Of Good Food And Good People

The earthy smell reminded me that I was ankle deep in mud, the sticky soil clinging heavily to my rain boots, making each step a challenge rather than a mindless task. A miscalculated step could get my face planted in the mud with a scythe buried deep in my midsection or in my chest, depending on how much I flail from the time I lose my balance to when I hit the ground. I wiped my sweaty face with the sleeves of my sweatshirt, swiping my mud-stained gloved hands to take care of stubborn strands of hair that have managed to escape from my haphazard bun. I hunched over and firmly grasped a bunch of stalks and felt them surrendering to the deceptively sharp blade of the scythe. The scythe feels surprisingly light in my hands, giving me a sense of accomplishment each time it cuts through the rice stalks. It didn’t take a long time for me to find the rhythm of hunching over to cut the stalks, putting them to a nearby sack, straightening up and managing a small careful step to the next stalks of rice to cut and ignoring the tiny yelps from my lower back while silently cursing the mostly sedentary life I have back in the city.

Photo taken by Edge Apura

City folks harvesting rice. Photo by Edge Apura

A few minutes after six on a Saturday morning, a small section of the rice field of Mangarita Farm in Capas, Tarlac was already abuzz with the scent and sound of rice harvesting. What’s unusual with the picture is that instead of local farmers working on the harvest, it was a sea of urban dwellers, mostly yuppies dressed in a colorful ensemble of workout clothes, denim shorts and t-shirts, and jeans and sneakers combos. We were a mixed group. Some are subscribers of Good Food Community (our host at Mangarita farm), others are writers, but definitely all of us are interested in organic farming. Some, like me, were armed with scythes, cutting through the stalks. Others were picking up sacks of harvested stalks and bringing them to the threshing area. After roughly an hour, the assigned area only had stumps left looking defiant against the wet black earth, a testament to our efforts to take on a foreign task. After cleaning up and getting rid of mud, save for some tiny patches that dried in my pants and shirt, I joined the group for the manual threshing.

In the manual threshing area, a blue tarp was laid on the ground with two wooden benches lying on their side at each opposite sides of the tarp. Going barefoot is a requirement for manual threshing. Rage optional but deemed useful, which I’ll explain in a bit. We were told to take a bunch of stalks, hold them tight, then forcefully swing and hit the bench with the stalks to remove the grains. Each hit on the bench, the mature grains flew while the green ones stubbornly clung to the stalks. You repeat the process until all the ripe grains are removed then dispose the stalks. The discarded stalks will then be dried in the sun, locally known as dayami, and used as fertilizer. Manual threshing seems to be somewhat cathartic for people with deep-seated rage. If you focus on your rage, you hit with more force, you hardly notice the sting of grains flying into your face. This allows you to thresh faster. Of course you’ll never find that in any agricultural handbook.

Photo taken by Lancel Marcos

Manual threshing. Photo by Lancel Marcos

At almost eight, with threshed grains barely filling a few cups, Good Food invited us to a breakfast of red rice, fried bangus (milkfish), fried eggplant, boiled duck eggs, pan de sal, peanut butter, banana, tarragon tea and coffee. After the heavy meal, while we were lazily sipping on our teas and coffee, Charlene Tan, or Char, head and founder of Good Food Community, started the discussion about CSA or community-shared agriculture with an introduction of the company followed with a Q&A about organic food, genetically modified organisms and farming in general.

Good Food, through Greenpeace, invited us over at Mangarita Farm to get a glimpse of organic farming, meet the farmers and to encourage us to patronize organic produce and also to promote urban gardening and composting. Char and her friends from church started Good Food Community back in 2011 with the aim to make organic produce more accessible to consumers, especially in the city. We live in a time where crops are heavily laden with pesticides and others even genetically modified that consumers are facing serious health risks, especially those in the urban areas where the only options are buying from grocery chains and public markets with produce supplied by big farms. Good Food acts like a middle man, reaching out to local farmers and encouraging them to switch from traditional farming to ecological agriculture. Farmers are usually adamant to make this switch mainly because it’s financially risky. If you’re used to commercial fertilizers and pesticides giving you a certain amount of yield, then someone tells you to ditch them in favor of natural means without assurance of the yield you’ll get, you’ll be wary, too. So this is where the community-shared agriculture model comes in.

Good Food convinces the farmers that Good Food will buy each week’s harvest, regardless of the market situation. Whether the market says vegetables should be cheap or expensive due to weather, supply and other factors, the farmers are assured that Good Food will buy theirs at an agreed fixed price. This means that Good Food needs to have subscribers in the metro who would buy these goods from the farmers. Subscribers are the upfront short- and long-term stakeholders of the company. The subscribers can enroll on a farm pack of their choice: a Salad Pack, Bayong Pambahay or a Juice Pack either on a short- or long-term basis. They will then get to pick up their organic produce each week at designated drop-off points called hubs.

Here are some things I gathered from the breakfast discussion:

– The local farmers practice ecological agriculture, basically a sustainable form of agriculture wherein you work with nature instead of against it. Definitely no commercial fertilizers and pesticides are used. Instead, organic fetilizers e.g. compost and mulch and natural means to ward off insects or pets are utilized.

– One of the challenges of eco-agriculture is convincing neighboring farms to go organic. Even if a farmer practices eco-agriculture if the farm next to his still uses commercial fertilizers and pesticides, then the organic farmer’s crops are at risk of getting contaminated. This can be remedied though by creating a buffer zone in the farm, a 3-meter-wide buffer from the boundary, which is planted with bananas, malunggay and madre de cacao (kakawate) to absorb the harmful chemicals from the
neighboring farms. The plants on the buffer zone will not be organic since they’ve been contaminated.

– Good Food’s main funding source is the subscriptions, which they use to pay the farmers. They’re working hard to reach out to more consumers in the metro to switch to organic produce in order to support more local farmers. If you’re a city dweller who likes fresh and healthy food and would like to help the farmers, then go ahead and check out their farm packs to see which best suits your needs.

– SIBAT (Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya), or Wellspring of Science and Technology, worked with Good Food in their early days and helped them set up in the province. SIBAT is an NGO which aims to promote and develop sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and water resources in rural areas.

– Good Food currently works with farmers in Capas, Tarlac and La Trinidad in Benguet. They dream of working with farmers from other provinces.

– Our whole lives we were taught to pick the produce with smooth skin and avoid those with marks left by insects. Well, guess what? What the insects find delicious are actually delicious. And the unmarred and perfectly looking veggies and fruits are the ones laden with pesticide, hence insects couldn’t bear to approach them, much less eat.

After the colorful discussion, Char gave us a tour of Mangarita Farm and the farms of Nay Marie and Ate Lady. Nay Marie and Ate Lady are members of COPFC or Capas Organic Producers and Farmers Cooperative. The rest of the Good Food team also accompanied us on the tour: Drei, community support and volunteering; Micah, marketing and events; and Jabez, farmer, teacher, learning and accreditation support. Ernest, in charge of operations and supply, was conducting a meeting with the COPFC farmers at that time. At the meeting, I couldn’t help but notice that they’re mostly elderly, except for Ate Lady. Nevertheless, they exude health and energy that you probably only get from daily farm work and regular consumption of organic food.

It was past ten when we did the tour. I was all sweaty and felt like the merciless sun had fried my brains at that point. And I have an umbrella, a scarf and a handy water bottle to boot. Here I was with farmers probably twice my age who tend to their farms every day, and they still have the energy to smile and welcome us. How lame can I get, right? Anyway, here are some things I gathered from touring Nay Marie’s, Ate Lady’s and Mangarita farms.

– Diversity of crops. As Char puts it, we don’t want “pinakbet” vegetables every day. Hence, aside from the “bahay kubo” staples, the farms also have lots of varieties of leafy vegetables such as pechay, kangkong, Chinese Kai-lan, arugula, mizuna and romaine and iceberg lettuce; root crops such as sweet potato, cassava, radish; herbs and spices such as basil, pepper, rosemary, mint (yerba buena) onion, lemon grass and ginger; and fruits such as banana, jackfruit, avocado, papaya, caimito and mango. I even saw cacao at Ate Lady’s farm.

– Intercropping is practiced by organic farmers. As I have just said, their crops are diverse. What I was surprised to see is that their vegetable gardens are not the “organized” vegetation that is usually seen on magazines or on TV. But this seemingly disorganized system actually is based on science and is a natural way of fighting pests. As Jabez explained to us, when insects see neat rows of vegetables, it looks like buffet for them, hence, they get really attracted to the plants and devour them in no time. Whereas when they see a disorganized garden, they tend to get distracted and confused. That’s why a plot could be planted with a mix of amaranths, mizuna, lettuce, basil and others. And you would also see eggplants next to okras and tomatoes.

– Sacrificial plants and other distractions. For vines such as ampalaya (bitter melon), patola (sponge gourd) and squash, farmers usually put sacrificial plants beside them or at least a distraction for insects. Marigolds are a favorite distraction. Their flowers are a rich yellow that insects easily get attracted to them. We know people who are like this, too, right? Also, sweet smelling herbs like basil are used. The insects find their scent irresistible. I mean, who wouldn’t?

Marigolds.  Source: https://trainfromtheparalleluniverse.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php

Marigolds.
Source: http://www.seedratings.com

– Weeds. In the words of Jabez, “There’s no such thing as weeds. We just haven’t found uses for them yet.” Another thing that came as a shock to us is that weeds are everywhere. They don’t seem to bother the farmers. Jabez has explained that there’s no need to remove them. He further explains that when you remove the weeds, the empty patch of soil gets exposed to the heat. Nature reacts to this by growing weeds again. So instead, what you do is let the weeds grow alongside the vegetables but train your plants to be “winners.” He actually used the word winner. He said it is best to let the plant learn to compete with the weeds so that it’ll grow tougher. Yes, it’s just like being overprotective with kids versus letting them be street smarts. With plants, you want the street smart ones. You want them to be survivors, not spoiled brats. He said putting mulch around the plants help them win over the weeds.

– Greenhouse/s. They’re very important, especially with the kind of weather that we have. Plants could die or get damaged easily due to extreme heat and rain. The greenhouse ensures that when extreme weather hits, there will be plants that would survive. Farmers can borrow money from Good Food to set up their greenhouses at 0% interest. If that isn’t good, then I don’t know what is.

Vermiculture. Jabez and Drei explained vermiculture to us, which is a type of composting using African nightcrawlers who feed on decomposed waste. Their poop becomes the compost. It looks like soil, we couldn’t believe it was worm poop. Can you imagine if your life’s sole purpose is just to poop? How simple could it be? No taxes to be paid. No risk of getting stuck in EDSA traffic. No worries about weight loss or gain. No wars to be fought. Haha.

Jabez poking the worms of a Vermi compost. Photo by Lancel Marcos.

Jabez poking the worms of a Vermi compost. Photo by Lancel Marcos.

After the tour, we had a sumptuous lunch of red rice, kare-kare, veggie meat barbecue, grilled pork, ginataang papaya and fried spring rolls. Good Food is very serious about the “good” part in their name. I mean, seriously, from the heavy breakfast to the merienda where they served us rice cakes and kalamansi juice, to the lunch buffet, everything was delicious. After eating, Good Food gave us media kits with more information about CSA and organic farming. Included also were lettuce seeds and an invite to their weekend farmer’s market they call Good Food Sundays at Uno Morato, (which I’ll probably write about on a different post). Greenpeace gave us a swag bag with literature about sustainable agriculture and a cute writing pad. Oh, Greenpeace, you know I’ve professed my love for you a long time ago, but now I heart you more for this bag because I badly need a new lunch bag. Hah! Thank you also for the bokashi starter kit. For a city dweller like me with perpetual guilt about food waste, this offers me redemption.

We hit the road right after lunch and I could hardly believe we went through all that in just half a day. I was seeing cacao trees, marigolds and smiling weathered faces before I drifted off to sleep on our way to back to Manila.

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For those interested in organic produce and community shared agriculture, or if you’re also interested in visiting an organic farm, you can check out Good Food’s site here.

Good Food also brings fresh produce every Sunday at Uno Morato, at GYY Building’s garden at the back, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aside from vegetables and fruits, there are freshly baked breads, preserves, coffee, chocolates, cheeses, nuts, soya milk, honey, chicken, pork, rice and even seedlings. It’s an intimate gathering of people passionate about food. Organic food that is. Check out Good Food Sundays on Facebook.

If you want to know more about Greenpeace’s campaign for organic food and food diversity, click here.

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When Wicked Is Both Good And Sinful

Jazz, Neoli and I agreed to meet Sunday after lunch at McDonald’s Philcoa. The destination: late lunch at Wicked Kitchen in Maginhawa then drop off the children’s books for the Yolanda Book Drive at Haduraw Pizza. The sweltering heat of the afternoon sun could not sway us from the lure of gastronomic delights. We know our priorities.

Image source: pinayads.com

Image source: pinayads.com

From Philcoa, we took a tricycle to Maginhawa and would have easily missed Wicked since the resto was situated on the third floor of a mostly restaurant-occupied building. At the ground floor is Breakfast Table, a breakfast all day shop with a gorgeous blue door. We kind of promised, before we headed to Wicked, to sample their food some other time.

Neoli and I in front of Breakfast Table Photo by Jazz Braganza

Neoli and I in front of Breakfast Table
Photo by Jazz Braganza

Wicked lies unassumingly at the third floor beside a spa. No fancy store signs. The interior borders on minimalist with black and red as the motif, black and red walls with a few unpainted concrete ones. Wicked loves mason jars. They hang them as lamps and use them for cocktails. Mason jars are pretty.

lamps

If you’re snarky, this wall will remind you to tone it down a bit with its positivity.

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Same thing with the bathroom wall.

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Anyway, going back to the food, we ordered rice bowls because we were famished but we shared only one dessert. Sorry to disappoint those who were expecting this to be a thorough review, we didn’t order a variety of dishes. We didn’t go there planning to write a review but rather, to satisfy our tummies. As I said, priorities set. Besides, we were kind of hoping we could still have pizza and beer at Handuraw after.

Crunchy Bagoong Rice

Crunchy Bagoong Rice

I ordered Crunchy Bagoong Rice (P152.00), their bestseller. I was surprised that the food was not stir fried. Instead, it was boiled rice topped with bagoong (shrimp paste), which was just the right amount of salty, green mango sticks and crunchy liempo bits. The green mangoes and bagoong is a classic combo. I’m not fond of pork but the liempo wasn’t bad either. It would have been better if the bagoong was spicy to enhance the flavors. But no worries, they have hot sauce you can douse your food with.

Spicy Mongolian Rice

Spicy Mongolian Rice

Jazz ordered Mongolian Rice (P175), which is rice topped with chicken, squid and fresh vegetables tossed in Mongolian sauce. It tasted good, just like the usual Mongolian food in other restos. Hah! Again, this tastes better with hot sauce.

CropperCapture[22]

I thought Neoli had Kimchi Rice because that’s what I remember from his bowl, the kimchi. But when I checked the menu while I was writing this, there was no Kimchi rice. They have Bulgogi rice, which was the only Korean food on the menu so maybe it was what he ordered. I didn’t get to taste his food because he said he has colds and I could get infected. Or he could just be not in the mood to share.

Wrath: Mango crepe with vanilla and spicy Nutella

Wrath: Mango crepe with vanilla and spicy Nutella

We capped the meal with one of the deadly sins: Wrath. Yes, they named their desserts after the seven deadly sins because, yeah, they’re supposedly sinfully good. Well, we only had wrath and it was good. Wrath is a mango crepe with vanilla ice cream and spicy nutella. The tragedy is that Nutella loses its spiciness in the midst of the ice cream and the crepe. But here’s what we discovered, a very important learning we will carry on in life: you can put hot sauce on vanilla ice cream and then voila, vanilla transforms into an explosion in your mouth. You may try it, too, with other ice cream flavors.

The ghosts of Neoli and a server roam the resto.

The ghosts of Neoli and a server roam the resto.

Overall, food was filling and worth the price. The staff are attentive and ever so helpful. Or it could also be that at 3 in the afternoon on a sleepy Sunday, we were the only patrons so they didn’t have much choice but to be there at our beck and call.

Judgement is nothing too special but place is really nice. Definitely coming back to try other dishes and sample the other sins. By the way, don’t forget to check out their bathroom even if you don’t need to go. They have wickedly sweet messages there for you.

Guaranteed to make you instantly feel better!

Guaranteed to make you instantly feel better!

Childhood Memories of Flores De Mayo

When I was a kid, I looked forward to summer. Who didn’t? School is closed. Every day is spent playing outdoors and swimming. Also, my parents would take us to visit our grandparents in Eastern Samar during summer. And it goes without saying that we would have to drop by Tacloban and visit Gaizano and the Children’s Park. Gaizano was the only mall I knew of when I was a kid. I have fond memories of their kiddie rides.

There were lots of summer activities back home but the highlight of them all is the Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May). Catholics and Aglipayans celebrate the Flores de Mayo every month of May to honor the Blessed Virgin. From what I recall this is a two-part tradition. One is the Flores and the other is the Santa Cruzan.

Back in my hometown, kids get excited for the Flores on hot summer afternoons. We wear white and pick flowers to offer to Virgin Mary. I remember my friends and I raiding our yards for flowers and sometimes our neighbors’ too. Santans in red, pink yellow and mostly, orange; hibiscus/gumamela, daisies and rosal are the usual choices. Bougainvilla not too often gets picked because it wilts easily. Roses are housewives’ treasures and therefore not up for sacrifice, not even for the Virgin.

Image source: alfredgalura.blogspot.com

Image source: alfredgalura.blogspot.com

Before the Flores starts, there usually is cathechism, which we can barely get through due to excitement. As the novices and seminarians rave about the harps and angels in heaven and the fire and unending wailing in hell, we squirm in our seats, tightly holding the bunch of flowers that are slowly wilting as lethargy creeps in with the afternoon sun. Sweaty hands try to straighten the creases that start to appear on starched dresses while carefully avoiding the menacing glare of the saints at the altar.

Our hearts start to swell as soon as cathechism concludes and the Flores commences. We hang in anticipation as the elders choose the kids who will be carrying the letters of the Ave Maria from the church entrance to the altar. The giant letters made of light blue and white crepe paper are the holy grail for the kids at the Flores.

Image Source: braincontour.com

Image Source: braincontour.com

Basically, mass is celebrated during Flores with more emphasis on the virtues of Virgin Mary. We also sing the Salve Regina, which is in Latin, and surprisingly get the words right. Looking back, we didn’t really understand what the prayer meant since it was in Latin or if we were pronouncing it right but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

After the mass, we would fall in line and are given treats. They used to give us galletas and candies. Depending on the mass sponsor, sometimes we get fancier pastries. And when I say fancy, as a five-year old, I meant bread with bright red or yellow filling.

At night, the celebration continues in the form of the Santa Cruzan. This is a processional novena still in honor of the Virgin. I remember the elders constructing a bahay kubo as a makeshift altar with the image of the Virgin surrounded with flowers, both fresh and crepe paper. During procession, the rosary is recited interspersed with Visayan songs for Mary. The part I like best is we get to carry bamboo torches. You know how in the movies, the townsfolk carry torches to burn the village witch? We kinda look like that except ours is a solemn procession with some overeager toddlers running around.

My friends and I at a Santa Cruzan circa '89

My friends and I at a Santa Cruzan circa ’89

After the novena, snacks are served. And on some nights, if you’re lucky, there is social dancing. Back then, no one was embarassed to dance. Regardless of age, size and dancing skills or lack thereof, the dance floor never lacked of participants, all in the name of fun and camaraderie.

The culmination of the Flores de Mayo is on the 31st where there’s a procession and mass. The sagala is no ordinary procession. This is some sort of religious pageant where good-looking ladies and gents of the community play biblical characters. This looks similar to a procession during town fiesta. Needless to say, this ends in a street party under a starry summer sky, all in the name of the Blessed Virgin.

Image source: atasteofasia.eu

Image source: atasteofasia.eu

Reflections You Need Not Concern Yourself With (But I’m Sharing With You Anyway)

I hope that halaya doesn’t take offense that I’m more of a flan person.It’s nothing personal really. Unless you consider preferences personal. Oh wait, they are.

You know those times when you feel like everything is unreal and that you are being taped, and you can almost hear the canned audience laughter? No? I’m pretty sure my life is a hilarious sitcom. Too bad I don’t star in it. If my life is a series then I’m Ted Mosby’s red telephone booth.

There are weekends when you’re too broke to go out or too tired to dress up or just generally not in the mood to be with people. That’s when you’re confronted by the lifelong question, why are you alone? So then you try to fix your closet and rearrange your room in the hopes to lose the ill thoughts. Then as you lie in your bed tired from the unexpected clean-up, there it creeps again: you are alone while everybody else, couples that is, are dry humping on the dance floor, cuddling or snuggling in bed. But do not give in to despair for in today’s world there are ways to make you feel less alone. All you have to do is go online, order a cheeseburger meal from McDonald’s and a caramel sundae. Because at this day and age, no one is ever truly alone as long as there’s McDonald’s delivery. Don’t forget to tip the delivery guy. He knows where you live.

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If you know me in real life or you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you pretty much have an idea now that my middle name is Awkward. Seriously. It’s like if awkwardness is an Olympic sport, I’d be decorated with medals now. And one of the best places to be awkward is on elevators, especially when there’s another person trapped with you for a couple of seconds. Sometimes I know that I’m just oozing with awkwardness that it either flatters or freaks the other person. I tolerate and forgive those who freak out. Very understandable given my unsure way of standing and/or leaning on the wall and my nervous finger hovering at the emergency button while furtively stealing glances at the other passenger. But to those who are feeling flattered, perhaps thinking I am about to ask for their number, well, don’t flatter yourself too much. I am naturally awkward irrespective of places and people. Nope, nothing special about you. By the way, can anyone tell me what happened to elevator music?

Great Friends Take You To Chateau Royale For The Weekend

Nice: rich friend

Nice: rich friend

By great, I mean, rich. And by rich friends, I mean, Nice is one of them. She is not named Nice for nothing. So anyway, Nice has paid for a 2D/1N reservation for four at Chateau Royale in Tagaytay. Her family is supposed to use it but due to change of plans, we ended up going instead. And by we, I mean, Nice, Ann, Karen and me.

The four of us started the journey at the Batangas bus terminal in Pasay but was dismayed at the queue. This was at 12:30 noon. Apparently, most people were trying to escape the heat in the metro. An unsolicited advice from a woman behind us in the queue prodded us to wait for a bus instead at EDSA. And so we did. After what seemed like eternity (approximately 15 minutes) and our skin slowly being burnt to a crisp, a bus heading to Tagaytay picked us up. I can’t tell you if traffic was bad because right after we ate our takeout from McDonald’s, we dozed off. Then we got off at Olivarez in Tagaytay and boarded a jeep that would take us right at the front gate of the Chateau.

I’m no expert when it comes to aesthetics so I really can’t explain to you the overall design of the resort. It looks contemporary with some Japanese influence. The resort has lots of Japanese sculptures (mostly of Buddha) and some Indian ones, too. I think.

Photo source: mhelgarrido.blogspot.com

Photo source: mhelgarrido.blogspot.com

For the accomodations, there are three types: the hotel, the single-detached cabins and the log cabins. The hotel looks out of place in the resort, like a sore thumb in a Japanese-ish ranch.

Single-detached Cabins Photo source: www.sulit.com.ph

Single-detached Cabins
Photo source: http://www.sulit.com.ph

We stayed in a log cabin, which is a 7- to 10-minute walk from the front desk. There’s a shuttle and golf carts but they weren’t always around whenever we had to leave our room. By the way, the only Japanese indication in our room is the minimalist design. No tacky paintings and just white sheets on the beds, which actually felt surprisingly restful for me. If there’s a way they can increase the water pressure in the bathroom, I’ll give them a better rating.

Photo source: onandofftheroad.com

Photo source: onandofftheroad.com

The Chateau boasts of superb amenities and various recreational activities (rock climbing, zip line, etc.) but we were only interested in one thing, swimming. They have a great pool with actual sand surrounding it.

Photo source: tipofmytonguemoments.wordpress.com

Photo source: tipofmytonguemoments.wordpress.com

Our reservation included dinner at the Chateau’s Floating Restaurant, which at that time was more like a dry-docked resto because there was no water beneath the tiny bamboo huts. They serve the food buffet style. That night the menu consisted of Bird’s Nest soup, rice, pancit, fish fillet, okoy, grilled pork and pineapple and watermelon for dessert. Iced tea and water were served in a nicely set table. The soup was salty. The okoy was good. And the rest are just barely passable. Sorry, I don’t really know how to review food.

Surprisingly, they more than made up for the food the next day at breakfast. Same setup as dinner except for a chef who cooks eggs on the spot, sunny side up or omelette. The menu was lugaw, fried rice, corned beef, tinapa and watermelon for dessert. They had unlimited kapeng barako (Batangas brewed coffee), which I personally love. They also served pineapple juice. The corned beef was a bit salty but overall, it was a delicious breakfast.

Definitely A Breakfast Feast

Definitely A Breakfast Feast

By the way, they have a Veranda Cafe, adjacent to the lounge and front desk, where they serve the welcome drinks, namely, pineapple juice. They don’t serve cocktails there, just locally made alcoholic beverages. Also, food is pricey but tasty. We tried their Royale Club sandwich with fries for Php 270 and Batangas Burger for Php 280. Service is slow so don’t go there hungry.

CropperCapture[30]

The resort also sells fresh produce at really low prices, half of the price of veggies here in Manila. Also, they sell pasalubong like espasol and other native delicacies. Their buko and langka espasol is a must-try.

Overall, despite the disappointing dinner and welcome drinks, it was a great weekend getaway, mostly because the place is lovely and the people I was with are lovelier.

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Thank you, again, Nice. You definitely made it to the Jobet 500.

Nice is the American-ish girl at the right.

Nice is the American-ish girl on the right.

Buffet Expectations

Kangaroo Jack SM Manila

Kangaroo Jack SM Manila

I admit that I often find myself preferring quantity over quality, case in point, lousy buffets. To be more specific, Kangaroo Jack.

Monday after lunch, I have dragged my brother to SM Manila after I confused my DFA appointment from 18 to 8. The heat outside was a fraction beneath unbearable and we both had growling stomachs, not to mention him being pissed for my oversight. We wanted to scout the restos inside the mall but didn’t have the energy to do so. Then we saw Kangaroo Jack’s buffet, and the place being almost empty was kind of inviting for me. We’ve actually been to Kangaroo Jack before, and we know the quality of their food or the lack of it. But we were starving and we want a feast but don’t know where to find Cabalen. Plus my brother and I are non-believers of delayed gratification. Buffet is Php 220, which is really cheap for a buffet.

The pluses are:

1. Coffee Jelly Dessert

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2. Turon

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3. Pork Adobo (I think)

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4. Chicken Macaroni ( Neutral taste, which makes it a plus)

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5. Almost empty place

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6. Clean Restroom

"No, not the restroom" Photo source: dekaphobe.com

“No, not the restroom” Photo source: dekaphobe.com

 

 

The minuses are:

1. Nachos Sans Beef

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2. Unremarkable Pasta

Pesto and Spaghetti

Pesto and Spaghetti

3. Uninteresting Bread

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4. Bland Fish Fillet

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5. Fried Chicken

Photo source: baffledchichi.blogspot.com

Photo source: baffledchichi.blogspot.com

6. Chicken Afritada

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7. Overly Diluted Red Tea

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8. Sad Excuse For a Pizza

Photo source: ph.openrice.com

Photo source: ph.openrice.com

9. Nausea-inducing Swirlies on the Wall

Evert contemplating another trip to the buffet table

Evert contemplating another trip to the buffet table

So overall, I won’t recommend KJ’s buffet unless you’re starving and don’t know of any other buffet places in the vicinity.

’09 to ’13: Ordinary People Part 2 of 3

So let’s step back a bit and catch up with the group. They had brunch at Chocolate Kiss at Bahay ng Alumni, one of the lovely buildings in Diliman famous for its stained glass windows.

UP Bahay ng Alumni

UP Bahay ng Alumni

Stained

Stained

Let’s do some unnecessary plugging for Chocolate Kiss. Their house blend iced tea is a must-try. Honey is served separately so you can choose how sweet you’d want it to be. Calamansi is also available. It’s refillable for just Php 70.

Chocolate Kiss Iced Tea (House Blend)

Chocolate Kiss Iced Tea (House Blend)

Devil’s Food Cake is one of Chocolate Kiss’s famous desserts. Chocolate lovers would greatly appreciate this. The marshmallow icing is sinful.

Devil's Food Cake

Devil’s Food Cake

If you’re tired of chocolates, try their cake sampler. It has four small slices of cakes: carrot, orange, dayap and kahlua. Kahlua won’t disappoint you. The carrot cake is moist and bestest there is in town. Orange is orange is orange is awesome. And dayap is refreshingly good. Life’s sweet with this sampler for only Php 95.

Cake Sampler

Cake Sampler

After the indulgence at Choco Kiss, the group crossed to Art Circle. It used to be Old Manila then Odd Manila or was it the other way around? Anyway, they sell paintings, knicknacks and they have a coffee shop. Their quesadillas are highly recommended. Too bad the group could no longer indulge lest they risk implosion.

Art Circle Entrance

Art Circle Entrance

AC k and me

The group then headed upstairs to check out the stained glass wall. There was an unfinished painting lying on the third floor.

painting

Also, on the way up, some people just could not resist the urge for the contemporary art known as bathroom photobooth.

bathroom pics

Heading out, crossed the street to Film Center where a sorbetero stood guard near the driveway entrance under the merciless sun. Quesadillas the group could resist but will crumbled at the sight of dirty ice cream. Do not judge this people unless you’ve been in their shoes. And if you have, then bets are on that you had done the same.

Dirty Ice Cream

Dirty Ice Cream

Walked to the Carillon Plaza, which is shamelessly plastered with names of the donors. The bells looked lonely up there in the tower while down at the ground, Betty Go Belmonte et al probably gossip about UP selling out. No judgement. Swear.

Right across Carillon Plaza is the lagoon. Here, the group took a group photo, which could easily pass as the season premiere poster of How I Met Your Mother or Awkward or Mula Sa Puso.

Soap Opera

Soap Opera

The following is a study of trees. Seriously. No? Okay.

Compare and Contrast

Compare and Contrast

Did you spot the difference?

Did you spot the difference?

The group then split, Karen, Pen and I went to FC (Faculty Center of College of Arts and Letters) to drop by (unannounced) at my friend who apparently occupies Room#

yayo

Unfortunately, he wasn’t there at the time. The other half of the group, Met, Lester and Ryan, spent the time with the latest cultural phenomena known as camwhoring. Check out the priceless faces.

This is them making faces.

This is them making faces.

With their normal/default faces.

With their normal/default faces.

Please stand by for the finale of the (mis)adventures. Ciao!

’09 to ’13: Ordinary People Part 1 of 3

On the 3rd of the 11th came the 7th. This was back in ’09. It was a diverse group who would become writers and editors.

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Just like any other group, this one consists of the populars, the introverts, the geeks, the common enemy, the outcast, the leader and the clown. There were subgroups, too. Two things bound them, food and the common enemy.

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Then as days went by, people left and the group became smaller and smaller. Work schedules limited their time together but did not break the bond that had been forged.

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And on the 9th of the 3rd, they agreed to have brunch. And then maybe, karaoke. From Rockwell in Pasig to UP in Quezon City, the group was about to roll.

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It was a sumptuous meal filled with hearty laughter and retelling of history, capped by Chocolate Kiss’s famous cakes.

Chicken Barbecue

Chicken Barbecue

Chicken Alfredo

Chicken Alfredo

Fish Kiev

Fish Kiev

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev

Devil's Food Cake

Devil’s Food Cake

L- R: Carrot, Orange, Dayap, Kahlua

L- R: Carrot, Orange, Dayap, Kahlua

With bellies full and hearts warmed, the group then headed to the lagoon.

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And the next part of their adventure unfolds in the next post. Laters!

Brain B.C.

Darn, I won’t be able to finish this test. Why am I still on the first page? What do I write on the name line? There’s something wrong with my pencil. Can I get a new one? That evil woman is giving me the eye. What in hell is that sound? Does it mean the test is over? I barely answered five items.

Oh, good, it’s the alarm. Why is it dark outside? Am I late? I have to get up now or there’ll be hell to pay. I have to check my messages. What the hell are these people talking about? I’ll just read them again when I get back home. Why does my towel have frayed edges? I bought these like four months ago. Maybe I shouldn’t use this more often. And I have to remember the deo. Did I remember to put my watch back on the bag?

I’ll leave the sheets as is, the bears are sleeping anyway. Why is it dark here on the stairs? I could just easily trip and break my spine. Someday these stairs are gonna kill me because no one bothers to put on lights. Stir fry veggies. Oh yes, I asked for that this morning. Not liking the smell of that one. Need coffee now. No, couch first.

16% battery? Tablet, you’ve been busy while I was asleep? Hmm. I can stay on this couch until my grandchildren’s grandchildren unearth me with the tablet and put me in a museum. I’ll be the archaeological discovery of their time.

These people act like nothing happened when Hugo Chavez is dead. We’re running out of revolutionaries. When I get out of this couch and have coffee, I’ll be a reformist. I have to eat now or I’d really be late. When Fidel Castro dies, I’l wear black for a week and swear off McDonalds for a year. Then maybe move to Cuba.

Mmm, these are good. Hot! Hot! Now my tongue is totally awake. I want coffee after this meal. I have to put the kettle on now. Should I have a second helping? Those kids outside surely make a riot. No respect for Hugo Chavez at all.

Damn that kettle is gonna give me a heart attack. Where’s my mug? Did someone use my mug? Bastards. I love this coffee, I should marry this. Ooohh, the world is alright now. The world is gonna mourn for you, Hugo Chavez. This mug feels so right in my hands. Oh, this is my favorite.

Oh I have half an hour to kill.

B.C. – Before Caffeine

Green Tea Break

tea

 

The blogger is currently taking a break. Meanwhile, you can browse through old posts. You may also comment on them. She would appreciate your feedback. Plus, it does wonders to her self-esteem.

Also, on this post, you may comment on how you take a breather. Be it a 5 minute break, a 5-day beach vacation or a half-a-year hiatus. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Trainrides will be back once she’s done with her cup.

 

twinnings