Saturday, May 21, 2016

La Cocina de Tita Moning signing off.

La Cocina de Tita Moning, the restaurant that started me off on my food journey and the place I first visited with Manuel, was closing down because the family who owns the place was selling the property off. I thought that I should visit it one last time, preferably with the people who have joined me in trying out new restaurants every year.

And so I found myself back at the Legarda Mansion with Man, Ate Bing, Ate Mary, and Pogs. As always, the food was so good and we were received very warmly by the mansion's majordoma, Tita Tining.

And just like all the other times I've been there, I was given a tour of the mansion. Seeing how the alta sociedad spent their free times never got old. Because while I do get the luxury of having hobbies, I feel that my time is split between my indoor hobbies (like colouring books) and chores (if I actually get the time to do my chores). On the other hand, the owners of the mansion, back in the day, could fill their free time with lots of hobbies because they have household help for the chores. Anyway, I am not in a stage where I can actually afford household staff so I'm leaving it at that.

As we were leaving the restaurant, it hit me: I wouldn't be able to go here anymore for my dream party on the patio. I couldn't go bring tourists (my relatives mostly) there to link history and food anymore. I couldn't enjoy eating on antique plates using antique flatware and cutlery anymore. I'm going to miss this place. 


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Chasing waterfalls...

So, on a hot summer afternoon, Matty, Maya, Martin, and I went to Luisiana, Laguna to visit three waterfalls. I didn't expect a full-fledged hike and was thinking this to be more similar to a visit to Daranak Falls, for instance. Or even to Pagsanjan Falls, in which we were basically in a boat the whole trip to the waterfalls. So, I didn't bring water or food... thinking that these would be available along the way. 

But I was wrong. To visit the three waterfalls, we had to really hike, go over boulders, and cross streams... something I typically wouldn't do wearing running shoes. But since when have I planned day trips involving mountains properly, right? 

And so as we were hiking, I can't help but play TLC's song "Waterfalls" in my head. The chorus particularly resounded because we typically stayed in lakes or at sea when we go wakeboarding. This is only the second time I've trekked with Matty (I'm not counting the hike to see Yambo Lake, see) and the first time with Maya and Martin. 

Don't go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to.
I know that you're gonna have your way or nothing at all,
But I think you're moving too fast.

The song may be tragic but the four of us certainly had fun during this adventure. 

With our trail guide, Bert, we navigated through the brush and the pandan plantation (or at least it looked like one) to our first waterfalls, Talay. Since we came at the tail-end of summer, the waterfalls didn't have much water. The pools were rather small too (but still deep). It didn't matter too much because we just wanted to be in the great outdoors! Bert advised us from jumping into the water. I thought that this was good advice because there were two more waterfalls in our adventure and it's difficult to climb if one's clothes are wet and dripping.

So, a more grueling climb later, complete with boulders and a rope, we reached the second waterfalls, called Hidden Falls... probably it's part of the Talay Falls, only a few meters more up the mountain. And Hidden Falls proved to be the more crowded one, with people actually sitting comfortably under the waterfalls (yes, that's how weak the water flow has become at this time of year!). There's traffic going to and from the waterfalls due to the narrow ledges. One needs to be a confident swimmer to jump in here because the pool is quite deep and life vests aren't provided. 

Not too difficult, I thought of our hike, as Bert navigated through the winding paths towards the third waterfalls, Hulugan Falls. The path was narrow but it wasn't a very steep descent... Until I saw the rocks we had to climb and the algae-laden stream we had to cross to reach the waterfalls. Foot injury alert! Whatever happened to the girl who hiked to Mt Maculot's Rockies twice, free-climbed, and didn't think about being blown off by the wind while crossing the narrow strip of rock to get the best seat to view Taal Lake?!?

Right; that girl has an injured tendon and was already thinking what should be done if the girl got injured.

Anyway, the relatively easy, albeit stony hike to Hulugan Falls, was fun. We all jumped into the water and got refreshed after the hike. It was a well-timed field trip too because at some point it will start raining and the rivers will start to swell... I don't think I'd want to be caught anywhere near Hulugan Falls' mighty current when the rainy season arrives.

Off to the next adventure!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

a few thoughts on the 2016 Philippine Presidential elections

I'm going to echo what many have been saying about this year's Presidential elections in the Philippines: it is the most polarising one that my generation and the next (yeah, the ones who's first adopted the internet and social media) has had the privilege to participate in so far. It has also yielded a lot of unexpected results. My favourite is this: people came out in droves to vote. The Commission on Elections has reported that 81% of the voting population exercised their right to suffrage; this is the highest turnout in the history of the use of those Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machines. 

My experience. 
Weeks leading up to the election, I chose not to take an active part in heated arguments and debates about the merits and weaknesses of candidates seeking to serve the people for the next six years. Several reasons. One, I didn't want my relationships with my relatives and my friends be damaged by this elections. Two, I wanted my vote to be based on how the candidates performed and not on hearsay from other people. Three, I believe that my vote is confidential until after I've cast my ballot. 

A lot of people have experienced cyber-bullying from highly emotional and fanatic supporters of different candidates. The bullies' sense of anonymity and of impunity empowered them to do this, in my opinion. I did not want to be sucked into a situation that gives cyber-bullies an opportunity to bully me. 

I unfollowed social media accounts that showed one-dimensional negative perspectives about the different candidates. I chose to read articles written by credible sources; none of the pseudo-journalism that end up spreading rumour rather than fact.

On Election Day, I was quite surprised that the elementary school where I was voting was still brimming with people during the hottest hours of the day. It was nice to see the enthusiasm of the young ones to have their say counted. It was also nice to see the elder voters, with their quiet faith that everything would be all right after we've chosen our new leaders. Restaurants contributed to the efforts too: Filipinos hold the ballot so sacred but there are probably a few people who didn't have the motivation to vote; some establishments motivated voters by offering free food if the 'dirty' finger is flashed at them. 

Filipino wit and humour amid the pre- and post-election hullabaloo. 
Filipinos were busy composing and posting memes and fan fiction in the days that led up to and those right after the elections. I'd say that the sense of humour expressed by the posters tend to be on the dry side. Plus, whoever's doing these funny posts must be intelligent. The wit and the sense of humour of Filipinos were front and centre, thanks to the accessibility of social media and the internet. I don't think social media has ever been used like this in previous elections.

Unfortunately, people were more ready to believe the memes and the fiction rather than the data churned by reputable news agencies. So, I think that it is truly possible for erroneous material to make its rounds... In this way, social media may have been used properly. Just imagine the revisionist historical view that the youngsters (millennials) choose to believe... and the atrocities have happened in the recent past! 

Popular polarisation.
I think that the most fascinating issue that this election shoved our way is the way the electorate was split. Husbands and wives siblings, and friends quarreled over who they thought would make the best president and vice-president. And the debates (sometimes leaning to the nonsensical and illogical, even) were done with an audience: people were quarreling on social media! Yes, social media can be used as a platform to air one's thoughts and these can reach anyone who cares to read. However, I don't think that people need to fight so publicly. Come on, there are private messenger platforms available. We don't need to be flooded by others' quarrels!

With that out of the way, this is what fascinates me about the last election: It appeared to me that people were voting based on the characteristics they value the most and not based on the candidate's proven capacity to lead. For instance (and I may be wrong here), people who voted for Duterte (now the presumptive President-elect) probably valued discipline; those who voted for Roxas probably did so because they held continuity as highly important; those who voted for Defensor-Santiago perhaps valued intelligence.  

People probably used their emotions, rather than their intellect, in choosing the next government officials. That could explain why the quarrels on social media were so bitter that this led to people un-friending and un-following those who disagreed with them. However, there really were people who encouraged their fellow voters to think and to vote wisely. This proved to be difficult, apparently...

... Because nobody voted for Wisely. His name wasn't even on the ballot no matter how strong his campaign was!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Kangaroos (or wallabies?) in the wild and electrified fences.

Ten years ago, I first visited New South Wales as a PhD student. Ten years ago, I was using a point-and-shoot camera because I didn't have a digital camera yet. Ten years ago, it was my first time to see marsupials (ever) in the wild... they took on the form of kangaroos or wallabies... I'm not sure. 

Anyway, this photo was taken sometime in October 2006 when Bob Gilbert, my USyd and UQ thesis adviser, took me and other students from other countries into one of the national parks near Boomerang Beach. We stopped by the roadside when these animals were sighted. We got out of the car and stood by the side of the road to continue watching them.

Across the road was a tall metal fence with a warning sign: "Electrified fence. Do not jump." In my head, I thought, who in his right mind would ever think of jumping over a fence that's almost twice as tall as I am?!? 

A few minutes later, one of these kangaroos stood near me, also looking at the tall fence. I was in shock! I was thinking that I'd be kicked! I didn't even think that I should have taken a picture with it! (Because back in the day, the term 'selfie' wasn't coined yet) 

The kangaroo looked at me and then it jumped clear off the electrified fence!

That's when I blurted: "Obviously, the kangaroo didn't know how to follow instructions."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Under the sea...

"Down here all the fish is happy
As off through the waves they roll
The fish on the land ain't happy
They sad 'cause they in their bowl
But fish in the bowl is lucky
They in for a worser fate
One day when the boss get hungry
Guess who's gon' be on the plate."

I can't help but think of Sebastian the Lobster from The Little Mermaid when I went into the water at Dive and Trek, a marine sanctuary in Bauan, Batangas. I mean, there were a lot of fish! It's the first time I've snorkeled and seen the diversity of fish in the area! It's also a popular snorkeling spot so my family and I were not exactly alone in the area. The previous times I was there, I was wakeboarding... complete with flying into the air, thanks to a rock I wasn't able to avoid (one time).

Anyway, here's a video of our snorkeling trip. It's Daddy's first time to snorkel; Mommy's first time to be in saltwater with us; Marco's first time to swim among the fish; and Anna's first time to use her GoPro's multitude of accessories for underwater filming. Except for Mommy, I think we were all pretty much at home in the water. I just wish that Biboy and Barbara were there with us to enjoy the trip.

Which is why this video is dedicated to Biboy and to Barbara. When you pop in for a visit, bring snorkel sets and dive shoes. We are visiting this spot, definitely.