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.

_____________________

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.

Immigration And All That Jazz

NAIA Terminal 3 (bound for Singapore)

Immigration Officer: (Checks passport) First time to travel?
Me: Yes.
IO: Purpose?
Me: Vacation.
IO: Can I see your return ticket?
Me: (Hands the tickets: SG to KL and KL to MNL)
IO: Can I have the card you used for the reservation?
(Karen butts in because she used her card for the tickets)
Karen: I booked it. Here’s my card.
IO: Where do you work?
Me: Standard & Poor’s.
IO: Can I see your ID?
Me: (Hands company ID)
IO: How long have you worked here?
Me: Almost four years.
IO: Where’s your immigration form?
Me: (Hands immigration form)
IO: Where will you be staying?
Me: At my friend’s at Pasir Ris.
IO: What does she do?
Me: She works at a bank.
IO: Where?
Me: DBS.
IO: Okay. (Hands me my stamped passport.)

IO: (Checks passport) First time to travel?
Karen: No.
IO: Where’s your old passport?
Karen: I don’t have it anymore.
IO: Where did you travel before? Because you’re supposed to attach it to your new one.
Karen: Singapore in 2007 and Dubai in 2009.
IO: (Leaves desk to check on something) Where did you study in college?
Karen: UST.
IO: What was your major?
Karen: Entrepreneurship.
IO: Are you traveling with her? (referring to me)
Karen: Yes.
IO: Where are your return tickets?
Karen: (Hands tickets)
IO: Do you have the card you used for the tickets? It ends with xxxx.
Karen: Yes. (Hands the card)
IO: Okay. (Hands stamped passport.)

Changi Airport Terminal 1 (arrival)

Karen and I filled out disembarkation cards then queued for immigration.
Me: (Handed passport and card to the IO then noticed I left a piece of paper on the desk where I filled out the card. It has my passport info and my friend’s address and phone number.)
Sir, can you give me a second? I’ll just run and get my paper. I left it at the desk.
IO: Sure. Just close the gate.
Me: Okay. Thank you.
(Rushes to get paper and back to the IO)
IO: (Hands me my stamped passport)
Me: Thank you.

Changi Airport Terminal 2 (bound for Kuala Lumpur)

IO: (Checks my passport) Where’s your immigration paper? (Heavily accented. I could only understand the paper part.)
Me: I’m sorry. Can you repeat that?
IO: The paper?
Me: Oh. Here. (Hands the immigration card)
IO: (Checks the card, stamps passport, then hands it to me.)
Me: Thank you.

LCCT Kuala Lumpur (arrival)

IO: (Checks passport) How long are you staying here?
Me: Actually, sir, I’m also leaving tomorrow.
IO: Okay. (Stamps passport then hands it to me)
Me: Thank you.

LCCT Kuala Lumpur (bound for Manila)

IO: (checks my passport then stared at me)
Me: (Starts to get paranoid: Do I look different in my photo? I shouldn’t have tied my hair in a ponytail. Now he thinks I’m a different person.)
IO: (stamps my passport then hands it to me)
Me: Thank you.

NAIA Terminal 3 (arrival)

IO: (Checks passport and immigration form) Write on the form the name of the hotel where you stayed.
Me: Okay. (Writes hotel name then hands form)
IO: (Stamps passport then hands it to me)
Me: Thank you.

*The Bureau of Immigration (Philippines) claims they are intensifying their campaign against human trafficking. Meh.

The Lamentations Of A Traveler

Image source: www.123rf.com

Image source: http://www.123rf.com

The stars that dotted the sky are flirting with the buttery moon. The night seems so alive as the sea breeze play with your hair. The anticipation in your eyes are veiled by the shadows of the night. You have been dreading this trip and kept pushing it back, pretending that there are far more important things that needed to be dealt with. But just like the other things in your life, this journey had a way of coming up to the surface, confronting you with the reality that you need to face. There’s no delaying it. Despite the fear and the hesitation, you had to do it now.

Despite the lack of sleep and the fatigue from a day’s worth of traveling, you can feel joy well up from deep inside, a shadowy memory of a not-so-distant past, a watercolor of vague images on a summer afternoon. The faint whir of the boat jolts you back to the present. The slight swell of the waves holds a rhythm that is ever so comforting. From time to time, a whimsical spray of seawater teases your face. The almost black shadow of an island looming in front of you is getting bigger by the minute. The lights from a distance are either from other boats or from the houses near the sea. They bring warmth that soothes your weary bones. The sea at night is dark but littered with twinkling diamonds, glittery just like the tears that slowly fall down your face.

The things that you fear are those that can make you happy or sad or both. This is a bittersweet reunion for you, a homecoming you would rather just pencil indefinitely on your to-do list. As the outline of the huge shadow is becoming sharper and the sleepy homes near the shore becomes clearer, the memories wash over you: the good, the bad and the ones you have buried and pretended never existed. The past is a box of pictures you’d rather keep at the bottom of your closet, never to be opened again; yet the denial will keep haunting you until you have to stare at the photos again, be reminded of the people and stories behind their smile.

The crickets and the waves have replaced the sound of the motor. You have finally reached your destination. You got off the boat and when your toes dipped in the water, you were greeted by the mossy pebbles, probably not the same ones you played with when you were five. Nevertheless, they felt the same.

You are the daughter who had left but has now come back. The cold night air gave you goosebumps but you don’t feel cold at all. Instead, a slow-burning fire has ignited in your soul. The island has engulfed you in its arms, a mother overjoyed by the return of one of the children she lost to the sea.

The moon is still buttery yellow but is now slowly hiding beneath the clouds. The stars are still glittery, just like the tears you’re trying to hold back as it dawned on you, you are home.

Image source: iasminahampel.wordpress.com

Image source: iasminahampel.wordpress.com

*The author would like to write an ode to her hometown but she is lyrically challenged. Nonetheless, this is a tribute to her home, Maripipi.

Maripipi: A Very Brief Reunion

After almost a decade of being away, I went home on the 27th, not exactly for a vacation but to attend a friend’s wedding, which was on the 28th. It was a really short stay at the island I miss the most but nonetheless, fun and refreshing.

On the 27th, at 9 a.m., I was aboard Seair on the way to Tacloban. Estimated length of travel is an hour and fifteen but we landed at Daniel Romualdez Airport approximately 45 hours after take-off. My friend Jomari met me at the airport and took me to Kuya Kent’s house for lunch.

After a home-cooked meal and a brief siesta, we went to the terminal of Van-Van’s to board a shuttle to Naval, which is the capital of Biliran, my province. It was a 2-hour ride.

Image source: biliran.boards.net

Image source: biliran.boards.net

The sun has set when we reached Naval, hence, there were no more motorboats bound for Maripipi, my hometown. We then took a tricycle to Kawayan, a town directly facing Maripipi. It was a short ride, about half an hour. It was already dark when we reached the port of Kawayan, but the sky was full of stars and the moon was bright, buttery yellow. It was a lovely sight.

Image source: biliranisland.com

Image source: biliranisland.com

Then it sunk on me, I was almost home. The sea wasn’t so rough when we crossed to Maripipi, just a mild swelling of the waves. It was a beautiful summer night. Van Gogh would have fallen in love with it.

If you want to know more about Maripipi, the size, population, livelihood, history and what have you, you can easily use Google and/or Wikipedia. I’m not going to detail those information for you. What you need to know is I grew up in this island and will always consider it home. The town has a close-knit community, and many of the people I love are from and/or here.

Image source: www.flickr.com

Image source: http://www.flickr.com

Recently, the island has become popular to  tourists. They fell in love with the blue waters, especially that of Sambawan.

Image source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Image source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Since I started my trip back home at early morning, I was pretty beat when I got to the Zafico’s house. That’s where I stayed for the weekend. Polay and Jayby Zafico are my childhood friends, and their parents Nay Delia and Tay Pedring are one of the nicest people in the island, also close friends of my parents. After a dinner filled with catching-up, we headed straight to bed. The sea breeze, crickets and the sound of the waves lulled me to a deep sleep.

I woke up refreshed at around 6, without an alarm, which is kind of a rare thing for me back in the city. The house was already abuzz with the two kids, Dwayne and Jedric, playing at the yard; Nay Delia fixing breakfast; and Polay packing clothes for the beach wedding.

This was the scene directly from where I was sleeping.

CropperCapture[51]

I eagerly took my tablet and went outside, circling the house and took shots. I was like a giddy tourist. This is the mainland of Biliran, a view from the back of the Zafico’s house.

Mainland Biliran

Mainland Biliran

The house stands on a cliff and surrounded with trees. Down below is the sea.

view from the bedroom

Bananas don’t come from the fruit aisle of the grocery. They come from a faraway place.

CropperCapture[55]

Tay Pedring had just finished painting this table. Ain’t she pretty?

CropperCapture[53]

Nay Delia still prefers using a traditional stove for cooking meals in their dirty kitchen rather than the gas-operated one they have inside.

Old school

Old school

After breakfast, we were off to town to board Ma. Lourdes (motorboat), which would take us to Sambawan where the wedding will be held.
CropperCapture[56]

Sambawan is a group of islets, which has white sand and pristine blue waters, home to a diverse marine life. This was recently developed and has been made more accessible to tourists.

CropperCapture[58]

Although, personally, I was disappointed with how they’ve run the development and of their new policies, I’m still grateful to have visited Sambawan again. The last time I was there, I was still in my early teens.

CropperCapture[57]

After the reception and fully enjoying the waters despite the unforgiving heat of the sun, we headed and boarded a motor banca. I was shocked when they initially asked for a 700-peso fee. That was just outrageous. 300 is the usual amount. This is what tourism brings to some people, capitalism and greed. Polay haggled with the banca operator and they agreed on Php 400.

After a quick shower to wash off the salt, Polay and I went back to town. I wanted to visit the church and light candles. It is tradition to do so plus I wanted to offer prayers of thanksgiving that I was able to visit the island again.

picture (12)

This is the St. Michael Archangel parish church. It stands on a hill directly facing the sea.

picture (21)

The islanders believe that St. Michael watches over and protects the whole town from natural disasters, pirates and all sorts of bad things.

picture (20)

I grew up in this church and I love the stained glass windows. I wish I could get married in this church, if only because when you go out of the front door, you’d be facing the sea.

picture (16)

Early Monday morning, I was aboard Ma. Lourdes again to take me to the mainland. After a short reunion with my island town, I was again on the road back to the city.  While I was on the boat, the sun had exploded into a beautiful array of colors, and so then I started slowly counting the days when I’ll be back.

early morning

The Nine People You Meet In Your *Commute

Photo source: definitelyfilipino.com

Photo source: definitelyfilipino.com

1. The Sleepyhead
You should avoid being seated next to a sleepyhead. At some point during the commute, his head is gonna rest on your shoulders. You can try to nudge him off but sometimes they’re dead to the world, hence, you might end up with a stranger’s drool on your sleeves. Plus all that heavy breathing is gonna drive you nuts.

2. The Broadcaster
With the advent of mobile technology, came the demise of privacy. Technically, in a public transport, your privacy is greatly diminished. But don’t you just hate it when the passenger you’re with is yapping on the phone endlessly? Most of the time, I am rather proud of my “zoning out” capabilities, meaning, I go in a zone where there’s just space for me and block all external distractions like smell, sight and sound. But there are people who just would love to test your limits. When a Broadcaster travels with you, before you reach your destination, you would have already known that she is planning to break up with her boyfriend after Christmas because she thinks the new IT guy is cute. Also, she and her friends are going to Boracay and so they’re planning to shop for swimwear at divi next weekend. And oh, her cousin is having an affair with a married man.

Photo source: alabangbulletin.com

Photo source: alabangbulletin.com

3. The Sweatman
I know that we are all helpless against the sweltering heat when we’re outdoors but would it be too much for you to have a hanky or tissue paper handy to wipe off your sweat? I am sweaty that’s why I carry tons of paper towels in my backpack. When it’s 40 degrees outside and you’re squeezed in random bodies in a train, the last thing you want is a sweaty arm rubbing your face. A bonus is if he reeks of body odor.

4. The Hottie
This doesn’t happen often, at least not to me. or maybe I just don’t notice them often enough. But sometimes, it’s like the universe conspires to tease you with a hottie on board. When I say hottie, it could be a hot guy or a really pretty girl. Oftentimes, I get self-conscious when a hottie sits right in my line of vision because then I split my time staring at him/her and pretending to not stare at him/her. All else being equal, a hottie is an interesting distraction for your commute and a reminder that sometimes people who are thousand times more attractive than you also take the shuttle.

Photo source: blog.trafficdito.com

Photo source: blog.trafficdito.com

5. The Congeniality Awardee
My parents instilled in my mind at a pretty young age never to talk to strangers lest they kidnap me, put me in a sack, harvest my organs to be sold to rich Westerners who need a transplant. That, my friends, is deeply ingrained in my heart until now. If you are just asking for directions or the fare at the shuttle or bus, then I’d respond properly. If you’re gonna launch into a discussion with a preface about the weather, then I’m just gonna stare at you like I just recognized you as the Most Wanted Person I just saw on TV. If you’re an older person who wants to chat, out of respect, I would smile but you are never gonna get anything more than that. My commute is a commute, simply getting from point A to B. Conversations are not included in the package. If you want to fully experience my awesomely brilliant personality, then you have to call my agent and arrange for an audience.

6. The Serial Complainant/er
Some people are just oozing with negativity that you just want to smash their face into pieces before putting said pieces into a blender, hitting the max button. I kid, I kid. Seriously, serial complainers/ants, tend to make me think of homicidal thoughts. Everyone knows traffic is bad. We don’t need you to remind us. If you’re running late and you’re pissed that the shuttle is still stuck in the terminal waiting for more passengers, then how is that our fault or the driver’s fault? It’s nobody’s fault that you overslept and is now running late for a meeting, but yours. If I’m seated next to you, I’ll give you a gazillion of imaginary eye rolls.

7. The Makeup Artist Multi-tasker
These I mostly encounter on my early morning train ride. I have to admit, I admire their skills. I have a hard time applying makeup on solid ground, i.e. at home in front of the mirror. But these girls are so evolved, they could actually do it while the train lurches and screeches to a halt with just a tiny compact. And then voila, fully made up to face another day at work. Way to go, sistah!

8. The Bricks
When you’re on a public vehicle be it a bus, train, shuttle or jeepney, you have to share the seat space. Share is the operative word not hoard. Some people are like bricks that just won’t budge even if he or she knows that the next person is uncomfortably seating on the edge of the seat. I am pretty sure there is a special place in hell for the Bricks.

Photo source: megacities-go-services.com

Photo source: megacities-go-services.com

9. The Nitrogen
My favorite commuters are the Nitrogen(s). Just like their namesake, they’re invisible but definitely essential. Let me qualify invisible. You sit or stand next to them but their presence does not bother you because they’re not noisy or sweaty or chatty. They’re just there, just like you, trying to get from point A to B. Why essential? You need Nitrogen(s) in your commute because that shuttle/FX/AUV won’t depart unless all seats are occupied. You don’t wanna be alone in a bus. If you are, you either missed your stop and is on the way to the bus depot or you’ve been kidnapped or in a similarly scary situation. Check your person if you have a bomb attached to you. I kid, I kid. Can you imagine if you were alone on the train? Well, it’s never gonna happen and you very well know why.

*In the Philippine context, commuting mostly refers to taking public transportation.

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.

CropperCapture[34]

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.

Vision Board

I’m kind of late to the party but today, I successfully completed my vision board. As About.com has said, a vision board is a collage of images of things you want in your life. The idea behind the vision board came from the Law of Attraction, which is very similar to self-fulfilling prophecy. LoA in its simplest sense claims that the more you think about something, the more it will become real or will materialize. There are lots of references online if you are interested about Law of Attraction.

In five to seven years time, these are the goals I want to achieve. So here’s my board.

vision board

Left to Right:

1. Community Involvement
I would want to be more involved in the community. I believe there is a diferrent sense of fulfillment from sharing your time and skills to advocacies.

2. Self Love
I want to love me more. I want to stop berating myself for what I’m not.

3. Post-grad in Europe
I have two images for this: the scholarshipportal.eu and the one of Erasmus Mundus. I want to take my masters abroad. Since I don’t have a rich family to pay my tuition, the only way I could afford it is if I get one from either of those two.

4. My Own House
I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate on this.

5. Committed Relationship
Paging all the forces that be to help me work on this one.

6. Travel (Switzerland, Greece and Spain)
The photo with the blue sea is taken at Santorini while the seemingly pastoral view is from Switzerland.

7. Writing
I want to write more, not just blogs. I want to write film reviews, short stories, news features, obituaries, et cetera.

8. Teaching
When I was little, I dreamed of becoming a teacher. I did teach for more than two years, and I want to do it again.

9. Mantra
I want this to be my daily affirmation.

10. Good Health
I want to work more on improving my health and I want to be fit.

Totally Beaching

Boracay Sand

Boracay Sand

Let’s clarify this once and for all, you don’t swim in the beach. You go to the beach and swim in the sea. According to Merriam-Webster, a beach is a shore of a body of water covered by sand, gravel, or larger rock fragments. But seriously, if you do swim in the sand or on gravel, then who am I or Merriam-Webster for that matter, to contradict that.

It’s summer again and the sweltering heat is driving hordes of people to the beach. What I wouldn’t give right now for a dip in the pristine blue sea even if it’s under the cancer-inducing glare of the sun. It’s this time of the year that I would love, love, love, love be in Maripipi right now, the island paradise where I grew up in.

 

 

 

 

Photo source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

Maripipi Island Photo source: greenxplanet.blogspot.com

When I was a kid, my mother would forbid us to swim if unaccompanied by adults. She was terrified of the thought of us drowning. Also, she does not want me to spend so much time in the sea because I was pretty dark skinned when I was little. If you’re not a cute kid, the least you can do is at least not be too dark, lest you be teased mercilessly or worse, be pitied. Anyway, it was really hard to follow my Mom’s orders because we live just a few steps away from the sea. So during summer, as soon as school is out, my childhood friends and I would be frolicking in the sea. That was how I learned to swim. If you’re an islander, no one teaches you how to swim. You just do. It’s part of your instinct. Now I don’t swim gracefully as a mermaid or a member of a synchronized swim team but I am a pretty decent swimmer.

 

 

Photo source: myspace.com

Photo source: myspace.com

 

When I was in high school, the allure of the sea has faded just as I became more conscious of my complexion. I would only swim if I’m attending a beach party or in certain occasions like San Juan (Saint John’s Feast Day), Easter Sunday, et cetera. Then in college, I came here to the city and grew farther away from the sea. I would come home on semestral breaks and christmas vacation but was no longer interested in spending time in the sea. Although, nothing beats the sound of the waves at night to lull you to sleep.

 

 

 

Puerto Galera

Puerto Galera

Boracay

Boracay

 

beach buddies

beach buddies

 

Now that I’m already a member of the labor force, meaning I only get a limited amount of time for vacation, I realize how much I miss the sea. Truly, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. I miss how carefree you can be among the waves. I miss rubbing the salt crystals that have formed in the skin when the sun has dried the sea water. I miss waiting for the tide to rise because no one likes swimming in low tide, at least not back home. I miss home.

 

 

’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!