Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Binondo Food Tour: The Return Of The Comeback!

.:The Amazing Food Race:.

I won't pretend that I'm a food blogger, because I really am not. I don't take pictures of my food before I eat it most of the time, let alone even have a decent-powered camera to make attractive photographs of food.

That being said, I love food. A few years back, I went on a Binondo Food Tour with blogger friends like Juned and Nina, and it was nothing short of splendid.

Last Saturday, after so many attempts that failed for one reason or another, I finally managed to have another one of those tours, and this time, I acted as the de facto tour guide to the newly wed couple, Gail and Chad Sotelo.

Look at these ravenous, famished faces!

We met up at Quintin Paredes around 11, and we were all hungry. I was looking at the itinerary Nina helped draw up for us, and all things considered, it seemed like a good idea to pace ourselves accordingly for what all three of us perceived to be the main event: Wai Ying.

Walking across Quintin Paredes, we found our first stop: a very nondescript sign for New Po Heng, which, in all honesty, seemed like the proverbial hole in the wall. You wouldn't have seen it if you weren't looking for it.

For your reference.

So we walked in, and we saw that their menu would've already been good enough for us to just sit down there, pig out, and call it a day. But screw that, we wanted to space out our pigging out because we were proper like that, and we had their lumpia. For the first time ever, I ended up eating a whole lumpia, while Chad and Gail shared theirs. At fifty pesos, the lumpia was huge, and really great.

It was the perfect way to get our appetites going. While this isn't the first time I had a food tour, this was the first time I went to New Po Heng in ever. From there, we started walking around as we got lost a bit, but I found my precious kiamoy in one particular stall. Within that same strip, I believe, we actually ended up running into a shop that sold some contraband items...

Seize him!

So I had kiamoy, I had White Rabbit, and I was ready for anything else to come our way. Our next stop was going to be Sincerity, famous for its oyster cake and fried chicken. Chad was allergic to oyster, but that didn't stop him at all.

Pro tip: the oyster cake is a trifle 140 bucks, and the three of us weren't able to finish it.

While we were there, I ran into my old friend and batchmate, Emily Fenix. What was amusing about this was the fact that she was one of the few people who wished us luck on our food tour, and we ended up running into her during the course of it. From this point on, I used the kiamoy to cleanse my palate for each succeeding stop, and it was definitely going to come in handy.

From Sincerity, we headed out to Dong Bei, famous for their very affordable dumplings, including Xiao Long Bao, sold at 60 bucks per order of 4 pieces...

Made from scratch!

The fact that I'm writing this without looking at any pictures of the actual food, yet I am getting hungrier by the minute, should be testament to how amazing the food was on this tour. At Dong Bei, we ordered shrimp dumplings and Xiao Long Bao, then proceeded to try out their canned iced tea. We definitely got our money's worth at our first three restaurant stops, as by my count, we have spent less than 300 pesos so far.

From there, we decided to take a few detours because we were running ahead of schedule. We swung by a Feng Shui store along Ongpin, where I bought a 5-Element Pagoda Keychain for my officemate, Denise, since it was her birthday last Sunday.

Apparently, your nails turn green when you hold it. It's a sign of good luck.

We then made a shopping stopover at Eng Bee Tin en route to Mezannine cafe, where I discovered Mochipia, which essentially is hopia with tikoy filling. It was brilliant and tasty at the same time.

From there, we headed on to Mezannine. It was pretty awesome, but I wished a fourth person was with us so I could've shared the kiampong with someone. While it was great, there's no question that eating mostly rice would hamper my ability to pig out once we got to Wai Ying.

Also, Mezannine is famous for being a cafe meant to cater to the volunteer firefighters of Binondo.

Pictured: worst fireman ever.

So we took a looong walk to Benavidez because we missed out on the fact that there was a branch of Wai Ying in Salazar. Despite that, we walked through 168, so that trek was bearable, as I laughed at Chad trying to dissuade his missus from looking at the shoes and completely undoing all the savings they had from embarking on this tour instead of eating at some fancy restaurant.

Finally, after much walking, we arrived at Wai Ying. We wanted duck. This was it.

This place needs no introduction.

... except, they had no duck. I was crestfallen. I think I even have a picture of the five stages of grief in Chad's camera somewhere. We had to settle for hakaw and fried wonton instead, which wasn't so bad, but it wasn't duck.

So we walked to President's after what was supposed to be our last stop, and along the way, saw another branch of Wai Ying. Nope, no duck there, too. Neither did President's.

Well, it turns out that Hong Kong, where most of the duck in the Philippines comes from, is not importing Peking duck at all for the time being. Whether it's because the Pekin duck is an endangered species or there's another bird flu scare is anybody's guess, but I was a very sad panda about this discovery.

After everything has been said and done, we individually shelled out less than 600 pesos per head to eat at five different restaurants. We had lumpia, oyster cake, fried chicken, shrimp dumplings, Xiao Long Bao, kiampong, hakaw, and fried wonton, not to mention some drinks on top of that.

Considering how good the food was, this Binondo food tour was definitely a bargain for everyone involved, and personally, I can't wait to do it again.

The only thing I'm griping about is how I actually got friendzoned in Binondo...


Friday, February 24, 2012

Project 52 2012 (8/52): On The Friend Zone (And Why You Should Never Just Take It Quietly)

.:Project 52 2012 (8/52): On The Friend Zone (And Why You Should Never Just Take It Quietly)):.

"Maybe if I do this for the next five years, she'd run out of assholes who'd be interested in her, and finally, I'll have a chance! Sounds like a plan."

Let me share a joke. It's very relevant to what I have to say today, I promise.

Q: How many "Let's Just Be Friends" does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Only one, who will…

… call you up every night for three months and talk to you for hours on end, about how bad her current light bulb is, how it goes out without warning, and never provides her with the kind of light she would really love to have.

… tell you what a wonderful light bulb you have, and how any woman would die to have such a light bulb.

… tell you it’s amazing that your light bulb has been sitting alone in its little corrugated cardboard tube for the last six months and even more amazing that you don’t have a dozen sockets to screw it into.

… call you up at three o’clock on a Monday morning, (destroying any chance you had of being alert, much less coherent at that crucial business meeting at 8 am) to agonize about the fight she had with her light bulb, and to tell you that she finally lost her temper with it and unscrewed the light bulb forever.

… be shocked at your offer of a replacement bulb, and will tell you that she could never screw your light bulb into her empty socket, that doing so would ruin the light it gives out, and that it’s too good a bulb for her anyway, but that she hopes she’ll still be able to come over and talk to you about her light bulb problems.

… go home, rummage through the trash can, find the defunct light bulb, lovingly clean it off, screw it back into the socket, and sit there in the dark.

… call you up every night for three months…

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? But don't worry, I'm not going to get into that whole "nice guys finish last" diatribe, because being the Nice Guy, or even the legit nice guy, has its own host of issues that I have no intention of taking up right now. I'm more inclined to just focus on the concept of the friend zone, and the fact that despite all the tips you may have heard from the Mystery's or the Ross Jeffries' in your life, whenever it happens, it never stops being a source of consternation, no matter how many canned lines you have ready to deal with it.

The last few times it happened to me, I thought I was prepared. With one, it was a case of us being on the same page, to begin with. I didn't see myself with her, nor did she, so when she sprang the LJBF song and dance on me, it was merely a case of her beating me to the punch, but hey, no drama, right? It's all good.

After weeks upon weeks of finding myself having an inexplicable connection with her, that very same connection ended up being the very reason why we didn't have a snowball's chance in Hades of making things work. I think Usher said it best... "you remind me of a girl that I once knew."

Oh, sure, it's a blow to the ego that I couldn't exit from the equation with my head up high, but fine, no drama, right? It's not like I'd be heartbroken over being friendzoned at this point, since I had the same idea, anyways.

But when it happens more than enough times, and when you, unlike the stereotypical Nice Guy actually muster up the courage to make your intentions clear, yet still get the whole LJBF routine? Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Sure, you could say you don't want to just allow yourself to be boxed in, since, y'know, friends don't do that to each other. You can come up with a million lines to either soften the blow or outright try to sway their opinion. But what happens when they turn out to be that 1% of the time where all your game falls to the wayside and you just don't have a prayer of turning things around?

That's the point where you begin to resent yourself and you ask yourself where you're going wrong and what it is you don't have. It makes you question yourself: if you're really a person who can be loved, or simply a fool deluding yourself and other people that there's more to you than the masks you put on to stay relevant and interesting.

So when someone attempts to put you in the friend zone, remind them that you already are friends, and that they can't realistically expect you to just ignore your feelings and pretend they don't exist. Don't allow yourself to be boxed in. Real friends don't do that to each other.

Yet, despite all your desire to fight the status quo and to prove yourself a cut above the rest, respect her wishes if she clearly doesn't see you that way. Just make sure that in turn, she respects your feelings, and you don't give her opportunities to exploit them. In the end, that's all you really could do, and hopefully, though the heartbreak of an apparent rejection may be painful, your sincerity should at least count for something.

A Return To CamSur

.:I'm Baaaaccccckkk!!!:.

We who are about to die salute you!

A year ago, I had vivid memories of my first ever trip to CamSur. Sure, there was some drama prior to it, but overall, I came back from the trip refreshed, raring to go, and looking forward to a return.

It didn't take long before that opportunity presented itself. Earlier last month, I found out that my friend from Japan, Sachika, was in CWC, and I was tempted to just go straight there at the last minute. Thankfully, she let me know that she was coming back the following month, and this allowed me to schedule half a week off from work to go to CamSur. Finally, a real vacation, and a lengthy one, at that! With plane tickets booked, a four days, three nights stay in the famed CWC paid for in advance, I was ready to go and enjoy myself just one day after Single Awareness Day, thereby overriding the bad taste that day tends to leave in my mouth.

I'm turning Japanese, I really think so.

So overall, it was just amazing! There I was, hanging out with some of the most awesome wakeboarders I've ever seen, and each time I watched them, I just felt more and more emboldened to try wakeboarding out for myself.

It was quite an eclectic mix of people, to say the least. When I went there, I expected to hang out solely with the Japanese group, but next thing I knew, I met a whole bunch of other awesome people, including a few Koreans, an awesome Taiwanese girl, and a gaggle of Australians who were just as chill as can be.


I gave wakeboarding a try, and needless to say, I fell into the water a whole bunch of times in the two days I went to Winch Park to get the hang of things. I didn't want the other pro wakeboarders to see me make a fool of myself, which I totally did. Again and again and again. I didn't get across the water all the way even once. I was just that off-balance, apparently. Despite that, I resolved by my last run-through that I was going to not only come back to CamSur for more, I was going to give myself five years to be good at this. Hopefully, I'd end up being a worthy competitor, at the very least.

It was quite great connecting with the people I met in CamSur. I mean, what were the chances, right? But there I was, and while on the first night, I spent it with Sachika and her friends, the following night, I ended up having dinner with Seulki and Shannon. Seulki, by the way, has no business being sixteen, considering how pretty she was. LOL. I introduced them to the wonders of kare-kare and sisig courtesy of Gerry's Grill in SM Naga, so yeah, I think they were hooked, by the end of it.

I even had a moment with Shannon, the awesome Taiwanese girl who really impressed me not just with her skill at wakeboarding, but more so her very deep insights on life. I was really amazed, to say the least, and when I tried to do some new age stuff with her, she just demonstrated what an amazing person she really was.

CWC was really a great place to go to for a much-needed respite from work. It was every bit as awesome as I remembered it, but with the people I got to know and enjoy the company of, it turned out even better than that.

Saturday, I took the flight back home, then had the honor of opening for Mike Unson's 9th Anniversary show. As awesome as that was, though, there's no question about it: CamSur is where it's at.

One guess why.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Project 52 (7/52): On Why I Hate February 14 (Even When I Wasn't Single)

.:Project 52 (7/52): On Why I Hate February 14 (Even When I Wasn't Single):.

The crass commercialism present during February 14 has always been mercilessly pummeled by cynical people, but really, there's nothing surprising about that at all. Ultimately, it is what it is, and it's an excuse for people to really lay on the romance thick for a day.

Which is fine, if it weren't for the fact that February 14 is just utterly ruthless to your average loveless person, and with that in mind, I couldn't help but feel guilty about the day, even during the points where I actually had someone to spend February 14 with. It just seemed like a particularly painful thing to go through, and I took no happiness in seeing the misery around me. It certainly did its job of dampening my own spirits along the way.

Of course, by now, anyone who's known me well enough knows that February 14 in 2010 was flat-out one of the worst days of my life, when somebody just decided to stick the knife into me on the one day I asked her to be kind to me. It certainly didn't do the day any favors with me, because if I hated it then, I utterly loathe it now.

I find that kind of interesting a juxtaposition, when you consider that I'm actually one of the most hopeless romantics out there. In reality, it only goes to show that there must have been a point where February 14 was actually a special, important day in my life, and my embittered position against it only underscores that for me, since others who don't feel much for the day would probably prefer to be merely ambivalent about it.

So yeah, I do hate this day. I hate it because it's crass and exploitative. I hate it because it's insensitive to people who aren't with anyone. And I hate it because it was the day my heart was broken like never before. Had the last thing not happened, I'd probably merely be ambivalent about this day, but alack and alas, that is not the case at all.

February 14 will forever be known as “Single Awareness Day” for me, no matter how well my lovelife turns out. I feel that it's the least I could do to make this day less painful for those who dread waking up to an endless barrage of chocolates, flowers, and dates, none meant for them at all.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Just Another Magic Monday: Mentalismo!

.:Just Another Magic Monday: Mentalismo!:.

I'll edit this to include pictures by tomorrow, but I had the honor and privilege of catching The Mental Assassin, Mr. Justin Pinon do his first ever solo major show, Mentalismo. Considering an encore performance tomorrow is forthcoming, I think you should try and catch it, yourself!

I've always wanted to see someone try and do a full-length stage mentalism show here in the Philippines. There have been some attempts here and there, but most of the time, there has always been a need to hybrid-ize mentalism with something else, which kind of makes sense, since I'm one of those people who tried to bring the art form to the stage, and you know I will always lace my shows with more than just a bit of comedy, as I am wont to do.

But see, Justin doesn't play that way. He's a mentalist through and through, and he did a night of twists and tributes to the people who, directly or indirectly, helped get him known as one of the new generation of mentalists of note in this country. His style, a straight-talking performer who just seems mildly amused at the fact that he's achieving unbelievable feats with minimal effort, is quite an interesting take on the mentalist stage persona.

Is it a perfect show? Well, not really. I'm not at liberty to tell what routines he performed that night, for fear of accidentally divulging any routines he might plan to do again on the second night, but the venue was not the best when it came to production values. I guess that can't be helped, but instead of just handwaving it and telling you it's all good, I'd actually rather emphasize that Justin is a very strong performer, so don't let the production values get in the way of a very good show.

I know that the February 12 show went pretty well, even if it wasn't without some hitches, but let's face it: February 14's show will probably even be better, so come on down and catch the show tomorrow, if you can! Tickets are available at the gate, Scenema Concepts Theater, Semicon Building, along Marcos Highway. I believe it's worth every penny for anyone who has never seen what mentalism is all about.

And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, yours truly can finally produce another full-scale show again after two years of scaling down my annual shows. I've had some brilliant ideas over the past couple of years that no doubt, need execution. Now.

Congratulations, Justin, and I hope you break many more legs for tomorrow's show!

Friday, February 10, 2012

This Week. What A Dramatic...

.:Dear Past Week...:.

... thank you.

I think you have been a week of catharsis, so I'm grateful you came along. Thanks for forcing me on my feet because I didn't have the strength to walk away on my own. And for giving me the sheer bull-headedness I needed to get things done in many aspects of my life because I realized I needed to go big or go home at this point.

I'm still a tad disappointed I had to lose a friend (And then some.) rather conclusively this week, but I think it's for the best, for the both of us. We owed it to ourselves to not let the sham continue, because it felt like an embarrassment for us to carry on in a sham of a "friendship" that was an insult to everything we shared before that. There is no blame to go around this time. It simply is what it is, and I understand that now, and can sleep soundly knowing that it's no longer anybody's fault. I hope she sees that, too.

And week, thanks for letting me know that fewer things are more therapeutic than walking a dog around Eastwood at night, even if it wasn't actually my dog. Interesting conversation and interaction with a newfound friend was certainly welcome, but I have to admit, the resemblance is a wee bit uncanny. Still, I guess I really should get myself a dog, soon.

This past week, I was stressed, I was down and out, I was really feeling the crunch. I'm just grateful the universe decided to throw me a bone, because on the work front, I told myself that if I didn't close anything this week, I would heavily consider tendering already before the axe comes swooping down on my head. It looks like I can hold off on doing that for now.

So for now, I guess I can hold off on the vitriol and bask in the fruits of a job well done, even if the results are a bit too slow in springing forth.

Thank you, universe. I get to keep my head for a while longer.

That being said, while my head is still decidedly on straight, let me signpost that these are some topics I intend to discuss soon, be it on this blog, the POC, or the Filipino Freethinkers, whenever and wherever appropriate:

1. This awesome old dude, and how gay marriage, while still far from a topic for discussion in firmly Catholic Taliban Philippines, will crop up sooner than later.

2. This article from a guest contributor on Forbes. Now, admittedly, both things are old news to people more up to date than I, but they are good touchpoints for me to discuss very real issues about progressive thinking. This will probably go a long way into discussing the concept of an online safe space.

3. Some post about Single Awareness Day. That will probably be bitter and passive-aggressive again.

4. Some stuff about local showbiz.

5. About the Top 10 book.

Quite a backlog, but I know I can pull it off.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Project 52 (6/52): On The (Inordinate) Focus On The President’s Lovelife

.:Project 52 (6/52): On The (Inordinate) Focus On The President’s Lovelife:.

Now, most people who know me also know that when it comes to the current administration, I have consistently been underwhelmed by what the president has been doing. I don’t really hate the guy per se, but I just find that his work ethic is sorely lacking, especially since his predecessor left a rather hefty mess that needs to be cleaned up, and it’s pretty obvious P Noy isn’t quite up to the job on his own. That’s fine. I doubt anyone is, which is why he needs to surround himself with people who can handle things just as well, or preferably, better than he does.

I’ve really been ambivalent about P Noy at the best, mainly because he wasn’t exactly my guy during the elections, and I wasn’t too swayed by his “Daang Matuwid” rhetoric. I think I am not being harsh when I point out that our current president is simply not a man with a plan, and he’s far more of a figurehead being surrounded by people whom we can only hope are competent enough not to run this country down into the ground even more than it already is.

So yeah, my expectations are astronomically low when it comes to our current president. I think I’ve already decided I’m not willing to set myself up for disappointment, or buy into his faux Messianic Complex lest I end up just drinking the Kool-Aid for no good reason. I’m not a P Noy fan. Never was, never will be.

And yet, despite my low expectations, despite the massive berth I afford the man, he still manages to find a way to disappoint me. Not that he should care what my opinion about him happens to be, mind you, but I’m mostly just astounded at this uncanny talent of his.

Surely, it isn’t such a difficult job to be mostly a figurehead with some executive functions thrown into the pot. You can do your goodwill things like helping out victims of natural disasters, maybe even get away with a bit of personal vendetta by trying to remove a Chief Justice from power for being a thorn in your side, not to mention, seemingly guilty of impeachable offenses, to begin with. You’d just rely on your advisers, and if you know how to pick ‘em, they won’t show up to work drunk, troll the press, or get caught buying pirated DVD’s in their spare time. I mean, these aren’t walks in the park, really, but it doesn’t take a hardworking Senator, who happened to be the son of a former president, who was the wife of a career politician, whose death sparked a revolution to pull it off, right? I mean, obviously. It’s not like he’s hardworking.

But that’s just conjecture. How hard he works as a president, I may never know. What I do know, unfortunately, is how hard he works on his lovelife. Just ask Grace Lee.

Who’s guilty of yellow fever here again?

Now, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and admiring this lovely Korean lass for a few years already. She’s brilliant, well-spoken, and in general, one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. When the Disenchanted Kingdom was still a morning show, I would see her often enough, and hey, she was always a bright ball of sunshine. To this day, she still is awesome. I can’t say I would blame our president for being particularly enamored by her, either.

But all pipe dreams of wooing Grace Lee for myself aside, I just can’t help but feel that this inordinate amount of effort going into P Noy’s lovelife, both from Noynoy himself and from the rabid press trying to cover it, directly detracts from issues that need to be addressed first. Yes, it’s opportunity cost, but what a high price we’re paying.

I know it’s a funnier story to tell if I pretended to be a jilted admirer of Grace Lee, fuming over the fact that I lost out to the president of the Philippines, but I find myself incapable of making that joke right now, especially since I have nothing but the utmost respect for Ms. Grace Lee. Ultimately, I just feel that the emphasis on P Noy’s lovelife, and the apparent amount of effort he puts into it, is just way more than the apparent effort he puts into doing the job he was elected to actually do.

Personally, I think we’re just barely lucky that P Noy is surrounded by a few competent, even honourable people, like Ruffy Biazon or TG Guingona. Because seriously, if we were to evaluate just Noynoy on his own? He’d be a heaping pile of failure, in my opinion.

But really, that’s just me. I know it sounds like an entitlement complex and what not for me to want the president to focus on matters of the state first before bothering with matters of the heart, but what do i know, right? That’s what a boss would do, and I distinctly remember him telling me I happen to be one of his bosses...

Friday, February 03, 2012

Project 52 (5/52): On Not Having Said Enough (Before It Was Too Late)

.:Project 52 (5/52): On Not Having Said Enough (Before It Was Too Late):.

There are some awesome people in our lives that we couldn't help but take for granted, regardless. Maybe they're always there. Maybe they're just that reliable. Maybe you think they'd last forever, or at least pretty damned close to it.

And then you realize there's no predicting these things, and you're forced to rethink how you deal with other people.

Guilt? Perhaps. But beyond that, we realize that while much has been said, it still is far from enough. I should know. I will live the rest of my life with that regret, despite all my efforts at living in a way that would avoid that.

Two years ago, when my grandfather passed, I realized how grateful I was that I go to tell him how much I loved him and how much he meant to him well before his time came. A year ago, when a very good blogger friend of ours passed, I was happy that at least, we spent enough time with each other to show him how appreciated he always was and will be.

This time, I didn't get that chance, and I couldn't help but feel bad about it.

If I wrote this as a letter to her, it would no doubt be part of the Unsent series simply because there's no way I could send it to her now. She was always so full of life, and I don't mean that as a generic thing to say about her: this was really how she was. Everything she did was filled with a zest for life, and the way she just went nuts over magic in general, or over this song she liked, you knew she opened her eyes to wonder because she never let this cynical world get to her.

It was great, and even if we were closer in 2008 than we were in years since then, that didn't matter because I took it for granted that she would always be there, because she was blazing her own trail like no other, and who was I to slow her down? Though we grew apart, I always held her in high regard because I recognized full well that not everyone could always just stay ever so close for no apparent reason.

But I was wrong. As I ended up hearing the chilling news of her passing, I was simply filled with disbelief. I may not have spent all the time in the world with her, but I had vivid memories of her, including that infamous night where we hosted and got stiffed by our “boss” for our efforts, braving traffic and distance just to do our thing in Alabang. Needless to say, I think after that, we had a newfound respect for each other. The time I levitated at the MRT station, I also remember how she went nuts and moved heaven and earth just to find out how I did it.

That's how she was: she was inquisitive, she was funny, she was bubbly, she was smart. She had everything, and I mean everything, going for her. But she had to go. And she went far, far too soon. If God is a DJ, I guess He wanted more people to jam with.

This post is for her, though it's too late for me to remind her how great a friend she was, and how I admired her tenacity in achieving everything she wanted. She was already a success at twenty-five years of age, and there was no doubt she was well on her way to more.

I just regret never having been able to say “thank you.” I regret it, and now, I look at every person I feel I ought to thank a bit more warily, because I don't want to have this kind of regret again. A breakup? Fine. A fight with a friend? Fine. But something this final, this permanent? It's something else, and I don't want anyone who has ever meant anything to me to ever go on without knowing how much I appreciate them.

My time with her may have been short, but the memories will last me a lifetime. Thank you, Maan. You were a wonderful human being, and we will miss you.

Maan Panganiban: 1986-2012

Thank you for the music in our hearts.