Sunday, December 26, 2010

Anilao, Mabini, Calumbang Peninsula, Batangas

Was eating and drinking with friends all the way to Christmas Eve, so I decided to get out to the province to explore further.

This time, I headed south to the Province of Batangas where the second busiest port in the country is. The highway south (SLEX & STAR) is two part highway but the last stretch of 20km where they only got half the highway built. Some of the views are spectacular as you get out with stretches of flat open spaces which were sugar cane plantations or rice fields. You can also see spectacular mountain ranges and dormant Taal volcano from a distance. The last stretch to get to Anilao is a bit of a pain with traffic chocked full of Jeepney, tri-cycles, buses, as well as cars. You have to head to the town of Bauan, and at the junction of Santa Rita barangay, make a left to sign pointing to Mabini. You will come near a junction, the right to Anilao and most of the better resorts and the left to the city proper of Mabini. Just before the pier, there is a sign that points to 'Outrigger Resort', the road will lead to most of the better resorts in the area which is the north facing side of the Calumbang Peninsula.

The area of Calumbang Peninsula, the leaping point which is Anilao, is a diving paradise in recovery. At one time it had spectacular reefs but bomb fishing and pollution destroyed a lot. A program was put in place to help recover the sites and its quite successful with many divers making short trips from Manila. The whole north-west facing side of the peninsula is dotted with resorts while the west facing side of Batangas Bay is more residential formerly fishing villages is my guess.

The municpality is called Mabini and there is a tourism office at the Anilao pier (the sign says Mabini pier) you can make inquiries about diving sites, boats, prices, accomodations, etc.. You can park your car overnight for P150/night at the pier.

If you drive into Mabini town proper, and pass it, the drive down the east facing peninsula, is very charming with nice colorful houses that line the roads. There is not much of beaches to speak of as they are rocky as such diving places are. The hills of the Calumbang peninsula hugs the coast closely so there is not much open spaces but the sights of the hills against the sea is spectacular. People still do fishing in the area but I saw nothing interesting at the markets that I visited.

There was only a bit of sun during my visit but I enjoyed having a snack at the beach and drinking cheap beer. I checked out some of the resorts but they were what you expect of dive resorts, comfortable but not luxurious and rustic. However I thought it was rather expensive with rooms for as much as P5000 peso per night although you can share a quad for P900 peso per night.

There is also not much of choice in terms of restaurants or places to eat outside the dive resorts. I did check out the local famous lomi but found it wanting. I did managed to find some good lechon (Batangas is suppose to be a main pork-producing area). Anything decent can only be found in the town of Bauan which seems always choked full of traffic with narrow roads.

It rained a lot and at night it was cold given the time of the year. So it was kind of boring although the peace and quiet and the sea air was very refreshing. Those who plan to visit should just get their own stuff and cook and eat outdoors. Do a whole pig roast which I saw a number of families doing.

On my way back, I checked out the city of Batangas and its actually quite a decent size with one SM Mall and another SM Hypermarket. There are lots of decent restaurants there too but traffic was murder. You also have to go through the town of Bauan and a few other small barangays which is also choked full of traffic.

Anilao and Mabini is definitely a nice place to relax if the traffic can be avoided but building anything in such mountainous terrain is not going to be easy. However room rates of the resorts seems to suggest its not entirely impossible for a determined developers. In Japan such places make a thriving business of 1 price-all inclusive getaways that include catch-of-the-day meals, hot baths, and health and beauty spas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How badly do I want the BlackBerry Curve 3G

How badly I want the Curve: TAKE A LOOK!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pasig River

I had a lot to think about this weekend and so was looking to just exercise and think about things but I did not feel like driving anywhere to get some outdoor. So I decided to just hike around the neighbourhood and for a number of small reasons I decided to head towards the Pasig river near Fort Bonifacio. I was apprehensive because it meant going through some rougher streets and even past Makati Jail.

To my surprise I ended up having a real great Sunday morning. I discovered Makati Park - this is a small park along the Pasig River in the West Rembo Barangay. Its actually very well kept with bird cages, an open air theatre park, and a public swimming pool. The view to the other side of the river was actually pretty spectacular with tall buildings of Pasig City but at the same time the typical Barangay multi-faceted colorful family homes that cover much of this city residential area that lined the river.

Pasig River source is in the North East of the city but in the city it flows two ways - one is west into Manila Bay via the oldest part of Manila and the other South-East into Laguna Lake. Essentially for centuries it was the main artery of transport in this city and even to this day is commercially used. Due to the lack of infrastructure, it was polluted because it was the means of waste disposal for industrial, commercial and even human sewage. Ten years ago, they started cleaning it up. And today, there are both govt and private effort to rehabilate the river.

The effort to clean it up is not just romantic but all along the river represent opportunities to develop and create great commercial and living spaces. At the mouth of the river in the old city, its possible to create incredible tourist attractions - Sorrounded by Binondo, incredible govt building buildings, the old Spanish build Intramuros, old middle class spanish residential areas of San Miguel with Presidential Palace. There are still some incredible old houses and buildings belonging to old families in San Miguel, Pandacan, Santa Ana district. All along the river to the east/south-east are big pieces of industrial properties that can be developed into top grade residential/commercial spaces like well-known Rockwell. The various smaller properties along the river all also offer interesting opportunities for creative redevelopment. If you walk along the river, you can actually spot incredible huge beautiful churches that stands out frequently as go along it. Visiting the churches is already a worthwhile attraction.

The river has come a long way since they started cleaning it up. They even catch 50kg large Chinese carps and catfish once in a while. NGOS and even companies are continually putting in effort to improve things all along the river. Its not ready as mainstream tourist destination but if you like to see things in raw form, I recommend taking ferries and boat rides that is possible along the river and imagine what can be done with it. Its really a great river that can be again. There are photos available of the river in past that I find interesting and remind you that Manila was a city like European cities when Singapore was not even a real port.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to have a good time in Philippines

Had a visitor here last week and he gave me the comment that he was surprised by how much he enjoyed visiting given that he was told by friends who have been here before that they found coming to Manila boring.

Actually the truth is Philippine is badly marketed place as far as foreign visitor is concern. There is a string of reason why its badly marketed and hence many visitors come here and miss the great things here.

There is only one easy answer to enjoying the Philippines - you have to know the people who understand what you enjoy to show or introduce it to you. Other than that, there is no easy answer. From the right food, to the right beaches, to not getting ripped off by taxi drivers and shops, to nice/fun places to hang out, this is not a place where just one size fits all. There are different things for different people. AND here is the strange thing - while this is a society that has free and open media, most people here just don't understand what foreigners and tourist want. Most of them have never travelled and don't have deep understanding of foreigners even those that have influenced them like the Spanish, Americans, Chinese, Japanese. Even the well-travelled well-to-do have not travelled to many places in Asia because they don't speak the languages. The disconnect between what foreigners don't understand and what most here don't understand about them, accounts for the disconnect between those who enjoy coming here and those that don't enjoy it. Its partly why I started this blog in the first place.

So what would I recommend someone who comes here for a few days?

1. Go to the beach - Boracay for parties, top of the line luxuries in Palawan and the adventurous - just google. There are many choices but getting there is not all laid out for tourist and visitors cheaply.
2. Enjoy the nightlife - most nights places have people hanging out. But Friday nights, weekend and hollidays are the most happening. You need to check out the music scene especially the original works of local bands - not the cover band stuff.
3. Food - 1) Try some pinoy dishes 2) Seafood is a good deal - go to a Dampa or a decent Chinese restaurant and order simple fresh stuff. Don't expect refinement and complexity with your Chinese food. 3) Japanese food is a GREAT here. 4) If you like beef, this is a good place to come especially if you are a fan of wagyu beef which they raise locally here 5) Alcohol is cheap - you can have fun anywhere if you drink enough. This is the most cost-effective place to hang out at wine bars in all of South East Asia. 6) Korean food is also getting really good here.- Forget spicy food, its not in their diet. 7) There is a long list of choices for desserts - if you like the sweet stuff this is a good place too. 8) If you get a chance to get out in the country - all you need to know is just look for someway to try the food in its simple basic fresh form - whether its the seafood, the dairy, the meats, or even the fruits and vege. For pork, just do the lechon or pork belly. For beef, just get a good steak, for seafood just stir-fry or steam. As to vege, the quality is very inconsistent but the pineapples, mangoes, strawberry is a must try.

4. Don't take the public tranport - take cabs and plan for traffic jams. You just got to pay for it.

Again, get to know someone who is from your home country or have lived in your country. Its possible because there is very good mix of people from all over here. Not in abundance but there is definitely people from almost everywhere in the world here. Then socialize and meet people - pinoys are very sociable - nothing beats just meeting people you enjoy spending time with.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ber Months

Its the beginning of October. Its the start of what is known as the Ber-months - months that end with -ber: October, November, December. For some reason people think of the Ber-months as starting in October rather than September. I think its because the weather change. Its starting to get a bit cooler. The pool water is not hot anymore and gets cold actually.

Its also the end of the rainy season. We had a few big downpour last week but you can tell the rain is on its last legs. Last year there was even a few typhoons up to the end of October. They tell me its unusual and that this year is less rain than normal and last year it was more rain than normal. The schizophrenic weather somehow is poetic to me.

The weather is going to be very nice from now on - cool, dry. If you go to any place with green open spaces, crowds are everywhere. People like sitting outside watching people. But there is a very very lack of public and open spaces. I had a beer in a strip mall with open spaces in lower-middle-income level neighbourhood and the prices there was as high as the high-end places. Progress.

Events outside are typically well attended. Some of these events are even black-tie and the women dressed to the hilt and live symphony. Its quite a spectacle.

The downside is that traffic can be counted on to be bad most evening. Its so pleasant, why go home? Well, the traffic for one thing. If I have to go out, I try to get there early to avoid it. I love the morning when there is no traffic. I wake up as early as 5am when its still dark go to a Park and get some exercise.

If only my work is not bothering me so much, I can really enjoy myself. At least its a busy social season. I seem to have to attend a lot of events and have dinners with people.

Monday, September 6, 2010

First Christmas Song of the year

This morning I heard my first Christmas song for the year. Bing Crosby's Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow:

It gave me a flashback of last year when I was returning from Singapore and they played the music in the plane upon landing. Philippine is probably the first place you hear Christmas music publicly in the region, maybe even in the world.

Last year I wrote at length my love for the music and my Christmas here. I am actually trying to decide what to do for Christmas. I first thought of returning to KL to get a few things done but Christmas there is boring. I don't want to have my friend being charitable to me again this year so I like to plan something.

In the meantime, I know its crazy because its just after Labour day in the US but am really in the mood for more Christmas music.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Going into September

This week, I suddenly realized that days was getting darker earlier and its US labour day weekend meaning the end of summer there.

Its actually kind of strange because we are still in the middle of the rainy season here so you don't think of a change in season. It does not end typically until October sometimes even way into. As I wrote before, the rain has not been anywhere close to what it was last year. There have only been one big storm in July and nothing since. The weather has been fantastic and I regret not getting out more. When its like these, coming to Philippine to vacation is really a good idea because the hotels are cheaper and the weather is just perfectly fine if you are not too fuzzy about a bit of rain in the evening and night. (Have you ever tried chilling out on a verandah/balcony with your girl while it rains outside? Trust me guys, its a really good idea.)

You actually can feel the air getting drier not that its ever really as humid as you get in Singapore/KL. So its really good weather if it does not rain. Its really like fall in Florida when there is no hurricane which don't happen often now these days it seems.

I think I will head out to the Esplanade/Manila Bay area again this weekend, maybe get a book to read and just chill out.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In the City on a Long Weekend

This was a long weekend and although I have a number of things on my mind, I wanted to catch a short break and regretted not planning to get away. There are of course plenty of great places to go but the problem is that it require planning because it means flying somewhere usually. Tourism for Philippine has that issue because many, actually most, places require a flight from Manila.

BUT surprisingly, I had a great break. Its amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it.

Firtly, the day weather was great. It did not rain until the evening and very lightly. Most morning were sunny and cool. The afternoon was breezy and cloudy so it was not hot or too humid. Usually its rains like cats and dogs at least one part of the day this time of the year. Last year, I remember it rained almost every morning. But this weekend, the weather was really just right for some R&R. I hope the weather holds up for the rest of the rainy season.

In the morning, I actually managed to find some green around. In particular I headed out to the Manila Bay and Esplanade area. The weather was so good and the salt air was incredible refreshing that I almost lost track of time and almost got a ticket. You can only street park in the area until 8am. The only problem is the area is pretty bad for breakfast. All you have is the fast food joints and chain-coffee places. You can head over to Binondo later but I still havent't figured out how to park in there.

I also headed out to explore lesser part of the city known as municipalities of Las Pinas and Paranaque. These are basically townships that are part of the greater Metro Manila. Without traffic, it was actually very pleasant to drive around. Think of it like boroughs of Queens or Brooklyn in New York.

If you ever wonder where the call-center personnel, clerks, accountants, teachers, contractors live, your everyday unimprovished pinoy in other words, these townships give a good idea. These townships have a long history that began with small villages called barangays. The urban design were based on a time when there were no cars and no one dreamed of a two-car garage suburban homes. Malaysians and Singaporean don't typically understand that the planned two-story detached house suburban towns we grew up with are the contruct of late 20th century after the mass market car was invented. These planned development also do exist here and are typically gated communities called villages.

Think of barangays like new villages in Serdang, Kepong in Malaysia or colonial shop houses in Singapore or cobblestone lined streets historical part of European old cities and old cities of US like Boston or Georgetown. They were originally not designed for cars although typically the roads are paved but there are no pedestrians walkways. However there are the less older gated-villages that are very well plan and the houses are actually bungalows. The older part though, the plot of land can be small and the building built up to the street, most without parking bays. The plot of land are not uniform and the roads meandering again, without cars in mind. Each house and buildings is unique unlike the planned towns we are used to. Most of them are two and three storey concrete buildings with individual characters. Of course some of the buildings that are closer to the wide-enough-for-two-car roads have commercial activities like eateries, convenience stores, saloon/barber etc. At the entrance to these barangays are typically tricycles that can take you deep into the townships as these townships can be very big. They have schools, clinics, police station, community halls, basketball courts, churches, etc. There are even factories, offices, warehouses.

What you will notice is that the streets are clean and the houses mostly neat and well-maintained, some very colorful. I keep wondering where are the garbage cans? Each of them are unique in designed unlike what we are used to in uniform planned houses. Occasionally you will notice some very big buildings or houses of four five stories. They are either apartment buildings or house of someone who has made it pretty big with a big family and choses to continue to stay in the area rather than move to planned townships which are further away or older established houses that are very expensive that can't house a big family.

On a holliday weekend like these when cars and trucks don't run the streets, you will find children playing in the streets, people hanging out at major corners, hawkers with pushcarts. Walking to churches to markets, etc. Its actually very lively and you get a very small town close-knit feeling that neighbours know each other and socialize constantly. It reminded me of going to my grandmother in a new village in Gombak which I used to visit every weekend when I was a very young.

One of the things you will notice is that there are definite improvement going on on these towns. Many buildings have new coat of paint, new attachments and shingles, rebuilt bigger and better with parking bays. New cars/vans/trucks. New appliances. More new small business. More new advertising like billboards and signs. You can feel lives improving, neighbourhood getting organised, people enjoying their lives.

Not all townships are safe, clean and well-organised. Some like Tondo can be worst than the famous favellas of Brazilian cities. Even those that are safe, you may have to go through areas that may not be that safe. I would not recommend staying out late and taking buses and jeepney back if you stay at these places.. But its definitely an experience to visit and live in these areas. They are relatively cheap to stay in. Monthly rent can be halve or less of what you would pay at apartments in the newer organised planned condominium townships that are coming up. There typically are no room for a car. Public transport is of course another matter all together.

Way into the future, when they fix public transport in this city, these townships will actually be great places to experience and live. It feels cosy and small-townish. In coastal towns like Cavite City with sea breeze and great weather they have here like this year, it feels like staying in one of those expensive coastal town villas in the Greece or Italy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Manila Hostage event

I have not posted a number of weeks because I was preoccupied with other things. I really did not want to write about something so negative but admist the debate, I felt I have to bring my perspective on it.

Basically what happened was that things got out of control and it was not handled well. The details of the event is actually almost a soap opera, a drama. You really have to wonder why did it have to be so?

At the core of the issue is how could the career of a policeman and his pension money result in death of so many innocent lives? In the end, can't individual values protect each other from such extremes? Isn't such behaviour just a form of modern cannabalism?

The police officer was a college graduate and decorated officer, in 1986 voted one of top ten outstanding policeman by Jaycee International. BUT he did wrong and was dismissed and pension taken away. How he could not accept what happened to him, given that he is a career policeman, in essentially a corrupt system in this country for so long, is a testament that no matter who we are or how strong we are, all of us depend on society and systems for support as well as checks and balance. Most of us can easily get trap with entitlement and corrupt ourselves to losing perpective of the larger picture.

AND I am not talking about just the police officer.

What happened here is not unique. You constantly hear of extreme behaviour by individuals who have been unjustly done by China's corrupt and fast change of its economy and society. Oklahoma bombing, Colombine High School. What happened in Thailand recently over politics is not that different. Its just that in this case, guns was available to a particular individual and systems failure by decades of poor governance.

Lets take the raging debate in Hong Kong, China and other jurisdiction. ALL the people who make heavy criticism of what happened should ask themselves how much do they know about the Philippines other than their maids and call operators they deal with on occasion. How much do they know of the country, people, history, systems, social behaviour, education?

What has happened is something that most Pinoys regret and they themselves are torn about it. They debate here is just as fierce as anywhere. It does not help the situation that outsiders who knows little about them are bringing 21st century instant response impatience into the issues which has deep implications.

Do Hong Kongers/Chinese have a right to criticize? Yes. Do they have a right to debate it? Yes. Do the Philippines owe an explanation and duty to correct their problems? Yes. BUT do even Hong Kongers/Chinese who are not family members have a right to be impatient about it? No.

Many of the problems of the Philippines began with the failure of leadership starting from Marcos days that continued to this day. The elites of this country failed to lead a people not suited to suffer what they have had to suffer. In some way its remarkable this country has not turned communist and in fact a vibrant growing democracy that is slowly and increasing gaining its footing.

As I said, the kinds of things that happen here also happen in other places if you know where to look and give it a fair context. I would turn the problem to Hong Kongers and Chinese - is the senselessnes that happened here this week any more senseless than those that happened during the Cultural Revolution in China? if there is a similar failure of elites in China, are they so sure they won't turn back to communism? If the economy of China collapsed for two decades today would China remain capitalist and where would Hong Kong be? If those things happened, are you so sure the senselessness in China/HK would not be EVEN WORST? Just because the scenario are highly unlikely, does not give anyone any entitlement.

Put it in the right context and then make a judgement that you have a right to. Be careful of entitlement whether its someone with a gun or even if its just expressing it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rain is here

The third season in Philippine is the rainy season - normally from July to September, it sometimes can be earlier and later a bit. The season is heralded basically with a big typhoon that well happened early this week (Conson). Last year, the season began with Ondoy which was really bad. Its still a tragedy this year but nothing like last year.

You will get a up to half a dozen typhoon in a year. I remember last year there were four of them. Except for two of the typhoon last year, the rest did not impact Manila greatly. The north and east of Luzon actually take the brunt of these storms. The impact is bad because a lot of structures are just not strong. In truth, if infrastruture such as drainage are better built, most of the tragedy can be avoided.

I actually like rainy days as I find it refreshing. There is smell of cut grass and leaves in the air that I find comforting. My favourite time of the year in SG and MY is Dec-Jan period when the rain comes. I especially like rainy days during weekend. I would actually choose a neighbourhood coffee shop/mamak stall/kopitiam to read my weekend papers there. If I have a laptop and there is wi-fi which some places do, I could spend many hours there.

Of course the rain puts a damper on my morning walk to the office if it rains which happens quite often. I have a route that I take that avoids me having to bring my umbrella but I still get a bit of rain. Most morning, I wake up early enough that I avoid the rain. For some reason, it does not rain early early morning but usually happens later in the morning, afternoon or evening.

The reputation that Manila/Philippine is a place to avoid during the rainy season is overblown. Its not a great time to go to the beach but really there is no reason not to visit it. Even if a typhoon happen to come while you are here, its just one-day thing that quickly blows over. Its actually a pretty interesting experience. Many years ago I was caught in the middle of one for the record and was in the eye of the typhoon for 10 minutes. The shops were shut down early and electricity do get cut off but other than that, its kind of surreal experience to be in a typhoon here. If I were someone planning say corporate, group retreats, meetings the rates of many places are so cheap, that its worth it to consider doing it here during this time of the year.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Philippine ahem Talent.

A photography club which some members are known to me, had a session with the following girl and showed me this. Self-explanatory.

Bridget Suarez 02


Briget 2

Bridget Suarez

bridget suarez 3

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Best Music Scene in Asia II - Dave Eggars


An article in the Manila Times that I liked

I particularly like the line..

"continuing quest for high-risk collaborations that brought him back to the country."

It speaks to me because I think its only through the right mix of risk-taking and talent that truly great things happen.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

World Cup in the Philippines 2

In my last post, I said the World Cup fever here is not the same as there are only a few places to watch the games. But the German-Eng game resulted in twitter world going crazy here. Ever since then, the places that showed this games have been packed late into the night.

Not being aware of it, I decided to catch the game at a couple of bars here this weekend. They were packed. I was actually surprised how many places was showing the games in Makati especially. The papers and online don't get 10% of the places. You just got get out and walk around the major bar areas.

When I watched the game, for some reason I get asked by many people if I were Korean or Japanese. There is a large Korean community here who loves the game especially when South Korea plays. It also summer school hollidays in Korea and I met up with a whole bunch who are here on vacation or even doing summer jobs here.

Anyway, its getting fun to watch the World Cup here and I got my money on Germany to win it all. By the way, you can bet legally on the games with PAGCOR outlet.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup in the Philippines

You can actually catch the World Cup here. But the atmosphere is not the same. Its kind of reminded me of the days in US when you can't even catch it on cable TV. But its a little better, there are a couple of places you can catch the games but no one is watching the games. I look like a freak watching the game at a bar here.

However, the live games are all at night which means I am usually at home already. I only catch the first game live except on the weekend when I can catch the later games.

There is a growing group of kids who play soccer here like in the US. But it will never match basketball or boxing in popularity. Maybe it can grow to a decent size like badminton here which actually have a sizeable folllowing with organised competitions. After all in the US, the popularity is growing and the US team looks pretty good although they got knocked out by Ghana. People don't remember how bad US teams used to be - they could not even qualify for the longest time.

I tried to describe what its like to Pinoys here about watching the games in SG or Malaysia. Remember S.Korea? So many people played hookie and watched it a bars and restaurant in the middle of the day, people did not even lie to their bosses about it and the bosses gave up enforcing any kind of discipline. I say imagine a Manny Pacqiao fight in the middle of a work day - that last for a month.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The best Music Scene in Asia

One of the best thing about my expat vagabond life is meeting interesting people. Its actually amazing some of the people I met. This week I met Dave Eggar. I did not even know of him until this week although I was a New Yorker for some six years.

Dave is prodigy musician from New York.  His resume is perfect but his music is inventive. When I heard him it reminded me of the first time I heard The Who, U2, Nirvana, people who broke the mold of new genre in popular music.  The more I hear his work, the more it reminds me of the very very best engineers in Silicon Valley that I have met - Steve Wozniak, Paul Allen, Dean Kamen. Dave is like them in the sense, his fundamental skills, his classical training, are as good as it gets and yet he is inventive and courageous, a rebel seeking to make new music and new ideas - just like the best of the best in Silicon Valley.

Listen to his classical skills.

Now listen to this.

He was here for one week playing in different clubs with some of the underground bands here. Did I mention that Manila have the best underground music scene in Asia?  That is saying a lot because I have been to places in Japan, Korea, China which also have some activities but here in Manila there is scene here that is closest to what you will find in the Village in New York.  Those who like these kind of music should check out bands like Drip, Sinosikat and sites like

To have met Dave Eggar here in Manila playing in a hole-in-wall rustic bar and discovering all these great bands is going to be one of the greatest memory in my life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Taking short breaks and hanging out

I have mentioned before that I seek out greenery on the weekends to relax which is unfortunately in short supply here. In Malaysia, one of the way I relax is take a few hours drive to quiet nearby town or neighbourhood with some trees and grass and walk around stopping for snacks and coffee.  I also do it in Singapore with HDB neighbourhoods. I read an article from Harvard business school a while back that its good management practice to have these 'alone time' to reflect and collect oneselves.   I wanted a short break this weekend before plunging in back to work and missed that a lot.

I tried to think of places to do the same thing here and there just is not a lot of choices. I usually end up going to either Salcedo or Legazpi market on weekends for this. The place I work and live has lots of green space but choices for coffee and snacks is actually very limited unlike in Singapore and Malaysia. I usually end up at a fast food place for some pau and really bad coffee. I recently came across this small chain that serves donut and instant coffee in some neighbourhoods that its not quite the same as the ubiqutous mamak stalls and kopitiam in Malaysia

There is a lot of mall here to go to but its really crowded, the hours are very limited and after all its really about 'alone time'. Its one of the reason I do all my shopping early when it opens (8.30am). I can then go to the big foodcourts and just get some 'alone time' - it does not last long as the crowd comes in. (Did I mention that the malls here are really really crowded almost all the time. The only other place I have ever been that is equivalent are malls in China)

Actually I find it strange there are not more places to hang out given Philippine's Spanish history. Hanging out in plazas, gardens and neighourbood restaurant and tapa bars in Spain, morning, noon or evening, is one of the great living experience I have had. Pinoys certaintly like hanging out in places. Where I live, people hang out in the restaurants to wee hour of the night and during the hollidays.  There is a couple of breakfast/coffee places here on the weekend that is jammed packed every weekend as soon as they open at 7.30am  and people hang out until the sun gets too hot. Why they have not built it in the neighbourhoods, I don't get it.  Our elders in Malaysia and Singapore have been hanging out in neighbourhood coffee shops and markets for generations. The neighbourhood road-side wet market here called Palengke is very crowded early but the sites are usually badly maintained and no place to have a cup of coffee. Even their larger farmer markets have limited offerings early in the morning.

Its possible, its all American influence whose idea of hanging out is at a bar. But even in US, well New York, there is the neigbourhood diner (remember Seinfeld?) where I used to take long breakfast with unlimited coffee on Sunday, read the papers and then check out the local neighbourhoods.  But most of the US is just like here with malls and chain stores.  I don't get the idea of hanging out in Starbucks - the highly yuppie crowd just reminds me all the things I have to do and I keep thinking of work!

There are a couple of places sort of worth strolling around for example in Alabang township which is very nice but a bit far away but the crowd and traffic does not get maddening except near the hollidays. The Ortigas neighbourhood is OK on a Sunday morning but the crowd and traffic shows up before noon.  I walked the Roxas Boulevard by Manila Bay weekend mornings but again its downtown and traffic+crowds shows up pretty quickly. One of the better place actually is Intramuros which is the well-preserved historical Spanish city but I have been told its not safe to walk alone since its surrounding neighbourhood is pretty rough ones. There is Riverside Park in Marikina City which does not have much choices to get a bite. The University of Philippines Diliman which has the best green lungs in the city and the university dining places actually give some pretty good deals for a bite.

Maybe I just have to look harder...

Saturday, June 5, 2010


I think the raining season officially started this week. Philippine basically has 3 season (cool, summer and wet) and this is the third one. On Wednesday it poured really hard. Should have expected it since last week the humidity was really high. Its the first sign of rain coming.

Traditionally in the rural areas it means that the planting season has begun. Passing through the provinces a week before its no wonder I saw people preparing their fields. You can see padi-fields just an hour out of the city as Manila is situated in traditionally one of the most fertile volcanic plain the world.  It also marks the end of the major vacation period and children going back to schools.

The tourist spots are starting to clear out too.  If you want bargain on the most popular places, its time to shop but its not as much fun as during the peak season of Feb-May when there are parties everywhere. Its one of the problem of developing tourism here. We were at very nice place called Anvaya Cove two hours from here and it was a great place with a nice little beach, lush greenery surounded by high hills but there were only a few rooms. I was told because of the seasonal nature of the business, its really hard to make money.

When it rains here it can really pour and the winds can get scary with typhoon later on in the year. Right now most of the time the rain is just moderate and cloudy most of the time. The temperature is way-off from the last couple of month but there is some humidity. But when its cloudy and with light wind, its actually very nice. I don't mind light rain (I just do laundry more frequently) when I am not working. Its sort of therapeutic - like heaven washing away our little worries.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


It was labour day weekend and so although I had work to do, decided to do an overnight trip out of town to get some beach air and water before I hunker down. So headed for Zambales province.

I essentially drove North West of Manila - through Subic Bay and then just drove North on the coast.  I was aiming for this little island called Potipot which is a small uninhabited white-sand island 1km from the shores.

Delicious Potipot


But I did not make it. It took me nearly 8 hours to just the reach the towns of Botolan and Ida because of there was just too much traffic. The traffic did not came from the long weekend holliday crowd as much as because of events and electioning going on. At Subic Bay, they closed a lot of roads just for a bicycle race and that took up just an hour.  There was a lot of election activities with slow moving convoys vehicles, procession and loudhorns blasting messages. Its more than just the presidential race here although that receives the most foreign press. Its election of Senate, Congress, Mayors, local Councilmen. AND there are multiple candidates for each seats.  Senate seats are national, not provincial or state level seats like US. That adds up to a lot of campaigns to win over the voters. You see banners of so many people all over the place. They have these convoys with loudspeakers going around campaigning. Add all that and the activities of the summer like bicycle races and local festivals etc and the traffic was impossible.

When I hit the town of Botolan, the road got really bad. There was a lot of diverted path which were essentially just rocks. Its a major project by out-going president GMA who now want to be a local congresswoman.  Since the car did not belong to me, I would risk damage as well as not make it in time to catch boat and return in time to find a place to stay.  I may not find any place to stay near the island as all the major resorts are booked and its pretty rural in those parts.

So I decided to turn around and was going to head back to Subic when I saw some interesting beaches and decided to stop. However, the property was private and I could not get in. But next door to the property was a couple of small resort which I decided to get my much delayed lunch.

After lunch, I checked out the beach and while it was not beautiful, it was pretty OK especially the private property next door. A friend explained to me that a Japanese expert once explained to him that in the Philippines, the great beaches faces the East because the during the Monsoon season typically from June-Sept known as Habagat, the sands are washed up on the East sides of islands. If you  look at the white sand beaches of Boracay, Palawan, Cebu, etc, they face the East. The only exception is down south in Mindanao where the monsoon is less pronounced.

Anyway for P125, I could sleep on the beach and use the facilities like the swimming pool, the bathroom. So instead of heading back to Subic, I decided to camp out until tomorrow.  I drank beer, swam and chatted with some of the other guest  and took some pictures.  The sea was actually pretty calm and I was told that most of the times the waves are pretty strong and you could even do a bit of surfing.  Dinner was basic, not cheap but not exorbitant like the top resorts.  I grabbed an early night and headed back even before first light.

On the way back, I stopped at a couple of other places and was glad that I stayed where I did because the beaches did not get better.  I stopped at Crystal Beach and Subic Bay.

At Subic Bay, I decided to explore it a bit further. The place pretty much still look like a piece of American small town with football/baseball field, strip malls but it has a gorgeous yatch club with some beautiful boats in it.  You have to hand it to American military - when they built something, they do it right, probably expensive but they last forever.

There was less activities going on  the return trip so I actually made it back less than half the time it took me to get there including all the stops. All and all it was a pretty good excursion.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

37.3 deg C in Manila

Highest temperature recorded in Manila this year.

And the air-conditioner in my office are broken. Holing myself in a conference room where the air-cond still works.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Being Good at What You Do and Doing a Good Job.

One other thing that interest me is how some people are good at what they do. Its talent of course but finding talent is not so easy. Well, I came across someone that I thought worth talking about.

get invited to all sorts of events due to work. Recently I was invited to this joint-campaign from Johnson & Johnson with a local retailer called Bayo and I thought was pretty innovative. It combined J&J's Body Care product with the retailer 'Soft-Look' Collection,  Their product really fits into each other image.

But that is not what I wanted to talk about.

I want to talk about the model headlining the campaign. I forgot her name but she was really good at what she did.

This is her walking down the runway

This is her with the crowds after the show

What struck me really is how good she was in conducting herself at all times. She was professional down the runway giving the usual various model looks i.e. poutty, serious etc. , but when required, she turned on her killowatt smile on a dime. She did it all night for a long list of adoring fans and each time the camera flashed. At one time, I was actually hanging out with supermodels in Milan, Paris as part of my job. I met Claudia Schiffer, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, etc. They were the same way at shows but of course they hung out only with the rich and famous. This is what it takes to be good like any job  - talent and dedication.

I like people who are good at what they do and do their job well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hot Summer in the City

I mentioned it was hot and hence hankering for either the beach or the mountain. One of my friend updated me that he thought the temperature hit 40.5 deg C.  So I decided to check it. The papers said that it hit 36deg C last Sunday - no wonder it was still hot up in the hills of Antipolo. Yesterday it hit 36.5deg C

According to weather report most days the temperature is around 35deg C most days. But during the night, it falls to as low as 24deg C. It literally dessert weather we are looking at here. There is no cloud in the sky during the afternoon. There are some during the early morning.  This is El Nino year which means this is as hot as it gets here.  When and if the rain comes, the temperature should be better.

Nevertheless, the humidity is not very high so its actually not that bad. It kind of remind me of when I was in Arizona visiting my younger sister when she first entered college.

Its suppose to hit new records again this weekend. Just makes you want to go to the beach (or the mountain) but the nice beaches are at least a few hours away and can't do a day trip.  Any small nice beaches nearby is owned by an expensive resort or gated-development.  There is a bit of beach reclamation work being done as part of  the Coastal Highway project - I think if it gets done decently right - it will help tourism in this country. Seriously which self-respecting European and Aussie don't want to head to good beach in this weather and then party all night in Makati, Ortigas and Malate later?

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Hills of AntiPolo

If you look at the satellite map of Manila, you will see that Manila basically sits on a big plain with mountains to the North and East. The eastern hills are part of the Sierra Madre range that covers the Eastern side of Luzon Island. The current hot weather makes the hills look like California Hills from parts of the city. I was curious about it so decided to venture out to see it.

I took the Marcos Highway through Antipolo City all the way to Tanay province to a small town called, get this - PALO ALTO! (Palo Alto actually mean Tall Tree). The two-lane-each-side-road was choked full of Jeepneys and trucks and a few parts were not in good condition. Most part of the roads had either small shops, building. At various points there were actually large open air markets.

If you.glance at the roadside, there appear to be nothing interesting with small shops, buildings, stalls and some points were big open wet markets. On lower elevation, the hill houses are huts or looked make-shift - poor neighhourhoods. But as you climb up the hills the houses begin to look nicer and at some places, there were even big developments including golf resorts. I saw a few hillside resort signs but they did not look very promising. In this hot weather, its not very cool in the hot sun. During the 'Ber' months it should be pretty cold though.

There are no convenient point to stop along the road although you can catch some view of the city from a few places. I stopped at these points and the wet market to get an idea what people here do and why they live on these hills. At some point in the past there were labour-intensive factories nearer to the city and these people used to work for those factories. At nearby Marikina City, they are still known for their shoe making. Many people probably still commute to those towns for work by the look of the many Jeepneys plying the route.

What you do see is a lot of hardware stores, building suppliers and auto-shops although there are not many cars on the roads. Its obvious there are construction. But the markets do not look like they have strong agri-industry. The north and eastern part are mostly mountain and secondary forest. Building roads in these types of terrain is also difficult. But I expected some sort of strong hill economy like fruits and vegetables but there are none to be seen. There is not much traffic also because the eastern part of the Island do not have much of an economy. They have some great beaches and there are good surfing to be had but when the typhoon season comes, this eastern part of Luzon Island get the worst hit especially the North.

It dawned on me why there is so little development on these hills - while its only slightly cooler in the summer compared to the lowlands, in the 'Ber' months it could be cold especially at night requiring HEATING. Coupled with the higher cost to build roads, earth moving and building walls, having homes here is either out of necessity, tradition or a luxury. Just make sense to build on the plains than it is in these hills..

Saturday, April 10, 2010

South West Manila - Coastal Road, Bacoor, Novoleta, Cavite City, Rosario

Since I got here I have been wondering about the Coastal Road that goes from Manila to the South West Part of Luzon. I just like driving through coastal towns - something about sea air and open road just refreshes me. I have explored many parts of the world's coastal towns - they usually have rich history and interesting character.

Anyway, no one I know said much about it. Someone told me, there was some rough neigbourhoods. Others told me the traffic is bad and the roads are narrows. So given its a long holliday weekend, I decided to brave it and burn some gas.

The first part is pretty much a big highway. On one side is actually mostly sandy wetlands. Long time ago, there must have been thriving fishing activities. Whatever sea economic left are fish and salt farms. On the other side of the road it looks like any average urban neighbourhood in Manila with lots of billboards, narrow neighbourhood streets. There is a lot of roadwork being done. After the first big town Bacoor, then you noticed something - the roads are narrower especially if you turn towards the towns of Cavite City, Noveleta, Rosario.

One of the thing that struck me was, while you don't see a lot of wealth and economic activities and there are pockets of slums and huts along the many small river banks, pretty much most of the roads are clean, well-paved, well-lit, the houses are pretty and well-maintained (some even quite interesting with Spanish influence. Some parts is even quite charming with lots of 'beach colors' like GREEN(lots of green for some reason), ocean blue, red, yellow. There is a lot of tricycle like many small towns in Philippines and the colourful buses (its not jeepney!) that clog the roads, people look seemingly healthy, well-dressed, comfortable. I stopped by a few places to get refreshment and even walked the narrow neigbourhood streets and wet markets. The houses were VERY CLEAN and well-maintained. It looked like a new village or big politician kampung in Malaysia but more colourful and more interesting architecture close to the Carribean.

This is Cavite City town center

If you look at look at the background below, you will notice how nice the houses are although the streets are very narrow.

Young Pinay Muses from Town Fiesta

This is landmark building with old Spanish influence.

The First Center of Power

These are actually minibuses but they are not so mini and like Jeepneys and tricycles, they tend to block the roads..

bus- jeepney hybrid 4

What I could not figured out was what the people did for a living. There were good number of fish farms, some small resort hotels and a few up and coming big development and resorts but it does not explain what the very sigificant population do for a living. There are no big factories, no bpo activities, not much agriculture or offices - yet there are quite a few banks, a number of new malls, the many tricycles and buses are quite packed with people with shopping bags must be doing something to afford it. The houses really are pretty and well-maintained - many with a few new big cars too. There were skin care clinics, internet cafes, fast-food places and malls of course.

One thing I learned was that there is a big project called Sangley Point - its a former US Naval base and now a Philippine Naval Base that will be turned into a logistic hub port, airport, rail - a kind of Tanjung Pelepas but more integrated and with tourism added. It explains why there is a number of big infrastructure project including huge reclamation and highways being built. .Its a great idea. I would love to come by on weekends just to have a picnic, take some seafood, take in the sea air especially with the heat we are experiencing. (If you are thinking Jersey Shores, that is about right) The wind is really good for some great sailing. Someone should look into a Sangley Point Regatta at some point.

There are suppose to be some crispy chips made from mussels called Tahong Chips and one pickled in corn oil but I could not find them. Also supposedly a very famous pao place that everyone stops to get. Next time..

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Earth Hour 2010 in Manila

Yesterday, Saturday, I had to do some physical work which sucks given that I wanted to relax before my trip to Singapore next week which is always tiring. So I decided that for the rest of the weekend, I was going to do whatever I felt like and relaxed. By the time I got home, there was a Godfather marathon on TV. I just could not walk away especially when the movie came on, it was at my favourite line ("Leave the gun, take the Cannoli"). I even cooked dinner so that I could catch the end of part II.

So by the time nightfall came about I was in the mood to get out and get some air. But the streets was really crowded and when the lights started to get turned off, I realised that it was Earth Hour. Not wanting to face crowds and in line with spirit of saving energy, I headed back to my apartment.

I live in a big apartment complex with a number of buildings and a big garden with trees in the middle. With all the lights turned off, it was so peaceful although there was heavy traffic outside and big crowd at the malls and restaurants nearby. You could even see the stars in the skies.

The weather was also perfect. It was cool and dry with a light breeze. It was so nice, I bought some refreshment at a nearby convenience store and just sat in the veranda area of the garden and just relaxed for the entire Earth Hour. It felt like sitting at a porch in a great country house - right in the middle of one of the largest city in the world. I even had flashback to visiting one of those old great houses of the British-runned rubber estates that my father took me to when I was a boy.

I don't have a great apartment but the surroundings is pretty amazing. Of all the things I enjoy more than anything else in this city is to be able to walk to work every morning in as fantastic a neigbourhood as anywhere in as great weather as it can get anywhere. No commute, no crowds, no traffic snarl, AND never late...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Talent III - Jovit Baldivino

This 16-yr old is getting over 2 million views on Youtube in 3 weeks of being posted. The reason is basically because he sound like a local real life fairy tale story Arnel Pineda (look it up). A lot of people are hoping he would be another one. In the end these things depend on whether he gets the right song writers and promoter to back him up.

Monday, March 15, 2010

More Chicken Rice and Singapore Food in Manila

Somethings in life is just very strange. When you find time and try and do or look for your favourite things, you have a hard time finding it. BUT when you don't have the time, suddenly you find these things you had been looking for but don't have the time to do it.

So is the story with Chicken Rice and Singapore Foods (i.e., spicy food) in Manila which I am naturally on the lookout for.

In the last two weeks I have found 5 places that serve Hainanese Chicken Rice
1) RASA - Araneta Colliseum at Cubao
2) Original Singapore Chicken Rice also in Cubao
3) Chocolate Kiss - UP Diliman Alumni Centre, Quezon City
4) Shiok - Fort Bonifacio
5) Toastbox/BreadTalk in Trinoma Mall

In additon, there is a former top hotel chef Stevie who does a delivery service

I have not tasted all of them because I don't have the time. Can't be eating chicken rice, nasi lemak, char kuay teow all at once in every meal can I?

No 3), was a real surprise but they had ran out of it when I was there for dinner but Shiok is just within walking distance from my office and have decent sambal! Don't have to die for lack of sambal anymore..

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Beach Weather

The weather has been hot since the early part of February. I have mentioned that it feels a lot like Chinese New Year in Singapore and Malaysia but its actually not as hot and it last a lot longer. Its also dry, not very humid so it feel hot under the sun but in the shades, its actually pretty OK. Sometimes it gets windy and especially at night, its actually very pleasant.

I was at an event last week and there was this old telescope that was pointing to the hills at the north-east side of the city and when I peered into it, the hills were all brown. I remembered then its El Nino effect this year and then it struck me how much it looked like my brother's old house in Castro Valley, California.

I started hankering for the pool and the first chance I got I jumped into the pool, It then struck me, ITS PERFECT BEACH WEATHER. I started remembering Spring Break in Florida, California summers, Barbeques, wine coolers, beach volleyballs, ultimate frisbee, etc. This is the perfect time to come to the Philippines for the beach if you like those hot sunny weather that is not humid. Europeans go all the way to Spain and Greece for this weather. Japanese go to Hawaii and Maui in droves for this.

Unfortunately, there is no hollidays around this time of the year here and I work most weekends. I did manage to catch a good deal of pool time this weekend. But I am still dreaming of barbeques, wine coolers and tanned bikini bodies..

Philippines 1969, Baloy Beach (Subic Bay) 003b

White Sands of Boracay

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chinese New Year

I have been busy and did not celebrate Chinese New Year. Somehow I thought in the middle of sending out greetings that this picture was appropriate. She is baby Yok Shan - Google the story if you don't remember or have not heard..



Friday, February 12, 2010

The Battle of the Brains - ACM ICPC

We sponsored the Philippine's team into ACM International Collegiate Programming Competition held this year in Harbin China. Otherwise known as 'The Battle of the Brains', this is the top programming competition for students in the world. The high school equivalent is called the International Olympiad in Informatics. The people in these competition are real problem solvers - they can solve really really tough programming problems. These are the people without which even good ideas do not turn into reality. These are the people that top tech companies from hot startups to Apple, Microsoft and Google like to hire and give stock options. These are the guys in the mold of Paul Allen of Microsoft and Steve Wozniak of Apple.

The Philippine team came in at among a group placed at 36 which actually don't sound impressive until you realise they only solved one less programming problem than teams from Stanford, MIT, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon. They beat the likes of National University of Singapore, Texas Austin, University of Illionois-Urbana, Australian Champions among others.

I thought they did pretty well and proves there are plenty of talent here in this country...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


One of the things I have enjoyed since I got here is the weather. From Nov-January its very cool like in Hawaii so I called it the Hawaii period. Pinoys call it the 'Ber' months but it really last through January. There is not much rain, not humid unlike in Singapore, KL and Jakarta so being outdoors is just fantastic.

Its February now and you can start to feel the weather getting hot. Its still cool late at night but the morning heats up quickly and you can feel hot air in day especially the late afternoon. The weather is like.. Chinese New Year in Malaysia and Singapore.

In Malaysia and Singapore, for some reason, it can rain like cats & dogs for days leading up to Chinese New Year and even after, but on Chinese New Year day and a few days after, you can almost guarantee that it will not rain and will be hot. In all my life, albeit I have only spend less than half of it in Malaysia and Singapore, I can only recall 1 year that it rained on Chinese New Year day. I have paid attention to this fact since I was a small boy because when my parents first said it to me as a young boy, the highly western educated greenhorn that I was called my parents superstitious and ignorant. My father even bet me. So I paid attention and as you grow up and learn the wisdom of your parents, these facts sort of stays with you how wrong you are. Even a couple of years ago when people started talking of climate change and it was raining like crazy, the rain stopped on Chinese New Year day.

Anyway, the weather is changing to like that. Not surprising given Chinese New Year is around the corners.

I miss the Hawaiian weather. But its time to take out the swimming trunks and Barbecue..

Monday, February 1, 2010

Teriyaki Boy's Ramen

Last weekend, after a long day of conference, events and catching up on errands I was in the mood for Japanese but did not want to drive all the way to Little Tokyo in Makati where you get great Japanese food for really really low prices. So I headed over to Teriyaki Boy - its a mid-price Japanese chain here not one of the many cheap fast food joints you find around.

I really had low expectation and my initial idea was to order a bento box and be done with as I still had a lot to do. Unfortunately they had run out of the bento box I wanted so I settled on a bowl of Ramen and some fried Tofu. I was pleasantly surprised by the Ramen, not because it tasted like good Japanese Ramen but because it tasted like Hong Kong's wantan noodle - it was springy, thin, and tasty.

011 | late night gyoza ramen for the brokenhearted

Wantan soup noodles @ Mak’s Noodles

My only complain, the bowl of Ramen cost almost as much as the bowl of wanton noodle in HONG KONG!!

Hunan Restaurant - TopSpice

Most Pinoy will eat some spicy food but unlike most South East Asian, they don't love it. Lets admit it, some of us even fall ill if we go for a long time without chilli. I have a good friend here who worked in Bangkok for a number of years and also lived in Singapore and his appetite for spicy is comparable to most of us. So he is on the hunt for spicy food in this town like I am.

Last Friday, he took me to an authentic Hunan restaurant. Its officially called Top Spice but many known it as Hunan Lutong Bahay. It is so reminiscent of those small family restaurants of new-villages in Old Klang Road, Jinjang, Chan Sow Lin in Malaysia or in small alleys and Hutongs in China cities. Bare furniture, no painting or decor, plates, bowls and cups are basic. There is not even a sign ourside that says its a restaurant. The menu is actually written in Chinese and the owner actually speak in Chinese only. You order from the Pinoy waitress using pictures..

The food was incredibly authentic. Spicy, oily, fragrant, hot, steaming, smoky. You know what I mean - Mapo Tofu, Spicy Beef, Smoked Duck.

The funny thing about this place is I had expected the place to be filled with Chinamen but there was only a couple when I ate here. The rest were ALL pinoys. So maybe there are more than a few Pinoys who like spicy food and there is hope yet..

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Century Bangus

Last weekend, I was invited to an event by Century Pacific Group or locally known as Century Tuna Bangus. I had low expectation of the event but decided to go to support the team organising it and well, its free lunch and I get to visit the Wack Wack Golf club. Its a pretty nice club in the middle of the city and you know how I love greenery on the weekends.

But I was actually pretty glad I went because it really was a good event where many people had a good time but I discovered that these guys may be on to something.

Century was basically a tuna and sardine canning company. Tuna and Sardine are wild stock fish and everybody who knows their seafood, fish stock everywhere is in rapid decline. For the ignorant, before the 20th century there were basically a dozen major fish-stock in the world. We are down to basically 1.5 major fish-stock at 21st century and rate of decline is even faster.


The new product Century is marketing is Bangus or Milkfish which is a aquaculture product and hence renewable. Bangus don't grow to the same size as Salmons but you can find them as big as Spanish Mackerals.

Milkfish (Chanos chanos)

Being an avid seafood consumer especially fish, I don't generally like aquacultured product. They generally don't taste as good as wild ones and I can often tell the difference between a wild Salmon and a farmed one.

Bangus taste a bit like Salmon but honestly the taste is not as strong. I eat Salmon sashimi but generally I don't like cooked Salmon. Well, Bangus has sort of the same taste and I eat Bangus sinigang quite often, the local vinegar-lime soup here but I prefer other fish especially garouper(lapu-lapu), marlin, mahi-mahi which are common here.

Well, the Century group here showed me a thing of two. I LOVED the food they served. There was Bangus Tocino, Beer Battered Bangus, Bangus with Pasta and olive oil, Bangus with light Mustard, Bangus Panini sandwich, and Bangus spring-roll. ALL the food was really really good. It taste so much better than Tuna or Salmon. It did not have the strong aroma you associate with Tuna or Salmon.

Century Bangus Panini

Century Bangus Tocino

Century Beer Battered Bangus

Century Premium Boneless Bangus Pasta

Bangus is more expensive than Tuna but its cheaper than Salmon. Given its flexibility and taste, I say the product is a very good value proposition. I was going to suggest to the CEO they do a Bangus Sinigang Soup or Chowder to compete with Campbell Soup. I would buy it. They could do a Bangus Teriyaki (my favourite way to eat Salmon). I also wondered how a Cajun-style blackened Bangus Fillet taste like. A Bangus Jambalaya certainly works and although that would be more expensive than using cat-fish, it should taste better.


I am looking forward to experimenting with Bangus in my own cooking. For one thing, I am switching to Bangus sandwich instead of Tuna for lunch... Masala Curry Bangus Sandwich?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friendship Kayak

This was featured on ChannelNewsAsia and knowing a lot of adventure tourist, I had to write about it. Apparently it will be featured by National Geographic too. I did a lot of kayaking while in high school even considered joining the school team and remember how much fun it was. I always thought of doing it again.

They kayaked from one end of Philippines to the other 88 days, 3025km. Starting at south, Sarangani, Mindanao, around East Mindanao, heading straight through the heart of Visayas to Boracay, up around the West side of Luzon including Manila and then to the tip of North Luzon, Pagudpud


If you think about it, there is a period where the water is calm, October/November just after the rainy season and water is not cold yet, the weather is perfect for this activity. You can still do shorter distance in the other periods although the water is probably too rough in the peak of storm season. You can do it all year long in Mindanao where there is less storm and in Boracay for much of the year.

If I ever get a chance to take a Sabatical, this is one thing I have to consider doing..

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Everyday food i.e. Street food/Cheap Eats and Corned Beef Pan De Sal

Being Asian especially from South East Asia, I have to answer the question of cheap eats - the street foods, the food people eat everyday and a bargain. That is just who we are - We like cheap eats because some of the best foods we have are the cheap eats.

Firstly, there is no really street food in Philippines. This is because of building codes and sidewalk rules here where sale of food on the streets is actually a lost tradition. If you go through some literature, you will find that in the past, there were hawkers who moved around selling food but while you still see some on neigbourhoods streets, its actually rare to see them because the traffic of larger streets is really heavy with not a lot of room for pedestrians much less street vendors. You really don't have open air coffee shops or stalls can be seen only here and there and none at all in middle class or higher income neigbourhoods. Philippine building and street rules are very much like US and Europe where you don't see such things either. Even Chinatown (Binondo) here looks a lot like in Philadephia or Boston.

Having said that, there are stalls in malls, shops, and some markets. There is a lot of restaurants even chains that cater to demand for such food.

So what is my favourite?
1) Sinigang - vinegar and lime(calamansi actually) soup usually with seafood particularly fish but also with other meats too. There is a version with corned beef which strangely works.
2) Inasal
3) Bibingka
4) Pancit
5) Swarma

Other foods.

I will talk more about these foods in later post but you also find some unique surprises for example corned-beef Pan-de-sal sandwich with cheese. Its strangely reminds me of Philadephia Cheesesteaks. Pan-de-Sal is a local bread roll made from very lean dough and slightly salted. For some reason, the bread is very powdery.

Anyway, I came across this outlet that served it with Corned Beef and Cheese. It was surprising good. Generally, I think of New York makes the best sandwiches and no one outside of Philadephia can make a good Cheesesteak sandwich. The Pan-de-sal cheese corn-beef is no New York sandwich or Philly foot-long but it surprisingly is very good sandwich that I would appreciate similarly..

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Strawberry, Blueberries and Avocados

I knew I had to work most of the weekend, so I needed to get a number of things out of the way quickly especially to stock up my fridge which is nearly empty.

So on Saturday, my first stop was the Salcedo Village Market. I spoke about this place before. Its basically a high-end open-air market much like farmers markets in US or Europe. The reason I come here is because you can get Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese food. But they do sell some very very good quality vegetables. One of the find this weekend was BLUEBERRIES - locally grown. Its kind of small but sour but its really cheap P800/kg for those who know, is amazing especially in South East Asian countries.

Salcedo Village Saturday Market:
Market in the Park

My next Stop is the Farmer's Market at Cubao. I come here for the seafood primarily but sometimes the fruits are pretty good deal for example, right now the strawberries are going for P45/250g.

Baguio Strawberrys

The other is Avocados which is also in season. Its very hard to find perfectly ripe avocados in Singapore and Malaysia. Someone taught me to slice up avocados and eat it with wasabi and light-soy.

Mga Abokado - Avocados

Vegetables and food in general are not cheap in Manila, its much cheaper out in the provinces. But sometimes there are some fantastic surprises including really high quality ones like these that make living here such a great experience.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Last Christmas/New Year Post

The reason this is called a Last Christmas/New Year Post is because its really about my New Year Eve Party. Well, its actually a bit difficult to say but basically the video below is approximately what it was..

Happy New Year..