Sunday, December 27, 2009

So how was Christmas?

So inevitably, everyone ask you this coming back from the hollidays. Given its my first Christmas here in Philippines, I get a lot of it.

So how was it? In short, it was very very pleasant..

First, the weather was fantastic. It was chilly in the morning and late nights but the late morning and noon sun was in full force. So it was great to go out. The crowd is maddening before Christmas Eve but they were gone on the 24th morning streets are empty. I did a bit of last minute shopping but got in a good amount of exercise and rest.

On Christmas Eve night, I was invited to a family dinner and that was wonderful. Lots of good food, wine and pleasant conversation. I even got a couple of gifts which I did not expect. Gift-giving after so many years of not doing it is really difficult to get back into. I was asked about Christmas in Singapore and other places and I after some thought, I realised that Catholics really do Christmas better than anyone else. I have had great Christmases in Spain, Italy and Pinoys do it just as warm and joyous.

One thing I have to mention which supposedly is a tradition in Philippine. After main dinner, often they do some form of presentation/show. I was told that in the provinces where the families are big, they make everyone put on a show especially the children. I think its the equivalent of yuletide singing that is practised in other places. In my friends case, being the very upward-mobile people that they are, they make their children do all the presentations and singing. It was a riot with the kids being asked to do poems, sing, dance etc. Its a great time for the most precocious. I could not help smiling and laughing all the time.

As to the rest of Christmas, I spent it driving around areas I normally would not go to. Binondo or Chinatown, Quaipo, Malate, Mabini, Pasay. The weather was fantastic for driving and walking around and there was no traffic so I got around easily. You can tell this city was a grand place before World War II and there was so much potential. The opportunities wasted by Marcos was just unbelievable. If not for him, Manila would be the grandest place of all of South East Asia city, the Shanghai of South East Asia.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tis was the night before Christmas

Ok. Ok. Have time for one more post.

This is probably my favourite Christmas song. I just like it sung by children's choir on Christmas night. It has some sentimental memories for me..

Again, merry, merry Christmas

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...

Did I mention that I like Christmas songs/jingles?

Deck the halls with boughs of la la...
Tis the season to be merry, tra la la..

They have been playing Christmas tunes since as far back as October. The lights around my apartment complex have been lit up for months now. They put in a Christmas Tree in the plaza last week with ornaments and lights. Hollies hanging everywhere.

THEN this Sunday, the weather got cold. It was drizzling and cloudy ALL day. I was out busy shopping to stock my fridge for the hollidays since most places will be closed. I try to get all my things done before noon to avoid being crushed by the crowds. The crowds is really amazing. Its just that the sizes of the malls here are HUGE and yet crowds everywhere.

As I was coming out of my last mall, it HIT me. It was still chilly although it was NOON time. It was in fact a bit foggy/misty. I could not tell. I had a huge flashback to Christmas in Boston or Philadelphia with the same crushing crowds and dreary weather. It makes you cold and want to eat all the time and go home to a warm toasty apartment, watch Christmas movies and drink Egg Nog or Cocoa. Seriously a scene out of Christmas movies.

IT REALLY REALLY FEEL LIKE CHRISTMAS..So, in case, I don't do another post before Christmas,


Don we now our gay apparel,
Tra la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Tra la la la la, la la la la.

(I told you I love the stuff)..

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Midnight Mass (Misa De Gallo)

You can notice the Christmas buzz going around here clearly. As long as three weeks ago, my apartment complex was lit up with Christmas lights. With great evening weather that is cool and dry, the restaurants at the Plaza outside my condo has a very festive and happy atmosphere with families and friends eating, drinking, chatting and laughing in large groups late into the night. You can literally feel the cheers in the air.

The atmosphere is really different. In the US, you feel the rush-rush of people preparing for Christmas, planning for hollidays, trying to finish up the year and the obligatory greetings and parties - its all too stressful actually. In Singapore, you see the big bucks been spend on Orchard Road, pretentious people organising pretentious parties, a large number of people planning to leave the city for hollidays. Its all lacks a certain spirit. While I was in Spain and Italy, the celebration is not as commercial and and there is lot less buzz going into the holliday - its really about family and friends getting together too.

But here the whole spirit starts earlier. And starting this week, every night I see people gathering everywhere for Midnight Mass - they do it everywhere - in malls, in open air spaces, around every church. They do this every night through Christmas Day.

I am believer in separation of religion and state but somehow this sounds good to me rather than the over commercialism and forced obligations that is the ritual of Christmas elsewhere. Sombre reflection and sharing of meals and conversation with friends and family. That should be the way of Christmas over gift giving, Christmas parties and winter vacations.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Malcom's is a deli restaurant that fits perfectly within the main theme of my blog - something unique, little gems, from this country. Its basically a deli/restaurant that serves premium food at a reasonable, even very affordable, price. Wagyu Beef, Fine Cheeses, Premium Sausages, Good Coffee, Good Pasta, Salads and Sandwiches, desserts etc.

So what is so special? Its very affordable. This Wagyu Burger for example,

cost only a very affordable P325. Its Wagyu - the stuff cost US$400/kg in Japan..

So how do they do it? Basically in two ways - they have their own farm where they raise their own Wagyu cattle and make their own sausages. And secondly they look for high quality but affordable products whether imported or locally.

Coupled such unique products with passionate and motivated employees, they are fast growing their outlets. They now have two outlet one in Salcedo Village (which may be moving soon) and the other one is at The Fort. They will soon be opening a grill across from ABS-CBN in Quezon City and a planning a few more outlets next year.