Friday, September 30, 2011

Maroon 5, Hands All Over (The Asian Tour Edition, 2011)

I missed Maroon 5's concert in Manila this year, so just like with Sting, I did the next best thing: I bought a copy of the band's latest studio album Hands All Over (Asian Tour edition). This is my first ever Maroon 5 album. I guess Adam Levine's judging duties in The Voice (Season 1 is being aired in the Philippines at the moment) reminded me, during each episode of the show, to buy the band's album.

Hands All Over, for me, is the perfect musical pick-me-up on difficult drives. The songs are catchy and radio-friendly. Plus, each song is distinguishable; it's not like listening to one very long song from track 1 all the way to the end.

For the past two days, the weather's been gloomy because of Typhoon Nesat. On the day it made landfall (coincidentally), I decided to give Hands All Over a road test. I found that the songs are upbeat; listening to these songs allowed me to enjoy avoiding debris littered on the road as the typhoon's strong winds approached. Imagine listening to the acoustic version of Misery while doubling back on a steep hairpin turn because a fallen tree has completely blocked the mountain road you're driving on. Or dodging branches and electric wires while in the background, Adam Levine sings,

"I'm never gonna leave this bed"

Perfect, right?

Aside from inclement weather conditions, I find that Hands All Over is a nice companion in late night drives too. Give a Little More's catchy dance tune keeps me wide awake while I travel at night, with nobody to talk with on the trip. Stutter also keeps me on my toes because of the rhythm. Repetitions in the lyrics of the songs are also infectious... I definitely won't fall asleep behind the wheel.

"Take it, take it all, take all that I have                  "Why do you do what you do to me, yeah?
I'd give it all away just to get you back                  Why won't you answer me, answer me, yeah?
And fake it, fake it, I'll take what I can get             Why do you do what you do to me, yeah?
Knocking so loud, can you hear me yet?"             Why won't you answer me, answer me, yeah?"

"Put your hands all over                         "I'm not falling in love with ya, I'm not falling in love
Put your hands all over me                     I'm not falling in love with ya, I'm not falling in love
Put your hands all over                           'Til I get a little more from you, baby
Put your hands all over"                         Get a little more from you, baby"

"It's just a feeling, just a feeling that I have
Just a feeling, just a feeling that I have
'Cause it's just a feeling, just a feeling, just a feeling
(I can't believe that it's over)"

I don't know how it came up, but while listening to the album, I keep remembering Queen's Freddie Mercury and Frank Sinatra. Maybe it's because the songs are mainly smooth love songs but they're presented with a rock vibe. Or maybe, the guitar bits of the title single, Hands Over Me, reminded me of We Are the Champions. Thus, I was really, but pleasantly, surprised to find out on my first listen that the band has included in the album covers of Crazy Little Thing Called Love and The Way You Look Tonight as bonus tracks. I didn't notice these two songs in the list when I first opened the CD.

Because I enjoyed Maroon 5's Hands All Over album, it has definitely joined my driving playlist (which now proves to be an eclectic mix).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

tokyo cafe dinner

After the trip to the book fair, we all agreed to try out a restaurant that is not present in our province. We ended up at the nearby Tokyo Cafe, thinking that it's a good time as any to try out Japanese food. To our surprise, Tokyo Cafe is not our typical Japanese restaurant. There were no sushi rolls in sight! Instead, burgers, salads, and iced flavored coffees, among other Western viands, are on the menu.

We started off with the mango chicken salad, which caught my attention because I love the combination of ripe mangoes and chicken. The crunchy leafy vegetables gave a refreshing feel as we began to tuck into our dinner while the grapes added sweetness to the appetizer.

Mango Chicken Salad
Mango chicken salad

After the salad, we dug into the main meal. What Japanese (or Filipino meal, for that matter) meal does not have rice, right? The difference between the rice we normally eat and the Japanese rice, according to my niece, was the appearance: the Japanese rice is round and shiny but the Filipino rice is more slender and not shiny. Because she's not used to eating different types of rice, she didn't like the Japanese rice too much. I, on the other hand, enjoy eating this type of rice because I don't eat this everyday. It is a good match to the meat dishes we got.

Japanese rice
Japanese rice

Ah... Now something wrapped in a Japanese-styled container: the Kaibi Ju. It's a beef dish with rice and served with a side of vegetable salad. Out of the viands we ordered, this is the only one that is served like rice toppings. It even comes with a pair of chopsticks. I liked the texture of the meat and the flavor of the food but I'm not such a big fan of the egg. It gave a slimy feel to the dish... something that disconcerted me somewhat.

Kaibi Ju
Kaibi Ju

While I was busily munching away on my beef dish, they started eating the pasta and the pork dish. The pork shoga yaki, that's what they got. It's served with a side salad, just like the kaibi ju. However, it does not come wrapped in the typical Japanese style and no chopsticks came with the viand. I found this dish on the salty side, perhaps because I was eating the sweeter beef dish.

Pork Shoga Yaki
Pork shoga yaki

All together, it was a good meal. What made our experience in Tokyo Cafe unique is learning that Japanese food is not just sushi roll, teriyaki, and ramen. The cuisine has moved forward with the times; in this case, it has embraced Western food, injecting just the right dose of Japanese influence in the meal.

The book trip doubled as a food trip.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy birthday, Anna!!

My sister is celebrating her birthday today. 

In 2006, she 'celebrated' her birthday trudging her way through the flotsam and jetsam of Typhoon Xangsane (Milenyo) as she went home from work. In 2009, Manila was just beginning to pick up the pieces from the aftermath of Ketsana (Ondoy), which left the Philippines as a tropical storm on her birthday.

This is my cupcake.
Anna's giant birthday cake :)

This year, she's celebrating her birthday in the wake of Typhoon Nesat (Pedring). 

So, with the bad weather leaving in time for her birthday, I say:

Happy birthday, Anna! Hope you have a good one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Capping the night with some CBTL

I want this bag!chocolate cakeAnna and the guiltless chocolate cakeWant chocolate?drinking milkshakes after midnightfood photography
This is my cupcake.

Via Flickr:
After the book fair, the dinner, and some (window) shopping, we had our last stop at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

Anna wanted the bag and the giant cupcake we saw along the way back to the parking lot.

Modern Japanese food at Tokyo Cafe

the menuWhat to eat?my orange juicepoint and shootfood photographerattacking the spaghetti
We agreed that we wouldn't eat in restaurants found in our hometowns. That was why we ended up in Tokyo Cafe after our trip to the book fair.

We were expecting traditional Japanese food; instead, the menu showed Western food, but with a hint of Japanese-style cooking.

Since this was one of our rare times together, we took photos... a LOT of photos... if the photos from each of our cameras were brought together.

The cousins go to the Manila Int'l Book Fair

Manila International Book FairFinally... at the SMX parking lot!Trisha and the standeeat Pido's garden designat Pido's formal dinner settingPido's set brings people to the Arabian desert
Ate Madie got tickets to the Manila International Book Fair. Anna had some time off from the hospital. Trisha tagged along. And I was on holiday.

Although the spotlight was on the books, there were other exhibits that caught our attention as well. With so many things to and so little time, we just had to stick with the book exhibit... until we bumped into the creative genius of Pido, an event stylist and set designer.

krush time with KFC's Kookies n' Kream Krusher

Just before a deadline is one of the most challenging times for me. How to focus when the pressure is on? So many things to do; so little time! While some people feel that this is the perfect moment to break down, others say that this is the best time to relax. Just like in a chocolate-coated wafer commercial: "Have a break, have a Kit Kat."

my KFC krusher
Thus, on a rare afternoon with a deadline looming within the next few hours, I did what I thought was an unimaginable thing to do: I went outdoors and got myself some chocolate. A huge serving of chocolate should do the trick for me. Aside from being one of my favorite foods to snack on, it's also a great mood-booster, particularly for the long hours ahead.

On that day, the chocolate came in the form of a cupful of Krushers in Kookies n' Kream from the nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. A friend of mine had introduced me to this beverage when I used to buy only the mini-bucket of french fries as a dessert. Naturally, I got hooked!

The drink has chunks of Oreo cookies swirled into rich and gooey chocolate milk. Because of its thickness, the Kookies n' Kream is far from the thirst quencher that people normally believe iced drinks should be. Instead, it reminds me of eating light and bubbly chocolate bars or cold chocolate mousse: it's a liquified dessert!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Skippy

Skippy, in the beginning, was forlorn
for Skippy was, for many hours, alone. 
Nobody would touch Skippy --
everyone just stared at Skippy --
because there was nothing to spread it on.

In exasperation,
but keeping a brave smile on,
Skippy finally made a petition:

"If it's not so much to ask,
I'd like to have some form of bread brought in at last."

Finally, the white bread came along.
And that was the last time Skippy was seen alone.
For in a few minutes, Skippy was spread on bread
Shared by a group of friends.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

a few hours at the 32nd manila international book fair

The two times I've been at the SMX Convention Center previously were to watch Al Gore's lecture and to watch my sister's oath-taking as a registered nurse. The third time I dropped by was to check out the 32nd Manila International Book Fair with my sister, my cousin, and her daughter.

Here's one thing: the book fair was no library. I expected it to be a relatively quiet event, something like being inside Powerbooks or National Bookstore; instead, I browsed through titles as music played overhead, spoons and forks clinked with plates, and a lecture on direct sales was being conducted on one side of the exhibit hall. The lively vibe fit very well with fast movement of people going from one exhibit to the other. With lots of ground to cover in such a short time, people really had move fast to see all exhibits.

While there were lots of activities going on, two things caught my attention during the few hours I was at the book fair: (1) there were a lot of credit card agents and (2) a lot of public griping going on among sales staff in the booth of one of the bigger exhibitors.

At the entrance of the book fair, credit card agents were strategically positioned. They greeted the people entering the venue with promises of free shopping bags if these people showed their credit cards. They snubbed people carrying supplementary cards but did not want to let go of people who were principal card holders. While there is nothing wrong with taking a look at another person's credit card, I find it really bad that these agents just proceed with copying the owner's details onto new credit card application forms WITHOUT asking the permission from the owner of the credit card. I've seen these credit card agents in other exhibitions before... the ones I saw, previous to those at the book fair, blocked the corridors; conference participants couldn't get to their sessions in time. The agents' behaviors in both events give them a bad reputation, sadly. The organizers of the book fair, and of other conventions, should take a closer watch on these people, I think.

Past the credit card agents, I was looking at the travel guides and at the management books in one of the booths. There were sales staff huddled by the travel guides holding a loud gripe session, hidden from the supervisors. They were so engrossed with their complaints that they never noticed that they were blocking the view of book titles and they weren't helping potential customers. I had to to reach across the huddled staff for the travel guides, interrupt their conversation, and make them realize that this was the sales floor. Earth to these sales people!

Despite these hiccups, I had a good time at the book fair. I bought a few books and a compilation of easy piano pieces. The salespeople at the music stores were very helpful to customers looking for specific titles (or categories) of music sheets. The people manning the booth around one particular book set were also accommodating to potential clients asking about the history book compilation (which I'd really like to buy someday).

And then there were the rare books! The publishing groups of the University of Santo Tomas, of the University of the Philippines, and of the Ayala Museum had a lot of interesting material that were about literature and history rather than medicine and business. And the titles from these publishing companies were unique; no other exhibitors carried their titles (as far as I saw at the time). I never realized that the technical writing book I used back in college is now included in the rare editions! Some of the smaller booths scattered all over the exhibit hall also carried used books: those books whose value grow because of their age. A perfect resting spot for book collectors. 

After a few hours, we just had to leave. If we stayed any longer, I would've bought more books than I had planned.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gene Kranz: tough and competent

I've wanted to be an astronaut since I was younger. However, it seems that I wouldn't be joining any missions to outer space anytime soon since the NASA Space Shuttle program has come to a close. Nevertheless, the NASA Space Exploration Program has given rise to a number of visionaries and great leaders. One of them is Gene Kranz, the Flight Director of the team who took the steps needed to bring the Apollo 13 astronauts home.

He has been set as an example of a leader who rises at tough times. A lot has been said; people lauded him particularly on how he handled the Apollo 13 mission. In fact, he's been featured in The Art of Manliness, in NASA's 50th anniversary publication, and in Brian Turner's article on project management, just to name a few.

I wish I could attend one of his lectures, or even meet him personally!

Anyway, amid all that's been said about him as a leader, I liked how he inspired change in Flight Control. In the aftermath of the Apollo 1 fire that killed Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee in 1967, he said:

"... From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: 'Tough' and 'Competent'. 'Tough' means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities... 'Competent' means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills... These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control."

He set the bar high for his teammates. There was absolutely no room for mediocrity in Mission Control; everyone had to be excellent. Based on how the group successfully handled the Apollo 13 mission about three years after the Apollo 1 tragedy, I'd say that the team was successful; they've indeed become tough and competent, thanks to the calm and strong leadership of Gene Kranz.

Tough. Competent. He is an inspiration to space explorers and lab rats alike. I really wish I could meet him.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

outlet-store-hopping in Sta Rosa

While my car was undergoing it's nth preventive maintenance in the dealer's shop, I took a short tricycle ride to the closest shopping centre in the area: Paseo de Sta Rosa. The quickest way to reach the place (if by private vehicle) is through the South Luzon Expressway's Eton / Greenfields exit (km 42). Then follow the road to Tagaytay City, passing by several residential villages. Paseo de Sta Rosa is right after the hospital.

Paseo de Sta Rosa is one of my favourite haunts for clothes and shoes because (1) it's only 20 minutes from my house on a slow drive; (2) it has some of my favourite brands; (3) I don't have to compete too much for parking space; and (4) the shops I frequent are ALWAYS offering items at huge discounts because they're outlet stores.

One particular store that I always visit when I go there is Debenhams. I heard that there was a Blue Cross sale in the Makati store a few weeks ago but I wasn't able to go there. No matter. The store in Sta Rosa should have good selections too; but since it's an outlet store, the sizes are certainly limited. I would be lucky to find something I like in my size; I also need a lot of patience to rummage through the clothes in the discount rack.

Then there's the Marks & Spencer store near Debenhams. I'd normally check out the new fragrances and the food section for gift ideas. Sometimes, I'd drop by only to see if my favourite bubbly chocolate bars are available. More often, I'd go there to buy Christmas presents for family. The clothes are also always offered at a discount; so far though, I haven't been able to shop beyond the food and the perfumery sections.

Last March (I think), I was pleasantly surprised to find Payless Shoes right across two high-end shoe brands. It's quite different from the shoe stores I'm accustomed to. In the shoe sections of the bigger department stores, one size of shoes are displayed on the rack; I have to ask the attendant to get the right size for me. In contrast, Payless displays shoes by size. All I have to do is go to the corridor with my feet's size and then try on whatever pair of shoes I fancy. The cooler thing is that the shoes are relatively more affordable than what I'd expect!

Amid all the foreign brands, I'm happy to note that there's a depot of Bench nestled in one of the corners. It's truly one of the global Pinoy brands... and the women's clothing line, HerBench, is one of my favourites too. Many of the brand's jeans styles fit me well and it carries versatile blouses that fit the smart casual category (which means I could wear them to work). I think that the Bench outlet in Paseo is quite new when I took a peek. It's small and it's clustered in one shop with Charles and Keith, Celio, La Senza, and other brands I couldn't remember. When I go back to Paseo de Sta Rosa, I'll have a closer look at this particular shop.

There are some more stores that piqued my interest when I walked by. I'll have a look on my next outlet store trip. I wasn't able to explore these stores as much as the others because I had to go back to the repair shop to retrieve my car.

I'm now looking forward to my next outlet-store-shopping trip.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

the uplb filipiniana dance troupe in "Banyuhay"

Tonight, I watched this season's last performance of Banyuhay: Katutubong Sayaw sa Makabagong Pananaw (Ang Muling Pag-Indak). It is a concert that placed a modern twist to Philippine traditional dances.

As I entered the confines of UPLB's Baker Hall, I was surprised that premium seats meant sitting on the floor right by the stage. The audience was sitting in a circle, waiting eagerly as the lights dimmed and fog slowly seeped around. As I took in the atmosphere and as the UPLB Filipiniana Dance Troupe took their places, I realized that I had entered a dream, a collective image tightly woven by rhythm and by dance: the performers as the dreamcatchers; we (the audience) as the dreamers.

The dream sequence opened in the mountain strongholds of the Cordilleras. The sound of gongs resonated as the male dancers swirled with their headgear and the rich textiles flying in the air. The female dancers then entered carrying the banga (earthen pots). Audible gasps were heard in the audience as the music hit a fever pitch and a tall pile of banga was assembled and then placed on the head of one of the female dancers. She must have a very strong neck to balance more than ten banga on top of her head.

The music then transported us to Southern Philippines with dances adapted from the tribal dances of Mindanao. The familiar beats of Kapa Malong Malong echoed in the building as the male dancers demonstrated the different ways of wearing the malong, a traditional tube skirt. Suggestions of Pamansak were in the music as the princess and the prince danced on top of bamboo poles on men's shoulders. Female dancers with colorful and feathery headpieces danced to the beat of bells tied to their ankles to ward off bad spirits in a dance that appeared to be Dugso.

As the fog cleared, we found that we had moved onto the flatlands of Luzon, in the midst of a lively wedding, to be more precise. The groom had gone missing and so the dancers plucked a guy at random from the audience to play the part! During the wedding after-party, the rest of the audience were encouraged to go center-stage to pin paper money (props provided by the dancers) on the groom's and the brides' clothes. Female dancers performed snippets of Binasuan while guys climbed the palasebo. Two dancers then started sprinkling the audience with water, as if too drunk to be decent at the wedding reception. Other dancers distributed rice cakes to the audience too.

After the festive mood, the dance became solemn, sorrowful even; the aroma of incense and dried palm fronds filled the room as fog covered the stage once more. Perhaps we were getting near waking time as what looked like a contemporary or interpretative dance was performed. To me, at least, the character in the modern dance was facing his demons... or maybe he was being treated by pompom-carrying dancers from a voodoo spell as he writhed in pain. What was he suffering from? Was this act a symbol of ails in modern society? the lack of connection to the richness of the past? loneliness in the midst of modern technology?

Or did he represent the unwillingness to let go of sleep and to return to wakefulness?

I would never know. Because at the flick of the light switch, the dream sequence was gone.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

fitting anecdotes in history puzzles

"That's not a lake; that's an ocean!"

This was how my nephew, Tim, described the largest lake in the Philippines, Laguna de Bay, when he first saw it. Indeed, it's one huge lake. Fish pens dot the waters. Some coastlines are covered by greenery. Some coastlines are more urbane. This lake was the backdrop of the interview we did with the farmers during the learning journey in Jala-jala (read more about it here; see the photos here).

Laguna de Bay
Laguna de Bay, photographed somewhere in Mabitac, Laguna.
Mount Makiling is found in the far right.


Aling Editha, one of the farmers in the coastal town of Jala-jala, shared her story about the farming community. Hearing the history from someone who actually lived it was just like walking along the fortifications surrounding Intramuros, thinking: if only those walls could talk.

Curious, I wondered at how Aling Editha's story fitted into the bigger picture. Here's what I got so far...

Jala-jala was bought in the 1920s by Francisco, Marcelo, and Bernardo de Borja, the first Filipino owners of the town (1). This property was divided among the three; if I've connected her story with court records correctly, the farming community where we had the learning journey was owned by Marcelo de Borja (2). By the time Aling Editha's parents settled there in 1933, the lands had been inherited by the heirs of Marcelo de Borja. Through the years, the de Borja family became prominent, with lots of rich agricultural properties. These properties eventually became the subject of family legal battles, well-documented in the Supreme Court (i.e., 3).

Her story then skipped half a century, to sometime in the 1970s and the 1980s. In 1972, former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos gave PD 27 which states that "the tenant farmer... shall be deemed owner of a portion constituting a family-size farm..." and "No title to the land owned by the tenant-farmers under this Decree shall be actually issued to a tenant-farmer unless and until the tenant-farmer has become a full-fledged member of a duly recognized farmer's cooperative" (4). It was probably around this time or later when she became a member of the Samahang Nayon, a cooperative program that aimed to help farmers in the villages to have improved quality of life and improved income (5). According to Aling Editha, through organised efforts, she and the other tenant-farmers asserted ownership on the lands they were tilling in Jala-jala. They approached Heherson Alvarez, who was then secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (1986-1987) (6). They also enlisted the help of radio broadcaster Louie Tabing of Radyo Veritas to keep the public informed of the farmers' struggle and of the status of their land claim.

Through perseverance, hard work, and patience, Aling Editha and the rest of the farmers who fought got what they wanted: a land they could call their own.

---
References:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jalajala,_Rizal#History
  2. http://www.chanrobles.com/scdecisions/jurisprudence1957/jul1957/gr_l-6622_1957.php
  3. http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1951/may1951/gr_l-4179_1951.html
  4. http://www.lawphil.net/statutes/presdecs/pd1972/pd_27_1972.html
  5. Fajardo, F.R., F.P. Abella. 1993. Samahang Nayon. In: Cooperatives. Quezon City: Rex Book Store. pp. 97-103
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heherson_Alvarez