! :)

I first heard about this event from Joey when she participated last year and I had wanted to join but didn't make it on time. This year though, I had to. The idea is to make a dish using any yellow food and the submitting it for the round up to be posted on LiveSTRONG day falling on the 13th of May this year. So for LiveSTRONG with a Taste of Yellow 2008, I am submitting my mom's Tocino del Cielo recipe. If you don't already know, tocino del cielo literally means bacon of heaven. Well! If that doesn't sound decadent, I don't know what does! But there isn't any bacon in it. It's primary ingredient is egg yolk, lots and lots of egg yolk.

Since this post is already too long, I won't go into details about this dessert here, instead I will point you into the direction of Santos' post about tocino del cielo where you can learn more about it and ogle her stunning photos. This dessert is not for the faint-hearted. I had wanted to make something a little healthier (ie: cha ca la vong - wait for it!) for this health-related event but I didn't have anymore fish in the icebox and I was already trying to beat the deadline with this entry.

Something as rich and delicious as this should come with a license!

Tocino del Cielo 2

Tocino del Cielo

(Egg yolk custard)

3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups water
6 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 Tbsp vanilla

For the syrup:
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar

Separate 6 egg yolks from the whites (keep the egg whites for a nice healthy scrambled egg breakfast the next morning). Whisk the yolks and whole egg together.

In a saucepan, boil water and sugar in until syrupy, then set aside to cool.

In another saucepan, boil the brown sugar in water until caramelized. Use this syrup to line the tin molds you'll be using. Whisk the egg yolks and the 1 whole egg together, then stir in the cooled syrup. Strain the mixture before spooning into the molds. Arrange the molds in a bain marie where the water comes halfway up the molds then let it cook in the oven for 4o-50 minutes or until it's set.

Remove from the oven andleave to cool for a bit before unmolding. When ready, slide a clean knife around the edges to loosen it up. Slowly turn it over on individual plates or paper cups, letting the syrup drizzle over the tocino del cielos.

Makes 6 individual servings.

A cousin of mine passed away very recently after struggling with his cancer for a long time. He suffered profoundly and he was way too young (only 36!), but now he is at peace. He was an advocate of the LiveSTRONG foundation. Like Lance Armstrong (who incidentally visited him while he was in the hospital in NY) he too was a professional triathlete and cyclist who succumbed to testicular cancer. So I'd also like to dedicate this post to his memory and to the family he left behind.

April 14, 2008

How are you smart?

Oggi recently tagged me for a personality test so now I'm posting the results. It's pretty accurate, as I got the same results two years ago when I administered the Myers Briggs tests to people in the office including myself.

I am from the school of thought that believes we should not ask "how smart am I?" but rather "how am I smart?". The old IQ system was based on an old belief that everyone had one way of learning, when in fact the human intelligence encompasses a broad scope of intelligences (i.e. Multiple Intelligences). I became really interested in this when I was preparing myself for a new responsibility at work that largely involved training and began to research learning styles.

But anyway, let me share with you my results (Oggi, I also included the Multiple Intelligence test, I hope you don't mind.) in the hopes that you would consider taking it as well and sharing yours. I'd love to learn more about you. :) I won't be tagging anyone, but please feel free to take the tests and post your results in the comments section or in your own blog.

Click to view my Personality Profile page

ENFP - The "Advocate"

ENFPs are introspective, values-oriented, inspiring, social and extremely expressive. They actively send their thoughts and ideas out into the world as a way to bring attention to what they feel to be important, which often has to do with ethics and current events. ENFPs are natural advocates, attracting people to themselves and their cause with excellent people skills, warmth, energy and positivity. ENFPs are described as creative, resourceful, assertive, spontaneous, life-loving, charismatic, passionate and experimental.

Some Famous ENFP's: Alicia Silverstone, Bill Cosby, Bob Dylan, Dr. Seuss, Charles Dickens, Robin Williams, Sandra Bullock, Buster Keaton, Carol Burnett, Joseph Campbell, Martin Short, Paul Harvey, Sinbad, Will Rogers, Paul Robeson. As for fictional characters, Ariel the Little Mermaid and Balky of Perfect Strangers (aww I loved him!) are also ENFP's.

My top 3 Multiple Intelligences are:

Interpersonal : People with Interpersonal intelligence are good with people and thrive in social interactions. They are good at reading, empathize and understanding others. They are good at working with others and have many friends. They learn best through interaction and dialogue.

Kinesthetic: People with Kinesthetic intelligence love movement. They enjoy sports and/or dance. They are good at building things and like to stay active. They have good motor skills and are very aware of their bodies. They learn best through movement and experimentation.

Naturalist: The Naturalist intelligence has to do with how we relate to our surroundings and where we fit into it. People with Naturalist intelligence have a sensitivity to and appreciation for nature. They are gifted at nurturing and growing things as well as the ability to care for and interact with animals. They can easily distinguish patterns in nature.

Based on this, some of my career matches are: diplomat, politician, social worker, coach, athlete, dancer, park ranger, Phys Ed instructor, farmer, conservationist, marine biologist, veterinarian, zookeeper (this is amazing, the ones I've highlighted were -and some still are- actual dream jobs of mine at some point).

Myers-Briggs Personality Types (Free Test)

April 13, 2008

WS #32: Cowfish


For Weekend Snapshot #32, I'm submitting this photo of cowfish (aka boxfish) that I snapped at the newly-opened Manila Ocean Park. Aren't they adorable? So cute those puckered-up expressions on their faces. :)

My folks and I joined my brother and my niece at the oceanarium where we spent at least two hours marvelling at beautiful sea creatures. Though not completely finished (mall, hotel, dolphin show/arena etc. still in construction) and slightly lacking in variety, for ocean-lovers and frustrated divers like me, it's a pretty neat place to spend an afternoon.

Click on the icon above to join us weekenders at WS, and click here to see the rest of this week's interesting entries. :)

April 11, 2008

A tour of Bohol's historic churches

Baclayon Church

Baclayon Church

Choosing to stay in the town of Baclayon in Bohol proved to be a wise decision. Our homestay was only a 5 minute jeepney or car ride from the Baclayon Church while most of the ancestral homes we wanted to visit were also very close by. So after grabbing a bite to eat at the market, we crossed the road to the first stop in our tour of Bohol's churches.

#1: The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Concepcion in Baclayon / Baclayon Church

Like the Paoay Church in Ilocos, the Baclayon church is a massive structure built with coral stone. There is some confusion as to whether this is the oldest church in the Philippines, because although construction only began in the 18th century, ancient religious relics found in the area date back as early as the 16th century - about the time the Jesuits were said to have founded the parish.

Baclayon Church collage

Scenes from the Baclayon church & museum compound

I emerged from the massive turquoise-colored wooden doors into what looked like a larger-than-life impressionist painting. The warm glow from the chandeliers danced with the rainbows of sunlight that shone through the stained glass windows, highlighting the walls which were mossy with the patina of age. A red carpet was rolled out over the black-and-white-tiled aisle for the couple who had just tied the knot and were now posing with their entourage at the altar. I kept my distance, not wanting to intrude on their moment. After saying a quick prayer from the last pew, I walked up the right aisle noting the intricately carved benches pushed against the wall. The entire church was a museum piece. But there was more to see at the real museum in the adjoining building next door, so we hurried to reach it before closing time.

It was a little eerie up there, walking on a creaky wooden floor amidst all these ancient relics and life-size religious statues. But the collection was impressive! How they managed to keep them in such good condition all this time is just as impressive. I especially loved the antique musical instruments and enormous music sheets on display. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take any photos, but if that helps to preserve these artifacts I'm more than happy to comply.

#2: The Church of San Pedro / Loboc Church

On our second day in Bohol, B and I hired a private car and driver to take us around. He was a very pleasant fellow who patiently waited for us at every stop we made on our road trip. After taking us to see the Chocolate Hills and the tarsiers, he drove us back through the town of Loboc where we had a quick turo-turo style lunch before visiting the Loboc Church. It had been raining hard again for most of the morning, but the rain gods were smiling down at us all weekend. They seemed to squeeze the rainclouds dry each time we were in the car, and then let up when it was time to get down at our stop.

The Loboc church stands in front of a plaza, a few meters from the river that runs alongside it. It's bell tower can be found across the street, standing sentinel from closeby. Then there's that eyesore- the infamous bridge I had first seen from K's Bohol photo album. My gosh, it was real, this monumental idiocy. A bridge that crossed the Loboc river would have ran smack into the church. What were they smoking?! This lady standing next to me sure wasn't happy about it either.

Loboc Church, Bohol

Loboc church

The interior of the church was bathed in natural light. It was pretty, done in pastel hues of pink and blue. The frescoes on the ceiling were beautiful and a large pipe organ immediately catches your attention from the left side. The church was empty save for a couple of old ladies knelt in prayer. Aside from being the 2nd oldest church in Bohol, it's claim to fame is the world-renowned Loboc Children's Choir, a group of 30 children with angelic voices who have won numerous competitions both locally and internationally. We weren't blessed with their voices though because they were out of town that weekend. Fortunately, my friends have hired them to sing at their wedding in September so I'll get to watch them then.

Just before we left, a hearse pulled up out front and we watched silently as casually-dressed pallbearers carried a white casket up the aisle towards the altar. The grieving family followed close behind them, and the church soon started to fill with mourners. That was our cue that it was time to go. First a wedding, now a funeral. I wondered what the other churches had in store for us.

Loboc Church collage

Loboc church interiors

#3: Our Lady of Assumption Church / Dauis Church

I was extra excited to see the Dauis Church because, of all the churches in Bohol, this is where my good friend, A, has chosen to have her wedding in Sept. It didn't take me to long to understand why. It was a beautiful structure, as expected, a little more modern compared to the Loboc and Bacalayon churches, but it was charming nonetheless with it's cream facade. The frescoes inside were just as impressive as the ones at the Loboc church, maybe even more so. But what made this church unique, what gave it that extra oomph, was it's location.

Dauis Church, Bohol

The church is on Panglao island, just off the bridge that takes you across from mainland Bohol. Because we arrived during the middle of a service, B and I walked towards the rear of the church to explore the grounds. I wasn't expecting to see the ocean but there it was, just beyond the grass and - are those pine trees?. I imagined how pretty it would look out there on that special night, with lights and flowers and sweet music, the September breeze playing with our hair. My heart did a little flip for A. It was going to be as stunning as she would undoubtedly look that day! :)

Dauis church collage

Dauis church and grounds

#4: Sta. Monica / Albuquerque Church

Are there certain words that you find makes you smile? Or even giggle? The name Albuquerque
does that to me. I love to hear it and I love to say it, enough to make me want to go to New Mexico just so I can go around saying it even more. Like Tlaquepaque (tuh-lah-kee-pah-kee), it's so cute, so....quirky! So imagine how amused I was when I found out we had our own little Albuquerque (referred to as Albur locally) right here in the Philippines? In Bohol at that, and with it's own proud contribution to the already very impressive roster of churches on the island.

Albuquerque Church, Bohol

Albuquerque Church

So when by chance we drove past the Albuquerque church on our way to the next destination, I asked the driver to pull over. The church is built on a low knoll just along the main highway. It's facade was unlike any that I've seen in the country. The bell tower is integrated into the structure, a bridge connects the main church to the convent, a courtyard lies between, and a series of arches ties them all nicely together. But once again, our timing failed us. The church was closed so I have no idea what it looks like inside.

Albuquerque Church

The church courtyard at Albur

While waiting for B who was still taking pictures, I made some friends - a super cute bunch of local kids who willingly obliged me and my camera. After which they sold me some puto-maya (sticky rice treat) which they lugged inside a portable cooler. How could I resist their charm? Or sweet treats? So I bought one each for B, our driver and myself then thanked them as they continued on their way. Or I thought they did. I saw them watching us from under a tree, as the driver and I polished off every tasty grain in those banana leaves.

Boholano kids

Cute little puto-maya sellers

It's amazing the number of historic churches in this province. It would take weeks to see them all and fully appreciate each one. But like our tour of the churches in Ilocos, seeing just a fraction was enough to make me even prouder of our heritage. :)

Tour driver: Jesse Deloso ; Tel. 0919-4987649 / 0921-4489881

April 7, 2008

WS #31: Cocktails on the beach

Cocktails on the beach

This is a photo of our cocktail spread last Saturday, during a long weekend at the beach with some of my best friends and their adorable kids. We munched on all this (salami, aged gruyere and manchego cheeses, green mangos freshly picked from the tree in the garden, olives, pineapples, chips n dip, shrimp a la king on crackers, smoked tanigue fish will dill sauce, white bean dip, bruschetta, sangria, beer and rum-pineapple drinks) as the kids dug holes in the sand, played ball, ran around the bonfire, played with the starfish and picked seashells. This was just one of the many enjoyable moments (and feasts!) we shared together during those four wonderful days at the beach. The only thing more I could have wished for was a longer weekend! :)

Click on the icon above to join Weekend Snapshot, and see the other entries for WS #31 here.

April 3, 2008

Feeling at home in Baclayon

Baclayon baluarte 4

Baclayon baluarte

We were met with lousy weather when our plane touched down in Tagbilaran city, the capital of Bohol. By the time we retrieved our luggage, the rains were coming down hard and I was sticky from the humidity. I started to fret that this would ruin our weekend, but quickly resolved to make the most of it. It was just rain, after all, it doesn’t bother me much. Two years in London had taken care of that.

My friend’s uncle kindly arranged for us to be picked-up at the airport and dropped-off at the Bohol Narra Homestay in the town of Baclayon, some 10 minutes from the capital. We opted for a place on the mainland instead of on Panglao island because of the nature of our trip (our main objective was to do a heritage homes/historic churches tour). The homestay was recommended by my friends who are getting married in Bohol in September. This is where they stay each time they come over to take care of wedding preparations so I knew it was clean and decent at the very least.

Clean and decent, it sure was. But more than that, our hosts were a very pleasant bunch! The rooms they rent out are separate from the main house within the family compound which is located by along the national road with a mangrove for a backyard. I’ve never been a guest at a homestay before and I have to say that it made our trip even more special.

On top of all the wonderful new experiences Bohol provided us first-time visitors, living with a local family was the cherry on the sundae. The adorable family dog kept watch outside our door every night. In the mornings, we watched from our second-floor balcony as one of the sisters tended to the garden while her brother chopped wood nearby. One of the brothers also volunteers his time as a driver for their homestay guests. Emee, the family assistant who doubled as our guide and companion on the first day, prepared our breakfast every morning in the main house.


Our daily breakfast feast overlooking the lush garden and mangrove beyond

It was in that cozy breakfast nook overlooking the mangrove where the Mendez sisters and Emee would later answer all our questions about their town and enlighten us about the BAHANDI or Baclayon Ancestral Homes Association, which they are a part of. I’ll go into more detail about this in another post where I'll show you some of the beautiful heritage homes we visited.

Baclayon baluarte 1

Our first order of business after we checked in was to feed our grumbling tummies. It was almost 4pm and we hadn’t had any lunch. Fortunately, the rain had let up for the day. Emee led us to her friends’ stall, aptly called Comeda del Mercado, at the Baclayon public market where we had some yummy longganisa (local sausages) and native chicken adobo with rice. The market is located in the town center right beside the famous Baclayon church and across the ‘baluarte, or wharf. After our meal and a tour of Baclayon church and museum (also for a later post), we took a stroll along the sea wall and down the baluarte.

Baclayon baluarte 3

Dusk was settling in and it seemed the entire town had retired for the day, save for a couple of young romantics and a handful of locals waiting for the sunset. It was so serene out there, The only sounds were that of seagulls and the occasional bus lumbering past. The rainclouds had parted to let the sun’s last remaining rays of the day stream through, causing some of the most beautiful reflections on the water. I let out a sigh and offered up a prayer of thanks. I felt truly blessed at that moment as I always do especially when I’m traveling and experiencing more of the world’s beauty. I couldn’t wait to see what the coming days had in store for me…

Baclayon sunset

Bohol Narra Homestay
P1,200/room (max 2 pax)
Contact: Ms. Letty Mendez or Ms. Emee Abu-abo; (+63) 0906-2284477