Wednesday, October 26, 2011

filet mignon is NOT fish fillet

I got to meet Fernando Zobel de Ayala today! Aside from being from one of the most prominent families in the country, he is also the chairman of the Bank of the Philippine Islands Foundation. It is this foundation that gives the BPI-DOST Science Awards (then known as the BPI Science Awards the year I received it).

Wow, that was almost ten years ago!

Today's encounter with Mr Zobel de Ayala brought back good old (read: blooper) memories of when the 2002 awardees were gathered at the 1851 Club in Makati...

It was the first time I was going to eat lunch at such a fancy restaurant, and without my parents at that. I, with my fellow UPLB awardees, was looking at the menu and decided to get the filet mignon, thinking that this was a fish dish. Yes, my only other encounter with 'filet' at that time was Fillet-o-Fish.

When the filet mignon arrived, I was so startled that I blurted out loud what I was thinking: "Filet mignon is NOT a fish?!?" Instead, on my plate was a piece of appetizing meat. It looked so good to eat that I forgot it wasn't fish. As I was cutting the meat, I realized that it was medium rare; it was the FIRST intentionally medium rare meat I've ever seen. Once again, I just had to exclaim: "There's blood on the meat! It's not cooked yet!"

This country bumpkin was so startled that she forgot that she was eating lunch with the rest of the awardees (mostly from Manila universities) and the BPI Foundation officers.

A few hours later, I learned that filet mignon was truly what I got. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I had an idea of what I was in for when I went to STOMP's performance on the 22nd. A few days before the show, I heard the ensemble grace "The Morning Rush" radio show (RX 93.1) and make music using matchboxes. The performance was nothing short of AMAZING!

Watching the group perform on stage at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo, though, was a whole lot better than just listening to the group on radio. A lot of Filipinos who have seen its shows described STOMP's act as "astig". Truly, it was.

The cast tapped danced and used everyday things -- yes, including the kitchen sink -- to make music. While watching the cast, I remembered steel drum bands from 1980s children's shows. The opening scene made such an ordinary activity as sweeping the floor sound nice (forgive the pun). Even crumpling newspaper was made melodious!

An hour and forty minutes of percussion music could seem very long and monotonous if it weren't for the accompanying visual comedy. It's almost slapstick; but in a show that didn't require the audience to dig deeply into their emotional and mental baggage, the comic scenes fit right in.

The jewel upon STOMP's performance was its interaction with the audience. People were clapping their hands, tapping their legs,  snapping their fingers while being conducted by one of the cast members.

As the gushing audience filed out of the theater, I thought: We've been STOMPed.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

the CCP: beyond the theater experience

I've been to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) several times before but only to watch at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (the main theater) and at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (the Little Theater). It was a real treat for me when my sister and I visited the other parts of the CCP because I've never seen them before.

Pasilyo Victorio Edades
While waiting in line at the balcony of the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo, I noticed a blank white wall which looked like it was being prepared for an exhibit, or just had seen the ending of a previous one. Maybe I'll see something posted here when I go back.
Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino
The museum features a collection of traditional instruments from the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Thailand, China, India, and Indonesia. A look at all the instruments on display made me think that musical culture in Asian countries must be very similar: gongs, drums, stringed instruments, wind instruments. What makes each country's music unique is the melodies made out of these instruments.
Further inside the museum is the exhibit on Philippine traditions called "Diwa: Buhay, Ritwal at Sining". I believe that this exhibit is a must-see for anyone who enters the confines of the CCP because it puts what's written in history and coffee books to life... well, into life-size replicas. While the clothes worn by the mannequins appear to have come straight from the costume department of the dance troupes performing in the CCP, these clothes show how diverse the different ethnic groups in the Philippines are. The differences are also highlighted by the diversity of rituals, religious icons, traditions, and jewelry of the different cultures making up the Philippines.
If I were to take one lesson from my visit to the CCP Museum, it is this: The Philippines is one country made up of diverse cultures. However, the different peoples making up this nation are more similar than they are diverse. Their cultures are even similar to those of peoples found in the Philippines' neighbors in Asia.
Bulwagang Juan Luna
On this visit, the gallery exhibits the works of the National Artist Jose Joya (1931-1995), a prolific visual artist. The collection on display included sketches from his travels, ceramic art, abstract paintings, and prints. I haven't encountered his works until my visit to the gallery, as I have a very limited exposure to visual arts.
Of Joya's artworks on display, my favorite has to be his painting "Ligawan" (1948). It shows a man and a woman, wearing clothes in fashion at the turn of the 19th century, seated by a table while being watched by people seated on a couch (seen through the reflection on a mirror). The painting reminded me of the famous Filipino artists Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo.
Bulwagang Carlos V. Francisco
The exhibit on display at the moment is "Tony Perez: A Playwright Who Paints". This exhibit is a companion of the ongoing performances of "Tatlong Tabing: Three Plays by Tony Perez, which are being presented by the Tanghalang Pilipino. Aside from the paintings, photographs of the playwright are also on display. These black and white shots were taken of the playwright by the photographer Hedwig de Leon.

It's just too bad photography isn't allowed within the CCP. I would've been able to post photos of what I saw. This just means one thing: Please go visit the CCP and check out the art galleries and the museum for yourself. They do make for an interesting and educational afternoon, an alternative to shopping malls.

Friday, October 21, 2011

halloween came 10 days early

Halloween is typically celebrated every 31st of October. This year, however, grade school kids went trick-or-treating ten days before the real Halloween. Naturally, lollies were prepared in time for their arrival.
When adults finish off the Halloween loot. Trick or treat!! πŸ˜ˆπŸ‘ΌπŸ‘ΈπŸ‘ΉπŸ‘ΊπŸ‘½
In the small spot in the Philippines where I stay in, Halloween is not as widely celebrated as in other nations. All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day are the bigger holidays in the country; people flock to the cemeteries to visit the departed. Hence, it's been a long time since I've put on a costume for Halloween (the other times I've donned costumes were Christmas events). Today, I wore my trusty Mickey Mouse (as the Sorcerer's Apprentice) costume while I handed out candy to kids guised as superheroes, princesses, and Hogwarts students. Their teachers, on the other hand, came as nuns and witches... they too got some candy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"scientists are not necessarily good extension workers"

If research work by agricultural scientists do not make an impact in stakeholders' lives, then all that research has been in vain. In a world where agriculture is becoming more and more knowledge-intensive and technology-driven, farmers (who are not as well-educated as these scientists) may not understand the advances in agricultural science that could help them grow more produce with less investment and less environmental damage on increasingly limited land.

Thus, one of the most important people in scientific discovery and application is the agricultural extension worker.

One of the presenters during the GRiSP Global Science Forum was Phil Abrahams, the market development director of CABI. CABI is a non-profit company that aims to bridge the knowledge gap between the scientists in the lab and the farmers in the fields. It thus functions as an extension worker. During his presentation, Mr Abrahams mentioned that scientists are not necessarily good extension workers.

I agree with what he said.

Scientists are trained to perform well on the technical aspects of research. However, not all scientists are  good communicators, particularly with non-scientists. Hence, scientists may not be the best people to answer non-technical people's "So what?" and "How will these scientific breakthroughs help me?" questions. This is where the extension worker comes in.

Agricultural extension workers act as links between the scientist and the farmer. He/she translates scientific breakthroughs into information that a farmer can use in his/her farm and then disseminating the information through training programs and publications. Before, extension work has been limited to actual field visits and on-farm training. These days, extension work can also be done over the internet and by mobile phone.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: Le Bistro

One Saturday, my sister, Anna, and I opted to eat lunch at the Paseo Uno de Calamba, a commercial complex that features newly opened restaurants. Tucked within the commercial complex is a coffee shop called Le Bistro. We got curious about this restaurant because it's the most accessible coffee shop for us, at least currently (a mere five-minute drive on a good day); not to mention that the restaurant's subtitle is "Sustainable Coffees". According to the serving staff we asked, "sustainable coffees" mean that the coffee beans they use are sourced from local farmers.

This, to me, is an example of helping farmers lead better lives -- something that isn't far from what Jollibee Foods Corp. is doing with its local vegetable and rice farmer-suppliers. Both companies ensure that these farmers have income by providing a stable market for their produce.

Ironically, we veered away from the coffee selections because we went there for lunch and because I don't drink coffee. So instead, we ordered pasta, an Oreo cheesecake, and a calamansi smoothie. 

I got the creamy malunggay pesto with chicken herb. The pasta was al dente and the chicken herb was perfectly tasty. Anna even got some of the chicken and paired that off with the sun-dried tomato arrabbiata pasta of hers. The sauce, on the other hand, was light and refreshing; none of that heavy feeling I always get when I eat overly oily pesto sauce. Unlike the pesto sauces I've tasted before, the Le Bistro version features malunggay (Moringa oleifera), a nutritious leafy vegetable, instead of basil. The presence of such a local ingredient in its menu further reflects the restaurant's commitment to promoting sustainable agriculture by supporting local farmers.

The delicious pasta effectively raised my expectations about the dessert...

Le Bistro's version of the
Oreo cheesecake

Then came the cheesecake. The portion that we got was quite a letdown after eating the scrumptious pasta. Don't get me wrong: the cheesecake was okay; it just didn't make as big an impact on me as Dalcielo's creme brulee. Maybe it's because of the fatty aftertaste which I didn't like. I thought, at first, that the whipped cream was the culprit, although Anna figured that the problem was in the cheesecake itself. Anyway, it might just have been the specific cake we got and not the whole batch. I'm going to try this dessert again next time I drop by.

Yes, there will definitely be a next time. Aside from a second go at the Oreo cheesecake, there are other items on the menu that I'd like to try on later visits. It's such a good thing that the restaurant is really easy to get to from home. Now, if only I can convince my friends to travel all the way to this bright corner of Paseo Uno de Calamba so they could try out this restaurant too.

listening in at the GRiSP Science Forum 2011

A lot of scientists in the different agricultural think-tanks within the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) work on developing new and improved crop varieties to help reduce hunger and poverty all over the world. One of the research programs within the CGIAR is the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP). It makes efforts on rice improvement more structured across the different CGIAR centers that work on this particular crop. Ultimately, GRiSP aims to help rice farmers adapt to climate change and to make rice production more profitable for farmers and healthier to the environment.

Last week, participants in GRiSP gathered at the International Rice Research Institute headquarters for the Global Science Forum and the annual program review of the Asian part of the program. The major theme of the lectures and the discussions can be summed up, in my opinion, through Steve Jobs' message at the launch of the iPad 2:

“... Technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”
-- Steve Jobs (March 2011)

Agricultural science is not enough to achieve the aims of GRiSP. Other disciplines are needed too.

While listening in on the discussions, I realized that making an impact on the rice farmers' lives is not just about improving the rice plant through breeding, nor is it just about increasing fertilizer and water inputs... it's more complicated than that. Aside from the environmental conditions that directly affect how rice (whether improved or traditional varieties) grows in the field, consumer preferences, application of post-harvest technologies, and multi-crop cultivation systems affect farmers' decisions and incomes. The ways farmers organize themselves and formulate protocols to handle the financial aspects of farming and post-processing also affect the way farmers do business.

Thus, the different disciplines of rice science should no longer be seen as disconnected. In GRiSP, solutions to farmers' production challenges are formulated via multidisciplinary approaches. For instance, breeders work with social scientists to take into account consumer acceptability while agricultural engineers work with economists to understand how post-harvest technologies are sustained as entrepreneurial enterprises. Innovations and scientific improvements, on the other hand, are communicated from scientist to farmer (and vice versa) via extension workers and through online and mobile phone platforms.

People from seemingly unrelated disciplines work together for a common purpose. That is the essence of GRiSP.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

bye, Steve!

Photo from:

He's one of the people I regard very highly because he's a great leader (and I've mentioned him as an example in the leadership course I attended a month back). He had a vision for Apple, Inc. and he cleared a path for the rest of the people in the company so they could share in his vision. 

Leadership skills aside, I look up to him because I think that he's one of the most gifted communicators around. True, there are a lot of accomplished scientists who publish in high impact journals in their specific fields; but their so-called impacts are not as tangible as Steve Jobs': despite being a computer science genius (a nerd, if you will), he achieved pop icon status in his lifetime, something not every published scientist accomplishes. He did this by effectively sending a clear message every time via uncluttered slides and an engaging story. He never talked in tech-laden sentences during the expos; his focus was always how to make the people understand and want the product. Behind each product presentation, he rehearsed a lot and worked really hard to get everything just right (including the lighting, the timings, etc); by the time the audiences were watching him, each inflection and each statement appeared to be effortless.

After watching his "Stevenote" about Macs carrying Intel inside, I was hooked. Since then, I want to do technical presentations the Steve Jobs way: clean, understandable, minimalist.

On the day his passing was announced, my sister, a few friends, and some of my classmates from the leadership course said that they remembered me when they heard the news. I must have been very vocal in class and in the lab about being a fan of Steve Jobs.

Bye, Steve! Have fun on your next big adventure. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

motorcade with lots of motorbikes; very few helmets

While on the road one morning, I came across a long vehicular procession which is part of the anniversary celebrations of a fraternity. I am not a fan of fraternities I've encountered so far and I'm definitely NOT impressed by this particular one because of its disregard to road safety.

Most of the participants in the motorcade were riding motorbikes. Most of these motorbike riders were not wearing protective gear on them. In lieu of such personal protective equipment (such as the required helmets), a lot of these bike riders chose to wear Chewbacca/ewok wigs (to my chagrin). To make matters worse, the riders drove carelessly, at high speed, on the freeway.

Dear motorbike driver: looking like an ewok may be fancy and trendy but it will not protect you in a road crash, especially when you're driving like a drunk person on the fast lane of the freeway, endangering both yourself and the other commuters on the road!

How does this apparent lack of concern for safety reflect upon the kind of leadership within this so-called brotherhood? Does it truly care about its members if it allows them to put themselves in danger? To the organizers of the motorcade: Please show a little more concern. If your brothers -- your fellow fratmen, no less -- don't have helmets, please lend some to them so they could participate and be safe at the same time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

a decade of tried and tested road-trip playlists

On long drives, I normally listen to one album one way, and then I switch to another album on the return trip. Since I just got two more albums to listen to recently, with one of them being Maroon 5's Hands All Over, I thought I'd list down the albums that have been, or still are, in my road-trip playlist. It's become an eclectic mix of musical genres in the ten years that I've been driving.

In chronological order of year of release...

Hands All Over, Asian tour edition
Maroon 5 (2011)

Live in Berlin
Sting (2010)

David Cook
David Cook (2008)

Christmas Chants
Gregorian (2006)

18 Singles
U2 (2006)

Il Divo (2005)

The Masterpieces
Gregorian (2005)

Side A (2004)

Greatest Hits
Eraserheads (2004)

Il Divo
Il Divo (2004)

Santana (2002)

The CompanY (2001)

Much Afraid
Jars of Clay (1997)

Live! 10th Anniversary Concert
Side A (1996)