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Showing posts from 2015

2015 in a nutshell

2015 turned out to be quite a unique year. Here are some of the highlights that made the year interesting for me...

Bill Gates visits IRRI. It was a mostly a surprise to many of us at IRRI headquarters. I learned about his visit when my cousins started bugging me, asking for confirmation. Since I wasn't part of the very small group of people who he conversed with, I didn't know that he was already touring the facilities. In short, he was there but I didn't meet him.
Charlie Hebdo shooting. Staff at this French satirical magazine were gunned down by three people, who eventually were killed while fighting authorities. The killings have produced such a clamor since the people were allegedly killed by Islamic extremists who were offended by the satirical images the magazine publishes. It, indeed, raises the question about press freedom. It also reminds us that the freedom of expression that we have a right to has an equivalent responsibility. It is our responsibility to make su…

A taste of Denmark in California. :)

My mom has been bugging all of us about going to Solvang, California for a year now. So when I went to visit them over the holidays, it automatically made it to our to-visit list. And so on the third day of our road trip, we took some time to explore the city.
And I was wowed. It's this quaint little city whose buildings (along the main streets anyway) have been built with strong Danish architectural influences. Many of the building façades feature timber framing (but most likely with panels that are typical in the USA rather than in Denmark) and many of the roofs are artificially thatched. The place felt like a theme park (like Main Street, USA in Disneyland) to me because although the buildings looked really Danish, the stores were very American. During the tour (we road a horse-drawn carriage pulled by the biggest horses I've seen), the guide mentioned that Solvang is not Disneyland. People do reside in the city (away from the main thoroughfares, of course)... I just wonde…


Mommy, Daddy, and I were deciding where to eat brunch in Pismo Beach when a restaurant called Kunfusion caught our attention. What a catchy name, we thought... and so we trooped over to see what the restaurant had to offer.
As we barraged the server with questions, we found out that Kunfusion started out as a food truck (yes, Biboy has not yet taken me to a food truck), a product of the genius that is Lori Nunes. Honestly, the menu was a headache-inducing selection of food... in a good way, of course. For first-timers like us, we had to ask for help from our server because it was the strangest menu we had seen: tempeh and tofu could substitute for meats and seafood while Asian and American culinary traditions were mixed into utter confusion.
But when the food came out, the dishes were absolutely wonderful. I had the F tacos, with tempeh in lieu of tilapia. It was so good! My mom had a salad while my dad had the naked shrimp tacos. They were also very happy with their food.
If ever I …

Back to the future (or is it the past?) twice!

One of the most fascinating things (for me) about flying to different countries is the time difference... and the real possibility of time travel. On several occasions, for instance, I found myself leaving the Philippines, flying for hours on end, and then landing at the destination as if I've only been in the plane for a short time. On my recent trip to visit my family in the USA, however, "time traveling" took on an extreme turn... Yes, it was made possible because of the timings of the United Airlines flights I took.
I left Manila at 11:59pm on December 22nd. Before flying, I already had dinner in Los Baños. Then, I arrived in Guam early on December 23rd. A few hours later, I was again in the plane, going to Honolulu this time... still December 23rd. But because I crossed the International Date Line while flying, I actually moved a day backwards! Hence, I found myself eating my second December 22nd dinner at a bench in the Honolulu International Airport at roughly th…

David's Tea House Christmas dinner (before I fly out)

The night before I flew to the US for the Christmas holidays, Val and I had dinner at David's Tea House in Calamba. I've passed by this restaurant each night I go home from Los Baños but I never thought of making a stop here to eat. That's because whenever Calamba and Chinese cuisine are put in one sentence, people normally think about Ding-Hao.
The food was really delicious! When I saw the hot and sour soup, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try it out; after all, it has become a routine for me to eat this soup before I leave the San Francisco International Airport to go back to the Philippines. The sautéed polonchay with garlic had a great balance of textures and flavours because the garlic never overwhelmed my taste buds. And then there's the beef dish... I typically order beef with broccoli. in Chinese restaurants But this time, we got the beef brisket because we already had a vegetable dish... the beef was also quite yummy.
I'm happy that Val suggeste…

Steak can be reasonably priced?!

Man showed me around UP Town Centre one evening. It's ironic because I've passed this mall so many times when I still teaching at the Ateneo but I never stopped over for lunch there (I was always had to drive straight to Laguna after class).

There were a lot of options for dinner. But we ended up where we had to wait to be seated: Mad Mark's Creamery and Good Eats. For me, the major attraction was the long queue. A long line of people willing to wait for atable is ALWAYS a good sign that the resto is a good one. And as we waited outside, out popped two of my college classmates: Manuel Delfin, Jr and Sharon Madriñan (she's married now but I don't know her married surname)! It was such a random thing, to see my friends from back in the day there! They highly recommended the ice cream. I was sold.

Then, there's the steak. Mad Mark's cooks it's Signature Steak the way I like it: medium well USDA steak and with a generouse helping of vegetables on the side.…

Star Wars VII: Revéille de la Force

Spoiler alert. If you haven't watched the movie, read at your own risk. You have been warned. I'm posting my thoughts on it now since the movie's been around for a few weeks already.

A photo posted by Rochie Cuevas (@rochiecuevas) on Dec 16, 2015 at 8:28am PST

Matty and I waited for a year to see the seventh episode in the Star Wars space opera. So when the advanced screening presented itself and both of us were willing to pay to be some of the first to see the movie, we trooped to the movie house to see The Force Awakens.

After seeing the movie, I can say this: aesthetically, it was consistent with Episodes 4–6 but the special effects were much better. And the storyline was good... I'd say, however, that Kylo Ren's build-up to the part akin to the "Luke, I am your father" scene in The Empire Strikes Back wasn't as dramatic because I was already expecting such a twist to come up earlier on (and there were no spoilers yet at that time). As expected also…

the show must go on

Seeing Man onstage as one of the hosts during IRRI's year-end party reminded me of Queen's song "The Show Must Go On". Man was aptly dressed as a classy Peter Pan, in my opinion, because he faced the audience with his jolly face on despite losing his father to cancer a few days before the party. 
Inside my heart is breaking My make-up may be flaking But my smile still stays on.
I don't know how he does this. During Lola Estay's necrological services, I had a very difficult time delivering my eulogy for her. I was choking up my words and was trying to keep the tears from falling. But in Man's case, he seemed happy as ever.
My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies Fairytales of yesterday will grow but never die I can fly, my friends
Maybe, part of the joy is because his father is finally at peace and is no longer battling the cancer. Perhaps, his heart has been filled with positivity and support provided by family and friends. After all, when the news br…

IRRI ends the year in style!

This year-end celebration was special because it marked the last day of Dr Bob Zeigler as the director general of IRRI. He had passed on the baton to Dr Matthew Morell earlier in the day and so this was the institute's way of saying farewell to the man who led IRRI for the past ten years.
Walking over to the venue got me thinking about the many changes that my group, the Grain Quality and Nutrition Centre, has gone through throughout the years. We used to be called the Grain Quality and Nutrition Research Centre when I first came on-board (as a researcher). Melissa was the head of the centre then. Vito and I didn't have graduate degrees then. The GQNRC was housed in the NC Brady Lab building back then... and our office space (if it can be called that) was so cramped that we didn't even have any leg room. Soon after, Vito and I went to graduate school, finished off with PhD degrees, and are now qualified to compete with international candidates for job openings. The GQNRC …

Popoy and Basha... Again?!

Yes, they just had to not let my two least favourite characters rest. But who can blame them? People were lapping up anything Popoy and Basha... all they had to do was milk this unhappy love story for all its got and make a second movie out of it.
Popoy and Basha's story, the first one, was supposedly about how a long-term relationship ends. And it ended all right, complete with all the crying, the screaming, and the well-meaning friends supporting the two. Frankly, at this point, I felt bad for the two because they've been airing their dirty laundry to their public (and to the audience!). I was happy to see it end with the two protagonists moving on with their lives without resentment about the other. But wait... There's more! The movie just had to have a postscript suggesting that they're willing to give each other one more chance.
And since Krishna and Jojie had it next on our movie list, we trooped to the cinema to watch what happened after thei…

Parlez-vous français?

I finally committed to learning how to communicate in French... not Spanish, as I had promised myself eight years ago. I'm currently studying in Alliance Française de Manille (I'm in my second session now) to decipher what people say is a language I would have difficulty to learn. There are a few reasons why I opted to learn French over other languages but the turning point for me was my trip to Switzerland. I thought that since I'd be in Europe, English would be the language used throughout. Oh how wrong I was! My Lonely Planet phrasebook was a great help for asking questions but I couldn't understand their answers... so I struggled, even to buy food! And I did go to Thonon-les-Bains, France on that same trip, with a few Nestle Fellows, without thinking that I'd have difficulty in communication. Plus, I've been put in situations in which the ability to converse in French is important
So now, I'm in school. The shock came on my first day of my first eigh…

Mas Mabigat ang Liwanag sa Kalungkutan

Ate Bing, Sonia, and I were walking in UP Diliman when we passed by the Dalisay Aldaba Recital Hall. It looked like there was a show that was about to start so we went in and bought tickets... just at random. As I sat down, I didn't know what to expect. It turned out that I was in for one of the most serious plays I have ever watched. It's called "Mas Mabigat ang Liwanag sa Kalungkutan" (Light is Heavier than Sorrow). It tackled a heavy topic in a way that touched both heart and mind.
The play was set during the time of then-President Estrada's all-out campaign against the secessionists who believe that they are better off as separate from the Philippines. The issue was widely covered by journalists. But what was not heard a lot were the voices of the people who were caught in the cross-fire of this battle for identity and nationhood; students, teachers, elders... the characters in the play dream of peace for their hometown but the violent circumstances had forc…

the mystery of the bent timepiece

One of my favourite animated movies is Alice in Wonderland. It got me started with dry and absurd humour. And for some strange reason, it introduced me to Salvador Dali's brand of surrealism. It all started with this Instagram post of Tom Trandt. The photos below shows a weird looking timepiece because it looks misshapen.
A photo posted by Tom Trandt (Tôm Trần Minh Đạo) (@tomtrandt) on Nov 16, 2015 at 5:49am PST
Indeed, it is misshapen. At first, it looked like a snail (sans the shell) climbing up the side of the wooden table... like a mountaineer crawling through that last assault to reach the summit... Obviously, I haven't gotten over Everest yet. And then, after I looked at it a bit more, I thought that the timepiece looked like something that would have fallen down the rabbit hole... might even be the White Rabbit's own watch!
Perhaps, the photo showed physical manifestations of someone's dream... just like in Inception... Time is bent in space in such a way that …

A weekend of firsts

On October 23–26, I was stationed at Robinsons Supermarket at Forum Robinsons (in Mandaluyong) as a member of an experimental auction team (with a sensory evaluation component in it). This activity, a component of a brainchild hatched by Matty and me last year (when I was still a postdoc fellow) finally started becoming a reality in the Philippines! We had first tested the idea purely through sensory evaluation activities during Madrid Fusìon Manila. What made the latest activity doubly exciting was that this was our first experiment in an urban shopping mall (our sincerest and most heartfelt thanks to Robinsons Malls for partnering with us on this) and our first test of a novel variation of the Becker-DeGroot-Marschak auction (devised by Matty)... and one more thing, this was the first time that I acted as animator in an experimental auction! 
Members of the team who made this experimental auction possible was Anna de Guia, a MSc student in UPLB whose research topic was about the &q…

Sighted two "new" islands

Here we go again with my habit of pointing at things. My mom keeps saying it invites bad fortune but I keep doing it anyway, asking what this and that are...
And so, while boating on Saturday, I kept pointing to two islands we have never seen before. These are Balahibongmanoc Island and Bonito Island off the eastern coast of Maricaban Island. Unfortunately, the waves were too high to go any closer to any of these islands.

At some point, I thought while we were attempting to reach it, I'd like to visit Balahibongmanoc Island because there are hot springs under the water out there! But I guess I need to get a diver's license first to do that. And then there's Bonito Island, which I wanted to see as well... But after I learned that sharks actually lay eggs around that area, I lost interest in visiting the island. Maybe someday, I'll revisit the idea of diving and getting close to sharks. Note: SOMEDAY!!

As we were being swished back and forth on the jet-boat by the stron…

exploring the Philippines, a few islands at a time

Thanks to wakeboarding, I've started having an appreciation for watercraft and water forms. This, particularly since I've always loved to explore new places (hello, 16-hour drive to Ilocandia!). And so whenever we end up in Mabini, Batangas, I have the tendency to point at spots I've never visited before. And that, for me, marked the beginning of our exploration of the islands around Calumpang Peninsula. 
So, as of today, we have visited quite a few islands. Southwest of the Calumpang Pensinsula, we've driven past Sombrero Island, wakeboarded along the westward coast of Maricaban Island (from Sepoc Point all the way to Bunjar Island, if I'm not mistaken) and in between Maricaban and Caban Islands. Along Balayan Bay, on the other hand, we've gone boating around Ligpo Island (where Matty might have had a turtle sighting), wakeboarded from Anilao Beach Club towards Le Chèvrerie to the southwest of the Calumpang Peninsula and up northwest to the coast of San Luis,…

Happy birthday, Anna!! :)

Anna celebrated her birthday this year in Sta Cruz, Laguna. We ended up in Jookin's Cafe... where the saxophonist and the keyboardist were playing standards for the crowd's enjoyment. It was a celebration with the cousins, the nephews, the nieces, the aunts, and the Ates. Family bonding at its best.

Happy birthday, Anna! :)

Joyeux anniversaire, Anna!! 😄🎉 A photo posted by Rochie Cuevas (@rochiecuevas) on Oct 3, 2015 at 4:53am PDT

Contributing to SansRival

Back when I didn't know how to handle a chef's knife and I was deathly afraid of cooking oil, I thought to myself: what did I get myself into? when I attended my first cooking class. Little did I know that I'd continue keeping in touch with classmates (and now friends) after graduating from the culinary arts courses I took. 
One such example is my continued association with Ige Ramos, who happens to be the editor-in-chief of SansRival. This is Rustan's Supermarket's magazine/product catalogue that comes out every quarter (I think). I've collaborated with him two years ago, when he featured rice in his column, Bandehado, in Philippine Daily Inquirer's Bandera. This year, we've worked together again but for SansRival this time. Again, it's on rice. But this time, Matty got involved in writing the article, providing a more international flavour to the nature of rice as a staple.

A photo posted by Rochie Cuevas (@rochiecuevas) on Sep 13, 2015 at 5:49am…

Everest (2015)

Mount Everest, tallest mountain above sea level. I knew that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to summit Everest. But that's about what history teachers said about the mountain. What they had failed to teach me (and my classmates) at that time was that it's one very dangerous climb: for every 10 people reaching the summit, it is said that one dies trying. But it is more rarely mentioned that the descent is even more dangerous than the assault to the peak.

So many people have died on the slopes of Mount Everest and one would think that they've been given proper burials. But no. Most of their bodies are still there, perfectly preserved where they died... unless if the wind and the earthquakes have moved them, of course. It must be a macabre experience to sit and then notice that the person beside you is actually a dead climber!

Obviously, I'm still reeling after watching the disaster movie, Everest. I didn't know what it was all about at the onset. In…

Heneral Luna (2015)

There are movies and books about heroes. But what makes some stand out is the willingness of the masterminds of these works of art to let go of the kid gloves and to discuss the heroes as if they were human too... because they were. One such mastermind, and I am a big fan of him, is Ambeth Ocampo; especially with how he treated Jose Rizal and the Luna brothers. He made them look like ordinary Filipinos without discounting that they've led extraordinary lives.
And speaking of the Luna brothers, a movie called Heneral Luna showed up in my must-watch movies this year. So I trooped to the mall with my aunt and uncle to watch it.
This movie is so good! #HeneralLuna is the biggest badass in the Fil-Am war... and they (allegedly) killed him! — Rochie Cuevas (@rochiecuevas) 17 Septembre 2015
It was a movie that tugged on so many emotions. I had a laughing fit seeing the men comically retreat as the enemies kept moving forward and as the General forced people to…

when Ambeth took off Rizal's overcoat

Back in college, I swore that I would watch Ambeth Ocampo (whatever it takes) when he lectures about Jose Rizal and his infamous overcoat. The chance for me to see his lecture live didn't happen when I was still teaching at the Ateneo de Manila University. It, however, came as August was ending. Man, who always comes along when I go on a history adventure, was with me. And along for the ride was Bert, an economics student doing his thesis in IRRI. 
Ambeth Ocampo basically led us through the more important details of his book "Rizal Without the Overcoat". This is my favourite textbook among those of my social sciences courses in college. And Ambeth's lecture style makes history come alive, as he entitled his lecture series. It was a major laugh trip to hear about the escapades of Jose Rizal, the Philippines' national hero, as a student in Europe... in the days long before the internet, social media, and computers. Ambeth showed the human side of a man who would b…